Tag Archives: human-rights

What Do You Do When They Turn Your Water Off?

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What Do You Do When They Turn Your Water Off? | LazyHippieMama.comThe US Declaration of Independence lists among the “inalienable rights” of all people the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We’ve all heard it a million times but what does it really mean in our modern society? Does the right to life simply mean the right to BE alive? Or does it mean that everyone, regardless of their level of income, education, ability or even ambition has a basic human right to those items and services needed to stay alive?

What happens when a person can’t keep a roof over their head? When they can’t afford food? When they are sick but have no way to pay a doctor? What about that most basic need – clean water?

When you think of people lacking access to clean water you may envision a family living in some rural part of India or Africa or in a part of the world where there was recent extreme violence or a natural disaster but, earlier this month, a group of people from Detroit reached out to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner with a plea for help. The city had shut off water services for thousands due to non payment.

That’s right. Americans are begging the United Nations for humanitarian aid. Next time you hear someone say the economic crisis is over remember this story.

The UN’s response was basically a statement that said shut off for non payment was only allowed if a resident was able but unwilling to pay. Beyond making a statement there really isn’t much they can do at this time.

The city of Detroit came back with all of the predictable responses. Tens of thousands of delinquency notices were sent out in May. Most were either paid or payment arrangements were made but thousands remained and when the due date passed the city began turning their taps off. “We are doing our best to work with people.” For a city that is in complete economic shambles, administrators felt there was no choice but to terminate services for those residents.

So now what do they do?

I realize there are many who just feel that folks in these stories are just sitting around mooching off of society. They are criminals and addicts and slackers of all sorts. It’s true that many of them are all of that and more, but certainly not all of them.  And even those who are… well… let’s look at the world they live in.

I only live about an hour from Detroit but it is a universe away. I know that the city has gotten national attention but I’m not sure how much people further away really know about what’s happening there. Honestly, I probably can’t grasp it fully myself since we don’t go into the city.

The city is bankrupt. There are whole neighborhoods of abandoned houses which are, not surprisingly, some of the most crime-ridden zip codes in the entire nation. Desperate people are burning down vacant houses in an attempt to avoid having “crack houses” in their neighborhood. Schools are often wrought with violence and the drop out rates are astounding.

“Just get a job!” is a joke. The unemployment rate hovers around 15% and that’s not taking into account the thousands who have fallen off the roles or never made it onto them in the first place.  Nor does it count the thousands who can only find part time, minimum wage work.

Assuming a person is able to get a decent education in such an environment and that they have the astonishing focus and strength of will required to finish school, then what? Where do you work in a city where there are no jobs? How do you get to work if you have no car and the city bus may or may not be running any given week because the infrastructure is crumbling?

Can you honestly say that you wouldn’t beg for help in such a situation? Can you swear that you would never consider crime, if you were that desperate to feed your family? And how much does your level of desperation increase when you wake up one morning to find you can no longer flush the toilet, take a shower, or give a glass of water to your child?

This is not some distant, impoverished nation. This is happening just a short drive from where I live in Happy Hills Suburban/Rural America.  The residents of the city are trying – desperately, fiercely fighting – to save their city but the challenges are immense.

I get it, from the city’s point of view. Really, I do. There is already an astonishing deficit. The resources to go on just aren’t there. The city, as a whole, is in the same boat as the desperate residents. They need people to pay their debts or at least to make some attempt at trying to pay. They literally can’t afford to be lenient.

But it’s not just Detroit.

In younger, poorer, darker days I was in this same boat. I had a job but I was scrambling. Granted my problems were, at least in part, due to my own mistakes but once you’re in that hole… it’s a long hard climb to get out, even if someone extends a helping hand. When I turned on the faucet and got no response I simply wept. I literally wanted to die if life was going to be so hard.

Thanks be to God, things have improved in my life, but every month when I fork over $70+ to the village for access to running water I think of those days.

People have been slamming the CEO of Nestle Corporation for saying that water is a commodity that should be sold like any other but, really, aren’t we already doing that? Sure, there are some people who have wells but, for hundreds of millions of Americans water already IS a commodity they are paying for.

And, looking at this from both sides, there are good reasons.

Water treatment plants and the construction and maintenance of the pipelines that bring it into our homes are extremely costly.

Also, water is a finite resource. There is only so much to go around and people tend to be a lot more careful about their use when it hits them in the pocketbook.

