government

Really Know Yourself

Really Know Yourself

“The enemies of liberal democracy, they have a method: They hack our feelings. Not our emails, not our bank accounts—they hack our feelings of fear and hate and vanity, and then use these feelings to polarize and destroy democracy from within.” 

~ Yuval Noah Harari

Short Circuit Your Reflexive Tendency to React

Short Circuit Your Reflexive Tendency to React

“If we don't become aware of our own reactions so that we can short-circuit precisely the kind of addictive and reflexive response that we have to these things, and if we're unwilling to turn them off, we will participate in the continuing debasement of our democracy.”

~ Brooke Gladstone

Basic Training in Mindfulness Techniques

Basic Training in Mindfulness Techniques

Ryan helped introduce a bill that would support bringing integrative health to Veterans Affairs and mindfulness techniques into the military as part of basic training, making members of the military "more proficient in how to deal with trauma"—a concept investigated recently by research on Marines and mindfulness

Leadership is a Choice

"Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank. I know many people at the seniormost levels of organizations who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities, and we do what they say because they have authority over us, but we would not follow them. And I know many people who are at the bottoms of organizationswho have no authority and they are absolutely leaders, and this is because they have chosen to look afterthe person to the left of them, and they have chosen to look after the person to the right of them. This is what a leader is."

~ Simon Sinek, from "Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe," TED Talk, March 2014 


See also:

Sinek, S. (2014). Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don't. New York: Portfolio/Penguin. (Amazon, library)

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York: Portfolio. (Amazon, library)

People are Obedient

Matt Damon reads from Howard Zinn's speech "The Problem is Civil Obedience" (November 1970) from Voices of a People's History on Vimeo.

Excerpt from "The Problem is Civil Obedience," by Howard Zinn, fromThe Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy:

I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don't have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down.

...

If you don't think, if you just listen to TV and read scholarly things, you actually begin to think that things are not so bad, or that just little things are wrong. But you have to get a little detached, and then come back and look at the world, and you are horrified. So we have to start from that supposition-that things are really topsy-turvy.

And our topic is topsy-turvy: civil disobedience. As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem...Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience...We recognize this for Nazi Germany. We know that the problem there was obedience, that the people obeyed Hitler. People obeyed; that was wrong. They should have challenged, and they should have resisted; and if we were only there, we would have showed them. Even in Stalin's Russia we can understand that; people are obedient, all these herdlike people.

...

Law is very important. We are talking about obedience to law-law, this marvelous invention of modern times, which we attribute to Western civilization, and which we talk about proudly. The rule of law, oh, how wonderful, all these courses in Western civilization all over the land. Remember those bad old days when people were exploited by feudalism? Everything was terrible in the Middle Agesbut now we have Western civilization, the rule of law. The rule of law has regularized and maximized the injustice that existed before the rule of law, that is what the rule of law has done. Let us start looking at the rule of law realistically, not with that metaphysical complacency with which we always examined it before.

When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another thanwe have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It's the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That's why we are always surprised when they get togetherthey smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It's like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it's going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them.

...

What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing.

Read the whole essay...

Something You Want to Cultivate

Pete Marovich | Photos for The Dispatch"When you taste it, it’s something you want to continue to cultivate. You realize how much better your days are, how much better your relationships are because you’re actually there for them. Then you start to realize how much energy you can waste by fretting about the future or regretting things in the past that we just carry with us."


~ Tim Ryan, from "Congressman Uses Meditation to Relieve Stress," by Jessica Wehrman, The Columbus Dispatch, March 31, 2013

A Quiet Revolution

"It's a quiet revolution that's happening...It's happening now in the military, in the prisons. I think at some point the more we understand about how the brain works, the more this is going to catch on."

