Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Principle of Subsidiarity
--Rudolph Ryser, from Sharing Governmental Power
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The twenty or so students who welcomed us on our arrival had positive attitudes, didn’t get into trouble, and were even involved in helping arrange weeknight and weekend fundraisers where they sold candy and their teacher spoke to various audiences about their program. Still, they were jaded enough to know that the odds were stacked against them, and beneath their polite, eager exterior, I could detect an accumulating cynicism that could easily blossom upon the inevitable rejection of some of their college applications.
When we introduced ourselves on the first day, I mentioned that I’d once worked for a newspaper, and had some stories published in magazines and literary reviews. When I sat with my four students in a circle of desks, I asked if anyone had a draft with them for me to look at. One had forgotten his at home, another had accidentally deleted hers when trying to save it on her computer, and the other two had not yet bothered to correct the mistakes circled by their teacher on the first draft from two weeks prior. After reading through the two drafts available and glancing at the course syllabus their teacher had provided them at the beginning of the quarter, I asked the kids what they thought the instructions meant, and proceeded to discuss how following her guidelines would help make their essays more coherent and enjoyable for readers.
After instructing the two with freshly-marked-up drafts in front of them to give it another try, I asked the Chinese boy about what his missing essay entailed, and he instead described a short story he was writing about how his cohort had come to terms with the shooting death of a school friend, and the confusing multicultural customs they’d managed to navigate in attempting to discover the meaning of life at sixteen. He then asked me if I’d like to see his story.
Over the weekend, I e-mailed the teacher, and asked if it was OK for me to make a detour with this student and have him bring in the story the following week for me to critique. With her permission, and caveat that he still had to write the assigned essay, she said she would let him know.
The following week, having thought since about what we could realistically expect, I returned to Galileo with a view that whether or not these students succeeded in getting admitted to college one year hence was beyond my ability to influence, but what I could contribute was a degree of confidence in their worth and potential, a desire to write better, and a joy of learning to do so.
The Mexican girl had rewritten her deleted essay, but could not print it out until we went to the computer lab halfway through class. The Chinese boy had his story in duplicate, in order for me to read it at home; he still hadn’t begun his essay. In the computer lab, most of the students sat in small groups around terminals looking at movie stars or talking about boyfriends or sports. The teacher circulated helping the handful of students who were trying to figure out how to do research that produced credible results. When the Mexican girl in my cohort brought me her essay, I retired to a relatively quiet corner with my red pen.
Her essay was about the new security cameras on campus and the ambience they created from the perspectives of students and teachers, as well as some justifications from the school board. Good basic journalism, but with a natural flare for capturing the reader’s interest at the outset--something she had not been taught but rather absorbed somehow from the world around her. After making some minor suggestions, I told her she would make a good reporter, and might want to consider journalism school. She beamed in only the way sixteen-year-old girls can, and I felt blessed beyond words.
That evening, sitting in my reading chair, I opened the folder with the boy’s story, and realized right off that grammar was beyond our immediate task—it would be too time-consuming and distract us from the important stuff. He had the ability and inclination to write feature stories or novels, but he needed a lot of attention to structure, and his English was atrocious. I decided to emphasize his strong points, note some of the ways he could improve, and told him to rewrite it ten or twelve times, focusing on one task at a time.
On our final day, we all shared cookies someone had baked, and one of the kids pulled me aside and told me the teacher had lost her family in a traffic accident when she was young, but that she had not given up. I had a reassuring feeling they wouldn’t either.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Learning how to protect our psyches from the imminent trauma foreseen by our mentor was a blessing I hope we've managed to pass on in some small way. If so, then all the effort was worthwhile.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Reflections of Minarets
And thus began a journey of intrigue for the author who unravelled the mysteries of espionage along the Bosporus and those particular moments when history was at a crossroads and all the onlookers knew it. A rare look at the war from the perspectives of spies, refugees, and exiles in a neutral country trapped between three hostile empires.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
For Better or Worse
Like they say, it's always easier to fix the blame than to fix the problem, and when fixing the problem requires facing up to the bloody facts of accumulated, unearned, First World privileges, liberals are unfortunately as wedded to fantasy as conservatives.
Creating an industry of detaining immigrants won't solve our problems any more than the industry of incarcerating black men, the industry of dumping toxic waste on Indian lands, or the industry of bombing the Third World. It will, however, further wed American citizens to the criminal enterprise; after all, we're an industrial people.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Promoting War on a No-bid Contract
Vanity Fair's Barlett and Steele examine one of the largest US war contractors, Science Applications International Corporation, and how (through a combination of fraud, insider-trading, and revolving-door bribery) it manages to perpetuate this lucrative growth industry by fabricating crisis, creating chaos, and cashing in on the confusion.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
When I was 21, I was arrested by tribal fisheries patrol officers for unlicensed fish-buying on an Indian reservation. Feeling unduly hampered in my occupation, and encouraged by my renegade Indian friends, I said regretful things while being escorted from my vessel to the jail.
As things would have it, this was the summer of the federal ruling on treaty fishing rights, and the local newspaper chose to make me a martyr of the Indian Wars, then led by Washington Attorney General Slade Gorton. Nothing was further from my sentiments, but this was soon forgotten as I became employed elsewhere.
Twenty years later, managing environmental litigation and publishing research on the Anti-Indian, Wise Use Movement, I accompanied my friend who was invited to speak by the same tribe that arrested me as a young man at a gathering opposing Indian health and education cuts proposed by the then infamous U.S. Senator Slade Gorton. When we arrived, a Lummi elder was praying for the spiritual growth of the senator, and I was suddenly transported back in time to the day when this gentle giant of a man was a fisheries officer and I a headstrong young vessel captain.
