Learning to listen south

This weekend the Whitehorse Airport will be very busy. The first days of our two week school Spring Break will launch a fair percentage of our population Outside. While Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver will catch a goodly number of those travelling, many,

This weekend the Whitehorse Airport will be very busy. The first days of our two week school Spring Break will launch a fair percentage of our population Outside. While Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver will catch a goodly number of those travelling, many, I gather, plan to spend their free time further south.

Destinations from the small sample of folk I have run across in the past week range from the outer cays of Belize and the beaches south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to the big island of Hawaii. The Global South offers Yukoners an opportunity to ‘get away from it all’ especially the white stuff that abounds in record amounts here. It can offer much more though.

One of the benefits we can gain from the Global South doesn’t require an expensive plane ticket or incurring the risk of a tropical disease. It does demand, however, that we learn to listen. Voices from south have long demanded to be heard.

Though the vast majority in real numbers of the nearly 6.8 billion inhabitants of Earth, the citizens of the Global South have been marginalized by their subservient place on the political and economic map of the planet. Only occasionally have their voices penetrated the din of our self-absorbed, consumption-focussed media bubble. We need to hear them now more than ever. Our collective future depends on finding ways out of our mounting crises. Old answers propping up inadequate structures will not do.

“There are many people in South Africa who are rich and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate, who have not been able to conquer poverty.” This is how global elder Nelson Mandela simply put it at his 90th birthday celebrations last summer, according to a BBC radio clip. His pithy comment obviously has larger parallels.

More pointedly “the current major economic crisis is a global crisis of Humanity,” says Pedro Casaldaliga, a retired Roman Catholic bishop from Mato Grosso, Brazil.

“It will not be resolved by any form of capitalism because there is no space for capitalism with a human heart. Capitalism continues to be homicidal, ecocidal and suicidal. There is no way to simultaneously serve the god of the banks and the God of Life. We cannot put arrogance and usury in the same category as living together fraternally. The fundamental question is whether we are trying to save the System or to save Humanity.” (The full text of Bishop Casaldaliga’s 2009 circular letter is online at http://www.servicioskoinonia.org/Casaldaliga/cartas/ )

The way forward requires concerted action, which must also address current injustices. “Reconciliation is a rejection of the limitations of the status quo,” says one of our own elders, the former ambassador and MP, Douglas Roche.

“It requires confronting the truth. It demands that we first look into the eyes of peace – internal peace, peace with ourselves” Roche writes in his 2006 book Beyond Hiroshima. “Partnerships follow. This produces a global ethic for institutions and civil society built on a common longing for peace, justice, partnerships and truth.”

No matter how far away we feel in our snow-bound reality here in the Yukon from our sisters and brothers in the Global South we must learn to listen to them. Together and only together will we find our way forward.

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign offers Yukoners another opportunity to build a concrete link with the Global South. It “seeks to build solidarity, raise awareness and mobilize support in Canada for Africa’s grandmothers” whose families and countries have been devastated by HIV/AIDS.

Linda Hallett from Grandmothers to Grandmothers will be speaking on Wednesday, March 18 in Whitehorse at 7:30 p.m. in Lewis Hall of the United Church at 6th and Main. Admission is by donation.

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

Namaste Notes

Sunday, March 8 – Second Sunday of Lent. A suggested reading is Mark: 9: 2-10.

Sunday, March 8 – International Women’s Day theme this year is “Women and men united to end violence against women and girls.”

Tuesday, March 10 – Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish minority in Persia from the threat of massacre. It is marked by the exchange of food gifts, charity to the poor and a festive meal.

Wednesday, March 11 – Holi is the Hindu spring festival dedicated to the god of pleasure. Celebrants sprinkle people with coloured water and smear red and green powder on each other breaking down barriers between the rich and poor around the burning of the holy fire or Holika.

Wednesday, March 11 – Hola Mohala begins week long Sikh festivities marked by events such as martial arts displays and poetry contests.

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