HYGGE: BEING NOT HAVING

HYGGE: BEING NOT HAVING

“Hygge (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) is a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness…. Hygge is an experience of selfhood in communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage and consolation…. Hygge is a feeling of engagement and relatedness, of belonging to the moment and to each other. Hygge is a sense of abundance and contentment. Hygge is about being not having.” – Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well.”

There I was on my Scandinavian vacation, when I discovered my hygge in a Copenhagen bookstore. With my community development perspective, I embraced it not only as cozy comfortable life style options but as a socio-economic-political paradigm. DSCN4326 (2)I remembered my own hygge moments of watching sunsets and reading in the shade of my backyard. But as previous U2Cando blogs bear witness our country is in dire need of cultural enhancements through better hygge.

Encounters not only in Denmark but also in Norway and Sweden affirmed that while citizens of these countries pay (and complain about paying) exceptionally high taxes, they do so as individual contributions to the common good. A “hygge” tax policy that efficiently supports and facilitates the opportunity for all to enjoy wellbeing.

In Stavanger, Norway, I learned at its Oil Museum about Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund to assure that its citizens benefited from the exploitation of their natural resources. Established in 1990 to invest surplus revenues [mainly from taxes on oil companies and payments for licenses to explore for oil], it now has over $1 trillion [US dollars] in assets, making it the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In May 2018, those assets were worth about $195,000 per Norwegian citizen.

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Outside the Nobel Peace Prize Museum in Oslo

Visiting Oslo, Norway, I reflected on how my career vocation was shaped in college by reading The Structure of Freedom by Christian Bay. His 1959 University of Oslo PhD dissertation was a study of the quest for freedom. I had the personal privilege of studying with Bay at the University of Toronto in the winter of 1973 for my Master’s degree research. His imperative that politics should be the profession of serving human needs not wants remains my mantra and remarkably relevant today. It seems to be a core “hygge” value.

 

“To hygge is to build sanctuary. The most basic security that we can provide each other is shelter – physical and psychological…. Ideally buildings and cities would be designed with our enduring human needs in mind.”

That’s a good summary of equitable development and the urgency of my current efforts in Chicago’s Uptown community. I was especially pleased and inspired to read Louisa Thomsen Brits’ final note in her book:

“Hygge is dependent on having our most basic human needs met. Without security and shelter it’s hard to survive. For every copy of this book bought a donation will be made by the author to a charity in support of the homeless.”

Sure glad I bought her book and not the more popular book profiled on the Today Show in March 2017 as a cute trend.

 

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BINDING THE WOUNDS

BINDING THE WOUNDS

“Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and women. Surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and sisters, countrymen and countrywomen once again.”  — Robert F. Kennedy, April 5, 1968

I went to sleep the night of June 5, 1968 having watched the projected returns from the California Democratic Primary. Having completed my college freshmen year, I dreamt that night about the changes coming and what they might mean for me.

Earlier that April, perhaps the same date that RFK sounded the call above, flying home for Spring Break, I observed the west side of Chicago, my hometown, in flames after Dr. King’s assassination. How could I have known then how quickly tragedy would strike two months later?

I would still spend another year in ROTC but the questions that Bobby Kennedy was raising about the Vietnam War were already resonating with me.

SHELTERFORCE RFK 2007 40th
SHELTERFORCE Winter 2007

His calls to combat poverty and embrace civil rights were an awakening that six years later would become my 44-year vocation for equitable community development.

I did not foresee all those changes ahead for me, let alone our country, the morning of June 6th when I arose to learn of his assassination. Yet, I was profoundly moved to search for meaning and new ways to serve my country and my brothers and sisters.

This is not the first time I have used this RFK quote from his “Mindless Menace of Violence” speech in Cleveland the morning after Dr. King’s assassination. I did so in a blog after Trump’s inauguration speech. In my alternative history, I envisioned these simple words as the core value message of the inaugural speech that President Robert F. Kennedy could have delivered in January 1969. Given the continued onslaught of hate tweets, they should be considered imperative for the duration of the Trump Administration.

Binding the wounds will be a challenging task. Conversations are a start but underlying contradictions are pervasive obstacles to even approach the beginning of consensus. Demonstrating the possible is an appropriate response. But that too is no easy initiative.

Here at the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] we have launched a new series of Conversations on Social Justice. The first topic was Immigration Reform. Hearing from the opening panelists on the urgency of their respective initiatives, it remains incomprehensible to me that a country founded by immigrants can’t reconcile welcoming policies and practices.