Congressman Tim Ryan 

See also: Ryan, T. (2012). A mindful nation: How a simple practice can help us reduce stress, improve performance, and recapture the American spirit. Carlsbad, Calif: Hay House.http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/754725090

One Today

One Today
by Richard Blanco 

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
 
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
 
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches 
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
 
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
 
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
 
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
 
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
 
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
 
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together


See also: "Making a Man Out of Me," Huffington Post Blog, Jan. 20, 2013

Even the Sky

My Two Cents
by Dean Young, from Fall Higher

Generally, there are two problems
With money: 1. Getting it and 2. What
To do with it. Certainly the food bank
Needs your help. The bristled ant.
Girls’ volleyball and these days even
The water supply, even the sky.
As you may surmise by my raiment,
Drapings really, and the primitive
Medium of this message, I have little
To recommend re: 1. Whereas 2.:
Start small. Make a stack of quarters
Then knock them down like an affordable
Coup d’état. Pennies are mostly zinc
So there’s your source of zinc,
An excellent sunblock. If you crumple
A crisp, uncirculated bill then
Uncrumple it incompletely,
It’ll appear to have shrunk as vivid
Visual aid to the recession. Blame
The president. Blame Congress. Blame
Mexico. For dramatic effect
Abbie Hoffman dropped a few hundred ones
On the New York Stock Exchange floor,
The ensuing pandemonium shutting down
The world economy for a couple hours.
Vermeer-owning industrialists
Stared into the nothing-mist. Oil
Magnates and hotel highnesses stared
Into the mist. Squeak, squeak — tiny, pink
Rat-feet on the wheel. My father worked nights
Most his life then died young but we never
Lacked electricity or clothes. I hate
To suppose money makes everyone its slave
But nearly everyone I know is sleep-
Deprived and wants to send a robot-clone
Into work for them. Squeak, squeak. Often
Money, like gin, can bring out the worst
Although once, after a couple stiff ones,
My mother gave you her mother’s diamond ring.
Maybe she won’t remember a thing, we thought
But she wrote it off as a gift on her taxes.


More tax day poetry from The New York Times.

The Fundamental Building Block of Learning

Excerpts from Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan's talk on mindfulness from Mindfulness.org:

"Mindfulness can be a great opportunity for us as a country, for all of us to develop this skill in some way, improve our performance… but there’s some fundamental things that are essential to that, and it’s the ability to concentrate, to relax, to be aware, and to cultivate and develop these skills; they’re going to improve your performance, regardless of what you are trying to do. And mindfulness, in my estimation, doing a lot of work in Congress, and travelling a lot, and playing sports, and all of these things… there’s something fundamental underneath all of those activities, and paying attention, and being aware, and having a reduced stress level, helps in all of those situations. And I think this is going to have transformational effects on our education system.

A Mindful Nation by Tim Ryan"I don’t care how much money we spend on education, it doesn’t matter what programs we’re trying to teach our kids… if they don’t have the fundamental building block of learning, which is being able to control your attention span, all the rest is not going to be effective. And mindfulness teaches these kids how to pay attention. It teaches them how they are connected to other people, and how to be kind to other people, and to see the problems that other people may be dealing with, and then understand that in a more compassionate way.

"So mindfulness, I believe, is already having transformational effects in classrooms in Youngstown, in Northern Ohio, and all across the country, but we need to ramp it up, [the understanding that] this fundamental skill of paying attention is essential to us transforming our education system...

"And once I had the personal experience myself at an extended five-day silent retreat, and you practice and meet people who are implementing mindfulness programs in the military, in our education system, in our healthcare system, for our veterans, for our family caregivers. And seeing these programs have a profound effect on people who are working in very high levels of stress burnout in their jobs – if they’re nurses, or firefighters, or police officers—and [that] this is able to reduce their stress, and improve their performance. When I saw all this, and had a personal experience myself, I felt like I would be derelict in my duty as a United States Congressman if I didn’t try to push this stuff out into society...

Our country is going through too much right now. Our soldiers are suffering too much. Parents and teachers, all down the line, and now is the time for us to implement this. It’s not the 99% against the 1%, it’s about the 100%, all of us together. And when we all move in concert in the same direction we have success as a country. And we have quality of life, and a higher standard of living, and more happy citizens. And so, to me a 'Mindful Nation' is a nation where we are connected, and we care about each other, and we’re willing to do what it takes to help our neighbor."

See also: Creating a Mindful Society 2011

It's All About Paying Attention

Susan Sontag: Vassar College Commencement Address (2003)

Despise violence. Despise national vanity and self-love. Protect the territory of conscience.

Try to imagine at least once a day that you are not an American. Go even further: try to imagine at least once a day that you belong to the vast, the overwhelming majority of people on this planet who don't have passports, don't live in dwellings equipped with both refrigerators and telephones, who have never even once flown in a plane.

