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Immediacy

Almost a month ago I received an email inviting me to join a Google+ group. I was happy to do so, thinking it was a personal invitation rather than one generated by an essentially anonymous algorithm.

John Kellden invited me on July 14, 2015.

John Kellden invited me on July 14, 2015

Arriving to the group (I went to check it out right away), the post that greeted me also seemed personally relevant to me; in fact my first impulse was that the founder of this group had invited me because that particular post had just been published. I felt an immediate tug to comment but hesitated…

Very soon (what felt like practically right away), I saw a Facebook post in a related “Conversation” group that complemented the Google+ group’s posting—indeed it felt directly relevant, articulating some of my private contemplations about a particular sub-set of dynamics that arose around a Sceenius’ Knowledge Expedition.

Fortunately, I didn’t have time to compose a comment at that exact instant, but the vitality of my visceral engagement meant I kept thinking about the communication I thought had occurred. That is to say, I felt as if a particular message (or messages) was sent deliberately to me, calling upon me to offer up a response. I say fortunately I didn’t give an instant response, because as I have been able to carve out time to explore more, I discovered that the Google+ post was not that fresh; it had been re-posted by someone other than the original author.

This image of convergence seems to be a statement of value.

This image of convergence seems to be a statement of value.

Ron’s original post pre-dated John’s invitation by three days. One could argue (I suppose) that this timing lends some credibility to an hypothesis that John invited me because of Ron’s post. Whether or not this was the case is of minor significance, however, in light of the reality of me experiencing it “as if” the meaning of “invite+convergence glyph” was directed personally to me.

Heteroglossia

It is more likely that the invitation I’d received from John was random: at least its timing with the (second) appearance of Ron’s Glyph diving in social fields post was coincidental. At most whatever motivated the invite to be sent at that particular moment was not accessible to me in the instant of reception—there was no “evidence” nor any “clues” presented to connect the invitation with anything that had happened before—only my suppositions; call them intuition, or wishful thinking, or fullblown fantasy. The experience offers an illustration of what one might call a communication fact: receivers are the ones most ‘in charge’ of deciding what something ‘means.’

My realization of the serendipity of the timing of John’s invitation and Ron’s posting called into question the construction of meaning in my mind, also casting doubt on the associations I’d made about the content of Joe’s Facebook post, How to Create a Group Mind, being a reflection or commentary relevant to the Sceenius dynamics in question. In fairness to my logic, I had not thought that there was any association between Joe’s post and Ron’s. Nor did I draw any overt connection between Joe’s post and John’s invitation. Rather I sensed a more covert kind of parallel process or synergy whereby different members of a group are always representing various aspects of the group’s whole/holistic experience.

"...the ability to resolve disputes..." offers a counterbalance to the (apparent) imperative for convergence.

“…the ability to resolve disputes…” offers a counterbalance to the (apparent) imperative for convergence.

Now, I am writing weeks after the immediacy of those deeply-felt ‘turns’ (John—Ron—Joe) and can imagine the labor of memory required for John, Ron and Joe to recall those original moments from their points-of-view. Certainly each of the their individual communication acts (Invitation—Google+Post—Facebook Post) are not seamlessly connected in their minds as part of a discrete flow of sequential experience. It is unlikely that these separate communication acts were collectively conceived as a conscious representation. One could go so far as to say that it’s ridiculous for me to have made such strong associations among them, particularly in terms of sensing myself as an intended audience. Indeed, only John might have considered his invitation to me a direct engagement warranting a designation of me as an interlocutor, but that single act of communication could hardly have been more than a blip in his day. Ron most likely did not have me in mind as a potential audience member/reader of his post.  Joe would not (as far as I know) have had any reason to even be aware of me when he decided to re-share his blogentry (originally written two years ago) on Facebook!

This diversity of communication experience is an illustration of what Mikael Bakhtin meant by heteroglossia: everyone speaks ‘their own language’ and, by corollary, comprehends language by making use of linguistic resources and packaging/interpreting perceptions in ways particular to their own particular ‘center’ according to the sequence of events and experiences. Everyone has different reference points, experiences a unique stream of communicative events, and is informed from the on-going transactions of their specific embodiment and particular social position(s)/positionality. These aggregate and cohere in society to create social reality: prejudices, discriminations, and oppressions as well as strengths, beauties and aspirations. This dialectical process is prominently enabled by language: language use, language-in-use, language as transactional for the transmission of knowledges and equally (though often neglected) the perpetuation of identities and relationships through time (see John Carey).