Future topics such as addressing homelessness and assuring equitable development implore action plans not only locally here in Chicago but also nationally and internationally. When designing for change, we must imagine a better world as Bobby did 50 years ago.

 

PROTECTING PRUITT OR THE PLANET?

PROTECTING PRUITT OR THE PLANET?

Apparently this question is a no-brainer for the current EPA administrator. If you also don’t support gun reform, you should be prudent. Perhaps, being paranoid is actually wise just in case time travel becomes possible for a really, really Green California Governor from the future to return to the present to avenge the destruction of Earth by terminating (and I don’t mean firing) Scott Pruitt.

This past week, NPR asked an environmental analyst what is Pruitt’s most egregious action. He didn’t know which to pick first. On the policy front, I can’t decide between the recent proposed rollback of regulations to cut planet-threatening vehicle emissions or on-going efforts to overturn the Clean Power Plan. Among his security obsessions, I put the bulletproof vehicle second to the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth for Pruitt’s office. Makes you wonder who he is talking to.

This past week, PBS’ Nova series premiered “Decoding the Weather Machine.” One segment focused on evangelical meteorologist Paul Douglas on how Faith and climate science are not at odds. Of course, he’s from Minnesota not Oklahoma so what does he know about the weather. The show did reflect on Hope as well and that’s what I offer this Earth Day.

UEC Book CoverEarlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet Ken Leinbach who has grown Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center into a national demonstration of using environmental education as a tool for inspiring urban revitalization. Ken’s new book, Urban Ecology: A Natural Way to Transform Kids, Parks, Cities and the World, shares the stories and the impact of its model. If EPA continues to exist, may be a future EPA Administrator is learning to love nature today at one of the Center’s three community-based sites. Makes you wonder about Scott’s childhood.

Among all of President Trump’s court proceedings, he may want to mark in his calendar October 29, 2018 as the first day of trial in the landmark constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 21 American youth against the U.S. government. Juliana v. U.S. was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2015. Their case is simple:

“Our government has known about the dangers of climate change for more than fifty years. Despite that knowledge, the United States has continued to pursue reckless and dangerous fossil fuel development, harming the health of our communities and threatening our futures.”  

They’re talking to you, Scott Pruitt. Can’t wait to hear your testimony.

Trial of the CenturyLed by Our Children’s Trust, this youth-driven, global climate recovery campaign is striving to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere. A fitting complement to youth-driven, gun reform campaigns that Congress continues to ignore, suing the government for malpractice and malfeasance certainly is overdue.

Their demand is an appropriate Earth Day wish: “We want a federal Climate Recovery Plan that is in line with both the best available science and climate justice.” Shouldn’t we all? Before Pruitt repeals Earth Day 2019.

MIXING OIL & WATER NOT GREAT FOR LOUISIANA NOR THE GREAT LAKES

MIXING OIL & WATER NOT GREAT FOR LOUISIANA NOR THE GREAT LAKES

Now, more than ever, our planet needs us — and I’m inspired by the knowledge that we’ll take the path forward together.” – Al Gore, Founder & Chairman,The Climate Reality Project, 09/09/2016

Six months after Al Gore’s comments on the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, I had the chance to see An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power. A clear case for why we must all “Still be In!”

I saw the film at the closing of the 7th annual One Earth Film Festival, which is the Midwest’s premier environmental film festival, creating opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement. OEFF LogoAfter more than 30 award-winning films at over 50 screenings, facilitators trained in the Technology of Participation [ToP]® methods developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA-USA] engaged attendees with expert panelists in conversations not only about the films but also on how to connect with meaningful local action.

After the SpillICA’s GreenRise in Chicago’s Uptown community hosted the film “After the Spill.” When the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded in 2010, it spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in the worst ecological disaster in North American history. Louisiana’s coast continues to suffer the consequences today.

As if the film wasn’t scary enough, the post-film panel, facilitated by ICA’s Program Coordinator Samantha Sainsbury included: Bill Latka, founder of Oil and Water Don’t Mix; Nathaniel Miller, Director of Conservation at Audubon Great Lakes; and Matt Edgington, Manager of Mag Mile Patagonia. From them I learned that some of my favorite vacation spots along the west coast of Michigan have been under an OIL THREAT and the State of Michigan is faced with an imminent decision to protect the Great Lakes from the Oil Industry’s “Inconvenient Greed.”

