Sunday, February 25, 2007
John Newton, the man who penned the words to the song Amazing Grace, was a ship's captian for slave ships who was later haunted by the lives he destroyed, ends up being a very important supporting character in this movie.
The hero is of the story is William Wilberforce, a gifted young legislator in Britian. He and his group wrestle through the political toils of institutional and political slavery. The devaluation of the lives of the African slaves is so stark and so hard to watch because of the ease with which the devaluation comes off the lips of the legislators.
What I think this movie does best is show the difference between a politically self-interested kind of Christianity that is so intertwined with state that you can't tell the difference between the two and a genuine Christianity that actually cares for the value of human life, even if it means tolerating accusations of sedition and treason.
And if watchers do not connect what happens in the process and tone of this movie and what is happeing in America today with immigration and racial inequities, I think they miss the point. It is hard to hear talk today of illeagl immigrants costing "us" money and say it is much different than the abolishment of slavery costing too much money back in Enlgand or here in the United States.
The movie moves along well enough to keep the watcher's interest. There is drama, romance, and enough tension to keep a bit of a knot in your stomach.
What is most difficult about this movie is perhaps what makes it so good. The amount of effort it took to undo something that should have never existed in the first place is hard to sit through.
As a Christian, I am glad to see a movie making an honest effort at exposing what Christians are capable of when they actually follow what Jesus did - and what happens when they do not.
My biggest critique of the movies is that there were not enough Africans in the movie. I understand that the movie was not centered on the Africans part of the equation per se, but i think tat they could have done a better job on this part.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Click here for a video on race after reading this post.
I remember running a race in 3rd grade. It was the 100 yard dash. I had to run against Rob, a boy who was considered very fast. At the same time, I had shown that I was pretty fast myself.
As he and I were getting ready to run, stretching out our legs and all, he looked at me and said, "I'm going to pace you."
"Yeah, I am going to pace you."
"What does that mean?"
"I'm not telling you, but you can't win when I do it."
"Tell me what it means."
"I'll tell you after I win."
I didn't have a chance in the race. All I could think about during the race was "what is pacing? Is he doing it now? Can I do it to someone else once I learn how to do it?" And so on.
He beat me by a couple of steps.
Pacing, as it turns out didn't really mean anything. What happened was that I was placed into a situation in which I didn't understand the rules. Yes, I knew where the start and finish lines were and to run when the gym teacher blew the whistle, but those are not the rules that made the difference. There were interpersonal rules that I was not aware of. The "psyche the other guy out" rule was not within my realm of understanding.
OK, take this example and change it a little. Now let's say I had to begin running this race from 30 yards behind the starting line giving Rob a 30 yard advantage. The 100 yards are the only ones that count, but I have to run 30 yards in order to get to the first yard that counts.
Now image that everyone in my family had gone to that school for as far back as I knew (great great granparents) and they always had the same set of circumstances, and always lost. The only real difference is that I get to start at 30 yeards back while they had to start 50, 70, or 100 yards back. Before that, they didn't even get to run in the race at all. Imagine I had heard these stories about racing and losing races my whole life. I knew I was going to lose. My best hope was to lose by less than my family had lost. But really, I felt like a loser. I hated myself for being a loser (even before I ran the race) and I had hatred for my oppoent, for the people who made the rules and for the people who had done this to my family and my ancestors.
Now imagine, in a twist of events, that I won the race against Rob, even though he had a 30 yard lead. Would that be any proof that the race was equal? Was equality achieved? Of course not. It only proves that I am not only faster than Rob, but that I am incredibly faster than Rob. To make up 30 yards is an almost superhuman feat.
But then think of how insulted I am when people see me win and say that I am only faster than Rob. "Faster than Rob? Are you kidding? I'm Superman!!!"
Think of how insulted I am when my superhuman efforts only make people arrive at the conclusion that things are equal. "Equal? That's what my think of my superhuman speed? That things are equal?"
Think about it. That is theft. Credit is paid to the people organizing the race that things were equal when they were not while credit is not given to the person who made the incredible achievement. The message is "Look how equal we made things," and not "WOW! That runner overcome the injustice and won anyway. That is incredible."
Claiming proof of equality when, in some cases, the oppressed find a way to win over the unjust system is a further layer of oppression. Claiming eqality when you don't do the work, sacrifice, and pain it requires to actually achieve it is merely advancing the oppression and making it even more nuanced, more confusing for the oppressed, and more powerful for the oppressor.
