TED Talk: Atheism 2.0

In a world ruled by the hegemony of religion, whether it is the Catholic Church in Latin America, the Christianity of Republicans, or the Islam of Iran or Saudi Arabia, most people in the world live under a type of discourse religion regime, where the hegemony of some type of faith (of that particular faith, on none other is accepted) is total.

It is hard to think critically and individually about matters of the soul, the spirit, the divine, death and life, when you’re being force-fed dogma after dogma. But this is not about atheism, it’s about doubt, it’s about thought, and especially, dialogue.

So how to reconcile and start dialogue with the rest of the world, who, for better or for worse, do believe in these things? Alain de Botton at TED gave an impressive talk on this. Following the same vein as Carl Sagan in Broca’s Brain, de Botton invites atheists not to shut themselves off from the world with a dismissive “go talk to your imaginary friend Jesus”, and to not underestimate politeness.

But he goes further than Sagan and suggests that we can learn enormously from religion in the tools it uses, in the purposes it tries to serve and in the needs it tries to fulfill in people. I’ll let him do the talking.

 

Advertisements

Farm workers prepare for hurricane threat

Source: 

PIERSON, Fla. — Wednesday, November 23, 2011 — When the Atlantic hurricane season ends on Nov. 30, the farm workers of Pierson, Fla., will have more than one reason to celebrate.

Not only did the hurricanes stay away this year. Last month, farm workers opened a Community Disaster Center in Pierson to prepare for the next devastating storm, whenever it comes.

The center provides roughly 350 square feet of space to store emergency supplies such as food and medicine in a local office of the Florida Farm Workers Association. Church World Service funded the project after a series of devastating storms in 2004 and 2005.

Organizers of the project say that their biggest challenge was overcoming local opposition. Pierson is in a rural area that primarily grows ornamental ferns, and while the fern cutters are predominantly Hispanic, most of their employers and local government officials are not.

In 2004, Hurricane Frances revealed the tensions between these communities. The storm caused widespread damage to homes and power lines, and many farm workers relied on hot meals from relief agencies in the weeks that followed.

However, the town of Pierson ordered relief agencies to leave ahead of schedule to encourage fern cutters to return to work, according to newspaper accounts. This convinced the farm workers that they needed to be better prepared for disasters, according to Roberta Perry, a state organizer for the National Farm Worker Ministry.

“It was just sort of a community discussion — if we could take care of ourselves it would be better,” Perry recalls.

Perry helped the farm workers apply for funds to build the Community Disaster Center, and CWS provided them with $31,000 in 2007.

But more difficulties lay ahead. For several years, the Florida Farm Workers Association was unable to obtain a building permit from the Pierson Town Council. Although Pierson has fewer than 3,000 people, the council raised concerns that the building would create excessive traffic and demand for parking.

The council was often unable to vote on the issue because not enough members showed up for a meeting, Perry recalls. Church groups and representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union began attending council meetings to support the building permit application.

Marcos Crisanto, a local coordinator for the Florida Farm Workers Association, says he found the town’s reluctance to issue a permit perplexing.

“It could be because of discrimination, it could be because of racism, I don’t know,” he said.

In 2010, the association finally obtained a permit to build the disaster center as an addition to their existing office, instead of as a separate building. It was a partial victory — but a victory nonetheless.

On Oct. 23, 2011, the association celebrated the completion of the Community Disaster Center with food, children’s dances and a blessing of dedication.

Joann Hale, a CWS Emergency Response Specialist, attended the event. She says that the project is a great example of how CWS helps communities prepare for emergencies.

“We give our money to communities so they can empower themselves and stand on their own two feet and take care of themselves after a disaster,” Hale says.

###
Contact:

Jan Dragin, jdragin@gis.net

El Tren al Tibet

Las montañas peladas, los trozos de troncos, el trance barato reventando los celulares. Estos son los paisajes que definen ahora las areas tibetanas, gracias al famoso tren de Beijing a Lhasa.

Pero esta no es la única versión de los hechos. El gobierno chino le encanta esparcir la narrativa de que está llevando la “civilización” a las minorías (y ni que fuera nuevo el concepto).

Esta, por ejemplo, es una de las imagenes de una presentación de Power Point que recibí hace poco, junto con su pie de foto.

Yaks pastando pacíficamente mientras el tren pasa a toda velocidad.

“De acuerdo con mi guía tibetano de turismo, cuando estuve en Lhasa, me dijo que la economía del Tíbet nunca había sido suficiente para proporcionar un nivel razonablemente suficiente. Cada año, el Tíbet sufría de una insuficiencia presupuestal grave y por ello solicitaba un fuerte subsidio con fondos federales. Gracias al proyecto, el desarrollo y la prosperidad han llegado finalmente a estas lejanas tierras. Ya se pueden ver kilómetros y kilómetros de impresionantes carreteras, puentes, ferrocarriles y otras obras de infraestructura.”

En junio del 2011, viajé con unos amigos por la provincia de Sichuan, donde se encuentran muchas tribus tibetanas. Conocimos muchos tibetanos a los que no les gusta para nada ese tren porque ellos vivian muy bien y muy tranquilos sin que se les metiera la “civilización” y el desarrollo a la casa. “Desarrollo” en este caso significa tienduchas llenas de cachivaches estilo San Andresito donde antes había monasterios. Significa basura, gasto empedernido e innecesario, música electrónica basura en bares baratos, prostitución y alcoholismo donde antes había sociedades nomadas, su estilo de vida desde hace miles de años.

De cierta manera, y esto ni siquiera es mío, el gobierno chino instaló estos trenes para llevar chinos de la etnia Han — que son la mayoria, los del gobierno y las ciudades grandes como Beijing o Shanghai — a estos lugares donde viven las minorías, y así después poder reclamar que son mayoría en esas areas, y poder cambiar las leyes y las costumbres y las tradiciones unilateralmente y virtualmente sin oposición.

De todas maneras China sigue siendo un sistema de un solo partido, y esta hegemonía Han amante de lo occidental y del “progreso” no tiene chance de ser detenida a tiempo.

Las vistas son hermosas pero no lo serán por mucho tiempo, ya que el tren también está para transportar madera, materiales de construcción y agua desde el Tibet hasta las costas del este, donde está la “civilización”, donde los recursos ya son escasos y la demanda no cesa.

Radiolab, new favorite thing

Just finished listening to the latest Radiolab podcast featuring the “irresistible podcast called 99% Invisible — a series of tiny radio stories that provoke enormous questions.” The host, Roman Mars, talked about three stories, one about sound design, another about a journalist’s story on a graffiti artist, and another about how a man charts his life as a series of annual reports. So thought-provoking, so well designed as well, and so original in its editing.