Friday, December 15, 2006
Well, things are wrapping up and winding down and the 20 human rights educators are finalizing their program plans even as i write this. We'll all be heading home tomorrow, me to Toronto and the participants to all points African. It has been a remarkable week of learning together, sharing stories, laughing, getting to know each other. this is a unique experience for me, never having facilitated a workshop made up exclusively of African participants. What a privilege it is to be able to work for such a group. And moving to consider the context of their work and the courage it takes to commit oneself to being a human rights educator. What is an choice that can be made with relative security in a north american context is anything but in these countries.
Circulating around Nairobi is he Maasai Market - a street market that moves from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. On Tuesday's it s found across the street from the Meridian Hotel where i've been staying this week. Tomorrow it will be near the Hilton Hotel and i hope to find it. I know many people will be coming to Nariobi from around the world in January for the World Social Forum and the Maasai Market will be something many will want to check out. Prepare to bargain - those of us raised in economies where virtually all prices are fixed might want to bone up on some principles of haggling. Not that i have any particular skill. The market is crowded, noisy, fascinating. There are numerous vendors and at least as many brokers - men who spot likely customers and are remarkably aggressive about selling you things. Its all pretty good natured. But it is also overwhelming. At one point i had at least five guys competing simultaneously for my attention, each pushing various goods in my arms and face. If you're white then you stand out pretty obviously as a mark for everyone's attention. I'm not sure how the brokers work, though i imagine they "represent" vendors and get a cut. But it's clearly pretty fast and loose. One fellow tried to persuade me that the young Maasai woman from whom i wanted to buy a necklace was his sister. I thought it unlikely and wished deeply that i spoke ki-Swahili so i could understand what looked, from the body language, to be a fascinating negotiation in which the broker was trying to convince the young vendor that he could get los of money out of me. The young woman was beautifully tough and clearly not giving the fellow an inch. So, to those of you coming to Nairobi in January, best of luck at he Maasai Market. The above-images are the street the day before the market and the morning of.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
It's a rainy day in Paris as i wait for my flight to Nairobi. Whatta world. As some of you know, i'm Kenya-bound to facilitate a five-day human rights education curriculum workshop for Equitas. Meanwhile, i just checked my e-mail and saw a workshop announcement from Red Pepper Spectacle for preparations for the 18th Annual Kensington Market Festival of Lights. I'll be posting photos from Nairobi so check back here over the next week.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I'm gonna try and make it, if i'm not sleeping after arriving home that afternoon from Nairobi (that's right, i'm going to Kenya - details to follow).
Monday, November 27, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
In the last part of this section, the study identifies 5 core curriculum content areas that are key to teaching environmental advocacy and organizing and then discusses the tradition of popular education as the most appropriate educational methodology for activist training programs.You can get Steve's dissertation on this page. He's got a blog, too: The Well-Trained Activist.
Monday, November 20, 2006
For those of you who speak spanish, i recommend watching this trailer for a Spanish film being made by my friend Clara about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Most of what i've learned about this pernicious and invisible disability I’ve learned from Clara. Check it out! And here's more info here (Documental Sobre el SFC) and here (Conferencia del Profesor Dr James Baranjuk de la Georgetown University)
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Dawkins speaks scoffingly of a personal God, as though it were entirely obvious exactly what this might mean. He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap, however supersized. He asks how this chap can speak to billions of people simultaneously, which is rather like wondering why, if Tony Blair is an octopus, he has only two arms. For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or ‘existent’: in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects.Thanks to Corvin for the link!
Saturday, September 30, 2006
And then treat yourself to the Daily Show's take on things:
Friday, August 11, 2006
I am i the midst of a wonderful workshop with Nick Bantock, a writer/artist whose work has inspired me for many years. It's a group of 15 wonderful people and we get to play all day long with collage. Does life get sweeter?
