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Tree SilhouettesOver the last year, I have found myself in several fairly interesting discussions about community development work. Not in the nature of actually building empowerment within communities or the struggles associated with that but something just as significant. Everyone knows this type of work takes time, effort, energy, dedication, collaboration and plenty of other elements in the mix. Reflecting through a social justice lens this also means that we have to look at community work through the complexities of culture, communities, privilege and class to name a few.

So what was the discussion around? The precarious nature of internal dynamics of organizations.

Frequently, I had conversations with friends, workers and acquaintances over the frustrations of internal dynamics and structures. The conversation usually starts with comments surrounding their voices were not readily heard, continuous structural changes, and overall diminished sense of empowerment. The workers essentially become disenchanted and either leave or just stay until their contracts end. All this to say, this nature of community organizing lacks a sense of desire for others to replace them.

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On Friday night I attend a talk by Andrea Smith who spoke about the racism that exists in North America around the Violence against Native Women and the struggle of indigenous peoples.

Andrea Smith is a Cherokee feminist and anti-violence activist who is the the  co-founder for INCITE! An aloquint speaker i found that I was really drawn into the points that she made around systemic racism that exists in our North American culture around peoples of colour.

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A city of ghosts
Poverty dripping from buildings…
With bordered windows, silent streets, and meandering men.

A desperation for change – for newnesss –
The rich have diserted
Fled for suburbs, fled for gates & locks
The rest have stayed… have stayed…

And yet.
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It’s been a while since I’ve written much here. Well there’s a lot to explain. I’m working hard these days at a Fruit & Veg shop trying to avoid being broke, working on Cycle for Sustainability [soon to be Otesha (OZ)] on any day I have off, and settling into my digs here in Melbourne (read: moving next weekend via all bicycles – yes I have a bed, coach, and other big items now so it’ll be fun and about 20 KM I figure). And I’ve spent time exploring my mind, sleeping, and sending friends letters… yes old school snail mail is tre cool.

I suspect that those that used to read this are long gone and have forgotten about it all. Sorry.

But on that note of friends I have come to the orginal reason I wanted to post. It’s been really difficult at times to fully realize my dreams with this project. My goal ultimately here in Australia is to secure some serious funding for The Otesha Project (Australia), create massive tours, spread laughter/education/love/bicycle moves/groovie vibes/connect with youth/and so much more with as much of my heart as I can. I love kids man. But sometimes I freak out and think that this is a bit much and worry that it’s just not going to happen. That maybe I’m over my head, and just about to start sinking in the deep end of the pool without an energy to get back up.

Then…it’s with appropriate timing some friend of mine comes along and gives me that support, love, and energy that I need. Some through beautiful messages, some through hilarious letters or gifts, some through food, and some through money. It blows me away how supportive and rich the community of people I have around me. It brings massive tears to my eyes to know that there are so many really beautiful people working on so many amazing projects in this country, in Canada, and this world. I’m blessed to be inspired by every single one of you. To see you moving along in your lives with such great hope, strength, and determination only lights that fire under my bum higher. Makes me feel like I can do this and sure there is going to be struggles and hardships but how does a person appreciate anything without a bit of that.

Without love and community we have nothing.
That’s not true.
We have a place to sleep, a bed, a job, a life .. but that’s about it.

I want to foster more community, more sharing, more love, more giving, hope, energy, and change in our world. I really strived to be a man of independance for so long in my life and now … now I’ve sold that ticket to a different bidder and have checked into a life of being around people, learning, growth, sharing what I have, and owning no more than what I need.

Thank you for your love. Thank you for your support. Thank you for you. You may not realize but I’m watching your movements and it brings a smile to my face. What major things you are doing to try and shift, make differences, be different in your life, and grow. We can’t do this alone and we only have one place to live.

Heaps of love

Shane xo

This one has been bothering me for sometime now.

I went to an amazing festival this last weekend for three days (more on this later) called the Global Carnival. Amazing music, peeps, and dancing!

While at the Global Carnival this last weekend I went to a workshop where a womyn (sorry I tried to find her name online but was unable to do so) was speaking about the connections between various activist types and groups. I have to admit that she did a great job during her discussion and made me think about where I stand with my activist work.

During her discussion she relayed a story where she was working for the government. She met for dinner with a guy whom was an Indian Diplomat and as they were discussing what she was doing with her life and work she made some realizations. The details aren’t important though …

What was important is that during her relay of this conversation she broke out into an Indian accent. Broken english and all. Funny cause lots of activist types do that out here in OZ and it’s something that I’ve been having a hard time with these days.