At an emotional level, I would have preferred to continue to flow onward along the trajectory of the imaginary meaningfulness I constructed from those three discrete communication acts! When such acts collapse in mutually shared experience, it seems people do generally prefer to carry on at full speed along that stream. Perhaps there was a way I could have “joined” in a more immediate manner, but I was at a loss to reconcile the complexity of our interaction into a simple reduction that was suitable to the moment without compromising or, worse, appearing to erase an unresolved previous encounter.

Can we hold each other accountable for real? And, in doing so, can we uphold each other’s dignity and respect each other’s learning curves and processes of assimilating new/different feedback?

In other words, how, I keep wondering, can we ever generate collective coherence beyond the easy magnetism of instantaneous grokking when divergence is much more common than convergence, or when convergence self-perpetuates itself only among those who are already like-minded?

What is needed is to enable connection that allows for, nay embraces, tensions of real difference as an essential part of collectivizing.

Calibration

Michael Holquist, a contemporary Bahktinian scholar and translator, labeled the operational function of language in generating chronotopes as timespace calibration.  Bakhtin had realized that the language of a people reveals that people’s orientation to time and thus to space, that culture or society’s overall relation to timespace—the time of spaces. Bakhtin gleaned this from close comparative study of early literature (the Greeks and Romans) and contrasted their similarities and differences with the popular Russian literature of his own time, the first half of the 20th century. Bakhtin suggested that not only does language provide a lens for discernment of past and present cultural and ideological orientations to time (and thereby to space); language is itself a tool for constructing the social realities of timespaces. That is, language dynamics make a significant contribution to the generation of material conditions.

These days, I’m a peripheral, minor participant in several chronotopally-bound conversations. I think of them as contrapuntal. The general trend in most of these conversations is a centrifugal discourse, one that continually re-centers itself as “the” most-important-thing-that-is-happening-now. #BlackLivesMatter is a counterpoint to #Conversation and also to a month-long online encounter last January exploring Dialogue, Deliberation and Social Transformation . #Conversation strikes me as a tech version of the #permaculture movement. Last week Greenpeace dangled human beings in front of a massive oil rig to try and prevent drilling in the Arctic. Egypt nears absolute water crisis. War and unspeakable violence continues to ravage vast populations of human beings on the planet. The patterns of self-reinforcing language use of folks invested in each of these discourses offer slim strands of interconnections, but there is no reason these cannot be made more robust! I suppose that giving careful attention to interpersonal/small group-scale moments of disconnect and divergence (according to diverse beats and varying rhythms) we can identify and forge such mergers.

With time, practice, and increasing skill, this more resilient ‘net’ will spread.

Alliances must be broader, deeper, and more wholistic. We must learn and enact skills of bridging differences in those moments when surface synergy becomes unharmonic, when the rhythm shifts to an unfamiliar score or the beat changes from a familiar cadence to one which feels discomfitting or even threatening. If we are to build hope of overcoming the entrenched systemic inertia of industrial civilization with its myriad comforts and diversions, we must learn to embrace and adopt the explorer’s ethos and curiosity about what’s going on right here right now so that we can discover how to get along into the future in profoundly new ways.

My dissertation is available through Scholarworks at the University of Massachusetts.

 

 

“Language is the medium and progenitor of discourse.”

~ Evangelina Holvino ~

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This dissertation began twenty-five years ago, long before I entered graduate school, with the Deaf and Hearing members of the Bilingual-Bicultural Committee at the Indiana School for the Deaf.  By living what it means to be an ally, you gave me a taste of the possible and set my life on course. Together, all of you had achieved a large cohesive group where difference mattered but was not allowed to get in the way. I have not yet encountered another group with such a broad range of diversity and clearly shared purpose.

Read the rest of this entry »

”        ”

Graham started this with an empty quotation: he did not even include a period. The rest of him was right out of a Marvel comic – muscles on muscles. “Hey!” someone shouted from a hospital bed, interrupting the researcher who insisted on summarizing the findings eloquently and thoroughly, armed with a gun and a knife and some matches. ”Two out of three. You’re doing fantastic.”

On the surface, both “Buying My Condo” and “Living Fully” are fairly straightforward, one point following another just like in sign language interpreting, where everything referring to the present is signed just in front of the body. Indicating sequences into the future, however, requires other maneuvers: how then, quickly, could Sylvester McMonkey McBean put together a very peculiar machine?

