Friday, February 9, 2007

My speech at ACAD on February 7, 2007, day of action

A students national day of action was held across Canada on February 7, 2007. I spoke as part of a panel at the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary.

One thing reviewing the recording of this has made clear to me is that I say "you know" far too much. You know?

Here's a cleaned-up transcript (with most of the "um"s and "you know"s omitted. Contact me if you want the uncleaned transcript...):

Poverty is a reflection of many of the problems that we face in this society and, more-so, a reflection of the core problem that we face--which is the way we dissociate everything, the way we separate things, the way we distinguish between us and them. Left and right, Calgary - Edmonton,… At every opportunity we're dividing things into separate notions. And it is in creating those separations that we're able to allow ourselves to not be together, and in that space is where all these forms of oppression--such as poverty--emerge.

We fail to recognize as a society that everyone in this society is all part of the same thing. We're all a part of the same thing. Our molecules are even together. We're all breathing in air that's been in everybody else. We've all got water in our bodies that's been in everybody else.

In choosing as a society to ignore that reality, to see each other as separate beings--with "I've got my own interests and your interests are somehow completely separate from that"--is where we allow things to come to the point that they have now. Where Calgary has the fastest rate of growth in homelessness in Alberta if not the country. (I haven't seen the numbers for the country, so I can't say for certain. Although I, I would hazard a guess that we're the worst.) Where we have among the highest tuitions. Where we have students being turned away from school--not because of an inability to perform in school, but--because of an inability to afford it.

I worked recently with a youth group in town here where a number of them graduated about a year or so ago from high school. And, you know I, I don't think it was even 10% of them that went on to post secondary. And the thing I kept hearing--and these were some pretty bright kids--the thing I kept hearing from them was "can't afford it--it's too expensive." "Why would I burden myself with so much debt for so long." So, they're now in the workforce--but their capacity to be fully engaged in the wide variety of things that our society needs to deal with is diminished because their education has been cut short.

So, poverty is a critical issue in education. Because if students are being prevented from going into education because of money, or if they're being burdened with extreme stresses because they're having difficulty with housing, they're having difficulty getting food. I mean, to me, the clearest sign that we have utterly failed as a society in dealing with our long-term responsibilities is the fact that campuses now have food banks.

What kind of barbaric society are we when we're putting things in a situation where students are having to go to a food bank—just to get food.

It is true. We are a society that has failed to recognize that education is not a cost. Housing is not a cost. Food is not a cost.

The costs are when we fail to educate, when we fail to house, when we fail to feed the people of our society. That is where the costs are.

So we need to turn around that thinking. Bring the perspective that every time we fail to feed someone, every time we fail to educate someone, we are costing our society a lot and that's a debt we cannot afford.

So, I'll wrap it up there and leave it for the questions later.

Thank-you very much.


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