Sunday, July 31, 2016


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

July 31, 2016


                                Thursday’s broadcast of WOSU radio’s “All Sides” program highlighted another instance of the problem of for-profit privatization of state services, this time as guardians of the property of foster children, and of collection and enforcement of child support ( ).  Guests on the interview program were Daniel L. Hatcher, author of The Poverty Industry: The exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens (NYU Press, 2016), and former Athens County, Ohio, family services director Jack Frech.  The focus of the program was Ohio, one of the states that has carried privatization furthest.  Here as in criminal justice, the state saves money on state personnel and services by private contracting to enterprises which supply spend less on services and pocket all child benefits (as from social security and for disabilities), independently of “services” they offer, for which of course they are not publicly accountable.  It is one thing for public services to be provided by not-for-profit organizations, but for businesses dedicated to growth and profit, as with criminal justice services, privatization of public services promotes irresponsibility and exploitation, against which there is practically no recourse or defense, out of public control.  May we in my state and country put public accountability back in social service.  Love and peace, hal

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton as a feminist leader


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

July 29, 2016


                Radical feminists have shown me basic distinction between two culturally political definitions of leadership: the ability to get others to follow one’s directions, historically associated with patriarchy; and the ability to hear and organize to the needs and wants of those in one’s care, historically associated with motherhood—leadership as partnership, rather than as hierarchy.  One kind of leader makes decisions for others, the other with others.

                Patriarchal leadership is measured by what the leader has personally achieved.  Indeed, it was Ms. Clinton’s jibe at Donald Trump by promising what he alone could accomplish.

Instead, presumably under her leadership, the closing night of the Democratic convention featured some five hours of personal testimony from those whose lives she had personally touched, to whom she had responded, addressing issues her proposed policies address, again as the result of a process of broad consultation.  They have been informed and moved by the socialist spirit and planks that have inspired supporters of Bernie Sanders.  Ms. Clinton acknowledges mistakes, as in having supported getting tough on crime during her husband’s governorship and presidency.  In sum, she listens and tries to learn from her own mistakes.  And she offers the electorate concrete plans for what she proposes to do now, if elected, making them available for continuing debate and discussion.   She continues to learn from those her decisions and commitments have affected.  In Riane Eisler’s terms, she seeks to lead by partnership; in Martha Ruddick’s terms, she thinks maternally.  It is an approach to leadership that focuses on connecting people, to hear and learn from one another to guide where one tries going next, and which shifts course when those who suffer are attended to.

It is interesting that Ms. Clinton has chosen a Jesuit-inspired Catholic, Tim Kaine, as her vice president.  I recall it being said long ago that Ms. Clinton felt a calling to service as a Methodist.

Earlier this week, a friend asked me to name a single thing Ms. Clinton had done.  I was at a loss for words.  In US media and political dialogue, we look for personal achievements of those who seek high office.  I come back to a lesson systems theorist Les Wilkins taught me: In the decisions we make, how we (re)make them matters more than thinking we know what is right or wrong regardless of the reactions we get.  It is not simply that Ms. Clinton is a woman.  Margaret Thatcher made herself known to be “the Iron Lady,” a woman who proved she could be as tough as a man’s man.  In Ms. Clinton I see someone who represents a feminist approach to governing that is rooted in, but not limited to, women’s experience.  It is an approach to wielding power not over others, but with others, most critically those whom power over others hurts most, for the sake of the welfare, safety and security of us all, among ourselves and with the planet on which our lives depend.  If as I expect she is elected over Mr. Trump, it will represent a cultural shift in the qualities we in the US seek in those we trust to lead us.  Love and peace, hal

Monday, July 11, 2016

Black Power as Cultural Transformation


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

July 11, 2016


                Today, as on WBUR’s “Here and Now” (, I hear many reminders of mass police violence against communities of color in the summer of 1967, and the ensuing Kerner Commission report on police violence as a product of institutional racism in 1968.  I might add that ensuing violence against often white and middle-class anti-war protesters as President Nixon took office helped make excessive police violence against people of color and political protesters give way, in many communities black and white, to what came to be called “community policing.”  Of course this recognition did not “solve” problems of police violence and its underlying racism.  But it did change police forces here and there across the country, while in political backlash, law-n-order “broken-windows” became institutionally, statistically, politically enshrined, with New York City’s CompStat system leading the way.

                Two generations after the Kerner report, cell phone transmissions of overtly problematic police violence against black people, including shooting deaths, readily make (inter)national news, alongside coverage of the mass shooting of police officers in Dallas, ironically a model of community policing, which ordinarily would be reported all by itself.  It is true of all elements of cultural transformation of politically organized violence (down to adult violence against children) that they are less visible, virtually silent as compared to the alarm that violence sounds in our individual and collective consciousness.  Counter-intuitively, the fact that we recognize and circulate news of police violence against people of color signifies that culturally, we white folks especially are awakening to the racism implicit in profiling and distinguishing “at-risk offenders” from ourselves, and implicit in the notion that the first duty of police is to control criminals.  And wouldn’t you know it: I hear that a Pew poll shows that while most whites report feeling race relation are worse than ever, a majority of black respondents believe that the nation as a whole has made progress in recognizing and dealing with racism.  Today, President Obama is reported to have said the same.

                The cultural bottom line is that as a whole, whites included, we recognize the racism inherent in policing as “law enforcement” much more readily than we did as I entered the graduate study of criminology in 1968.  Cultural transformation of political institutions of power over others into power sharing rests on political awakening to the violence done especially by us—notably established white men as it becomes noticeable in mass news media.  That includes criminologists in my sixties/early seventies generation who to some degree are institutionalized as “critical,” who have proliferated as college and university teachers who have been teaching about the racism, sexism and ageism underlying “criminal justice” as we know it, for fifty years too.  As someone who seeks cultural transformation of the violence inherent in imbalances of political/legal power over others, I see today’s alarm over police/black violence as increased recognition that racism is our problem, an awareness that so far as I can see has underlain cultural transformations that have been undertaken here and there by police chiefs, which are also being noticed, as in Dallas, Cincinnati, and Richmond, California.  May the force be with us.  Love and peace, hal