Every day, nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids flow through Enbridge’s “Line 5,” a pair of aging pipelines just west of the Mackinac Bridge. line-5-mapLine 5, which starts in Superior, Wisconsin and splits into two pipes as it cuts through the Mackinac Straits on its way to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario. Enbridge has been using publicly-owned lakebed at the Straits as a conduit for its shipments of oil and gas underneath the Straits under a 65-year-old easement granted by the state on the condition that the company operates prudently.

What Worry? Line 5 has failed 29 times since 1968, spilling at least 1.13 million gallons of oil. Repeated disclosures of shoddy maintenance, structural flaws in the pipelines and concealment of critical information from state officials demonstrate Enbridge is not acting prudently. There are at least 48 bare metal spots and/or coating gaps near the 128 total anchor locations on Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

These decaying pipes threaten the drinking water supply for 5 million Michigan residents and the “Pure Michigan” economy. FYI, the Great Lakes contain 20% of the world’s fresh surface water and are the drinking water source for over 40 million people.

Advocates such as FLOW [For Love of Water] insist “This is the Moment” for the State of Michigan to evict Enbridge from the Mackinac Straits and shut down Line 5 because of the danger its oil pipelines pose to the Great Lakes. The State of Michigan must make a final decision to replace the pipelines or to shut it down by August 15, 2018.

University of Michigan studies call the Mackinac Straits the “worst possible place” for a Great Lakes oil spill, which could pollute up to 720 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Under the best conditions, only 30% of an oil spill would be recovered.

This March, we lost another Champion for Justice: Bob Rafos.

Rafos

Bob Rafos presenting a $25,000 check to CEO of Save the Children Canada

Completing three years this month as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) & the Ecumenical Institute, I recall the pleasure of Bob’s guidance as a board director. I was already booked on a flight to visit him in Toronto when we learned he had completed his life at the age of 82. I missed the opportunity for another partaking of his wisdom.

 

At his last face-to-face ICA-USA board meeting on September 18, 2016, Bob offered this closing reflection that continues to ring true and merits our embrace:

“We are facing the greatest threat of our time: Climate Change. Our role now is as it was before:
• Be a source of awakenment.
• Sound the call to commitment; and
• Demonstrate what is possible.”

Awaken, Sound the Call, Demonstrate… those are all germane verbs for moving people whether its Marching for Our Lives for real change in gun laws or speaking truth to power to assure that we stop Mixing Oil & Water. Thanks for the call Bob.

WAIT, WAIT… DON’T TELL ME… REDLINING LIVES?

One of my two favorite NPR shows is “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” Two special weekly segments are “Bluff the Listener” and “Not My Job”— pertinent portrayals of the Trump Presidency.

The other is Marketplace. My work schedule often has me driving home when it airs at 6:30 pm CT. Those who know my community development origin story can imagine my surprise when on February 15th, the first words I heard on my car radio were:

“this law — the Community Reinvestment Act — did not foresee a lot of the urban dynamics that we have today.”

Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal was interviewing Aaron Glantz, a reporter at Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, who was sharing his new article, “Kept Out,” which explores how redlining lives on in today’s economy.

April 11th this year will be the 50th Anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act that banned racial discrimination in lending. Yet, as this article reveals, African Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts.

I started my community development career in 1974 researching lending discrimination and sharing stories of communities throughout the US who were organizing against redlining. On May 5, 1975, Chicago’s Gale Cincotta joined community leaders from Milwaukee, Oakland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Boston and Providence who testified before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee in support of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act [HMDA], passed by Congress later that year.

Philly redlining_1937

A 1937 map of Philadelphia shows redlining of neighborhoods.

Reveal’s yearlong analysis, based on 31 million records, found modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants’ income, loan amount and neighborhood, according to a mountain of HMDA records analyzed. It found a pattern of troubling denials for people of color across the country, including in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Antonio. African Americans faced the most resistance in Southern cities – Mobile, Alabama; Greenville, North Carolina; and Gainesville, Florida – and Latinos in Iowa City, Iowa.

In addition, Glantz told Marketplace that there are a “lot of neighborhoods where banks are making a ton of loans to white newcomers at the same time that they’re denying a large proportion of people of color who want to buy or refinance or get a home improvement loan to stay in that same neighborhood.” Nothing like financing gentrification and reverse block busting to make housing even less affordable.