Must one inquire into the issues that delay or block resolution? Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it. The tofu gains much flavor this way, despite those who mock it as an “open -and- shut case.”  I believe, asserted Fletcher, this is a result of suppressing and ignoring – if I am honest, of actively rejecting – my natural psychic ability to ‘see” beyond the physical world.

“We’ll talk later,” Jack said. “We need to get back to the car before the storm pours buckets on us.” There were students finishing at the school for the deaf who wanted vocational training. Many are capable, of course, of comprehending that conservation of energy does not contradict Newton’s laws, and in fact, is derivable from them, and so from a strictly mathematical point of view it adds nothing to Newtonian physics. The Deaf also know about communication.

When animals and humans still shared the same language, the Cree recount, Rabbit wanted to go to the moon. Rabbit asked the strongest birds to take him, but Eagle was busy and Hawk couldn’t fly so high. Crane said he would help. He told Rabbit to hold onto his legs. Then he went for the moon. The journey was long and Rabbit was heavy. Rabbit’s weight stretched out Crane’s legs and bloodied Rabbit’s paws. but Crane reached the moon, with Rabbit hanging onto him. Rabbit patted Crane in thanks, his hands still bleeding. So Crane got his long legs and blood-red head.

Back then, too, a Cherokee woman was courted by both Hummingbird and Crane. She wanted to marry Hummingbird, because of his great beauty. But Crane proposed a race around the world. The woman agreed, knowing Hummingbird’s speed. She didn’t remember that Crane could fly at night. And, unlike Hummingbird, Crane never tired. Crane flew in straight lines, where Hummingbird flew in every direction. Crane won the race with ease, but the woman still rejected him.

All the humans revered Crane, the great Orator. Where cranes gathered, their speech carried miles. The Aztecs call themselves the Crane People. One of the Anishinaabe clans was named the Cranes—Ajijak or Businassee— the Echo Makers. The Cranes were leaders, voices that called all people together. Crow and Cheyenne carved cranes’  leg bones into hollow flutes, echoing the echo maker.

Latin grus, too, echoed that groan. In Africa, the crowned crane ruled words and thought. The Greek Palamedes invented the letters of the alphabet by watching noisy cranes in flight. In Persian, kurti, in Arabiac, ghurnuq: birds that awaken before the rest of creation, to say their dawn prayers. The Chinese xian-he, the birds of heaven, carried messages on their backs between the sky worlds.

Cranes dance in southwestern petroglyphs. Old Crane Man taught the Tewa how to dance. Australian aborigines tell of a beautiful and aloof woman, the perfect dancer, turned by a sorcerer into a crane.

Apollo came and went in crane form, when visiting the world.The poet Ibycus, in the sixth century B.C., beaten senseless and left for dead, called out to a passing flock of cranes, who followed the assailant to a theatre and hovered over him until he confessed to the astonished crowd.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Hera and Artemis turn Gerania into a crane, to punish the Pygmy queen for her vanity. The Irish hero Finn fell off a cliff and was caught in the air by his grandmother, when she changed into a crane. If cranes circled overhead above American slaves, someone would die. The First Warrior who fought to create ancient Japan took the form of a crane at death and flew away.

Tecumseh tried to unite the scattered nations under the banner of Crane Power, but the Hopi mark for the crane’s foot became the world’s peace symbol. The crane’s foot—pie de gruebecame that genealogist’s mark of branching descent, pedigree.

To make a wish come true, the Japanese must fold a thousand paper cranes. Twelve-year-old Sadako Sasaki, stricken with “atom bomb sickness,” made it to 644. Children worldwide send her thousands, every year.

Cranes help carry a soul to paradise. Pictures of cranes line the windows of mourning houses, and crane-shaped jewelry adorns the dead. Cranes are souls that once were humans and might be again, many lives from now. Or humans are souls that once were cranes and will be again, when the flock is rejoined.

Something in the crane is trapped halfway, in the middle between now and when. A fourteenth-century Vietnamese poet sets the birds forever in the air:

Clouds drift as days pass; Cypress trees are green beside the altar, The heart, a chilly pond under moonlight. Night rain drops tears of flowers. Below the pagoda, grass traces a path. Among the pine trees, cranes remember The music and songs of years ago. In the immensity of sky and sea, How to relive the dream before the lamp of that night?

When animals and people all spoke the same language, crane calls said exactly what they meant. Now we live in unclear echoes. The turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, says Jeremiah. Only people fail to recall the order of the Lord.