So reign in your opinions I want to hear them.

  1. Is is racist to imitate another person’s use of the English language? My thought is that it is. Mainly because in either telling a joke or relaying a story that imitates another person’s accent you are making fun of them. Look at it from this perspective — what’s the relevance of using the accent? I found it interesting to me in Ecuador last year and be teased by Spanish people (some kind teasing and some not so kind) about my lack of Spanish knowledge. Pretty humbling experience that one…
  2. So if it’s not appropriate to make fun of languages (other races) does it make it acceptable to make fun of white western languages (or am I taking this to far?) Yah ok I’m sensitive to these things. I sorta feel like it’s the same thing as a black guy calling another black guy niger. It’s that they are taking back that name and using it amongst themselves. Clearly not appropriate for me. But for me to make fun of other people within my culture is totally fine I figure cause well there isn’t racism potential in that (or so I can see).

Fire me back with comments. I’m curious. Is that not contributing to oppressive language or not considering that someone isn’t being respected?

It’s funny because in Canada we don’t actually do things like that…well I haven’t been to conferences where people imitate individuals like that unless they are of the same race I suppose.

So before I left SMART Technologies ages ago I had a friend who worked there ask me a lot of questions about being a vegan. He was really receptive and polite in his questions and honestly wanted to know ways in which I obtained protein (a big fear for meat eaters is that people can’t survive on a plant based diet cause you don’t get meat for your body to survive — read: not entirely true)

For Chuck and his family they decided to become vegetarians for a month because of several contributing factors.

“First, if we’re tired and hungry at the end of the day the recipes that come most easily to mind are some kind of meat-and-two-veg thing. Not the healthiest…[and their] oldest son (just turned seven) is a sensitive kid and also a picky eater. He [doesn’t] like the idea of killing animals for food — so much so that he was willing ot experiment with all kinds of different veg cuisine if it meant he didn’t have to eat meat.”

Throughout this experiment the family tried out different veggie cuisine options finding things that the entire family enjoyed. Chuck commented that it wasn’t difficult for his family to find sources of nutrition and protein to eat healthy.

“I think “how will you get your protein?” is about as common and annoying a question for vegetarians as “how will you socialize them?” is for homeschoolers. Short answer: go look at the biggest, most heavily-muscled silverback gorilla in your local zoo –he’s vegan. End of question.”

[My note: As a vegan this is probably the most frustrating question I get too..or the crude jokes about me needing more meat, etc. on my plate.]

It’s an interesting note on our culture that most people do believe that our only protein food sources can be obtained from meat based diets. We have to be careful not to cut out vegetables from our diets as they are the source of anti-oxidants, little cancer fighting weapons, vitamins, and so much more goodness.

After Chuck’s one month trial they decided to find more ethical sources of meat suppliers as a means of bridging the gap between being vegetarians and meat-eaters (dubbed by Chuck as “flexitarian”).

“We don’t eat a lot of meat any more (I can’t remember the last time I bought steak or pork chops) and honestly can’t handle large quantities at one sitting after a month as vegetarians. And even before our experiment, we had started sourcing our meat from ethical sources, particularly one place at Crossroads Market owned by an older German lady and her husband.”

Another really nice approach from this is that Chuck is actually buying his food local! YEAH TO LOCAL! This means that he is also reducing his carbon imprint on food shipping/processing/etc. He is supporting local economies and farmers (the little guys), and ensures that the animals are happy (dubbed “happy meat” by Chuck).

Now you are probably wondering why a vegan would be writing about all this. Well I’ve never been one to be a snotty vegan (meaning that I frown upon others eating meat). I see it more as a challenge to educate others about many issues.

  • Buying local food (not supporting factory farms) = healthier animals, less food miles, supporting smaller farmers
  • Buying organic (healthier and again happier animals) = better for the environment
  • Environmental impacts of the food we eat – it takes 10x more resources (water, energy, etc) to make 1 lb of beef than it does 1 lb of wheat.
  • Vegetarian Meals are goodness = They can be tasty and they make you feel fresh!

So eating vegetarian even just once a week is going to have a huge impact on the environment versus not eating vegetarian at all. Why would I want to critisize people who are doing something to make change like Chuck is clearly showing. Revolutions, change, growth, and movements never happened when people ostracised others for their choices. When we can all embrace each other and work together towards something more sustainable, ethical, and loving as a community that’s when we are going to see things change.PROPS TO YOU CHUCK FOR TAKING THAT RISK MAN! Thanks for sharing bro!

