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Miscellaneous Postings

June 17, 2009

Goldie Hawn and Buddhist Mindfulness

I saw the wonderful Goldie Hawn today on Hardball, an MSNBC program hosted by Chris Matthews. Hawn, a self-described Jewish Buddhist, discussed her Hawn Foundation which promotes an education in mindfulness, a Buddhist concept, to children. For one perspective on mindfulness, you can visit this website.

Although I am not personally a Buddhist, I was impressed by the site and by Hawn’s discussion, on Hardball, of the objectives of her foundation. Among the foundation’s claims is that, through its work with neuroscientists, children have decreased their levels of stress and anxiety, raised their self-confidence, and improved their scholastic performance. At the very least, the materials on the site, in my view, deserve to be examined.

New Critical Theory

Since first describing my theoretical perspective as a new critical theory, a neo-Marxian approach, I have sensed that I am moving in a useful direction. While social constructionism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, etc. have informed my orientation (generally the case with new critical social theories), as do other nominalist viewpoints, the neo-Marxist grounding of my approach, has, even going back to my days as a critical realist, completed the circle.

Although I have been a neo-Marxist of sorts, in one way or another, since I was around twelve years old and active in the New Left, I had come to feel as though, within the theory, the neo-Marxism was, perhaps, insufficiently obvious to most readers until now. I must say that I am pleased.

The Institute for Emancipatory Constructionism

The Structurization Institute is now The Institute for Emancipatory Constructionism. The new name more accurately conveys that the institute is based upon a postmodern, or new, critical theory. Building upon critical theory, including the Marxian Frankfurt school, the institute’s influences include postmodernism and poststructuralism (Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard in particular), medieval nominalism (Roscelin and Ockham), and the social constructionisms.

Economic and Social Rights as Human Rights

Here is an interesting site which focuses on the economic and social rights as dimensions of human rights:

http://www.nesri.org/

Petition to Print in Passports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I just signed the following petition, and I encourage others to do the same:

http://www.onedayforhumanrights.com/

Spiritual Orientation

For those who may be interested, my spiritual orientation, which contributes to my perspectives on issues of civil and other human rights, is on this page:

http://asma.bahaifaith.info

Two Public Sociologies

I think that there are really two different public sociologies. First, there was, of course, twentieth-century public sociology, as the term was coined by Herbert Gans in his ASA address:

http://www2.asanet.org/governance/PresidentialAddress1988.pdf

Then, there is twenty-first-century public sociology, as the term was redefined by Michael Burawoy in his ASA address:

http://burawoy.berkeley.edu/PS/ASA%20Presidential%20Address.pdf

Gans’ public sociology would be reflected in Contexts magazine:

http://contexts.org/

Burawoy’s public sociology is seen in Sociologists without Borders.

Sociologists without Borders

Sociologists without Borders is an excellent organization which focuses on public sociology (sociological activism). Other sociologists, particularly those with a leftist bent, are encouraged to join. I personally operate a MySpace group for Sociologists without Borders.

My Autobiographies

I would encourage anyone who has not done so to read my autobiography:

http://narrative.markfoster.name

A considerably shorter version, which I would only recommend to those who are easily bored [grin], is here:

http://story.markfoster.name

United Nations Enable

United Nations Enable has been at the forefront of efforts to address the discrimination and oppression of disabled populations throughout the world. In their own words:

The objectives of the Secretariat at DESA are: (i) to support the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development; (ii) to advance the rights and protect the dignity of persons with disabilities and; (iii) to promote equal access to employment, education, information, goods and services.

This agency of the UN, in my view, deserves the conscientious support of all members of the global community.

Human Rights and Socioeconomic Development

For an extensive listing of human rights and socioeconomic development groups, and a large collection of files, you may visit the links page of my Subtext site.

