Is Confucius in hell?
– Why Answers to the Question Matter
Memory and Small Town China: 'Hometown Boy' Review 《金城小子》影評
Conor has penned a review of a film about a Chinese artist's return home by a Taiwanese director
Religions and China’s Creative Power
Things are seldom what they seem in China
A pantomime of a war film
'Devils on the Doorstep' Review
A Touch of Sin Review
By Conor Stuart
An Interview with Peter and Anne Venton
Two both researchers from Canada, they are respectively concerned with economic inequality and human rights from an environmental point of view.
Beautiful Accent: How do We Measure (up)?
by Jin Lu
Yangjuan School at a Crossroads
Stevan Harrell sent this report from his visit to Yangjuan-Pianshui last August
As China changes, Teilhard de Chardin reappears
French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin is making a comeback in China
The Second Life of the “Grand Ricci”
“Microaggression”: To Be or Not to Be Offended
Trans Pacific Partnership – Risk or Opportunity?
A Night Out
A short story from Paul Jacob Naylor
Utopia on a Smaller Scale
Jin Lu responds to Benoit's recent piece on the potential for new utopian experiments
Launch of a "Chinese Thought and Cultural Resources" training program in Shanghai.
Fudan School of Philosophy, in association with DPark, is sponsoring an English-language Certificate of Chinese Thought and Cultural Resources.
The Prophetic Task of Chinese Christianity
Benoit asks if China can mend the divisions in Christianity that are so deeply held in the West
Locating Utopia on the Map
Benoit asks if we have lost the ability to start experiments in social and humane engineering?
Maria’s Secret
A short story on the impact of domestic abuse
Renewal of Buddhism in Mainland China and its Interaction with the Government
Fr Christian Cochini describes Buddhism's historic role in China
The Red Side of the Moon: China's Pursuit of Lunar Helium 3
Fabrizio Bozzato explores the possibility of nuclear fusion using helium-3 from the moon, and the geopolitical implications this would have on earth
Book Review: Evan Osnos 'Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China'
Conor Stuart reviews Evan Osnos' new book: Age of Ambition
Avoid the 'gap-year cliche' while volunteering overseas
Somaly Mam. If that is her real name
Somaly Mam. If that is her real name

Opinions, Dreams and Videos

Renlai Magazine

  • 12月 ─ 痛苦──從訴說到療癒

    電子書全文

    電子書pdf免費下載

     

    當身體疼痛,心靈苦楚時,我們往往難以言語;然而當我們學會克服、超越、與痛苦和平共處後,我們會猛然發現,生命語言透過痛苦淬鍊出的詩與歌、繪畫與音樂、舞蹈與雕塑……竟是無比的豐多采。「痛苦」既然是人生中無可逃躲的功課,唯有面對它的試煉與塑,我們的生命才能真正獲得自由──一種深邃而真實的自由。

    目錄

    論辨空間

    03 誰是壞人?

      李禮君 作

    讀未來

    06 美國大選之後

    梅謙立 作

    08 讀者來函

    專輯

    11 行者

    寧愷王 作

    12 引文

      編輯部

    14 痛苦的救贖──專訪安寧療護推動者趙可式

      痛苦可以抹去人們心上的蒙塵,使人逼近生命的核心。

      編輯部 採訪整理

    22 走出生命幽谷──陪伴受苦者的人

      幾乎所有生命的弔詭,全都發生在這趟生死相伴的旅程途中。

      夏淑怡、余德慧、石世明、張譯心 作

    32 生命尋答的起程

      老祖母去世後,我在夢裡遇見她,她倚門望我,小燈昏照的背景一片墨。

      鄭慧卿 作

    38 陣痛之後

      我之所以難鼓起勇氣,克服心靈上最大的痛苦,是肚子裡有新生命的緣故。

      新井一二三 作

    44 女人為何痛不欲「生」?

