Providing Hope

“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope. Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, exhorted Jesuits to strive to find God in all things while actively engaging the world, and to focus on cultivating the whole person. Put another way, faith must be expressed through positive works in order to serve the common good. After years of giving the final benediction for victims of gang carnage, Father Gregory J. “Greg” Boyle, SJ, put those principles into practice by founding Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang rehabilitation program in the world. Homeboy’s mission is to provide the means for men and women to break the inter-generational cycle of gang violence through therapy, education, practical services, and vocational training. Homeboy’s various businesses – Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, and others – focus on job training to provide healthy alternatives to gang life. The benefits extend well beyond the ten thousand former gang members served yearly and into the wider community.

8232As evinced by his quote above, Father Greg believes that the single greatest motivator for gang membership is the lack of hope for a better life. His remedy, treating gang members with compassion while offering a holistic and pragmatic “exit ramp,” was considered radical at a time when law enforcement relied on harsh suppression and mass incarceration to confront the growing problem of gang violence. Despite widespread skepticism from police and prosecutors time has proven the value of the Homeboy model, and it has spawned imitators across the globe. At the root of Father Greg’s philosophy is the importance of empathetic relationships in breaking the destructive mindset of “us vs. them.” As he notes, “The measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins but only in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them.”

Watch: Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship with Father Gregory Boyle – Burke Lectureship

East Meets West: The Tibetan Medicine Conference on Mind-Body Health

8232Highlights of this conference feature medical doctors and other Western researchers trained in allopathic medicine – as in treating diseases with drugs or surgery – who now include healing, whole-systems therapies that have been practiced in Tibet for centuries. Speakers from Harvard, the University of California and other respected institutions engage with Tibetan practitioners to map the benefits of traditional therapies and explore research collaborations that will lead to evidence-based conclusions on the value of Tibetan medicine.

Watch the Series: Tibetan Medicine Conference on Mind-Body Health 2017

Lessons Learned in a Career of Schizophrenia Research

8232Michael Green, neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, has been fascinated with the human brain, behavior and mental illness since his undergraduate days. In particular, his research focuses on schizophrenia, a chronic brain disorder that affects about 1 percent of the population.

In this UCLA Faculty Research Lecture, he describes how his lab uses discoveries in psychology and social neuroscience about normal brain functioning to inform his schizophrenia research. And now, Green and his colleagues are moving into new territory, studying the causes of social isolation among people who do not have schizophrenia.

You’ll learn about the tools they use such as functional MRI, that measures and maps brain activity, and EEG, that detects electrical activity in the brain, and how they do research to answer questions about social isolation in the general public.

Watch The Human Social Brain: How It Works and How It Goes Awry in Schizophrenia and the General Population

Women Waging Peace are Stronger Together!

8232Do you think women might have something to say about peace? Watch this and you’ll see why the answer is most assuredly yes! Celebrate the launch of the Women Waging Peace Network at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego. Emcee Swanee Hunt, the former US Ambassador to Austria, leads a panel of peacemakers marking the success of the more than a thousand women from around the world. Learn how women have joined together to serve as negotiators, experts, advocates, policymakers, and other roles crucially needed in peace processes. There’s a whole lot of wisdom on offer here.

Watch Stronger Together: Women Waging Peace – The Peace exChange

George Packer: Politics and American Identity

8232Two new programs with New Yorker staff writer George Packer explore the association between American politics and identity. “Americans, aided by cable news and social media, have sorted themselves geographically and mentally into mutually hostile and incomprehensible worlds,” says Packer. This tribalism makes it very difficult for people to communicate or to truly listen to one another.

“None of those groups speaks to the whole country… they don’t speak to us as citizens, and they don’t find a way of being truly inclusive,” he says. “Where we cannot understand each other, we see each other as illegitimate in some ways. To even speak to someone from a different tribe is to give them a legitimacy they don’t deserve. And each tribe hopes and thinks the other will somehow disappear, either by being beaten in the polls, or by dying off, or being walled off. It’s as if they can’t acknowledge that the country is made up of more than their own tribe.”

There are many reasons for this increased tribalism, but the collapse of the institutions that have traditionally supported people economically is a contributing factor. In recent decades, fewer and fewer corporations offer job security or competitive wages, and the middle class is disappearing. “The simple answer I think,” says Packer, “is that a smaller pie, divided into less and less equal slices among people who look less and less alike, drives them towards cynical and hateful extremes.”

Watch Harry Kreisler’s interview with George Packer, Identity Politics and the Decline of American Institutions, as well as Packer’s UC Berkeley Graduate Lecture, American Identity in the Age of Trump.