We are not even close to having equality in America. The fact that things are better than they were is not good enough. The fact that there are other countries who don't even try is not good enough. The fact that there are powerful people of color in the political arena (conservative and liberal), on the athletic field, and in the art galleries is not good enough.
Neutralizing the legacy of American Indian genocide and slavery takes more than a few generations. It will take another century to really feel the impact of civil rights in more than a token manner. And perhaps another century after that for these inequalities to wash out.
And that will only happen if:
1. American demographics keep changing toward a non-white majority. (Not that there is inherent badness is whiteness, but rather there is blindness in power).
2. American apartheid does not reassert itself in law.
3. Backlash from oppressed people does not "justify" further oppression.
4. Inequalities are more recognized by the people in power and these people are responsive.
5. Counrty music is more influenced by the Dixie Chicks and less by Toby Keith.
6. Patriotism is defined in terms more open to unique and diverse cultures unifying on a few important things than everyone becomes like the dominant culture.
7. Several people of color impact Nascar in the same way Tiger Woods impacted golf.
8. Americans find something of value we can all unify on. "All [people] are created equal" is something we already have and is a good one to go on.
9. We realize that we cannot exist forever on exploitation.
10. We love our neighbors as ourselves.
When race is a race against each other, many lose, few win, and the winnings are hollow.
When race is a race against hatred, oppression, fear, poverty, hopelessness, and shame, then every single person has a chance to win. When we define the enemy in these terms, then no person has to lose in order for another one to win.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The content is good, as well.
Click here to see the video.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Following that is the Chris Gonzalez ponderings on commitment.
Levinger's Model of Commitment:
1. Present Attraction
2. Alternative Attraction
3 kinds of attractions
These forces exert pressure on the cohesiveness of a relationship.
Rusbult's Investment Model:
Based on interdependence theory, Rusbult talks about
1. Satisfaction level
2. Quality of alternatives
3. Investment Size.
- Depenedence is greater when an individual wants to be in the relationship and has no other alternative.
- However, a great investment might keep someone in a relationship that is unsatisfying.
Johnson's Tripartite Model
Personal commitment -"I want the relationship"
Moral Commitment - "I am obligated to be in the relationship."
Structural Commitment - The combination of social pressure, potential alternatives, termination procedures, and irretrieveable investments.
The Gonzalez Blowing Smoke Model
These thoughts are musings, perhaps reiterations of what I read and perhaps the beginnings of something, but are certainly nothing more than that. These thoughts are probably guided by systems theory, human ecology theory, and social construction more than anything else. It shouldn't be too hard to find elements of these theories if you are familiar with them.
Feel free to critique these thoughts (if you have nothing better to do) and provide some feedback. I'd love to hear what the great minds have to say. Seriously, tear it up!
Word count: 1600
Musings on Commitment
Commitment is a creative dynamic agreement made on multiple social levels with varying degrees of complexity.
Creative - This means that the commitment is generated, collaborated upon, and invented. It is a creative act between the individuals, the relationship itself, and the social environment. By no means are relationships a clean slate on which commitment is authored and neither is there a sense of determinism in that the commitment script is prewritten or issued. Creativity involves agency
Agency - The extent to which an entity (individual, relationship, social group) asserts itself. Agency is capacity for internal and external change.
Dynamic - Commitment is an ongoing and fluid component to a relationship, always in process. It is never static, though it might be stable. This means no relationship is immune to dissolution and no relationship is determined to dissolve. And yet it does not mean that all relationships have equal chance of success either. Commitment varies in levels of stability, vulnerability, and risk.
Agreement - The complexity of and the extent to which the individual, the relationship, and the social environment negotiate their co-existence. This agreement involves dynamic rules (usually unspoken) and dynamic roles (explicit and implicit) to which there is varying levels of adherence.
Multiple Social Levels:
1. Personal - The individual takes stock of his or her own agency (conscious of unconscious) and decides to what extent he or she will allow that agency to be accessed by the relationship and the other individual. The decision to determine how much of his or her agency is to be accessed by the relationship or other individual is performed daily more than it is intentioned. Multiple influences on all levels assist the individual to perform (literally act out) his or her commitment.
More personal agency released into the relationship is not necessarily an indicator of more commitment to the other person. Amount of personal agency released into or invested in the relationship is more likely curvilinear in nature as it relates to amount of and quality of commitment. Too little agency released into the relationship means little commitment. The individual is unwilling or incapable of co-creating the relationship and is more willing to co-create other things or create nothing for himself or herself. On the other hand, too much agency means little commitment as well. The loss of self-agency into the relationship can hardly be considered commitment as their is no longer any creative contribution to the relationship if there is no self.
