Welcome to my blog, and really to the blog that belongs to any and all of you who are both deeply concerned, but still hopeful, about the predicament in which we find ourselves today–in our country and in the world.  I’ve decided to call this blog “promoting curiosity and justice in trying times.”  Certainly, the times are trying, arguably  more so than when Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”    There is a growing disparity in wealth, resources and power between the have’s, and both those who “have-a-little-but-less-and-less” and the have-not’s–in the US, and of course throughout the world.   There is the growing disaster of global warming and enviromental destruction.  The list goes on.  And, the mainstream media, not just Fox News, is less and less inclined to feature news stories that challenge the existing power structure or which represent the kind of out of  the box thinking necessary to solving these deepening problems.

This blog is written in the spirit of WISR’s founding principles and the commitments and wisdom of the many students, faculty and alumni with whom and from whom I have been fortunate to learn since WISR’s beginnings in 1975.  This spirit includes a strong sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness, and a belief that we can potentially learn much from people in all walks of life.  And yet, we also know that “mob-think” and media manipulation can bring out our worst impulses and blunt curiosity and inquiry.

Like WISR, this blog will be an effort to spark curiosity, fuel inquiry,  and mobilize action and create hope.  Also like WISR, its aims include promoting democratic participation, social and economic justice, multiculturality, the urgency for environmental sustainability, and the modesty and curiosity to continue to inquire and learn from and with others.

Contrary  to the one-dimensional portrait of the American Revolution by “Tea Party” activists, there are other traditions that are worthy of emulation.  One such example is Thomas Paine, who wrote and disseminated ideas that countered the dominating declarations of the British loyalists.   However, he did not simply protest taxation by the British empire.  He was one of the first anti-slavery advocates.  He believed in the importance, and indeed, the necessity, of engaging all people in the creation of a democracy. He respected the wisdom of indigenous people, and more particularly he learned from the Iroquois people such key lessons as living in harmony with nature and organizing society for democratic particpation.  [ see for example:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine ]  So, when anyone today says we should follow the principles of our country’s founders, we should be sure to ask, which ones among those early citizens had ideals and actions that are worthy of our attention and curiosity?

About the Author

Comment Policy

Comments are encouraged from anyone who wishes to discuss this blog’s topics in a spirit of curiosity and inquisitiveness.  Strong opinions and disagreements are welcome, even indignation and “righteous” anger, but comments must be civil and respectful of others in order to be published.  WISR has a long and proud tradition of enrolling students from varied cultural backgrounds and life experiences.  To be sure, WISR has attracted a very high percentage of people who might be characterzed as “progressive” or “liberal”; however, comments from people of all political persuasions are enthusiastically welcome, especially if they are submitted in the spirit of inquistiveness, rather than primarily to spawn hate and fear among people.    This blog seeks to nurture the emotions of curiosity and empathy, as creative alternatives to the destructive emotions of fear and hate.  Furthermore, we hope to promote a search for justice. and although there are many reasonable versions of justice, the Golden Rule provides one pretty good “first appoximation”–“Do Unto Others as You Would Have Other Do Unto You.”

2 Responses to About

  1. Harry Butler says:

    Very well said John. When I consider the state of the world today, I must admit that I get a very eerie feeling that my wife and I will not escape the horrors that are occurring in America and the rest of the world. It reminds me of various movies showing life in Paris just before the Nazi invasion. People are shopping, going to nightclubs, and living somewhat luxuriously with an indifference to what is occurring in Europe. Unlike those days, we face no real threats from others, 9/11 notwithstanding. The threat is within our society. As corporate monsters with their incredible marketing skills hijack the American revolution, the general populace doesn’t notice what is happening and they are easily led to scapegoat others and to vigorously support the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” A recent example that even Orwell would appreciate involves various articles written by conservative think-tank spinners asserting that the next bubble is higher education. If they can discredit higher education, then they can justify reducing or eliminating public support for higher education. Nothing is a greater threat to the greed and power appetites of the wealthy elite than a well educated population. In the antebellum South, most southern states had laws against teaching slaves to read and write. Yes, these are the times that try men’s souls. Keep up the good work John.

  2. Harry, I especially appreciate the vivid imagery that you communicate so well in reminding us of scenes from movies set in the late 30s. There’s a lot of insights to be had in movies. Recently, I was watching “All the President’s Men” with my 12 year old son. I hadn’t seen it again in all these years. In watching how reporters Woodward and Bernstein kept pushing to get to the bottom of the story of the Watergate break-in and the cover-up, I was reminded how important it was that the Washington Post “power that were” let them continue to pursue this controversial story in the face of powerful political pressure. Unfortunately, I don’t think any major media outlet–newspaper or TV–would do that today. Are the alternative social media up to this task? What do we need to do, today, to create the necessary public awareness of injustices?

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