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Just Peace-November

Posted on November 17, 2018 at 11:21 PM Comments comments (16)
November begins the reflective year-end time for me. My birthday in mid-December is approaching and soon after that the conclusion of the calendar year. It is a reflective period for me--a time to assess what I have been doing and where I'm heading. I am gearing up to do that and review and reset my goals.

In this part of the world, the weather gets dark, cold and rainy in November. It can be downright gloomy. Like other people, I usually feel blue in November.

The autumn and winter of this region is not like the rainy seasons of the tropics or deserts; rather, heavy rain commences and goes on and on for weeks. Wind storms may rev up during them, too. Also, the day light shrinks. Sunset begins just after four in the afternoon these days, to give you an idea of the darkness. People turn on the lights inside their homes and workplaces during the day.

No wonder the number of deaths and the rate of illness increase in November in the northern hemisphere far above the Tropic of Cancer. Indeed, the season prompts thoughts of death and the dead. Many countries have special ceremonies and traditions to visit graves, remember and honour the ancestors in North America and Europe. There are many articles, radio discussions and TV programs about them. Moreover, we have Hallowe'en, France its Mummers processions and Mexico has the Day of the Dead. It is the time to honour the victims of war and pay homage to soldiers and civilians killed in wars.

One has to brace oneself and get ready to fight off the gloom. One has to be prepared. One has to take vitamin D supplements, schedule exercise and social activities, plan some fine meals so as not to sink into a mire of despair. It's a time when people here start thinking of flying away to somewhere warm and sunny. Several people I know have already begun winter vacationing, actually.

As for me this autumn, the blues came early and they hit me hard. Seriously. By the start of November, I was steeped in sadness. Tears threatened all day long. I was starting to think I should see a doctor about it.

Probably, the recent news of the death of a friend overseas affected me. Also, November is a time when both my parents, in different years, passed away. Perhaps a recent family gathering evoked sadness related to them and other family tragedies. Plus, this Remembrance Day, on the anniversary of the World War One Armistice, was a much bigger deal because it was the 100th anniversary and I was involved in an activity recalling it.

But the dark clouds lifted from my life and light shone through after a couple of weeks. I feel fine now, despite the rains and darkness outside. 

When I think back over the past year, I am amazed at how peaceful I have felt most of the time, despite a couple of big setbacks. I remember moments when I was home and waves of serenity engulfed me. I felt perfectly in tune and content on several occasions. 

It is good to have reached a point in life when many issues have been resolved and a person knows what is going on inside them, who they are and what they want. That in itself is a great accomplishment, I think. 

There are signs that I am on the right path, despite moments of doubt and confusion and times when things do not appear to be working out. Look at my work situation, for instance. Employment teaching has not worked out recently, but I am engaged in some self-employment and I have some income support. One of my income-generating activities is a bit of paid writing. The company contract writers to research and write short assignments for clients. From the lists of jobs I've seen, I have chosen a couple of projects writing about psychology lately. I thus find myself writing about narcissistic mothers and their daughters this week. I have become more conscious of my own mother's symptoms of narcissism and the effects on me while writing this work. It was serendipitous. Interesting that I ended up writing about this topic on the anniversary of her death, November 16! When I realized the connection with my life, I thought it might get me down to be writing on this subject, but it has not. I feel fine and I am able to write about it and reflect on my own experiences calmly. I am at peace with all the stuff around my experience with my mother. 

I feel there is a lesson in this situation. I am supposed to be thinking about these things, perhaps.

I will say more about my progress and begin the year's assessment soon. Stay tuned.

By the way, I have booked my own little sunny holiday for Christmas. Trying to let myself enjoy it. Fending off guilt and second thoughts.


Just Peace-unjust employer

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 11:14 PM Comments comments (76)
Employer, a private, profit-making college selling courses to international students, told me to get out and never come back today. No reason given. No warnings prior to this day.

Sounds like an employer one should not work for, right?

Alexander College on Kingsway in Burnaby and W. Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

I never felt good and this action on the part of the employer is a good show of its attitude. I was not planning on accepting any further contracts with them.

But to kick you to the curb just before midterms?---never heard of such a thing!