They arrived at nightfall, just as lanterns were being lit in the grounds to illuminate the driveway. ”We can make this the ‘summer only’ lunch table,” she said, adapting to the circumstances. I am not allowed to have tattoos yet–which is unfair–so for now, I just draw things on my arms so I don’t forget them. Meanwhile, the fairy king took one last look at his daughter and returned to his kingdom beneath the water, knowing he’d better hang up and start reading.

Stitched together from quotes shared on Facebook for International Book Week.
Some are modified, most are not.
FYI: This event seems to have spawned from the Edinburgh International Book Festival:
Bully for them!

 

One reason that I have become so interested in the work of emergency management professionals is because Emergency Planners and First Responders are feeling a sense of urgency, on a large system-scale, that suggests the kind of intensity motivating the space program’s original mission to reach the moon. Emergency management professionals care about their work because they understand the relationship of what they do to achieving a larger vision: public safety and the capacity to recover quickly from disasters. This caring was in constant evidence at yesterday’s Whole Community Preparedness Summit sponsored by the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council at UMass Amherst. It was also evident in a pilot training that the DC Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism, Serve DC, provided last year at Gallaudet University. One of the instructors for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) team training, shared with the group how important the experience had been for him, saying that he had learned a lot and that direct interaction with Deaf people using interpreters should be a part of routine training.

“We need to practice how we’ll play.” Read the rest of this entry »

Fox News, Boston affiliate channel 25, and Doug VB Goudie should be sued for hate speech. Seriously. Denying Deaf people the right to information in a language they can understand is violence. Ridicule of their language is an act of violence on a continumm that begins with disregard and ends with people dying because they are excluded from public communication.

Watch the ASL version of this blogentry.

What's happening VB? You just realized the beauty of communication using a visual-gestural human language!

VB discovers American Sign Language – Where has he been?

The Deaf community in Massachusetts has been lobbying for live simultaneous interpretation of emergency press conferences for decades. Finally, Governor Patrick and his staff figure out the logistics of providing quality professional interpretation and VB makes a mockery of it? First, you’d think VB just discovered he has eyes. Welcome to the world of visual noise! Second, what’s wrong with multitasking? You can’t watch and listen to two different things at the same time? Come on, VB, join the modern world. Third, if he has the hots for Deval, he should take it elsewhere. No, VB, “Deval Deval Deval” is not where people’s attention should be during a PUBLIC EMERGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT. People’s attention should be on the information, not the messenger.

American Sign Language performed by a Certified Deaf Interpreter: This is ASL!

Title should read: The best ASL we’ve ever seen!

Which is why it is so insulting that you would even consider asking the ASL interpreter to “tone it down.” You, a non-deaf (“hearing”) person with access to who knows how many communication channels? You can find the information again easily and with no language barrier. Deaf people get one chance to see the information in their own language. And you want to begrudge them the opportunity because you can’t concentrate? Get a grip, man.

Not only does the provision of live simultaneous interpretation during crises give access to the Deaf community to information that you take for granted, it could become a signal to the hearing world that something important is going on and maybe everyone should pay attention too!  Precisely because it isn’t every day that an interpreter shows up on the television screen is a fantastic way to let everyone know there’s a situation where personal safety is at risk.

Watch VB’s news commentary.

Here’s a transcript:

