awakening consciousness

Back in the fall of 1968, I returned from my first trip to Mexico to resume my undergraduate studies at St. Louis University.

Back in the fall of 1968, I returned from my first trip to Mexico to resume my undergraduate studies at St. Louis University. During the preceding summer months I, as a 20-year-old, had led a group of Canadian teenagers on a long bus odyssey from Winnipeg, Man., to the then small town of Santa Fe de los Altos above Mexico City. There we had spent several weeks on a Christian service project basically helping dig a drainage ditch for the pastor of the colonial-era church serving that community.

The material poverty we saw contrasted mightily with the gracious hospitality of the Mexicans we met. “Mi casa es su casa” was not an idle phrase. Our hosts took the time to make sure we experienced the rich cultural heritage of their country from the pyramids of Teotihuacan to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I came back, though, with more questions about what I had seen and experienced than answers. This pushed me into taking an introductory course on Latin American history.

Professor Harold Bradley S.J. taught that course which had on its reading list books like John Gerassi’s The Great Fear in Latin America. This man, that book, my Mexican experience all contributed to raising my awareness and understanding, my consciousness, of the Latin American reality and the root causes of the problems afflicting that region of the world. Over the next three years, more courses along with work and study trips to Guatemala, Chile, Bolivia and Puerto Rico would deepen and intensify this consciousness raising process.

All of us can surely point to times in our lives where we have come to understand in a more profound way some aspect of our lives or the world around us. Ursula Goodenough and Terrence W. Deacon wrote in an article for The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science a few years back that “Human consciousness is not only an emergent phenomenon, it epitomizes the logic of emergence in its very form. Human minds, deeply entangled in symbolic culture, have an effective causal locus that extends across continents and millennia, growing out of the experience of countless individuals. Consciousness emerges as an incessant creation of something out of nothing, a process continually transcending itself. To be human is to know what it feels like to be evolution happening.”

We see this all around us. In my six decades, the evolution of a common consciousness on our understanding of issues as basic as the role of women in society or the inherent equality of all humans regardless of skin colour or ethnic origin cannot be denied. More recently, we have come to see the acceptance of the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic origins as a similar shift in global consciousness. The pace of this shift in consciousness must accelerate if we are to check the powerful forces seemingly bent on environmental destruction, accelerating social inequality and stridently propagating fear and using violence to defend a status quo which privileges only a very few.

Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator – who incidentally once held my one-year-old daughter Ilona on his knee – wrote in his seminal book Pedagogy of the Oppressed that “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Which course do we choose? What issues are we being called to awaken our consciousness on right now? How can we become engaged in transforming our world and helping others to do so?

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read