Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The horrors of Syria's police state (audio)

Amber Larson, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; investigative journalist Lyse Doucet (BBC News), Producers Traci Tong and Matthew Bell, Host Marco Werman, The World (
Residents wait to receive food aid distributed by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) at the besieged Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus (UNRWA/Reuters/
Strike terrorists then starve 'em!
After more than three years of war in Syria, we have all seen plenty of photos of bombed out neighborhoods, piles of rubble, and dead civilians.

But for those of us peering into these distant, man-made disaster zones from the outside, it is easy to forget that these scenes of destruction are also still home to many people.

Tom Tomorrow (
And some of them are facing a relentlessly grim situation. The Yarmouk district of Damascus (the capital of Syria) has been home to Palestinian refugee families going all the way back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Additional waves of refugees helped the area grow into a busy residential and commercial section of the Syrian capital, where about 150,000 Palestinians lived alongside Syrians. But no longer.
 I myself, I'm innocent, I tell ya. I did nuthin.
Today in Yarmouk more than 20,000 people find themselves under a punishing siege that began nearly a year ago. The fighting has made it impossible for them to get out. Residents do leave their hiding places most days -- hoping to find some food being handed out by aid groups.
The BBC's Lyse Doucet just returned from a visit to Yarmouk, and she says starvation is being used as a weapon of war against this besieged section of the Syrian capital.  
Syrian graffiti, Pres. Al-Assad
“Even in wars there are rules,” Doucet said from Beirut. “One of the rules is that civilian populations should not be punished. It's happening every day in Syria."
Doucet accompanied aid workers with UNRWA, the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinian refugees, delivering emergency food aid to people in Yarmouk. She described the road leading into the district as a “ghostly corridor,” and said the level of human suffering she saw was shocking.
Al-Assad is your friend, citizen!
“There was a tide of people waiting in this narrow alleyway,” said Doucet, a veteran war correspondent. “No matter how many images you see uploaded on YouTube and other social media sites, no matter how many photographs you see, it does not prepare you for the shock of this, when you actually enter and see it with your own eyes.” More

A Buddhist Response to Contemporary Dilemmas of Human Existence
Bhikkhu Bodhi (
American scholar Ven. Bodhi
What does it mean "contemporary dilemmas"? It does not refer explicitly to the momentous social and political problems of our time -- global poverty, ethnic hostility, overpopulation, AIDS, the suppression of human rights, environmental ruin, and so on. 
These problems are symptoms or offshoots of a more fundamental dilemma, one which is essentially spiritual in nature.
Our root problem is at its core a problem of consciousness. It is a fundamental existential dislocation, with cognitive and ethical dimensions. That is, it involves both a disorientation in our understanding of reality and a distortion (inversion) of the proper scale of values. That scale follows from a correct understanding of reality. 

Because our root problem is one of consciousness, any viable solution must be framed in terms of transformation.

Anthology of sutras (Bodhi)
It requires an attempt to arrive at an accurate grasp of the human situation and a turning of the mind and heart in a new direction, one commensurate with this new understanding, one that brings light and peace rather than strife and distress.
Religion might have a response to the outstanding dilemmas of our age, but first let us propose a critique of the existential dislocation that has spread among such a significant portion of humankind.
Through most of this century, the religious point of view has been defensive. It may now be the time to go on the offensive by scrutinizing closely the dominant modes of thought that lie at the base of our spiritual malaise.
The problem of existential dislocation is integrally tied to the worldwide ascendancy of a type of mentality that originates in the West. But today it has become typical of human civilization as a whole. It would be too simple to describe this frame of mind as "materialism." First of all, those who adopt it do not invariably subscribe to materialism as a philosophical point of view. Second, obsession with material progress is not the defining characteristic of this outlook, only a secondary manifestation. 

To coin a single expression conveying its distinctive essence, let us call it the "radical secularization" of human life.

The Historical Background
The underlying historical cause of this phenomenon seems to lie in an unbalanced development of the human mind in the West, beginning around the time of the European Renaissance. This development gave increasing importance to the rational, manipulative, and dominating capacities of the mind at the expense of its intuitive, comprehensive, sympathetic, and integrative capacities. More

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