Tuesday, November 22, 2011

UC Davis Chancellor Apologizes

The Chancellor who ordered the police to deal with the UC Davis Occupiers has apologized. If she were truly evil, she would not have done so. Moreover, she made the effort to attend the General Assembly and to connect back to the students.

The students were victimized by the police--who in turn were brought in by the Chancellor--but now they are also allowing the Chancellor her humanity. That is a huge accomplishment on the students' part, since most people would have already hunted her down and taken their revenge.

Could it be that we all learn from this very volatile moment, and that the way that everyone acts here will produce a huge, positive lesson? What exactly will that lesson be?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Police Attack Students at UC Davis Occupy

Does this image help people to understand the state's monopoly over the use of violence? Does it help people to see the incredible power of the students when they use non-violence, risking their safety and their lives?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tonight instead of meeting in our "Asian American Experience" classroom, my four students and I joined OccupyMac (a busload of college students, and two profs, including me) to downtown Minneapolis for a "program" of occupying a bridge then walking in the streets to the People's Plaza (Government Plaza). It was a chilly 35 degrees or so (if you stopped moving, your fingers and toes froze) and we had daylight for only the first hour and a half. The civil disobedience was very carefully staged and symbolic--10 actual arrests, but the police were very rehearsed and so were the protestors. (Much to discuss here about the importance and effectiveness of symbolism, versus plain old bloody beatings, as has happened elsewhere. Apparently it is part of a compromise struck with the poor, black communities in North Mpls who are being represented by church-based leaders who want a very organized and peaceful disobedience activity). Meanwhile about 200 hundred of us watched from the sidewalk, shouting and chanting in a disciplined way: "The whole world is watching!" and "You are the 99%!" (to the cops).

My favorite chants were: "End the War/Tax the Rich" and We are the 99%/We Occupy/We Represent." Chanting "We Shall Not Be Moved" was strange. "The People United Will Never Be Defeated" definitely has a new ring when paired with the 99% slogan.

People outside the US should know--but perhaps you cannot know from the outside--what a huge culture shift this is for all of us. Every day, every hour I see and feel the impact of new questions and new possibilities showing through the cracks of empire. At least on my campus, it's like all the lights are turned on. If this lasts for another semester, it could upgrade and expand the consciousness of an entire generation! Yay.

Monday, October 31, 2011

School to Prison Pipeline

Next Spring 2012 I'll offer an introductory level course on the "school to prison pipeline." That term describes the funnel that makes many children in the United States lose faith in their own abilities to do well in school, and to make decisions that lead them down the path to juvenile, and later adult, corrections.

There are so many things wrong with that picture. The big questions have to do with 1) education: Are schools really for learning? and 2) justice: How should we punish people when they do something wrong?

And the very obvious problem has to do with structural racism. Why are so many of the kids who are channeled into prisons brown, black, and poor?

Free your mind, while there's time

This Detroit mural captures many feelings of our epoch. How can our minds be free, while we are so busy working, reading emails, texting, surfing the web, or shopping on-line? What kind of work occupies our minds? When we are not working, what kind of noise fills the gap in our minds?

What kinds of work would we choose to do, if we were truly free to decide where to apply our minds, bodies, and spirit?

Detroit is a special place, where questions like this are necessary and significant.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Love University Avenue Style

How often do you see positive messages that do not entail or encourage consumption? I saw this several months ago, on my way to martial arts practice at the studio on University Avenue in St. Paul. A few weeks later, it was painted over--gone. The disappearance of this word sent me into an internal tirade: Why would anyone want to erase Love? Must we treat all uninvited expressions in public space as bad? Who cannot discern between an act of tresspassing, and an act of generosity?