Thursday, July 3, 2008

Musings on Political Development and Political Culture

My tribe, called the Huu-ay-aht, is currently involved in a treaty with the Crown governments of Canada, the federal government and the province of British Columbia. We're in together with four other tribes and we call our group the Maa-nulth Treaty Society. As a people, we all speak roughly the same language and we are all members of a greater organization called the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Currently, the Maa-nulth Treaty Society has successfully negotiated and ratified the treaty and we're currently in a state of limbo between negotiation and implementation.

In any event, we have to prepare ourselves for self-government. We have done this in committees and I am a member of two of these committees: communications and governance. My current position with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations is in the Communications Department -- I am the Communications Coordinator. I maintain our Huu-ay-aht Website, the Huu-ay-aht Facebook Group, manage e-mails and other media relations. My most enjoyable tasks is putting together the monthly community newsletter, I both write articles and do most of the layout work on Adobe InDesign -- a fine program.

Today, I am more concerned with my involvement with the Huu-ay-aht Governance Committee. It is our task to read through the Maa-nulth Final Agreement, its Side Agreements, and the Huu-ay-aht Constitution and identify the laws, policies and other tasks that need to be done before we take over our collective destinies. Our mandate goes beyond the creation of laws, however, and this is where my mind has been going for the past while. 

When I think of governance, not only do I think of the laws and policies that are developed, but also the operating procedures of administrations and bureaucracies, infrastructure like communications and meeting space, human resource development, education and socialization. I think about the political development of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. 

I wonder how we may identify those institutions that influence the overall political culture of our community. It's more than just the government. In thinking this way, I am reminded of the agents of socialization that I learned whilst earning my BA:
  • Family
  • Peer Group
  • School
  • Mass Media
  • Work
  • The State
  • Religion
The State is listed, but it goes further than that. Areas of influence overlap for each of the agents. I work for my government but I utilize contacts in the mass media to get our message out to our members and the general public. My government can have a distinct impact on how our children are educated and how our parents are employed. Influence is pervasive and reciprocal. It moves in all directions and it is difficult to predict how one change at the state level can influence the economy or our schools. Is it a science, or an art?

Thoughts to ponder, but I remain focused enough to keep thinking about it

Stay tuned to this blog, I'll post notions as they take form and etch themselves into my mind.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

43 Things

I've come across a website by the name of 43things. It's a listing of thing that you want to do, currently or overall. I've decided that making it public would help me actually achieve those very things listed. So far, there's only five of them.

My 43Things Page

Pretty cool, I think.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

UVic Journal Summary

The following is the entirety of my reflections during a course on First Nations Governance, Administration and Management that I participated in at the University of Victoria from March 17 to March 21.

- - -

For me, the greatest theme of this most recent session was a reflection on change. Each First Nations community is changing in a different way. Just as it has been said by a wise and far-seeing man, the only constant is change. Building on my journal summary from the last session, it is my firm belief that we are not points in space, but rather vectors -- not islands on a map, but ships on headings. The chief responsibility of any leader has been the management of resources in a long and constant period of transition. My favourite author, William Gibson, wrote in the novel Pattern Recognition a stark but altogether accurate explanation of the world I believe we now live in:

"[W]e have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which 'now' was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents' have insufficient 'now' to stand on. We have no future our because our present is too volatile. ... We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment's scenarios. Pattern recognition."

I sometimes worry if the vision and goals that I am working toward will result in my community living in this world without a future. How do we reconcile the "long now" of the past with this nigh-constant era flux that seems to be upon us for the foreseeable future? This is why I was quite impressed with our discussion on the first day regarding authentic long term planning -- beyond the fiscal year, beyond the term of office, beyond the infamous five year plan. It evoked images of planning for decades in the future, generations in the future. It evoked images of our ancestors finally nodding their heads in agreement.

I know that we can construct institutions that can last for generations, the trick is learning more from the reed in the wind. What I became concerned about was not the endurance of our processes, but rather the health and capacity of our people. It was by the end of the second day that I had settled on a topic for my individual assignment. I wanted to propose a program that would improve First Nations governance by augmenting its safeguards: the hearts and minds of the people. Upon reflection, it my belief that we have an opportunity embedded in the consequences of our systemic oppression: we can help to create a community that is vital in ways that the current dominant one is not, or has seem to forgotten that it once was... I want to live in a community where every citizen not only has the opportunity to be involved in the decisions that affect us all, but have a real chance at having something to contribute. My proposal would be for the teaching of "First Nations Civics" as a part of social studies.

After looking back at Vine Deloria's writings on education and self-determination, I realize that this is no small task. The term "First Nations Civics" paints an image of bored children sitting in a classroom with an underpaid teacher reading aloud eloquent words in that characteristic droning that the disillusioned tend to utter after decades of disappointment. I merely want to propose that each community would do well to inform its members of not only collective and individual rights, but also individual and collective responsibilities. This can be done without ever a classroom being filled, but the trick becomes choosing the message and selecting the proper mediums. As Deloria wrote, knowledge is not lists and categories but a holistic understanding of relationships and interconnectedness. We all need to know how all relationships, at least in the socially-constructed world of human societies, are reciprocal. Education influences and is influenced by governance, and vice-versa. Linear lines of causality are relics of the past; we need to learn to live in a two-lane world.