I probably should have broken the Lake Cowal episode into two points but I didn’t cause I was trying to deal with it I suppose.

There was still some points that I wanted to get off my mind but that last post turned more into some epic novel of sorts.

What bothers me in this day in age is that we are really focussed as countries (Canada/Australia) on trying to solve other countries problems like Iraq/Iran/[insert country here] and not spending much time dealing with our own internal problems. Why is it acceptable to ignore the rights of indigenous people here in Australia or even in Canada? Why is it that New Zealand seems to show the most respect (as far as I can tell) with regards to the development of relationships between the government and the Maori people. I mean Canada prides itself in being a peacekeeping country and goes around to other countries trying to ensure that there is less bloodshed, things can get resolved, etc. Yet like Australia or own country does very little to properly deal with the First Nations/Indigenous peoples land claims or at the very least demands for respect of sacred burial grounds. It upsets me that we would treat people that way.

I spent some time up in KohuKohu and apparently they were expanding the road up there when a worker cutting down a tree came across some bones that fell out of the tree stump. All the work was haulted, elders were called in to figure out how big the burial grounds were/bless things, and further discussions were done to figure out the next course of action. It means that everyone was equal at the bargaining table and that they figure out a solution together because they wanted to show respect for peoples that have been there long before New Zealanders settled. I don’t think that type of negotiation is that hard! Frankly, you’d have a lot less people protesting or having to occupy sacred grounds to prevent golf course expansions. Seriously folks don’t you think there is some compremise. We should be resolving these issues so that the children (your children) don’t have the carry the weight that we have all been carrying from the mistreatment of these people.

Native Rights Drawing

Jamie & RomanToday I felt that it was appropriate to pay some respects and hi-fi’s to a special friend of mine whom is embarking on an amazing journey.

Jamie Liewaluzny (Liew+Zackaluzny=Liewaluzny – haa haa) has decided to take the degree that she trained so hard to obtain (law degree), jump on a plane, and head to Sierra Leone.

So why is that such an amazing feat you ask? Umm well Jamie (on the right of this picture) is heading to Sierra Leone to work on the defense case of one individual being tried at the Special Court that the United Nations and Sierra Leone have established. The conflicts that have plagued this country are extensive and tragic. This country is still not a really nice place to visit because of all the unrest that is plaguing these people.

As Jamie indicated to me it’s something that she feels strongly about and it doesn’t “matter who I represent because everyone deserves a fair trail.” She’s right everyone does and needless to say I think your great for believing that Jamie. I think that just taking the time out from her regular job in the Ottawa judicial system where she works for a judge to dedicate a few months on this project is really amazing.

If your history about Sierra Leone is rusty you should really have a look at the latest movie about this tragic history called Blood Diamonds (or here for official web addy). Apparently, this movie is a real eye-opener to the conditions in Sierra Leone and give one perspective of the situation that people faced. It’s tragic to know that something that we deem precious and special such as a diamond could really fuel and encourage such violence and despair in people.

To many people, diamonds symbolize love, happiness or wealth. However, for many others, they mean conflict, misery and poverty. In some African countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, profits from the unregulated diamond trade are used to fund armed conflicts. As a result, tens of thousands of civilians have over the past years been killed or tortured and millions have been displaced. ” – Amnesty International report on the situation.

It’s beautiful to be inspired by so many amazing people around me and to you Jamie I say thanks and cheers! May your travels find you beautiful things and lots of learning.

Hugs

Shane

“One of the biggest killers on this planet is apathy. I read a thing in an internet cafe calendar in Galway, Ireland, yesterday that read ‘why are the people who have all the answers to world problems taxi drivers and hair dressers?’ This was a very good skit on human behaviour in general where people have all the answers and don’t act on their ideas. Why not?” — Venus Kamura from On Fire: The battle of Genoa and the anti-capitalist movement.

Yes everyone knows I read a lot of different things and although this book is a little patchy there are some areas of it that I find quite interesting and to the point.

I’ve now received a few messages from friends saying that they’ve felt as though they want to make some changes in their lives, and have been disheartened by it all in the past. Now they are committing to something new and want to integrate changes in their lives to make change in their own world! YAAH to you guys! WOOT WOOT

Well it’s not that hard to imagine it to be difficult really.

