Long battles versus short fights
The last two days I’ve been watching a few films about the Nazi Holocaust and survivor memory, persistent lives and most importantly, activism: Shadows of Remembrance, Charging the Rhino, and Stronger than Fire: The Eva Olsson Story. Unfortunately they’re not all technically or narratively the right fit for us at the Concordia local of Cinema Politica (our flagship), but I’ll be programming them all for the CP Network pool. They are all important political films that present stories that must be told if we are to ensure greater understanding of our past, and be prepared with the tools to shape our future in a mold that is just, inclusive, and empowering across the social strata.
I’ve also been watching films on the environment, homelessness, climate change, consumption, women’s rights and women’s activism in Kenya and Liberia, genocide, copyright law and intellectual freedom, immigration, the sex slave trade, indigenous peoples’ struggles, land activism in Latin America, Jewish activism in the US and Israel/Palestine and more. There are so many struggles, so many fights to be waged and hopefully won, that it can all feel a little daunting. At the dawn of this new year, 2009, I’m re-evaluating myself, my goals, my relationships, my memories, my future and my political fights. Everything feels so important, so urgent, that this last re-evaluation has been extremely tricky.
Over the holidays I not only watched a million documentaries, most of which with Svetla, but I also did some reading. One book—a gift from Svetla’s sister Yoana—caught my eye. It’s Obama’s Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. I initially discounted it as mainstream American pablum feel-good politics, but eventually out of curiosity to test my own strong and often erroneous assumptions, I picked it up and began reading. I’m just finishing the 400 page work now and I can safely say it’s a fantastic read – if at times frustrating for its gradients of Americana, free marketeering, gendering, and its rendering American Indians as a group invisible. But it did have an effect on me whereby I began to dig deep within myself to try to come to terms with what it is I am here for, and how I can effect not only social change but personal change. It’s also had the effect of making me feel that I need to intensely focus my ambitions – I am in my mid-thirties and need to accomplish much, much more.
Through this self-reflexive process, I have come to realize that my fits and starts in the political realm have been short fights that could have been much more effective if I had thrown myself in for a long battle. At various times I’ve taken on disabled rights, the corporatization of the university, student politics, democratic media, international Human Rights, East Timor’s independence, media literacy, the rights of Paelstinians, political cinema, the environment, and the representation of race and gender. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can remember for now.
If I pick through this list, I realize that two streams in my activism have persisted: political cinema and democratic media. The third area that has developed more recently and that I have always been interested in by way of literacy, is critical pedagogy or education reform. So there it is, the three interests will now converge for my PhD and with focused ambition, hard work and creativity, they will shape my future as a teacher, activist, or non-profit worker (or all three). It’s taken me two decades of tinkering and too much wasted time, but I’ve arrived and it feels great.
So I’m writing this as Israel performs another disgusting and brutal seige on occupied Palestinians, and as an acquaintance of mine, professor Denis Rancourt at the University of Ottawa is summarily removed from campus by police and told he will never teach there again because of his politics and radical approach to education. I’m also writing this as activists and hard working citizens the world over forge their own fights and battles and hold humanity up along with the planet and its ecosystem.
I’m writing this in solidarity with you all, and to thank you for your fights, your battles, your victories and losses, memories and futures. Without every person out there who is challenging systems of domination and demanding justice and equality my own soul-searching would be meaningless.
Let’s kick ass this 2009, together (you know who you are).