Erenlai - 按標籤顯示項目: empowerment
週二, 17 一月 2012 18:56

Studying or working: a choice always to be renewed

Is it better to further one’s study or to immerse oneself in a job? This question often haunts the new graduate. On the one hand, they are thrilled by the opportunities that their freshly acquired diploma brings with it: entering adulthood, earning an income, testing their skills at something concrete, exercising responsibilities, even if such responsibilities are modest in scope… On the other hand, they realize that they do not know much yet, that they may earn a bigger salary within a few years if they master extra knowledge and become more competent, that holding a job might soon appear to her more boring or stressful than remaining a student…  Deciding between Present and Future, between different kinds of gains and losses, and between different lifestyles is never easy, and can generate a lot of anxiety.

The new graduate may be comforted by a few thoughts:

-  First, this choice is much less final and binding than was the case in the past. Today, there are a variety of bridges that allow one to go from study to work and from work to throughout one’s professional path. Therefore, it is practical and beneficial to keep one’s intellectual curiosity always intact, and to remain ready to sacrifice one’s immediate interest at some point in order to re-enter the path of study and research.

- Work can reactivate one’s thirst for knowledge and investigation. Often, students lose interest in knowledge and research because of the way they were taught in high school or in university. Their drive towards practical and intellectual knowledge is reactivated through the problems and challenges they meet in real life: the very fact of being surrounded by technical wonders, complex social mechanisms, injustices and moral dilemmas makes one formulate anew questions that have been agitating the human mind since it undertook to both understand and master the world (while doing so through very diverse knowledge systems…).

-  New graduates may also be somehow comforted by the fact of knowing that finding the balance between study and work is a problem that plagues everyone until very late in life – till the end maybe: “Is it better for me to invest my energies into doing what I know I can do, and thus to be of immediate help to the people I care for and my family – or should I challenge myself to once again embark on the road of professional and intellectual improvement? And should I not chose to study and research just out of gratuitousness, whatever the advantages that come out of it?” Fortunately, the choice is not always so drastic, and professional life may offer time and resources for learning the trade and embarking on a progressive program of study.

So, finally, how is one to decide when confronted with such a choice? Basically, ask yourself how you feel about it. Is there in your heart a strong longing to go ahead on the road towards knowledge and research? Or does the idea of becoming someone active in society and receiving recognition for what you do reveal itself to be the most appealing choice for you right now?  If you can answer this question peacefully and without too much hesitation, just follow the desire of your heart. If not… let the answer formulate itself within your inner self. It will do so naturally, if you can avoid to be too overtly anguished by it. But always remember: when working, protect and nurture the flame of intellectual curiosity. When studying, do not close yourself in an ivory tower, and remain burnt by the desire to share with others what you are researching. And do remain aware that life will often renew the challenge, and will ask you again and again to come up with your own answer…

Illustration by Bendu

週一, 21 十一月 2011 17:34

Standing on the Shoulders of our Culture

First Nations House of Learning, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Education is a question right at the centre of the various global Indigenous movements and one of the students four focal groups. Apart from introducing the centres specific role in improving Aboriginal education, Rick Ouellet and Debra Martel also introduced to us how the Canadian education system worked for Indigenous peoples and what policies and projects had been successful. For example, British Columbia was the first province to make it a requirement that all teachers took courses in Indigenous studies. One area which the centre is working towards is in trying to reach a situation where people who acquire degrees, can go back to their communities after their education and still find a job.

"The House of Aboriginal Learning at UBC was full of Indigenous feeling in its architecture and interior. As a student of Taiwan’s first college of Indigenous studies, I noticed we only have one stone slab representing aboriginality at the institute, I felt we could also increase the aboriginal feel of the building by including art installations, to make ourselves truly ‘visible’."
Utun Titi (Department of Indigenous Languages and Communications, National Dong Hwa University, Taroko Nation)


"Dr. Bruce Miller introduced to us the history and development of First Nation’s policy, education system and social welfare system in Canada. It is unlike Taiwan’s division of normal education and Indigenous education into two parts. At the UVic Centre for Aboriginal Health Research, they told us, “We should educate non-aboriginal people, how to respect and help First Nations to form an Indigenous thought and perspective.” That is remarkable. At the University of Victoria, they said, “The youth are the strength and power.” This reminds me of how important the issue of Indigenous education is, especially cultural education, which is related to ethnic crisis of the marginalised."
Gagai (Department of Indigenous Languages and Communications, National Dong Hwa University, Paiwan Nation)