      專訪台大社會系吳嘉苓教授,揭示產痛與族療、人性與科技之間的弔詭。

      編輯部 採訪 李禮君 整理

    50 苦與樂:從自殺到自在

      我們都活在避免承受痛苦的年代,快樂變成比較容易的解決方案。

      沈秀貞 作

    56 more……more…more…

      關於痛、苦的書籍、機構團體、網站等資源。

      蔡宗霖 整理

    永泰話象

    58 東埔寨印象──兒童篇

      有人說東埔寨的兒童是幸福的,天真燦爛的笑容裡根本不懂什麼叫貧窮……

      王永泰 文/攝影

    人文論辨

    66 自由與桎梏──我的政治省察

    回溯個人和集體的過去,將有助於獲得嶄新的泉源,以創造我們共同的未來。

      魏明德 作 楊麗貞 譯

    心靈地圖

    78 與痛苦共處

      當人們一再要你打起精神,你會不會特別感到厭煩?我會。

      隆納德(Robert J. Ronald, S.J.) 作 張令憙 譯

    作品

    82 瓶淵揚花──彭先誠畫作評介

      笨篤 作 月牙 譯

    國際

    86 從歐洲認同談歐盟彊界

    本文探討歐洲的彊界、認同與政治情勢,有助於我們思考自身的身分認同,共同創造屬於我們的未來。

      布朗什(Jean-Louis Bourlanges) 作 林美珠 譯

    書評

    98 回歸生而為人的原點

    作者所提出的反省,正是一個人「何以為人」的理由。

    張明薰 作

    100  尋父之旅

      追索三教共祖亞巴郎的身分根源,以試圖面對當前困境的探問歷程。

      蔡怡佳 作

    影像與想像

    102  《生命》──仁者的鏡頭

      吳乙峰的鏡頭總是從最低處拍起,與受難家屬共同問天。

      沈秀貞 作

     

     

    Written by
  • 11月 ─ 家是天堂,還是地獄?

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    二○○四年,我們的「家」真的「變」了嗎?節節上升的離婚率、年年下挫的生育率、與日普遍的單親、雙薪、兩地家庭、外籍新娘……這一切都迫使我們正視:我們的「家」出了什麼問題?我們還需要「家」嗎?本期專輯邀請您和我們共同踏上探索「家」的旅程──原來,家是天堂還是地獄,端繫於您我手中!

    目錄

    論辨空間

    03 宗教的未來

    魏明德 作

    讀未來

    06 美國大選:懷疑中的人民

    梅謙立 作

    07 伯勞與外勞

    陳素香 作

    專輯

    08 引文

    李禮君 作

    10 家是永遠的避風港

    專訪兒童局黃碧霞局長,暢談兒童與家庭的未來。

    編輯部 採訪 李禮君 整理

    16 離家,是為了想回家

    為了取得一張離家的許可證,幾乎透支了我全部的熱情與生命。

    楊淑娟

    20 走出埋怨家庭的智慧

    華人家庭陷入「黏」與「比」的文化情結,如何找到人生定位點?

    沈秀貞 作

    30 讓愛成為現代家法

    專訪定庭暴力防治委員會林慈玲女士,揭示台灣家暴問題真相。

    編輯部 採訪 蔡宗霖 整理

    36 寒玉的故事

    一個遭受婚暴的女人與家庭治療師的對話。

    金士嵐 作

    44 他山之石──淺談歐美家庭政策

    台灣的家庭變遷,歐美國家也曾一一經歷。他們如何面對?

    紐濟達 作

    52 家庭的危機、傳承與創新

    家的未來根植於過去的土壤,枝葉與果實將展現全新的樣貌。

    魏明德 作 李燕芬 譯

    56moremoremore

    關於家庭的書、團體、網站等資源。

    永泰話象

    58 睡著的寶藏巖聚落

    躲在鏡頭後面的人,用影像娓娓訴說生命的故事。

    王永泰 文/攝影

    人文論辨:日本女作家導覽

    66 瑰麗斑爛文學路

    日本女作家以豐富的想像與絢爛的文采,確立後世的「感受性」與散文傳統。

    林永福 作

    76 山田詠美:靈與肉

    新井一二三 作

    78 吉本芭娜娜:身體知道希望的可能

    張維中 作

    80 柳美里:真誠的凝視

    張明薰 作

    82 江國香織:最平靜的瘋狂

    林安妮 作

    心靈地圖

    84 中國人在巴黎

    一個留學生,充滿驚奇與感動的異鄉生活體驗。

    蔣潔 作

    國際

    88 世界十二個衝突地區

    世界上仍有許多地區飽受戰亂和恐怖威脅,我們應正視並尋求解決之道。

    雷克里凡(Jean-Marie Lecrivain) 作 謝佐人 審訂 蔣之英 譯

    作品

    94 低迴吟詠的靈魂:陳克華詩三首

    陳克華 詩/圖

    書評

    98 在科學邊界開彊拓土

    孫維新 作

    100  閱讀臺灣

    薛化元 作

    102  探索漢語的奧祕

    邱明麗 作

    影像與想像

    104  困頓的時刻

    三位導演表達困頓的不同方式與影像意涵。

    沈秀貞 作

    Written by

Events

Friday, 03 April 2015

Is Confucius in hell? – Why Answers to the Question Matter

Is Confucius in hell? Post Vatican II Catholics may think that we have definitely moved beyond such a question after the promulgation of Lumen Gentium (1964) which no longer excludes from salvation those "who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience" (Article 16). But the case is far from settled and can still lead to passionate debates among Chinese Protestants of different stripes.