I think whether you are an activist or not you know that change needs to happen in our world so that it’s a place that the children of the future can enjoy. No one wants to leave a huge mess for them to cleanup as we have been left from past generations. It’s our responsibility to be role models, elders, and guardians for Mumma E (read: mother earth).

I think that all this boils down to a few things for me at least.

Firstly, be careful how many things you take on in your life. Keeping things really simple, breath easy, and focus your attention on a few actions that you can handle to start. Branch when you are comfortable. No one likes peanut that is thinly spread on many slices of bread so why would you spread your skills thinly across different type of issues. It’ll only weaken your ability. Plus you don’t want to walk away feeling jaded or tired or burnt out at the end of the day.

Secondly, and probably most importantly is my general philosophy since Otesha. I have them thank for this philosophy. When trying to adopt change in your life start by adopting something small, once you get comfortable, adopt something else that is new and will influence change. This is how we encourage youth on our bike tour to make changes in their lives. If you take baby steps life is more manageable and you won’t feeling like giving it all up because it appears to “be to much to handle.” This is the only way that our world will change in one big revolution. Apathy is an easy out especially when you think of all the huge things we need to take on a society to change it. But I never look at it like that. I’m thankful for the decisions I make each day to try and reduce my imprint and talk to people about issues that I see around me.

Lastly, the Dalai Lama knew it best when he said “Be the change you want to see in the world today.” It’s just that easy. Well sorta. Take a deep breath, be proud of where you are at, and remember that growth is about knowledge, learning, and change. At no point do we ever stop changing or growing and all those actions we take are causing other actions and movements to happen. Children watch us as the elders of the future.

Yeah it’s not really something that relates to my travels but I feel now strongly about this as I travel around New Zealand and yet to find activists. Perhaps they are hiding or just underground who knows. But at least I can be my own activist right?

WORD TO YAH MOTHA

Shane

PS – You have to remember that if you make one action today…think about if everyone took that action. Think about what happens when someone sees you taking that action and then questions you about it. Oh yes then the revolution starts!

[This is an original letter I sent to The Whiskey — today, and will keep it updated with their response. I want people to know what happened there so they know what happens there and make their own decisions as to whether to go or not.]

Dear Toby Bird, Management at The Whiskey Nightclub,

On Friday, October 13, 2006 a situation happened at your bar that raises my question about the way that patrons at your bar are being treated on a regular basis. I arrived around 10:30 PM with three of my close friends from work (all women — useful for later). We spent the night dancing and hanging around together, and generally having a great time. At one point he had lost one of our friends so two of my friends left me at the bottom of a flight of stairs to go find their friend. During this time I was leaning against a wall waiting for them to reappear. After 3 minutes I gave up (I checked my watch) and headed up the stairs to find them at the top. We exchanged hugs and upon me stepping back after the hug I was grabbed. My arm was placed behind my back and another arm was placed on my shoulder. I turned slightly and was told by the bouncer in question that I was getting kicked out of the bar. He started to lead me down the stairs towards the back door. I never resisted his movements and along with myself my friends (two girls) were also lead out the back door. At the back door we were told by bouncer that he had reports that I had groped 4 women and he had been looking for me for the last 15 minutes. My friend Erin then asked how he could prove that in-fact I was the individual they were looking for and his response was, “The individual reported was wearing the same shirt, same hairstyle, and …… the same ring (as he pointed at my lip ring).”

I then indicated to the bouncer that we required our jackets to which he agreed to meet us at the other side of the building. After walking around the building we each gave him our tickets and I asked him for his name. Upon hearing me question the security another officer manning the front mumbled something to his friend. I asked him what he said to his friend and he told me that “he should just not bother with our jackets and send us on our ways.” Upon the return of our jackets and getting ready to go the security spoke with the police officers that were waiting nearby. As I was leaving they approached me and asked for my information. Now I was being questioned by them and my information was being taken in case one of the women in question wanted to file a complaint later. I was totally embarrassed and surprised with this method of procedure given it was completely hearsay.

Frankly, now I’m left with wondering as to whether I possibly gave someone a look that made them feel uncomfortable. I’m not the type of guy to go around groping women as I have a lot more respect for them than that. It also makes me wonder if I was being targeted because I don’t fit your “typical” clientele. Regardless I have a few questions and pieces of feedback that I would appreciate your comments on. I think the important part here is that I’m not trying to prove my innocence, because it’s my word against yours but I am questioning the procedures that took place that night.

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