SPIRITUALITY, FAIR TRADE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
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20
November
2013

The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom

Actual Text 1
"Let the seeker after self-knowledge find the Teacher (the Higher Self), full of kindness and knowledge of the Eternal."

Response 1
This piece of text really stood out to me because in order to understand and figure out its meaning, I had to re-read it a couple times. My interpretation of this quote is that in order to figure out who we are and the type of person we want to be, it is necessary to examine your life at its current state. To me, the Higher Self signifies the best person we can be and fulfilling our ultimate potential. In order to live a life we are proud of we must root our knowledge in the fundamentals of kindness and compassion for others. When we align our current state of mind with our ultimate potential then we will be united with our Higher Self.


Text2
"The Eternal is real, the fleeting world is unreal;--this is that Discernment between things lasting and unlasting"

Response2
This quote in the reading caught my attention because I think it is pertinent in understanding the difference between things that are actually important in life and things that just seem important. The word "fleeting" could be used to show that material items are just here for the moment and will not last. However, things like love for our family and friends will always be eternal and will stay with us. This life on Earth is not permanent and when we eventually move on to an afterlife, we must hold onto the things that will last and have a deeper meaning to our lives.

13
November
2013

Building on Faith

Text 1:
The first piece of text that stood out to me was the faith of the Trinity Boston Foundation. The core of their faith is described as "the belief that there is a great love at work in the universe that seeks justice, mercy, peace, and joy."

Response1:
This definition of faith stood out to me because I think its important that there is a foundation such as the Trinity Boston Foundation that is working towards a greater good by trying to change the Boston community. I think it is admirable that they are a small foundation that is really trying to make a difference even if it may only be in their own community. After reading about the Trinity Boston Foundation it occurred to me that there needs to be more organizations/people working towards justice, mercy, peace, and joy. I especially enjoyed the fact that they used the words "great love" because it shows that the people working towards peace and joy are passionate about their cause.


Text 2: The second piece of text that caught my attention was the last line of the reading. This stated the tagline of the Trinity Boston Foundation which is "Together, let's change the odds. But unless we get the together right, there's no way we will succeed."

Response2:
I really loved this quote because I think that in order to move towards a greater cause, people need to come together as a community. The fact that the Trinity Boston Foundation is recognizing that they need to come together means that they are going to be successful. This tagline applies to all aspects in life when trying to make a change because people must appreciate one another and be able to share ideas before making a change towards a greater cause. Groups/Organizations will not succeed if they do not respect one another because then ideas will clash and no change will be made.

06
November
2013

Downward Mobility

Text 1: The first piece of text that really stuck out to me was "we take a long time to figure out who we are and what we believe."

This piece of text stood out because I think society places an emphasis on what we should be doing with our life. In order to achieve the American Dream we must receive a college education in order to get a good job and make money. However, different people have different dreams. Money and power do not equal success to all people and it is unfortunate that society has put this idea in our heads. We have this need to conform, and therefore some people spend 15 years in a job that they hate just because they make a lot of money like Janine Geske (supreme court judge). To find out who we are and what we believe we must step outside of whats society tells us to do and think for ourselves.

Text 2: The second piece of text that really stood out to me was "while we exercise some freedom in this, a society will tolerate only so much dissent. In short, our identity, self-esteem, and values depend decisively on social relations and institutions."

I think that this piece of text is important because in today's society we feel the need to think, act, and look like the image society portrays on us. If a model is considered overweight then she is an outcast. Even people who live in poor neighborhoods and cannot afford to get a college degree are seen as stupid and "a bad person." We have this fear instilled in us that if we do not go to college and have a good job then our life is meaningless, but that is not the case. It is easier said than done, but people need to be comfortable in their own skin because we cannot let society dictate our sense of self. This is hard to do when you see advertisements everyday telling you what kind of car to buy or what beauty product will make you look like celebrities. It is discouraging that we live in the kind of world that makes us feel about about ourselves when really we should be encouraging one another to be the best they can be.