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
I was in Cathedrahl Grove this morning and, as with previous visits here, i was deeply moved. As ouristy a stop as it might be, the majesty of the trees and the forest growth seems to silence my pessimistic and cynical reactions - even as they seem to silence the traffic on the road that cuts through this ancient place. I was reminded of hiking the West Coast Trail in 1980 with a good friend. No traffic three, unless you count the whales. I don't know what that trail is like today, though i do know you need to book well in advance (a year, i've been told) if you want to hike it. But that journey (over 25 years ago now) felt like walking through the world before we had wrecked it. But even now, standing in Cathedrahl Grove, the despair i often feel for the wreckage we have caused (and continue to) lifted for a moment and i could feel the pulse of the earth and i felt that no matter the damage, the earth will yet abide.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
August 4 – 12 2006(The image above is titled "Lament for Relations" and is oil and latex on wood, 8x20 feet.)
587 A College Street (at Clinton) Toronto
Whippersnapper Gallery is one of Toronto newest, edgiest and hippest not-for-profit exhibition spaces. Recently relocated to the heart of Little Italy, Whippersnapper boasts 2500 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to emerging artists. With great success on July 19th we celebrated our grand opening, showcasing the work of 26 young, talented artists and attracting 550 people to the reception.
LAMENTATIONS is our first solo exhibition featuring the energetic, monumental and provocative paintings of Joshua Barndt.
Barndt is a graffiti and community mural artist, with a specific interest in socially critical content. Trained on the streets of Toronto and classically in the studios of Concordia University, he is exhibiting a large body of solo and collaborative canvases embedded in contemporary social critique.
For more information or interviews contact Joshua Barndt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 647-201-7436
Back home from France and Spain and what should happen but that i get a sore throat that has threatened all week to become a cold. Much rest and slowly-sipped hot water and i'm healthy again and heading to BC for a couple of weeks.
Ahh, how i yearn for more time in the south of France. But i'm sure that old training about worthiness and humility is working at some level and, what with being raised catholic, one can't go having too good a time without there being some soul-testing consequence. Thus the sore throat.
Superstitions aside, here's a lovely shot of Shawna & David on of the streets of Olargues on the day, a couple of long weeks ago, when we went walking about that ancient town.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
A many hours journey brought me to the doorstep of the mountain “gites” (rental cottage) that my friends Shawna and David have rented for a couple of weeks. I am partaking of their generosity and offering a modest amount of writerly solidarity as Shawna and David also work on writing projects (between hikes up precipitous mountain trails, runs along converted rail tracks, swimming in pools of blissfully sparkling waters in any of a number of gorges, trips to the markets, and, of course, partaking of the cuisine – it’s France, after all). I confess that I am a total geek for French culture at the moment – the food, the food – is there any better? This are of
Well, the dust had hardly settled from the Baja España when this quiet town was disrupted once again. This time by a parade of antique cars that was making its way from village to village. Everyone turned out to marvel at the craftsmanship and chrome and antiquity of this remnants of a more genteel age (even if that age is mostly myth).
It was a day of sun and dust and souped-up engines of all kinds as the Baja España roared by this sleepy – though, on this day, very alert, town. Great fun for all, especially the kids who would look for the signs of distant dust and come running from their lookout spots yelling “Polvo! Polvo! Otra! Otra!” (“Dust! Dust! Another one! Another one!”) The arrival of every one of the over two hundred racers (motorcycles, quads, cars and trucks) was greeted with the same enthusiasm by the wee ones, even if the adults flagged and, by the end, were counting the minutes before they could retire from the hot sun to the cool confines of the TeleClub and a cold drink.
Many cultures in the world speak of a world tree – a tree that exists at the centre of the world and around which the heavens revolve. Yggdrasil in the Norse land, its roots in hell and its branches in heaven, Odin, the Allfather, hung upside down and gave it an eye that he might gain wisdom. African cultures tell of trees that gave life to all who could say its true name. Baobabs and yew trees, ash and cedar, oak and pine. All kinds of trees have the honour of being the world tree. Here in Hinojosa del Campo it is a carrasca tree – an oak – and it is called by the villagers here “carrasquilla.”
