On “Idle No More”: learning to listen

Over the past month people have asked me what I think about the Idle No More movement. (I’ve linked what I consider a helpful overview/intro. to a complex initiative but you should really just read up on it yourself from various sources). And when they have asked me this I haven’t had a good answer, any answer, really. These questions of what do I think? What do I make of it all? really boil down to one thing: meaning-making. We are people preoccupied with meaning-making, and this essentially a morally neutral practice, I would think. However, we are also very impatient when it comes to meaning-making and we impose on events an urgency for correct-interpretation: we need to get the facts straight, we need to understand what is happening, and usually this boils down to a need or a desire or both for a singular, correct, narrative.  But I have a problem with that, and I think that is why I have hesitated to opine on the movement, and become so agitated by the question of what I think. I simply do not believe that is how the world works; meaning is made in a multiplicity of ways simultaneously, reality is narrated differently, history is continuously interpreted. Yet we find ourselves caught up in the frenzy to figure out what is going on, to get a handle on things.

But when I reflect on the experiences of Native Peoples in Canada, negative but also positive stories, one thing that appears to me to characterize them is that Amer-Europeans have overwhelmingly deaf to them. I began working with Indigenous people when I was 16. I worked as a summer camp counsellor for one week each summer since 2007 on a little island on the southern shore of lake Winnipeg.  It was a small Metis fishing community.  My Mennonite church in Winnipeg church responded to their invitation to enter a partnership circle which began with summer camp but has expanded to year-round relationship building. Furthermore, I spent last summer working as a children’s program coordinator (which sounds way too formal) on a reserve in Manitoba.  These two experiences have shaped me significantly.  These experiences have taught me to listen. They have taught me that even though I am doing a Masters in Theology, and read a lot, I don’t know everything, especially not wisdom. They have taught me that wisdom is learned through watching and listening, paying attention to what is going on. Sometimes this practice feels like you aren’t doing anything at all, like a waste of time.  But it is the opposite; such a posture of listening has the capacity to bear with time, the time it takes to make meaning, the time it takes to tell stories, to narrate lives, histories, realities, joys, sorrows, blessings, anger, hopes and dreams, frustrations, prayers…

So when I am asked: What do I think of Idle No More? I will keep my comments brief: I think that those in power have spoken too much and too long, and that it is time to listen. And when we are speaking, we cannot listen.



One comment on “On “Idle No More”: learning to listen

  1. Paul says:

    I think you are right about listening. As much as I like to think I stand with “the people” , I don’t. What makes it even worse is the fact that I am visible minority , and aware of the current state of affairs from that perspective. Unfortunately my knowledge is too abstract and I’ve never had my hands dirty , so there is a lot of listening left to do.

    I Was watching an interview with Jacques Ellul last night , and was struck by what he had to say about wisdom. Wisdom isn’t a matter of individual reflection , but an ongoing conversation that spans generations. Raw facts will not generate wisdom , but open ears within a community (and in this case the government) will.

    thanks for the post!

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