Sunday, 30 March 2014


“If we want to grow as teachers -- we must do something alien to academic culture: we must talk to each other about our inner lives -- risky stuff in a profession that fears the personal and seeks safety in the technical, the distant, the abstract.”   Parker Palmer

Parker's view about teaching struck me as a view that is very much related to justice. While reading an inspiring and thought provoking article from Catherine Latimer, The Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Canada, about how long Ottawa will ignore our broken prison system, a lighting bolt hit me, again! Hit me directly in the heart of the matter of how as people living in a given country, a free country, we view our relationship to justice. That lighting bolt fired my heart, soul, and mind, reminding me about how it is we are as yet walking with the residual, if pernicious, repercussions of patriarchal notions about who has power, and how that power is "supposed" to be used. Who does "have" that power? The "professionals?" We are all the "professionals." We do ourselves a deep injustice by forgetting this. We are professionals simply by virtue of being. What I mean by this is that the justice (betimes injustice) system is not exclusively an Ottawa "issue."  It is an issue for each individual. Everywhere.  A daily issue. An issue about what it means to live justly in our families, communities, places of employment, faith gathering spaces, where we do our volunteer voicing. Everywhere. More often than not, capitulating our peace, safety, and tranquility, as the Russian writers never fail to remind us. My parents chose Canada for freedom, for justness, for joy. My Dad's murder, here, on Easter Monday, March 27, 1978, did not eradicate the fact that Canada, that Canadians all, are invited to be the very justness we wish to live no matter our job title at a given time. Sawbonna: I See You, a sibling of Restorative Justice, invites speaking from the personal. The personal and the professional are not mutually exclusive. Why the dualistic notions, very much linked to the worn cliché of us vs. them?  To set aside our hearts to think we must choose to be "the professional" or the "academic" the "artist" the whatever "professional" descriptor for the sake of upholding status quo and stultifying ways of living justice, is not kind to our very selves. And it is in being kind to ourselves that we can offer Sawbonna to others. Sawbonna is kindness. Make no mistake, it is not some naïve creed about holding hands and singing kumbya, and chanting om on a wave-kissed beach. It can be that; however, no matter who or where we are, even in families (the personal) in our work roles (the professional) we are challenged by and with each other. That is not a crime. Nor, dare I say, a sin. What is, is to make justice a technical, distant, abstract notion, whereby we can easily forget the heart of the matter. We are Ottawa. We are the justice we are seeking. We are the professional.  We are the personal. We are the political. We are Sawbonna: justice as a lived and living experience. Risky stuff.

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