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Category: "Activism"

The Humanitarian Crisis in the Middle East

  08/05/14 09:18, by , Categories: Activism, Activism

The source of the “crisis“ in Gaza is finally becoming clearer to the West. This source - the jihadi mission to establish a world caliphate - is currently on view in Hamas' struggle to exterminate the Jew, this on the way to subjugating the rest of the world in the name of Islam.

But this is only a symptom of a larger crisis. Put simply, this crisis is the Western abandonment (if it ever really possessed them) of humanitarian values in favor of empty forms and farcical bodies, bodies which assume the mantle of humanitarian concern only when it fits a particular agenda.

Just a few days ago, the United States Senate passed Senate Resolution 526. In it, the Senate:

Laments all loss of innocent civilian life.

Condemns the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council's July 23, 2014 resolution calling for: (1) an investigation of Israel while not mentioning Hamas's continued assault against Israel, and (2) an investigation into potential human rights violations by Israel in the current Gaza conflict without mentioning Hamas's assault against innocent civilians and its use of civilian shields.

Supports Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas's rocket assault and destroy Hamas's tunnel system into Israel's territory.

Condemns Hamas's terrorist actions and use of civilians as human shields.

Supports U.S. mediation efforts for a durable cease fire agreement that ends Hamas's rocket assault and leads to Gaza's demilitarization.

Supports additional funding to replenish Israel's Iron Dome missiles and enhance Israel's defensive capabilities.

I wonder at the depth of this lamentation as the world has stood aside and watched the fires spread which brought 200 million to early graves in the last century. But more than this, I decry the perceived necessity to declare what should be patently obvious: “We, of the West, think a peace-loving country should be allowed to defend itself.“ To me, this is akin to “We affirm the right of a goalie to wear a cup.”

And where is the humanity in a durable cease-fire if the cease-fire is characterized by Hamas' continued persecution of the population in Gaza. Demilitarization itself will not stop any reign of terror.

What must be understood is that Israel stands at the front of a clash of ideas about civilization. This is difficult for the West to understand because most of us have been raised in a tradition that long ago rejected states based on religion. We have come to accept a live and let live attitude. We also tend to think that others think as we do. In this case, this mixture is the basis of much death and suffering.

We can not see the obvious, that a certain vicious stream of Islam is at war with our Western values. This is a stream that sees world submission to its view of Allah as the only way forward, and is willing to kill and even terrorize and manipulate its own people in order to move this agenda forward.

What we must realize is that we cannot fight this ideological war with conventional weapons alone. Complete military domination is only the backdrop against which a campaign of deprogramming and indoctrination can take place. And we loath such words as we like to think of ourselves as liberals the rightness of whose ideas is self-evident.

But if we want a humanitarian solution, we must replace the dominant Palestinian ideology with one which fosters “an ethic of kindness, benevolence, and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings.“ The program of hate must be eliminated and the Western value of respect and value for human life must be brought to the fore.

This is a tall order, perhaps impossible, but worth the effort. If it succeeds, it could bring with it an Arab spring that proceeds to summer. To accomplish this, Gaza must be occupied completely and for the immediate term, in both a military and civil sense. It must be placed in the hands of a strong, ethical governor. He and his staff must scrub Gaza of every hint of militarism and hate. Streets named after “martyrs“ must be renamed, textbooks fostering lies and hate must be destroyed, sermons demonizing the other disallowed, loudspeakers on mosques dismantled, and choice and freedom (except perhaps to spout and pursue evil) guaranteed.

Unfortunately, the United Nations is unequal to this task. It must be undertaken by the strong and the righteous. It is best done by a Jew, the display of whose strong hand just might influence Hamas. It is a difficult task, but possible. It is the path by which General MacArthur gave us modern day Japan. It is the path - perhaps the only path - that can give us a second liberal democratic state in the Middle East, and a true model for representative government throughout the region.


  11/27/13 23:58, by , Categories: General, General, Activism

If I think about it enough, there's probably no end of things for which I ought to give thanks, and perhaps we all should, as gratitude and the daily acknowledgement of the things for which we are grateful make us happier human beings.

So, I start with being grateful that I am no longer constrained by the notion that I should not start a sentence with a conjunction. It might seem a small thing, but it's a part of flowing with what is there instead of what I think is the right thing to do, the rules, usually as written by someone else.

I am really grateful I have learned to question other people's rules and default beliefs. Thoughts like “That's the way it is and how it's always been” just don't run me any more. I am in many ways bolder than I have ever been, and feel free to challenge others - and sometimes even myself - to play bigger and bolder games in life, which always leaves me feeling better.