And it’s easy to say, “those who can pay should,” but, then again, how do you make that determination?

I don’t know the answer, but I know that it makes my heart hurt to think that, not so very far away at all, at this very moment, there is a mom who is faced with putting dinner on the table at the end of a long day of back breaking, menial work for which she was paid less than my family spent on our last trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s. She hasn’t been able to wash up properly. She can’t clean the dishes. She can’t even fill the pot to boil some pasta unless she spends a precious dollar on a gallon of water from the grocery store.

All of this and I’m not even getting into the debates that are popping up all over the nation over people who are trying to “go off the grid” and facing various legal opposition which forces them to stay “plugged in.” Again – there are valid reasons ranging from sanitation, to fair use, to economic issues for those laws but… now we’ve come full circle to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

What do you think? Should a city have the right to stop water service to those who can not/do not pay?

Additional Reading:

Water is a Human Right

UN Help Sought to Restore Detroit Water Service

Nestle’s Peter Brabeck: Our Attitude Toward Water Needs To Change

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort? 

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

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I Only Have Today – Thoughts On Columbus & Apologizing For History

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funny-columbus-day-e-cards

When I was a little girl in school we celebrated Christopher Columbus.  We held classroom pageants and wore goofy paper hats, badly colored to look like sailing ships and, at some point in the play, old Chris would shake hands with the “Indian Chief” and he would be welcomed warmly to the new world and everyone lived happily ever after.

Some time in the past 30 years the story took a distinctly more historically accurate turn.  Children are now taught that Columbus didn’t land in America on his first voyage, but in the Bahamas.  He didn’t discover an unexplored world. There were already people here.   He wasn’t even the first European to discover America. A Norse expedition sailed to America hundreds of years before Columbus was born.  He wasn’t welcomed with a warm handshake but, instead, brought upon the residents of “the new world” disease and war unlike anything they had previously known.

I’m strongly in favor of historical accuracy.  I think it is good and right that we teach our children both the pleasant and brutal parts of history.  How else can we, as a society, learn and grow from our mistakes?

On the other hand, I’m annoyed by all the things I read that seem to imply (or state outright) that we, of European descent, ought to feel guilty for what our ancestors did.  Some people would have us issuing formal apologies to the Native Americans for the invasion of their lands. Further, we should formally apologize to the African Americans for having enslaved their ancestors and for the injustices faced by them for generations and to every other racial group who has been treated badly at one time or another.

In general, “white” people should be hanging their heads in shame for everything that’s happened since the time of the crusades and maybe a little earlier.

I have thought about this for a while and here’s the thing…

I just don’t think I can apologize for any of that.

You see, I didn’t do any of those things.

I don’t have a strong enough knowledge of my family’s ancestry to know if they had a hand in any of it but I can’t see how that really matters. My ancestors are dead, as are all of the people who ever saw Columbus’s shiny black boots step upon the shoreline.

We don’t get to change the past.  All of our hand wringing and our lovely words won’t accomplish a thing.

We are given today.

So the question isn’t, “should we apologize for what Columbus did?”

The questions we should be asking ourselves are, “What can we learn from those who preceded us? What did they do right? What did they do wrong? How can we do better?”

Instead of having committees that debate the wording of a formal apology for something that happened before we were born we should be finding ways to extend meaningful help to our neighbors, today.

Is there someone being pushed out of their home, today, in the name of greed?  Do you know a person, right now, whose full einstein-quote-those-how-watch-and-do-nothingpotential is being denied because of their skin color?  Have you witnessed, in your daily activities, the mistreatment of one who is “different?”

Speak up! Take action! Do something!

Stand up, for goodness sake, and stop the insanity!

Since the dawn of humanity people have fought and killed, invaded and plundered, waged war and enslaved one another.

Here we are, in the 21st century, with the technology to sit in our living rooms and reach the entire world and we’re still beating one another down with clubs (both literal and metaphorical).  It’s time to do better!

It is time to stop taking by force that which is not ours.  It is time to stop pushing one another around like naughty children in a school yard.  It is time for the human race to grow up!

Columbus showed great courage in taking his voyages.  He dreamed a dream and pressed forward with exceptional fortitude and confidence.

Let us, too, dream of a new world.

Let us lay down our weapons, temper our greed, harness our aggression and begin to show genuine respect for one another. Let us teach our children that every person has immeasurable value, that every human being has something to contribute, that every life has worth and potential.

mother-teresa-2010Let us begin, today, this very moment, to “act with justice, love mercy and walk in humility.”

