Public policy, social issues, gender politics, religion, civitas, and other taboo topics fall under the hammer of Shava's iconoclasmic force of natural philosophy.

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by Shava Nerad

A blogosperic experiment -- Gather

Friday, December 02, 2005 11:28 AM  
I'm participating in a beta community site,, that is the first site I know aimed toward my demographic. Over 35, listens to public radio, reflective, intellectual. I'm liking it. Look for a burst of essays over there.

360 console

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 7:03 AM  
OK, so am I the last person in the world gamer-geeky and yet old enough to think it's hilariously funny that the 360 console reminds me of a 360 console?

I feel old...

Bertrand Russell on Armistice Day

Friday, November 11, 2005 7:53 AM  

All this madness, all this rage, all this flaming death of our civilization and our hopes, has been brought about because a set of official gentlemen, living luxurious lives, mostly stupid, and all without imagination or heart, have chosen that it should occur rather than that any one of them should suffer some infinitesimal rebuff to his country's pride.

God bless us all in time of war.

theory and pain

Tuesday, October 04, 2005 6:42 AM  
Some days I feel like a moderate. Others, I am solidly in the Howard Zinn left wing "I don't believe these people haven't learned from history and their greater environment" camp.

Last night I had a lively back and forth with a friend about unions. He said that, all things being equal, if he had a choice between a company with a mandatory-membership union and one without one, he'd choose to buy from the non-union company. I asked if he realized "union" implied a unified bloc as a bargaining unit. He did. I asked if he realized how difficult it was to keep a union in a place where the edges could be nibbled away by intimidation and such. He did. I asked if he thought unions were necessary in places where bad employers know they can act with impugnity. He did.

He said, "Just because something is necessary, doesn't mean that it's acceptable or good. I don't need to support it."

While I found this attitude logical, I found it so drastically impractical. Why erode an institution without the will to reform or replace it, ideally with a better model! I came off as disdainful of his attitude. I hurt his feelings, and probably his opinion of me as a rational debater.

After all, I don't usually champion sentimentality over reason. It's just that, sometimes, I think compassion changes the parameters of an argument. Human cost. Human values. The art of the possible trumps the art of theory.

This morning, walking in to work at the Kennedy School, I remembered a recent reaction to the KSG dean's recent editorial about Katrina relief. An associate with my e-government group slammed the dean for sentimentality -- essentially saying that he saw no evidence that there was systematic ghettoization or deprivation of the poor, and that people concerned with poverty should be thinking more about how to motivate people to take power over their own lives.

These may seem like very different arguments, but to me there is a common thread. Both of these people, I feel, are judging situations on a theoretical basis of "What Should Be," theoretically, rather than "What Can Be," or even "What Is."

And "What Is" is pain.

I hear people with opinions about poverty and the disadvantaged who have never lived among poor people, and it makes me wonder. It makes me dubious, because they have never live outside of the American Dream. They will never have to tolerate a bad employer. Their education and class give them an excess of empowerment.

"Just because I've never been poor," they protest, "doesn't mean I don't have a right to an opinion."

And, admittedly, just because they're rich doesn't mean I truly get to dismiss them out of hand.

But to me, this is much the same question as that of pain management.

The experience of pain is very person and individual, yet universal. I remember hearing people say that babies don't feel pain -- and being a mother, I don't believe them. I remember the old argument that you shouldn't administer pain relief to people in chronic pain for a variety of proper, upright, neo-puritan justifications. But once someone has been in pain, chronic pain, living with pain -- even if their personal decisions don't change, it's likely that their sympathies with others will.

It's typical that people of privilege commenting on poverty or race or gender or disability take high horse theoretical positions that almost universally have a subtext of "GET OVER IT! Get over the pain. Why can't you just take power in your situation and make it work? Get some backbone. Why can't you be like me? I don't have problems with these issues, and I bet I wouldn't in your position either."

I wonder if any of these people would be willing to gut chickens in a processing plant in rural North Carolina for a year, or to try to raise a family of four on an AFDC check or two minimum wage salaries? I wonder if these people would feel hurt if they were taken less seriously in their professions because of the color of their skin, their accent, or the size of their bust?

I wonder if these people are even aware that they should be grateful that they can have an opinion untinged by the kind of chronic, relentless, numbing and demoralizing pain and resentment underlying the systems they theorize about?

