The New Group of World Servers Journal
celebrates and shares
Toy Pony on a Spiral Night by Margaret Stermer-Cox
http:/stermer-cox.com - http:/dancingclouds.com
Does my vote really matter?
In this issue I was given the task of creating a Journal devoted to exploring the practice of Voting. During the last two months I gathered a number of intelligent and thoughtful articles on various aspects of our voting practices.
At the same time, in my mostly rural county in southern Oregon, the upcoming mid-term election is giving county residents another opportunity to vote on funding law enforcement. Since we lost federal funding several years ago property owners have been asked to foot the bill to pay for the short fall. They roundly refused each time. Our rather extraordinary situation has garnered national notoriety and for good reason. If you call for help on a weekend you won't get it. There is no one there. Even during the week it's a pretty iffy situation. There simply isn't the manpower (or woman power)! I own 5 acres and would be asked to pay a substantial amount more than I already do, so I understand the resistance, especially with so many people out of work or struggling to make ends meet.
All of this came together in my mind as I set about writing the introduction to this issue. I was interested in why we sometimes don't vote and what the voting habits of other countries are. Through my research I found that the easier it is to register and to vote, the more likely people are to do it. Australia automatically registers voting age people and they have gone to online voting as well, giving them a 95% turn-out on election day! These seem to be important factors. But heredity turns out to be another. If your parents vote regularly you are more likely to as well. Countries such as Italy, and states like Minnesota, have strong voting traditions and always have a high turn-out on election day.
I kept bumping up against the idea - particularly in presidential elections in the USA - that our vote doesn't really matter. It's the Electoral College that picks the President and sometimes they don't follow the popular vote (ie: George W. Bush vs. Al Gore who got 543,895 more votes than Bush!). This made me wonder what would happen if no one voted - which led me to an intelligent and thought-provoking article by writer and activist Keith Farmish. Had I found his interesting essay early on, this issue may have taken a slightly different direction. As it is, I hope you find that it plants seeds and sparks thoughtful discussions, and above all, makes the voting process more than a mindless duty or something you simply dismiss because you just don't care.
Quote from a wonderful article on voting for the Common Good
“What does it mean to be a citizen of this great nation? It means embracing a vision of nation that is not preoccupied with my rights, my pocketbook, and my safety. To be a citizen is to care for the greater good and not just my good. Yes, it is very American to be strong enough to pull oneself up by the bootstraps, but it is also very American to look down again and help another person do the same. I believe that being a good citizen means voting for and supporting those programs and initiatives, those laws and governances, that make us all better in character and that engage us in the great American dream of liberty and justice for all.”
The Law of the Conservation of Energy by Katharine Cartwright
The Sacredness (Yes, Sacredness) of Voting
“My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred.
I’m in awe, and I have to say thank you to politician and spiritual activist Rep. John Lewis. Thank you Rep. Lewis for saying out loud to the nation and the world something I’d actually penned a few days earlier but was too scared to post. Thank you for putting two words together that I too had been turning on my tongue but was, well, too nervous to share here with all of you. Those two words? Sacred and vote.
When I let myself settle into my deepest joy and wonder at the idea of democracy, voting truly does feel sacred. It is the right, after all, to play a part in determining our collective future. And when I think about the many throughout history who have given of themselves, even died for the right to vote, I am touched by the profound gift and responsibility voting represents.
I’ve always loved the idea of the phrase ‘casting’ my vote. It sounds alchemic, as if together we are casting a spell with each election, intending collectively some transformational working, a positive manifestation for our communities. And it was with that idealistic spirit that I began thinking about titles for a post-convention blog that spoke of getting out to vote as an act of sacred activism.
But then reality came flooding in and
I questioned whether these words were even appropriate to utter in the
same breath in the face of today’s political realities. Perhaps it was
some of the same realities that compelled Rep. Lewis to place the word almost in front of the word sacred in his address to the Convention Hall
in Charlotte? After all, there is still such a distance to travel from
the idea of democracy to what we are
experiencing today, so much potential as yet unrealized.....
Celia Alario is a communications strategist, coach and professor. She cavorts with grassroots change agents, academics and donors who share her love for social justice, planetary healing and culture shaping. She sustains her activism through an alchemic mix of yoga, hula hooping, and practicing the art of nonattachment. Bred by New Yorkers and raised in Los Angeles, she alternatively chases her poodle across the majestic red rock landscapes of Southeastern Utah and the effervescent coastlines of Central California.