How do you do such a thing?

You start by doing what is right, in your own life, even when it’s hard.

Stop turning a blind eye to the poverty that exists in the world.  Ask yourself, “how much do I really need and how much of my excess could be used by someone else?”

Start becoming aware of the consequences of your actions. Who is going to clean up the damage you are doing to the planet?

Take the time to become educated and educate others.  It is easy to fear and hate when ignorance has a foothold.

Use your voice. Often the only thing that’s needed is for someone to say, “Stop it! What you’re doing is not right.”

Be slow to judge and quick to lend a helping hand.

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

Do not do as others have done.  Look where that has gotten us!  Do as you would have others do.

Give people a second chance, because we all screw up.  Help those who need it.  Praise those who have succeeded.  Mentor those who look up to you. Honor those who have walked ahead of you.

Changing the world doesn’t have to involve a monumental voyage.

We can’t fix what was done in the past, but we can certainly choose to avoid doing it again.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email, Facebook or Twitter to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

Symbols of Love that Show True Love

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It’s all well and good to talk about peace and love.

I’m as happy to use my peace-sign notebook made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper as the next hippie.

But is it possible that one popular symbol of lasting love is used to fund war and destroy the environment?

Not long ago I was contacted by Brilliant Earth and asked to help raise awareness about “conflict free” diamonds.

It’s not a subject that I have been well-informed about.  I started reading and was startled to learn that diamonds – the traditional symbol of lasting love – are often mined by children as young as 7 years old and adults who earn less in a year than my family earns in few days (and we are considered right at poverty level by US government standards!).  There are people in the world forced to mine at gunpoint. Mining companies wreak havoc on the land, leveling forests and destroying fertile farm land.  Profits from the diamond trade often go to fund horrible, bloody conflict and the miners (again, many of them children) become victims of horrific violence.

Miners may toil for unbelievably long hours in an attempt to earn a wage high enough to lift themselves out of poverty but the reality is they are destroying their bodies and their land. Children as young as American first-graders are sent to work, which takes away any chance they may have at a life-improving education.

Image: Souce

Image: Souce

An international diamond certification process, known as the Kimberly Process, was put into place in response to these issues. This process is an attempt to limit the trading, between nations, of diamonds being mined specifically for the purpose of funding military rebellion against standing governments.  However it has proven to be fairly limited, if not entirely ineffectual in helping the issue of diamond conflict and it does not address the human rights or environmental issues in any real way what-so-ever.

Brilliant Earth is a company that is striving to create a system in which diamonds are mined by well-paid workers, in safe conditions, with minimal effect on the surrounding eco-systems. The stones are then cut and polished by skilled tradesmen who are treated well and paid fairly. Revenues are being used to educate the children of the communities where the mines exist, provide medical care and generally create an improved quality of life.

If you are in the market for jewelry, I urge you to consider this: As in all things in this modern world, your money speaks volumes!

With your purchase you can support an environmentally sustainable system that promotes human welfare and a peaceful lifestyle, or you can support the continued bloodshed and destruction that has surrounded this industry for far too long.  With your purchase you can show true love, not only toward the recipient of the diamond, but toward your fellow-man.

If you would like to know more, Brilliant Earth has published this eye-opening infographic sharing the motivating reasons behind their business:
Blood Diamond Infographic

Reasons to Care Where Your Diamond Comes From provided by Brilliant Earth.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!  

Theological Thursday – Being a Submissive Woman

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Politics, unorthodox methods of education… I figured I was on a roll this week with the controversial topics.  May as well keep it up.

So the Bible clearly says that women are to be submissive to men.

Right?

Well…

Sort of.

The verse that most often comes up when people (almost always men) are talking about the importance of submission (of women, to them) comes from 1 Peter, chapter 3.

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”

This verse has, at times, been taken so wildly out of context it’s just crazy.  A week or so ago, I read a blog which referenced a man explaining that books like “50 Shades of Grey” come from a woman’s desire to be put in her proper place, under the total domination of a man.  Women are, according to him, designed to be conquered, invaded, and dominated.

Uh… yeah.  I have to respectfully (or not) disagree.  Strongly!

The verse above is written in the middle of a fascinating and very encouraging letter.  Peter was writing to 1st century Christians who had not grown up in the Jewish faith, as had Jesus and his disciples.

