Friday, 22 April 2011

My Obama Spring: Regime Change in Canada

I love the CBC, and still I have to admit, the CBC does as much to divide as to unite Canadians.

I remember my enthusiasm when the new news channel was announced, thinking they would do the obvious thing-- allow people of all regions to hear the local news of people of all regions, surely the most efficient and simplest, cheapest way of filling in all those hours. Thus, I could know what's what for my friends and family in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and my friends in the North, Nova Scotia & Alberta, and the regions that I hadn't visited yet...

Alas, through force of the mesmeric effect of US television & politics on the people (some of the people) of CBC, coupled with tigthening budgets, and an excellent expression of the ongoing effects of US cultural domination on the rest of the world, what they've given me is 24-hour access to four headlines, repeated ad naseum, by Ontario pundits who do not know how much earlier the spring arrives on Lulu island than it does in Toronto. One to four of those four headlines is guaranteed to be about Obama, the US, or an American on drugs (as if we haven't enough of our own to talk about).

So, something new under the sun: the pundits are expressing amazement with Jack Layton's popularity in Quebec. Well, I have to say I have a lot in common with the people of Quebec, as a child of prairie French Catholicism, and I am culturally starved for the movies and dramas that reflect a francophonie that is far wider than that one province-nation.  In the last election I only wanted to vote for Giles Duceppe, and wasn't allowed to because I live in British Columbia.  This time around, it is our Obama-- Jack Layton-- who is speaking to me. He is the only one who has a solid vision built slowly and refined over fifty years-- as many years as I have myself lived, as many years as First Nations people have had the right to vote without losing legal identity as First Nations (status)-- and while the CBC is surprised, I am not: Canadians are more than ready to rise & shine.

We don't want to wait for clean water, human rights, or secure Canada-centric programming on public tv, programming that is not strained so thoroughly through an Anglo lens, but is wide open to all Canada's regions and communities, all of the nations within nations, and all the wide swathe of confluent humanity.

We don't want a government that survives by dividing and terrifying people, obfuscating reality with platitudes & placation, increasing the wealth of the wealthiest and supporting the wrong roads of the world-- all wealth to the bankers! pay the auto-workers & starve the fishermen, foresters, sealers & farmers!  We don't want a prime minister who emulates Putin & tries to rip-off Lennon, while making big gestures of apology and remaining recalcitrant in basic human rights for all the people of Canada, including the occasional child soldier sent off to Guantanamo. We don't want to keep watching the cynical buy-outs of some communities, and the silent disdain of many others-- i should send half my lost teeth to Ottawa, as a memento to the Harper Conservatives, and the other half to Gordon Campbell to drop into the drinks he enjoys on Hawaiian roads.*

Jack Layton, I think, understands the deep insult to the Tamils of Sri Lanka, and of Canada, to have Canada stand aside for the vanquishing, then sneer-- media & politicos alike-- at the refugees women and children and men, using the boatload of refugees not to bolster the very problematic reputation of "Canada the Good," but to whip up terror and insecurity at home: I have a young friend who watched the arrival of young Tamils in a BC prison, touched by observing the first amazing encounter of young men and snow.

There is a wider reality to Canada that needs to be honoured. We are people first. Everything else is a complex second, and it is only a problem if we decide to allow it to be so.

Here is a great interview that comes from the Canada that I know, and from the CBC: consider spending 20 minutes listening to the Canada known by Paul Seesequasis, which is a lot more familliar to most of us than the political commentaries that are proscribed to only two founding nations (both European), religions (both Euro+Christian), languages (both west European-descent) in Canada, and that nary the twain shall meet: the Canadians comfortable and even thriving in truth & plurality don't get a whole lot of airtime, it seems to me.

To listen: Paul Seesequasis, The Next Chapter

Image & quote from

Canada the Wicked is an international embarassment. Canada the Good is the other side of the same (precisely the same) collective character. APTN News is an amazing discovery for long time Canadians who've never heard the news from indigenous perspectives, despite generations of open-minded pleasantries, probably much moreso than for new Canadians from everywhere. 

The Obama Spring had a wide effect in the hearts of Canadians, even my late father wished him well. (That shouldn't have surprised me, and it did.)  Here is my favourite Obama-related video:

Do Canadians really need the news filtered through a Canadian-relevance lens, or can we hear the metaphors of the world, singing ourselves toward a better understanding of ourselves?

Now, listen again to the words of a Somali-Canadian poet, and imagine how the tale he tells captures the feelings of a barefoot cast-off mixed-blood girl in the prairie grass, in rural Manitoba, mid-1970s:

K'naan on Q performing Wavin' Flag: 
video removed

She grew up to be a voter, travelling a different path from all those vying for leadership of the country today, but she knows who she trusts & she knows what's important, immediately. This video, gift of the CBC & Qtv, is another gift from Ontario, and if you have a lot of time, and are looking for a cultural studies topic to write your next book or thesis on, analyze the versions of the song, from the heart (i-thou, this version), to the one from Canada for Haiti, to the one from K'naan via Fifa World Cup, to the one for all the latter day buffalo soldiers... the world is wide, wonderful, wicked, and scary sometimes.

History is both fierce & tremendous: it is under your feet, you are walking history into being.

Go vote.