23
October
2013

Story of Stuff

Video Text

1. I thought that this video had a lot of interesting facts that I didn't know about beforehand. One of the statistics that really stood out to me was "if everyone consumed like the U.S. then there would need to be an additional 3-5 planets." These 3-5 planets would need to be sustainable to live on like Earth.

2. Another statistic I found interesting in the video was that the smallest members of society (babies) are the ones with the most exposure to harmful toxins through breast milk and nursing from their mother.

Responses

1. This statistic is truly mind boggling because the 1 planet is already harmed by toxins and pollution, so I can't even imaging what would happen if there were an additional 3-5. Annie Leonard also mentioned in the video that today we are constantly identified as consumers, not mothers, children, etc. This a scary, but truthful statement because as a society we are in this "work, watch, spend treadmill." We are working harder than ever before, but when the workday is over we like to come home and watch TV and when we are feeling low, we like to shop. However, when we shop we are not thinking about where the material items are going , and therefore the items end up in the trash a few years after purchasing them. Also, I related to Annie Leonard's example of the "fat heel in a skinny heel world" because I am extremely interested in fashion and try to keep up with the latest trends, even if that means wearing an item I probably owned and threw out 5 years ago.


2. I found this statistic shocking because breast feeding a baby is supposed to be not only a maternal gift, but is also supposed to the improve the health of the baby. The fact that newborns are being exposed to such harmful chemicals and toxins through a natural process is saddening. It is is taking a beautiful and natural thing and turning it into something that people look down upon. I think as a society we need to be more conscious about where our materials are going because as the video shows, our trash comes back to haunt us. We cannot expect to just dump our trash in landfills and incinerators without any consequences.

15
October
2013

Dollars, Sense, and Dignity

Actual Text

1.The first piece of text that stood out for me was the description of the elderly housing building in Fort Lauderdale. This housing was subsidized by public funding and destroyed in a fire yet people continued to live there because they had no place to go.

2. Another piece of text that really stood out to me was the last paragraph. Bretos discusses how altruism is a part of us and as social beings we are inherently compassionate.

Responses

1. When I first read this piece of text I had to go back and make sure I read the description correctly. The fact that this building was infested with rats and people were sleeping on beds of feces surrounded by worms is truly horrifying. I think that many people don't think twice about homes for the elderly because they assume everything is fine and taken care of. However, after reading this article it is clear that there are severe issues in homes for the elderly that are funded by the public. I think that there needs to be more awareness for elderly homes because I think Bretos is correct when he says that "we segregate the elderly to be neither seen nor heard."

2. I think that this piece of text is important because whenever there is a catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami in Thailand people are always willing to help. This a great quality that we as human beings have, but we need to be willing to help those in need at all times. Like Bretos states, we are all interconnected and it has come to the point where we need to realize that in order to survive, we need to connect with others and be more sympathetic. We cannot just donate money to victims of natural disasters and expect that that is enough. If we look around us there are poor people and elderly homes that need help as well right in our own backyards. As human beings we need to be more aware and replace apathy with empathy to eliminate global indifference

09
October
2013

The Economy of Communion Project

Actual Text

1. One of the sections in this article that really caught my attention was the definition of the "culture of gratuitousness" (665). It is no synonymous with philanthropy or social assistance, but rather it is the understanding that "one cannot be happy alone, others are necessary for one's happiness" (665).

2. I found the conclusion of this article to be inspiring because I think it it is important that people recognize that "they belong to the same social group regardless of blood or profound relationships" (679). It is important that we as people work together in a positive way because self-giving love is the path to human freedom and fulfillment.


Responses

1. This definition grasped my attention because I think many people, myself included categorize gratuity as being generous to others. However, gratuity does not mean being a good person or giving others a gift. The truth is that gratuity is a spiritual attitude. In order to be truly happy we must surround ourselves with others. For example, you can be rich and have all the money in the world, but if you are not surrounded by people you love and people to share that wealth with then you are not going to be truly happy. We must be concerned with looking out for the happiness of others because if we all just looked out for ourselves then no one would achieve genuine happiness.

