A significant difference between the Indigenous paradigm and the economic model currently impinging on the world is that the Indigenous paradigm has a moral code at the core rather than the drive of financial benefit. This moral code consists of such things as the need for gender balance, the need to place women and children at the centre, and the need to value the seven grandmother teachings. Traditional teachers and elders teach us that this is the moral code that we need to rely on as we move forward together.
While at one time the oral tradition had more space in our world, this is not the case today. Today, so much of what we do is shaped by textual communication such as print materials (books and articles), texting, Facebook, and Twitter. As a matter of fact it is said we are in the midst of a social media revolution.
If we are going to harness the benefits of this revolution there are some things we need to consider.
First, we need to value that texting obscures much of our intended meaning and this makes it harder to ensure we are in fact communicating our ideas and thoughts clearly with one another.
Second, we need to value that the meaning under the words and concepts we use to communicate our ideas and thoughts shifts across time, as well as shifts across space from community to community.
Third, we need to value that people are at different stages of learning.
Fourth, we need to value that just as processes of colonization have mapped the Indigenous landscape with treaties and unnatural boundaries, processes of colonization have also mapped the Indigenous body with disease and disability − both physical and intellectual. As a result people may not be able to read and understand the essential, cryptic, and idiosyncratic messages that sometimes manifest in our texting processes. Further, people with missing digits (fingers) or visual disabilities may be unable to respond quickly and accurately in the process of texting.
Alternatively stated, the process of change is not going to be neat and tidy. We will encounter disagreements, uproars, and fractions may form. Our goal though will always be the same − meaningful change. Our potential and leanings towards lateral violence during this time needs to be kept in check, otherwise it will take away from our efforts and goals. Textual communication through texting, Facebook, and Twitter can be a poor form of communicating in that so much is missing from the process of conveying thought and ideas. We need to face it, texting through these mediums is not the oral tradition minus the politics. Rather, it is politically laden text. I have witnessed and experienced that all too often our textual communications are taking a dive down to a really low place. Canada, the nation state, loves this. We need to be objective about our negative feelings and value that everyone − thinkers, practitioners, women, men, youth, scholars, artists, and those who use Facebookers and Twitter − all have a role in the momentum of this conjuncture.
The social media revolution has been great at spurring on two resistance and educational movements known as Idle No More and Indigenous Nationhood Movement. If we want to maximize the potential of this revolution we really need to be cognizant of the limitations of textual communication and allow an Indigenous moral code to guide us forward as we work to make the world a better place.
In summary in our process of communicating we need to make sure that we understand what we are reading and ask for clarity before reacting. In addition, we should expect people to ask us questions such as, "What do you mean?" and "Can you say that another way?"
Make your ancestors proud, be kind as you text.
Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process. She recently published a book entitled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts, and her second book, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims Process, will be published in March 2014. You can reach her at email@example.com and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.
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