Tuesday, March 30, 2010

sustainability of the land

Wallis spoke about the 7th generation mind-set of the Native Americans and the value of a sustainable economy. I found it interesting to read about the Māori value of land. For example, for Maori, the land is linked to all the ancestors of the past. It’s also linked to all the generations of the future. In the present, it’s cared for by guardians or stewards who make sure the life source of the land and its resources aren’t adversely affected or weakened through human activity. The sustainability of the ecosystem is important as each generation is required to leave to the next generation an inheritance at least as plentiful as that received. The land is on loan in the present for the grandchildren of the future.
This belief in the value of the land as a gift on loan requiring our careful guardianship rings true to me. It seems wise to leave our future generations an inheritance of a plentiful sustainable land.
Williams, J. (2004). Papa-tūā-nuku. Attitudes to land. In Ki Te Whaiao. An introduction to Māori culture and society. Ka’ai, T., Moorfield, J., Reilly, M. & Mosely, S. (Eds.). New Zealand: Pearson Education.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

more on values

This is a photo from Greg Williams, Oxfam, from an Oxfam article Make Trade Fair The Issue, 2005.

Wallis in his Values book mentioned that Bono, lead singer of U2, donated two autographed T-shirts to Wallis’s wife for an auction (p.166).
Again, I came across reference to Bono on the Sojourner’s site, where he had commented on Wallis’s book God’s Politics.
"The Left mocks the Right. The Right knows it's right. Two ugly traits. How far should we go to try to understand each other's point of view? Maybe the distance grace covered on the cross is a clue."
It made me reflect on the concept of values as a moral compass. It is the worth we place on something. If we value something we hold it in respect and treasure it. We put a price on it. Wallis’s book shows us social justice is to be respected, treasured, invested in, and practised.

For example, when I went on Bono’s web page I saw the value he places on social justice. He travels to Third World countries, connects with aid agencies doing relief work (World Vision), performs benefit concerts for Amnesty International work, campaigns for Greenpeace, promotes Fair Trade products, raises money to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, and lobbies to reduce Third World Debt in the poorest nations. See more information by following this link http://www.atu2.com/band/bono/

In the book U2 on U2 Bono speaks of his heart being “broken” by the everyday tragedy in Africa – the “waste of lives and opportunity”. He speaks of the large amounts of money loaned to African nations during the Cold War by the richest nations. “We were keeping entire countries in debtors’ prisons. The injustice of it really struck a chord with me. It wasn’t a charity-based idea, it was a justice-based idea. .. dropping debts…an historic act of grace that would provide a fresh start for a billion people living on less than a dollar a day.”

My thinking about actions Bono is taking in social justice is helping me frame my own response to Jacob’s question. What are values? They are the things we do. Where do they come from? They come from conscious choices. Who decides what values are important? We do in our everyday decisions. This is on one level. There are also macro levels where other people’s decisions govern our lives, such as Africa. The concept of “historic acts of grace” being shown at an international level is a powerful one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Further reading on values

The issue of moral values is discussed in Chapter One of Wallis’s book God’s politics which is available for downloading on the Sojourner’s Special Features site. This site also provides biographical information on the author, reviews, and featured links. http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=special.display&item=050111_godspolitics

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


What are they? Where do they come from?

Who decides which values are important? Is there only one "moral compass"?

Are we suffering from a lack of values, or a lack of morality? Or because of some particular values and systems of morality?

"Who gets to narrate the world?" - Robert E. Webber

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book club discussion questions for "Rediscovering Values".

Jim Wallis starts his book with the statement that the 2008-2009 economic crisis presented us with an enormous opportunity to rediscover our values as people, as families, as communities of faith and as a nation. He says we can’t sustain a true economic recovery without a moral recovery and a moral compass (p.1). What is this “moral compass” that enables us to stop repeating the same economic blunders?

Wallis suggests for some time we have asked the wrong questions such as: what’s the fastest way to make money? Ads suggest dubious answers to our needs. Instead of the question when will this crisis be over? the question to ask is how will this crisis change me? (p. 2-3). Can you identify any priorities, successes measures, ways of conducting business, and self-regulation that changed as a result of the economic crisis – nationally, locally or in your household? Can you identify any signs of social change or personal change that you feel has come out of the crisis?

Wallis refers to Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Social Sins (p.4) as diagnostic of our current crisis. One of these is wealth without work. How do you interpret this in your social context? What does this mean? Can you give an example?

On page 16 and 17 there is reference to two markets, one of which is the “real market occurring in the back room … this weird Wall Street side bet”. This is compared with the concept “wealth is work” (Stewart, cited on p. 17). Does this value go far enough in your opinion?

Roosevelt is quoted as saying “the measure of restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit” (page 18). What specific social values do you think could help to restore society?

What do you think of the concept that our good is tied up in the common good? Wallis argues that “caring for the poor is not just a moral duty but part of our own enlightened self-interest” (p.23). Provide an argument in support of or in opposition to this view.

“When good people are in a bad system those good people start making bad decisions” (p.136) is a quote from the book. Economically, those trusted with other people’s savings were not thinking about decades later but about the next day’s trade. This short term thinking is contrasted with Native American thinking that considers the impact of decisions for the people and the land for the next seven generations. Identify some “seven generations” thinking and some “next day’s trade” thinking and compare the effect.

What is your response to the idea on page 139 that love for our neighbours and love for the planet on which our neighbours live cannot be separated?

Wallis says that who children admire is important because it affirms and shapes a particular set of value. Celebrities are role models for good or ill and therefore we need more of them to be heroes (p.144-145). Who are the celebrities and the social heroes that you and your family members admire and why?

Detroit is written as a parable of urban depression and economic suffering resulting from broken and unsustainable social contracts (pp. 201-215). However, it also shows community restoration. What meaning can you find in this parable? How relevant is this city to your city? What parallels can you draw?

There are twenty moral exercises given in the final chapter (pp. 227-240). Select twenty ideas to practise over twenty days to deliberately apply the principles of this book. Tell about what worked for you and what was challenging.

For further book club questions, and an interview with Jim Wallis go to the following website:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book club - Rediscovering values

Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut. The scissors created what Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, referred to as “an incomplete document”.

Jim Wallis’ book challenges the reader to consider social areas edited out of our lives. They are bits of biblical text about responsibility to the poor, and doing what is right based on moral values.

The book highlights these neglected bits of text in context of the present economic crisis. The author uses the city of Detroit as a parable and discusses the concept of “recovering the Commons”.

The author has twenty “moral exercises” which I thought useful for any reader wishing to engage in a practical response of inserting the text back into the “incomplete document”. Individuals or study groups could pick twenty actions to perform as a practical response. I liked the way the book did not leave the readers at Wall Street, but took them back into considering their own street. As a result, it is highly relevant to everyone.