“Some see it as a personal statement, but in effect, to willfully withdraw from casting your vote doesn't mean you are staying away from politics. It means you are allowing the political process to take place without your involvement, by abdicating your duty to exercise your choice.”
Red Ribbons by Margaret Stermer-Cox
Editors note: Comedian Rob Delaney wrote a wonderful piece
describing his voting record and why and how he votes.
It's honest and real and it shows
Who I voted for and why...
"One big lie the media and the government pushes on us is that we’re different from each other.... The lady in Pennsylvania who voted for McCain hugs her kid with the same love the guy in North Carolina who voted for Obama hugs his. What do we all want? Health, safety, and the tools to prosper.....
People on the Internet tell me every day to “stick to the jokes, pal” and I wanted to outline why I will do no such thing, and why you shouldn’t either. If in fact I should “stick to the jokes” since I’m a comedian, that would suggest that politics should be left to politicians. And we know that many politicians (like large numbers of those who make up the United States Congress, for example) are very, very bad at politics. They quite literally NEED my help. And your help. And since we live in a Democratic republic, I will continue to share my opinion whenever I feel like it. And please feel free to disagree with me. Jesus, I hope you do, because there are many things I don’t know and many things I’m surely wrong about. I am a comedian. But a comedian’s opinion matters in the United States of America, as does a pipefitter’s, a truck driver’s, and a heart surgeon’s.".....
Delaney is a comedian and a writer from Marblehead, Massachusetts.
He lives in Los Angeles. His book "Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage." was published by
Spiegel & Grau in November 2013. As of March 2014, Delaney had
1.02 million followers. In 2010, Paste magazine named him one of the
ten funniest people on Twitter.
“If students are politically disappointed, and many are, we might do well to stress the words of Czech dissident (and eventual president) Vaclav Havel, “Hope is not a prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart.” Or as Jim Wallis of Sojourners puts it, “Hope is believing despite the evidence and then watching the evidence change.” That means hope can never be the property of a particular political leader, party, or campaign, though candidates can certainly tap into it. Rather, it resides in the actions of ordinary citizens, including, but not limited to showing up at the polls to exert what influence they can.
I Can't Hear You by Margaret Stermer-Cox
Margaret Stermer-Cox: "I begin my watercolor paintings with an idea and
I build the painting layer by layer, drawing lines and shapes,
looking for rhythm and feeling. My color sense is a reflection of
my childhood in New Mexico fused with colors from my home
in the Northwest. My goal is to go beyond the surface to find joy,
wonder and a bit of mystery."
“My Vote Doesn’t Matter”:
You’ve heard it again and again. “My vote doesn’t matter,” students too often say. Others complain that politicians are “all the same and all corrupt.” How do we overcome this cynical resignation and encourage students to register and vote despite their conviction that the game is fundamentally rigged?
In 2008, many students vested huge hopes in Barack Obama, reinforced by the enthusiasm of their peers. Now, they’re dealing with what veteran pollster Charlie Cook summed up as “disappointment and disillusionment.” Too many regard electoral politics less as a potential arena for change than a corrupt swamp likely to drown their remaining ideals. In a Rock the Vote survey shortly before the November 2010 election, 59 percent of students said they were more cynical than two years before, and 63 percent of those who doubted they’d vote justified their likely withdrawal by agreeing that “no matter who wins, corporate interests will still have too much power and prevent real change.” They did indeed stay home, with roughly four million fewer students participating than just two years before, according to the highly respected CIRCLE youth research center. For instance, Ohio’s student participation rate dropped from 69 percent to 22 percent, Wisconsin’s from 66 percent to 19 percent, and Florida’s from 61 percent to 19 percent. In Virginia, in 2009, just 17% of the state’s 18-29-year-olds participated.
Toss in uncertain job prospects, cuts to higher education, and massive student debt, and it’s no wonder that so many students despair about their power to make a difference in the electoral realm. That’s true even as they continue to volunteer in one-on-one service, with 70 percent of college freshmen considering it “essential or very important to help people in need.” Recently, at a University of Vermont dorm devoted to community service, students described an array of creative projects they were engaged with, then fell silent when Paul (one of the authors of this piece) asked about potential electoral involvement, finally concluding that the differences between the candidates barely mattered. In a Harvard survey, just 36 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds believed it was honorable to run for public office.