They have a right to their opinions. And I have a right to my skepticism, however personally they may take it. This is not class warfare -- just a frank statement that some things can't be weighted by theory without experience.

National Nurse

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:02 AM  
My friend Teri Mills in Oregon is on a campaign to keep Americans healthy:

As many of you know, Teri Mills and the National Nurse Team have been working with nursing leaders in Congress for a bill. Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) has taken the lead and her staff spoke with us a few weeks ago, stating that the bill was headed to Legislative Counsel. We are asking Congress to create an Office of the National Nurse to focus on providing all Americans with preventive health care resources.

To read exactly what this proposal is about, please go to our website

Each of us can make a difference to help move the bill for a National Nurse forward. Please email Representative Capps’ office at or if you prefer, call Rose Gonzales, the Government Relations Specialist at the American Nurses Association (301-628-5000).

Simply tell Representative Capps and Rose Gonzales you support an Office of the National Nurse because it will: (use one statement from
below or you can also use your own words which is even better)

1. Focus Americans on preventive health practices.

2. Focus on reducing health care costs through prevention and education.

3. Complement government services already in place; help prioritize and deliver the health agenda to the nation.

4. Provide a trusted unified source for people to consult first when considering options for addressing their wellness needs.

5. Involve entire communities because nurses in the community they live in will provide services.

6. Continue the collaborative work nurses do with physicians and other health care providers in individual settings on a community and national level.

7. Develop National Nurse teams to serve as prepared volunteer groups in emergency situations.

8. Demonstrate the value of education as an important intervention to help decrease health care costs.

9. Focus national attention on the value of nursing; inspire entry into nursing careers, and enhance the value of practicing nurses.

10. Attract nurses to become educators by demonstrating teaching in action.

I would appreciate hearing the result of your call and/or email. You can reach me at PLEASE sign up for our newsletter
to follow the progress of the National Nurse Team. Please forward this email to every nurse that you know.

Florence Nightingale declared, “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.”

Your voice may make the difference in pulling the bill out of Legislative Counsel.

Thanks for your support.

Teri Mills
National Nurse Campaign Coordinator

I wrote this in support of Teri:

I believe we need a national nurse, because nursing better represents the domestic needs of the people of the United States. The Surgeon General's office, even in name, is an office springing from a wartime mind set. Although we are at war (or something closely resembling it), our domestic needs are not for a wartime surgeon. In fact, the Surgeon General's office has been concerned with domestic policy for ages.

But it's health maintenance, not the trauma center, that are at the center of silent crises in this country.

Children are getting fat and idle -- not the young colts of prior generations, but tired, stressed, sickly children that will be a burden to themselves and the health care system.

Air quality, while under the control of the EPA, is likely causing childhood asthma in so many of these weakened youngsters.

Diet is at the root of a pandemic in youth and adults, likely responsible for a significant slice of chronic ailments.

Exercise habits are ceasing to be conditioned into children whose schools are cutting teaching positions and instruction time including PE and sports activities.

Stress management and anger management could improve the lives of Americans of all ages.

Simple monitoring of vital signs could stave off many health crises. Likewise, education in issues such as the recognition of the signs of heart attack, melanoma, and many other conditions could save lives and load on the medical system.

"Sustainability" is a word that we hear a lot these days. We need to make the health of American sustainable, to maintain, literally, our quality of life through hard times.

I encourage all people in DC to support the office of the National Nurse.

Reconstruction II

Friday, September 09, 2005 1:01 PM  
George Bush issued an executive order on Thursday saying that contractors rebuilding after the devastation of Katrina don't need to pay minimum wage.

Is that a Halliburton convoy I hear rumbling in the distance? Is that carpet bags they are packing? Are their shares going up, while they anticipate re-building the south in their image on the backs of poor, landless, displaced black folks without a lot of job alternatives?

I feel ill.

displaced persons

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 3:07 PM  
A friend of mine was chatting in my living room and expounding passionately that our nation had never seen such a thing as a natural disaster displacing a whole economic area and all these people, such as we see with Katrina.

And I said, "Hm. Have to disagree. One word: Okies."

Lets hope that the nation treats those displaced by Katrina better than the victims of the dustbowl.

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