A Student of History

March 4, 2008

Hats off to Drew Barrymore

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 10:51 am

At least one celeb is putting her wealth into the fight against hunger, and should be widely recognized for it.  [See my prior post on March 1st] Drew Barrymore just donated $1,000,000 the UN’s World Food Program to feed kids in Kenya.  More details are at http://www.wfp.org/index.htm

“Isn’t it crazy in a world where we have so much abundance, and I mean everybody in this country compared to the rest of the world is living in abundance, but isn’t it crazy that people are still dying because they can’t get enough to eat?” she said.

Amen.

The Rome-based agency has an annual budget of about $3 billion, but it said it needs $500 million more this year than it anticipated to help feed the world’s poor because of the rising food and energy prices.

March 1, 2008

Fuel, not food!

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 4:25 pm

It is a sad state of affairs when, as we learn from the Washington Post, that the U.S. government’s humanitarian relief agency will significantly scale back emergency food aid to some of the world’s poorest countries this year because of soaring global food prices, but there seems to be no limit on how many billions we can spend on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When we stand before the final judgment of God or history or something else one might believe in, how is that going to go over? 

“Sorry, God, I know we humans allowed hundreds of thousands of people to die of famine, malnutrition, and disease, but we had to use the money for warfare.”  God (or future generations studying our era) will be sympathetic, right?

The Post article says that “USAID officials said that a 41 percent surge in prices for wheat, corn, rice and other cereals over the past six months has generated a $120 million budget shortfall that will force the agency to reduce emergency operations. That deficit is projected to rise to $200 million by year’s end. Prices have skyrocketed as more grains go to biofuel production or are consumed by such fast-emerging markets,” such as China.  In 2007, USAID gave about 2.5 million tons of food, accounting for more than 50 percent of the emergency aid in a number of nations.

Thus, to save us from too much foreign oil dependence, we take our food to make fuel, which means we all pay more for the food and millions get nothing to eat.  Is that fair/Christian/charitable/moral, or any of them? 

February 20, 2008

We have gifts that differ…

Filed under: Quotes,Simple Living — John Maass @ 8:49 pm

Romans
Chapter 12

3
For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned.
4
For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,
5
so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.
6
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
7
if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching…

February 14, 2008

Where did the simple life go?

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 9:28 am

I remember living without a car.
I remember weekly trips to the library.
I remember Sunday visits: You did not have to call or await an invitation.
I remember life without Little League and without a Recreation Office.
I remember real neighborhoods.
I remember stay-at-home mothers.
I remember the innocence of movies.

More of this article at the New Oxford Review site is here.

February 7, 2008

Conspicuous Consumption in the Dining Room

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 6:43 am

(From Time, back in Nov.)

It’s not just that rich people have more money and no problem spending the equivalent of 400 items off McDonald’s dollar-item menu on a dinner for two. Over the past few years, they’ve also turned paying more into a moral cause no right-thinking chef could argue against: free-range, local, sustainable, organic, hormone-free, heirloom, slow food. As a result, top chefs have had to increase their budgets to find the obscure variety of beet grown only by Shakers or the cow that has been massaged, seen Radiohead live and enjoyed Tantric sex before being slaughtered with love.

January 8, 2008

Another great message from the Vatican

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 12:58 pm

On Sunday, Pope B16 had some more remarks on the state of the world today and how people live in it as if it were a contest to collect the most stuff.

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday criticized a world with luxury for a few and poverty for many and called for moderate lifestyles to ensure fair distribution of wealth amid a scramble for natural resources.

“One cannot say that globalization is synonymous with world order — it’s the opposite,” Benedict said in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the Catholic feast day of the Epiphany.

“The conflicts for economic supremacy, and the scramble for energy and water resources and raw materials render difficult the work of all those who strive to construct a more just and united world,” Benedict said.

“We need a greater hope, which allows us to prefer the common good of all to the luxury of few and the poverty of many,” the pontiff said.

Note he does not call for governmental “distribution of wealth,” but asks instead that people exercise moderation instead.

January 7, 2008

2 Simple Living Pieces

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 1:21 pm

Two articles from the IHT that fall under the category of Simple Living:

Book Review: ‘In Defense of Food’, and more from the NPR site.  Also, at Slate.

In Defense of Food Book Cover

Article: A clutter too deep for mere bins and shelves

December 17, 2007

Christmas: an occasion for renewal and hope?