WOMAN: Alright, Welcome back 6:25 this morning. It’s time to “Let it Rip” on Fox 25 morning news, VB joining us in studio here. A treat, 2 days in a row we’ve had him here. And we have Bonnie here as well as we Let It Rip on the press conference. Meant to be a serious thing here, we’re talking about a serious blizzard heading our way. But if you watched this thing yesterday, I…I don’t know how you couldn’t be distracted by everything (laughing) that was going on in the background of this. You had Andrea Cabral in the background who was obviously very warm. And is fanning herself, which by the way, was a very nice fan. Looks like she must bring this with her everywhere
Gene: fashionable
Woman: very fashionable fan…then you have this (laughs) sign language person, who is very, very animated and VB I think you said it best before, “she’s at like an 11 and maybe she needs to bring it down to like a 6”.
VB: Look, at one point during this thing, my wife and I were like not listening at all to the governor and we were trying to caption HER. Because this, this stuff is so over the top and so exaggerated. Maybe it is, I don’t even know, but from my viewpoint it was. I was just fascinated on her the whole time, and I don’t know what I was supposed to do because I wasn’t listening to the Governor.
Woman: (laughing)
Bonnie: You know what? This came up with Hurricane Sandy too because the interpreter who was at Mayor Blumberg’s press conference was also very, very animated. It actually prompted a lot of articles. There was actually one in ‘The Atlantic’ answering the question “why are these interpreters so animated?”
Woman: They did a whole SNL skit on it, remember? (laughing)
VB: (laughing) what is that whole motion there? (laughing) Look at that!?
Gene: (laughing)
Bonnie: Yeah, you know but other than the hand motions, their facial expressions actually modify what is going on. So, if there’s going to be snow, then they can say ‘there’s going to be a lot of snow’. Or its ‘really bad snow’ or ‘you need to hurry’. So, I think that the dramatic interpretation doesn’t bother me at all. I mean, you listen. These people, have…have the pressure of having to translate, on the spot and make sure they capture it dramatically so that people can understand. So if you find it distracting, I don’t know, just focus on the governor. Listen, walk away. you can hear, so VB walk away from the TV and just listen
Gene: (talking over Bonnie) I’ve seen others that have done it and haven’t been that distracting,
Woman: yeah…I have too.
Gene: So I don’t buy that, I don’t buy that at all. I mean, listen, I know she has important information to put out there. And to people who have issues and need that service that’s being provided, but I think it could be done so in a way…that’s all you’re talking about this morning, you know? The Governor is passing along some important information…and you’re trying to listen…and you know, there’s so many other things going on how could you NOT be distracted by it all?
Woman: We’ve obviously seen it at other press conferences..
Gene: (talking over) It’s all everyone is talking about, twitter has all these comments about it
Woman: hashtags for people who are all of a sudden stealing the show, and no one was tweeting any of the information that was coming out of the press conference.
VB: I guarantee you when Richard Davey walked off that stage, whoever greeted him, the first thing Davey says “ Was it me, or was that really distracting?” (woman laughing) Andrea Cabral is fanning him as much as she’s fanning herself. (woman lauging) And second of all, you can see Davey periodically looking out the corner of his eye like “wow! I didn’t see that one coming” and if HE’s distracted? We’re going to be distracted! Let’s say this was 9/11…YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS! There are times, when …
Woman: right, right
VB: its gotta absolutely be focused on the speaker and that was the LAST thing I was focused on here.
Woman: yeah, that’s true.
Gene: right
Woman: Alright, well MYFOXBOSTON.COM or our facebook page if you’d like to weigh in on this we’d love to hear from you…

 

 

Where, and when, does meaning happen?

Communicating through a simultaneous interpreter with someone who thinks and communicates with a language different from yours is a very special kind of intercultural communication. This online professional development workshop from the Learning Lab for Resiliency will use a think tank approach to engage participants in open dialogue about the intersection of communication theory with interpreting practice.

CEU’s available. Information and registration instructions are available here.

Outrage in the Deaf community over the ridicule of American Sign Language.

Language for the Eyes

It has only taken decades of advocacy and complaints to the FCC, FEMA, and State governments for public officials to respond to Deaf Americans who rely on sign language for communication.

DeafNation, emphasizing language, culture and pride, expresses “dismay and concern” to Chelsea Handler.

The outburst of public response to professional simultaneous interpretation of a signed language during Hurricane Sandy reveals an astonishing range of exoticism, prejudice, and basic ignorance of a vibrant linguistic culture flourishing despite generations of institutionalized discrimination.

The robust capacity of American Sign Language to communicate in the dimension of sight has apparently blown the minds of sound-centric “hearing people.” None of the media coverage of the emergency interpreting by Lydia Callis gets all of the details right. Most of the mainstream discourse focuses on Ms Callis’ diction, minimizing the essential purpose of emergency access to communication through simultaneous interpretation. This is why the Deaf community is furious. Seth Gerlis explains in a special report from i Deaf News: “Access to communication during an emergency is very important to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community.” A petition demanding an apology for an offensive skit by Late Show comedian Chelsea Handler explains, “We are thankful to have her to interpret for us.”

Professional sign language interpreters are also offended. Bill Moody explains:

We don’t want to be stars; we just want Deaf people to know what is going on! But [Lydia Callis] should have had a partner to help her when she got tired, help her with local place names, and show that interpreters work in teams. I do not appreciate the parodies of her interpreting work which have proliferated around the internet. They are meant to be in good fun, but they indicate the kind of bias against a language which uses facial expressions and body movement as a part of its grammar. Our work as interpreters is not funny. It is serious business. Yes, of course, we like to laugh at ourselves and at life, but sign language itself should not be the brunt of jokes.