I am thankful for, thank and acknowledge my partner and playmate, Sharleen. She always has my back, is infinitely patient, and is all about creating worlds that work. If someone needs to be taken care of, and it's in her ability, she does it. People are better just for having been in her presence. It's pretty neat.

I am thankful for my great kids, curious people who play with, challenge and engage me. They all make unique contributions to their classrooms and worlds. I am thankful for the great family that made these kids possible.

But mostly, I want to thank my parents. They have taught me what faith is and what it means to be committed to friends and family. They have been unwavering in their commitment to and support for my happiness and success. I love you both.

It would not be Thanksgiving if I didn't thank the people who gave us this opportunity to be mindful, PresidentAbraham Lincoln, Sarah Josepha Hale, and William Henry Seward, but theirs was an exhortation to a greater power, and I join them in remembering that:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

Same old, Same . . . Let's just Stop It

  11/27/13 23:49, by , Categories: Activism

I thought I'd gotten over this long ago, but some things just keep coming back around. I've actually had a pretty good week, have started to acknowledge myself more for the contribution I make (thanks again to Scott's planner - "celebrate last week"), I've visited with some movers and shakers, and committed to moving and shaking a little more on my own. For all this, I just noticed how much I start to resist something when I declare that I am taking it on.

Or maybe it's just the size of the thing I take on. I have a rowing machine. I have rowed close to 12 million lifetime meters. Coming into this ranking year, I set a new goal for myself, a bit ambitious, but doable given my history. I started out okay, but somewhere along the line, just gave up. I'd miss a week, two weeks, a month. I took on a one month team challenge, and disappeared for two weeks in the middle of it. I have a half-marathon (running) happening next week. I haven't gotten my head around it yet. I obviously knew it was coming. I've gotten out to run a little, but I am not ready.

And it's obviously not just in the area of exercise I seem to be running to extremes. When I have blown off my diet, which I love keeping and feel better on, I've been binging, mostly on chocolate and doughnuts (it's the season). My cars, I didn't just wash, I detailed. The house and office hit a point of greater order than they've seen in quite some time, and now I'm having trouble finding my desktop.

I've set myself down to write, and spent hours on anything but. I notice I can see a big picture, but am not reducing it to the details, most of which I could manage. So what's missing is probably just integrity and perspective. I've been pretty good at keeping some promises (I pray every day and my kids are taken care of), but for those I am clear what the daily tasks are. I think for the bigger items, I just haven't taken the time to plan out what I need to do today to keep these in the realm of reality. And I don't know that it is, but I just hate calendars. I get the clarity they can provide, I'm keeping one at the moment, but mostly what's in it are the big “have to” appointments. It's almost like they go against who I am, but I get that that is just a function of what I declare and act on with integrity.

So I guess what's missing is me consistently bringing integrity to my actions, to actually put the keeping of my weekly planner in my calendar, to systematically break down each project to its component parts, and then determining if I really want to commit to what it takes today, right now, to keep that project alive.

So I am ready again to draw the line, but then I wonder if it won't just be in the sand again. So I will remind myself to Stop It!

and I'll throw it out there anyway, because if I don't declare a new game, I probably won't be in action in anything.

So I commit - once again - to bringing workability to my life, starting with creating order in my home and office. And I commit to rowing at least 200 thousand meters this holiday challenge (that so used to not be a challenge), and we'll go for keeping my diet throughout the challenge, which means keeping it today. But first, I guess I'll put it down in my calendar.

It Takes a Community to . . .

  11/13/13 02:35, by , Categories: Activism, Community, Activism, Community

Questions on the design of society's institutions, the theory being that the presence of a stronger sense of community will maximize desired outcomes.

I share here because I want to get input from as many people as possible. I am sharing this in various forms in various fora because I want to get to work already and I don't know which connection will best help me do that.

I have been taken recently by questions of how the compartmentalization of societal functions (e.g. education, housing, caring for the elderly or infirm, trading or conducting business) results in an approach to those functions that neglects a basic foundation of human existence, which is that we are hard-wired to be part of communities. (I've actually been so taken by this that I'd like to make it my work, so this is also a shout out to any of you who are rethinking the design and structures of cities you run or live in, and want a partner in effecting positive change.)

A google search for the phrase “it takes a community” returns 1.7 million results that suggest that community is important not just for educating a child, but for dealing with addiction, taking care of the elderly or infirm, making Halloween fun, tackling truancy, protecting the environment, serving a veteran and achieving just about anything positive that involves another human being in this world.

My desired outcome is informed, empathetic, concerned, successful citizens leading meaningful lives, with a certain percentage (I'll kick it off at 5%) committed to effecting positive change in the world.

