I found the reading by Michael Sandel to be both interesting and frustrating. Perhaps because the section we read was taken from a much larger work, I found some of his points and comments to clutter his overall argument. Such discussions would make sense to include in a book but not so much a critical essay, which was the style in which I was reading it. Despite this, I think that the crux of Sandel’s work is clear and which is best described in his own words, “A politics of moral engagement is not only a more inspiring ideal than a politics of avoidance. It is also a more promising basis for a just society.” What I think Sandel means is that it is ignorant to believe that we can separate morals from politics, and in fact morals need to be a part of politics so that the systems in which we live in can be supported by a backbone of morally defined justice. I agree with Sandel to a point, especially when thinking that how we define justice, what we consider to be just, is inseparable from what society values. To create a just society, we need to work in collaboration to define what is valuable to us as a society and that cannot be achieved without the inclusion of every individual’s morality because morality for the most part is intrinsic. I think that this reading connects to the work I am doing at APC because I am working towards moral engagement. I am creating a definition of justice that includes the voices of those who need it the most.
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Michael Sanders analyzes historical occasions revolving around political dialogues that questioned whether or not morals and values should be brought into decision making, and the overall discussion. Through his analysis, Sanders illustrates the way in which thinking about justice in terms of the common good of others and incorporating moral engagement into conversations is better than “a politics of avoidance.” He concludes that it’s this practice that will lead us to a more promising good for society. In other words, it’s important to be engaged with the well-being of those surrounding you, rather than being ignorant and simply thinking in a simple, black and white sense. I loved the line, “Justice is not only about the right way to distribute things. It is also about the right way to value things.” (261)
I really appreciated the honesty that Sanders presents. I really love being able to engage in conversations with friends, family, strangers, anyone really, about faith, morals, society’s values, and more. I think it’s unfortunate so many stray away from these conversations, for whatever reasons they do. I loved his quoting of Obama, “Our fear of getting ‘preachy’ may…lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our mist urgent social problems.” (246) I could not agree more. The social problems attacking society today require much more than quick decisions. They require attention to detail and true dedication to those it will affect most, and least. Having such transparent, explicit honesty will allow society to find commonalities in the passion for justice, regardless of labels and identifiers. For, when we focus too much on monitoring those, we’re focusing on ourselves, not the common good of others.
Beyond this, I loved the mentioning of Martin Luther King Jr. and his use of morals and values in the Civil Rights Movement, and more. Truly, I appreciated the entire article.
This article allowed me to think of how I’ve been using morals and values in my work here at Prescott-Joseph Center and my living community. In terms of my living community, I’ve been challenged to accept where I have been falsely placing value on items and possessions. Now that I am limited, I’ve been realizing the beauty in simplicity while facing the reality that I can choose simplicity, while my neighbors might not have had the choice. Nonetheless, I am thankful for my current place in life. I am learning, being challenged, I am healthy, excited, nervous, inspired, grateful, and forever impacted. My heart is intensely intertwined in this fellowship, and Sanders piece affirms my use of morals, values, and faith into my experiences and how I share those with others.
The 5 people I live with will forever hold value in my heart and will forever be attributed to my love and passion for justice and hope.
At PJC I have learned the importance of putting your heart into all you do. I’ve learned it from David, who does maintenance, just as I have learned it from Dr. Burns. What drives PJC is the value they place on the people of West Oakland. They see hope in them, they believe in them, and they want to help them in their success, and struggles. There is no hiding of morals, values, and faith in discussions that occur at PJC. PJC is committed. It’s beautiful, really. In helping develop the Family Resource Center, everything that I take into consideration has to be of true help for the community. It’s clear to me that the issues the FRC wants to tackle are not simple, they are complex, embedded, stigmatized, not spoken enough of, and often ignored. I have to value the work that I do in order for it to do good for the community. If I was just doing aimless work, what would be the point?
This summer I am working at Alameda Point Collaborative as their curriculum building intern for their Farm2Market program. Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) is a supportive housing community for families affected by poverty and homelessness. Residents work with on-site case managers and counselors to break down barriers to stability, while adults in the community may participate in their workforce development program and take advantage of one of their on-the-job training opportunities. Of the 500 people living at APC, 300 are children and youth who can get the help they need for academic success through APC’s education programs. The specific program I am working with is the Farm2Market program which is a paid On The Job Training (OJT) program for up to twelve formerly homeless individuals residing in APC’s supportive housing community. Farm production, produce sales, managing volunteer groups and practicing personal accountability all give our trainees a wide range of highly transferable skills to help them find meaningful employment. My role working with this program is to work on the farm and gather information about the duties of the trainees while developing a cumulative trainee handbook that covers important, generalizable workplace skills as well as specific information about the workings of the farm. My favorite part about my job so far is being able to work on the farm and talk to the members of the OTJ training program. I love being outside and working with my hands and being able to do so while listening to the stories of my co-workers who are members of the community we are living in together is extremely special.