Be extremely skeptical of all claims made by your government. Remember, it may not be the best thing for America or for the world for the President of the United States to be the president of the planet. Be just as skeptical of other governments, too.

It's hard not to be afraid. Be less afraid.

It's good to laugh a lot, as long as it doesn't mean you're trying to kill your feelings.

Don't allow yourself to be patronized, condescended to—which, if you are a woman, happens, and will continue to happen, all the time.

Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. It's all about taking in as much of what's out there as you can, and not letting the excuses and the dreariness of some of the obligations you'll soon be incurring narrow your lives. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.

You'll notice that I haven't talked about love. Or about happiness. I've talked about becoming — or remaining — the person who can be happy, a lot of the time, without thinking that being happy is what it's all about. It's not. It's about becoming the largest, the most inclusive, most responsive person you can be.

The Language of Individual Freedom

Excerpt from “The Broken Society,” by David Brooks, New York Times (March 18, 2010):

Phillip Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.

The free-market revolution didn’t create the pluralistic decentralized economy. It created a centralized financial monoculture, which requires a gigantic government to audit its activities. The effort to liberate individuals from repressive social constraints didn’t produce a flowering of freedom; it weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers. In Britain, you get a country with rising crime, and, as a result, four million security cameras.

More…

[Thanks Suzanne!]

Just These People

mirror
by Lucille Clifton, from Voices

one day
we will look into the mirror
and the great nation standing there
will shake its head and frown
the way babies do who
are just born
and cant remember
why they asked for just
these people     just this chance
and when we close our eyes
against regret
we will be left alone
in the wrong image     not understanding
what we are or what we
had hope to be

*     *     *

Changing Face of America
A sociological study of the changing face of America, based on demographic research from the Pew Research Center. The first grid represents an exact breakdown of the current ethnicity of young Americans. The second grid's collection of faces and ethnicities is a projection of where America will be in 2050, with far fewer Caucasians and a significant increase in Asians and Hispanics. In 2050, the minority will be the majority.

~ Ben Baker Photo, from American Youth Book

GRID 1: 13 Caucasian, 3 Hispanic, 3 African American, 1 Asian

GRID 2: 9 Caucasian, 6 Hispanic, 3 African American, 2 Asian

Willing to Think Little

Excerpt from Think Little by Wendell Berry from A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural & Agricultural (1972):

Wendell Berry For most of the history of this country our motto, implied or spoken, has been Think Big. I have come to believe that a better motto, and an essential one now, is Think Little. That implies the necessary change of thinking and feeling, and suggests the necessary work. Thinking Big has led us to the two biggest and cheapest political dodges of our time: plan-making and law-making. The lotus-eaters of this era are in Washington, D.C., Thinking Big. Somebody comes up with a problem, and somebody in the government comes up with a plan or a law. The result, mostly, has been the persistence of the problem, and the enlargement and enrichment of the government.

But the discipline of thought is not generalization; it is detail, and it is personal behavior. While the government is "studying" and funding and organizing its Big Thought, nothing is being done. But the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it — he is doing that work. A couple who make a good marriage, and raise healthy, morally competent children, are serving the world's future more directly and surely than any political leader, though they never utter a public word. A good farmer who is dealing with the problem of soil erosion on an acre of ground has a sounder grasp of that problem and cares more about it and is probably doing more to solve it than any bureaucrat who is talking about it in general. A man who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.

Vacuums Around Vacuums

“We had this confluence of characters—and I use that term very carefully—that Vanity Fair illustration by Riskoincluded people like Powell, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and so forth, which allowed one perception to be ‘the dream team.’ It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin–like president—because, let’s face it, that’s what he was—was going to be protected by this national-security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire. What in effect happened was that a very astute, probably the most astute, bureaucratic entrepreneur I’ve ever run into in my life became the vice president of the United States.”

“He became vice president well before George Bush picked him. And he began to manipulate things from that point on, knowing that he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him, knowing that he was then going to be able to wade into the vacuums that existed around George Bush—personality vacuum, character vacuum, details vacuum, experience vacuum.”

~ Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from “Farewell to All That,” Vanity Fair (February 2009)