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Session D.10:

Panel Title: Gratitude & Spirituality

'Spiritual Politics and political spiritualists: What moves the movements'
Ilene R. Feinman (CSU Monterey Bay)

This paper explores the ways spiritual practices inform, enliven, and sustain progressive political activism. Examining engaged spirituality will help illuminate the ways that progressive politics contain as vibrant a tradition of spiritual motivation as the more commonly referenced “right wing” and conservative political sphere. There is little public acknowledgement of the ways that spiritual and religious practices contribute to the vitality of progressive movements. This tradition forms a base of sustainability and identity in progressive political circles and needs to be reclaimed publicly for its legacy and its efficacy in movement vitality. The paper draws on a range of material in feminist movement work (Feinman, 1995; Sturgeon, 1997; Fernandez, 2003) and in broader social movement work (for example see: Zimmerman, et al., 2010; Ingram, 1990) and organizations ranging from Engaged Buddhism to Witness for Peace, which demonstrate the relationship between spiritual practice and community and the work of progressive politics. This project attends to that dilemma and attempts to map both histories and strategies for advancing the efficacy of spiritual practice in movement sustainability.

' Overcoming Silence: the Good Samaritan and the "Bystander Effect"'
Roderic L Owen (Mary Baldwin College)

Title – "Overcoming Silence: the Good Samaritan and the Bystander Effect" In order to work toward a world of peace, solidarity, and justice humanity must also seek to critically understand the underlying cognitive mechanisms which so often have led to divisiveness, inequity and violence. In particular, the areas of social psychology (focused on social justice and peacemaking) and applied ethics (focused on a post-Holocaust ethic) provide a cross-disciplinary method to critically analyze why and how many otherwise “good” people fail to speak out and take positive action in the face of extreme violence -- including genocidal acts. Discussion, analysis, and research into the following unsettling questions provides one pathway to the development of a meaningful and efficacious ethic which reaches beyond the bounds of any particular culture or religion. As one examines instances across history in which so many people have failed to confront such extreme violence as genocide and mass killings, we must consider a range of troubling questions: why and how do individuals become passive bystanders? By virtue of their silence and inaction at what point do people become complicit in evil? Beyond fear, self-preservation, ethnic bonds, or affinity with the ideology of those perpetrating hatred and extreme violence, are there other deeper and more sinister aspects of human nature that inhibit individuals from speaking out and taking action? In this presentation, attendees will be provided with both academic and practical resources and examples of efforts to critically respond to the “bystander effect” and move individuals and groups to recognize and take positive responsibility when “the other” is under attack and when the peaceful resolution of conflict appears remote and unlikely.

'Traveling Earth Altars of Gratitude'
Eileen M Pardini (Independent)

This past summer I conducted an experiment in Oakland, California as a participant in the TerraPlaces: Enlivening Relationship with Place project. This is a project of The Powers of Place Initiative (http://powersofplace.com/). My experiment consisted of placing a wooden, hand-crafted altar in a public space where passerbys were invited via a sign to interact with this Earth Gratitude Altar by making an offering of any sort. Secured on this altar was also a journal that they were invited to write in. The purpose of this altar was to inspire the public to engage with the spirit of the Earth in a personal and meaningful way. The author believes that expressing the virtues of gratitude, reverence and reciprocity towards the Earth as a “practice” can contribute to a more intimate relationship with the Earth and with the “other”, and to a more compassionate, just and sustainable society.