He speaks of how extraordinary it is to him that these people, who had never seen Jesus, believed with as much, or more, faith as the people who’d walked with him.

He goes on to encourage them to live in such a way that others will notice that there is something that sets them apart.  He tells them to “be self-controlled… do not conform to the evil desires… be holy.”  By living in such a way, they will be sharing the Good News of Jesus without ever needing to speak.

That’s a whole blog post in itself!  How many Christians do you know who’s lives are so much different, so purely and honestly lived that, just by watching them, people are led to God?  Sadly, I bet not many.

Anyway…

Peter then tells them that they should “Submit… for the Lord’s sake, to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors… for it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.  Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil…. Show proper respect to everyone.”

Just because you don’t like the ruler of the land, you are not given permission by God to be disrespectful.  Hmmm….  Are all Christians currently showing the proper respect to the current ruler, whether they agree with all of his decisions or not?  Again… a whole other can of worms.

So the context is that we all have our place in life.

Everyone has someone “over” them.

The slave has a master, the worker has his employer, the governor is sent by the king and the king must answer to God.

“In the same way…”

wives are to be submissive to their husbands.

This does NOT say that women are to be submissive to men.

Wives are to be submissive to their husbands.

Just as the employer and his worker have entered into a partnership, so have the wife and her husband.

Someone has to be the head.

Here in the USA, we live in a republic… no taxation without representation and all that, right?

But there are still ranking government officials, police officers, employers, teachers and others that we must submit to.

Why?

Well, because someone has to be in charge.  If no one is in charge, there are times when nothing will get done.  Someone has to make “the final call” sometimes.  And sometimes, there just isn’t agreement.  When that happens, those of us who are in the submissive position have to deal with the decisions made by those in charge.

Example?

What if everyone who didn’t like the tax laws just stopped submitting to them?

We’d have no roads, no schools, no fire fighters, no clean water…. It would be chaos.  Someone “at the top” has to decide what’s truly important and make it happen and the rest of us need to deal with it.  Is it OK to respectfully disagree?  To ask for change?  To voice our opinions?  Absolutely.  But, in the end, we must submit to the final decisions of our leaders.

But wait!  There’s more!

After Peter tells the wives to be submissive he gives the husbands an extraordinary mission.

“Husbands in the same way (there’s that statement again) be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Husbands are not told to “rule and dominate, conquer and invade” their wives!  Quite the opposite!

Husbands should be considerate.

Husbands should treat their wives with respect.

An interesting note, the word, “weaker” is a pretty literal translation.  And I think that’s valid.  There are exceptions, I know.  But, as a rule, women are physically smaller, slower and weaker than men.

The word, “respect” could also be translated, “with great honor.”  “Value.”  “Nobility.”  “An item of great cost.”

Have you ever seen a professional in a museum handle a piece of art? It is delicate, fragile, and priceless and it is ONLY handled with the greatest of love and care.

THAT is how husbands are told to treat their wives.

FURTHER, husbands and wives are made equals in receiving the gifts of God.

God loves them both.  God has given them BOTH showers of blessings.  Including the blessing of a life together.

What happens if a husband doesn’t do this?

Well, the indication is that if the husband turns a deaf ear to his wife, likewise God will turn a deaf ear to him.

Can you guess what Peter says next?

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another.  Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”

This is not an instruction for women to lie down and act as door mats.  This is a guideline for harmony.

Wives, submit to your husband as the head of your household.

Husbands, be a respectful and considerate head of the house.

God desires only for us to live in peace and love.

Why would any of us NOT want that?

We should, each of us, in our place (husband, wife, mother, child, ruler, employer, servant), be ALWAYS an example of God’s love and peace.

We should shine, in our places, and be content.

In that way, those around us will come to do the same and can you imagine how beautiful the world will be then?

If Thou Indeed Derive Thy Light From Heaven

by William Wordsworth

If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light,
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content: —
The stars pre-eminent in magnitude,
And they that from the zenith dart their beams,
(Visible though they be to half the earth,
Though half a sphere be conscious of their brightness)
Are yet of no diviner origin,
No purer essence, than the one that burns,
Like an untended watch-fire on the ridge
Of some dark mountain; or than those which seem
Humbly to hang, like twinkling winter lamps,
Among the branches of the leafless trees.
All are the undying offspring of one Sire:
Then, to the measure of the light vouchsafed,
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content.