To begin with, very little support and acknowledgment. Some women in admin positions came across as hostile as well as snooty.

There is too much management and supervision of everything. "Feedback" was two impromptu meetings giving very negative comments, and not all very relevant never mind fair or reasonable in third week, leaving me bruised and cold. No positive feedback except they had no issue to make of my teaching. In fact one neophyte super said, super impertinently, you are a fabulous teacher and all the students really like you.

The gossip mill ran overtime. The feedback made shocking direct claims about my character and offensive innuendo--nothing about my work performance but attacks on my character. "We want a team player." What was my team? Apparently, I was to give all to a team to which I clearly did not belong.

I felt it. If they wonder why I wasn't smiling with them much and why I bristled a couple of times, they should know. I did not feel welcome or supported.

They ditched me in time to avoid paying me severance. This must be why they were doing feedback so early after I started. Once over the 3-month mark, harder to let someone go and more expensive.

Just Peace - letter to friends

Posted on September 16, 2018 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (14)
Tonight I am posting a copy of a letter I just wrote to overseas friends and colleagues. I taught English in Korea for 10 years, returning to Canada early last year.

Hello, you all!

This is Barbara from BUFS in Busan, Korea who returned to Canada after December, 2016. This is a long letter for any of you interested in catching up or curious.

I have been thinking about my time and friends in Korea a lot lately, so I am writing. I just went through all my Gmail addresses and used the ones I could remember. I guess some addresses are outdated and I don't know where all of you have gotten to, though I have chatted with a few of you in recent months.

I now live comfortably near the university where I graduated just outside Vancouver. I'm still working in English education. 

It was not a shock to return here, but it took some adjustment. It went well socially as I reconnected to family and friends. 

Employment was more difficult. At first, there was very little response to my job applications. I was doing some tutoring and substitute teaching, including work tutoring kids at a Reading Town in 2017. Then I had a regular teaching schedule at a new start-up program. There were so few students and such a limited program that it was super boring. Finally, it failed. I was happy to be dismissed. 

I thought I was going to need to rely on self-employment, so I searched for private students and started some ghost-writing projects, etc. Just today,  I finished some training for certification in conducting IELTS Speaking exams. The writing is a bit low-paid but interesting and kind of fun because we write on a wide range of topics--I added chapters to a booklet on starting a trucking business and I wrote a booklet on accelerated learning, for example. I'll take the IELTS Speaking Examiner certification test in a few days. That can give me a few hours of examinations a month, mainly on Saturdays.

In August, however, employers started paying me more attention and replying to my applications. I just got hired at a well established international college. Actually, I had offers at two of them and accepted the best one. I do not teach language, though; I teach study skills (English for Academic Purposes) as a university preparation program, but it is still part-time. My title is Sessional Instructor on a contract salary. I have 15 hours of classes, 3 hours 5 days a week. In addition, I am a tutor in the college's Writing and Learning Centre for 11 hours a week. 

Having been hired at the last moment, getting started and learning the ropes has been challenging. What's more, this institution is ridiculously bureaucratic and deeply committed to operating without teaching admin staff by means of every electronic management and communications system it can. I have passcodes for several online systems, locks and copiers, which are all hard to keep track of. We use two class management systems for grading and online communications with students, and the MS Office 365 program for internal communications and shared files. I feel scattered.

 I am a nomad because there is no instructors' office or department office. My base is a small student locker, except I am allowed a few hours at a shared tutoring desk. There is no lunch room, so I can be found munching on a sandwich in a corner like a rodent here and there before my mid-day class starts. Teachers get to share a few cramped desks in the photocopy rooms, where there is a tiny fridge and where the copiers are so overused that they are always breaking down. Also, I work at both of the College's campuses. I commute from one to the other each day, compelling me to commute 3 times a day every day for work.

One of the campuses is situated where I spend a lot of my childhood, stirring up lots of memories.

This college is growing; established in 2006, it now has 2500 students at both locations. Tomorrow I'll start teaching in a newly built classroom in a space that used to be a gay men's nightclub.  Most students are Chinese and Indian from the Punjab. The number of students from India is surging at present. We have a few Korean students. They come for the academic orientation and for key subject courses so they can transfer to universities, subjects including economics, sociology, English literature, math, etc. The first choice in Canada is Toronto where the numbers of international students are highest.

