Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Voice and Democratic Practice

The 'hat' one wears while writing a blog is always a matter of some speculation.  Leaving hat jokes and hat references aside (Smokey and the Bandit anyone?), the implication of 'what hat is he wearing' can be read both as a tactical approach to undermine the growing voice for real democracy within the UNA and the university town area and as a reasonable question in this age of multiple subjectivities.

As a person who does indeed wear many metaphorical hats I can appreciate the confusion that others may have.  I, however, have no confusion (perhaps I am the most confused) as I see my self as a singular entity - that is as a whole person- who does may things.  I am a father, husband, son, professor, activits, worker, resident, home leaser, citizen and, yes indeed also a Member of the UBC Faculty Association Executive and a member of the UNA Board of Directors. I can hear  Pete Seger singing which side are you one.   I do many things and it is conceivable that some might wonder in which capacity that I write. So, let me assure you: I write in my capacity as a person who stands up for democratic values.

For those who have wielded the power over the last few decades (developers, university administrators, and those closely allied to them) the very thought that there might be an alternative perspective to their own is quite likely a little bit frightful and frightening.  Here one shifts to the other implication of 'what hat does he wear?' This is a tactical approach used for the strategic end of undermining democratic practices by taking a legalistic form that hides behinds leading questions . 
Here are some questions: is this blog the place to discuss the UNA activities or actions; in what capacity is the author of the blog writing these entries; who owns the information that is being posted on the blog; should UNA notices be posted on this blog or only in UNA sanctioned publications?  These are just a short list of the types of questions that get asked. 

Well, for the record, information or comments on meetings that are in camera that I have participated in are never and will never be discussed on this blog.

The Listen In workshop was a de facto public event.  There were two journalists present Arno Rosenfeld (The Ubyssey) and John Tompkons (Campus Resident), though I don't believe either of them publicly identified themselves.  However, at least Tompkins is known and recognized by the UNA Directors and Staff and, if the event was private he would have been asked to leave or to not record and/or report on the event (at least I would assume that that is what would transpire).  The Ubyssey reporter didn't get a chance to introduce himself properly, but that was more a factor of agism whereby the young man was continually bypassed when the microphone was passed around the room for people to take turns taking or to introduce themselves.

The note taking and recording of the meeting was described to those in attendance (though in retrospect a more detailed description could have been offered).  In addition the facilitator of the workshop informed all in attendance that the meeting notes (the audio notes recorded by me and the flip chart notes recorded by Maria Harris) would be made available on this blog within ten business days of the workshop.  This would be the case until the UNA develops it's own capacity to host such notes.

At the end of the day what is posted here are my personal notes taken at the Listen In event.  The UNA Staff present took their own notes as did those members of the UBC Administration who were also present (they all sat off to a corner at the same table).  The beauty of democratizing information and making it available in these sorts of fora is that one person can not control the interpretation of what happened and multiple readings (and multiple listenings) can be made. Making information open access makes democracy function better as it undercuts the capacity of those whose currency is made by controlling information.

Knowledge is power - those with power know it and very often they don't like knowledge getting out.  As an anthropologist who has worked for many years in a range of communities I know that the best approach is to be open about what one is doing.  If one writes something in their notebook that would make one embarrassed or worried if it were to be read by the person one wrote about one needs to rethink what it is one is writing.  It's that simple.  What a great invention to be able to so easily and seamlessly show not only one's notes but the raw data those notes were made from - thus the beauty of the audio notes posted on this blog!

So you will see over to the right hand site of this blog that I have rewritten my profile to MAKE IT VERY CLEAR - these are my thoughts and my reflections in this blog.  They are news, comments, and ruminations on happenings within the University Town at UBC.  I speak for no one here but myself.

True democracy involves a dialectic of risk and trust.  I must take the risk that you will be considerate and fair in how you engage with me and treat me when you have power.  I trust that you are willing to act in good faith, just as you must trust that I too will act in good faith.  When people let fear motivate us to lose our trust in others democracy fails.

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