Tuesday, March 15, 2011

nuclear power

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
March 15, 2011
Jill, our 9-year-old Katy, and I were in Warsaw in 1986 when Chernobyl blew up. It was Jill’s first return to her birthplace since her family emigrated to Montreal in 1965. Poland was behind the Iron Curtain. Medical services and drugs were nominally free, but in times of scarcity reportedly came at a price.
When Chernobyl exploded, I don’t remember which colleague or family member did it, but I distinctly remember sitting with our benefactor as Katy took her dose of iodine. Ironically, the cloud bypassed Warsaw on the east, and at the Arctic Circle, circled back and delivered a much larger plume of radiation to our then home in Oslo than where we were.
When the International Peace Research Association met in Kyoto in 1992, Jill and I went with an IPRA sponsored trip to Hiroshima, where among other thing a survivor guided us through the war museum.
There are survivors of 1945 in Japan now facing radiation poisoning from a country so advanced that it now depends as heavily on nuclear power as any country I suspect (is France far behind? I don’t know). In this grandparents will be sharing stories with their descendants as Japan faces its largest disaster since, and when nuclear power comes back to haunt them.
I anticipate that the Japanese will show the world an example of the resilience of a people who “unconditionally” lost a global war. Now there is certainly lots of seriously valued work for youth to do to rebuild their homeland once again. As I finished grad school in the early seventies, Japan was known as the managerial miracle of the post-WWII world. What goes down can come up.
The problem of nuclear power is the conceit of trying to control it whether you call it power weapons of mass destruction or atoms for peace. So Japan took the kind of hit nuclear production takes maybe only 500 or 5,000 years. Like landfills and carbon emissions, production of energy is entropic; it creates heat/waste. In nuclear plants, we are talking about waste that can’t be safe to humans for any kind of exposure—as in air, food and water—for a hundred thousand years or so. Talk about saddling our heirs with debt. May the tragedy in Japan help humanity come to our senses on what constitutes “clean energy.” Love and peace--hal

Friday, March 11, 2011

gaia quakes

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
March 11, 2011
I don’t think earthquakes in Christchurch and at Northern Honshu are accidents. On one hand we have uprisings in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, from Tunisia to 4 prosecutions of the Italian president. It’s not just about climate change. I think mother earth is shifting to let us know that we humans are hurting her, by rpg’s or economic suffering among workers in Greece, Ireland, Madison Wisconsin, or wherever. While there are social tidal waves in the Atlantic Basin, our earth mother shifts the floor of the West Pacific under “civilization” in New Zealand and Honshu.
There’s no apocalypse of course. Human beings are just an annoyance on the earth’s surface. But from Japan to New Zealand to Chile to Haiti, our mama earth seems to be telling us that we are stressing out life support on earth’s surface. I think our mother is sending us a message about human excess in believing that human growth and species arrogance is sustainable to us, never mind the planet that seems to be trying to shake us humans off her surface. Love and peace--hal

Sunday, March 6, 2011

ah youth

Ah Youth
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
March 6, 2011
A founding principle of the science of criminology is that adolescents, especially those somehow “foreign,” represent a “dangerous class.” Now the war on youth has been globalized. All at once underrepresented youth worldwide are one way or another rebelling against their parents. Scary stuff for us (grand)parents who have devoted our lives to making sure our children do the right thing, while the world changes beyond our grasp.
At any time, the fact remains children are the ultimate underclass in every race, class and gender.
The basic remedy I see for the inherent violence of adults trying to mold children is for adults to allow children to participate in socially significant discussion, from dinner tables to schoolrooms. It is doubly tragic when adult performance, as by teachers, rests on children’s scores on super-adult grading of mythically constructed tests of what every child needs to know before s/he can begin to learn on her or his own.
The enduring fact is that anywhere on the planet, youth most suffer “negative growth” in “the economy.” Global connectedness ignites worldwide complaints among young men and women that they expect to be unemployed. Meanwhile, in the US, it is also the case that successful private workers have lost paid employment for life. In tough times, elders are played off against children. On this occasion, I happen to be an elder.
Marx distinguished political emancipation from human emancipation. The one is generational “justice,” punishing our elders for their oppression of us, which the media is calling “revolution.” The other is cultural: Elders can bridge generation gaps by creating avenues in which their children can participate in discussions at the dinner table and at school. The more we share power with children rather than testing and grading and judging them, the better I expect to feel about the future of the world by the time I die. Love and peace--hal

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

humanitarian aid for Libya: a modest proposal

Why not use US military planes on a humanitarian mission to give foreign worker refugees from Libya rides to their homes from Tunisia? l&p hal

beyond debate

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
March 1, 2011
“Conflict per se is not harmful. In fact, its absence suggests people who are frightened (to challenge a superior), resentful, or bereft of their rational faculties (as the total agreement among cult members demonstrates. Children know that disagreement exists; to force them to agree in a classroom is to deny reality and it is to deprive them of a real education. It is no coincidence that the word challenge means both to require someone to use her full range of abilities and to call something into question. Genuine learning does not smooth over or soothe. The same is true of effective problem solving: a rigid demand for agreement means that people will effectively be prevented from contributing their wisdom to a group effort.
“What makes disagreement destructive is not the fact of conflict itself but the addition of competition. In a debate (as opposed to a discussion or dialogue), the point is to win rather than to reach the best solution or arrive at a compromise with which everyone is satisfied. Listen in at a board meeting or a dinner party and you can hear the difference between someone participating in an exchange of ideas and someone trying to score points. Both are examples of conflict, but only one involves competition…”
Alfie Kohn, No Contest: The Case Against Competition:
Why we lose in our race to win (Houghton Mifflin, 1986, p. 156)
My wife not only gave me the idea of starting to offer a seminar on “feminist justice” in 1987; she gave me No Contest which together with Birgit Brock-Utne’s 1985 book Educating for Peace: A Feminist Perspective, became my first texts for the seminar. Both books revolutionized my own teaching. As I slowly and sometimes painfully abandoned my lawyer-like propensity to offer propositions for classroom debate, the whole feeling of class changed, most dramatically in the alternative social control systems class of 2-300 I taught every semester I was in Bloomington. Student anger kept giving way to appreciation of being given credit for disagreeing with a professor. I felt interest rather than antagonism, as I was included in a sharing of differences of opinion. I lost my sense of being an outsider in my own classroom.
I just now turned off a local public radio talk show debate on whether to offer federal funding for public broadcasting. The host asked callers to tell “the screener” whether they were for or against the US House vote to take federal funding away. The guest who was in favor of the House resolution dominated the air space: a case of someone bent on scoring points. I thought of Kohn’s polemic against debates, got the book out, and quickly found the particular paragraphs I remembered. Thank you Alfie for these words! They radically changed my style of pedagogy. I aspire to transforming debate into discussion and dialogue as opportunity knocks. Labels like left and right have never made any sense to me, except as excuses to mount political and military battles.
I see that I used “beyond debate” as the title of a blog late last fall. Here I add Alfie Kohn’s words to that peacemaking message. Love and peace--hal