Korean restaurants are all around the Vancouver area; I can pop into a modern cafe and feel like I never left Korea! There are plenty of Korean students and business people around. I'm quickly losing the little Korean I had learned, though.

I am connected to the ex-expat English teacher community. My colleagues in my academic English section have all spent long years abroad teaching. So have all the classmates I met in the IELTS training course.  I feel quite at home among them. That's why I have been reminiscing about life in Korea. 

A lot of people here are concerned about peace in Korea. I have joined a group that takes a petition around the metro area to talk to people about supporting the peace process in Korea.

Vancouver is one of the most expensive areas to live in all North America. Housing, gasoline, food and many services are over-priced. There are some improvements all the same. Transit is improving and it is cheaper now than 12 years ago because the fare system changed. Electricity is still relatively cheap. Prices of organic and some imported food are decreasing. Some commercial services are lower in price now, such as gym memberships. Internet and mobile phone services are in the high price range, though there are deals and some competitive options. There has been some relief regarding government services, in that medical plan premiums are lower and unemployment insurance and pension benefits are calculated differently and to the advantage of recipients. As well, there is so much public pressure on housing that more rentals and social housing are being built.

Apart from the high cost of living, I am very happy to be enjoying familiar territory in a vibrant and scenic environment with lots going on. Now I have a decent job, I would be able to afford getting out more, except that I don't have so much free time now!

It's nice to think that some of you may have made it this far into my letter. Feel free to send me a line here if you care to.

Ciao!

Just Peace -late transformation

Posted on September 3, 2018 at 3:39 PM Comments comments (6)
My brother and his wife were dinner guests at my place last night. We had a nice time. My sister-in-law can get quite negative and be difficult to please but the dinner went well. Actually, her attitude and disposition has changed for the better lately.

They are a little older than I. They have both been officially labeled as mentally disabled for most of their lives, and therefore unemployed and on low income.. It's a shame because they are very sociable and have generally good character. My brother was ambitious and into many things, working hard to save money and accomplish a lot. She was a daycare worker and had a family as a young woman. They both eventually accepted their situations and understood their diseases, but have maintained some bad eating habits and never excerised, so they also endure some physical ailments now. My brother has had diabetes for a long time but he is not careful about his sugar intake and his blood sugar count is often too high sometimes these days. Also, he tends to eat too much.

They both experience intense fear and anxiety every day; is expressed more as outright fear but she has often displayed intense anger when anxious, but she has been improving greatly in recent times. Her demeanour is brighter, anxiety reduced and willingness to engage in life increased. It is a relief to all. 

I think the turning point was a near-death experience about three years ago. A dedicated hypochondriac before, she visited hospitals so frequently that she caught a super-bug, which was very debilitating. She had good reason to get to the emergency ward in that period. She had a close call one week but came out of it. I wonder if she had some opportunity for counseling during that time because she began to turn herself around. Anyway, she evidently reflected a lot and vocalized questions about various causes for mental illness and her life's circumstances. She does not want to hang around hospitals. Feigning or exaggerating illness used to be a way to seek attention; she doesn't seem to need as much attention. I think that, besides better appreciating some vulnerabilities and disadvantages in her early life that were factors, she realizes that her behavior and outlook have been self-defeating. Now it appears that she is regretful she squandered so much potential and time in life before and held herself back.

It is simultaneously wonderful and sad that someone should experience an awakening like that. It's great that she has more energy and will to take life on and is more open to living and trying new activities. It is heartening to see someone growing and feeling better. However, it is sad that she and her husband are so constrained by low income and have little means. Of course, their learning has been hampered by the illness, problematic responses by family and associates and the kind of emotional baggage that accompanies someone with long term disability. The illness still defines them and gets in the way. Both of them, she especially, are more aware of how it gets in the way.

