Posts tagged ‘News’

February 17, 2011

Learning to Listen

xcd.com via Google

One of the best things you can do for anyone is to listen to them. By so doing, you are affirming them, confirming that they are alive and that they do exist. Think about it. Without a voice, you do not leave a mark or a dent. Our voices are the ripples that we make in the pond of humanity. And with no one listening, these ripples go unseen. Yet, we do not listen to others. Taking things a step further, we do not know how to listen. There is a lot of vitriol, angst and pain around the world today and I believe that what we need are more ears.

It begins by asking the right questions and then doing more than just hearing an answer. You see, listening is more than just hearing what someone has to say. Listening is active while hearing is passive. To hear what a person says, all you have to do is receive the sound waves out of their mouth. Listening on the other hand, involves dropping all of your preconceived notions and ideas, and engaging a person with the goal of understanding them. Dropping our own perceptions, notions and ideas is the hardest part. Every time we talk to people, their voice is distorted by the soundtrack we have playing in our heads. To listen we have to turn off our music or take off our headphones and then we can hear the speaker’s song. When we do this, then they feel like they exist and are understood.This is most important when the person doing the talking is underrepresented in society. These are the people whose voices are the faintest. To continue with the analogy of music, their songs are almost inaudible and we need to turn up the volume.

But the underrepresented are not the only ones that should be listened to. Everyone should be listened to. Questions like; “How do you feel about…….?” or “Why did you do what you did…..” are very powerful. They give the person a chance to respond and be heard. We don’t have to agree with them, consensus can almost never be reached, but compromise can be achieved and that is more than enough. For example, I was in favor of the Health Care Bill that President Barack Obama’s administration passed. To me it was a no brainer that we needed a way to stop “pre-existing conditions” from being a part of Health Care conditions. But then I heard a parent of one of my students talk about the issue. He was losing a lot of work because of the new law and his family was being negatively impacted. I listened to him, not so I could formulate a response but to understand his story. He didn’t exactly cause me to change my stance but he did force me to re-examine how I saw things. Now when I meet someone who is anti Obamacare, I don’t automatically get defensive. I just wonder where they are coming from because of my new understanding. I probably won’t ever reach a consensus with them but I can definitely strike a compromise.

The current protests in Tunisia, Egypt, etc., present a wonderful opportunity for those of us in the United States. The people there want to be free from tyranny and we can definitely relate to that. But we haven’t always done that. According to Nicholas Kristoff in this article, American Foreign Policy has always seemed to revolve around our own selfish interests. We’ve made alliances with dictators in exchange for stability in the Middle East. This has caused us to appear to be anti democracy in the region. It was also responsible for the current Administration’s hesitancy to jump into the fray during the protest in Egypt. However, we can learn from this experience by listening to the people. Some of the Egyptian demonstrators kept saying that they wanted “freedom like there was in America”. This is great news for American interests and I think the Egyptians will work with us as long as we allow them to direct their country’s future. People will always tell you what they want and sometimes what they need if you’re listening.

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August 24, 2010

At the mercy of the system

Glenn Beck

This man likes pie (Image via Wikipedia)

This morning, I went to court to take care of some traffic issues. I knew I was guilty and I pled the same, yet when my punishment was handed down, I felt like it was unfair. After all, I hadn’t meant to break the law so that had to be taken into account right? This got me thinking; what exactly do I deserve? And while we are at it, what do you deserve?

Glenn Beck’s answer; “I want all of my pie.” I can understand that philosophy. I mean it is his pie. I am sure though that Mrs. Beck probably taught little Glenn, just like my mother taught me, to share. No word on whether little Glenn yelled “socialist!!!” at her. Anyway, I digress.

I spent the first 15 years of my life in Africa. People there work just as hard for a lot less than we do here. A pie is definitely out of the question there. However, Africa is a world away. Here in the United States, there are lots of people who cannot catch a break. They work hard, they put in their time, what do they deserve?

