ab-original un-cool

“Actions speak louder than words.”

I know, annoying cliché. But seriously, who doesn’t like a nice cliché now and then?

The things we do can “speak” for them (our?) selves. But when you’re a Government (capital G, why not), those actions SCREAM. 

Say the price of food is going up and you aren’t (politically) able to make anymore income. No biggie. So what do you do? You’ll probably start to make some careful trade-offs in your shopping cart. You might do things like cut out the chips and the french fries of policy - the delicious policy that you like to indulge in but don’t need to function. Though I may feel as if salt & vinegar chips are necessary for me to be a fully functional member of society…I can make it without. Or at least, I’m trying.

Now, what don’t you do? You don’t cut the good, core stuff. Not the apples! Not the milk! Well, that’s what we might be doing now that “we’ve” cut funding to the National Centre for First Nations Governance (NCFNG).

It’s neither original nor cool.

And no one knows this better than Kelsey Norman, my (! amazing) friend who is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. First, I need you to read her iPolitics piece here. Then, circle back for her response (yes, to herself!) below.

Last week I wrote an op-ed that iPolitics agreed to publish. The topic was my disappointment with the decision to cut organizational funding to the National Centre for First Nation Governance (NCFNG) for which I worked as an intern during the summer of 2009. The op-ed was a way for me to express my frustration, but I also didn’t want the centre to die a quiet death. Outside of the Aboriginal policy community the cuts weren’t receiving much attention. Where was the rage?, I wondered.

The response to my op-ed was generally positive, although one acquaintance (who shall remain anonymous) surprised (shocked?) me with his/her email. An excerpt: “Cradle to grave handouts and segregation from society only foster dependence and continuation of the condition.” This is the kind of mentality you see in the Globe & Mail comments section, right? But this person is reasonable, and that’s really his/her opinion of government-supported, minority-focused research centres.

This weekend I came across another article from the opinion section of iPolitics that had been published a few days before mine, describing the politicization of the social justice sector in Canada as a result of these cuts. The article mentions the mentality expressed by my family member; that the new approach could be a good thing, “returning a measure of self sufficiency and independence to what has become a vulnerable and increasingly cowed community.” But it also points to the major downfall of these cuts: “The writing is thus on the wall for those Canadians still interested in independently minded social justice: find private sources of funding, or face defeat.”

The authors effectively argue that we’re moving to an American-style funding system, whereby organizations will have to rely on private donations from foundations or individuals. This means that groups like the World Wildlife Fund (cute pandas!) have a much easier time getting funding than groups with tougher, less sympathetic causes like systemic poverty or other issues faced by Aboriginals and other minority groups. 

Several of the responses I got to the op-ed congratulated me on my ‘passionate’ writing. While the encouragement was very much appreciated, I can’t help but wonder if ‘passionate’ is code for ‘unreasoned?’ Can we be passionate and also level-headed and analytical? Does being passionate detract from one’s legitimacy? If being passionate (and thus unreasonable) means that I will continue to advocate for government-funded, minority-focused research centres over privately-funded, politicized think-tanks, then passion it is.