A few days ago, while walking north along Second Avenue into a frigid, northerly February gale, my mind turned to an opportunity I once had.
Nearly 40 years ago, I had been grudgingly offered an invitation to a national conference on the future of co-operatives. It was a put-up or shut-up moment.
At the time, my work with emerging co-operatives on the Prairies had made some folk within the co-operative sector uneasy. Coming from the fringe of their movement, the implied criticism of their staid nature rankled them.
Our small direct-charge co-ops, which they derisively called buying clubs, along with co-op bakeries, daycares, bicycle shops, bookstores and a host of other alternative enterprises marked one generation’s search for another possible future.
I believed I had things to say the other conference attendees needed to hear. Others of my ilk would be there. Maybe, just maybe, a critical mass could be formed.
Could we help reignite the passion of the movement once inspired by the E.A. Partridges, Alphonse Desjardins, Moses Coadys or Alex Laidlaws of previous generations? Possibly the growing corporatization of the co-op sector could be reversed and real member democracy reinvigorated.
Behind on a writing contract, a young family’s needs to consider and tight finances, plus other long-forgotten factors, conspired and I chose not to go.
I missed out on a possible kairos moment.
Classical-era Greeks had two concepts of time, chronos and kairos.
Chronos laid out the linear temporal path we are all familiar with; seconds, minutes, hours on to months, years and decades in which we live out our lives.
Kairos, though, marked a time out of time. Special times, kairos times, signalled moments when history can somehow be opened to radically new possibilities.
Theologians talk of kairos times as those when God acts. The famous Kairos Document, written anonymously by an ecumenical team of theologians and pastors in Soweto, South Africa, during the repressive height of the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1985, saw that time as their moment to act.
They proclaimed God was not neutral. In the Bible they said God “does not attempt to reconcile Moses and Pharaoh …” They saw “the most loving thing we can do for both the oppressed and for our enemies who are oppressors is to eliminate the oppression, remove the tyrants from power, and establish a just government for the common good for all the people.”
Clearly for many peoples in North Africa and the Middle East this must be seen as a kairos moment.
Our federal International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda is having her own kairos moment of a different kind.
Her decision to deny funding to KAIROS, a faith-based ecumenical social justice coalition, and the way she did it, has called in to question the openness, transparency and honesty of a whole government.
KAIROS came into existence in the 1990s. Then funding cutbacks by the Chretien government forced the cash-strapped parent church groups to collapse a dozen separate bodies, like the Inter-Church Fund for International Development, where I served on the board, into a single cost-saving entity, KAIROS.
It continues to survive despite Oda’s narrow, ideologically biased and dishonestly implemented decision.
KAIROS has managed, with difficulty, to maintain its critical witness to national and global struggles against poverty, injustice and for human rights.
Maybe it is time to re-establish the local KAIROS chapter here in the Yukon. Any time, though, could present a kairos opportunity for us, as individuals or a community.
These crucial times must not be ignored.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact email@example.com.