Saturday, November 20, 2010

Speaking WITH and not FOR

(p.s. I use “we” “us” “they” “our” etc. often here – be careful with these terms… learn when to take ownership, and when to be careful and not essentialise).

Words matter.  Yours, theirs – ours. Let’s pay attention to people’s words…

All right, so getting down and personal.

Lately I’ve been going through a bit of a struggle between the overwhelming amount of information soaking into my brain regarding not only Palestine and Israeli circumstances, but also the entirety of the global condition.

Here I am preparing to travel across Canada with my words on behalf of those who can’t… and I’m wrestling a little with it…

I struggle between being in tune with voices of people who are so unlike me in so many ways; feeling both unworthy and unjustified to ‘speak on their behalf’ - what right do I have to speak FOR those I know nothing about.  Can they not speak for themselves?

But then I struggle with the prospect of sitting by and doing nothing – knowing what goes on in the world and not picking something to lend my limited abilities too.  I cannot sit and watch people die (people so unlike me yet so similar in their rightful desire for vibrant life)…but who am I to think that I can affect any sort of change?

What am I really trying to accomplish…Feeling good and patting myself on the back? I hope not.  Changing Canadian policy? Let’s be serious.

What am I really trying to accomplish…

What is the point?

We are all so intricately intertwined to the beauty in fellow humans – the people we share this air with – and also to the horrors that we are committing against them and allowing to persist. 

My program (Global Studies) often leaves us walking away from our classrooms, laughing after we’ve debated Post-colonial theory, societal depictions of the “Arab Terrorists” (please note the sarcasm), conditionality, gender construction, etc., yet often walking away feeling hypocritical as we learn that who are we – white (don’t worry I know we’re not ALL white), ‘privileged,’ western university students to speak on behalf of people we have never met?  We will either go and work for or form an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) but never really make changes at the roots of issues (government and capital); putting band aid patches on dire situations just to see that we’ve done our part.  Do we actually accomplish enough with our tireless efforts? Things never really seem to change, and the voices of people still never get heard and their lives never cared about (trust me, this message does not end on a depressing note).

What right do we have?

We become jaded as people like us have had their eyes opened but refuse to see; so many of us are aware but refuse to change – claiming to believe in loving others yet refusing to step into what that actually might mean.

We become jaded as we have heated debates regarding how to deal with slave labour that we literally wear on our backs (GAP, Walmart, Nike, etc.), or military “aid” to Israel and Iraq that we support (Starbucks, taxes).

We become jaded as we learn that our freaking blessed society actually often does squat… jaded by selfishness.

We become jaded, learning that our fellow ‘privileged’ Canadians have to sign away their right to free speech…

We become jaded as we learn that our own voices do not do justice to those who we speak for – on behalf of those we are ignorant of…who are we to do this? But without our “power,” marginalized people with important things to say remain silenced – yet with our power their voices are changed, twisted, manipulated, through our lens and agenda, and in the end remain unheard.

We become jaded.

We are jaded.

BUT – we cannot be jaded forever.

The majority of the greatest movements in history did not happen through just one individual, but the thousands fighting behind leaders and ideas.  We must believe that if we can seek creative ways of getting to know those who happened to be born in differing situations to our own, that we can work WITH each other to achieve even small steps of improvement, with the hope that each baby-step ("What About Bob?" anyone?) will lead to an unstoppable movement of people.

Know that YOUR VOICE COUNTS, and that your efforts are significant.  You don’t have to drop-out of school, you don’t have to become a hippy and live in the Sahara or Amazon, you don’t even have to give up your cell phone….BUT… you do have to realize the amazing and beautiful responsibility you perhaps have been given (I say perhaps because I do not know the stories of all who are reading this).

You have been given knowledge.  What are you good at/like/have to offer?  Even if you still say "nothing" – I don’t believe you… know your place in this world, know that your story is important, and that so is the story of every other person on earth; whether you’ve met them or not….if you desire a great life, understand that others do too…and let’s help each other out.

Your story matters.  Their story matters.  Us and Them. We.

Let’s start asking questions, listening, and doing life together.  It all adds up.

On that note, I have decided (after much deliberation and discussion with others), that I am making the financial decision to attempt to do what I say in this post… This week I managed to buy a discount ticket to Tel Aviv to attend a conference on Empire and peaceful resistance, as well as to spend a couple of weeks a part from that with Palestinians and Israelis.  I am going to get to know them, hear what they have to say, and ask them personally what I should pass along to you.  If anyone has questions or comments about what I am saying or doing PLEASE comment/e-mail me/facebook myself or our group (link found on this blog)...

I’d love to talk and get to know you :).

Now… go and listen.

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