For those of us who follow elections closely, the 2014 mid-term elections are ones of significant stakes, with important differences between the candidates. They’re important elections for the state’s higher education institutions, given the fiscal pressures that both individual students and most campuses are facing. They’ll elect the Governor, the Secretary of State who is in charge of voting in the 2016 presidential year, as well as Congressional representatives and legislators. They’re an opportunity to involve students in a non-presidential year, in a way that can set patterns of participation for the rest of their lives.....
Paul Rogat Loeb is founder and executive director of
Campus Election Engagement Project, a nonpartisan effort to get students engaged on America’s campuses, and author of
Soul of a Citizen and
The Impossible Will Take a Little While whose updated edition is just off the press (Basic Books, $18.99).
Alexander Astin founded the University of California at Los Angeles
Higher Education Research Institute and is the Campus Election Engagement Project advisory board chair.
Parker J. Palmer is founder and senior partner of the
Center for Courage & Renewal, and author of
Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.
The Universal Law of Gravitation by Katharine Cartwright
Cartwright says about her art: "The Laws of Nature is a series of watercolor paintings that began in 2010 and is ongoing. My intent is to comment on the natural physical laws that constrain man’s attempt to harness and utilize the energy and materials of the universe. These constraints make impossible our quest to build the “perfect machine” that operates by perpetual motion. Each painting within the series provides an aesthetic interpretation of an individual physical law."
Government: The Soul Of The People
"The right to vote for one’s
government and the laws by which one would
The Expanding Consciousness
Since its beginning in the United States,
the right to participate in the election of the government through
voting has been expanded to become a basic right of any citizen
regardless of race, sex, religion or any economic factors at all. This
current manifestation of government posits the Equality of all peoples
and certain pre-existing and “inalienable Rights”, among which are Life,
Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness all of which are attainable only
through a process that provides for each of us to participate in the
election of those who we choose to be our representatives in the
government. This is what government of, for, and by the people means.
The lack of government, for which many of our not so enlightened brothers and sisters ignorantly and boisterously clamor, is a return to the power of wealth, and freedom for the few and the chaos of slavery and poverty for the rest. Those aspects of government which are deemed so reprehensible by our not so enlightened brothers and sisters--taxes which are the present and necessary means of right sharing or circulating the energy of the people’s resources throughout the people’s system, laws that insist on everyone’s equality, freedom, and the right to the pursuit of happiness, laws that attempt to stop the desecration of the planet, and other laws which protect the rights of the Whole--are only in place because so many of us are still immersed in darkness, unreality and death. The Laws are in place to protect this still fragile thing we call freedom, liberty, and justice for all.
Looking back over history, it seems that progress toward a relatively rational system of government has been at a snail’s pace. However, the numbers of years that Humanity has been at work, or evolving this Plan are practically uncountable. Given that, what has happened in this area in the past four or five hundred years is nothing short of amazing.
There are many milestones which mark Humanity’s gradual ascension from the unreal into the real. Depending on how far back one wants to go, a list of such milestones could be made. I like to start not that far back with the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), just some 250 years ago. The remarkable thing about the Revolutionary War is that it signified a seriously major shift, not in the control of geography or the boundaries of nations, but in human consciousness.....
"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”
The History of Voting
Mind set: Voting is a right, a duty
The reason most people who can vote, don't, is that they think expressing their opinion through the ballot box or Electronic Voting Machine won't make any difference at all.
It may be a defeatist attitude born out of dejection and apathy because of the extent to which our political process has become corrupt. But every vote cast is a symbol of the hope and faith we repose in a candidate we think might make a positive difference to society. In a democracy, not casting one's vote when we can amounts to shirking your responsibility.
Voting is not only a right; it is a responsibility. Voting is a spiritual action because by exercising the option to express your opinion on who should assume powers of governance, you are, in good faith, vesting that someone with the power to transform your life and that of others. In that sense, your decision to vote and the actual act of voting are spiritually motivated because what you intend to achieve by voting is to help infuse higher values in matters of governance. Those matters touch everyone's lives in different ways — social, economic or environmental. We expect those we elect to office to take constructive action for the benefit of all, thereby establishing greater equity.