This archaeological site tells the story of a pre-Roman Celtiberian people who once thrived in this land. Celtic control once covered Europe and there remains but little of a once vast people – now found in
Antonio Machado is one of my favourite poets and this is a land that loves its poets. He wrote: “between living and dreaming is something more important: waking.” Fleeing the Spanish civil war he crossed into
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
José Maria Valverde was one of Spain’s great poets of the 20th Century. He wrote about literature, taught philosophy and did the definitive Spanish translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He also translated all the works of Shakespeare and Rilke, the New Testament, Goethe, and more. Yup, all of ‘em. He and his family lived in exile while Franco was in power and they returned to Spain after Franco died. He is also the father of my friend Clara whom I am currently visiting. José Maria died 10 years ago and Clara and her husband Angel interred his ashes in the local cemetery of Angel’s family village of Hinojosa del Campo. Angel and Clara have fashioned a plaque that now adorns the gravesite that has on it a poem Jose Maria wrote when he was a teenager. Some years ago Clara sent me the following story in which the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire met Jose Maria:
Paulo Freire meets my Father (José Maria Valverde)
They are both dead now.
But before they left, the two frail-looking men met. “Teacher,” “philosopher,”
“liberation theology intellectual,” “communist,” “theoretician,” “writer” and
“wise man.” They both carried the same labels without letting them get to their
Paulo requested a meeting while visiting Barcelona and his entourage arranged for it. It was to be a breakfast meeting. The living room was packed with expectation: family members and admirers wishing to witness the meeting of the two Old Masters.
Freire walked in, wearing his sailor’s hat, quiet, timid. They smiled, shook hands and exchanged brief words in Spanish and “Portunhol.” They sat, each sinking their bony bodies into their armchairs and they grinned at each other like children, recognizing each other, not needing to utter any of the many sentences written in their long list of published books.
They were pleased, comfortable, sharing a few observations about the world, exchanging a couple of jokes, silences, complicity.
The entourage watched, some still expecting the “The Truth” would be uttered, some knowing that it already had.
Paulo left. He left me two things: his sailor hat and his words in a book: “To Clara, with so much clarity...”
As much as I am aware that indigenous people have lived in the
This ancient village of stone houses looks like it has grown straight out of the earth. There is an organic quality to the way the houses are arranged in the village – the streets are at strange angles widening and narrowing seemingly on a whim. The houses seem more collaged together than constructed. This village belongs to this landscape. Which reminds me of the word “human” which comes from “humus” which means “of the earth”. It is common to attribute such sentiments to Indigenous peoples around the world though the etymology of “human” does suggest that the sentiment also once existed importantly in Western culture. This also reminds me of a story of struggling for an image to use to represent aboriginal Canadians in the Ah Hah drawing workshop ( a method of popular education using drawing. A characteristic shape is used for people that looks something like the left hand image in the next post. It was agreed that this did not respect the differences between non-native and native Canadians. Someone proposed using this basic image with a feather added on top. But there was concern about the stereotyping that would likely result. So someone proposed the right hand image in the next post - where the line beneath the feet represented the earth and acknowledged that native people were identified by their relationship to the earth. I have always loved this simple and elegant expression of identity. And, while I believe that we are all connected to the earth, the populations of the dominant global culture (euro-america) are profoundly alienated from the earth – from all the rhythms of nature, the behaviour of weather, the cycle of the seasons and more. Native people, despite centuries of oppression, have sustained a connection with the land that remembers still that we come from the land. I came across a clever bumpersticker-worthy quote a while back: “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice”. Indeed, we would do well to remember that volcanoes still explode, floodplains are not wise places for new suburbs, global warming is not a joke and when the rich monopolize all the safe places to live the poor will live wherever they can, including a mountain that will blow up or tumble down under heavy rain. Too many of us live against this world and not with it.
