Balanced…on a pine cone

Balanced…on a pine cone

A beautiful window

A beautiful window

An interesting sticker caught the eye while walking past

An interesting sticker caught the eye while walking past

Niños incómodos exigen a candidatos | Compártelo #NiñosIncómodos (by mexicodelfuturo)

The “helpless”, “invisible” need “saving” - The hurtful narrative of “Invisible” Children

This has been on millions of people’s minds recently. Few of them are trying to weigh the pros and cons of this marketing campaign and the organization.

My problem is not with the spreading knowledge about Kony and such.

More knowledge can = Better.

My problem also isn’t just about how invisible children is spending 32% of their funds on direct services. People say they are an advocacy organization and not there to provide direct services. Sure that’s fine I suppose.

My problem is with this spreading narrative of how people in Uganda need the help of “awakened” affluent American college kids to whom all of this was “invisible”. My problem is with how the bottom line has become “Only you (i.e. Americans) can change the world and create history”. Who’s history? History of Uganda in which the supposed “helpless” and “powerless” Ugandans have no role to play in what so ever?

My problem is with how people think that they can go in (literally and symbolically) into a totally different culture, without any prior experience, knowledge and understanding, and help “liberate” a people of this heinous person (which he is) and believe that everything else will fall in place. What about poverty? Malaria? Corruption? Gender equality? Discrimination based on sexual orientation? How is that solved? More importantly WHO solves that? How many solutions can we force down the throats of other people? My problem is the possibility of how millions of people are thinking that they can affect this whole situation without even including those being affected into the equation. How many times more can we NOT include and support the people being affected and trying to solve their problems themselves? Step one in any successful social change/community development project is listening directly from the affected - their problems, needs and the solutions they need. NOT what WE think they need.

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Can WE Save Biodiversity - A Decision-making Conundrum

I would like to invoke a famous folk tale, common in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sufi lore. There are many versions of this story but all of them have a similar theme running through. One version goes like this - “a number of men were brought into a dark room with an elephant. They didn’t know what an elephant was and were asked to touch the elephant and tell what it was like. Depending on where they touch it, they perceive the elephant to be like a pot (the head), winnowing basket (ear), water spout (trunk), a fan (ear), pillar (leg) etc” One of the observations drawn by Rumi, a Sufi teacher and poet, was how everyone’s individual perceptions differ. Buddha, in his conclusion for the story, draws comparisons to preachers and scholars who only see one side of a thing and basking in their wisdom ignore everything else and how that always ends up in fist-fights (symbolically). In contrast, in the Jain version a king explains how everyone is right and that all the answers are so different because an elephant has all those different features. I think this little parable gives us a lot of insight into decision-making and the different issues related to it - Folks have a lot of different opinions and perceptions about a lot of different things; all of these perceptions are based on different experiences; a lot of times there is a hesitation/inability to share these differing perceptions; it is hard to relate to and understand others’ thoughts; it is even harder to agree to a common ground and; hence, a resulting mess when it comes to decision-making! I think the Jain version of the story also gives us a different insight into the issue of fragmentation than suggested by Prof. Freyfogle and some of the articles. It talks about how everyone had different answers because everyone touched different parts of the elephant. Similarly, our experiences when it comes to our environment are different because they differ in places, parts and fragments. On one hand it is hard to perceive the inter-connected and integrated “ecological whole”. On the other hand, a lot of times people living in these different fragments know the most about those fragments. The Jain king concludes by suggesting that harmony can be achieved among people when they consider opposing beliefs and views and to move beyond singular viewpoints and philosophies which assert some absolute truth or beliefs (also known as anekāntavāda). Rumi concludes by saying “If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear”. So there is an obvious need for a common-ground and reconciliation (lessons of which can be learned from the justice movements | details in next blog post).

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BLUE blue

BLUE blue

Spread of the dominant “Misuse of Nature” narrative

Just this past month NASA released another study asserting the human activities - and not changes in solar activity - is the primary cause of climate change. 

In this blog post I wanted to explore to the connection between religion, colonialism, post-colonialism, liberalism and the spreading of the dominant discourse about the environment as brought forth by Worster, White, Orr and Manes in different ways. At the same time I wanted to offer both a positive and negative critique of the common counter-perspective amongst authors in regards to Christianity and its role in the dismissal of indigenous religions and the subsequent development of the current environmental perceptions of people.

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So, is sustainability a meaningful goal?

First of all, I think it is important to explore whether we should even frame sustainability in terms of, “Sustainability is a meaningful goal”. To me, sustainability is an over-arching philosophy/framework to living life. And many a times the vastness of this term can seem vague to many. But that is not necessarily the case. In some ways it is just like the concept of human rights. A lot of people could (and do) say that those are vague. But it doesn’t stop us from trying to make sure that people around the globe enjoy rights that secure their lives and lifestyles. In reality concepts like human rights and sustainability provide a fluid framework of ideas and thoughts that can be molded according to place, belief system, culture and time period.

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Documentary Rationale

From the beginning we really wanted to make a strong and impactful piece. In order to make that possible we went back to the theory we learned in class and also our experiences – using lessons from documentaries we found particularly successful.

In order to give the documentary more legitimacy, instead of having ourselves provide all the information we decided to have all the information come from first-hand sources either collected by us or fashioned out of videos online.

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Documentary Process

The entire process for this project has been ever-changing and ever-evolving from moment we started! The inspiration for this project came from our mutual interest in story-telling and after our experience at the Halloween Storytelling concert at Spurlock Museum. The first rendition of the thesis for our project revolved around storytelling and its history which got modified to storytelling in Urbana-Champaign, which in turn was modified to a spotlight cover of a famous storyteller in the community. After all these renditions somehow we transitioned into Spoken Word (guided by Jenny – “You know what I really like? Spoken Word”) and its usage to tell stories. We did a short discussion on what we all like about Spoken Word. The three main points that came up were – Its ability to tell stories, its usage as a vehicle to talk and spread awareness about various personal and socio-political issues and its power to form a strikingly emotional connection/bond between the artist and the audience.  Hence, we decided to focus on these three main points in our documentary.

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This is my attempt to unpack and understand myself and everything around me - life, ideas, thoughts and perceptions.

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