By Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
Regarding the Last Blog – The Rant, Feb 13
All your Comments are appreciated. Truth, in all its multiplicity, thrives on getting out there, from as many who find the words.
Having declared my stand, I can’t just leave it hanging. I want to answer the very pertinent question: if we don’t like the way things are going, “what do we do about it?”
It seems almost naive to think there are any options. I think I’ve grown used to thinking there is no room for action. That maybe is true. The old days of protest, while effective in resistance to entering the Vietnam war, seem truly gone. But I find I can’t sit still about my own country feeling dangerous to me.
The Silence That Fell
Why is this “what can we do?” so difficult to answer? I think, apart from the tiredness of protest actions, we stopped having easy answers when, in 1995 we experienced the shock and dismay that followed Mike Harris taking over the Ontario Government. [The collective “we” is used for those who were politically interested and of a liberal/progressive bent]. We were stunned and grew silent. As Harris’s reforms were unrolled, things grew darker and the distress continued. No more social housing was the one that rocked our household. But it went on and on, and that era marked the beginning of some of the most awful poverty in Ontario. And we didn’t know what to do about it.
Not that everybody rolled up their carpet and crawled away. I did for some years. Many others kept working at what they’d started: to name a few, educators, human rights advocates and policy makers, national and overseas workers bringing water and medicine and information where it was needed, mediators offering options to an adversarial law system, environmental lawyers. So many kept their hands on the wheel even as their political voices and muscle were stilled.
But the diminishing of the democratic exercise will undermine the best of human enterprise. And as the present Government insists on its hardline course against crime and its definition of “terror”, lumping environmental protest and crazy lone-wolf attackers all together as “terrorists”, and poverty and homelessness grow: our reason is almost numbed.
Do We Need Some Digital Brainstorming?
I have never had the skills of a political strategist. My reactions to the wrongs of my energy-years – Vietnam, poverty, First Nations deprivation, refugees, homelessness – has always been visceral. There always seemed to be someone’s lead I could follow with energy. Right now, as gut-clenching as my reaction to Bill C51 is, I don’t see a way to react except to write about it. The reality that so many people, especially those under 50, don’t read newspapers or listen to news means the written word won’t reach them. I don’t know how to reach into the culture of the young and able.
I have a modest idea. The old method of ‘brain-storming’ a problem had some virtue. Old style was to invite an interested group to toss out random ideas about how to tackle a problem, write them all down on big visible flip-chart pages – practical, silly, crazy, whatever. Post them around the room so all could see. Important to not censor your thoughts before uttering them. Vital to not criticize other’s ideas, no matter how bizarre. Rather, let the thoughts fly out and see what might take shape out of the whole lot.
We don’t have a meeting room. But what if we tried this on the internet?? I propose that we try some digital brainstorming. No criticizing at first – just let the ideas come. Let this blog’s Comments pages be filled with ideas, with fragments of an idea, with fanciful images. If you know where some good democracy-building is going on, name the person, group, activity.
Then we can sort and criticize. Digital brainstorming.
My husband has pointed out that there is a potential security issue in putting down publicly one’s desire to undermine the government agenda. Wise to be aware of that. Means we can’t brainstorm ways of overtaking the lobby of the Peace Tower. That was a joke.
Think about how inspired the Red Square and neighbourhood pot-banging campaign in Quebec was four years ago in support of student concerns about tuition! Conservative folk found it ridiculous but ordinary people were engaged and delighted by taking part. What collective actions could have an Ontario flavour?
My Ideas of the Past Week – silly and serious
Here are fragments that have come to mind in the past 5 days. Up on the flip chart!!
- EVERY TIME you read a newspaper or magazine article that addresses the government’s assault on democratic practice, post the address on your Facebook page so others can read it.
- Create a t-shirt that says, on the front, “Loose lips sinks civil liberties” and on the back ”Stop Bill C51”.
- Support charities that advocate for the interests of the people they are serving. At the present time, if a registered charity does so (as did Kairos), its status as a charity, for tax donation purposes, will be removed. People who donate won’t receive tax deductions for their donations. This can mean that the charity goes under. I suggest we suck it up and do without the tax receipt. And encourage those charities that should be advocating to not give up their voices. see http://www.ourwindsor.ca/opinion-story/5340278-charity-law-blocks-progress-on-issues-facing-canadians/
- Be a vocal supporter of the Supreme Court. Its decisions are protecting our Constitutional freedoms which some legislation seeks to undermine. The Court is helping hold back the erosion of democracy.
- Hang a little flag outside your house, containing the Canadian flag within it but also a big X across the words “CSIS spying on us”.
- With friends who like to think, when you’re together, ask them to brainstorm their ideas- wild and woolly or whatever — about what people can do to change the direction of a government they think is wrong. Write them down. Talk about them.
- Look up some of the proposals for a modernized electoral system – one that is closer to reflecting the actual population in a riding. Once you have a good one, pepper your MP with requests for him to consider putting it forward as a Private Member’s Bill.
- Writing letters and e-mails: always a good tactic
- When people speak of being unsafe and needing CSIS to spy on us, say, “Bill C51 is overkill. Your chance of being killed by a falling brick is a hundred times greater than of being killed by a terrorist”.
So please add your ideas about What We Can Do. Whatever comes to mind…
A New Blog Just For Action Thinking
This Bigger Circle blog will maintain its original intent and not go expressly political. The intention remains to explore the places where faith and the world intersect, the experiences of people working out their paths in the world, news and discussion about hopeful directions. I think it’s of value and don’t want it to die. Some of you might even consider contributing articles.
BUT. A new blog with be started, called A Bigger Circle Activ. It will be informally political, aimed at what we can do about our country moving in a direction that we think is wrong and harmful. Unfortunately can’t do this until I learn how, but will get busy on it. May turn up in your Mailbox.