Furthermore, the individual's response to the other person's agency works for or against commitment. When the individual receives the other's agency as that person's contribution to the creative act of commitment, the dynamic agreement is made more likely. However, whereas the individual consumes the other's agency for personal advantage or gain, there will be little commitment in that he or she is taking that creative energy and using it somewhere besides the relationship. Or, if one person is consumed by the other's personal agency, there is no mutual creative contribution and commitment is jeopardized.
2. Relational - If it is a close relationship, then there is a degree of relational agency present. Commitment is partially indicated by the balance of personal agencies merging into relational agency. This relational agency is dynamic and fluid as it is dependent upon the two levels of the individuals agencies. The extent to which the couple is able to contribute their personal agency in a balanced manner and receive the other's personal agency in a balance manner combined with the degree to which they develop competence in creating a mutually agreeable roles and rule within and beyond the relationship will influence their level and quality of commitment.
Relational agency and creativity is not only influenced by the personal agency of the individuals, but is also influenced by the social context of the relationship. Not only are two individuals creatively producing commitment, but the social environment is making contributions as well.
3. Social and environmental- The agency of the social and environmental context of the relationship is influential in the lives of the individuals and the relationship. Social context, defined broadly, means every other relationship and structure which has any contact with either of the individuals or the relationship. Friends, co-workers, family of origin, extended family, workplace, laws governing relationships, availability of resources, media, etc.
The social and environmental context is a dynamic and creative force in the relationship. It provides opportunities, alternatives, privileges, threats, constraints, and oppressions. The influence of the creativity and agency of the social and environmental must never be underestimated. Context, in large measure, defines content. A "model couple" in one context is a "snobby elitist couple" in another. One context is affirming while the other is hostile.
So, commitment is not merely a measure of the extent to which two people can, in a balanced way, creatively contribute their agency to each other, but also the extent to which the relationship can creatively contribute its agency to the social and environmental context and receive the agency of the social and environmental context in a balanced way.
The extent to which the social and environmental agency is allowed into the relationship is also curvilinear in it effects. Too much social and environmental influence and the relationship loses its ability to create and thus is awash in whatever the environment determines. Whether the environment is supportive of or hostile to the relationship, the relational agency and creative force is gone and commitment is compromised. Too little social and environmental influence and the relationship is isolated, creating dependency, not commitment.
Levels of Complexity in Agreement:
Commitment depends on agreements. Agreements can occur at varying levels of complexity. The more complex or sophisticated the kind of agreement, the greater diversity that relationship can tolerate.
1. Simple. An agreement is simple when there has to be an exact match in content between the individuals. "She likes pepperoni pizza and I like supreme. How are we ever going to make it?" or "We both love romantic comedies. We'll live happily ever after."
It is also simple when there has to be an exact match between the content of the relationship and the content of the social and environmental context. For example, if individuals in a close relationship can no longer tolerate single people because they look down on them for not having a relationship or envy their "freedom," so they decide as a couple that they will only spend time with other couples, this is a simple agreement between the relationship and the social and environmental context.
Commitment is fragile when based upon simple agreements.
2. Moderate. An agreement is moderate when there has to be a match of deep content or process and identity markers. "We're both very religious people." Religion is (should be) a deeper and more complex thing than pizza and movies and it is indicative of a way of life that includes values, beliefs, faith, and so forth.
There are also moderate levels of agreement between the relationship and the social and environmental context. "I am a university professor and my husband is a janitor. For the most part, we're fine, but the more I get into my work and the more he gets into his, the further apart we become. My friends don't even know how to talk to his friends and vice versa."
Commitment is stronger, but still vulnerable, when it is based on deep content or process.
3. Complex. An agreement is complex when there has to be acceptance of the person. This is complex because it bound to be filled with contradictions and paradoxes. An individual is in the relationship by choice, but is not exclusively defined by it. His or her partner can enjoy or participate in things that carry no mutual interest, but there is space in the relationship for diversity because the agreement is not located on the content or the process level, but rather at the personal level. Complex agreements are not to be confused with diffuse agreements or no agreements or a complete loss of self. That is not commitment. In contrast, the tolerance or embracing of diversity within the relationship is an indicator of how few things can threaten the relationship.
There is also a complexity of agreement between the relationship and the social and environmental context. If the couple is conservative and Muslim and living peacefully in and with a social and environmental context they perceive as "dark," they have a complex agreement with that social and environmental context. The couple does not impose their relational agreements on the social and environmental context, and yet chooses to remain connected to it without malice.
