Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Changes Everything, possibly

I'm reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. A big, fat book with nothing on the front fly leaf but the title in a big, bold font. It needs to be big, I guess. Its subject is bigger than Santa Clause, terrorism, Buddha, democracy, free trade, the weather or the healthful benefits of regular exerciseall rolled into one.

            Lots of people have read it; but I'm guessing lots have also started it and put it down. Too much like surgery with no anesthetic. I'm only up to page 100 and my hands are already dripping with metaphorical blood.

            For example: the devastation awaiting civilization as a consequence of climate change may have reached the point of no return and all we can hope for is that we will soon muster the will to begin mitigation. We're pretty much into the chemotherapy/radiation stage of climate change and the prognosis for full recovery is not good. We've smoked too many cigarettes for too long; prevention can no longer be considered a viable strategy.

            Klein demonstrates a whole whack of stuff that we've been denying/neglecting/hiding-under-the-bed-from. For instance, she outlines with examples how the whole free trade/globalization movement of the last few decades is diametrically opposed to environmental protection; an Ontario company making state of the art solar panels is going to go under because free-trade partners protested that its hire-local policies transgressed the fairness rules of the free trade agreement. Extrapolate that to all the other regulations that will make it impossible to follow independent, innovative environmental policies and plans and it's obvious that the corporate, capitalist machine has us by the short and curliesexactly where they've always wanted us. "Consume, consume, consume and shut up!"

            Well, that's just an example. For me, the frustration of reading material like this without any apparent means to influence the consequences of the capitalistic, free trade/growth juggernaut is pretty debilitating by now. Makes me want to crawl under the bed with a pail full of chocolates, a stack of Archie comics and no reason to come out from there . . . ever.

            Come to think of it, that's exactly what I'm doing, actually. Personally curtailing self-indulgences won't be nearly enough: driving to the city to pick up a parcel that could have been mailed, leaving unused lights on, engaging in unnecessary, extremely polluting air travel (twice as much per passenger as by car; four times as much as by train). None of this is going to solve the dilemma our unborn great-grandchildren (of which I will never have any, but you might) will be facing when all the world's resorts are submerged, drought-ridden third world countries turn on the West for having created the mess and all the food-growing ecosystems have been thrown completely out of whack.

            What Naomi Klein is suggesting here is no less than a political/economic reversal, a revolution if you will. What is tragic for us is that a compliant population in Canada today hasn't the information, the courage, the willor all threeto insist that a realistic appraisal of the menace of free-trade/growth/capitalism vs. the future be done. It's becoming more and more clear that we won't even insist that the government we elect begin to plan for the mitigation of what is already manifest in terms of human life on the planet. Polls are showing that we're headed for a minority Conservative or Liberal government, neither of which possess the smarts nor the will to come to grips with the enormous problem we're facing. Throw the NDP into that basket as well, while we're at it. All three are clearly planning little past their strategies for winning election.

            And today, messing with the status quo is not seen as a vote getter.


            Anyone want to join me under the bed? Oh, sorry. I see you're already here with me. Have a chocolate.          



Sunday, January 04, 2015

There's Education, and then there's Education

RJC Class of 2014
I've spent much of this morning link-hopping. Probably wasted time, but it is informative to know which organizations see themselves as compatible enough to post links to one another. And so I began with my church facebook page which led to the Global Family Foundation page which contained a post pointing to an article called "A missional approach to education" which caught my eye because I'm a teacher and a supporter of Rosthern Junior College. The article I ended up reading is from an online magazine called World: Real Matters, and you'll find the article here.
                At that point, I began to read through the other articles in World: Real Matters and discovered that it’s stridently advocating for stances we've come to associate with "the Christian right:" pro-life, anti-gay, etc., much of it pretty vitriolic. An article called "The Most Deviant Frontier" attempts to make the case that pedophilia as a legitimate orientation will follow right on the heels of equal rights for LGBTQ. Another article calls those supporting women's right to choose legislation the "abortion cartel."

                Let me say up front that I don't want to imply that the posting of links inevitably puts all the organizations or people doing so in the same basket. Quite obviously, my church membership is highly unlikely—for the most part—to be sympathetic to the stances of World: Real Matters. At most, I would repeat the standard caution about posting anything on Facebook: when in doubt, leave it OUT.
                But my interest in the sequence of the morning's reading is primarily on the subject of education. We have supported Global Family Foundation individually; its focus on schools and educational development in poor areas of Paraguay overlaps with my church's connectedness with that country. My church has and continues to be highly supportive of Rosthern Junior College and Canadian Mennonite University, both parochial schools where the Christian viewpoint on course offerings is unapologetically advertised.

                Question is: when does the provision of an educational opportunity cease to be primarily "educational" and become "missional" in its objectives and methods? And a corollary: what do we mean when we see our schools and teaching as "missional," and does it make a difference whether the children benefitting are poor, are young and impressionable or mature enough to be capable of meaningful decision making? Is there a point at which education becomes a gift—like a shoebox full of toys—whose primary purpose is to win souls and if so, what would be wrong with that?
                We're living in a time of increasing diversity of thought, increasing mixing of cultures and liberalization of laws once thought to be immutable. Not surprising, then, that we should find ourselves at sea for a time on the question of religious freedom vs. secular law. Trinity Western University is a college that compels students to refrain from sex outside of marriage AND is seeking to establish a law school that would ostensibly graduate lawyers licensed to practice in general society. Various professional organizations have wrestled with this and have come out against credentialing lawyers with an a priori religious slant; World: Real Matters and many others argue that it's a freedom of religion issue.

                What does the future hold for religion-based education, one is compelled to ask.
                It's a new year and with it comes a time when we add up our incomes, expenses, donations, etc. in preparation for tax time. What we support and what we forego makes a difference. Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, Global Family Foundation, Caritas, World Vision, Feed the Children, etc., etc. are all "charitable organizations," meaning that donations to them reduce the tax collected by our governments. In effect, these organizations are therefore spending public money to do their work. What all this means is that donors should be completely clear on the objectives and methods of the charitable organizations they support.

                Canada Revenue Agency is scrutinizing charities to determine whether or not their activities are too political to merit charitable status; our obligation is to be sure that their goals are ethical.
                For believers—Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhists, Hindu, Native Spirituality adherents, etc—learning what it means to be salt and light to the world as we understand it is a task we neglect at everyone's peril. Parochial schools have legacies of quality education on the one hand . . . and Indian Residential Schools on the other.

                How we do education, how we see our role individually and collectively is critical.