I am reminded that the word “humble” also comes from the ancient word for earth. I wonder if the common sense notion of humble as meaning “weak” or “lowly” comes from a misunderstanding of the origin of the word. For you could say that humble means “low to the earth” which conjures an image of weakness, subjugation, grovelling, if you assume the person is low to the earth because they are in front of someone with greater power than they. But, in this case, we could see them as not so much low to the earth as they are under the power of someone. If we just take the word humble to be about our relation with the earth, then being low to the earth could be a very good thing. In aikido (as well as numerous marshal arts, I am sure) , to lower one’s centre of gravity as much as you can is to be more and more stable. Humble reminds us that we are of the earth. And the earth is actually a very, very strong thing.
Well, the sleepy summer weeks that characterize life in this ancient farming village are about to be disrupted by a rare event. Apparently the Baja España ’06 Madrid-Aragon is going to race (literally) right by this village on Friday. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event and will no doubt be the talk of the village for months and years to come.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
La Rambla is one of the greatest walking stretches of urban road in the world. Unlike the frenzy of Broadway where people seem to be rushing from somewhere to who-knows-where the thousands who throng La Rambla give wonderful meaning to leisurely strolling. There are two things things in this world that i could watch for hours and hours, sitting still, calmly, serenely: any body of water (river, ocean, lake) and people walking by - another kind of ocean or river, i suppose. And such wonder it is. It reminds me of an old collection of Indian stories called the Kathasaritsagara which means "The Ocean of the River of Stories." That is what La Rambla feels like.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
It seems a lot of people i know are travelling at the moment - it's a perpatetic summer, you could say.
Judy Rebick is in Bolivia and you can follow her exploits on her travel blog: A Better World.
I'm gonna post pics as well once i'm on terra firma again. Check back.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
An earthblanket is a type of mural that dian marino conceptualized in her final years of teaching and artwork. It suggests the metaphor of a blanket, something that we associate with comfort and warmth, that can be spread (metaphorically) across our wounded and ailing earth. As a collective mural exercise, it provides an opportunity for doing environmental education. You can use either a contour or grid mural to do this. I have most often done earthblankets by having individual participants create individual images on small squares (4”x4” or 8”x8”) and then affixing the small images to a larger piece of paper. You can also affix the smaller pieces to a piece of cloth. Or you can make the mural as a quilt – using fabric to fashion the individual squares.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Monday, June 12, 2006
[excerpt from a commonplace book I produced in 2004]
Many years ago I decided, in response to feminism, anti-racism and anti-colonialism, that it was my duty to live in the world as consciously as I could about the privileges I had lucked out on and which I learned were so unevenly distributed around the world. After a dozen years of non-stop activism (including anti-apartheid work, youth leadership training, popular education, international solidarity work with Nicaragua) I stepped back for a brief moment and, thanks to the support of dian marino, a wonderful friend, artist and trickster, I worked on a Master’s degree. This gave me a chance to examine what I had done, why some things worked and others didn’t. Mostly it was a chance to examine my own understandings of my self. In my major paper for that degree I wrote:
In a wonderfully eloquent article, Maria Lugones describes "playful, 'world'-travelling" as a means of working across differences. By 'world' she means "tiny portions of a particular society"; travelling is the act of "shift[ing] from being one person to being a different person"; and playfulness "involves openness to surprise, openness to being a fool, openness to self-construction and reconstruction and to construction or reconstruction of the 'worlds' we inhabit playfully."
"Through travelling to other people's "worlds" we discover that there are "worlds" in which those who are the victims of arrogant perception are really subjects, lively beings, resistors, constructors of visions even though in the mainstream construction they are animated only by the arrogant perceiver and are pliable, foldable, file-awayable, classifiable." (Playfulness, 'World'-Travelling, and Loving Perception, in Making Face, Making Soul = Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Colour. (Gloria Anzaldua, ed.). SF: Aunt Lute Books. 1990. p. 402)
Learning to listen to each others' stories without reducing them to "the moral is...", or "what you're really saying is..." is one way to travel in Lugones' sense. To listen with an open mind, an open heart, ready to be surprised, opens possibilities for new relationships that are not characterized by domination. Sharing our experience of the world through stories and the re-storying of our experience as we engage others is a means of negotiating a new sociality, one in which social power is treated with critical mindedness and solidarity, one which can lead to new constructions of power relations, and newly-negotiated meanings of power.
