The Common Good


Sojomail - July 21, 2000

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+++++++++++++++++++++++++ 21-July-2000 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k
    *Thomas Friedman on a nation of broadcasters

H e a r t s  &  M i n d s
    *Jubilee 2000 celebrates another victory

F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
    *Sally Cloak sends out a warning to Martians

C u l t u r e   W a t c h
    *Virtual sexpots: no end in sight

B o o m e r a n g
    *SojoMail readers hit reply

H e a r i n g   t h e   C a l l
    *The billionaries club grows

S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
    *Do you have $250,000? Maybe you're saint material

W e b  S c e n e
    *Cool siting of the week


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k

The more the Internet makes us all broadcasters,
all researchers, all consumers, and, alas, all
potential bomb makers, the more critical it is
that our teachers, parents, and communities are
still making us all citizens.

                      - Thomas Friedman
                        The New York Times



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H e a r t s  &  M i n d s

Debt relief vote wins in U.S. Congress
By Jim Wallis

British Secretary of State Claire Short recently
asked our friend Tony Campolo, "Why aren't the
churches sensitizing the American people to the need
for canceling Third World debts and pushing the
U.S. government to do its fair share?" One answer to
the secretary's question came last week.

In a surprise move, the House of Representatives
voted $225 million in debt relief for the world's
40 poorest countries, the full amount requested
by the administration for FY 2001. The committee
bill that came to the floor had only included
$69 million.

An impassioned debate followed in the House. Rep.
Spencer Bachus of Alabama, who has become a leader
in the struggle for debt reduction, said, "Debt relief
is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. It
is not a total solution to poverty, to hunger, to
disease; but it is the first step. It is where the
journey should begin to free these countries of the
burden of debt, the chains of poverty, the shackles
of despair, to enable them to minister to the economic
and social needs of their people, of their children."

[For the story of how Rep. Bachus came to be a major
debt relief leader, see "Jubilee Begins With Me: Can
One Person Make a Difference" at

The amendment was defeated on a voice vote. The next
morning, surprisingly, a roll call vote was agreed to,
and this time the amendment passed 216-211 with 26
Republicans (including several committee chairs)
crossing party lines to support it.

While the funding does not reach the full amount that
had been sought for this year and next ($210 million
additional for 2000 and the $225 million for 2001), it
is seen as a victory by Jubilee 2000, the faith-based
movement to cancel the debt. It is the next step in
the U.S. responsibility for debt relief and showed
that the organizing work of many people around the U.S.,
including the religious community, is making a difference.
Jubilee 2000/USA has been endorsed by dozens of religious
organizations and on the day of the vote presented
Congress with 500,000 petition signatures.

While there is still a long way to go, let us pause
for a moment to celebrate this victory and resolve
to continue until all debt has been cancelled.


The 10 Commandments of Politics -- including "It's
not cheating if you don't get caught" and "Never,
ever, ever, ever, ever take a stand on social
security unless you have to" -- and other pearls
of political wisdom can be found on the
Shadow Conventions Web site. Check it out.


Jim Wallis' newest book, Faith Works, is available
at your favorite online or local bookstore, including
the Sojourners Resource Center, 1-800-714-7474,

Here's what Publishers' Weekly has to say about Faith Works:

"In this engaging and timely collection of
sermonlike essays, Wallis...shows that meaningful
activism is possible, palatable, soul-healing, and
even fun."



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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Intelligent Life?

by Sally Cloke

I read the most depressing article in the paper
the other day.

*It wasn't the one about the two teenagers who
lost their mother to cancer few months ago, then
whose father died in the recent Sydney rail crash.

*It wasn't the one about the 10-year-old boy,
also in Sydney, who (allegedly) threw his 6-
year-old playmate into the river, where he drowned.

*It wasn't even the one, from America this time,
about mothers who take a daily cocktail of mood-
control pills because they cannot handle the
company of their own children - although this
one did come a close second.

It was this: 'Land for sale, earth views' read
the headline...and the story went on to talk about
the feasibility of humans colonising our closest
neighbour in the solar system, Mars....

The scientist who proposed this idea estimated
it would take about 600 years from go to whoa, and
this was before the latest Mars mission was lost in
space, so I'm confident that I'll be safely out of
the picture....

If one day's newspaper headlines are any indication
of the kind of life humanity has to offer the universe
at the butt-end of our 20th century AD, then the
kindest thing we could do is to keep it to ourselves.
A sad mess of stupidity, selfishness, violence, neglect,
accident, delusion, and pain. Mostly pain.

