Thursday, August 14, 2014

Enduring Questions: Why suffering? What responsibilities do we have to it? When and How do we act?

1. right view
2. right intention
3. right speech
4. right action
5. right livelihood.
6. right effort.
7. right mindfulness.
8. right concentration

Is this the right time for me to be thinking about the JUHAN (Jesuit University Humanitarian Action Network) enduring questions? Perhaps, so.

In 2000, my life took a turn when I began reading about the Sudanese Lost Boys and volunteered with Kentucky Refugee Services. Since then...well, the story continues to unfold.

This week I am at Georgetown University talking with UNHCR, Catholic Charities, scholars, Jesuit Refugee Services, etc. to think intellectually about our responsibilities to the realities of our world. There has been a 45% increase in uprooted individuals around the world since WWII. Some of this is the cause of famine. Some violence. Some war. And even more and more to natural disasters caused by weather catastrophes (let the global warming debate enter here). Either way, 45 million individuals do not have a home....that's 90x's the entire population of Syracuse or 45 xs the entire population of Louisville. Those are massive numbers and the conversations we've had this week focus on the responsibilities we have as scholars, students, and activists in the United States to this truth.

I admit that I get uncomfortable with group dialogue on these issues, simply because I can't compartmentalize the ways groups go after such questions. I only know I can change me, so the discourse of social justice and service makes me squirm. The idea is to to take individuals of privilege who pay $45,000+ a year for an education to 3rd world countries so they can see...SEE...the inequities in the world. For free, I am willing to drive down the road from any university to show the injustices that lie around the corner anywhere and everywhere in the good ol' U S of A.

There is no interface like higher education to pinpoint the hypocrisies and social injustice. Still, higher education is the ultimate hypocrisy of the socially unjust, even when 100% of the conversation about these inequities exist on their campuses. Universities tend to be a homogeneous location for the haves and the privileged.

I guess I am stuck. I announced I'd much rather give my time to urban classrooms and in communities enacting change than pontificating theoretical frameworks about injustice in well-catered Presidential suites at any college. Yet, I realize that the towers I now serve are invested in the very social structure of which they critique.

And that is why I am thinking once again of teachers and am more than ever in favor of the true work they do in our K-12 schools, especially if they serve urban environments. I'm unsure how much social justice can be done on a campus (although there can be occasional drive-bys of the work here and there with off campus tours - that's what it is...a tour). I guess, too, there's no other way around it, given that academics need tenure, to do service, and to teach in semester-long chunks to students 3 hours a week (note: K-12 teachers teach 6 hours a day, 5 days a week).

And so my question goes back to theirs. Why suffering? What responsibilities do we have to it? When and How do we act?

I like to think that my actions speak louder than these words. Still, scribing my thoughts here are how I make sense of these dilemmas and is an act in itself).

Then I return to the eight-fold path. I suppose that makes the most sense to me. Everything else is righteousness.

No comments:

Post a Comment