Dependent on a housing subsidy, financial assistance and supportive services, they are trapped in a bureaucracy. There is always tension between their view of themselves and their wishes and those of the state's institutions. Also, they are always reminded that they are lacking something or not as well equipped as most other people apparently are. (The incidence of mental health issues is very high in the US and Canada.) In fact, funding and services for the mentally ill has dwindled over the past two decades.

However, the present regional government has been increasing social funding and raising rates for social benefits, which my brother and his partner have been enjoying. Just a couple of hundred of dollars more each month can make a huge difference to the very poor. 

Also, we can happily report that federal government pension benefit rates have gone up and the calculating of benefits owing has been improved, resulting in a higher monthly disability cheque for my brother. 

It takes strength to face society and get out there for someone in their kind of situation. Fortunately, there are lots of caring people who offer ideas and material support. The family pitches in if they are aware of something lacking that they can supply or something damaged that they can fix. However, they cover up some problems.

Here's an example. Though another sibling had bought them a great new bed they liked, I got the sense that they were not using it. After several months, it finally dawned on me that it was probably too high to climb onto. I surprised them by getting step stools for each side of the bed and now they sleep in it. 

Sometimes their solution to an issue is not really the most practical. For instance, they were not opening the patio sliding glass door because it was loose and they worried that the pet cats would escape through it. They did mention this problem frequently, appealing to the building management and another sibling. No remedy for years. They endured an enclosed, small apartment on the hottest of days, trying to get relief from fans. (The ceiling fan has not been working for a long time, and the management is taking a very lonnngg time to fix or replace it.) Finally, I ordered a local company to custom make a pet-proof screen and it was installed a few weeks ago. BIG RELIEF, of course!

There are magic moments. They are expresions of sensitivity and compassion from concerns people who notice a difficult situation. For example, the screen company never charged me! Without pronouncing that they did not intend to charge me, they simply never got my payment information and never sent my brother a bill. Amazing! It was a job valued at about $270 CD plus tax!




Just Peace - my progress

Posted on June 17, 2018 at 5:01 PM Comments comments (13)
This is the semi-annual check of my progress according to my own goals set at the start of the year. I am living up to them, generally, though my 5-year picture remains feint.

Health and fitness

I finally got a doctor to examine my problem knee. No treatment other than exercise is recommended. I therefore joined a local gym a month ago, and enlisted a personal trainer to work on specific exercises to strengthen my shoulder and knee joints. All the while, I have been taking a glucosamine compound daily, which is supposed to rebuild cartilage. After some weeks of both therapies, the joints, even the thumb joints, hurt less and my knee does not swell so much. These are costly remedies but well worth the investment, I feel, so that I can keep mobile and function normally.

Activism

I lead the founding of the Just Peace Committee in Vancouver and it is growing. We have made solidarity statements and attended solidarity functions, attended the national assembly of the International League of Peoples' Struggles as a full voting member, and planned a series of fora. I was nominated and elected as a member of the national coordinating committee of the ILPS. Also, I have kept involved in the Solidarity Notes Choir, and sung at major events recently. Finally, I have been active in the opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and terminus expansion in this province, British Columbia.

Work

I have succeeded in getting work both in teaching English to young adults and writing and editing education and other materials. I have kept my job at the institute, though it is on a part-time (29 hours) schedule and still at the starting wage. I have been asking for a wage increase, and expect one especially since the employer was impressed with my writing and editing of textbook materials. I edited another novel; however, the author does not want to pay me fairly. Communications with him got unpleasant as he showed no appreciation for my labour and tried to rationalize paying me little. I must send him another notice. I may receive more academic work to review--possibly a book by a retired professor on women and French literature, and a journal article by a linguistic professor on the Vietnamese language.

Housing and finances

I am looking into selling a small investment property; unfortunately, the value has remained near the price I bought it for. I am starting a second year in this apartment and must pay a increase of $35. I am looking into my options later this year for some term savings accounts will mature in the fall. I should get a tax refund this summer, which will pay for the personal trainer and other bills.

Family and social life

I went to a birthday party for my uncle who turned 90. At this party, I got reconnected with cousins and had a nice visit with my brothers and sisters-in-law. I continue to visit and offer help to a disabled brother and his wife, and they are doing well. The sister-in-law's family is in closer contact with her, which is a relief to both of them. Furtnermore, I have deeper friendships with fellow singers and activists. 