I briefly recounted this long forgotten relationship while introducing him to my friend, and then left to provide some vital documents to the tribal attorney for use in our mutual fight against vigilantes then mustering to the recurrent call of white supremacism.
Six years later, while residing and attending graduate school in San Francisco, I was invited to join colleagues in Washington to honor our friend who did the Wise Use research at a human rights awards ceremony. When I arrived, I saw on the program that Cha da ska dum Which ta lum, the Lummi elder (and former fisheries officer) was being honored posthumously for promoting peace and reconciliation between settler and indigenous cultures throughout the Americas.
After the ceremony, I informed his brother that a story Cha da ska dum told me a few years back was a gift that sealed the bargain in our unanticipated reconciliation. Only now do I realize that it has also stood me in good stead in terms of comprehending the reconciliatory challenges ahead for our society.
With healing comes obligation, sometimes disguised as love.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Further along in our conversation, though, I admitted to a fascination with the rapid expansion of unmediated discussion taking place on and offline, and couldn't help but wonder what impact this new form of communication might have on us both politically and culturally. To me, the evolution of public perceptions about such things as governance, militarism, and consumerism alone in the last few years has been astounding.
Will all this undirected educational activity translate into a serious pursuit of sanity on a workable scale? I honestly don't know. In fact, I'm not sure we can know. All we can do is participate and see how things shake out. If that gives us hope, then more power to us.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Monsters of Anomie
I knew in that moment that this was what the future of teaching about justice would include: teaching war criminals who sit glaring at me with hatred for daring to speak the truth of their atrocities and who, if paid to, would disappear, torture and kill me...The American military and mercenary soldiers who “sacrificed” their lives did not do so for the teacher’s freedom to teach the truth about the so-called war on terror, or any of US history for that matter. They sacrificed their lives, limbs and sanity for money, some education and the thrills of the violence for which they are socially bred.
[ from Killers in the Classroom by Dr. June Scorza Terpstra ]
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Rudy’s mentors included George Manuel who was the spark that generated global communication and coordination amongst indigenous peoples then emerging from post-colonialism. He and Rudy and their colleagues laid the groundwork for indigenous fora and working groups within the UN, as well as parallel organizations like UNPO .
CWIS today is considered the premier indigenous think tank and archival repository serving the Fourth World. After publishing some of my work, they invited me to join as an associate scholar, and recently asked me to serve as moderator for a private online forum serving their associates.
Volunteering (and studying) with the people at CWIS is an experience unavailable elsewhere, and ought to be supported by anyone concerned about the future of our world. If you have a moment, take a look at their website--a little help will go a long way.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Arena of Communication
John Lennon's arena of communication, as Yoko referred to it, was sufficient to turn out supporters en masse throughout North America and Europe. He could, for example, simultaneously launch peace campaigns in New York, LA, London, Paris, Toronto and Vancouver utilizing billboards, radio and television without breaking a sweat or cutting a check. He had that much moral influence.
How we might effectively apply the principles of communication in the age of the Internet is a discussion we probably ought to begin.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Being a middle age man, it's difficult for me to imagine the considerable energy expended by regular attendees of these emotional events, but perhaps piety activates some energy-supplying glandular secretion I'm unaware of, or maybe the drive to acquire status within the moral milieu is something akin to cornering energy markets or establishing religious missions in the Fourth World; once you're on the treadmill, it's hard to get off.
As hobbies go, I suppose, vigil mania does little harm, although I suspect that after several years of this frantic activity, the pointlessness of it all might drive some to depression or violence. Still, as an experience of social interaction, it's possible that some participants will eventually recognize the recurrent theatrics as ineffective role-playing ascribed to concerned but confused citizens. If this is true, then as an inadvertent contributor to subverting spectacle, it is a welcome addition to modern madness.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Just the Beginning
Thursday, February 08, 2007
When their trigger-happy trading partner wants to go on another rampage that might threaten their energy supplies, maybe it's time for a serious talk with those who lube American media and Congress. Unfortunately, that's a closed loop, so the only way to get off the armageddon wagon is to make the lawmakers fear their constituents more than they love the arms merchants. Not an easy task.
At any rate, with war fever already ramping up on TV, and little hope in sight of Americans taking citizenship seriously, it's probably best to anticipate the destruction of another Persian Gulf state as well as the painful profiteering and price-gouging that will undoubtedly ensue. Not that we should resign ourselves to a future of endless moral abomination by our rulers, but we shouldn't expect too much too soon. Changing an entire way of life takes time.
p.s. For our international readers, Professor Goff proposes a global disinvestment campaign as an adjunct mechanism for breaking US imperial power.
Rainy Day Book
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Stopping the GWOT
Update: Looks like some Catholic Worker renegades are on target. Check them out for a civil disobedience opportunity near you.
p.s. This all dovetails nicely with a local hardball proposal.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Time for Soul-Searching
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
In this, the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, perhaps there's a lesson there for us all.
The Slogan is Attack
In both Mississippi Freedom Summer, as well as in the long struggle for liberation in South Africa, the freedom fighters had to establish their own, self-determined agenda and organizations independent of the institutions they were preparing to attack. To do otherwise, they resolved, would have been suicidal.
The fact that both these social movements chose at the outset to create popular educational programs within schools they themselves constructed and controlled, tells me they understood the need to free their minds first--then their world.