Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I-Week 2013... whew

Oh time, you elude me. I had started writing about I-Week and here it is weeks later and I am still not done. How does that happen? Anyway - I thought I would still share some of my thoughts on the week...

I am not sure what kind of life best suits attending I-Week. When I was working, I thought being a student would be better, cause you're on campus - and can just go to things. But as a student, that didn't seem to be the case. Classes were at the same time, or there was homework that still needed to be done. Perhaps retirement is the lifestyle best suited? I don't know. I did, however, get to some really great sessions, which I am thankful I was able to attend.
On the Tuesday evening, I went to hear Dr. Gabor Maté whose talk, Toxic Culture was incredible. He is a doctor from Vancouver, who looks at health from a much more holistic approach than most I have met within the field of mainstream medicine. Instead of treating 'illness' and finding the thing which is wrong, he advocates for determining what are the roots of illness, examining our emotional and social contexts. He was a gracious and gentle speaker. I really want to read some of his books now. If anyone has a copy of When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress that they want to lend to me, I really would like to read it. 

Dr. Maté

This was also the most "dramatic" event I went to. The room was WAY too small for the number of people who wanted to hear him speak. I left class early to get there early, ran across campus (if you know me, you know I don't run for very many reasons) - and still only got a seat because someone who was saving one for a friend felt guilty and decided to give it up as I walked in. By the time the event began, the aisles were packed and people were sitting on the floor at the front. I felt like I had been transported to a 1960's teach in. Everyone was still and listening, making space for those who needed a seat. Unfortunately someone in the audience didn't share my delight in so many people wanting to hear this amazing man speak - and called the police. So half way through an emergency solution had to be come up with and the extra 200 people had to go somewhere else, where they did some emergency skyping to hear the ending of his talk. The I-week team did great though and even with all that - it was an amazing event. 

On Wednesday I went to hear Raj Patel speak in his talk on "Food Cultures for Sustainability". The room was WAY bigger, but they still had to pipe the talk into another room as well for everyone to have a seat. His talk was great. He perfectly blends crazy amounts of knowledge with humour and grace. So much about food security seems so bleak. People starving while fat from eating crap, or areas not being able to sustain themselves anymore... but throughout the night I laughed often while having a lot to think about. More books I want to read... Perhaps another reason not to delve too deeply into i-week as a student. Who has time for recreational reading?

Thursday night was the only event I went to all week that was at all less than great - and it stank. I went to hear Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of Half the Sky, speaking about gender and development. The actual title was something like, 'Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwild'. She was awful, in so, so many ways. I haven't read her book - so I won't speak to that, but the evening was filled with cliche little soundbites. It seemed that the synthesis of her work or idea of gender equality is that women need to find ways to start businesses (she seems a fan of micro-credit) in ways that they are still desireable to men - because in the end, the goal is still for them to get married. She was a disappointing speaker, who seems to think she's plural (everything was about we think, we wrote, we believe... I am assuming the other part of her we is her husband, but he wasn't there). Anyway, things took a turn for the worse when the Q&A began, as she would interrupt people's questions and then ramble for a little bit about something not at all connected and continue on to the next question. It was awful. Earlier in the day I was present when she was doing the "workshop" with youth day, where she was even worse. I was hugely disappointed in her, as a speaker and as someone who is supposedly advocating for gender equity. She's condescending and poorly informed. If you know anyone talking about bringing her has a speaker to an event - tell them to skip it. Their money would be better spent on SO many other speakers.

On of my favourite things with I-week were the chalkboards that were up all across campus. They had the phrase, "Peace is", "Culture is", "Community is" or "Diversity is" on them - and then chalk for people to write, draw... their thoughts. Some of them were AMAZING, some of them were filled with drivel. It was really neat to see what people were thinking though. I really like public art - and I think it is even more fun to get to contribute to making it. If this were a chalkboard what would you answer?

I went to a few other things, but this is starting to get kind of long, so I will stop. The next thing coming up with Global Ed is there speakers' series. If I-Week was any indication - you should really think about coming.

Peace to you~

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A rant... are you ready?

So I started drafting a post about International Week (which was for the most part - wonderful), but it is going to have to wait... because I haven't had time to finish - and I am feeling something angry with the world. While I am not so arrogant to assume that my ranting leads to much of anything other than a bit of catharsis for me... on the off chance it causes you to also feel a certain amount of rage and take some sort of action - here I go.

I have been blessed with so much fortune in my life. I didn't do anything to deserve to be born into the life that I was, to be raised the way that I was, to enjoy the opportunities I have had offered to me... I have been lucky - for most, if not all, of my life. Through this luck - I have met some incredible people who have changed and shaped my perspectives and heard speakers who have blown me away (you could read about some of those here, herehere, or really - throughout my blog... in some way - if you wanted to).

I have tried, in response to many of these experiences to live a life that is governed by conscientious choices. I tried to be aware of the ways my life impacts others - in both small local ways and again in the big - global manifestations. I am not perfect, no where close. I screw up, more often than I'd like... but it's my goal - and regardless of how often I screw up - I can return to that goal and begin to try again.

Lately, it seems that every time I read the news, I am mad about something new. I feel that perhaps, my life has become too comfortable again. That perhaps the rage that I feel is also a bit of guilt, as I am not working in the same way to create that active, concrete change, that I so desperately want to see in the world. Instead I am sitting in a classroom... questioning my choices. I sometimes wish I was one of those people who could easily become content with my choices, certain that they were the right ones... (that's another rant, for another time though, cause without a doubt, I am not that person).

So - my latest rage? (or most ongoing rage?...): the government that is supposed to be representing me and is doing one hell of a bad job. Today I read two articles: 1 - about the gag order on CIDA employees to not say anything against the agency or government and 2 - about an organization that is presently funded by CIDA that is spouting hate about the queer community. Some of you may remember the bruhaha with Minister Oda, when KAIROS got the "Not" funding agreement which ended CIDA funding for their amazing work. They do incredible work with environmental issues, with human rights, with solidarity... Check them out - http://www.kairoscanada.org/ At the time, one of the things I kept hearing from people is that 'religious organizations shouldn't be receiving Canadian tax money'. Yet so called Christian organizations (I use italics, because I really do believe that the teachings of Christ are of love, acceptance, kindness... about moving away from judgment, blame, and hate... yet there are these groups who call themselves communities of love - that enact hate against those who they feel aren't as saved or blessed as themselves, which I really don't think Christ would ever condone or participate in... calling themselves "Christians") are receiving funding. It's maddening.

ESPECIALLY at time when funding for organizations who ARE doing rights based, partnership rich, work are losing their funding. While money for education of Canadians about our own roles in creating a culture of peace is vanishing. There's this campaign Reverse the Cuts (which I hope you'll sign) that is trying to show the government that Canadians aren't for this kind of action. That Canadians do not stand behind actions that move money designated for international cooperation into the hands of corporations who feel that they can use it to do PR for their disgusting business - and then call is International Development. That Canadians do not believe that the work of building solidarity and peace is done - and therefore can be phased out. That Canadians do not believe that there is ANY justification for inflicting more harm on the world - due to embellishing our own greed.

I don't know what I really want you to do - in response to my ranting... but I hope you'll think about it. Think about if it makes you mad or not (and why - or why not?). I hope that you'll be in contact with you representatives, regardless of your beliefs. That you'll support organizations that ARE making positive contributions in the world whether that is in your neighbourhood, city, province or elsewhere in the world.

I'll let you know if I can come up with something more concrete... but right now - I am stuck somewhere between furry and heartache.

peace to you~