Pushing for power

Compared to countries like Iraq, we’ve got it good — but that doesn’t mean it can’t get better

All texts are censored to some extent because of the language in which they are written; I can only express my ideas within the constraints of my language and within that of society’s comprehension.

Of course, if this were the only type of censorship we had to worry about, we’d live in a very different world.

On Tuesday, Feb. 3, Dunya Mikhail spoke about the censorship she experienced while working as a journalist in Iraq. Mikhail was forced to leave Baghdad in the 1990s because of the threats she was receiving due to her writing; she now lives in the United States. She was the keynote speaker of Menno Simons’ Social Justice Fair.

Mikhail explained that the explicit censorship in Iraq forced her to use symbols and layers in her writing so authorities would not detect the true meaning of her words.

She touched on the fact writers have been imprisoned, exiled or killed for their writing, but she also spoke of how government’s fear of the written word speaks to its power.

“The published word has a leading role in the life of the people in Iraq,” she said in an interview after her presentation.

As a result, the safer life she is now able to lead as a writer in the U.S. has its advantages and disadvantages.

“On one hand, you are relieved. On the other, you don’t feel that important.”

This is The Uniter’s special issue examining power in society. This issue represents the maturation of a themed issue we produced last year focused on democracy - what works, what doesn’t, what needs to change. This year, we decided to expand this topic and examine the ways in which people challenge and change society’s power structures, and the ways they can affect change. It also looks at the ways that government and corporations control us. Although many of the same ideas as last year are presented, they’ve been expanded. And let’s face it, they’re packaged in a much sexier theme: POWER. In the west, we too often have the privilege of acquainting democracy with something those long dead had to worry about, and not something that’s here and now.

In this special issue, we have stories examining power within different levels of government - like our own city hall (page 2); we look at the power, or lack there of, that new immigrant communities have in Canada (page 5) and how policies within government can quash the care that some people deserve (page 3); we examine how corporations and organizations can control governments through lobbyists (page 3) and discuss whether restorative justice should be more widely used (page 5). We have an interview with Propagandhi - and we find out whether the socially conscious band has their own agenda (page 11). We’ve also written some lighter pieces looking at countercultures through the ages (page 13), schemes and scams that have taken us all for a ride (page 16), and sports teams that have sold out (page 21). We even find out how you can more easily exert your power as an artist and get funds for your projects (page 17). And there’s much more.

Compared to countries like Iraq and stories like Dunya Mikhail’s, it’s easy for us as Canadians to become complacent - we’ve got it good by comparison. However, it’s part of our role to question what we are told, and to every once and awhile bite the hand that feeds. After all, it wasn’t very long ago that Emory Douglas’ Black Panther posters spoke of the very real disparities between black and white people in North America (page 15), and Barack Obama’s only been in power for a few weeks.

Published in Volume 63, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 5, 2009)

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