Listening Eloquently to Lesser-Known Voices

Any discussion and deliberation about social and educational issues must seek out information from a variety of sources, question and critically examine that information, and think carefully and imaginatively about different ways of  interpreting and making sense out of that information.  This is never a clear cut, obvious and straightforward process.  Exercising such care in seeking out various sources of information and analysis is very much in the tradition of WISR’s founding principles and our commitment to action-research—to asking questions, to probing beneath the surface, and to being mindful of both the immediate tasks before us as well as the “bigger,” long-term picture.

We should be ever-mindful of and on the lookout for opportunities for seeking out additional information and perspectives—especially from people whose voices we often don’t hear.  Increasingly, a challenge confronting all of us is that the most accessible mass media (major TV networks, newspapers, radio stations, even websites) are corporate funded, and as a result, the most strongly featured news and analyses are slanted toward the interests of the corporate funders, and other powerful special interest groups and government office holders.  This is most apparent with Fox News, but in subtle and very important ways, this is the case with NBC, CNN, the San Francisco Chronicle and others.

To that end, I am devoting a web page on this blog to some “Social Justice Links for the Curious Mind” [ http://johnbilorusky.wisrville.org/links/ ].  The links I am recommending for your consideration do not have a hold on the absolute truth, but on a regular basis, they do offer some very worthwhile information and analyses as “food for thought.”  I do feel that my consideration of issues is strongly enhanced by listening to these less publicized voices. And, because the values embodied by these websites are, for the most part, quite compatible with my own values, I do feel that they are diligent about seeking out information which is both supportive of my values and commitments, and at least as “accurate” if not more so than the information and commentary that I can receive from mainstream media.  I have started to spend some time each day checking out some of these websites for their updates.

http://www.bravenewfoundation.org/

http://www.readersupportednews.org/

http://foknewschannel.com/

www.colorofchange.org

http://boldprogressives.org/news

www.splcenter.org

http://front.moveon.org/

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The slippery slope of making decisions to accomodate to a world that is “not that bad”

It’s the end of the weekend, and I just watched a really good movie with my 12 year old son.  It’s a very good movie and the title is Good. [ http://goodthemovie.com/ ]  It’s a story about how an ordinary, somewhat progressive professor is caught up in the slippery slope of what feels to him like a series of a slightly uncomfortable decisions over a period of a time–beginning in the mid-30s in Nazi Germany to then eventually finding himself a member of Hitler’s “elite” SS in the early 40’s.  In watching this movie, I was reminded of a comment made in response to my initial post on this blog, by my friend of 40 years, Harry Butler:  “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.”

Go see this movie, and join with me in asking, do we face any similar, seductive dangers in our American society today?  What strengths, within ourselves and within our society, can we draw on to avoid sliding down the slippery slope of decision-making depicted in the movie, Good?

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The Pat Tillman Story–a case study in the importance of curiosity

Last night, my wife, Janet, and I watched the film, The Tillman Story [ see also: http://tillmanstory.com/site/ ].  It’s an eye opening and moving story of either, at worst, government cover-up of a politically motivated pre-meditated murder, or, at the least, crass government and military efforts to falsify the information around a tragic accident and manipulate that false information to gain support for an injust and ill-advised war.  This film should remind all of us of the importance of curiosity, and the importance of looking beneath the surface of the facts and stories given to us by corporate, government and ideologically-controlled mass media.  This is aptly summed up near the end of the film, “People start asking questins and all of a sudden, there’s  a different Pat Tillman story.”  Check out the film, learn from this, and the many other everyday instances of misleading story-telling.  Be curious.  Promote justice.

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The new media–social networking and blogging–a double edged sword?

So, what are the potentials and the pitfalls of the new media?  Are they tools for engagement–to promote collaborative inquiry, collective mindfulness and even organizing
for social change?  Or, are they distractions and tools for disengagement—do they seduce us into individualistic escapism not unlike many video games and TV shows?  Probably both.  So, to sing an old song, how do we “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”?

Some examples as food for thought.   Continue reading

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Welcome!

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.

As one example, the Progressive Budget Plan has hardly been mentioned, much less featured by mainstream media, even though it would reduce the national debt much faster and more significantly than either the Republican plan or President Obama’s proposal. Furthermore, unlike other proposals, it is quite promising as a way to promote national well-being and social and economic justice.  [see for example:   http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/83-83/5678-maddow-ignoring-the-progressive-budget-plan ]

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, Continue reading

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