Oversea Chinese Protestant churches and Protestant "house churches" in China are generally considered evangelical or fundamentalist. The morphology itself can present myriad challenges. It is not easy to theoretically distinguish those two terms in the Chinese context, as both groups may appear to be fundamentalist in terms of doctrine, and ordinary believers, who simply consider themselves Christians, may not even recognize such labels. One major difference is evangelicals tend to hold increasingly more assertive political and social agendas following the American religious conservative model. However, a strong fundamentalist tendency exists overall among Chinese Protestants, to the point that the word "fundamentalism" has two translations: when referring to Islamic fundamentalism, it is usually translated as yuanjiaozhi zhuyi (原教旨主义), which has a strong negative connotation; when used with Protestants, it is commonly translated as jiyao zhuyi (基要主义), a more neutral or even laudatory term for self-proclaimed fundamentalists who equate it with steadfast adherence to biblical truths. Theologically speaking, Chinese Protestants tend to be more conservative than American evangelicals such as Billy Graham, whom some consider a heretic due to his interfaith initiatives.

Those who declare that Confucius is in hell base their belief on biblical passages. Among the most frequently cited are John 14: 6 (Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"), and Acts Chapter 4: 12 (Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved). The bar for salvation for Confucius is thus set very high, requiring the chronologically impossible explicit belief in Jesus. For those who think that it is not fair to damn righteous people who were prevented from knowing Jesus by chronology, the answer is that humans are all sinners and none of us deserves God's grace anyway, Confucius no more than anybody else, because "there is no one righteous, not even one" (Roman 3:10). The most critical of them think it is a heresy even to claim that one is not sure whether or not Confucius is in hell, because it is so clear that he is, based on the correct reading of the Bible.

Some Chinese Protestants have managed to find other biblical passages that make it possible for Confucius to be saved, especially Peter 4:6 (For this is the reason the Gospel was preached even to those who are now dead), or John 5:25 (I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live). The hopeful interpretation is that since the Gospel can be preached to the dead, Confucius would have had a chance to be saved. Given that he so eagerly sought truth during his lifetime, he would have undoubtedly accepted Jesus' teachings. This view was refuted because Gandhi, a virtuous man who knew about Jesus, did not become a believer. Among people who think that Confucius has been saved, some are pious fundamentalists who adhere to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy like their detractors, but they tend to be older and culturally more attached to Confucianism. Some Protestants, especially some but not all "cultural Christians", agree with the way Matteo Ricci and his fellow Jesuits in late Ming and early Qing dynasties read the Chinese classics: Confucius and ancient Chinese, as descendants of Noah, knew the true God; they were neither idolatrous nor atheist. But the church-going Protestants mostly either do not know or do not care about what Catholic missionaries have written, when they do not view it with suspicion.

More cautious people refrain from judging, leaving it to God's grace and wisdom. They even allow that Confucius might be saved, but the lesson to take home is since the only sure way to salvation is through Jesus, we should preach the Gospel to as many people as possible. Why would such a question even matter? They ask. Well, it is not just about Confucius. The question translates a deep unease among Chinese non-believers or religious seekers, who find it unfair that, righteous people born before Jesus lived or was known in their locality, should be condemned to hell, while faith constitutes the sole requirement for salvation, regardless of any other personal merits. Chinese Protestants agree on the inerrancy of the Bible, but in regard to its specific interpretations, those who accuse others of heresy have not come up with coherent criteria. Some refer to the principles of five "Solas": by Scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone, and glory to God alone. But how do those principles apply to specific cases, such as whether or not Confucius is saved? Who is to decide?

For the Chinese, whether or not Confucius is in hell is not an obscure theological question. On one hand, many Protestants aim to play a more assertive role in the public sphere. Some of them declare unsatisfactory Taiwan's model of religious freedom because Protestants there have failed to become a formidable political force in its democratic process. They also deem European democratic model too secular, and aspire instead to American political ideal as defined by American religious conservatives who believe that the country was founded on Protestant Christian idea. On the other hand, even though a significant number of Chinese have become indifferent to Confucius as a result of the May 4th Movement and especially the Cultural Revolution, most people still revere him and consider Confucianism an important part of Chinese cultural heritage. In such a context, what people think about Confucius' salvation status rightfully belongs to the public sphere.