Just Peace -comradeship

Posted on January 22, 2018 at 11:27 PM Comments comments (1)
Comradeship is a very special kind of friendship which relatively few people know, I think. I am speaking of the relationship among activists who work together for some causes. It is deeper if you share a perspective, particularly a radical perspective that challenges conventional and questions the foundations of society; that is to say in struggle to reorient and alter society in positive ways. 

People in those types of communities working for those kinds of purposes are guided by deep concern and compassion for the suffering and oppressed nations and sections of societies. They tend to be kind, bright, capable and articulate people. Such dedication and passion  is why they choose to give up a huge portion of their time and the many comforts and pleasures that might be available to them. They work hard to earn a living and even harder to plan, meet, write, research, speak publicly and campaign., often on holidays and weekends. 

Choosing this path gives priority to social justice activism over career. There are also dangers to personal security and livelihood. The privileged and powerful in society are biased against them and use their influence and tools to repress revolutionary thought and citizens actions that state the truth and criticize the rulers and extremely wealthy of society. They can blacklist dissenters and use the media to put one in a dark light or make derogatory light remarks against groups and individuals. Such people with the means can get the police to harass, physically harm, threaten, monitor and attempt to incarcerate them. 

It is a glorious feeling to be among activists with such a high consciousness who put their bodies, careers and public image on the line. It is glorious to be with others who choose a path so much more difficult and with little in the way of personal benefit so that they are free to raise issues, shed light, organize and point the way toward solutions.

Among such people, there is deep appreciation for taking the side of truth and social justice. There is deeply rooted solidarity. They help, try to protect and defend one another better than typical family members or friends (unless the family is in it together...). They have better vision and hearing.

I have have felt deep joy at working with comrades and many amazing memories. I have been on the "front lines" with many, and waged important struggles, participated at important and historic actions. The feeling of belonging is as profound as our purpose, which is just as satisfying. In fact, the relationship itself is quite enlightening.

Especially among the veterans, there is confidence in each other. We have acquired many skills, some unique and not acquired in the course of jobs. We know how to take care of tasks, so the planning can go very smoothly and quickly, with enough of the more experienced around. 

The most fantastic aspect of comradeship is the fact that thousands and thousands exist around the world, activists I have not yet met in person and may never meet, but the friendship and comraderie would be instantaneous and strong if the time came to meet. It has actually happened before. I have gone to some international meeting or encountered visitors and found that we accepted each other immediately and can talk about profound and daring subjects, and share wonderful stories and jokes because of our mutual causes, our similar lines of work and interpretations of current events. Some of the best conversations I've had have been with this type of person, even with language barriers!

This is the greatest reason for me to hold onto hope for the future of humanity, and my own little life.

Non-activist friends, colleagues and family members may be concerned about me living alone. They don't know the magnificent experience of comradeship among anti-imperialist and social justice activists. They should try it and find out!

I am trying to come up with a project to depict an activist's life through a fictional novel...

just peace - anniversary

Posted on January 17, 2018 at 12:16 AM Comments comments (3)
January 14 was the anniversary of my return as a resident to Canada. The year went slowly, but well. I'm on my feet and moving forward.

I got settled in a nice apartment by the summer and in a regular job by November. I am on a satisfactory career trajectory in that I am head teacher in a new, progressive school with university-aged students, and editing novels on the side. I have resumed some of my friendships and activities. I've been seeing family. I enjoyed a proper Christmas season and recreational relief. I have even enjoyed trying new things, such as a game of curling, cooking new dishes, hanging flower baskets, teaching in different programs, different restaurants, hiking  and biking paths, sung new songs and gone to shows.

I also took on new political projects as an activist: a peace petition, coordination of a commemorative meeting and the start of this "just peace" blog.

