Just Peace -internal solidarity

Posted on December 17, 2017 at 9:00 PM
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.

Categories: communication, living, positive thinking, just peace, relationships, social justice and change

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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


15 January 2020