Friday, January 30, 2009

brief update

For some reason when it's an inappropriate time to blog (such as in the middle of the work day), I feel inspired and motivated to write in here, but when it's an acceptable time (such as after work or over the weekend), I lose my motivation. There are so many things to write about - work has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. Encouragement and disappointment, a lot of challenges and frustration. The domestic worker project that I've been in charge of is going to switch over to one of my coworkers and I'll be focusing more on casework (mostly wage recovery). It makes the most sense in terms of our skill sets (approaching strangers on the streets does not come naturally to me) and continuity (my coworker will be here long after I leave in August). I think this change is going to relieve some of my stress and allow me to keep a slightly better schedule (yesterday I worked 12 and a half hours!). Tomorrow is our workers' assembly, and we're having our first domestic worker meeting right after. I'm crossing my fingers that people will come.

Last weekend we had an incredible JVC retreat that focused on social justice. I took pages and pages of notes, and I'd like to turn them into a blog entry sometime soon. The retreat was led primarily by Fr. Fred Kammer, former president of Catholic Charities USA, who is absolutely amazing.

If anybody has job leads or ideas for what I should do with my life after August, please let me know. I'm thinking of a second year of JVC, but in the Bay Area. I'm still not sure if that's what I want though...

1 comment:

....J.Michael Robertson said...

It sounds as if you are doing real work in a good cause. But what to do in the future? I would assume there are many 'right' answers.

This was in the NYTimes today:

Questions for J.D. Trout
Dr. Feel It

Q: Your latest book, “The Empathy Gap,” is in sync with the new administration in Washington and our new president, who is hoping to use social policy to narrow the gap between rich and poor. As you argue, empathy alone is not enough.

A: I hope we can look forward to a period of more empathic policies. Obama has spoken about an empathy deficit in the United States, just as there is a federal deficit.

Q: Why do you think people tend to feel more empathy for a puppy with a hurt paw than for a person without health insurance?

A: Part of the reason is banal. Ease of visualization. The person without health care is likely to appear as a statistic, one among 50 million others.

Q: Would you agree with the maxim that charity begins at home?

A: There is no question that the drop-off in empathy occurs from your house out, which means that we feel less empathy for people who are farther away.

Q: Which is not a bad thing. Let’s say I came into $10,000 and decided to spend it on years of piano lessons for my son. Doesn’t that contribute to the well-being of society?

A: Not necessarily. It can be true that your own personal projects are best served by lavishing your excess money on the people closest to you. But most of the world isn’t you.

Q: But isn’t a musically educated child a boon to society?

A: I think it’s important to recognize that we don’t have the influence on our kids that oftentimes we think we do. When you’re spending lots of excess money — money that wouldn’t make any difference to your subjective well-being — you’re spending the money on a hedonic vomitorium of sorts.

Q: You’re comparing piano lessons to the apocryphal vomitoriums into which decadent Romans supposedly regurgitated their dinner?

A: The vomitorium image is just the idea that you’re consuming something that can’t be used by other people, and it gets wasted on you.

Q: I see you write a blog called The Greater Good, where you advocate on behalf of social policy, like zoning incentives that would put more supermarkets in poor neighborhoods.

A: I think policy is more efficient than empathy as a way of meting out goods. There are formulas that are more accurate and less costly than subjective judgments in so many areas, including whether to parole a prisoner or hire an employee.

Q: This sounds very Obamaesque — rationality as an instrument of caring. Where do you teach?
I am a philosopher at Loyola University at Chicago.

Q: You’re employed by a Catholic university, yet in your new book you neglect to mention the enormous role that churches have played over the centuries in helping the poor and promoting compassion.

A: The concerns addressed in the book — improved education, health care, existence above the poverty level — are too important to be left to the tender mercies of charity.

Q: What about the Old Testament notion that we are our brothers’ keepers?

A: That’s an admirable norm, but you can’t always count on people having the same norms.

Q: Do you keep your brother?

A: My brother owns some strip bars. I haven’t talked to him in about six years.

Q: Why not?

A: When I’d come home from college to visit, he’d always say, “Well, I’ll be at Godiva’s,” a strip bar that he had purchased. Or a gentlemen’s club, as he called it. I didn’t like the way he treated women. We separated early and went our own ways. It wasn’t a big deal.

Q: How bizarre. You’ve appointed yourself a national spokesman for empathy, and you’re estranged from your brother. Do you see that as any kind of paradox?

A: No, not really. In the biblical norm, I don’t read “brother” as meaning your blood brother. We have an obligation to give as many people as we can the opportunity to be successful, whether they are your own kids or kids that are otherwise invisible to you.