Corinne McLaughlin of the US Centre for Visionary Leadership says that the right and responsibility to vote matters if you care about life; if you care about the life of other human beings; if you care about life on this planet. If you care, she says, answer the call of your soul to vote. Our lives, she says, literally depend on how we vote. Your vote could well help decide policy on terrorism, war, health, education, climate change and a plethora of other subjects that touch the life of every individual. In a democracy, it is a spiritual responsibility to vote. If we are committed to living by spiritual values, we must bring them into the polling booth, and educate ourselves about the candidates and the issues involved. This is why voter apathy and defeatism threatens us all....
Narayani Ganesh is a senior editor with The Times of India. She writes on issues concerning the environment, science and technology, travel and tourism, heritage, philosophy, and health. She edits The Speaking Tree Sunday newspaper and daily column of that name, and is a leader writer with the Times of India opinion pages.
Courtesy of the Earth Blog website
"It is imperative that we reverse the message that not voting is a negative thing. It is an act of defiance, but more than that, it is a clear message that not voting is a rejection of the existing system that does not, and never has represented the will of ordinary people. Whether not voting can, of itself, make a difference is another matter entirely."
What If…No One Voted?
Due to the weird nature of the Electoral College system, you can be President with less than 50% of the popular vote (in fact it’s not really that weird, with more parties the percentage could be even lower), and in 2012 President Obama was elected by only 65.9 million people, or just 21% of the population of the USA. How unrepresentative is that? Yet, it’s entirely typical of the voting systems right across the industrial “democratic” West that all give the illusion that governments represent the wishes of the people.
So, what if no one voted? It wouldn’t be an awful lot different to the current situation, except there would be a huge number of empty polling stations and windswept precincts devoid of people willing to take part in the election charade. Plus, there would be an awful lot of people who have carried out a small act of rebellion, consciously and in opposition to the wishes of the system. Maybe it’s symbolic, but for many people it might be the first time they have done something “unacceptable”. It’s a good feeling.
But I think we need to ask a different question. How about: What if people didn’t accept the authority of government? Given that less than a quarter of people in any one nation are represented by “their” government, and that “their” government is bound by a set of rules that puts economic growth and capital wealth above the real needs of the planet and the people that live upon it, we are really talking about something more than withdrawal of mandate. There is no middle-ground – the systems cannot be improved, they never existed to serve the people, they only existed to serve the systems themselves.....
Keith Farnish is a writer, volunteer and activist who, in a former life, was economically viable. He lives in Southern Scotland with his wife and two children, making, growing, organising, listening, talking and being.
He has been involved in environmental issues for many years, initially specialising in energy supply, transport and climate change, and now as a campaigner against the system we call Industrial Civilization. He is continually striving to minimise his impact on the natural world but, more importantly, accepts that what we now take for granted will no longer be around soon – we have to take back control of our lives and our communities, and bring down the system that is killing the natural world.
The Earth Blog
and the website
Underminers (based on his book), intended as a source of inspiration for people who want to be
challenged, and offering uncompromising solutions to difficult problems.
Butterfly Duet by Margaret Stermer-Cox
Spiritual Politics: Innovative Approaches
Spirituality? Politics? How can we mention these in the same breath? Most people would say you can be either a spiritual seeker—or a political activist—but never both. For those caught in dualistic, “either/or” thinking, politics and spirituality seem worlds apart-- two different arenas that should never be mixed or they produce deadly results--such as we see today with certain politicians trying to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else through public policies.
But there’s a big difference between spirituality and religion. “Religion” refers to an organized institution and community of believers, with specific dogmas and practices. But spirituality relates to one’s inner, moral-centered life in relation to the Transcendent. It is concerned with qualities of the human spirit such as love and courage. Religion can help a person be spiritual, but spirituality isn’t dependent upon religion.
In actual practice, true spirituality can ennoble politics and politics can ground spirituality. Spirituality can help people leave ego and power trips at the door and truly serve the good of others. Politics can provide a practical arena for applying spiritual principles such as compassion, as instant feedback is given if someone doesn’t “walk the talk”— if their words are more pious than their deeds. Bringing spiritual values such as altruism and courage into politics could offset the immense power of moneyed interests to influence policy, and offset the cynicism and apathy of much of the public.
Gandhi had no trouble bringing his
spirituality and politics together. He said, “I could not
lead a religious life unless I identified with the whole of mankind, and
that I could not do unless I took part in politics.” .....
