Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Social Class, Spirituality, and Sleeping

This morning I awoke grudgingly to the alarm on Other Julia phone which was playing "Bohemian Rhapsody" faintly but persistently. As tired as I was this morning, I was not as tired as Other Julia, who has succumed to the dreaded cold/sore throat sickness just as I managed to overcome it. I cannot help but feel responsible for this tragedy as I was likely the cause. 

In class today we continued to talk about themes from yesterday's discussion, in particular egalitarian and hierarchical social orders. We continued to learn about faith-based organizations that promote social justice. To begin class, Brendan, one of our Teaching Fellows compared social work that provides emergency relief to people living in poverty and social work that promotes social justice by challenging the existing power structure. Then representatives from the interfaith group POWER told us about their organization  and how they work to promote justice by agitating for structural changes. Bishop Wayne Dryster, the executive director of POWER began by asking us "how do you plan to change the damn world?" and a seminar-style discussion ensued as students shared their answers to this question. Wayne went on to discuss his personal experiences of injustice and POWER's activism to bring about policy change for marginalized communities. Next, Teaching Fellow Sarah taught us about organizers and the theory of Radical Pragmatism, which essentially boils down to the idea that in order to create change it is necessary to accept the world as it is and work towards addressing people's expressed needs rather than lofty ideals or what you think people deserve. Afterwards, another representative from POWER, a community organizer named Fabricio spoke to us about his work and inspiration. Fabricio and Wayne were both amazing guest speakers and they are both definitely candidates for my personal role model. What I liked most about POWER was that it is an excellent example of religion being used as a tool to promote social justice and a more egalitarian society. 

After lunch, Reverend Dr. Charles Howard, our (awesome) guest speaker from yesterday facilitated a discussion and reflection about what we learned about the Hindu Caste System yesterday. This discussion gradually morphed into a forum about social class in the United States. In my opinion, one of the most interesting questions that was raised in this discussion was whether or not rights movements can be successful at achieving their goals without having to conform to the values of the dominant culture. 

Our teachers arranged another special event for us this evening, which was a screening of the movie Snowpiercer. Though in my opinion it relied too much on certain tropes, like that of the heroic white-guy-who-saves-the-world, and the model of heroism and sacrifice that Snowpiercer endorses is myopic and outdated, it was also an incredibly powerful critique of class and economic inequality. I am glad that I was able to see the movie, though I had to choose between it and sleep.

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