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 7:04 pm

From the USA Today:

Maybe we’re just new-millennium Scrooges, but for many of us, the holiday season has become something to dread. Between the traffic-choked rat race, shopping bacchanalia, and culture wars sniping over the politics of Christmas, what used to be the best time of year has increasingly become just the opposite.

That is why it is so heartening to feel fresh counterwinds blowing in the run-up to Christmas 2007, to see new approaches to the big holiday that promise to bring back the parts that we’ve seemingly forgotten — especially the peace and hope parts.

December 12, 2007

Advent has never turned a profit

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 5:36 pm

“When underpaid and underinsured cashiers sell you stuff you can’t afford to give to people who don’t really need it, much of it made in deplorable conditions overseas, they will be sure to wish you a ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of that sinister ‘Happy Holidays.'”

Is this the battle we really need to be fighting?  No says Carol Towarnicky, in her opinion column.  In a piece on the misguided “war” on Christmas, she also says that the focus on the 25th by businesses and reatilers is wrong.  “Too bad nobody noticed we were losing in the War on Advent. Then again, Advent has never turned a profit.  Old-timers may recall that, back when Christmas was a religious holiday, the four weeks of Advent was the time when many Christians prepared their hearts for the birth of Jesus. Back then, the first Sunday of Advent used to be the official beginning of the Christmas season – before it was replaced by another religious ritual, Black Friday.”

December 4, 2007

Time for ceasefire in Christmas culture wars

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 5:29 pm

 

[Crug Mawr, Wales]

One of my interests besides history is simple living, specifically with an anti-consumption bent.  I occasionally post on this theme, although only when I find something particularly noteworthy or eye-catching.  Today, while reading the Washington Times, I found something along these lines, a full page ad from the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.  It is an “open letter” to those they describe as “Christmas ‘Culture Warriors,'” such as Bill O’Reilly, et. al., but for the most part the ad is not a political diatribe or screed.  Rather it is a call to remember part of what Christmas is all about, and to be aware of what it has changed into.   I include some quotes below that will give one an idea of what the group seeks to do.  They are supported by a number of groups about which I do not know, so if one or two are a little over the top, the thing to remember is the message itself.

For the past several years some media pundits and “culture warriors” have launched an aggressive campaign against a so-called “War on Christmas.”

Targeting department stores, local governments and school systems for replacing Merry Christmas with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings,” Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson of Fox News have led the charge against what they call a “secular progressive agenda” determined to drive religion out of the public square. William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights ominously warns of “cultural fascists” taking over Christmas.

It’s time for a ceasefire in the Christmas culture wars.

As Americans of faith, we also see a dangerous assault on the true meaning of this sacred day. But our outrage has little to do with a few examples of people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” We believe the real assault on Christmas is how a season of peace, forgiveness and goodwill has been sidelined by a focus on excessive consumerism.

The powerful message Christ brings to the world is “good news for the poor.” Instead, Christmas is being reduced to a corporate-sponsored holiday that idolizes commerce and materialism. Shopping and gift giving are meaningful traditions that can express the season’s values, but perspective is lost when relentless advertising and maxed-out credit cards define the holiday. It’s time to reclaim the virtue of shared sacrifice for the common good.

To focus on how department stores greet customers at a time when American soldiers are dying in Iraq and 37 million of our neighbors live in poverty is a distraction from the profound moral challenges we face in confronting the real threats to human dignity in our world.

We invite Messrs. O’Reilly, Gibson and Donohue to join us in a new campaign of civility and conscience that restores our focus on the common good during this holy season. Together we can change the culture — not with strident attacks or shouting matches on television — but with an unwavering commitment to justice and peace for all of God’s children.

By the way, Donahue has responded to the WT ad here, although in a very unsatisfactory manner.  He doesn’t address what the group is trying to do, but merely gives a snippy retort that comes off as mean-spirited.

November 26, 2007

Ethical Consumption?

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 1:26 pm

An unlikely new trend is elbowing its way into the luxury market and it’s not gem-encrusted, fur-lined or limited edition: It’s ethical.

Article, here, is worth reading but I am still skeptical.

November 23, 2007

“What Would Jesus Buy?”

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 2:35 pm

“We’ve been convinced that the way to show your love for someone is by what you buy them, by what the price tag is, by what is represented on the receipt. And that’s the wrong message to send out.”  So says Morgan Spurlock, who produced a new film called “What Would Jesus Buy?”.  Spurlock’s credits include 2004’s “Super Size Me,” a great book I read a few years ago.

For more in the WashPost, click here.

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