Insider vs Outsider Humor

I appreciate Bill’s point that sign language itself should not be the object of ridicule, and the Deaf community’s reaction is also justified. It would be different if, for instance, deaf children had reliable exposure to adult ASL role models every single school day and deaf adults had consistent provision of simultaneous interpretation when needed to participate as an equal employee in the workplace. On the other hand, becoming the butt of public humor is a powerful indicator of social acceptance. What if the Lydia moment generates a turning point in the provision of simultaneous interpretation and ASL-based education because hearing people realize they do care about the lives and experiences of the Deaf?

In contrast with Chelsea Handler’s outsider humor, another parody offers insight into some of the subtexts of simultaneous interpretation. The resistance of hearing people to actually use interpreting to establish meaningful relationships with Deaf individuals results in a skewed kind of pair bonding between deaf people and interpreters. Unless and until hearing people begin to realize that there is more to communication than words of information, misunderstandings are bound to continue. In an emergency situation, this could result in the loss of life, health, or valuable property. A spoof by Frank Panda, Armando Riesco, and Shirley Rumierk could be understood as  a cultural critique of the misguided fascination of hearing people with the language of ASL rather than to the potential relationship being enacted with deaf people. Ineffective communication is the usual result of such dismissive behavior, despite the outstanding skills and best intentions of professional interpreters.

Emergency Management Interpreting

Officials charged with public warnings need to comprehend why English-text captioning, note writing, and the use of volunteers who may have learned some sign language is insufficient:  protecting Deaf Americans during disasters requires embedding emergency management interpreters at all levels of operations.

Callis was great, but not because she was so lively and animated. She was great because she was performing a seriously difficult mental task—simultaneously listening and translating on the spot—in a high-pressure, high-stakes situation. Sure, she was expressive, but that’s because she was speaking a visual language. Signers are animated not because they are bubbly and energetic, but because sign language uses face and body movements as part of its grammar.

It is gratifying to see some governors and television stations finally get public warning communication right by hiring professional interpreters and keeping the interpreter onscreen so the Deaf audience can benefit from the emergency communication access to information. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and Governor Deval Patrick did Mayor Bloomberg one better by hiring a Certified Deaf Interpreter to generate a localized interpretation (something Ms Callis was unable to do, working alone and being relatively new to the New York City scene). A recent Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training at Gallaudet University demonstrated how crucial it is in a crisis to use local interpreters who are familiar with the place-specific terminology and references. One of the CERT instructors, Chief John Sollers, told the group how important the experience had been for him, explaining that he had learned a lot and, in particular, emphasizing that using interpreters for emergency communication between First Responders with Deaf people should be a part of routine training: “We  need to practice how we’ll play.”

Providing effective public warnings is the first, most obvious stage of integrating sign language interpreters into the infrastructure of emergency management. The next stage involves recognizing and treating professional sign language interpreters as peers within the community of first responders. Angela Kaufman (ADA Coordinator, City of Los Angeles Department on Disability) and Rick Pope (GEMINI Project) proposed the establishment of sign language interpreter strike teams at FEMA’s Getting Real II: Promising Practices in Inclusive Emergency Management for the Whole Community in 2011.

Moving Forward into an Era of Climate Healing

NBC’s Brian Williams talked with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Williams suggested that a vast public works project was needed and asked, “Is New York the New Amsterdam?” Cuomo did not disagree. He answered, “As I said kiddingly the other day, we having a 100-year-flood every two years now…we have not seen a problem like this, a flood like this, in our generation. It’s a new reality for us and it’s one we are going to have to deal with.

All of these problems are interrelated. We need an ingenious strategy that insists upon linking social justice with the economic infrastructure. Weather has always served a unifying purpose for Americans – it has given us a safe topic upon which to find common ground despite every imaginable kind of social, cultural, and religions difference. Emergency response costs have skyrocketed over the last five years. The rate and severity of natural disasters is absolutely unprecedented. The vulnerability of disenfranchised and minority populations is no longer the only risk to the stability of our society. By making the commitment and dedicating ourselves to extending the reach of emergency preparedness and response to everyone, entirely new career fields can be created – putting Americans back to work and reinvigorating the economy. This is necessary in order to usher in a new equality along with taking up responsibility for minimizing – and eventually reversing – the effects of global warming.

I am writing my dissertation.

One chapter involves making the case for the research method of action learning. I announced this methodology in a blog-entry about my prospectus defense. The kind of knowledge that I am interested in is applied – I want to generate and circulate knowledge that can be used by everyone. The present state of general knowledge about simultaneous interpretation is slim, and specialist knowledges are dense and possibly counterproductive to best practice.

Young people aren’t being taught
the right words to even ask
the right questions.