Re-reading my words of 10 years ago I am amazed to see how influential the writings of women of colour have been on the formation of my sense of self. I continue to reflect on the remarkable thinking of Maria Lugones. And just in case I risk becoming complacent I read the following in her introduction to her collected essays:
"There is also a sense of integrity, moral integrity included, that is lived as violated by the duplicitous interpretation, if one's understanding of the moral presupposes the unification of the self, as much of mainstream, institutionalized morality does. And there are other difficulties related to questions of character. It is difficult to look at one's oppressed behavior in the flesh and the face. Even if the oppressed readings confront one as constructing a reality that one struggles to undermine, or dismantle, the power of the reading in constructing us is often inescapable. It inhabits us from within, it is us, in a servile, subordinate, perverse, criminal, subhuman, or "lost" construction. We can inhabit that construction in enormous tension, but that we can do so is an apparent conundrum that I will return to often in this book. The reading of the act as incompetent has significant consequences since it conforms to the justification of subordination. So the oppressor has a lot to gain from not seeing sabotage and resistance. But then the oppressor cannot erase resistance, because to be erased, resistance needs to be seen.
"Perceiving oneself as an oppressor is harder to sustain morally than deception. There is often a lapse, a forgetting, a not recognizing oneself in a description, that reveals to those who perceive multiply that the oppressor is in self-deception, split, fragmented. Self-deception appears to require the unification of the self to be conceivable, that is, it is one self that deceives him- or herself. But one can understand self-deception without this presupposition. The oppressor can be seen to inhabit multiple realities all in the first person. As a self-deceiving multiple self, the oppressor does not remember across realities. Self-deception lies in this disconnection of memory. Thus, I understand that when someone is self-deceiving, there is one incarnate being who animates two co-temporaneous behaviors in the first person without any cross-referencing, without first person memories of him- or herself in more than one reality. It is of great interest for emancipatory work that we can cross-reference different realities. We may indeed have good reason to fear doing that because we may be revealed as vile or as servile. The one in self-deception could, but does not, cross-reference." (Maria Lugones – Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD. 2003. p.14-15.)
The hard roads that we walk are always a little less lonely (though no less difficult) when we are accompanied by friends and loved ones and also, occasionally, when we read of others’ journeys. Shari Stone-Mediatore writes of Gloria Anzaldua:
"Anzaldúa highlights both the empowering effects and the struggle of experience-driven writing. In so doing, she affirms an agency that is neither inborn nor mere rhetorical illusion. Instead, her agency is one that she struggles for and develops as she writes about her life. Through her writing, for instance, she resists succumbing to other people's representations of her as naturally passive and naturally ill-suited to intellectual work. As she puts it, "the writing saves me from this complacency I fear.... I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive.... I write to record what others erase when I speak, to rewrite the stories others have miswritten about me, about you.... To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy.... I write because I'm scared of writing but I'm more scared of not writing". Against an academic and a popular culture that construes her as ignorant and passive and whose constructs become true insofar as she believes them, Anzaldúa uses her writing to demonstrate, to both herself and her community, her epistemic agency.
"At the same time that Anzaldúa stresses the empowering effect of her writing, she does not gloss over the difficulties of grappling with painful experiences nor hide her fears about failing in a writing process that is bound up with her own ego. As a result, her work also highlights the emotional work that burdens experience-oriented writing. "To write," she admits, "is to confront one's demons, look them in the face and live to write about them". To write about her borderlands existence requires that she "stretch the psyche" in order to hold seemingly conflicting points of view and that she come to terms with a mestiza consciousness that is both a "source of intense pain" and creative energy. Such emotionally risky and taxing work demands a supportive community in whose company "the loneliness of writing and the sense of powerlessness can be dispelled". Agency is thus gained through her storytelling, but only with arduous and community-situated work." (Shari Stone-Mediatore—Reading Across Borders: Storytelling and Knowledges of Resistance. NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003. pp. 150-151.)