For readers in Mainland China:

Video filmed by C. Phiv and D. Chen, edited by N. Coulson, subtitled by Adrienne Chu



Photos by C. Phiv


週一, 21 十一月 2011 16:54

Practice: The Art of Making Something from Nothing

University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology, Vancouver

A long-serving professor of Anthropology, Dr Bruce Miller, has huge experience in World Aboriginal affairs. He first gave a presentation on the history and development of First Nation struggle in Canada, before extending to examples of Indigenous struggles elsewhere in the world including Brazil, the US and Papua New Guinea. After leading into discussion he gave advice on the repertoire of tools available for advancing Indigenous empowerment. He emphasized the importance of manipulating the laws available to them, but also the adoption of various tactics to advance the cause, such as the 'politics of embarrassment'. For Bruce Miller, most important of all was that regardless of how much resources they had was to begin putting ideas into practice immediately, taking action now to create the future for themselves and their people.

For readers in Mainland China:

"For me, the UBC Department of Anthropology was the most exciting part of the trip. In a very short time, Dr. Bruce Miller gave us an understanding of the history of the First Nations struggle in Canada, and used his experience and observations to evoke discussion of certain focal points with us students. He listened to our questions and his reply was always a message of encouragement. For example, he urged us to use movement tactics such as the ‘politics of embarrassment’ to force the governments into making decisions rather than just suffering injustices and then pleading with the government that they empower the Indigenous people. What he was telling us was that power doesn’t come without a struggle. You must be ready and willing to take action.

In the future, as an Indigenous scholar, I would like to reinterpret Aboriginal cultural research through a new Indigenous lens. It will be a long and difficult road, but here I quote Dr.Bruce Miller “The Indigenous movement needs to be put into practice, even when you have nothing”. Looking at the Indigenous struggle and Indigenous empowerment from a historical perspective, something has always come from nothing - this is called practice."
Piho Yuhaw (Department of Ethnology, National Chengchi University, Atayal Nation)


"Dr. Bruce Miller proposes that “everything starts with the law”. He emphasized the very tangible power of the law, and that it is not just playing strategic games on paper. He applied this concept to the tribal experience, and to how Indigenous people can have a big effect on their own culture, gradually bringing about the vision of the 'tribal development council'."
Takun Tado (School of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Seediq Nation)


"As Dr. Bruce Miller said, “Laws are dead, but people are alive. You shall never be the living dead.” As Indigenous intellectuals, it’s our obligation to stand up and fight against the inequalities in our society. When we mentioned funding limitations, Dr. Bruce Miller lambasted us saying “There are lots of teenagers in Canada the same age as you. They have nothing, but it’s to their advantage. If you want to make some changes, start now.” Because of his inspiring words, we all have more confidence to go and do all the things we wish to do, and to defend our peoples’ rights."
Labi (Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures, National Dong Hwa University, Amis Nation)

Photo:Shuching Hsueh

週三, 26 十月 2011 18:02

Opening Windows to the World

By Mr Qiu (62/Male/Completely Paralysed), edited by Zhang Xingwen and translated from the original Chinese by Conor Stuart

I've lain in this bed for 36 years now. When I was 26 years old I had a car accident, which lead to my whole body becoming paralyzed; I went from being the boss of a steelworks to a bedridden patient. It was if my life went from colour to black and white. Thanks to my natural optimism, I wasn't defeated by this attack of destiny, for 28 years I relied on reading newspapers and watching the news on television, to keep myself informed and interested, and I became a kind of scholar of the modern age.

During this period, my contact with the outside world was conducted using a stick controlled by my mouth, with which I operated the phone and the television remote. Although I had heard that computers were an indispensable technological gadget for modern life, as I was paralysed from head to toe, I didn't even have a clear idea of what computers looked like up close, never mind actually using one.