According to the founding fathers, we all deserve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Herein lies their genius. They created a system which although flawed, could be corrected from the inside out. It remains our place to keep the system honest, to challenge it and by challenging it to force it to grow. When nothing is done, we run the risk of having the system start to decay and come apart at the seams. Everything else is a privilege that we ought to be grateful for. Things like the running water, electricity, indoor plumbing etc. And when we remember to think this way, it’s easier to help others less fortunate than ourselves.Flash back to this morning. I thought about all the times I had broken other traffic laws and hadn’t gotten caught. I didn’t immediately drive over to the nearest Police station to turn myself in.  I thought about how lucky I was to even have a job and be able to pay for my car. I thought about all the people in the world who would kill to trade places with me. And I reached my hand into my pocket……

August 22, 2010

The “N” Word and Dr. Laura

Earlier this week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced that she will not be renewing her contract. This means that she is effectively ending her radio show. Dr. Laura, as she is more famously known, said that she is ending her show so as to regain her First Amendment rights. This comes on the heels of an incident two weeks ago, where she used the n-word 11 times in a five minute span. A black woman who was involved in an interracial marriage, called her for advice on how to deal with the occasional use of the word by her husband’s relatives. Instead, Dr. Laura went off on her own personal tangent.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not listen to Dr. Laura. Therefore I believe that this disqualifies me from making general statements on whether she is racist or not. What I am going to do is respond to some of the issues she raised.

Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.

I agree that this is very confusing. The black community is not united on how to deal with this word. There are people like me who will not use it but I have friends who do use it. A lot of comedians and rappers use it for various reasons. Some feel that by using it, they’re taking what was a negative and turning it into a positive. This is something we’re still wrestling with. Dr. Laura is allowed to comment on this but could have done so without uttering the offending word. It is not her place to figure out how black people should deal with the n-word.

My dear, the point I am trying to make … we’ve got a black man as president and we’ve got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that’s hilarious.

The premise here is very faulty. The issue of racism has nothing to do with a black president and is definitely not hilarious. Dr. Laura here is showing a lack of understanding that considering her job, scares me a little. She should have known better but frankly, she doesn’t. To be fair, this train of thought did not originate from her. I’ve seen it used elsewhere and it was also wrong then.

It really is simple Dr. Laura, black people want respect just like everybody else. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. When you use that word the way you did, you aren’t being respectful.

August 18, 2010

Things on my mind

1. “Combat troops” leave Iraq

Crossing the Iraqi desert


“Operation Iraqi Freedom” is officially over. President Barack Obama stuck to his timetable of August 31 and today, the last 14,000 U.S. combat forces crossed the Iraqi border into Kuwait. This effectively brings the 71/2 year war to an end. There are about 50,000 troops left in Iraq but their job description lists them as “advisors” and trainers for the Iraqi police and military. It is definitely a historic day but with the Iraqi democracy in shambles and sectarian violence always a threat, time will tell what is to come.

2. The flood disaster in Pakistan

An example of the devastation


“The flooding in Pakistan has been of epic proportions: 20 million people affected; more than 1,400 dead; 900,000 homes damaged; 3.5 million children at risk of waterborne diseases. More people have been affected than in the 2004 South Asia tsunami, the 2005 South Asia earthquake, and the Haiti earthquake combined” However, aid has been slow to come in despite the fact that the United Nations is asking donors and countries for half the aid that they asked for in Haiti. Please find an organization and donate to the efforts.

3. My friends helping in Chile

Temporary shelter in Chile


As recently as February, there was a massive earthquake in Chile. The amount of destruction caused by the 8.8 quake was tremendous. Yet, Chileans remain as warm and loving as ever. I have two friends who are currently in Chile doing what they can to help. One of them has agreed to write about her time in Chile. Keep coming back to be a part of the experience.

August 13, 2010

Rio 2010 Homeless World Cup

Jacked from Homeless World Cup site

I love soccer. It is one of my favorite things to watch and I thoroughly enjoy watching the World Cup. The idea that every four years, people around the world get together, plop down in front of a television set and watch the same spectacle always amazes me. There is truly nothing like the World Cup. Battles have actually come to a stand still as warring factions agree to take a break to go watch a match or two. That’s how powerful soccer can be and that power is now being turned towards fighting homelessness?

