Read the names.
Those are some fishy folks indeed. David Deida and Ken Wilber are no strangers to this board.
Oh, man. Yeah, I had a feeling that Roshi Glassman was going to pop up in this story at some point. As soon as I heard about James Arthur Ray and his "homeless for a day" program, I had a suspicion this might connect to Glassman in some way.
Glassman has some interesting friends... This is kind of a puff piece. For the record, I don't buy that this is just a "peace group". It's meant to suck in the gullible and use them for other purposes, in my opinion.
Then, two summers ago, after a period of some uncertainty about the future of the farm, its history took another turn. The original trustees of the farm sold the 34-acre property to an international multi-faith peace network led by a Zen Buddhist roshi who has made a name for himself by mixing meditation with social awareness. The new ownership, a group called Peacemaker Circle International, intends to refashion the farm from a hippie hangout into a "global hub" for its growing network of activist circles.
...Glassman and his wife, Eve Marko, who is vice president of the organization, travel a lot, Uberseder said. In fact, a couple of days after I visited, Glassman went to New York City to meet with Hollywood movie star Richard Gere about a possible peace event focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gere is a high-profile Buddhist and his foundation has provided some funding to PCI.
In December, PCI announced plans for an ambitious event to highlight the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In partnership with Gere, PCI plans to produce a series of events featuring performing artists and spiritual leaders it is calling "Middle East Live: 2005," intending to focus international attention to the plight and concerns of ordinary people on both sides of the conflict. This summer, PCI established a regional hub in Amman, Jordan, and has been working with circles in Israel and Palestine. The group has also sponsored two trips by Gere to the Middle East -- in June and December -- where the actor visited communities in Israel and the West Bank.
A pro-peace group is hoping that a potent mix of Hollywood glamour and religion will motivate Palestinians to vote in next week's presidential elections -- and their star attraction is actor Richard Gere. The only problem is that Gere's co-stars are on record as supporting suicide bombing, anti-Jewish genocide, and eradication of Israel.
Gere, together with an Islamic cleric and a Greek Orthodox Church official, recorded a public service announcement calling on the Palestinians to vote in the Jan. 9 election to replace Yasser Arafat. "Hi, I'm Richard Gere and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important: Get out and vote," Gere said, according to a transcript of the announcement obtained by The Associated Press.
...Joining Gere in the announcement are Sheik Taissir Tamimi, the head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Atallah Hanna, the spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.
...Even though he evidently is not familiar with Hollywood superstars, Hanna has his own heroes, according to the Jerusalem Post, which quoted him as praising suicide bombers: 'These martyrdom freedom fighters are the heroes of the people and we are proud of them. We categorically reject suspicious attempts to cast suspicion on their deeds. They are not suicidal, as some are claiming. Nor are they terrorists, as others are claiming. They are resisting the occupation.' According to the report, he also called for the liberation of Palestine 'from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river.'
Gere's other co-star, Sheikh Tamimi, was quoted in 1994 as saying: "the Jews are destined to be persecuted, humiliated and tortured forever,and it is a Muslim duty to see to it that they reap their due. No petty arguments must be allowed to divide us.Where Hitler failed, we must suceed."
NOTE: This story breaks down what Glassman is about and how similar his program sounds to the James Arthur Ray program in San Diego. Wonder where the money is coming from, doubt the Circles stuff raises this much.
But the farm I discovered on my arrival was a far cry from my expectations. Because before I got there, Bernie Glassman had arrived at the old hippie commune with a cigar in his hand, and everything changed. As he walked around the farm, he ordered a nineteenth-century dairy barn torn down, and rebuilt. He installed, after successfully raising two-million dollars, a new campus center, a “barndo” with high-speed Internet lines, a humidor, and circular windows designed to catch “the light of the rising sun.”
When I got to there, I was surprised at what I found, but still I considered living there–to write about life on the newest New Age farm. However, I felt uncomfortable about Glassman’s expansive offices and the expensive programs that guided students into playing at poverty. One program director told me the organization led “plunges” where students begged for change. Peacemaker students went from riches to rags in search of inner and world peace. They humbly begged for coins, and the resulting revenue was donated to an anti-poverty organization that Glassman had founded in Yonkers. At journey’s end, students returned home to watch TV, eat spaghetti, and walk their dogs.
As unnerved as I was by this–feeling that short-term street retreats brought attention to homelessness and then laughed in its face–I remained curious. In March, I asked to go on one of Glassman’s street retreats, and I received an invitation from Grover Gauntt for a weekend in the city.
“Participants will live on the streets of New York,” he wrote, “experiencing homelessness first-hand, having to beg for money, find places to get food, shelter, to use the bathroom, etc. By bearing witness to homelessness, we begin to see our prejudices directly, to recognize our common humanness.”
I admit that I liked the idea of myself unshaven, dressed in old clothes, and armed with plastic bags to collect food. I was excited about “Bearing Witness” to suffering in society not merely by observing the homeless, but by becoming one of their number.
Then I read the small print– total cost of the three days down and out? Three hundred dollars. I couldn’t afford to be homeless.
...My attempt to cover an educated, middle-class descent into poverty was nothing new. From Agee and Ehrenreich to hippie communards and New Left journalists, the downwardly mobile–writers, bohemians, and postmodern Buddhists–have never really exposed much more than personal desire, often a desire to become classless. Who needs a retreat to experience poverty? After all, the streets have always been full of the poor. It’s nearly impossible to walk around without bearing witness to homelessness, class difference, and poverty.
That knowledge carries a burden of guilt, and an experience like a street retreat actually relieves it.
I haven’t heard back from Grover Gauntt about his retreat, but I think I missed the point. Maybe street retreats were not intended to reveal poverty at all, but actually to alleviate the shame of being middle-class, socially aware, and culpable. Not quite what was I was looking for.
One photograph of Bernie Glassman in the Bowery shows him wearing suspenders and a smile. He reclines on a wall under some scaffolding, a lit cigar resting on his knee. A wandering street dweller. One hundred dollars a night.