Category Archives: Mind Spirit etc

From Despair to Action

I’ve been receiving more emails lately from people saying one of my articles made them feel despairing. One asked, “How do you keep going?”

Let’s see: In recent months, I’ve written about government corruption, genocide, toxic waste, police chiefs breaking laws, forced electroshock of our elderly… All right, I get the point.

As I was formulating my response, I realized that this is an important question for all of us. How are we grappling with our society’s converging environmental, social and financial crises? So I decided to probe a few local people whom I’d seen doing a lot of volunteer community activism that I valued. Don’t they ever despair? What pulls them out of it?

Lyne England described one of the worst moments she experiences: “Getting a call from a resident, housed in residential care, crying and saying, ‘Help me! Help me get out of here!’” Read the rest at Focus online.

Making Our Circles Bigger

A plethora of young groups are bringing extremely diverse people together to share knowledge, ideas and perspectives. Can getting us out of our silos lead to new types of collaboration, community building and social solutions?

I arrive at the Victoria Event Centre not knowing exactly what to expect at a “PechaKucha.” I leave a couple hours later having had a great time—but still not knowing exactly what I’ve experienced. However, I’m becoming increasingly sure it’s part of a growing local and international social movement of immense vitality, astonishing creative breadth, and intriguing political possibilities.

PechaKucha nights, I’ve discovered, are just one of a growing number of unusual ways that diverse Victorians are being brought together to share ideas and explore collaborative possibilities through relaxed, open processes. Some are even trying to generate new approaches to tackling serious social problems.

Read more.

Captains of Local Government Plotting New Course?

A recent conference of municipal planners and politicians in Victoria revealed a suprising undercurrent of sustainability radicalism

 

 

Fifteen minutes in, the discussion on “Engaging Your Community in Sustainability Initiatives” turned unexpectedly—and suddenly, everyone became much more engaged. The Capital Regional District, currently trying to engage politicians and the public in its own Regional Sustainability Strategy, would do well to take note.

It wasn’t that the first speaker that February morning in the Victoria Conference Centre had been boring. In fact, the delegates to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ “Sustainable Communities Conference” attending this forum—about two hundred of them—had seemed quite attentive. Satya Rhodes-Conway, an alderperson from Wisconsin, had spoken with thoughtful bubbliness about local governments taking the lead on making buildings energy efficient, handing out cameras to schoolkids to document a city’s most unappealing areas to walk, and giving mini-grants to non-profits to do education and outreach. “If you engage the people,” she’d said, “they will make it happen.”

Then Sevag Pogharian started talking. Immediately, bursts of raucous laughter and spontaneous applauding were ripping off the veneer of polite optimism we’d all evidently been holding onto. Continue reading “Captains of Local Government Plotting New Course?” »

“They Put Me in this Dark, Little Room”

Métissage creates a stirring view of our shared oppression.

 

It was a very unusual way of discussing power and discrimination. And it left me thinking we should be doing it more.

After lunch in a lounge for about a hundred people during the University of Victoria’s recent Diversity Conference, we prepared to hear actors recount true experiences of an anonymous UVic female custodian, Aboriginal technical worker, black office worker and student, and female sessional instructor.

During introductory remarks, the co-directors, theatre PhD candidate Will Weigler and educational psychology instructor Catherine Etmanski, explained that the project had hatched out of a growing awareness that UVic’s own challenges in achieving a healthy, diverse workplace for its non-faculty staff are rarely openly discussed.

“Their experiences of what happens is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road,” Weigler observed. “So we thought, how can we create an opportunity for their voices to be heard?”

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The Yoga of Imprisonment

Between rocks and hard places, flexibility is desperately needed.

I taught yoga at the prison for five years. If you’ve ever taken yoga, you know it’s common in the first class for instructors to ask if anyone has had any major injuries or surgeries during their lives. It’s a safety protocol, so the instructor can provide extra guidance to vulnerable students. Typically, two people in 20 mention a car accident or appendectomy.

My first day teaching at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre, though, was different.

“I broke my hand when I punched a guy a few weeks back,” explained one inmate. He followed that with an incredible childhood tale of an abusive father, run-down truck, and backyard scrap heap. “My feet were crushed.”

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