Today I attended our information picket at the site of a meeting of UN member foreign ministers with the US Secretary of State to discuss North Korea. Peace was not on the table, it turned out, as the participants pledged more sanctions against the people of North Korea. It and the media coverage were disappointing. It was very one-sided and deceptive, lapping up the US spin and aims of thwarting communist North Korea and trying to control reunification. After inviting civil society organizations, they locked out an international women's group. There was hardly any reportage on opposition and concerns about this high-level international meeting. They ignored the historical  context of the status of the Korean war, and the responsibilities of all parties, especially that of the US. As co-host, the Canadian government completely kowtowed to the US. It has taken on an aggressive military stance, in general, since last summer.  Far from assuaging fears about the situation, the meeting managed to enhance the danger. My group did what we could by presenting and sharing a statement, writing to the government ahead of the meeting, petitioning for a non-military solution and showing a banner while speaking on this vital issue. The reception for this brief action was pretty good, considering it was a noon time action downtown.

I had wanted to write more reflections on this anniversary entry to my blog, but I am feeling a little fatigue. More reflections another evening.

Just peace: my 2017 in review

Posted on January 1, 2018 at 3:41 PM Comments comments (7)
Keeping in tune with positive thinking, I will review the past year of my life. (I have not come to any summary of the political world of 2017 yet.) In sum, it was a time of successful growth and more new experiences.

The biggest thing, of course, was packing up my life in Korea, moving to Canada and creating a new home. That was a major transition; hence, the theme of my blog in 2017, which started out, by the way, on my 60th birthday.  Well prepared and optimistic, I made a smooth transition. I carried through the steps of landing regular employment and settling into a long-term living arrangement.

I arrived with a temporary living arrangement set up in a friend's home and  was soon rooming in a kind of boarding house as I extended the employment search. Within a short period, I got a bit lucky when I was offered a lease with soft and affordable terms for a decent apartment. I got regular part-time teaching and full-time summer relief work, with a little editing on the side. Though I'd had to reach into my stashed resettlement funds, by November, I had begun teaching in a new institute with a timetable substantial enough to cover the monthly bills.

Living and livelihood basically taken care of, I was able to pay more attention to social groups, activism and family matters. I rejoined a singing group and the dragon boat club. They involve social activities and political causes in addition to their main foci. I thus reconnected with colleagues, friends and associates, making new friends and associations along the way. I returned to local boating competitions and choir performances. 

What's more, I rejoined a local activist circle with the national and international connections I've been immersed in for several years. That has meant staying connected with activists and causes abroad, and those in south western BC and central Canada. Coming from human rights activism at an early stage some 20 years ago, 35 years of anti-war activism in Canada and overseas, and as certain tensions and military actions intensify around the world, my part in progressive activism has evolved to my present focus on just peace.

What  positive and new experiences did I have in 2017? 

Technology: I downloaded mobile phone apps, started using cloud software at work, bought a new laptop and got tech support with it, and extended the content, appearance and tools on my website. I also acquired a wide-screen, smart TV. As well, my phone has a new service plan with features new to me. Oh, yes--I also tried online dating, a little.

Family: With birthday and Christmas events recently, my relations with siblings and adult nieces and a nephew have developed. We've had some very enjoyable times together, we're planning more.

Romance: Though the online dating has bombed, I got out and tried it. Anyway, I've been getting to know single, eligible men through mutual friends and hobbies.

Health: I manage to keep my weight under control. After dragon boating, basic yoga routine, biking and hiking in the summer months, I found some symptoms of pre-arthritis stages, so I cut down the sportsy activities, even day-to-day walking. However, I seem to be adjusting. I can alter physical activities and pace them appropriately to avoid the inflated knee and sore appendages. For example, I have changed the exercises at home, and returned to some moderate walking from day to day. As an example of the walking, I sometimes walk the distance a few bus stops to catch a bus farther away, and walk around to do errands near my workplaces. I recently tried a session of curling for the second time in my life. I want to do some short hikes and get back on the bike when the weather is more conducive to outdoors exercise. 

Writing: After editing another academic article, I reviewed a novel for the first time. I just started editing another novel last week. Obviously, I have kept up the blogging and moved into a new theme for the current year. As for my creative writing, I've only written a couple of poems. I started a new non-fiction project, which is on hold at the moment.

