More Slavery

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.
The Talmud

It seems there is always more. More slavery. More war. More poverty and starvation. More species lost. The list goes on, so familiar and so overwhelming. Yet if we are overwhelmed we are paralyzed wondering “what can one person do?” There are many great answers to that question. But perhaps it’s the wrong question. For doing arises from being, in this context being a person of compassion grounded in a sense of justice. Perhaps the question is, “what can one person be?”

King Cormac was a man of honor and justice, in right relationship with his people, the land, and the divine. His doing came from his being and from this following piece it’s clear his King Cormacbeing took root in childhood. In this piece his son has asked, “What were your habits when you were a lad?” “Not hard to tell”, said Cormac.

I was a listener in woods

I was a gazer at stars

I was blind where secrets were concerned

I was silent in a wilderness

I was talkative among many

I was mild in the mead-hall

I was stern in battle

I was gentle towards allies

I was a physician of the sick

I was weak towards the feeble

I was strong towards the powerful

I was not close lest I should be burdensome

I was not arrogant though I was wise

I was not given to promising though I was strong

I was not venturesome though I was swift

I did not deride the old though I was young

I was not boastful though I was a good fighter

I would not speak about any one in his absence

I would not reproach, but I would praise

I would not ask, but I would give

For it is through these habits that the young become old and kingly warriors.

If we attend our grounding and our being, if we are just and merciful and humble, can there be any course of action or doing that doesn’t make a positive and meaningful difference in the world?


traffickingWhat does it say about our culture?
Or any culture, for that matter?

The Walk Free Foundation just published a report on slavery in 2013. A detailed and sobering document that estimates there are, today, 30 million people around the world suffering human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labor, organ harvesting, debt bondage, and more. It’s a grim list.

162 countries are highlighted in this report and I scanned the list to find the United States. Shocking. We are ranked 134, a ranking weighted against our total population, with an estimated 60,000 in slavery. At the bottom of the list, Ireland.

Happy as I was to find Ireland in last place, I had to wonder why. What in our US culture would rank us so much higher? Is there something intrinsic to the Irish culture that would rank them at the bottom?  Continue reading

Local Cows. Sacred Cows.

Lynne’s been to Ireland with me a few times now. This is one of her favorite stories. She and Linda had tucked into The Creamery Restaurant in Bunratty for dinner and the creme brulee caught her eye. Lynne’s all about her deserts. Apparently it was delicious and in Irish cowstalking with their server Lynne asked if the cream was local. “Oh no,” came the quick reply, “it’s from Limerick.” Limerick is eight miles from Bunratty.

While this story reflects prevailing public sentiment on local and organic food, it does not reflect the whole story.

When I first travelled to Ireland local and organic food issues were much in the media. Along with concerns about GMOs. Irish farmers contemplating the use of GMO feed and pesticides were roundly criticized. Although the Irish have never been huge fans of the English, their thinking seemed totally aligned with Prince Charles’ statement that GMOs are the “biggest environmental disaster of all time.” I was delighted to learn that in 2009 Ireland joined countries throughout Europe and around the globe in banning the cultivation of GM crops and adopting GM-free food labeling. The government statement announcing the ban noted that “the WTO’s economic globalisation agenda has forced most Irish farmers to enter an unwinnable race to the bottom for low quality GM-fed meat and dairy produce.”

It was a great victory, although short-lived. The Irish were aware that when Germany adopted a no-GMO policy they were sued by Monsanto. And so they braced themselves. Sure enough. In a threat made to nations who rejected GMO crops and biotechnology overall, United States ambassador to France and business partner to George W. Bush, Craig Stapleton, made it clear that all nations opposing GMOs will be hit with calibrated ‘target retaliation’ and ‘military-style trade wars’.

In 2011 the Irish government “confirmed that Ireland has altered its voting position and will support a number of proposals from the EU Commission aimed at authorizing the placing on the market of food, food ingredients and feed containing, consisting of, or produced from genetically modified maize and cotton.” It didn’t stop with maize and cotton. In 2012 the potato fell.

Yet in the midst of current economic conditions the Irish people seem to remain both concerned and committed to local, organic, and unadulterated food sources. It’s an ethic and movement aligned with how many Irish see themselves in relationship with their land…and their food. It may not live in the politics but it does live in the people. And in the David and Goliath drama, Ireland is well familiar with the role of David.