If there is any kind of life already on Mars, and if
it reads [the newspaper], it should be very worried indeed.
Perhaps the recent Mars mission didn't malfunction -
it was stamped under the foot of a particulary
perceptive alien.

Martians, if you're out there, you have 600 years
to prepare. Start building your defences now. But
I prefer to hope that you're not out there; of Mars
as an empty planet, zen-like in its emotional calm.
Blown by winds and dust-storms, perhaps, but at
least not racked by stupidity, selfishness, and pain.

Read the entire article at:

While you're there, check out the newly designed
Adam's Navel Web site, one of our favorite religion
and culture Web sites in Australia.


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Virtual Sexpots: No End in Sight

by Helen Morris and Amy Veen
In the gaming world, conventional wisdom says female
characters have come a long way from their strictly
blonde and helpless roots. But critics say these
digital chicks still have a long way to go.

The choice to maintain an emphasis on unrealistically
shaped, submissive women, sexy dialogue, and plots
that push the line between gaming and porn has rankled
feminist organizations, angry parent groups, and operators
of gaming Web sites for women.

Kathryn Wright, consulting psychologist of,
says some publishers and game makers are falling short. In
May, the site created an activism forum that encourages visitors
to contact game publishers with their concerns....

Dads and Daughters (DAD), a national nonprofit that works to
transform devaluing media messages about women, criticizes these
types of games and questions the effects exposure to them have
on young men.

"We are offended when our sons are repeatedly subjected to the
destructive stereotypes of boys objectifying females, placing
titillation above all else, and using violence or its threat
to get their way," said DAD Executive Director Joe Kelly.

Read the entire article at:,1294,37416,00.html

For more info, also see:

Dads and Daughters (DAD)


B o o m e r a n g
We received a flurry of e-mails
helping us locate the *real* source of a
quote we wrongly attributed to Shakespeare.
Here's one of those responses from SojoMail
reader Paul Bennett:

Looks like you were [duped]. A quick search finds
a couple of hundred of links, most of which (e.g.
attribute the quote to Arthur Schopenhauer

I dunno, I'd likely believe the Web, but how do
you tell the lies from the truths when everyone's
voice is equal?

Ed. note: Indeed, Paul...

"To be or not to be; that is the question."

                - Arthur Schopenhauer


Jim Hodgson from Cuernavaca, Mexico:

I know that Mexico's election result has made
it to front pages and even onto TV news programs
in Canada and the United States, so I assume most of
you know that what many considered impossible has
happened: the 71-year-rule of the Institutional
Revolutionary Party (the PRI) came to an
end in a more-or-less fair election....

I was not an official election observer, but worked
with a Canadian NGO observer delegation....One woman's
comment remains with me: "All that we have comes from
the PRI. How could we vote against them?" She spoke
while sitting on the dirt floor of her home that was
made of corn stalks and covered with a tar paper
roof. What I thought was this: "All that you had was
taken by the PRI. How could you possibly vote for them?"

On election day itself, I teamed up with Patty Barrera
of Common Frontiers-Canada and with Kathryn Payne, a
labour history teacher at George Brown College in Toronto,
and spent the day visiting 10 different polling stations
in the Federal District and Morelos, ending the day in
Amatlan, an indigenous community within the municipality
of Tepoztlan.

The first poll we visited was being observed by the
former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter. We watched the
observer observing through a forest of reporters and
photographers who effectively blocked voters from
entering the polling station, a primary school in
Mexico City. While this was going on, Patty phoned her
mother in Ottawa who was watching Carter observe the
voting on CBC's Newsworld. "Mexican voters are so
orderly," she said. "There's only one person voting
at a time." Patty told her that it was because the
reporters and photographers were blocking the door.
It was one of those moments when we realized again
how partial a view of reality we get through television
news, even live television.


Ed. note: The Mexico Working Group is a coalition
of Canadian organizations that have long-standing
partnerships with Mexican civic organizations. A full
report on its election observation delegation can be
obtained by e-mailing: or


Elaine Chan from Oakland, California:

Thought SojoMail readers might be interested in this
forum on this question: "Over the course of human
history, has religion been more beneficial or harmful
to the environment?" The debate can be read at:

I entered the following as my "two cents" in
the discussion:

Asking if religion has been beneficial or detrimental
to the environment is sort of like asking if humanity
has been beneficial or detrimental to the environment -
the answer is "yes and no."  Like any sub-category of
humanity, the religious communities have some who try
to preserve and restore while there are others who
exploit and destroy. I belong to a Christian congregation
where being "environmentally friendly" is very much a
part of our Christian faith and know many others who
also view conservation and preservation of the earth's
resources as a scriptural mandate.