~ Erin Watson, No Experiences
quoting @horse_ebooks

I chose action learning as my research methodology because I did not have all of the right words, and the batches of the words I did have would not just fall into making a single best question. Finally (after many years), I can ask (what I think is the best) question in various forms, fitting the question to the particular perspective of the audience or receiver(s) in the given context.

A few days ago, I interpreted the opening ceremony at an area college. I commented to my interpreting teammate that one of the benefits of being associated with education is that we are exposed to inspirational speeches a couple of times a year. No matter how many motivational speeches I’ve interpreted (usually from English into ASL), nearly every presenter manages to say something new or particularly relevant to whatever challenges I am currently living. This time it was Rainer Maria Rilke:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved . . . and try to love the questions themselves . . . the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Recently, my writing has involved email correspondence with a range of different groups of people with various degrees of interest in simultaneous interpretation. I am living the question with each of these groups. The simultaneity of the conversations give me hope that we are, already, somehow living ourselves into the best answer.

 

  1. What is the purpose of dialogue?
  2. Pre-Occupied: Narratives (told and untold) that fill us up
  3. Engaging Youth’s Multicultural Reality
  4. The Key
  5. Green and Red Lines: Asking Different Questions
  6. The Light

In his remarks opening the 6th international Dialogue Under Occupation conference, founder Larry Berlin posed the question:

“What is the purpose of dialogue?”

Closing scene, Fantasia Opus 3, the fantastic range of children's dreams.

Closing scene, Fantasia Opus 3, the fantastic range of children's dreams.

It is a question that the people attending and presenting at the DUO VI conferences did not figure out. Perhaps part of the reason for the absence of an answer is in the framing of the question. We are mostly academics, which means we usually talk abstractly about things we study rather than doing them with each other.

There is less confusion (it seems) about the other key term in the title of our conference: occupation. I did not think of “occupation” as a synonym for “career” during Sophia Mihic’s keynote presentation on the near history of neoliberalism. Now, afterwards, this strikes me as odd, since her argument about the term “human capital” relies on the difference between “labor” and “work.” I suspect this is an instance of collective repression – a de-selection of one possible meaning in favor of another, and then forgetting having made thechoice. Sophia’s thoughtful presentation and critical engagement throughout the conference helps me wonder: are DUO conference participants in the process of producing a work of critical art? Or are these conferences solely labor – the repetition of rituals that must be performed in order to satisfy and maintain professional credentials? Could we somehow manage to do both?

Pre-Occupied: Narratives (told & untold) that fill us up

In a similarly linguistic vein, Cris Toffolo asked us to consider the difference between “post-occupation” and “post-conflict” as labels describing countries like Lebanon. The main distinction between the two terms involve the presence and extent of violence as well as its duration. DUO VI conference participants were undecided whether the use of these labels matter. Instead, we talked about the actions taken “post” – specifically whether the politicians, media, and populace (all of its diverse publics) engage an open communication process designed to promote healing, or choose some other coping strategy as the means to simply and quickly move on. I was particularly struck by the critique she found of Lebanon’s political leadership (Assi Collective Memory – Lebanon, by Elsa Abou Assi) which describes the decision to absolve insiders by blaming outsiders. There had already been a couple of strong statements issued during some of the Question-and-Answer periods about (for instance), there being no one to forgive but oneself for allowing the outsiders to come in and wreck havoc. There is so much to unpack in Lebanese discourse about war and conflict, so many stories that have been told (adult-to-adult) and passed from adults (especially parents) to children who are now grown up and coping in their varied ways with the underlying, unresolved tensions: of necessity finding courage in the face of fear.

Engaging youth’s multicultural reality

View from the castle at Byblos/Jbeit, Lebanon.

View from the castle at Byblos/Jbeit, Lebanon.

The DUO VI conference attracted few of the young people at Lebanon American University, let alone activists from the broader Beirut community. Most youth were more likely to partake in cultural performance events, such as a screening of Rabat. I was lucky to meet Director Jim Taihuttu; we talked about audience reactions to the film. The cast and crew put serious effort into capturing the way youth in Holland actually talk, codeswitching among languages (e.g., Dutch, Moroccan, Surinamese) and borrowing terms back and forth in an unpredictable, dynamic flux. The dialogue is so representative and “natural” that audience members of their peer group feel as if they’re “in the car” with the protagonists. In a generous gesture of inclusion, Rabat is captioned in Dutch as well as English and Arabic so that older generations and foreigners can understand the linguistic mixing. “I disagree with people who talk about multiculturalism as something that you are either for or against, “Jim said. “It is what we are living, a multicultural reality.”