Illustration by Bendu

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Teilhard de Chardin Memorial Event

On April 9, 2015, in memory of the 60th Anniversary of Teilhard's death, John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University is hosting an event that features an academic seminar, a special presentation of Mass on the World, and a reception.

The Seminar begins at 3:00 pm. Entitled "TEILHARD DE CHARDIN: HIS IMPORTANCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY," its panelists include leading U.S. Teilhard scholars:

• ILIA DELIO, OSF, PHD, Haub Director of Catholic Studies, Visiting Professor, Georgetown University
• KATHLEEN DUFFY, SSJ, PHD, Professor of Physics, Chestnut Hill College
• JOHN GRIM, PHD, Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale Divinity School, and the Department of Religious Studies, and president of the American Teilhard Association
• JOHN F. HAUGHT, PHD, Distinguished Research Professor,Theology Department,
Georgetown University
• JAMES F. SALMON, SJ, PHD, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, Loyola University, Maryland
Moderator is FRANK FROST, PHD, Director of The Teilhard de Chardin Project

After the seminar there will be a special presentation of Teilhard's "Mass on the World." This meditation written in 1923 on the edge of the Ordos desert has special meaning at Georgetown where it had been celebrated annually on campus by professor Thomas King, S.J., for students and devoted followers.

The event is open to the public but an RSVP is required. For information or an official invitation, contact Mary Frost at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Memory and Small Town China: 'Hometown Boy' Review 《金城小子》影評


 

This is a slow-brewing documentary and Taiwanese director, Yao Hung-yi (姚宏易) clearly shares a love of long but poignant camera shots with executive director Hou Hsiao-hsien (候孝賢). The documentary is about Chinese artist and actor Liu Xiaodong (劉小東) going back to his hometown of Jincheng in China's north-western Liaoning province to paint his childhood friends. Liu was a producer on Devils On the Doorstep, which I reviewed here, and starred in the film The Days (《冬春的日子》), which I haven't yet seen.

Thursday, 08 January 2015

A Curious Puzzle: Americans’ Chilly to Lukewarm Perceptions of Buddhists

When Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell discuss how Americans view various religious groups in their critically acclaimed book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (2010), they reported that the three most "unpopular" groups are Mormons, Buddhists, and Muslims. Based on a "feeling thermometer" from 0 (coldest) to 100 (warmest), all three were ranked in the 40s, below the overall mean of 55 degree and the neutral point of 50. One may wonder how Buddhists could have received such a chilly reception in the US in absence of any typical factors that make a religion unpopular to others, such as negative media attention, social behaviors that run counter to laws or ethic codes of the larger society, historical or ongoing conflicts, and proselytizing competition for converts.

The number puzzles me, especially in comparison with the positive way Buddhists are perceived in France. As reported in a Figaro article in 2013, Buddhism is ranked by Tilder et l'Institut Montaigne as the religion most favorably viewed by the French: 87% of them have a good image of Buddhism, followed by 76% for Protestantism, 69% for Catholicism, 64% for Judaism, and 26% for Islam. Even if we take the exact numbers with a grain of salt, the "warm" feeling the French have for Buddhism can be corroborated by numerous other studies, surveys and newspaper or magazine articles.

It is certainly not the first time the French and Americans so sharply disagree, but the contrast makes it obvious that Americans' negative view of Buddhism may not have much to do with its place outside of Judeo-Christian framework. Putnam and Campbell believe that Americans' religious tolerance stems mainly from the fact that most of them "are intimately acquainted with people of other faiths." As a result, since there are so few Buddhists and Muslims, most Americans are not closely acquainted with anyone of them, preventing "religious bridging". The thesis makes a lot of sense in many regards, but it does not explain, for instance, why American Jews gave Buddhists a warm score of 64, the highest of what they gave to any religious groups other than themselves (Catholics received the same score).