I think our neglect of the power of community to effect this outcome results in a piece-meal approach that in many cases serves to exacerbate existing problems. For instance, we may want people to understand history or engage in scientific study. To do this, we could choose to hand out and demand the study of certain textbooks, or we could put children in contact with our scientists and the keepers of our most recent history.

We may also want to give working people, retired people, and people of limited mobility an opportunity to contribute to the advancement of the younger generation, incidentally creating meaningful connections across age groups. If we think in terms of community structures, this suggests creating spaces shared by these groups rather than facilities strictly separated. It may also suggest the localization of structures and the limiting of community sizes to ensure a genuine connection between people. A congregation of 20 worshippers has a decidedly different feel than one of a thousand. Or in more secular terms, a runners' group has a different feel than the community of people running a marathon, though the group may provide a powerful space to prepare one for the big race.

I look at a place like Detroit (it's probably more of an idea to me than a place as I've never been there), and I want to redesign it (or any of a thousand other American cities or towns) or at least encourage the establishment of structures within it so that strong communities may form to support all community members in achieving their desired outcomes, which I hope align a little bit with my own.

So I throw this out to my people, and ask that you take a look at the communities which provide the contexts that allow you to thrive, and would appreciate your thoughts on how we can empower others to create communities to help them do the same. I take for granted the ease with which we create and draw on the communities which empower us, but suggest that our ease in creating the structures that support us is not so common.

I come from an education bias. I'd love to hear from people with other perspectives as well, and would especially appreciate citations to research that relate to the benefits or costs of community, and approaches that start at the local level.

If you think these thoughts are wrong-headed or mis-directed, I'd love to hear that as well. I do get some of the circumstances that make achieving this redesign interesting: that budgets for schools, community centers and support of retirees may come from different places; that government subsidies for individuals (Section 8, WIC, etc.) may need to be rethought and allowed to be reallocated to communities; and even that union contracts may have to be revisited to allow people to paint or clean their own schools or community centers.

As to immediate measures, I look for instance at Detroit because it is relatively flat, providing a lower housing density and more open spaces. One could select even as small as a block at a time to try to create populations that can work with each other. Considering the deterioration in various neighborhoods, it is possible that even one well heated house in reasonable repair can serve as a magnet for community activity, which could be anything from hosting a pot-luck meal, providing space for hobby groups to meet, working in a garden, to having children read with an elder member of a community (there appears to be a direct correlation between reading proficiency at ages 10-11 and prison populations 20 years later; I suspect this might be good for the senior as well; I hope people will point me to some relevant research). It might be that mentoring others in a business setting has positive effects on family life or rates of addiction, I have no idea, but I think decent data will suggest initiatives that make a difference, and that this can well drive the how, which could and probably should take as many forms as there are communities.

Last, if you are involved with a government or organization that is looking in this direction, I'd like to be a part of the effort. Please be in touch at president@davidherz.org.

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On Risk and Responsibility

  11/10/13 06:05, by , Categories: Uncategorized, General, Advice, Activism

“Dammit I'm scared” should be our signal to act.

The problem is most of us don't even recognize when we are stopped by fear. We give it nice new names and make up beautiful stories, like “I'm too shy” or “I wouldn't want to offend people” or “We shouldn't make someone else feel uncomfortable.” Our “barbaric Yawp” has been stifled by our fear of failure, our fear of not looking good, thousands of nos and shoulds and shouldn'ts, and lots of - way too much - “practical advice.”

Our fire, our passion, our desire to wake up in the morning can and will be kindled again. It will start with a relaxing of the standards and a return of the greats, of parents reading to their children without any aim but their mutual enjoyment, of teachers hauling out a tattered old book of poetry and reading without a test in mind, of children learning to imagine that the homeless person on the corner was once a child much as they are, of people recording or sharing their ideas. Indeed, it has started, in thousands of blog posts and huge communities of people sharing themselves and getting that who they are, quirks and idiosyncracies included, can be and is an amazing and unique contribution to the world.

But for every conversation for possibility, there are probably ten of resignation, lost hope, and missed dreams. It is these we are going to put back in their place. We do not come to you with platitudes of “hope and change,” hoping the next president will make things change so our lives will be better. Rather we intend to revisit Mr. Kennedy's exhortation “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” But perhaps for some of us, this is a step too far; let us start with asking what you can do for yourself.

To put this in better context, this was originally posted at Herz for President, but I realize the call to action is to our personal lives, with a hope that the personal realization of our hopes and dreams will lead to a bolder and greater future for society as a whole.

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