June 06, 2017
Everyone’s existence is tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 15, 2017
We strongly agree. Globalized indifference blinds us to The Human Thread that weaves us together. #WhoMadeMyClothes
May 05, 2017
Perhaps you already have seen Pope Francis’ TED Talk “Why the only future worth building includes everyone.” If not, take a look. This post will be here when you have finished the 17 minutes, 52 second video.
Welcome back. Wasn’t that great?
In his direct, simple style, Pope Francis offers three main points (like his structure for most homilies):
Pope Francis offers an insightful way forward in such difficult times as this.
In a few minutes, I will leave this computer and walk to join in Milwaukee’s March for Workers. Locally, it has a particular concern for immigrant workers, but, personally, I will walk as well for exploited workers throughout the globe. In fact, most such marches today in the U.S. will likely use t-shirts for the cause made by other exploited workers.
Our work here at The Human Thread is a slow, gradual work. We share our tools and modules and scorecards. We talk with neighbors about our shopping habits. We support the work of those who meet with the leadership of retailers, urging human rights and a just wage in the dispersed corporate supply chain. This day, let us take some time to reflect on the “Revolution of Tenderness” proposed by Pope Francis, a revolution where indifference is replaced by compassion and solidarity, a revolution that sees not dollar signs but the faces of human beings, our very brothers and sisters.
April 04, 2017
Art changes our perception. Occasionally, art speaks where words fail. Rose Flores uses her art to promote understanding and action in the garment industry on critical issues facing our communities and the world.
Rose encountered The Human Thread from a presentation at Divine Mercy Parish in South Milwaukee. Troubled by the content of the presentation, both the harm to the garment worker as well as the harm to creation, Rose said that she could not sleep. She said, “I wanted to tell people about the issue, but how do you explain it?” So, she decide to make something visual.
Rose and her husband dubbed the figure “Machimon.” On a mission trip to Guatemala, they encountered a Mayan deity, a god of excess and injustice by the name of Machimon. In a way, as we purchase garments to such excess and as the garment industry perpetuates tremendous injustice, the name seems fitting.
A few notable elements in the art:
Rose insists that she does not have an art background, but that she enjoys it and has taken some classes. She adds, “It surprises me that I did this.”
All of the material for the art came from her home, all recycled. The main garment in the work of art is a shirt from her husband that was in their box to donate to Goodwill. The papier-mâché figure in the right hand is a project that a granddaughter made visiting an art museum.
Does Rose sleep any better after making this work of art? [The garment industry] “still bothers me a great deal,” she said. “When I try to talk to people, I get a glazed look sometimes. I can’t find the words to tell people how serious this is.”
Often, as injustice becomes routinized, we fall into what Pope Francis terms the “globalization of indifference.” Before such an enormous issue of injustice, what can a person do?
For Rose, “Machimon” was something she had to do. “Machimon” is a creative expression of art that exposes that injustice and hints at a way forward based on solidarity and receiving the other person as a gift. Art, indeed, can be an instrument for social change.
Since 1972, Rose and her husband Jose have lived in South Milwaukee participating in the parish that now comprise Divine Mercy Parish.
August 08, 2016
Some years back, I remember a policy expert writing about the importance of generating new statistics that might wake the public up to hunger and poverty. The writer insisted that searching out those dramatic illustrations of our condition is an important exercise in hope, hope that things will change, in spite of what the author dubbed “the big shrug.” I cannot find the original article, although I found something from Paul Krugman that similarly invokes “The Big Shrug.” Krugman’s reference is to policy makers more than the general public.
This week, a moving photo has made the rounds. The photo (above), and the story of its origins, has shocked and moved many viewers. It may briefly awaken us from our complacency and draw us anew to ask what we can do. I also recall another photo of another boy from Syria.
This image from a Turkish beach likewise shocked and moved when it appeared in September of 2015. We cannot say that we do not know about these things. Sadly, little has changed in our attitudes and actions towards the violence in Syria.
Similarly, our work at The Human Thread with the garment industry, on behalf of international garment workers, also arises from dramatic moments when our attention shifts to those persons all-too-often invisible to us. The tragic events at Rana Plaza momentarily drew us from our sleep to see the garment worker as neighbor, as brother and sister.
The temptation is fall into complacency, bitterness, even fatalism, in Krugman’s words “a sense that nothing need be done and nothing can be done.” With Syria or with the garment industry, such big forces are at work, what can one person do? We must guard against despair and the litany of temptations that can bring us low and impede change.
In 2015, Pope Francis, speaking of the “globalization of indifference,” invites us to move beyond “the big shrug.” He calls us to learn to see others as sister and brother, no matter their nationality, language, race, or creed. The work of justice, our work, is born of honesty and hope. It sees the world clearly as it is, and it sees the world as it should be, as God made it to be. Our work is to nudge the world as it is to be closer to the world as it should be.
In his Lenten message of 2015, Pope Francis urged three actions to resist the globalization of indifference:
As individuals too, we are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness? First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer!
Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favourable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family.
Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.
Let us then commit ourselves anew to prayer, to personal acts of charity, and to conversion. May this shape our hearts and give us strength to do walk the long road to justice, the long road to see all as our sisters and brothers.