2. I think that the author did an excellent job at summing up the meaning of the Economy of Communion. Regardless of social standing or how much money each individual makes, we are all on the path to human fulfillment. I don't think that there is a single person that doesn't want to make their life the best it can possibly be and this can be achieved if we all come together. By joining in a "communion" we can solve the social and economic problems while reflecting on our own lives. Becoming educated about social and economic problems can help us grow individually, but as we grow individually we can also grow together.

02
October
2013

Monsenor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romers

Video Text 1: One of the moments that really struck me in the video was when one of the men said that Archbishop Romero's homilies on Sunday dictated how the rest of the week would go. "He was either for us or against us." Archbishop Romero's homilies were seen as a newscast for many people and the people of El Salvador saw him as someone who had a voice at a time when people had lost hope.

Video Text 2: Another moment in the video that caught my attention was when the dead bodies were displayed for everyone to see and flies were swarming around them. This image was truly horrifying because it explicitly showed that the men had been beheaded and the ORDEN just threw the bodies in the middle of town so everyone could see what would happen if they tried to revolt against the government.

Responses to Video

1. I think it is amazing how one person can have such a large impact on many. Even if people could not make it to church to hear Archbishop Romero's homilies, they turned on the radio. The video even mentioned at one point that people walking in the streets did not even need to have a radio because you could hear the homily on radios of your neighbors. Archbishop Romero served as an advocate for those who felt they had no voice. His homilies allowed the people of El Salvador to believe in a greater good. Archbishop Romero helped the people to see that God wasn't the cause for their hunger, but rather the government and military. In order to take action they needed come together and organize as a community to change their lives.

2. This graphic image in the video was horrifying to watch because of how real it was. The video did not try to sugar-coat the violent deaths of those who tried to stand up and take action. It was gruesome and graphic and real. The ORDEN would wait outside people's houses just to see who came in and out. Fear was instilled in the minds of many, which causes people to flee for months at a time. Watching this video caused me to think about what I would do in this situation. I honestly can't say what I would do because I couldn't even imagine being in this situation and what these people went through. I have always learned about torture and genocide and mass killings in other countries, but this video lays it out plain as a day to portray that this was real and many people including Archbishop Romero lost their lives for a cause they believed in.

25
September
2013

What Money Can't Buy

Actual Text

1. The few pages that discuss how some people have resorted to buying wedding toasts online. Today, there are actual websites such as ThePerfectToast.com that requires you to fill out a questionnaire on how the bride and groom met and how you would describe them. Once you fill out the questionnaire and pay the $149 you will receive a 3-5 minute toasts in the mail.

2. "Gift cards are now the most popular holiday gift request" (Sandel, 105).

Responses

1. When I first read the section about the wedding toasts I was truly in shock. First of all I had no idea that websites like ThePerfectToast.com even exists and like Sandel states "wedding toasts are goods that can be bought, but buying and selling them changes their character and diminishes their value" (98). I understand that some people are shy and would not want to get up in front of a room full people, but if you are the best man or maid of honor you have an obligation to the bride or groom to say a few kind words. This is supposed to be the best day of their lives and I think as a best man or maid of honor it is the least you can do as a best friend. Personally, if I ever found out that my best friend bought a pre-written speech online it would completely diminish our friendship. After being friends for 17 years I would hope that she could write up a few kind words about me because I would be willing to do the same for her.

2. When I read this statistic in the article I can honestly say I was not surprised. I do agree with Judith Martin that gift cards "take the heart and soul out of gift giving" but sometimes you just do not know what to give a person. I do agree that if you are giving a gift to a loved one, friend, or family member then you should get them an actual gift because it shows thoughtfulness. However, if you do not really know the person then I think a gift card is acceptable because it is not worth it to shop for an item that you know they probably won't like. I know everyone says that "it's the thought that counts" but realistically if a distant relative gives you a sweater that is just plain ugly you are never going to wear it. I think that is worse then getting a gift card that you will actually use then having their money waste away in your closet.