Many of these folks are involved in restoring creeks or
protesting logging of old growth forests. Yet as much as
I wish this were the norm, I know that there are far too
many who have more of a "strip-mining theology," sort of
"this world is only temporary so let's use as much of it
as fast as possible." I imagine God is grieved by this
disrespect and abuse of the environment, sort of like how
a parent might feel if they spent a lifetime cultivating a
beautiful organic orchard, willed it to their offspring,
and found out that the kids decided to sell the orchard
to a casino developer because they thought they'd make
more money that way.


Jim Wallis isn't the only SojoMail reader
who has strong memories of listening
to the Broadway musical South Pacific. Here's
SojoMail reader Valinda Littfin's response:

I remember when I first heard this song [from South
Pacific about racism]. I was with my in-laws enjoying
a nice meal at a local dinner theater. I remember
thinking, "how true, how true." For me, prejudice
wasn't based on color but religion. I was carefully
taught that certain denominations were not going to
heaven but the place of eternal damnation.

I got over that. But now I find that, as an adult,
cultural conditioning prejudices try to creep into
my life in more covert ways. Ah yes, we must be
carefully taught, either overtly or covertly, either
as a child or as a adult. The same false message over
and over and over again can start to ring true.
Sad isn't it?


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H e a r i n g  t h e  C a l l
America's Wealth Gap:
Recent data confirms increasing economic disparity

In a valuable but disturbing report on economic
disparity, United for a Fair Economy has documented
that the gap between the wealth of the rich and the
poor has dramatically increased since 1989. Its
December 15, 1999 report - titled Divided Decade:
Economic Disparity at the Century's Turn -
presents the following information:

* In 1989, there were 66 billionaires in the United
States, and 31.5 million people living below the poverty
line. In 1999, there were 268 billionaires and 34.5
million living below the poverty line.

* At the end of 1999, the top one percent of households
had more assets than the entire bottom 95 percent combined.

* Between 1947 and 1973, the median family income grew by
2.8 percent per year; from 1973 to 1997, the median family income
grew only by .35 percent per year.

To find out what, if anything, nominees Bush and Gore
plan to do about the gap, plus more stats, read the
entire article by Rev. Alice Davis in Call to Renewal's
most recent newsletter at:


S p i r i t u a l   P r a c t i c e s
Can we Make Dorothy Day a Saint and
Serve the Poor too?

by Rose Berger

Proving miracles is expensive. In 1975 Elizabeth
Ann Seton¹s canonization cost about $250,000....
The Vatican actually runs training courses for
"saint postulators" and provides an itemized price
list for canonization. All costs are carried by
the petitioners; in Day's case that would be the
archdiocese of New York City. Most petitioners
offset canonization costs by setting up membership
associations with annual fees, donations, and
peddling prayer cards, key chains, medals, pins,
and mugs.

Dorothy Day is famous for her quote, "Don't call
me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed that
easily." She didn't want recycling food from
dumpsters, sleeping on a stinky prison cell
floor, and getting to mass every afternoon
to be dismissed as being only for special
people. She had no time for halos without
hard work. She practiced the Pauline
understanding that all people of God are
called to be saints - not just those with a
Vatican imprimatur.

Canonization costs would be a problem for Dorothy
Day, as it was for others before her. The canonization
of Father Jean Martin Moye, a founder of five
religious orders beatified in 1954, was stopped
by his petitioners because they felt the cost was
not in accord with their mission to educate poor

Can we canonize Day and serve the poor too? She
was a revolutionary whose legacy could turn modern
day saint-making on its head. One suggestion is a
sainthood "matching funds" campaign. For every dollar
raised to cover canonization costs, the archdiocese
would donate two dollars (preferably more) to the
Catholic Worker. So what if it takes longer?

See the entire article as it was published in the
July/August issue of Sojourners magazine at:



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W e b  S c e n e
Ship of Fools: The Web Magazine of
Christian Unrest

Ship of Fools is much like the old Wittenburg
Door, but British and very comprehensive and funny.
One of the best regular features is "Mystery Worshipper,"
who goes out incognito to a British church to review
and critique the service. The only trace of the Mystery
Worshipper's presence is a discreet card left in the
offering plate.

A close second for favorite features: "Gadgets for
God" and "Fruitcake Zone."

For more gut-wrenching unrest, go to:


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