23 May 2009

Well, that was a Bust - P3

So perhaps it was a tad counter-productive to have blasted that (very large) room with my rant. But one does get so tired of having to precede one's comments with "we know everyone here means well and has the very best of intentions," and to be constantly mindful of the potential for hurt feelings as one continues speaking. It's not so apparent that researchers have been as cognizant of the harm they have done to single mothers on welfare, for example, as they've exploited them in the pursuit of advancing their own knowledge.

It could be that the Canada Social Forum wasn't as bad as Daphne and I perceived it to be. It may be that it just provided the cap to a series of events, all of which were a disappointment to us, more or less, and for different and some of the same reasons.

Though to be truthful, I really don't think so. So many things seemed wrong in Calgary (not the city - we had a lovely post-event afternoon walking along the river).

One incident on the last day epitomizes the entire event for me.

People had collected around the coffee urns, as they are wont to do, most chatting with one another. I'd come up to get some hot water and overheard two men just in front of me discussing the need for democratic reform.

Ah ha!, thought I, as I proceeded to insert myself into the conversation with the two high mucky-mucks.

That is what one is supposed to do during "networking breaks," is one not?

Have never been impressed or dissuaded by titles, degrees, class differences, pretensions of grandeur, etc. Ergo, I wasn't intimidated by the man whose credentials would be known by anyone if I mentioned his name. So... Thinking the men may not have been present during my moment of celebrity the previous day, I introduced myself, then launched into why the women of WISE had made democratic and electoral reform their number one goal.

The eyes of the high uppity-up glazed over, became distant and cold. The body language was one of withdrawal as he turned toward the other man and worked to remove said person from my offending presence.

I wasn't saying anything bad! Honest! I was excitedly talking about an issue which I'd supposed was also dear to this man's heart. I thought he'd be interested that a group of low-income women had come to the conclusion that reforming our democratic institutions was critical to advancing the goal of poverty reduction.

Another man, who had also been present, turned to me and took up the threads of my now floundering one-sided conversation. I told him how shocked I was to have been rebuffed that way. He made the observation, which helped summarize much of what I'd seen and heard over the three and a half days: some people prefer the sound of their own voices.

That's a big part of the problem. As long as other voices crowd the arena, the voices of the marginalized are but whispers from the cracks of the foundation.

Part 4 - Decision time and a new direction.

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