18
September
2013

FTRN Booklet

TEXT

1. The first piece of text that immediately caught my attention was the statistical information within the first few pages of the article. Like most people I knew the gap between rich and poor was extreme, but seeing it laid out on paper in front of me was eye-opening. "Today more than 1 billion people live on less that $1 a day...world's richest 20% consuming over 75% of the world's resources while the world's poorest 20% consume only 15%" (page 2)

2. Another section of the article that really grabbed my attention was the title "Women Improve Their Status by Acquiring Skills." I thought this story was truly aspiring because women's rights is an issue that is relevant in today's society. Sharda did not want to have to prove herself just because of her gender and wanted to empower other women through art and craft. The program has been so successful that men "make up 10% of the group."

RESPONSES

1. Out of 6 billion people in the world, 1 million live on less than $1 a day. No matter how many times I read that statistic I will never not be in shock. I started to think about how much money I spend on a daily basis and realized that my $8 salad for lunch is more than what 1 billion people have in a week. Could you imagine living on less than $7 per week? Because I certainly can't. Even if I tried I would not be able to do it. We get so comfortable in our everyday routines that we are too busy to stop and just ask ourselves a simple questions like "What we are doing?" "Am I a good person?" To make it worse, we are greedy. We are never satisfied with what we have because we always want more as a society. The fact that people who are poor are consuming 60% less resources than those who are rich is mind-blowing. I'm not saying that everyone who reads this statistic is going to care, but when I read this information it really did make me stop and think about how privileged I am to live the life I do and not take anything for granted, as cliche as that might sound.

2. I think it is remarkable that not only is Sahaj's mission to empower women, but it is also to train these women with vocational education and enable them to make a living. The cooperative called Sahaj is allowing women to make and sell crafts, but also to gain a sense of independence and respect. I think this is a good example of how women need to be independent and be able to make a living on their own without the help of others. Over the past few decades women have made a name for themselves and moved up in society, some even higher then men. However, it is still an issue that needs discussing. Sharda's story is inspiring because she is showing that women can make a difference by helping each other out.

11
September
2013

"Using our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope" 9/10

Actual Text

1. "In conventional trade the producer generally receives only 1 to 5% of the retail price that the consumer pays, whereas in Fair Trade the producer usually gets 20-30%" (Hoffhine and Farrell, pg. 7).

2. The brief synopsis about Blue Mountain coffee being produced in Jamaica. The forest and soils in Jamaica are essentially ruined by deforestation and overproduction and the islanders that live nearby are being greatly effected. One of the points that Hoffhine and Farrell make is that the "the more you produce, the more profit you will make," which is typically true. However in this case the people of Jamaica that live nearby are doing the opposite. The harder they work and the more they produce, the worse their living condition is. They can hardly raise livestock on their land or plant gardens due to soil erosion.

Responses to text

1. I was interested to read this statistic because I did not realize that intermediaries take a large part of the profit each time a particular product passes through their hands. By cutting out the intermediaries, a justly produced product such as coffee or handmade jewelry can be delivered to the consumer at nearly the same cost as conventionally traded goods. It made me question why all goods are not fair trade? Logistically it makes perfect sense that the person who is taking the time to make the products should receive a higher percentage of the profit then that of an intermediary who did not actually have anything to do with the production. Also, the fact that the workers do not have any input on the price they receive and that at any moment they can lose their job is truly astonishing.

2. After reading this blurb on Blue Mountain coffee it made me think about how many times a day I drink coffee. When I thought about it I realized that not once have I ever drank coffee and questioned where it came from or who was involved in the process and are they suffering because of it. I am not going to be hypocritical and say I am never going to drink non-fair trade coffee ever again, but reading this story definitely made me think about it. What would happen if my life revolved around a cash crop and I could no longer use the land to survive? Sometimes we can be so ignorant to something as simple as coffee, but for others such as those in Jamaica, there lives depend on it.

EMPI-Fordham
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