05/25/2011 12:14 pm ET Updated Jul 25, 2011

The Worst and Best of Times: Arrogance and Resistance

"It was the worst of times; it was the best of times." --Slightly emended from Charles Dickens, 'A Tale Of Two Cities'

The worst danger facing the world today is the arrogance of powerful men and institutions toward the warp and woof of human communities and the weave of life-forms on our planet.

The best hope in the world today comes from the acts we see at the very same time, of courageous and creative resistance to these arrogant brutalities.

This worst and best take many forms:

ARROGANCE: Dominique Strauss-Kahn's behavior toward a young immigrant hotel housekeeper. While we preserve the presumption of legal innocence, there's no escaping the conclusion that even were we to accept his lawyer's hinted defense that the sex act he secured was "consensual," it depended on "consent" from someone who seemed almost powerless when confronted with an immensely wealthy and powerful official. Given what we know so far, it seems much more probable that DSK committed forcible rape. Either way, immense arrogance.

YET, RESISTANCE: The hotel housekeeper, vulnerable though she was, cried out at once. (But though DSK and his wife have emblazoned their Jewishness upon French politics and culture, I have looked in vain for any "mainstream" Jewish organization that has condemned DSK's behavior -- whether it was domineering make-believe "consent" or forcible rape.)

ARROGANCE: Big Oil's contemptuous dismissal as "un-American" of proposals to end the multibillion-dollar subsidies they now receive, in the light of their stratospheric-billion-dollar profits.

MORE ARROGANCE: President Obama's willingness to put human and other life-forms on the American coasts and heartland at great risk by authorizing deep-sea oil-well drilling, even after the BP disaster in the Gulf, and by supporting old and new nuclear energy plants, even though many experts are now reporting that nuclear "regulators" have ignored or condoned dangers in U.S. plants very similar to the Fukuyama Daiichi plants.

YET, RESISTANCE: Growing numbers of Americans are using nonviolent civil disobedience to protect the Earth against the modern pharaohs that are bringing plagues upon it, and Bill McKibben and are calling for thousands of climate-healing actions around the globe, on Sept. 24.

ARROGANCE: Wisconsin Governor Walker's insistence on a new law destroying the ability of public-workers unions to bargain collectively, and providing for unregulated, unsupervised, unnegotiated sell-offs of public land to the corporate cronies who paid to elect him.

YET, RESISTANCE: One hundred thousand workers, students, teachers and other folks created massive demonstrations in Madison to challenge Walker, and all around the country tens of thousands rallied to support them and each other.

ARROGANCE: Prime Minister Netanyahu sneering at and deliberately misstating President Obama's formula of "1967 boundaries with mutually agreed land swaps" as the basic formula for peace and, more important, continuing to destroy Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to replace them with Jewish settlers. Arrogance in speech, brutality in action.

YET, RESISTANCE: Leaders of Israeli military, security and intellectual life have spoken up again for the first time in years to call for a true two-state peace agreement; and tens of thousands of Palestinians, almost all of them behaving nonviolently, have rallied near Israel's borders to reassert Palestinian dignity.

AND MORE RESISTANCE: Even Obama, who has kowtowed to Netanyahu for years, struck back against being insulted and demeaned -- and more important, thousands of Americans made clear they too believe in a peace settlement based on the 1967 boundaries with mutually agreed land swaps.

ARROGANCE: An extremely wealthy and power-connected New York businessman, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, tried to shame and delegimatize one of America's great artists, and anyone else who like him would speak up to criticize the Israeli government.

YET, RESISTANCE: Artists, students, professors and peace-committed Jewish groups spoke up to demand the restoration of Tony Kushner's honorary doctorate -- and won!

It is indeed the worst of times. Yet, we can make it the best of times.

Will we resist this arrogance -- we who are heirs of Moses, Miriam and Aaron, of Akiba and Bruriah, of Jesus and Mary Magdalen, of Muhammad and Fatima, of Molly Pitcher and Tom Paine, of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, of Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hamer, of Henry David Thoreau and Judi Bari, of Harvey Milk and Adrienne Rich.

Will we resist? Will we help to create the new communities that can go beyond the arrogance of these top-down power centers?

Tomorrow I will send you information on three occasions this fall when we could.

With blessings on your own work toward wholeness and community,