*For my wish list from politicos, see Conversation BC 
For more about the last voting day, see Thankful~2008 
For more about Canadian media, visit Kai Nagata, "Why I quit my job"

With thanks to the contributors of Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out who shared song & story in Vancouver last night, and to the women and men of music, humour, and word, who shared at the most recent Red Jam Slam, also in Vancouver last night. Special thanks to Andrea Thompson for coming to the coast & to the Rhizome Cafe for providing their steadfast home-away-from-home safe zone, and to Gunargie O'Sullivan, Patsy Burnsyerwagon & Patrika McEvoy, and all the other mothers of the world.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

seeking truth in a world of spin

Uploaded by on 19 Jul 2007 
"Janane ka haq is the anthem of the Right to Information movement in India. 
Janane ka Haq means Right to Know. 
This song underlines the importance of the Right to Information in day to day life of an individual. 
This song is written, composed and sung by Vinay and Charu Mahajan."
See inspiring article by Brajesh Kumar about Charu & Vinay:

Singing for change: The bards of Ahmedabad



Truth & Reconciliation Forum, Vancouver: 
No TRCC coverage?

Dear Patricia Graham

I am trying to understand why, on the third day of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in Vancouver, there is no acknowledgement of nor coverage of the event in the paper?

Great article on the Winnipeg gathering, but I would've liked to know more about the local event & international presentations as well...
As Ms Graham's frank response came with a caution,* I can only paraphrase & summarize: we thought other stuff was much more interesting & important to our readership was the gist of it. 
The information contained in this email is strictly confidential, and is only intended for the party to whom it is addressed. Any other use, dissemination, distribution, disclosure or copying is prohibited.

Aiyee, Tyee!

I am trying to understand why, on the third day of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in Vancouver, there is no acknowledgement of nor coverage of the event in the Tyee, nor the VancouverSun...?

4 Mar

An excellent question, Joanne. I'll forward this to the editorial department.

From TRC press release:
OTTAWA, ON - The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) is hosting an International Forum in Vancouver, British Columbia from March 1 - 3, 2011 at the Sheraton Wall Centre.   Over the course of its five year mandate, the Commission will establish a National Research Centre to house all of the materials that we collect,  says Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Commission.  This forum will bring together experts from around the world who have been involved in collecting documents from other truth commissions to talk about their experiences and give us their ideas. This dialogue will help us meet the wishes and needs of the survivors.   In March 2011, top researchers and archivists from truth, reconciliation and justice commissions around the world will gather in Vancouver to provide examples of best practices for archiving this unique type of historical material.

From The Province:

More NRC Forum speakers can be found on Vimeo, TRC-CVR

From the excellent article about the Bards of Ahmedabad, in Governance Now:
As they rendered their self-composed lyrics in their haunting voices, ‘Mandir, masjid, girjaghar ne/Baant diya bhagwan ko/Dharti baanti/Sagar banta/Mat banto insaan ko..”, crowds began to gather. (Temples, mosques, churches have divided the Gods/Divided the earth/Divided the seas/Please don’t divide people.)

Their number swelled from a few hundreds to thousands by late evening. Was it the words that made them ponder their collective deeds or the singing, with a ring of concern and appeal, that soothed the ravaged hearts?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Poetry From & For Japan

Haiga 539 Ui Togen Haiku

Haiga 535 Natsume Soseki haiku

Haiga 533 Funeral haiga

Haiga 552 Suzuki Masajo haiku


poem 4 j pan

i can feel the cold like cement on my skin.
there are worried people hacking their brains silly

feeling the pain right down to th                             bones

scratching their heads.

we can all pretend; but eventually we will have to move.
move up yonder
into the hills
far far away from the ocean

into the hills i run

Gunargie O'Sullivan

Basho's journey & Nuclear Plant

One Thousand Cranes            

Someone set sail one thousand cranes
last night in the spirit world of amethyst dreams.
Someone wished the sun to kiss your cheeks
and opalescent moon beams to paint
light in the darkness so you never lose your way.

Someone dreamt of a painted sea turtle,
last night who knew one thousand secrets
who was the keeper of the door way to the
spirit world that sits on the oceans edges-- he said.

Someone wished for you last night
an orchard of cherry blossoms
dancing gracefully in the wind
reminding you to be gentle and kind
to yourself and never forget
to dance in the wind as cherry blossoms
soar in warm winds, dance with them
just be and remember me-- they said.

Someone dreamt of you in the spirit world
last night in a valley of fuchsia baby azaleas
and a white camellia in your hair
reminding you to patiently wait for the
sea turtles secrets at the edge of the ocean.

Someone wished for you last night
one thousand cranes to guide you to them
in the twilight and astral of your sleep--
They say when sorrow is too great
they do not want to come too soon
for you may never want to leave
the dream world-- And so they wait
at the edge of your dreams with love
resonating, encompassing you, for love
has no timeline and reaches beyond
the edges of the human sorrow.

Someone whispered to you last night,
you will dream of them on a white
Manchurian crane when you are ready
to let their essence into the light
and finally smile when you think of them;
place blue bells in the lightest room
to remind you of how grateful
they were to know you and love you.
Place lavender under your pillow
for tender dreams where loved ones meet
And we will fold one thousand cranes
in a field of flowering sweet pea flowers
and budding zinnia and we will let soar
one thousand cranes over a thousand dreams
above our temporary goodbye
and we will have wished someone else
peace, love, strength, light in the darkness--
And one thousand cranes...


My thanks to haiga artist & blogger Kunihara Shimizu, for his kind permission to share his haiga & map of Basho's journey & the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. "I am a haiga (haiku painting) artist. A priest of Tenrikyo. The advisor of World Haiku Association, and the judge of WHA Haiga Contest. Living in Japan, near a city called Nara." All images are from his blog: please follow the links and read his thoughts shared in relation to these, and many other, haiga. see haiku here: all about haiku and artwork

My thanks also to my friends, poets Gunargie O'Sullivan 
& Wanda John Kehewin, of BC,
for kind permission to share their poems with you. These are just two of the many fine poems shared at the Friends Across the Pacific gathering.

For compassionate reflections on the Kobe quake by Alberta poet Anna Sewell, please visit her blog, here.