If the condition for Buddhists to be viewed warmly in the US is for a large number of other Americans to be "intimately acquainted" with them, we may wait for a very long time. In a well-researched book, My Freshman Year (2005), anthropologist Rebekah Nathan (pseudonym) observes that college students, whom we might expect to be most dynamic and open-minded, tend to socialize in homogenous groups with those who resemble themselves in appearances and backgrounds. Yes, they are usually polite and civil, but display a surprising level of indifference towards unfamiliar cultures, bitterly felt by international students. Perhaps one of the deepest problems in the US is a pervasive lack of curiosity for difference or unfamiliarity, which is reflected in an overwhelming need to feel comfortable, and to find others "relatable" before willing to be associated with them. Living in the same neighborhood does not mean genuine friendship would result from such proximity, because neighbors seldom socialize with each other. Robert Putnam's bestselling Bowling Alone (2000) depicts precisely an America where people became increasingly disconnected from one another.

It is well-noted that divisions tend to run along racial lines, even in places of worship. In a fascinating article in Huffington Post, "Buddhism's Race Problem: Buddhist 'People of Color Sanghas'", Jaweed Kaleem reports on emerging exclusive Buddhist meditation groups where whites are not allowed, because minority practitioners feel judged and unwelcome in established meditation centers where members are almost entirely white. It may seem odd that Buddhism, a religion that teaches detachment from the self and appearances, cannot bridge the believers' racial division, but we need to take into account America's long history of racial segregation. It was only in 1967 that the US Supreme Court outlawed the so-called "anti-miscegenation laws".

Putnam and Campbell's book was based on Faith Matters Surveys conducted in 2006 and 2007. When Pew Research Center conducted a new survey in July 2014, Americans' "feeling temperature" for Buddhism has increased to 53 degree, still lukewarm but a noticeable improvement, warmer than 48 for Mormons and 40 for Muslims. What has changed? The survey offers various clues. Younger Americans give Buddhist significantly higher marks than older ones: 18 to 29 year-olds, a significant proportion of whom were too young to be included in the previous surveys, rate them at 58 degree, while those 65 and older give them a tepid 47. In addition, there seems to be a correlation with politics: Democrats view Buddhists much more favorably than Mormons (57 versus 44), while Republicans rate them slightly lower (49 versus 52). Does knowing someone from a religious group result in a more positive view? It definitely does, but not to the same degree. Buddhists receive the largest boost, from 48 to 70, the highest mark, but only 23% of Americans know anyone of them.

How do we interpret such statistics? How come Buddhists benefit so much more from familiarity than other religions? For what reasons some religious groups view Buddhists much more favorably than others do? Why do Democrats have a significantly more positive view of Buddhists than Republicans? To what extent those diverse perceptions are related to the specific teachings of Buddhism? Numbers do not lie, as the saying goes, but neither do they tell the whole story.

Photo By Aaron Logan (from http://www.lightmatter.net/gallery/albums.php) [CC BY 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 05 January 2015

Things are seldom what they seem in China: Religions and China’s Creative Power

There are many Chinas – from isolated, struggling mountain communities to the communities of connected urbanites who live in futuristic landscapes. But there might be only two ways of looking at China, and both are right on their own terms.

On the one hand, engaging with Chinese realities sometimes overwhelms an observer who is struck most forcefully by the apparent homogeneity of the country. Unequal levels of regional economic development hardly mask an impression of sameness to life across China. The systematic formatting of modes of thought, urban planning and consumer habits necessarily leads one to lament the fact that sustainability and cultural diversity have been sacrificed as the price of quantitative growth and state-sponsored values and discourse. The gloom generated by looking at uniform skylines may then lead the observer to nurture a deep pessimism about the human future of China.

On the other hand, immersed into day-to-day Chinese life as I am, I often marvel at the ingenuity of a society that continuously renews the "practices of everyday life" as Michel de Certeau famously called them. Starting and maintaining social networks (both real and virtual) so as to build supportive communities, nurturing local art scenes, supplementing the state's deficiencies when it comes to take care of older people or bettering one's neighborhood, taking advantage of every educational opportunity... Such endeavors and many others translate into personal and collective tactics in which ordinary people engage with seemingly endless energy and creativity.

Gloomy skylines belie what happens at ground level. The more I enter into China, the more I feel impressed by the way Chinese people and the society they make renew themselves through ever evolving grassroots endeavors.

Religious vitality is far from being the sole expression and motor of a burgeoning society. But one should not underestimate how much it contributes to it. Its expressions are manifold: volunteers regroup in the compounds of Buddhist temples both for organizing workshops and charity events; in Shantou (Guangdong Province), a popular religion fellowship is revived for taking care of funerals in a way more sensitive to the grieving than the ones provided by state-sanctioned rituals; in various cities, mosques have become centers for professional training; and as Protestant and Catholic networks proliferate beyond control, they can come to define the full reach of the social life of their most devoted members.

