Occupy Savvy Exclusive! One of the coolest things about activism is that it doesn’t have celebrities – it has role models. Recently, we put 7 poignant questions to five of the world’s most inspiring women. These women hail from Iceland, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and for their profound actions, deeds, words, generosity, heart, and perseverance, we deem them “wahine toa”.
In Aotearoa, New Zealand, we describe a fearless woman of soul and substance, as “wahine toa”. This very loosely translates to “woman warrior.”
The Maori dictionary explains it as;
wāhine: (noun) women, females, ladies, wives.
toa: (stative) be brave, bold, victorious, experienced, accomplished, adept, competent, skilful, capable.
But wahine toa is even more; to us she is;
kaitiaki: (noun) trustee, minder, guard, custodian, guardian, keeper.
ūkaipō: (noun) mother, origin, source of sustenance, real home.
She is “atua” in the sense of; “a way of perceiving and rationalising the world”.
If it were audible; we could almost hear our ladies blushing through the screen. The truth is; they deserve every accolade we can give them, as they live this wild journey called life to the fullest, inspiring so many of us to follow their path, by discovering our own.
These next few days, you will see the same 7 questions posted here, again and again. But you will see vastly different answers. All of a unique and immeasurable insightfulness that is a gift, as a reader, to absorb.
We are kicking this series off with the answers of Canada’s very own Min Reyes.
Min is described by Wikipedia as a ‘political commentator’ but she has been much more. She was an early participant in the social media blitz that has formed the backbone of the communications networks of the 99% in all its forms.
Without discrimination, she has been a conduit, a voice, for those who without her may not have had one.
It is our privilege to call her friend. Without further adieu; our exclusive interview with Min Reyes.
Q1. Occupy Savvy: Strong women abound in the Occupy and Idle No More movements. Did you ever foresee that you would contribute as meaningfully as you have, to such momentous events?
Min: I have had the privilege to meet and learn from great women and men through Occupy and Idle No More movements. I have never really defined myself nor my ‘social and political’ roles based solely on my race, age, class or even gender. While I am not undermining the arguments for feminism nor the efforts of those who day after day are working for social justice for women, I must state that I have tried to maintain a sense of self through the numerous factors that influence my perspectives such as my surroundings and my experiences in their totality. I have learned that choosing one particular aspect to define my role in any given social movement tends to be rather exclusive and thus limiting, often resulting in the creation of an “other”.
In regards to contribution, I do not honestly believe I have meaningfully contributed yet as I am constantly re-evaluating my role in this long journey. As my perspectives and understanding of my surroundings (including social and political spheres) shift, so do my priorities and course of action. I do not believe I have ever set out a specific goal to achieve in terms of “social movements,” but perhaps that’s exactly what keeps me going and evolving as needed.
I am not sure exactly how I would have contributed – if at all – to the larger goals of these movements. But I know that having engaged with them in one way or another has greatly helped me identify and overcome a lot of my personal limitations, assumptions, and shortcomings.
Q2. Occupy Savvy: An ONZ admin says “Activism didn’t radicalise me; the state response to activism radicalised me.” Can you empathise with this statement?
Min: Radicalism has been a concept appropriated by those who are invested in maintaining the current disruptive status quo. I guess in this context, the concept of “radicalism” is not much different than that of “terrorism.” In order to maintain the current system and culture of war, both concepts must remain vague, to potentially apply to none while applying to all.
The only aspect that changes is the increasing elusiveness of the so called “enemy”, by design.
I think a lot of us are responding to radical government policies that undermine human rights and dignity, environmental sustainability, and peace. I myself refuse to adopt the narrative of those invested in criminalizing citizens who are expressing legitimate concerns. Thus I will NOT say that the state or its actions have radicalized me.
Let’s keep the facts straight and simple: money in politics, corruption, and greed have radicalized politicians, the very people who have promised to serve and protect the people. In Canada, even petitions are now considered forms of “attack” by the current government. Who are the radicals here?
Q3. Occupy Savvy: Activism messages appear to be increasingly penetrating the public consciousness. What is your experience of this awakening?
Min: People are waking up to global patterns of oppression and corruption. We are beginning to realize that there is a much larger system working above the imposed boundaries of geography and nationality, limitations that do apply to citizens though.
I have never considered what I do as activism per se. Many of us shy away from the term activism because it implies we are taking on more than we are required to. We are not only exercising our rights but we are, more importantly in my opinion, fulfilling our responsibilities as global citizens.
In regards to movements I am learning that they materialize in waves. The Arab Spring, Spanish Revolution, Greek Revolution, European protests against austerity, Occupy, Maple Spring, Idle No More, all seem to be manifestations of the same global revolution. And whereas at the onset they do seem to form under banners, the spirit of the revolution can no longer be contained under one specific banner. This revolution no longer belongs under one specific banner… it’s all banners coming from all sides creating a tidal wave. No one owns it, no one can claim it… everyone is becoming a part of it. And I believe it will only grow from here as more and more people become affected by the current broken system.
Q4. Occupy Savvy: What has been your most satisfying moment of the global revolution, to date?
Min: I don’t necessarily have a specific favourite moment… Personally I find that the effects have been cumulative in the sense that global awakening has many faces, many voices, and numerous moments. Each moment, each voice, just strengthens my resolve and belief that we are as a species on the right track.
Q5. Occupy Savvy: In what way would you most like to see the global narrative shift, from this point?
Min: Wherever we look today, narratives are divisive, fragmented, reduced to extreme polarities. This is not only true of politics and mainstream/corporate media but also within social movements and progressive groups. This zero sum game approach dominates our debates.
We seem to lack the willingness to find compromise. What is more important, we seem to have forgotten the merits of meaningful listening. Whether in politics or in social movements, everyone has something to say… but far too few are actually willing to listen to and elaborate on opposing and dissenting views.
I would like to see a global narrative revolving primarily around human dignity; a narrative that is constructive rather than destructive, holistic rather than fragmented, inclusive rather than exclusive. But before we even get there, we need to find a way we can actually build a new narrative based on mutual respect, understanding, and most of all, listening. I guess we need to learn to meaningfully communicate before we even decide what we want to communicate about…
Q6. Occupy Savvy: What advice would you give to a woman becoming involved in activism for the first time?
Min: Be true to yourself. It is easy to fall trap to group think and confirmation bias. Every so often, remind yourself that this journey of change begins within oneself. Keep an open mind and be, above all, honest to yourself.
Don’t despair when faced with challenges. When tired, take a break. Make sure you take the time to enjoy your life so that you don’t lose sight of what you are fighting to protect. Constantly ask yourself whether the choice you are about to make is driven by love or fear, recognize that these are the two driving forces.
Q7. Occupy Savvy: In what way have you seen your country change, over the last 18 months? In what way would you see it change, in the next 18?
Min: Canada is undergoing some radical policy changes under the current conservative government. But I remain optimistic as more Canadians are becoming aware of the social, economic, and political implications of these changes.
Although Occupy Canada, the Quebec student movement, and Idle No More have been defining movements, there have been many countless other protests and demonstrations that have helped maintain momentum and increased local awareness and engagement throughout Canada.
I have no blueprint for change. All I wish is for Canadians to become a little more aware and engaged especially in issues related to human rights and dignity. I think it’s time for Canadians to take on a greater sense of responsibility on important issues at home but also abroad.
That concludes the first part of “Women Warriors Of The Global Revolution”. We are extremely proud of Min for repping Canada in this series. Keep an eye out in the coming days for our interviews with four other wahine toa; from Iceland, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
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