That was up until I saw a news report on disabled people using a stick held in their mouths to use computers about 8 years ago. I burned with curiosity, so I called the news station and asked for their source, and they referred me to the Assistive Technology Centre. The engineer came to my home and designed a head controlled mouse for me using the stick I normally used to operate the phone and the TV remote control. I felt as he magically transformed it into a little helper that would allow me to use the computer.

When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed dramatically! When I could use the computer, the way I lived my life changed completely! As well as the vast and colourful resources and information that you can browse on the internet, what helped me most was that I no longer needed someone to help me flick through the telephone book. I put all the numbers of my friends and family into an Excel worksheet, and I only needed to tap once or twice with the stick in my mouth and I could find their number.

The internet provides a lot of conveniences that able-bodied people might not think of. One example is Google Maps, with the aid of my trusty stick, I can return to my ancestral home in the mountains of Miaoli and revisit my childhood memories, as well as getting a glimpse of what it looks like now. I also discovered blogging, which is so popular these days, I only need my 'little helper' stick, and I am endowed with a voice, with which I shared my story with lots of people, as well as being able to give help and encouragement to people in the same situation as I am in.

The internet helped me to resolve my financial situation too. As I am from a low income household, employing foreign workers to help around the house is necessary but it is also a big financial burden for us. At the end of 2002, the Council of Labour Affairs raised the Employment Stability Fee for employing foreign workers from 600 NT ($20US) to 2000 NT ($66US), which increased this burden even more. I wrote to the Council of Labour Affairs by email explaining my situation but did not receive a satisfactory response. So I wrote to the office of the President, the Executive Yuan, the Association of Spinal Cord Injury in Xinzhu, a disability organization, and finally the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of the Interior to explain my situation. It was the Social Welfare Department that ended up helping me out. From the 1st July, 2007 the Employment Stability Fee varied according to income, low income households only need to pay 600 NT ($20US) per month and middle income households only 1200 NT ($40US) per month. Although in my letter I had asked that low and middle income households be exempt from the Employment Stability Fee, it was better than nothing. This is a clear-cut example of how the internet has helped me to overcome problems that have a real effect on my quality of life.

From time to time, I have to be hospitalized due to infection. Lying on a hospital bed without the internet is like being in prison, the boredom is worse than the illness. I wish that people who are confined to their beds everywhere could be given the ability to use computers and internet access, opening for them a window to the world, not having just to stare at the ceiling.

(Detail of a drawing by Bendu)

週二, 15 三月 2011 16:01


We quite spontaneously equate “teambuilding” with “leadership.”  This might be a misperception. In the teambuilding process each team member is a team builder, and nothing can be achieved without the active participation of all people involved.  Both team spirit and the fruits of the project on which the team works belong to all those who participated in it.  You may say that in every collective project there are two things created at the same time: the work that is accomplished (a rocket, a magazine, a building, a new medication…) and the team that has produced the work.

However, it is true that, in every team, there are people whose specific service is to ensure the cohesion and wellbeing of the team as a human group. This is a service like another one, as can be the one of cooking, doing accounting or conducting research. Team builders are “leaders’ only in the sense that they empower each and every member to be one of the team builders, that they intuit where the difficulties come from, and invent ways to heal the body divided against itself when conflicts and misunderstandings occur.

The New Testament offers to us two figures of great team builders: Jesus and Paul.  Jesus did not create an “institution”, he shaped the men and women who were following him. But he shaped them as part of a living community. During his final march towards Jerusalem he was leading a group of disciples bitterly divided among themselves. They were quarrelling over who was the greatest among them. Dissensions linked to differences in background, political opinions and appreciation of the situation were obviously growing. During the Last Supper, Jesus shares the bread and the chalice with people who seem to feel confused, angry and bitter.

They will eventually unite, first around the absence of Jesus and then – decisively – around the Risen One. The Acts of the Apostles tell us how they creatively start to build a community with others, in the recollection of the example of teambuilding that Jesus gave them. Paul will continue such work, building local churches and exhorting them, often with tears, to conduct themselves in justice and charity, and to renounce everything that causes divisions.

May we likewise overcome our ego and its limitations, so as to all become the “living stones’ of the teams we work in, and – looking even farther – of an ever-growing human community.

Photo by B.V.





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