EssaysMedia/PublicsReligion

The Once and Future Pope

How an imaginary 3rd Vatican Council report sparked public debate

Tears were welling up in my eyes as I finished reading the story. One of my old friends said he almost fell out of his breakfast nook from shock. Posts about the story have 10k+ shares on Facebook. People everywhere are either “liking” it or condemning it as an affront to their faith. So what generated this public outpouring? I’m referring to an article about the 3rd Vatican Council, which has Pope Francis really stirring things up with an earth-shattering pronouncement. Here’s an excerpt:

“The Third Vatican Council concluded today with Pope Francis announcing that Catholicism is now a ‘modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone.’… In a speech that shocked many, the Pope claimed ‘All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful.” …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Sweeping the Sand Out of the Desert: From Verwoerd to Prawer

Ethnic cleansing in the Negev

The Prawer-Begin Plan was shelved. But the idea that you can forcefully transfer an indigenous population and determine where it can legally reside – looks and smells like a plan pulled from the dusty drawer of Hendrik Verwoerd, architect of Apartheid South Africa. And that didn’t work out so well.

Sadly, it was too early to celebrate the downfall of the Prawer-Begin Plan. The victory of suspending the Knesset vote following the the “day of rage” protests on November 30 was short lived. The dark threatening cloud of ethnic cleansing still hovers over the Negev’s Bedouin population. Nevertheless, Prawer’s suspension was the culmination of a grassroots mobilization that took months, years actually, to climax and grab public attention. It was an historical achievement.

The good news is that for the first time, the Jewish Israeli public woke up to the sound of a clear, well articulated and well organized Bedouin-led resistance movement…

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Hannah Arendt, Constitutionalism and the Problem of Israel/Palestine

The following was the keynote lecture at the XXVII Encuentro Internacional de Ciencias Sociales in Guadalajara, Mexico, December 5, 2013.

On October 3, 2013 the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that there is no Israeli identity, since there is “objectively” no Israeli ethnicity. The 21 litigants will have to continue having the designation “Jewish” in their official files (coded into their identity cards!), instead of “Israeli” as they desired. Against their own wish, they will not be able to share a common citizenship identity with Arab citizens of Israel, in a state that continues to be identified as that of an ethnicity, the Jewish people. Some of the consequences of that identification are well known. Thus, for example, if I wished to ask for Israeli citizenship and membership in the citizen body to which the state is said to belong, namely the Jewish millet, I would be able to do so, though I have never lived in Israel and practice no religion. Many who have lived all their lives in that country would not be able to do the same, unless they converted to Judaism…

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Letter from Ukraine: The Maidan Experience

Kyiv’s Maidan has really proved to be a lasting affair, strong enough to manifest the will of the majority of Ukraine’s population. Everyone could see the evidence of its ability to stand against police forces. Even during calm periods Maidan is still an impressive sight.

For those of us who are used to spending most of our time on the Internet, getting to Kyiv’s Maidan feels like diving. Emerging from the subway in the city center actually turns into a deep submersion. The sense of clarity and understanding, seemingly provided by “navigation devices” – social networks and information web-portals, instantly disappears when one is on the streets. You are there and you have to reconstruct on the spot a whole new and different picture of the Maidan’s world and of what really happens there. You begin to understand that the indicators generated by the devices we are so used to are nothing more than indicators…

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Arts & DesignEssays

Tiny Instruments Hit a Profound Chord

Multicultual creativity in the city of Wrocław

Last summer I was fortunate to be among the faculty of the Democracy & Diversity Institute in Wrocław, Poland, organized by Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS). Friendships were forged, ideas were tested, and disciplinary lines constructively crossed, all of which I’d been prepared for and had been looking forward to experiencing as the sole faculty member from Parsons among colleagues from the New School for Social Research.

What I hadn’t expected was that I’d develop a deep affection for the music of toy pianos. Specifically the toy pianos played by Małe Instrumenty (Small Instruments), a band started in 2006 by Paweł Romańczuk with Marcin Ożóg, Tomasz Orszulak, Jędrzej Kuziela and Maciej Bączyk.

Yes, toy pianos. Including a plastic Barbie piano, which, Paweł explained, has a very good sound, in contrast to their sole Communist-era piano called Precision whose keys emitted static…

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

A Post on Laughter and Remembering in Berlin

Diversity, tension, relief, and the Stolpersteine

“…and this woman in the chic coat: is she going to clean also?”

Responding to advertisements calling for people to “actively remember,” on November 9 and 10, 2013, in Berlin and other German cities, the commemorative Stolpersteine (or “the stumbling blocks”) were physically cleaned. The Stolpersteine are little brass plaques placed at the entrances of houses whose inhabitants, most often Jews, were deported and murdered in the Nazi period. This form of commemoration was initiated in 1993.

The cleaning of the plaques was itself commemorative, marking the events of the once-named “Reichskristallnacht” of 1938. Though taking place on November 10 and 11, and often in broad daylight, the infamous attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria are officially remembered in Germany on November 9 and commonly thought to have been only nocturnal. The attacks have since been renamed, in both state and popular language, as the “Reichspogromnacht,” or the November Pogrom, foregrounding the anti-Semitism at their core…

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