Monday, March 21, 2005

big spike, long-tail, and redress

To continue tracing where this all came from....I had just finished with the Sherene Razack article (see Saturday's post) when I zoomed into the Northern Voice conference and encountered the mind of Stephen Downes. In the midst of his talk on community blogging he took on the issue of the big spike and long tail effect created by the architecture and influence of search engines and technorati tagging. What I realized as I listened was that the very technology we are using is mirroring and perpetuating the status quo--never mind the digital divide...I won't even start on that. I began seeing the effects of colonialization and dominance thinking underlying the creation of the very tools we are hoping will open up the world and democratize information. (I am becoming suspicious of the word democracy...but I need to think a lot more about it...)

It seems to have been one of those enlightening moments...the kind you can't shake and colour everything you think and see afterwards. The pervasiveness of the dominance meme appeared to me to be deeply embedded, functioning unconsciously, and defining much of what we take for mere reality/fact. It was a bit staggering and depressing. But I was uplifted by the fact that Stephen presented a solution (for the blogging problem at least)--technically simply he says, and totally workable and possible. To create associations of context for blog entries that could then be used when searching. I liked that his ideas require increasing the level of chaos in the system, require communities to implement, and lead to a self-organizing system. Go Stephen, Go!

As I begin to unravel the dominance meme, as I'm calling it, I'm so appreciative of my growing connections with a community of thinkers and activists who are challenging its manifestations in other ways and other places. Without a community, the ideas would be less rich, the thinking less exciting, and the fear much larger. Thank you all!

On another note: today's word -- redress.
It's not possible to read about colonialism without encountering the term 'redress'. I am not taking issue with the principle or the process here, just the word itself and its gravity. There are two associations that concern me when I think about redress. First, that redress suggests a fulfillment of obligation and an end of responsibility. I can see how a government or institution could easily exploit this association after redress has been negotiated and paid out. Can you hear it? "It's over now. We've made good on it. We've paid for our actions..." I guess I am feeling that current compensation shouldn't preclude future claim ( I know this is politically difficult thinking.). We still don't understand all of the affects of can current compensation...based only on what we currently know made to stand for all time against what we may learn in future? Just a question.....

Secondly, that redress suggests that the harm has ended. That it is about something that happened in the past, that is no longer happening in the present--creating a fixed end-point from which to evaluate the damage done--upon which redress can be calculated. It is blazingly clear, that colonization is still active, that it is being perpetrated now, daily.

When Taiaiake Alfred suggests that First Nations people are on the verge of extinction, I find myself agreeing. We know how many individuals it takes to keep a race alive, but how many does take to keep a culture or a meme alive? I think it is not so much about genetic preservation (which is what we currently measure), as cultural preservation. Without a cogent, living, vital culture, what does mere genetic survival mean? Colonialization is no longer just about war and is about the colonization of the mind, heart and spirit of all those who are different from the power culture--through media, consumerism, education, science, and religion. And what does it take to maintain a cogent culture? Is continuity essential? Because if it may already be too late. How many elders are alive today whose memory stretches back far enough or who hold directly the stories of those whose did? And who is listening over the din? My guess is very few...It is my fervent prayer that I am wrong--that at least one culture will escape the tightening net.

Some light for the road:
My heart is moved by all I cannot save, so much has been lost … so much has been destroyed. I must cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power … reconstitute the world.
Adrienne Rich

No comments: