Thursday, January 26, 2017

Libby Fernandez and The Loaf & Fish go their separate ways

In an issue of the Bee that was on my birthday, it is announced that Libby Fernandez and Loaves & Fishes are parting.

Of course, the article is written as if Libby could have stayed at L&F forever. But the truth of the hows and whys of the parting is something we are likely not to ever know.

All I truly know is that Libby will be gone from Loaves in June -- and that offers an opportunity for renewal of the facility and hope that the most-troubled homeless people will have a wider path to happier lives.

In a blogpost coming in a week or so I will write about Libby and why she was never a good match with the job as Director.

The Bee article tells us that Libby is starting a bicycle ministry. Or, maybe a tricycle ministry; there is some confusion -- Perhaps only mine -- on this point.

Anyway, goodbye, Libby.

A follow-up article about Libby and Loaves going their separate ways was published the next day in the Bee. It seems Libster ISN'T going to move to Altoona. Rather she will stick around Sacramento in her evil plot to annoy me.

At the end of the 1/26/17 article, a quote -- in all caps -- from the Lib is printed. This:
Sister Libby Fernandez, executive director of Loaves & Fishes
As I wrote earlier, I will -- in a week or so -- get to the hardscrabble problems that Fernandez imposes on the world, but just as a quick exercise, let us first get into what is wrong with Libby's quote, above.

For starters, it is in all-caps.  Very likely the journalist who wrote the piece chose the all-caps thing rather than Lib. But, also likely, the all-caps mode seemed appropriate to Cynthia Hubert, the reporter, for several reasons. All caps is bigger! vaster! more enormous! more pompous!

Whoops. Pardon me while I try to regain my composure. A-hem. It's back. Thanks. Let me start, again.

The problems with the quote are several. For starters, Libby suggests in the quote that BEFORE she stops and meets someone they ARE NOT her equal. The question then arises "In what sense is the nature of 'equal' being evoked?"

People are different. Each of us is different from every other. Perhaps what Libby is driving at is that both she and some anonymous homeless person are "equal in the eyes of God." But that doesn't seem right since any "long, slow dance toward trust" is, necessarily, something SHE is pursuing -- and it is not the case that Libby is an agent of God, here.

So, is what Libby is trying to address "the nature of empathy"? We do feel like we have an equal footing when empathy comes into play, when we believe we feel the other's pain and struggles.

Unfortunately, as philosopher Paul Bloom points out in his brilliant recent book "Against Empathy," we make a cascade of mistakes when we "evoke" empathy to try to understand someone else. We end up imposing what WE think on the circumstance and thinking of someone else. People are wildly complicated and have a tremendous amount of stuff going on in both their external lives and in the tempest swirling around in their brain.

Bloom's book was cited by the New York Post as a Best Book of 2016. The text for that citation began with these two paragraphs:
We often think of our capacity to experience the suffering of others as the ultimate source of goodness. Many of our wisest policy-makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers agree that the only problem with empathy is that we don’t have enough of it.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, argues Yale researcher Paul Bloom. In AGAINST EMPATHY, Bloom reveals empathy to be one of the leading motivators of inequality and immorality in society. Far from helping us to improve the lives of others, empathy is a capricious and irrational emotion that appeals to our narrow prejudices. It muddles our judgment and, ironically, often leads to cruelty. We are at our best when we are smart enough not to rely on it, but to draw instead upon a more distanced compassion.
Libby's central failure to accept input from other Loaf & Fish employees is demonstrative of her inability to take in the wisdom of others. She is Trumpian at insisting only she knows what is right at all times.

Since the reality is that she doesn't know any large fraction of everything she needed to know to do her job as Director at L&F -- because she refused input from others -- her ability to help others in the ministry she envisions she will start, beginning in June, is likely to be encumbered with problems that don't have a means to be addressed.

More on all this later -- in about a week.


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