Given how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is already being dismantled, we can anticipate that all Trump financial regulators will be “bluffing” when it comes to enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act [CRA] while encouraging a Republican Congress to repeal it and not even bother replacing it. We can also be certain that building local economies and encouraging racial and economic diversity will be regarded by Trump as “Not My Job!”

That’s why it’s still our job. It’s why you should attend the Just Economy conference of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] on April 9 – 11 in DC.

NCRC & Key Bank 3.18.2016

NCRC Conference March 2016

Our communities can’t afford to be “kept out” any longer. It’s time for a #JustEconomy

Oh by the way, Happy President’s Day?

GOVERNING PAST MIDNIGHT?

GOVERNING PAST MIDNIGHT?

I don’t remember the last time I stayed up past midnight. But on Friday January 19th I did until 12:30 am Eastern. Don’t know why but I thought maybe Mitch McConnell would have something constructive to say about reaching a compromise on immigration. But no it was just the same old blame game. disclosure-oct-1976

Rather than do their job by passing a bi-partisan bill, Congress chose to let our government shut down. They could reach agreement in the coming few days or this drama and sham can play out for weeks.

When I studied political science [BA & MA], I learned that the core of our democracy is embedded in our three branches. Congress can reach consensus to pass legislation and send it to the Sh__ House. The President can then decide what to do with his fancy pen.

More midnights at the impasse are not viable options for the American people. Compassionate immigration is a core American value. It is only fitting for Women’s March Rallies to assemble across the US on the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration and day one of this Trump Sh_tdown.

Women's March B Jan 2018

This coming November we can only hope that thousands of women candidates for local, state and national office will be elected so conversations can flourish and consensus for action can be reached.

However, earlier this week, I heard one woman candidate who does not merit votes. I attended the MLK Day Faith in Action Assembly. I have attended previous ones also organized by the Community Renewal Society. This year our church, Old St. Patrick’s, MLK Assembly Jan 2018hosted the forum. Besides a panel of local aldermen asked to support changes to police union contracts to assure effective reforms, the Action Assembly focused on candidates for the Illinois Governor race.

All five of the Democratic candidates were impressive. The Republican candidate, IL State Rep. Jeanne Ives, not so much and then she really blew it. After a few “No” answers to supporting a few issues, she addressed the final issue of gun violence by replying that the solution is “Fathers in the home.” Sitting next to her was Democratic candidate Chris Kennedy, son of assassinated U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy.

Chris responded, “I didn’t have a father in my life. Somebody shot him.” He then departed to a standing ovation. The Chicago Tribune headline to its story the next morning was “Kennedy criticizes Ives for ‘stupidity’.” That appears to be a prevalent Republican trait these days.

A year ago, I quoted Bobby Kennedy’s April 5, 1968 speech after Dr. King’s assassination as the appropriate counterpoint to Trump’s inauguration speech. The U.S. Senate would have benefited last night from remembering it.

“Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and women. Surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and sisters, countrymen and countrywomen once again.” — Robert F. Kennedy

JOINING IN A GREAT EXPERIENCE

JOINING IN A GREAT EXPERIENCE

“It was my destiny to join in a great experience.” – Herman Hesse, The Journey to the East

When a director of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA-USA] shared this mantra at a November 2017 board meeting, I remembered Hesse’s famous book from college days, but was uncertain I had read it. Picking up a copy in ICA’s Archives, I discovered I hadn’t. Now that I have, this opening line serves as an appropriate opening refrain for 2018.

My first 2017 blog offered reflections on the relevancy of Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here.” My March 2017 blog, “MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY,” was inspired by Senator George Mitchell’s role as narrator for Old St. Patrick’s annual Siamsa na nGael concert. No doubt, my most formidable experience in 2017 was the tour of Auschwitz.

Pope at Auschwitz

Pope Francis enters the Auschwitz gate.

One personal revelation is that I do check my daily horoscopes [in both the Chicago Tribune & Sun-Times] and save my annual birthday ones. One from last week’s birthday prediction claims 2018 will be a “year full of excitement and change!” The other noted: “Family, friends and community groups can accomplish more together.” This is not fake news; these are real horoscopes.

MI Sunset Nov 2017

Lake Michigan 11/25/2017

ICA-USA’s thank you note to 2017 donors quotes Margaret Mead on its cover:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

As the sun has set on 2017, best wishes for a Just 2018.