Thursday, October 25, 2007

Avaaz newsletter - Burma

Dear Avaaz member,

What Avaaz members have done so far:

789,479 petition signatures, hand-delivered to UK Prime Minister and UN Security Council member Gordon Brown. (Video here.)

$315,000 raised for the Burmese democracy movement.

33,403 emails to EU leaders urging targeted sanctions.

1,952 messages sent to Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo.

100+ protests in cities worldwide against the Burmese regime.

1 global ad campaign, including a full-page ad in the Financial Times pushing China to act.

If they haven't yet, ask friends to
sign the petition
Burma's streets are quiet--no mass demonstrations, no riot police. But the calm is an illusion. Change is coming to Burma, and we are all a part of it.

Here's where we stand: The regime has massacred, tortured, and intimidated its critics at home, and continues its night arrests and brutal interrogations. But while it has momentarily silenced the domestic opposition, its attacks on the revered Buddhist monks ignited an anger amongst the Burmese people that cannot be extinguished. Contacts inside Burma tell us that the demonstrators are steadily regrouping, even in the face of the deadly crackdown.

And around the world, the roar has grown deafening--so powerful that governments are scrambling for ways to bring new pressure to bear on the junta. Government leaders and the media have publicly credited the outcry of global civil society. Look at the statistics in the box on the right to see how, working alongside allies around the world, Avaaz members have begun to make a difference.

Many Burmese members of Avaaz have written in. Here's a note from one of them--Trisa, now living abroad:

I am one of the 8888 uprising generation. Since the September uprising in Burma, I can't get good night sleep. I can't contact my remaining families and friends if they are ok... The voice of the world is very powerful. I have heartfelt thank you for all the supporters. Your voice can change our lives!

And here's a note from an Avaaz member, Lynn in London, who joined a group of Burmese monks to hand-deliver the Avaaz petition--contained in a big red box--to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, on the steps of 10 Downing Street last week:

When I put my hand on the red box, which held the 753,000 signatures from around the world collected by Avaaz, I imagined the outrage of the many people from every country in the world, every culture, every race, and every religion, contained within this box which was about to be presented to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I thought about what it might mean for these Burmese monks whose religious brothers far away had been hurt and mistreated by the crackdown, to know that in every country in the world, people were supporting them.

And here's what May Ng, a Burmese writer, editorialized on the news site Mizzima after seeing our petition:

As their voices have been heard and their faces have been seen, Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma will no longer be alone., whose mission is to ensure that the views and values of the world's people shape global decisions, will make sure that Burmese people will have a voice over their own fate from now on.

Avaaz will share the struggle of the Burmese people until the struggle is won. Our goals are constant: transition, dialogue, reconciliation, and democracy. We will also continue to take action together on many urgent issues, from climate change to peace in the Middle East to human rights--but we will not turn from the cause of the Burmese people. We believe that every human life has equal value, whether in Berlin, Beijing or Rangoon.

As Aung San Suu Kyi once urged, we will use our freedom to promote theirs.

With hope,

Ben, Ricken, Paul, Galit, Graziela, Iain, Sarah, Pascal, and Milena--the Avaaz team

PS: 52 years ago today, the UN charter enshrined "the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples." Twelve years ago today, Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned. And today, in key cities around the world, protesters held a new wave of protests; the first shipment of supplies, paid for by Avaaz members, left for Burma--and the junta agreed to re-admit Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N. envoy who is working to build a dialogue between the regime and the opposition, earlier than previously announced. It's been a long struggle, but the most important ones always are.

PPS: If your friends haven't yet signed the petition, urge them to sign at:

PPPS: Some further reading:

Voices from within Burma:

Avaaz's Paul Hilder "People Power can win":

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I'm a Type 2 - The Humanitarian

Friends, family, and colleagues probably appreciate your caring and generous nature. They're also apt to know that when they come to you with a problem, you'll usually offer a shoulder to cry on and unparalleled compassion. As a Humanitarian, you're likely to be seen as a loving and helpful person with a kind heart.

Being a member of this type puts you in good company. Mother Teresa, with her tireless devotion to aid the sick and destitute members of society, and Bishop Desmond Tutu, with his emphasis on nonviolent protest against racial injustices, are also Type 2s

This means that compared to the eight other Enneagram types, you have a strong sense of empathy for other people. In fact, you're the kind of warm, sincere person who can be uniquely capable of seeing the good in others.