Activism: I attended an international conference to build an anti-imperialist movement against wars of aggression, state repression and militarization last summer. I then created the petition opposed to a military solution to Korea and other conflicts, getting a few hundred signatures all on my own. For the 10th anniversary of the Great October Revolution in Russia, I worked with the local committee and coordinated the planning of a special event, which turned out to be a well-attended and informative occasion. I presented on a dual theme of socialist women and a stance against imperialist war in a presentation on Rosa Luxemberg's contributions. After building a network out of these activities, I just recently proposed a new committee to establish the Just Peace Movement in Greater Vancouver. There has been some positive response from people interested in pursuing this movement.




Just Peace -internal solidarity

Posted on December 17, 2017 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (4)
Welcome to the next phase of this blog: 12 months in the theme of "just peace." An recent incident in my life relates the issue of maintaining peaceful relationships, so I will share and discuss it in this, the first entry of the "Just peace" blog.

Keeping the peace within groups, whatever their basis for forming, can be difficult. Sometimes an accepted leader emerges who can get things done on their behalf, or who can smooth out ruffles and facilitate resolutions to conflicts. I recently read an article explaining that those are the two basic kinds of leadership styles that sociologists have been able to identify through ample research. They label the former "instrumental" leaders and the latter "expressive." Instrumental leaders may not be liked personally and may not take care of people's feelings but they succeed in accomplishing the group's goals, so earn respect. They suit the kinds of groups where personal feelings are not as important to the group. Expressive leaders, on the other hand, maintain a positive group atmosphere and work to repair ruptures among group members, irrespective of the group's main purpose. They suit groups such as social organizations wherein members value their experience as a group more than the tasks and goals of the group, unless the goal is to be friends and share experiences together. 

I am in a kind of community group that serves social and political purpose. There seems to be an ongoing divide among members who value the experience of membership over and above the service that the group renders to the community, and those who are more focused on the business of the group. The latter want more structure and are more concerned about maintaining order than the former. I think that ruptures occur sometimes because their are these two conflicting sets of concepts and values. 

The group I'm talking about has about 70 members. It is a social-political choir that sings for causes and political principles. As such, it has community and political meaning, and attracts concerned citizens wanting to take some kind of action, or share in communicating a political stance. It thus has deep meaning for many of the members. Members give up a lot of time to rehearse, run things and go to gigs. The relationships among the members are valued at least by many, who see that they have some beliefs in common, and feel a kind of comradeship being involved.

There is sometimes friction between the "instrumentalists" in the group and others who value the feeling about being in the group more than the tasks. Here is an example of what can happen. The instrumentalist types like to cite rules and stick to a well-defined, predictable order. Actually, there are committees that work out policies and procedures, which are by and large helpful to managing a large group. Regardless, we are still an informal collective without officers, a constitution and by-laws. The "expressives" in the group prefer some flexibility and like to put people first. Therefore, insisting on rules ruffles the expressives. They have a looser concept of the organization, apparently. They can feel snubbed or stifled when committee representatives or other individuals bluntly assert the procedures and policies, whatever the context.

We have a rule about speaking about events during the announcements portion of our rehearsal sessions.Policies guide us to restrict the topics and events raised. Therefore, subjects such as gig coordination, new materials, group finances and such are allowed. This practice means that it is the same committee reps speaking each time, and mentions of other singing activities and cultural events, social and political interest topics, etc. are barred. Individual interaction can go on before and after and in between meetings and rehearsals, but conversations among the whole group, or those present at events, are obstructed. The practice does not get evenly applied, however, as committee members tend to take ownership of the organization and allow themselves to bend the policies and practice. They might announce other things, which tend to be about themselves, their families or friends. If someone else takes such liberty, however, they are often coolly halted and put in their place: "We have a policy against X!"

I and two others got shot down last weekend when their was pause in the informal announcements and one of us started to fill the gaps with related but not exactly choir business. I was the last to speak, and it was to invite ALL to my winter festivity open house. My invitation was to the whole choir, and it was a gesture to include them and an opportunity to work on membership relations. The atmosphere suddenly froze. I was steaming mad and left the rehearsal early. I felt angry all week. The person who cut me off did not seem to understand how offensive the snub was, even after I told her, in private, quite specifically how I felt.