I think a challenge to me, which I didn’t realize was a challenge until dinner tonight, is not having the support from our supervisors I was expecting. I listen to the other Micah members’ descriptions of the conversations they have with their bosses about race, and privilege, and the issues affecting the community they serve and realize that those conversations are something I am lacking. The work on the farm is difficult and challenging too of course, but it’s not the most shaking challenge for me right now. I need to be able to talk about what I am seeing and hearing and feel comfortable asking questions to these people who have been here and worked here the longest and I know I can learn so much from. I think that if I had that support, not only would I be better able to understand my place here, but my service, and the effect of it, would be benefitted as well. I just don’t feel that safe yet. I hope that this will change.
As we begin to gather our thoughts, the first thing that comes to mind is the amount of knowledge and experience I have gained in the past two months. Growing up I was always looked at as being the “hippy- child”, all I ever wanted was to save the world and protect our environment and all that mumbo- jumbo. I was always seen as someone so different from the rest of my group of friends and while they loved me for being different, I don’t think they ever took my beliefs seriously because they could never really understand for the fact that they were never involved and couldn’t relate. It has been a breath of fresh air to meet a group of girls who care about the issues going on in today’s world as much as, if not a whole lot more than I do. I have learned a lot from my roommates. I love that I can have intelligent conversations with these girls and we both have equal passion and knowledge about the subject. We can talk about things that really matter in the world and it is so satisfying to hear about what they think and where they stand on specific issues. There is substance in our time spent together. We bring up thought provoking questions with honest and respectful responses. I can get home, open the latch to my little gate, walk up the stairs, unlock the front door, put my bags down, fall onto the couch and just say, “ Hey Gabi, what do you think about the new immigration law?”, that in itself has been kind of rewarding for me. I love that with the readings we have done I can walk outside my house and see what I am reading. My internship has opened my eyes to so many issues that are taking place in my backyard. There is so much work to be done, but even more potential to be seen.
As I mentioned in one of my last blog entries, I was able to go with an Another Road to Safety agent (which are like the CPS) on a home visit. On that home visit I met with a mother and her two sons. The oldest son was very disruptive during conversations we had and would constantly do what he could to influence his younger brother to act up as well until they were able to crack their mother and make her have a melt down. They did not seem to have any structure in the home and they were restless, getting into whatever they could and anxious to get outside and play. Since we were going to start having a summer camp at the Prescott Joseph Center we urged the mother to sign her kids up. This was done intentionally to get more children signed up but also to get the kids out of the house for a couple of hours so that the mother could have her “me-time” and be relaxed enough to handle her children when they got home.
Today at work I passed by one of the classes ran by the summer camp and the oldest son I visited spotted me and greeted me. It was really nice to be able to see him again and in a different setting, outside of home. When I was talking to him I asked how he was doing in the program and if he was enjoying himself. I was flabbergasted by the respect he showed and the way he spoke to me. He was a complete sweetheart. Maybe I am just soft hearted but after talking to him I started tearing up. He presented himself like a whole new boy. At home his mother mentioned her concern of him getting kicked out of the summer program because he had been kicked out of school a couple of times and was expected to misbehave.
At the program he looked so happy, he had the face of an angel and it really made me so happy to see him doing so well. It made me believe that a real change could be made in these children for the better when they are provided with the right attention and the tools for success. I think that a huge problem is the degrading these kids might get from family members and the people around them. A lot of times if people around you aren’t doing well for themselves they don’t want you to be better then them so they do what they can to keep you down. I think that with the right encouragement children can find their own way to self- empowerment. It is one of the most beautiful things to see the progression and success of youth in neighborhoods like these. To see that they can overcome the odds. They have all of the energy and power to be amazing people, they just need good influences and people who truly believe in them.
It is really self- fulfilling to live here and watch all of these positive things happen.
Since I have been living in Oakland, I have become more “consumer conscious”. I have become more aware of the products I buy and why I buy them. I have begun to “buycott” as our book defines it. I only buy products that have the same beliefs and values I would like to portray. For example I only feel good about buying organic eggs now. This is because it is more natural, but also because the chickens are treated better and are usually healthier. I buy more clothes from street vendors and independent sellers then from big stores because I think it is a way to empower the people and help out locals that are starting out and trying to do something positive.
Since I have lived in Oakland I have also started to eat healthier. I eat vegetables and fruit every single day. For lunch I eat a small salad (lettuce, bell peppers and feta cheese) with a small amount of dressing, a yogurt, granola bar, and an apple or orange. I think that my diet has changed because we are on such a low budget but also because of my roommates. Everyone in my house eats very healthy so it has rubbed off on me in a great way. I eat healthy and it isn’t boring, it isn’t bland, it’s delicious! Ha I have started to drink almond milk, which I had not even heard of before coming here. Apparently it is soy? There is a big difference in the taste and texture but it isn’t all that bad.
One thing that I love is that I am getting a lot exercise living here. Me and the girls go for runs at Lake Merrit, I ride my bike to work now and sometimes if we have nothing to do we will just go walking around town. It is nice to have so many things accessible to us. I really love being so active around town and seeing new places, I think that being on foot is the best way to see the city.
I love the changes I have made by living here and I hope I can keep it up when I move back to school.