Designing For Democracy

Kicking off the 2009 Web of Change calendar on Thursday, March 5th at Vancouver’s District 319.

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

The difficulty I’ve had in writing up this post is related to the inspiration of Favianna’s presentation. It was transformative for me.  I changed. The transformation clearly isn’t complete, and obviously it wasn’t instantaneous. It also wasn’t miraculous. It’s not like a right wing pundit was turned inside out, but I was definitely changed by Favianna during her visit to Vancouver. (Favi preparing for trip to Vancouver)

I’ve always, as long as I’ve been conscious, been at odds with the world. I was given a loving, left-wing, working-class consciousness through my upbringing. So I was raised into a world that needed changing. Before hearing Favianna, I was already an advocate for feeding the poor, housing the homeless, radical education, worker control, democracy, sexual liberation and the self-determination of indigenous peoples.

What changed, or more precisely, what is changing is my approach to activism.

Prior to attending Designing For Democracy, I’d cultivated for myself an abstract, disembodied activism. Watch Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and the angels on the train, street, library, watching, listening to the plight of people. This is a good way to see my idealized form of advocacy. This wasn’t an emotionless abstraction I was after. I’ve always held in high regard the line, “Jesus wept.” But it wasn’t simply an emotional spectacle that I was after either. I have been reading and writing, working out a critical theory of the world. My theory has been constantly changing, and along with it the way I behave in the world.

I developed a depersonalised, journalistic style of advocacy. I see it now as a way of staying out of the confrontation, become the messenger. I have kept to a small circle, truly radical thought is always discomforting, and people tend to react emotionally, to avoid trouble I’ve practiced my activism in secret.

Favi’s history is political and emanates from her body/person. She is also a completely creative being. You might sense that I’m still trying to work out the difference that’s been created in me. One change in my approach has been to take on a more creative practice in local activism. Over the years, I’ve been turned off by the differences in theory that I’ve had with other activists/groups. My journalistic approach was to photograph and report what they said. And only off-record would I criticize what they were doing. I wanted to be an advocate. What I really wanted was a community to which I could belong. I guess I’ve always expected to stumble upon, or discover this pre-existing space. What I learned from Favi is that I need to create that space. I need to develop it through my activism/revolutionary practice.

But Favi’s brilliance is that she didn’t say, “You need to create your own space in the activist community.” What she did was tell the story of how she created a space for her activism.

links:

Favianna Rodriguez’s Reflections
Kate Milberry wrote it up the next day
Sue Main wrote it up nine days later
Event on youtube

A couple suggestions from Favianna’s blog:

Talking about Open Relationships is as hard as fighting the War on Drugs!

Let’s talk about sex! Latina girls still having more babies than any other teenage group

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