As long as such vitality remains limited in numbers and in public expression, the State remains neutral. It may even start to favor these developments when the goals of local communities are congruent with official strategies, as it is most often the case.

Problems occur when social movements become far too conspicuous and autonomous. Such is the case in Zhejiang province, and especially in Wenzhou city, where the growth of Christianity has taken Korea-like proportions. The campaign to demolish crosses and sometimes even entire churches that occurred in 2014 needs this context for its interpretation: limits had to be enforced in a way that left no place for ambiguity about who is in charge.

However, in 2014, Christmas celebrations have supplied even more testimonies to both the popular appeal and organizational strength of Christianity. Far more than in preceding years, crowds at services, concerts and other events testify to its popularity – even if the reasons for such popularity remain debated, with the spiritual, the exotic and the taste for all things fun and fashionable mixing in varying degrees.

Not surprisingly, adverse reactions came from various sectors, especially in the Ministry of Education that is anxious to see that youth Chinese do not to embrace "foreign" festivals, but also from intellectuals advocating cultural nationalism. However, these sorts of reactions were not as common or notable as sometimes reported in the Western medias.

The directions in which Chinese society and culture are presently moving remain hard to assess. What is certain is that, from now on, their very creativity make them both unpredictable and, ultimately, uncontrollable.

Photo by Liang Zhun

Monday, 15 December 2014

A pantomime of a war film: 'Devils on the Doorstep' Review


In a phrase: A pantomime until the end, at which point it rushes to satisfy nationalistic appetites.

(Spoilers below)

This film is set in a small Chinese town called Guajia (hang up armor) under Japanese occupation during the second world war.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Touch of Sin Review

 A Touch of Sin is a film by Jia Zhangke (賈樟柯). I've only seen Platform (《站台》) by him before, so am unfamiliar with the majority of his work. The Chinese title of the film differs from the English title, in that the Chinese means literally, "fate appointed by the heavens," whereas the English title has a more Christian ring to it, although I read that it is apparently a nod to the English title of a martial arts film called A Touch of Zen (《俠女》).

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Radical Changes in Canadian Democracy for Ecology and the Public Good

The three major problems facing Canadian society today are the high degree of inequality of income and wealth, the continuing degradation of the environment and the fiscal crisis in the government sector. All three problems are interrelated but the failure to address them stems from an erosion in Canada's democracy. The paper defines democracy, describes its principles and its rationale which is the public good. The public good is a collection of the ends of society which are multiple, diverse and shared. Specifically they include the objectives of peace, security, health, a fair degree of inequality of income and wealth, a balance between work and leisure for social, cultural, recreational and other pursuits, democratic engagement, and the level and quality of environmental and ecological resources. They also include the absence of "social bads" such as the incidence of crime and family breakdown. Next the paper identifies and describes the problems with Canada's democracy: citizen disengagement, the rise of consumerism in politics, the rise of conservative propaganda, politicians untrained for their main job in legislatures, corruption of political parties, a partially undemocratic electoral system and the commercial media's limited focus on democratic discourse. Each of these problems tends to reinforce each other so as to prevent elected governments from addressing the above-mentioned problems. Instead elected governments have adopted gradually over the last 40 years a form of capitalism that has featured the paramount goal of economic growth and an increase in the inequality of income and wealth. Neither of these results is compatible with the public good as measured by social scientists' indicators of trends in well being. The concluding section of the paper comprises seven radical proposals for restoring Canada's democracy: compulsory voting, reforming electoral systems to incorporate the principle of proportional representation, refocusing public education on civics, the nature of economic systems and political science, training politicians for their legislative responsibilities for economic management, increasing financial support for all political parties, public funding of non commercial media engaged in high level democratic discourse and a Royal Commission on the Public Good and Social Progress.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

An Interview with Peter and Anne Venton

Peter and Anne Venton are both researchers from Canada, they are respectively concerned with economic inequality and human rights from an environmental point of view. In November 2014, they were on a tour in Taiwan, giving speeches in various cities about "the Radical Changes in Canadian Democracy for the Ecology and the Public Good" and "The Environment, Women and Human Rights".

We caught up with them at the end of the tour of Taiwan for a brief interview. 

Anne Venton talks about the necessity of enshrining the right to a clean environment in the Constitution.  

 

Peter Venton addresses some of the weaknesses of Canadian democracy.

 

Read the paper Peter Venton presented at the Global Ecological Integrity Group International Conference in June 2014:
Radical Changes in Canadian Democracy for Ecology and the Public Good

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