Yes, you read that right. Doing some reading, I stumbled upon this article on former College soccer star Lisa Wrightsman, who is now homeless. She had succumbed to addiction and ended up finding herself in a very bad place. She checked into a shelter to find a job and get her life back together but was also recruited to play for the soccer team there.

While I was excited to read about the positive changes she was making, what caught my attention was the tournament she was playing in; The Street Soccer USA Cup.

This was not the style of free-form street soccer played in many places around the world. Instead, it was an Americanized version, a fast-paced four-on-four game with referees ensuring adherence to rules and walls confining play on a 52-by-72-foot field, the goals being 12 feet wide and 4 feet high.

Apparently, “About 200 players came from teen shelters, refugee resource centers and recovery houses from across the country, as well as one team from St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian team won the title, beating a team from San Francisco in the final, 6-1.” I also couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw there was indeed a World Cup which would be going down in September in Rio. 64 nations will be participating and I for one will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings. More to come but for now I’ll leave you with this….

February 1, 2008

Negativity Follow up

Great responses so far to the the first round of table talk. This was indeed what we envisioned when we were coming up with this idea.

A few things to respond on:
I like what Cordieb said about stopping to enjoy our world. There is a reason why it’s called “stopping to smell the roses” right? I mean the implication is that without that action of stopping, one would miss it. This is so contrary to the messages that we are bombarded with.

The reigning school of thought is that we should get satisfaction and as fast as we want it. We are told that everyone or nearly everyone is out to get something for themselves. That if we don’t forge ahead, then they’ll overtake us and win. Don’t like your car? Change it. Don’t like your husband or wife? Get a new one.

If we don’t learn to be satisfied with ourselves or the little we have right now, we will never be satisfied with plenty or with anyone else.

There are loving, caring people out there. Lots of them. There are companies that do business ethically. People who volunteer their time and money to make this world a better place. The Salvation Army doesn’t run itself. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters and volunteer camps do not run themselves. Negative news does sell. But it only sells because we accept it.

These things do not happen in a vacuum. We created this society. We empowered it. When we rail against the establishment, we force it to change. Don’t like something that is going on in our culture, then do something about it. It sounds cliche by now but one person does make a difference.

So like I said before, we are choosing to celebrate the good in us this week. If you have any stories of people being good, kind, courageous or anything like that, you can message me at ghettophilosopher84@gmail.com. I’ll write a blog celebrating them. I will also be researching people myself, including historical figures that aren’t generally talked about who were just plain good people. It is time we talked about some things that are right.

January 29, 2008

Table Talk 1: Negativity

I was sitting there wondering what to make our first table talk subject and I couldn’t come up with something yet. All of a sudden inspiration hit me. There is always a lot of negative information out there today.

Listen to the news. There is always something wrong or someone killing somebody, obesity statistics, things that can kill you, How you can avoid being killed etc. Not enough time is focused on the good that is going on around us. We’ve got people volunteering, real life heroes, just plain nice people in the world.

We have enough information about athletes and their wild ways. Their cars and lavish lifestyle. Pacman Jones makes it rain in Vegas, we hear about it. Kobe Bryant helps the make a wish foundation and it gets absolutely no coverage.The end result is that people live in fear. You can’t walk up to someone on the street and say “hello” to them because they might have a gun or might be a freak of some sort.

No wonder certain youth turn to gangs and dreams of becoming rappers or ballplayers. They lack positive role models that they can believe in. How can we tell them to stay in school when we can’t show them examples of people who made that system work for them? It is not that these models don’t exist, they just get little to no coverage.

So this first week is dedicated to the good in all of us. This week is about looking at yourself and saying, this is a beautiful place to live. Its not always doom and gloom all the time. Are things bad? Yes they are but there is so much more good. So much more.