I must admit that I have difficulty practicing what I preach. My methods of learning seem very Western in outlook. I learn by lists and categories and breaking things down into its constituent parts. I understand by putting it all back together in my head and trying to repeat the process in the real world. I have discovered much to the amusement of my grandfather, that this is easier said than done. I believe I am partway there -- I do not see myself as someone who will ever specialize too much when it comes to education. My undergraduate degree is in Global Studies, a self-described "interdisciplinary" approach" to the current fundamental shift in global politics, economics and society called globalization.

In any event, I still endeavour to integrate my big ideas and love of theory with the realities of the world. It is all well and good to wax poetic about the virtues of civic understanding, but how do we actually do it? I have trouble with detail. I have learned from those in class, both instructors and fellow students, that details are just as important as visions and ideas. I have often felt isolated, thinking my thoughts and never feeling like I was alllowed to articulate them due to my position in my tribal government. A particular student, a member of my group, Dave, taught me otherwise. I know now that I was merely afraid of my beloved ideas being criticized. I realize now that in order to actually help the condition of my community, I need to speak up and I need to let my ideas be viewed and evaluated. My ego is not as important as the discourse my potentially flawed ideas may instigate.

Trust, as ever, is center stage. It's about time someone took that first leap, it might as well be me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


... a blank page serves as a weeks-long selah. The previous entry was a snarky diatribe on hypocrisy, moral authority and atonement.

I have come to the conclusion that 2 + 2 = 4, even when the Devil tells you. Wisdom can be gleaned from strange places and one would do well to remember that.

I must, however, comment on something that simply confused me. The notion that a person can somehow spontaneously gain some requisite measure of self-confidence in order to graciously accept another's criticisms is lazy at best and foolhardy at worst. Critics need to realize that they don't tend to focus on the process of successfully delivering their message so much as they simply wish to demonstrate their superior knowledge to others.

Expertise and wisdom are qualities best recognized, not demonstrated to serve a purpose.


If I were to tattoo a word on the collective forehead of this generation, it would be TACT. All too often do we, as a group, fail to recognize or accept that the methods we take in communicating have an effect on the message itself. How many relationships have been soured because someone couldn't be bothered to take their audience into account.

This week, my motto will be "Tact, Honesty and Lucidity."

Write to you soon,

- John.
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Monday, February 11, 2008


Reserved for an unscheduled rewrite...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Help Me Pick My Blackberry Background

Llanowar Reborn by Philip Straub

[unknown title] by Linda Bergkvist aka Enayla

Note: Both images are posted without the artists' consent. I am more than willing to take them down if need be, but they are only 320 x 240 resolution, so...

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thank you, Crystal!

An Amazing Gift from an Amazing Person
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Very Good Movie

There Will Be Blood

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Mobile Blogging

I just acquired a Blackberry Curve, so I thought having it linked to my blog would be a good idea. I must admit the cool factor of the device is mitigated by the fact that I'm that much more liable to be tied to the Internet and my job.

Still, it also means that I can post when the Muse hits me over the top of the head and demands that I respond.

Expect an image upload soon.

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Question for a Whimsical Friday

What's in a name?

More precisely, what's in a screen-name?

This is, of course, a question of identity. We don't choose the names that we go by in the real world, even if we're known by a name other than our given one offline, it's most often a nickname given to you. For example, my name is John Alan Jack. My first name is from my great-grandfather on my dad's side. He was a company man, a Hudson's Bay Company man. My middle name is from my mother's younger brother, my Uncle Al. And my family name is Jack, named after the patriarch of the family when the Indian Agents were handing out anglicized names: Old Man Jack.

I didn't choose these names, but they're who I am.

I have two other names. Reprisal and Garacaius.

The first one is my oldest handle. It was originally lengthened to "Nuclear Reprisal." A term taken from a song by the Matthew Good Band called The Future is X-Rated. This was my name for online games like Unreal Tournament, Quake 3, Total Annihilation, Counter-Strike, and Day of Defeat. I shortened it to Reprisal not long after I started becoming more involved in the gaming community and after people online started calling me "Rep" for short on Voice-Chat.

Reprisal is not a term you see every day, unless you live in Gaza or the West Bank. I chose it as a good representation of the image I wanted the name to have in the lobbies and scoreboards of the games I played. A reprisal is a measured and "proportional" response to a violent or illegal act. That was the persona I took on whenever I logged in to play a game. I was a straight talking and cooperative player with an eye for teamwork and little patience for grand-standers. What little voice-chatting I did in a game had to do with position, strategy and congratulating other players on a well-timed grenade or an amazing shot.

I've lived with with name Reprisal for around ten years now. It's a part of who I am. I'm not particularly well-known in any long-term sense of the word, but when I visit the same game server or post on the same message board for a while, people tend to find familiarity in my name.

My name is my label, it's my brand.

I've recently decided to take on a new name: Garacaius. It's no less esoteric, but it's also more inocuous -- a handle I can use that's more widely accepted. Though it might be weird, people won't react as negatively to Garacaius nearly as much as they will a name like Reprisal.

I took the name from a background character I created for an RPG I was running for friends about a year and a half ago. His name was Garacaius Mendalus. He was a young-but-retired artificer who owned a merchant company with his fellow retired adventurers. Smart, good-natured, and way too cautious.

I figured it fit all too well.

I often wonder what others' stories are when it comes to their handles. Are they chosen fairly casually? Fairly naturally? Do they matter at all to you, especially now that websites like Facebook cncourage the use of your real name?

Real name.

What's in a name?