Initiatives of Change

I have, for many years, been drawn to Initiatives of Change, previously called Moral Re-Armament, the successor to Frank Buchman‘s Oxford group. The organization has a strong social justice orientation. The following, which is reminiscent of the Society of Friends or Quakerism, is from their website:

Initiatives of Change emphasizes that there is a real connection between the personal and the global: when people and relationships change, situations change. IofC founder, Frank Buchman, believed foremost in helping people unlock their potential. With this in mind, we emphasize:

  • Inner reflection – listening to, and tapping, the deep inner wisdom, the voice of conscience or, for some, the spirit of God
  • Commitment to the highest values of humanity – a ‘reality check’ revealing the truth about ourselves and inspiring a humble search for deeper integrity, and greater passion
  • Forgiveness – letting go of hate, resentment, and judgements of ourselves and those who have wronged us, a process that can unlock a view of our own and other’s potential
  • The big picture – daring to imagine a world where the needs of the whole human family are met, and to discover our unique part in bringing this vision into reality

Whenever anyone, prompted by compassion and conscience, faces reality about themselves and takes honest steps towards change, that action communicates to others. It inspires a growth in the human spirit that in turn kindles initiatives of change in families, communities and beyond. This integrity could be the engine which drives social transformation in the 21st Century – a growing momentum of people who become agents of change and reconciliation, forging relationships of trust across the world’s divides.

… A quiet time is a period set aside, preferably each day, to listen to the inner voice of conscience or, for some, the spirit of God – to consider changes in one’s own life and seek direction. It is often helpful to write down the thoughts that come during these times of quiet and, when appropriate, to share them with others.

This emphasis on inward guidance can also be seen in the Formation movement, started by Parker Palmer (a Quaker):

… exploring questions about the inner life and about “the inner teacher,” which are indeed personal questions but need not be entirely private, and are often best answered in and through community.

I have personally attended about a dozen Formation retreats.

Undocumented Immigrants or Illegal Aliens

We need a seachange in how we view issues of human rights and social justice. In my view, the United States and other wealthy countries, having failed to adequately redistribute their wealth and knowledge to poorer countries, have no right to deny entry to any fourth world persons (the global poor). Even the term “undocumented immigrants,” while preferable to “illegal aliens,” makes me cringe.

Fixing Racism

Each generation which I can recall seems to think it has fixed the ideology of racism. Many baby-boomers, like myself, believed we had remedied the problem in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, I find that a lot of my students, especially following the election of Barak Obama, hold to similar views. They are, in my view, confusing our greater tolerance and the lessening of certain prejudices with the racist ideology itself and with institutionalized racism. Any, even cursory, examination of, say, income levels or rates of incarceration would demonstrate that institutionalized racism is alive and well in 21st-century America.

Terrorism or What?

The broad social acceptance of a “war on terror” is an excellent example of Foucaultian construction, the social construction of reality by the maintainers of the panopticon, i.e., the ones in power. Most people never consider that there might be another way to untangle the net of international relations. The narrative of a war on terror, proclaimed from the bully pulpit of former president George W. Bush, has become ubiquitous.

Terrorism-speak is simply a convenient means by which global actors strive to distinguish, through the manipulation of public opinion, their own acts of militant nationalism or statism, as with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, from the militant nationalisms of other states or quasi-states, such as al-Qa’ída. The war on terror is, ultimately, a war of language games, where the winner of the conversational argument shapes, not only global discourse, but geopolitics.

Offensive Cartoon

I am, as an autistic and human rights activist, deeply offended by a cartoon which depicted the shooting of a chimpanzee by police officers. It was accompanied by the words, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” The cartoon, an apparent dual reference to President Barak Obama’s stimulus package and the recent killing of a chimpanzee in Connecticut, was published this past Tuesday in the New York Post, one of the media properties of Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, which also owns Fox News Channel. In solidarity with Rev. Al Sharpton, I stand against this blatant example of bigotry and call upon the publisher of the New York Post to offer an apology.

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