A Few Propositions:
1. Although agency on the personal, relational, and social levels are required for commitment to exist, commitment can only be sustained when relational agency asserts itself (or resists) most strongly.
2. Losing one's own identity (abdicating self-agency) is as costly a breach of commitment as selfishness (imposing self-agency).
3. The more complex the relationship, the more it can tolerate a social and environmental context hostile to the relationship.
4. The more complex the agreements of the relationship, the more diversity the relationship tolerates or embraces.
***It could be (and should be) argued that family of origin is not of the same kind as social and environmental context. I'll get to work on that. Family of origin issues adn generational influences are powerful when it comes to relational commitment in different ways than other kinds of relationships.
Jack, like Luke Skywalker, is going to have to face the evils of his own father. Unlike Luke Skywalker, Jack is going to have to kill his own father for the good of the country.
Glad to see Wayne Palmer getting a backbone. I wonder if they are going to have a sitting president assassinated and a nuclear detonation all in one show. I wonder if the sniveling minions of evil are going to be able to pull the trigger.
This is the best season of 24 ever. I can't believe I am saying that because the others have been so good.
Monday, February 12, 2007
It's a desperate place, ignorance. I wrestle for a crumb of knowledge, a scrap of insight. The littlest bit of learning comes as great relief. And yet, those trees. So tall; so grand.
I feel hungry and alone - I don't know how to eat. All this food and I don't know how to eat.
OK, that felt good. It's off my chest. Now I can go back to studying.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Forget about the fact that paper they read at 6 AM didn't even exist 6 hours prior and now it's sitting in their house keeping them from being ignorant of the world around them (and informed of the great sale at Best Buy). No, they do not care what it takes to gather the news, do the layout, print the paper, bundle it up, get the bundles to the warehouse, distribute the papers to the drivers, and get their news to them before 6 AM. They just do not know or care. Just so long as it is there when they want it.
It doesn't matter if it's Christmas, if the newspaper isn't there by 6 AM the paper route driver (and him alone) is a jackass - end of story. Never mind that the driver has a family of his own and would probably rather be home and enjoying a warm coffee next to the fire reading the paper himself, getting ready for the kids to come and rip open the Christmas presents that Santa delivered.
Nope, doesn't matter, the paper route driver is not a person, he is a function. He is a cog that at best can come out even steven. People can say, "my paper rote driver sucks," and get away with it. But no one ever says, "You know, my paper deliverer is a really terrific guy." No way. At best, he goes unnoticed.
And I think that was the story that identified my father. For most of his life the very best he was recognized for was his ability to be even steven. His best efforts elevated him to neutral. And then on his bad days, oh boy, he was given all the credit he deserved for those days.
Looking back I regret never cutting the man some slack when I was younger. How much weight can a man bear when the best he could do was recognized as average? How long can a man last, even in his most heroic efforts, when his efforts are met with a collective shrug from the world? When he did his best, took risks, put himself out there and "gave it Hell," all he got was this yawn or a "yeah, but" followed by one of his weaknesses.
He never asked for credit for the good he did. Why should anyone have to? At the same time, he had some credit coming that never came. But I wonder what his life would have been like if he had been given credit. I wonder if he would have livened up some, been more optimistic, been less guarded and hidden, been more engaged and connected. I wonder if he might still be alive today had he been given credit for being good.
I have this idea that when everyone around you doesn't accept you for who you are, you don't get to live as long as people who who do get that acceptance. Each of those disapproving looks, punishing blows, demeaning statements, dominating interactions, intentional exclusions, public humiliations, ruthless manipulations, and degrading assumptions peel years off of the end of a person's life like crazy. I'm guess it peeled off about 20 years from the end of my dad's life. People will tell you that it was his poor health, his weight, his lack of self-control that did him in. Well, the sad testimony to the world is that food treated him better than people did. When you have to choose between a bunch of people who really don't give a rip about you as a person and pizza, you go for the pizza. He wasn't good enough for people, but he was good enough for the pizza.
From the day he was born, he wasn't good enough. The best he could have ever done growing up was not to be noticed. That started a life pattern that never quit. You see, his painful childhood was training for him to become the best damn paper route driver in the state of Minnesota - a tragic success of which I am just now beginning to find the depths.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
So, let's suppose we placed ten difference people in a room. This time these people were as similar as possible on gender, race, attractivness, height, skin color, hair color, eye color - as many similarities as possible. Guess what, they still begin ranking each other about as quickly as the other group - only they find other things to rank each other on.
Ranking is the basis of racism. The thing is, everyone does it. I do it. You do it. Whit epeople do it. Black people do it. Asian people do it. Ranking isn't only a white problem, it is a hman problem.
