Friday, June 04, 2010

Illich - Celebration of Awareness

My inter library loan of Celebration of Awareness is due, and there is not an option to renew the loan. It is a fascinating read, written by Illich in 1967, published in 69. It is perhaps the expression of his awakening, pre Deschooling, pre Conviviality, pre Energy and Equity. In it he is focused on his experiences as a priest in the ghettos of New York, and the countries of Latin America. It is a rejection of American aggression and colonialism, and some of the words in it are as timely now as they were then.
The compulsion to do good is an innate American trait. Only North Americans seem to believe that they always should, may, and actually can choose somebody with whom to share their blessings. Ultimately this attitude leads to bombing people into acceptance of gifts.
In early 1968 I tried with insistence to make some of my friends understand this image of the American overseas. I was speaking mainly to resisters engaged in organising the march on the Pentagon. I wanted to share with them a profound fear: the fear that the end of the war in Vietnam would permit hawks and doves to unite in a destructive war on poverty in the Third World.
Page 19, Chapter Two - Violence: A Mirror for Americans

We might as well extend the word America, to the word West.. as I know Australians are just as susceptible to this problem as Americans. It is not simply anti-Americanism, it goes much deeper than that.
In the mirror of Latin America, violence in American ghettos and on the borders of China can be seen in its new meaning, as a rejection of American values. From experience of years in Cuernavaca, dealing with United States "idea salesmen," I know this insight is costly to come by. There is no exit from a way of life built on $5000-plus per year, and there is no possible road leading into this way of life for nine out of ten men in our generation and the next [and the next and the next it now seems]. And for the nine it is revolting to hear a message of economic and social salvation presented by the affluent that, however sincerely expressed, leads the "poor" to believe that it is their fault that they do not fit into God's world as it should be and as it has been decreed that it should be around the North Atlantic.
I'm not sure what my picking out of just two paragraphs does for the perception of what's in this book, nor it seems is there really much space for discussing this still-relevant issue.. but reading it reminds me of another Illich punch, To Hell With Good Intentions. Other chapters are:
  1. A Call to Celebration
  2. Violence: A Mirror for Americans
  3. Not Foreigners, yet Foreign
  4. The Eloquence of Silence
  5. The Seamy side of Charity
  6. The Vanishing Clergyman
  7. The Powerless Church
  8. The Futility of Schooling
  9. School: The Sacred Cow
  10. Sexual Power and Political Potency
  11. Planned Poverty: The End Result of Technical Assistance
  12. A Constitution for Cultural Revolution
Speed reading this book, along with the others recently, has me asking some hard questions about the assumptions we carry in edtech, and how little we think critically of the things we take as good. My only real attempt at questioning a given good has been The New Colonialism in OER, a seed planted by Minhaaj Rheman here and here, fertilised and nourished by Illich more recently.

I guess its hard to when the bar of our work and our dialog is set so low by the bumbs on seats, 9-5 job, simple minded education system that absorbs our energies. We tend to stay in the shallow end of this pool online too I reckon.

Where will it all lead? Many more questions to come... anyone else reading Illich yet?

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