6.29.2010

(MP3) Justice, Equity, and Rights In The City: panel discussion from the Just Metropolis Conference, UC Berkeley 2010

I still need to write a reportback about the Just Metropolis Conference at Berkeley that I attended from the 16th-20th. In the mean time, here is a recording of an all-star panel (Teresa Caldeira, Peter Marcuse, Edward Soja, Martha Matsuoka, and James Holston); "Justice, Equity, and Rights in The City: A Conversation About Contemporary Urban Idea(l)s." It was a hell of a debate, and an amazing conference. Thanks to all of the presenters and organizers, especially Alex Schafran from UC Berkeley.


In the discussion, I found the comment from an audience member at the end regarding justice & pain fascinating. All too often we treat pain as something to be suppressed/repressed, when it is not pain that is the enemy but suffering; an idea that is central to Buddhist philosophy. Of course we want to rid ourselves of suffering and unnecessary pain, but there is a certain amount of pain that is a function of our existence and the fact that we have to work; to exploit ourselves, others, and the environment, in order to survive. If we look on that basic pain in disgust, or try and make it disappear (the entire project of modernity was/is in some sense concerned with this), we just end up creating more suffering, whether for ourselves, or for those on whom the pain of the privileged is dumped. So the notion of justice is inextricably tied to pain, the pain that we all inherit at birth and learn to share in complex ways through our social/technological constructions. A Just city would certainly eliminate a great deal of unnecessary pain that we have now (corporal punishment, etc), but it would also equitably share the pain we need to live, the pain that is our inheritance, the pain that turns to pleasure when we appreciate what it does for us. That's a Buddhist teaching, that pain can turn to pleasure to the extent that we do not turn away from it but observe it closely and make it our companion. I hope that this point was not lost on the panel.

-Nick Kaufmann

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