Monday, April 12, 2010
As I peruse orphanages in Ethiopia looking for volunteer work, I am filled with intense excitement and fear. My activism has always taken place in this safe country, and generally within the walls of my peaceful condo. I've done research and proposals for the third world, but I've never gone out of my safety net to help. My extreme fear of flying has kept me grounded most of my life, therefore I've never been face to face with the intense suffering outside of Canada.
My favourite volunteer job of all time was at Carnegie Hall on the corner of Main and Hastings. East Hastings which has been referred to as "the most impoverished area in North America". I taught reading and writing skills to the homeless for a year, and I loved it. I was 19 and it was the most fulfilling thing I had ever done. However, I was also able to take the bus back home, make a milkshake, and snuggle safe into my bed. I sacrificed nothing.
I'm beginning to give myself pep talks for what will probably be the most phenomenal thing I'll ever do. A trip that will very much involve certain sacrifices, and unimaginable rewards. I've been clinging to Mother Theresa's gratitude, and wrapping myself up in Noam Chomsky's wisdom. An intellectual and a saint, who both seem to understand the gravity of our ignorance. The backlash of a life lived within the confines of shopping malls, and complacent in front of the idiot box. The consequences of being spoiled rotten.
I'm going to leave you with what I find to be a humbling reminder from Chomsky's book Imperial Ambitions. Volunteering in a third world country for a few months is far from extraordinary. The fact I'm already battling nerves, further clarifies for me how comfortable I've become in a home where I have access to everything. Understandable, yes. However, how long do we forgive our lack of proper perspective before we are inspired into transformation? I sincerely hope to emerge a better person.
Imperial Ambitions by Noam Chomsky pg. #39-40
At the talks you give to American audiences, you often are asked the question, "What should I do?"
Only by American audiences. I'm never asked this in the third world.When you go to Turkey or Colombia or Brazil, they don't ask you. "What should I do?" They tell me what they're doing.When I went to Porto Alegre, Brazil, for the World Social Forum, I met with some landless campesinos, and they didn't ask me what they should do; they told me what they are doing. These are poor, oppressed people, living under horrendous conditions, and they would never dream of asking you what they should do. It's only in highly privileged cultures like ours that people ask this question. We have every option open to us, and none of the problems that are faced by intellectuals in Turkey or campesinos in Brazil. We can do anything. But people here are trained to believe that there are easy answers, and it doesn't work that way. If you want to do something, you have to be dedicated and committed to it day after day.Educational programs, organizing, activism. That's the way things change.You want a magic key so you can go back to watching television tomorrow? It doesn't exist.
Have a wonderful Monday my friends, and remember we do have the power to change our world.