There are several responses people have to solve this social ranking problem.
1. Color-blind. Try hard not to notice differences. Let's just all be (American, Christian, Texan, whatever). The problem with this is that it is not only impossible, it requires certsin types of people to give up someof what makes them special or unique. In the united States it means anything non-white must give up more. This is problematic because non white groups ahve already had to give much just to exists and function in the United States. Color blind policy only exacerbates the problem.
2. Pluralism. Distinct groups seek to remain distinct. Each culture is intentionally preserved and promoted within its own groupings. No requirement is made for anyone or any group to relinquish any part of itself. This is certainly more respectful than colorblind, but is likely to be just as impossible.
3. Denial. This is the most common response, but the least effective for making positive change. All this does is keep people ranked withot anyone having to take responsibility for it. The people in power remain in power and the people without power continue to have less or find someone to oppress.
4. Guilt. When people with more privilege than others recognize the gaps and the injustice, they feel bad. Then they start being do-gooders out of guilt. Thing is, when they realize that their guilt offerings don't change the world immediately (or are unappreciated), they become discouraged or resentful that their good works don't "work." Their guilt is not relieved. In fact, the real problem is that their guilt is an expression of their exaggerated sense of privilege. It's still all about that person. Guilt doesn't work, isn't sustainable adn is not genuine.
5. Investing privilege. OK, so everyone is ranked. Each of us is placed (and places people) in a social category based on ridiculous criteria (skin color, height, etc). Our rank denotes the level of privilege each of us has in our social context. So, out of generosity, kindness, compassion, hope, (maybe benevolent anger at all the injustice), you are motivated to invest your time, money, relationship space into people who have lower rank. You invest into learning their culture, art, traditions, and ways. You find ways to privilege their position. You invest into providing something of value for them.
You do it without any expectation of response, appreciation, or affirmation. It's not about doing good to feel good, it's not about propping up your ego by helping "those poor people," because of how good you. It is about the intentional redistrbution of wealth and privilege.
Thoughts? Additions? Challenges?
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Sign up for his newsletter (FOR FREE) and get knowledge, understanding, and perhaps some relief.
If that's not enough, you can download the first chapter of his book; it's called Scream Free Parenting.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
...If it does start, it refuses to blow warm air even though you've let "warm up" for 20 minutes.
..."number of seconds until skin freezes" becomes part of the local weather forecast.
...the St. Paul Winter Carnival shortens the length of its parade.
...exhaling creates frost on male facial hair.
...boogers freeze deep within the nose upon contact with outside air.
...you don't care how your hat made your hair look.
...not getting frost bit is cause for celebration.
...you say how many degrees below zero it is and then have to clarify it with, "and that's not including the wind chill."
...a Minnesotan says it is.
I woke up to 26 below zero - without the wind chill - I'd say it's a tad chilly.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
So many churches just hang on to old dreams and die a slow death. The Garnett Church is not going follow that path -and I am so impressed.
Read the article about this not-so-sexy-church making what is probably a bigger and more important difference than a mega-church model of doing church.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Today it took me 2 hours to write four sentences.
This kind of writing is so slow it reminds of an old Star Trek episode. This kind of writing is very painful for me.
Any of you geniuses out there who have written anything like this got some advice for me?
60 above zero:
Floridians turn on the heat.
People in Minnesota plant gardens.
50 above zero:
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in Duluth sunbathe.
40 above zero:
Italian & English cars won't start.
People in Minnesota drive with the windows down.
32 above zero:
Distilled water freezes.
The water in Bemidji gets thicker.
20 above zero:
Floridians don coats, thermal
underwear, gloves, wool hats.
People in Minnesota throw on a flannel shirt.
15 above zero:
New York landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in Minnesota have the last cookout before it gets cold.
People in Miami all die.
Minnesotans close the windows.
10 below zero:
Californians fly away to Mexico
People in Minnesota get out their winter coats.
25 below zero:
The Girl Scouts in Minnesota are selling cookies door to door.
40 below zero:
Washington DC runs out of hot air.
People in Minnesota let the dogs sleep indoors.
100 below zero:
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Minnesotans get upset because they can't start the Mini-Van.
460 below zero:
ALL atomic motion stops (absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.)
People in Minnesota start saying..."Cold 'nuff fer ya?"
500 below zero:
Hell freezes over.
Minnesota public schools will open 2 hours late.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Fear beats the life expectancy right out of a person.
When you can relieve a person of fear, even a little, you have loved that person.