The Key

Barbara Birch’s DUO conference presentation included some guidelines that apply to teaching in general. Countering the linguistic imperialism of English, Barbara proposes the use of the English language as a source of social action that can enable transitions from current injustice to preferable futures. The critical question for teachers involves identifying the moment when you can move students from a wide focus (learning how to say things in general situations) to a narrow one: how to say things in very specific situations. This move, from the general topic to the specific sociocultural transaction, allows the exploration of different norms in the immediate moment of communication. Turning that key opens a door to learning how to navigate the emotions and colliding (complementing and contradicting) narratives involving questions of history and justice. As skills increase, students and teachers learning together can take on increasingly tricky challenges, creating new rituals of being with “Others” and living a new world into being.

Green and Red Lines: Asking Different Questions

Ending violence: domestic, national, religious

Ending violence: domestic, national, religious

I do not know how the color symbolism came about, but I noticed the label of a “Green Line” is the same for both Beirut and Israel/Palestine. In terms of traffic lights, green means “go” – maybe this is a weird way to think of it, but it seems the very label has a subtext encouraging battle. The implication struck me when Ilham Nasser presented her findings on public acts of forgiveness in Arab culture. She discovered a “red line” beyond which people would not forgive others – it could be an insult, a misunderstanding, a failure to respect religious beliefs, etc. Again, it is the symbolism that seems significant: forgiveness is RED (don’t go there!) while war is GREEN (storm ahead, boys!)

The Light

Cris’ roundtable was about the limits and possibilities of talking about human rights as a way to leverage public healing processes. In political science, there is a lot of evidence that broad political-journalistic efforts of reconciliation are functional and productive (South Africa, Ireland, and Guatemala were named as examples). The information Cris shared complemented Professor Makram Ouaiss’ opening keynote address, in which he emphasized asymmetry as the way to shift conflicts from on-going cycles of violence to non-violent methods for ending occupation and establishing civil societies. Dr Ouaiss’ point is that non-violence is understudied, proven effective, and morally legitimate.

Given the right structure and support, I hypothesize that there are enough young people in Beirut willing and capable of having this difficult conversation. Despite the horrors they’ve been through, I witnessed some amazing displays of conviction concerning the things that really matter: including peace with Palestinians and sharing joy within one’s family. As Dr Ouaiss explained, persuading people of the logic and effectiveness of non-violence takes time and repeated efforts.

Written half in Beirut, half in Amherst MA.
Link to the NYTimes Art Review:
Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language

The Ringleader got us to the Captain Cabin’s then vanished to play pool.

Celebrating a student production of collective memories from their childhoods in Lebanon..

Celebrating a student production of collective memories from their childhoods in Lebanon..

LD (the eldest) spoke for the group, “I don’t care, but I want a code name.” The youngest argued for Peter Pan. No problem.  I am a pushover as long as it works—otherwise you have to convince me (this is not impossible). Twenty-Two exclaimed, “It’s not like I’m hiding anything!” I had wanted to know the size of their ambitions. “Big questions over small glasses,” answered Small Fry, a tall guy protecting Polly Sigh. Sleepy brought Attached along for the ride. Spike agreed with OJ:

“Communication arts are the future, not politics!”

Yalla. Humans, mech maskal, will never be free of the polis. The question is whether politicians can ever again be heroes. No more the sole character forging a lonely way, from now on (in this heavily-mediated age) ‘twill be committed teams and affinity groups treading new paths together who transform the global inheritance of random torture to livable interrelations for the children and the children’s children.

Insist!
Swords no more – salvage words!
Who will rise and heal the future?

I depart Beirut as I entered, awash in serendipity. Back in whaling days, the Captain’s cabin was a private refuge. Entry by others was privileged and rare.

Yearning toward the future . . .

Yearning toward the future . . .

Generous gifts of time and talk throughout my stay dance questions among the neurons of my mind. Smoke of mixed feelings percolates in memory, stimulated by shining souls seeking solace in playful remembrance while drowning sorrow in drink and mad beats relentless rhythms demanding more faster sooner more already more tomorrow who can care much about tomorrow something happened in the north yesterday I’m glad you did not travel south today.

Old as I am my heart beats clear. Vibrant youth, what will ye choose—the stories you’ve been told or the ones you wish to author? My return, Inshallah, issues forth with your desire.

Written in flight, Beirut-Rome-New York City;
Edited and posted from Queens

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