I should point out that this singing group has existed for 17 years and some of the original members are still around. In view of that length of involvement, and given the social and political commitment, many who have served for a long time feel a bond. They have made a heavy political choice, which is also a personal choice about what to do with their time and where, when and how to participate in political affairs of the community and region. It has deep meaning.

In the end, I turned up for the last rehearsal of the year. We had a meeting following the practice about gig coordination, where committee speakers were careful to repeatedly say that everyone is valued for their contribution, whatever and however much they contribute. People took turns and solutions to concerns of the membership were responded with suggestions for change. The one who had snubbed me apologized, though not adequately, to my mind. The ambiance was good. It picked up even more later that afternoon at our winter social gathering. Privately, I heard that my reaction and my frank response over email to the admin was welcome. I was assured that others have felt snubbed and uncomfortable before, which has turned some off and discouraged them. Let's hope it goes better in the new year.

Transitioning-2018 theme of just peace

Posted on December 9, 2017 at 9:02 PM Comments comments (4)
The next phase of this blog begins around my birthday, which is next week. I have decided on the angle of "just peace" for the next phase of my blogging project. I explained my definition of just peace in the last entry. Now I want to explain how I intend to treat this subject, remain consistent and build on my previous themes of positive thinking/optimism and transition-making. 

I will still reflect and comment on the meaning of positive thinking, relate some of what is happening in my life, chew on the process and value of journal-writing as I tackle the problem of just peace. I will do so by employing a broad lens.

Using a broad lens, I'll be able to talk about the peace of the soul, peaceful family relations and other personal association, peace at work and in the community, as well as peace in the region and the actuality or threat of armed conflicts in terms of crimes against humanity and other crimes, aggression and domination in international relations. 

I'll argue for supporting struggles for peace in the name of saving life while promoting ways of life that ease suffering and enhance life. The struggle for peace will be framed as anti-imperialist struggle; from this angle, I'll not only protest military weaponry, spending and certain policies. I will speak against domination, aggression and the aim of conquest or regime-change when the people in one region do not request foreign intervention to assist them. I'll argue for intervention against true dictators that use state repression and political persecution in defiance of civil and human rights, and counter to democratic practice. For example, I would object to President Duterte's violent reign against the peoples in the Philippines, and the extra-judicial killings, methods of terror, and deceit. I would object to Israel's aggression against Palestine and its expansion into Palestinian territories and military policies and actions that carry or support these objectives.

Yeah, I'll be getting more specifically political. We must do that. I hope I arouse others to take political stands, even if they don't jive with mine. In this business of working toward peace, I hope to inspire, even unsettle the reader, to take action his/herself. We urgently need a large and broad-minded active movement of all sectors of the people working together on common causes with common aims, sharing the larger general aim of altering the course of human civilization toward new relations and concepts of global trade and values.

I can also use this approach to venture into questions concerning chauvinism and discrimination, and conflicts among factions within societies. I can address all the above through an understanding of imperialism with respect to politics, culture, economics and expansionism, the class system with its monopolies and patriarchal relations, and the exploitative nature of this system that is inherently violent.

I can also address environmental destruction wrought by imperialism and war. Military activities require vast amounts of energy, especially oil, and they often contaminate the air, ground and waters where they take place. They leave behind a lot of junk including marine and space junk, as do industrial monopolies, which they balk at cleaning up.

With a broad approach, I will develop my knowledge and skill at interpreting society in a positive way, with examples from my life and excerpts of my readings. I'll continue to share this kind of information and thought. I'll tackle problems on micro- and macro-scales. The main aim is contributing to efforts find a better way that enriches and eases the lives of the people. I will strive to be understanding and forward-looking.

Thinking and Doing It Positively

Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.


A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.


Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.


Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 


Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 


I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.


Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 


On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.


I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 




Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!


I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.


I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.


Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).


 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.


The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.


I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 


Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 


However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.


It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.


My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 


There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.


2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 


I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.


Ed Wise

TEST

15 January 2020

THIS IS A TEST OF THE NEW PLATFORM FORMAT AND BLOG ENTRY SYSTEM.

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