(Yvonne blushes and looks around for something to hide under)

More about Type 2 from Wikipedia:

Twos: Helpers, Givers, Caretakers

Twos, at their best, are compassionate, thoughtful and astonishingly generous but they can also be particularly prone to clinginess and manipulation. Twos want, above all, to be loved and needed and fear being unworthy of love.

Ego fixation: flattery
Holy idea: freedom
Passion: pride
Virtue: humility
Stress point: Eight
Security point: Four

do you know what it is yet?

According to a poll conducted in 2003:
Nearly half of those surveyed could not identify Leonardo Da Vinci as the painter of the Mona Lisa.

And 7% thought Australian TV presenter and artist [Rolf] Harris had painted Monet's Water Lillies.

The survey, conducted by Encyclopaedia Britannica among 500 people, found 85% could not name Edvard Munch as the creator of The Scream.

British art also caused problems for many, with more than half could not being able to identify the Hay Wain as by John Constable, while one in 10 thought Botticelli had painted David Hockney's A Bigger Splash.

The survey also discovered that 43% of those questioned had never visited an art gallery in their lives, despite 68% of people citing art as important factor in society.
My knowledge of art is pretty good, so I thought I would see how well I did in various quizzes. I got all of the items on the BBC quiz right. I got 6 out of 10 on this slightly more specialised quiz on twentieth-century art; 12 out of 20 on this quiz about the Impressionists; 7 out of 9 on Art Schools 1860 - 1900. Not bad, as the questions were quite abit harder than just identifying who painted The Scream or the Mona Lisa. But even if Brits know nuffink abaht art, I hope (probably naively) that they'd do better than this on questions about current affairs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Have you got a permit for that aura?
China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate

Proving that absurdity knows no boundaries, the Communist Chinese regime has banned reincarnation by Buddhas and bodhisattvas without permission from the government. I suppose the Chinese will now begin rewriting the Tibetan Book of the Dead to include the new “bardo of governmental approval.”

And people call practitioners of religion irrational!!!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

still 100% Pagan

I hereby certify myself still 100% Pagan, or should that be NeoPagan?

Either way, I enjoy Taoism, love of nature, animism, non-theism, pantheism, compassion for all life, communing with the Universe, and seeking to balance myself with the Way of Nature (variously known as the Tao, Yin and Yang, Fire and Frost, Wyrd, etc). I affirm that we are all related (mitakuye oyasin). There was no fall, only an arising. The Universe is the Beloved.

Having re-lived the entire religious history of Europe in the past two months, I don't recommend it! From Pagan Polytheist to Orthodox Christian (missed out Catholicism, but waved to St Francis as I rushed past him) to a vague protestant feeling, to Unitarian, to non-theist, humanist, romantic animist NeoPagan. But I'm very glad to have found the Unitarians, where being a non-theist Pagan makes perfect sense, given their humanist and universalist tendencies and interest in wisdom from other traditions. Anyway, being a non-theist is excellent, I heartily recommend it. As Terry Pratchett so wisely said, witches don't believe in the gods, it would be like believing in the postman.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I came across the concept of egregores on Notes from underground, the blog of an Orthodox anarchist. It seems to me a very useful concept for describing "group mind" - the projection of self beyond the boundaries of the body in order to include others. Sometimes, if the values embraced are liberal, inclusive and humanitarian, such an egregore can be useful; but at other times, it can be destructive and divisive, especially if it involves demonising (projecting a shadow onto) another group.

The clever part about the more inclusive and liberal monotheisms is the idea that there is only one supreme being, who encompasses the whole universe (this is good, because instead of worshipping the egregore of your group, denomination, religion, or country, you are instead worshipping something which is regarded as the parent of all humanity). But the problem of monotheism is that if such a being existed and was omnipotent and omnibenevolent and omniscient as monotheistic religions claim, she would need to be perfect, and not allow evil (such as genocides, pogroms, the Holocaust, etc.) to occur.

Shekhinah theology
is quite a good way to account for this problem, but it still does not explain why a perfect being could create a universe in which mind is flawed.

The existence of egregores would certainly account for the narrow, bigoted and sectarian views of many religionists, who are seeking something less than the All - worshipping an egregore of their own cultural values. As Douglas Adams said, many people can't handle the size of the universe, so they choose to live in something smaller of their own devising.