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Eduardo Galeano Interview: Galeano has published a new book: Voices in Time: A Life in Stories (Metropolitain Books, Mark Fried tr.). I buy his books site unseen. His writing has changed my life.
Arundhati Roy Interview: on India, Iraq, U.S. Empire and Dissent. I was amazed by her description of Bush's visit to India and the spectacular hypocrisy that US Empire is capable of, not to mention the collusion of the Indian government.
James Yee talk: this former Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo prison tells a story worthy of Kafka.
Daniel Berrigan Interview: The Berrigan brothers' acts of resistance to war have inspired me since i first learned of them as a teenager.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I've even had time to read - i'll sahre some of my reading list in another post - and watch some movies and even some videos on the internet. Here's three to :
Hope: this link was just sent me by some friends in Arizona (thanks Jacob). Sit back and relax and enjoy this lovely piece - i love the animation, the blending of images and the thoughtful juxtapositions. Here's what the producers at Luna Media say:
Based on the ideas of Native American storyteller, Willy Whitefeather, 'Hope' illustrates the cause and effect of life out of balance, and suggests a new path to harmony. Appealing to a universal audience, 'Hope' is a collage of music, sound and images in a 7 minute story, rich and layered with meaning. 'Hope' combines animation inspired by Pueblo, Sioux and Hopi art, with archival and original HD footage to bring the viewer on a powerful journey through human existence and toward a positive future.Matt just told me about this whimsical video of an experiment with diet coke and mentos mints. Treat yourself to this wonderful nonsense: The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments.
Finally, some of you might have heard about the Sony-Bravia ad with the bouncing balls in San Francisco. Well, I have a special file just for this type of commercial. It's called "I hate that i love this commercial so much". Alas. The sublime does pop up in the most unexpected places. This is a beautiful creation and José González's score is balm for a weary soul. Enjoy.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Friday, January 20, 2006
Michael Moore's open letter to Canadians.
And the Daily Show's coverage of our election coverage. (Click on the "New Osama Tape" piece which starts with a short piece about Osama bin Laden and then continues into the Daily Show election coverage.)
Monday, January 16, 2006
Just finished reading Words To Our Now by Thomas Glave. It’s a moving book of essays against forgetting; for dissent in the heart of the Empire; about being black and gay and Jamaican and American and having to resist the multiple invisibilities that our diseased world practices against so many. It’s filled with courage. (Thanks for the loan, Judy.)
A friend gave me a Christmas gift of Signs of the Times, poetry by Bud Osborn with prints by Richard Tetrault. (Thanks, Kim.)
My dad gave me Neil Bissoondath’s newest novel: The Unyielding Clamour of the Night which I plan to read as soon as my sabbatical begins in a couple of weeks.
And I gave myself the gift of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Widow’s Broom, which has been a favourite for some time. Well, I actually bought it so I have it to read to my nieces, nephews and god-daughter.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Thursday, January 05, 2006
In this episode called First Day, Act Two (starting at the 20 minute mark) is a story about a squirrel and a cop. Worth listening to.
In this episode called Fiasco, Act One is a story about a school play. It pretty much defines fiasco.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Now, a person with sharper social skills than I might have noticed that as these folks ate their freshly baked blueberry muffins and admired the bed-and-breakfast’s teapot collection, they probably didn’t want to think about presidential gunshot wounds. But when I’m around strangers, I turn into a conversational Mount St. Helens. I’m dormant, dormant, quiet, quiet, old-guy loners build log cabins on the slopes of my silence, and then, boom, it’s 1980. Once I erupt, they’ll be wiping my verbal ashes off their windshields as far away as North Dakota.