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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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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!

No WAR!

I have talked with each one of you off and on about war, and I think all of you agreed that it’s not the way to move our society along. That people are dying for no reason. And that we don’t agree with Canada’s participation in this American war.

Well…if you want to make a peaceful statement here’s how.

BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW! Demonstration
Pan-Canadian Day of Action!
Where: Saturday October 28, 2006
When: Rally at 12 noon, Harry Hays Federal building (220 4 ave SE)
Who:
Everyone Welcome! Bring Signs and Banners

Followed by:
Afghanistan: 5 Years On
Panel on Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, from 1-:30 at Parkdale United Church (2919 8th Ave NW)

Last thought. You might think that this is ineffective and that you can’t make change this way. But really don’t you think that Harper will listen when people are getting together all around the country (which is what is planned) to rally against war on this day. To many soldiers are dying tragically, people in countries “accidently being killed”, and to not enough real progress is happening in the countries being attacked. End the occupation. I for one want to show my support against what I don’t believe in.

Hugs, love, and patience,

Shane

PS – Pass this around so we can make waves [even if you can’t go :)]

I’ve been reading the Motorcycle Diaries of Ernest Che Guevara these days. I came across something that I thought was interesting and could be generally applied to life (or at least should be).

“The first commandemnt for every good explorer is that an expedition has two points: the point of departure and the point of arrival. If your intention is to make the second theoretical point coincide with the actual point of arrival, don’t think about the means – because the journey is a virtual space that finishes when it finishes, and there are as many means as there are different ways of ‘finishing.’. That is to say, the means are endless.” – The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

So go out there and find many means and remember there are so many little ends!

So yesterday I headed out to the “One Dead Indian” screening for the Calgary International Film festival. I was lucky enough to get a free pass to any movie I wanted to see there from a guy who ordered a coffee at Good Earth cafe where I work. It’s a pretty sweet tip considering the tickets are worth $15+. The movie is based on a book about a peaceful protest that some aboriginal people took part in Ipperwash Provincial Park near Sarnia, Ontario by the Stony Point Natives. It was old land that the Canadian government had taken from the natives in order to build a military base during war times. They were told that once the war had ended they would be able to return to the land and live there again. Tragically, it had been turned into a provincial park and the original natives land owners were told it was no longer there land. The story is about a peaceful protest that turns completely wrong as one Stony Point Native is shot and killed during a police invasion.

I highly recommend this movie/book.

I think that our treatment of North American natives is disgusting and something that I’m ashamed to admit that I’m Canadian because of this fact. I think that all to often we find it easier to to things that would compromise their rights then try and negotiate a resolution that would be adequate and fair to these people. They lived here longer than us so to the politicians I say “remove thy head from thy ass”.

Yesterday was the first time I think I felt a little alone. I spent the entire movie crying and really needed some comfort afterwards. Lindsay (who I went with) and I went out for dinner afterwards which was really rad! But I still felt like it was oen of those nights I would have loved to just cuddle with someone. Yah I was a little upset.

If you haven’t already seen the amazing Wal-mart movie [The High Cost of Low Price] you should check it out. I’m not a huge fan of the policies of Wal-mart and how they treat their employees (so that they can get everyone else the lowest price). I think that this latest flash movie really articles the point well. When you have a chance check out the issues that worker’s at Wal-mart face!

[ Ugg I couldn’t get this thing to embed the flash video so you’ll have to check it out yourself herer! At the very least it’s damn funny and not so funny at the same time ]

Please sign the petition to stop Wal-mart from abusing the rights of their employees!