Friday, September 7, 2007

843 Passing Out Violence in our Environment

Message no. 843[Branch from no. 836] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 6:37pm Subject: Re: Keep on truckin'!

Adrienne, your emotions about the Virginia Tech shooting really affected me, making me think about how I fled Los Angeles for years ago when two men tried to shoot me and that I came to Egypt partially to find a relatively safe place with few drugs or alcohol or guns where I could continue my work among the poor without feeling threatened everyday. Of course, as we see, obviously it isn't only in the poor communities where violence strikes with such constantly (and we can suspect that the resource hoarding and exploitive practices of the rich, and the constant marginalization that people suffer as they try desperately to climb the supposed "ladder of success" and to get social approval foster the conditions for disatisfaction that lead to violence . The violence rampant in America is a systemic illness that spreads for complex reasons. At least here in Egypt it can seem a far off bad dream.

Now that you have me thinking of how we might end violence and suffering I thought I might share with you an email I wrote to Janita, who is back on line with us after suffering severe computer problems and being out of the loop for a while. I share it because she asked if she can still "pass" the class, and I think you might all enjoy knowing that I think the whole system of "grades" and "passing" and "failing" is part of the systemic violence that destroys our society. The very notion that somebody can "fail" in the self-initiated effort to learn about the world, or that some outsider can "judge" success or failure in learning, is absurd to me. The idea that we use vocabulary like "pass" -- which conjures up the travel passes issued (rarely!) by Israeli soldiers to Palestinians, or that the Nazi's issued to Jews on occasion (while incarcerating the rest) is offensive, don't you think? The issuance of a Pass-port, by nature, suggests somebody is trying to control your movement and your growth. What I love now about visiting my wife's family in Germany, is that the whole EU is now one big country of countries, and we can drive or take the train from Germany to Belgium, to France, to Spain, to Italy without ever having to show a passport! It is beautiful!

What right do we have to "Pass" somebody, as if we were the border guard standing between college and freedom to pursue happiness? Is my job to examine your documents and decide who gets to "pass" through the gate into "the real world" of opportunity and who has to "stay behind" and slavishly work for minimum wage or in a job they hate?


This attitude of passing and failing people seems to me to lie somewhere near the root of the world's problems with violence and dissatisfaction and hatred and intolerance. Every gang kid in L.A. I taught who had history with violence also had a history with someone "failing" him. Every gang kid I succeeded with grew in confidence because we abolished the very concept of "passing and failing" and focussed only on self-awareness and growth. It taught me a powerful lesson: screw the grades and focus on building relationships and consensus and community!

So here is what I wrote to Janita (hope you don't mind me repeating it for the class -- our eutopian community -- Janita! They are your support group, and the real audience for your work, not me!)

Hi Janita -- glad to know you are alive and kickin'!!

Here is my philosophy of life as it relates to your situation: we each have an obligation to learn everything we can about the operation of the world and focus our efforts on using that knowledge to "paying it forward" and making the world a better place for our children and grandchildren. I don't care much for institutions and man-made rules that get in the way of those pursuits so I reward people when I have institutional backing for making the effort to improve their surroundings for those who come later.

The only deadlines that concern me are the ones currently threatening humanity -- global warming, nuclear energy and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, poverty and suffering, extinction of God's creation, cruelty and abuse to those who cannot fend for themselves... you know what I'm talking about. The climate change clock is ticking, as I said in a video I posted to our class, and the fuse on certain social time bombs are growing short. I believe we have obligations to do as much as we can as quickly as possible to solve world problems and end suffering.

When you share with us the way that you have been internalizing the information you've been learning from reading the text, from exploring outside and web reading, and from processing all that with your own experiences and insights, your love of life and your hopes, dreams and ambitions, and when you integrate that into a presentation of how you would use that information to make the world a better place (your eutopia!), I consider that you have fulfilled your obligations to the rest of us and our planet. So I reward that.

The short answer is, "YES", of course you can still pass at this point! There is enough "punishment" in the world for us hard working souls who were not advantaged with the wealth stolen from the many to make the few rich. I'm not going to penalize anybody because of the digital divide -- I'm lucky enough here in Egypt that I was able to somewhat repair my computer power supply or I wouldn't be on line tonight! I know where you are coming from!

The important thing is that you are doing the work, and we all look forward to your posts when you upload it. Just make sure you get everything to us with sufficient time for me and others to read it all and respond -- part of the course grade is about interaction!! I'm sure the others will welcome your return to "THE GREAT CONVERSATION".

So don't ever get discouraged!

Welcome back to our eutopia!


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