Buddhism has managed to get on for centuries without deities (it acknowledges their existence, but is more interested in liberation from samsara).

Personally I still find Buddhism too interested in liberating spirit from matter, rather than awakening the Mind of the All, but it still has some interesting ideas. That said, if we really want to awaken the mind of the All, we'd better be sure we give it nice liberal and inclusive values....

I must also acknowledge the influence of Numenism on my new train of thought.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Burma - act now!

Squeeze the Burmese Junta - write to your foreign minister
This Monday October 15, the 27 foreign ministers of the European Union will meet--and decide whether to keep their word on Burma.

More than three weeks ago, the day before the junta's brutal crackdown began, the EU warned that it would "not hesitate to reinforce and strengthen the existing sanctions regime" if the government resorted to violence. As atrocities in Burma worsen, the EU must act. By threatening the generals' economic interests, targeted sanctions can squeeze the military and push them into negotiations without hurting the Burmese people. That's why the democracy movement and Aung San Suu Kyi are asking us to act, saying "Please use your liberty to promote ours."

Let's stand with the Burmese people and urge our foreign ministers to strengthen the sanctions - while offering aid and incentives for progress.

Godde doesn't exist yet

I had a radical and rather liberating thought this morning. There was no Fall, because there was never a Golden Age or a Garden of Eden to fall from. But there is an Arising. There was no Creator God or Divine Source, rather the universe and its inhabitants are becoming more conscious, more compassionate, more empathic, with the arising of the universal Mind (which proceeds from the unfolding of the Tao). As we interact socially with the Universe, we increase its consciousness. First we awakened gods and spirits of place, then gradually began to perceive the All and wonder at the glories of Nature and the Universe. (Evil occurs when we fail to empathise with others.) We are part of the Arising of the universal Mind, as we become more conscious and more empathic. We are all Future Buddhas. As we become more empathically connected to the All, when we die we contribute our consciousness to the All, and it is in this process of connection that universal Mind arises. Those who mystically identify the All as a Thou and not an It contribute to the process of expanding awareness and continuing the process of making everything more conscious. The process of individuation and self-development is part of the process of becoming aware of the uniqueness and preciousness of all life in its glorious diversity. The golden age is in the future, not in the past. The genius of Buddhism and Unitarianism is that they are focussed on a future golden age, not a mythical one in the past from which we fell. Bodhisattvas (such as Jesus and Kwan Yin) so identified with the All that their compassion / karuna / empathy accelerated the arising of the universal Mind, and they are still there in some sense, guiding humanity towards awakening. But the awakening will not be from the illusion of matter, but rather matter itself is becoming ever more conscious or ensouled - it is awakening. Only when the Mind of the Universe is fully conscious - when the kundalini of the Universe has arisen from the depths - only then will "Godde" fully exist.

See also: God as Manifestation of Mind

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Harry came home! Apparently he was lurking in a neighbour's empty flat, and when the people who look after it opened the door, he shot out. I am now seriously considering fitting him with some sort of remote tracking device. I am hugely hugely relieved, and so is Nick.

I've phoned round all the people I phoned to report him missing to tell them he has been found, and Nick has gone out to take down the posters.

Thanks be!

Monday, October 01, 2007

worried about Harry

Harry has a heart murmur which means he could just collapse at any moment, and he's been missing for more than 48 hours now, and it's raining and cold. We last saw him on Friday morning. He's been on medication for a couple of months now, and has been a lot happier since he's been taking it - all his fur has grown back on his bald patches, and he's been rubbing round us and purring a lot. (I can't bear to use past tense.)

We've just been out and put up posters with a description and this photo, in case he is locked in someone's garage or shed. I put notes through the doors of people in our close on Sunday morning before we went off to chapel, but haven't heard anything. I've also phoned the RSPCA, the Vet Line, and the people who fitted his microchip, but no-one has taken him there. Various people we have spoken to have told us tales of cats that went missing for three weeks, so it's not time to give up hope yet.

The problem is that we just don't know what has happened to him, whether or not to mourn. We keep looking at places in the house and garden where he likes to sit - his favourite cushions and places he likes to sit outside - next door's extension roof, the top of the coal shed - and every time we eat anything that we would normally give him a titbit of, it brings it home that he is not there.

Any prayers or good vibes would be much appreciated.