Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Our Chapter has had a good year. We started in late September and after four meetings a group of concerned people joined us to commit themselves to a steering committee for the Chapter. During these meetings we started addressing some knotty issues like our terms of reference, banking, social media, roles and responsibilities and our fit within the Council of Canadians. We participated in raising the Council of Canadians flag in Sudbury, Hamilton and Toronto. We are looking at the many campaigns and issues our Chapter should be supporting and we even have a blog and a Facebook page. Imagine that. Dipping our toes in the risky waters of social media.

I think the Chapter has done well.

Personally, I’m not that enthralled with my own performance, likely because I am not a very patient person. Looking back at my track record, I can see I started working on the Chapter in May and it took up to September before things started happening – not because of the Council’s inertia, but because of my delays in sticking with the project. Oh, I can forgive myself, quite easily actually, but, hell, I could have done better.  

The Council provided us with a helpful Chapter Handbook. and a lot of supportive material. The Council is also providing us with the autonomy to select which national campaigns we will support and which local issues we want to take on. For a national organization, I think that’s a lot of trust – in our little Chapter. Essentially, it’s up to us. So, now what do we do? What’s next?

First of all, I’m not sure because I’m not the Chapter. WE, the Steering Committee are the chapter and what we will do remains to be decided and seen in 2015 (HAH. Notice how I weaseled in the New Year reference?). I’m quite sure we will be picking our issues and events to be as busy as we want to be in the coming year. But, really, what is our Chapter here for? At this stage I can only comment for myself.

The activist role is new to me. I’ve worked for many years trying to make things better from within and sometimes I succeeded and other times I failed. With my growing awareness of the issues and personal experiences I’m concluding its time to step out of the institutions to change things from the outside. For a chapter what could that mean?

In my opinion, I believe a chapter could be educating and selling.

Education on the issues can create awareness and with awareness we can sell how difficult and important those issues are and what solutions there might be.

I believe there are tremendous forces working against the messages we might wish to convey.  Economic, political and social interests that are vested in the status quo fit nicely with the insensitivity of the critical masses, those critical masses needed to effect the changes required of our times. This neglect that supports the inertia against change is nurtured and maintained by fear and we are living in scary times. In the same way that a parent can block out the desperation of a war-torn countryside to put her child to bed for a peaceful nights sleep, we can very effectively block out the threats of climate change, diminishing waters, the high-risk transportation of toxic materials, declining democracies and our deteriorating health system.  Add to that the fears of unemployment, housing, crushing debt and the fabrications of crime and terrorism and we are left with our friends and associates who are unwilling to look at, let alone accept the issues surrounding us. The Bush – Cheney administration knew that fear controlled their nation and it is still working very well – there. And Canada is not far behind.

All the more reason, I think, to educate and create an awareness that is not only intellectual, but also emotional and visceral.

So, I think we need to educate and sell the issues we are addressing. To do that, I believe we need to educate ourselves as Chapter members if we are to be the local educators. When the time comes, when we step out of our closet with the necessary pronouncements, we will be challenged on our views and the challenges will be rational, clever and knowledgeable. In addition to reaching out to similar local organizations I think our Chapter needs to recruit more members because there is a lot of work to do and we can’t do it by ourselves. And to do what needs to be done I think we need to organize our Chapter to share the work, cooperate and coordinate our activities in a manner that is efficient, given our limited resources and effective, given the challenges facing us.

During this time, I think we will be given opportunities to advance our work with events and activities stemming from the local organizations working on the difficult issues and with the Council’s leadership and support.

So there. That could be enough to occupy my time in 2015 - one more year to recruit, learn, organize, educate and sell the issues.  Piece of cake