McLaughlin is co-author with her husband Gordon Davidson of
Visionary, Spiritual Politics and Builders of the Dawn and is director of
Center for Visionary Leadership in the San Francisco area. She has been teaching
courses on meditation, leadership, and spiritual development for over 30 years
around the world. She directed a national task force for President Clinton’s
Council on Sustainable Development and is co-founder of Sirius Community, a
spiritual/environmental center in Massachusetts.
“We need a social movement today that harkens back to the ancient idea of the common good that says our life together can be better than our life alone."
The Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics by Katharine Cartwright
Editors Note: Be sure to check
out Steven Barrie-Anthony's fascinating look at a new and growing group of voters in the January Altantic online magazine.
'Spiritual but Not Religious':
No, they're not just atheists.
Spirituality is a big story in politics. Maybe as big a story as religion. ...another major religious category is gathering force and deserves politician and pundit attention—the “spiritual but not religious” vote.
Steven Barrie-Anthony is a Ph.D. student in Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a journalist. His current research focuses on the shifting landscape of religion in North America, the interaction between Eastern mysticism and Western culture, religion and healing/health, new religions, and religion and journalism.
Rock The Vote Video
Voting is a moral and spiritual act
I don’t often agree with the Pope. But when he (Editors note: the retired Pope - Pope Benedict XVI )... characterized voting as “a moral act with spiritual consequences”, I have to agree with him–although I could hardly disagree more with his vision of morality.
I vote because my Pagan spirituality is rooted in this world and my morality is about defending a broad definition of life. I respect that others have views that differ from mine, and acknowledge that just and moral candidates can be found in every party and every end of the political spectrum. But in this election, we also see many campaigns and issues that pose clear moral choices. Bill Mollison, one of the founders of the permaculture movement, defines evil as “stupidity, rigorously applied”, and never has that definition seemed so apt as now.
Here’s how my moral compass is set:
Right now the life-support systems of the planet are under assault from climate change, from oil spills and toxic spills and unbridled greed.....
Starhawk is an American writer and activist. She is known as a theorist of feminist Neopaganism, and ecofeminism. She is a columnist for Beliefnet.com and for
On Faith, the Newsweek/Washington Post online forum on religion. Starhawk's book The Spiral Dance (1979) was one of the main inspirations behind the Goddess movement. In 2012, she was listed in Watkins' Mind Body Spirit magazine as one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People.
Whatever Happened to the “Common Good”?
Recommitting ourselves to the general welfare could solve the
There is an ancient idea that we have lost, but can and should find again. It’s called simply the common good. It goes back many centuries, but the need for a new dialogue about what it means and what its practice would require of us has never seemed more critical.
Jim Wallis is president and CEO of Sojourners, the editor in chief of Sojourners magazine, and the author of 11 books, including On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good.
The First Law of Thermodynamics by Katharine Cartwright
Voting as Spiritual Practice, as a Neighborly Act…
Every day you have less reason
....so many conversations begin with “well, depending on who wins the election, …” In our representative democracy, a lot does depend on who wins elections.
Because of how the presidential election is decided, via the electoral college, it can feel as if your vote doesn’t count, especially if you tend to vote the opposite slate from the majority of voters in your state. I have heard more than a few people wonder out loud if they will even vote this year “since their vote won’t count anyway.”
What is imperative to remember during these bouts of feeling disenfranchised is that your local votes also change the world. It matters who sits on the city council seat, who becomes judge, whether that change to the city charter or the state constitution becomes law. It matters in daily life to real people.
Detention policies, educational opportunities, the right to marry – all of this is decided by voting at the local level. The roots of change have always been local. So read up about the local issues. Discuss them with your peers. And then vote, if you can, my friends. Think of it as a spiritual practice: Read, Reflect, Act.
Our votes matter very much to our neighbors and our
selves. May this ...be a time of spiritual practice for you as you
prepare to vote for the sake of your local community.....
Deanna Vandiver is a Unitarian
Universalist minister committed to the life work of undoing oppressions
plus also singing, loving, and being grateful to live in New Orleans...
“The job facing American voters… in the days and years to come is to determine which hearts, minds and souls command those qualities best suited to unify a country rather than further divide it, to heal the wounds of a nation as opposed to aggravate its injuries, and to secure for the next generation a legacy of choices based on informed awareness rather than one of reactions based on unknowing fear.”