working together for social inclusion in America

Friday, July 28, 2006

Walking Around Ideas

The social practice of walkabout by the world's oldest indigenous culture serves many purposes, one of which is acquiring perspective through the literal travel through time and space at a pace that allows continuous connectivity to one's environs, dreams, ancestors, and sense of place. Travelling slow for those of us severed from our ancestral roots by time and space, is one technique for initiating access to storehouses of knowledge imprisoned by the imaginative taboos excluded by fast relocation--providing a terrestrial means of getting one's mind around ideas new to us but old to others.

Walking around an idea or cosmology as an ancient practice has now merged with digital technology in the form of aboriginal knowledge centres where oral histories, visual landscapes, and three-D conceptual artistry combine the attributes of modern library and information science with the dreamtime culture. Learning houses that simultaneously nurture the intellect, the soul, as well as one's sense of identity are bridges to the future for us all.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fuel to the Fire

Part of building an inclusive society that meets everyone's needs is constructing a non-violent means of resolving differences. Marginalizing minorities because of their political or spiritual beliefs prior to even establishing a process of reconciliation dooms a society to perpetual discord and often lethal upheaval.

The battle over our way of life in the US--sometimes referred to as the culture wars--encompasses many disputes, but none so pronounced as the consumerist lifestyle that at present has sentenced a quarter of Earth's creatures to extinction in our lifetime. Amazingly, opposing this destructive way of life is still considered radical, even by liberals.

Recently, this phenomenon resurfaced in my former home of Puget Sound over the issue of protecting endangered Orca populations. As usual, the Building Industry Association is at the forefront of the conflict.

Last time the Building Industry Association engaged in domestic terrorism against its political opponents, eight anti-environmentalist/anti-Indian militiamen went to federal prison for manufacturing bombs to murder their perceived enemies. The prelude to this lethal politics, organized and supported financially by the Building Industry, included electoral, legislative, and administrative subversion, beginning with a statewide propaganda campaign scapegoating environmentalists and treaty protection activists.

One of the basic tenets of psychological warfare is not to repeat your enemy's talking points, because repetition sinks in, especially to a highly misinformed audience. If our main point is that we need to either change our ways or lose everything we value that cannot be measured in dollars, then we should say that. If we care about other species, we should not marginalize those who value all life as sacred, just to appear more reasonable. The right wing will be happy to attack them for their spirituality--no need to add fuel to their fire.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Connected Social Autonomy

I recently stumbled across an old friend online whom I hadn't seen in ten years. She's living on an island in the Northwest inhabited by poor artists and artisans, wealthy retirees, and struggling fishermen. Witnessing the exodus of the young and less fortunate from their community, leaving them all less enriched and more lonely, the people of the island decided to pull together toward a more vibrant, connected social autonomy.

They held fundraisers to purchase some land, held workparties to build a group of small homes for those who couldn't otherwise afford a mortgage, and started buying local fish for their restaurant and cafe frequented by seasonal tourists. Their latest project is fixing up an old house for use as a community center where they can hatch more communal ideas on economic development consistent with their values and resources.

Almost makes you want to move there.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bouncing Back

As he attempted to form a more positive vision of America, my 80-year-old father recently postulated the bounce back theory. But I noticed he did not expound on what we might bounce back to. And I wonder, just what is the vision of good-hearted Americans for the future? Do they have one? I mean, beyond equal opportunity and social security, is there a widely received image of what we ought to work toward becoming?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Assimilation is Annihilation

If you google the term social inclusion, you'll come across volumes of sites and articles, but basically only two concepts: bridging the digital divide, and promoting literacy. There's lots of discussion about how development of employable skills and social infrastructure like libraries and public transit help, but at the end of the day, the whole point of this global initiative--touted by governments and associated institutions--is to mold more people to fit the wage and welfare society that caused the problem of social exclusion in the first place. In other words, same old.

Access to the Internet and education of one's choice, of course, are good things--and indeed essential to creating social cohesion--but if there are no opportunities to use one's education or digital connections, then what's the point of becoming another unemployed, uninsured, unwanted, net-surfing statistic? Where's the dignity in that?

George Manuel--the legendary First Nations organizer in Canada--once remarked, "Assimilation is annihilation." We could apply this principle to the embracing of diversity in the collective hope process, now endangered by institutional malign neglect worldwide.

Unless we make room for and nurture all the creative energy now dissipated by conventional philanthropy, and routinely crushed by state and market misanthropy, we will soon find ourselves living in a quintessentially anti-social society. Maybe we're already there.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Place for Everyone

How many people do you know or encounter in your community who have something to offer society but have no opportunity? Who want to contribute, who want to belong, but have nowhere to go?

Isn't it time we did something about that?