~~~~~~ Learning a better world ~~~~ with Greg Macdougall

Notes from different break out group discussions at the 2003 From The Ground Up: Building Healthy Communites forum in Kitchener, ON.



3 focuses:
-> barriers to involvement and participation
-> what is diversity?
-> solutions

– passive intimidation (language, tone, mannerisms, ..)
– time and energy limitations
– not being accepting of others
– lack of literacy, other skills
– not having control over personal circumstances
– lack of meaningful inclusion, being valued
– lack of committment, desire on part of organization

What do we mean by diversity?
(looking at, and beyond, conventional definitions)

<< valuing implementation / seeing successes >>
-creating positive / non-threatening spaces for all stakeholders (comfortable)
– include people in meaningful ways: multiple perspectives, lifestyles, interests, skills
– non-traditional approaches to membership
– communication
– intent -> devotion of resources
– taking small steps, one at a time
– shakeup the mindset of senior menagement (educate)
– creativity in recognizing the problems in accessibility
– ask more questions
– include diversity as an objective
– allow poeple to contribute in different ways
– accountability: audit / evaluate
– include affected people
– partnerships / allies / support / advocacy


– guide by your side, not sage on stage
– leadership is an art form
– validating people: for their contributions, as people


– questions re: SARS / West Nile
-> where are they coming from?
-> how do people react?
– how political / social funding setup puts people in passive roles, asking for fund, making requests, but not in decision-making positions
– other areas:
.. development (water, soil, ..)
.. food system (local connections)
.. education
– visionary versus here and now
– sense of intent, lead by example
– sense of ownership / meaningful
– actively create opportunities to dialogue
– develop our minds continually
– move across complexity, learn
– small steps / leading
– assets in community


– use for funding resources: $$, services, knowledge
– cooperation
– meshing together different priorities, shared interests
– how to find out about people
– partnership not as an idealogy
-> one approach but not only one
– situation specific
– strategic opportunism
– spontaneous, also more effort / Long Term
– serendipiduous planning
-> accidents / opportunities, taking advantage


IMC Ontario Workshop Feedback


Feedback from Anarchist Bookfair Workshop (October 2002) and other places



  1. part of a global network that is gaining prominence
  2. collaborative website, with many publishers, and more readers
  3. potential for many individuals working on various static pages for the website
  4. resources that can be cobbled together to create media centres for actions
  5. experience in covering protests and other issues
  6. experience in print, pictures, radio, and video
  7. interest in volunteering
  8. Gives everyone a sense of ownership. Anyone with access can post to Indymedia, and see their article or comment up shortly after.
  9. Has organic growth, independent of the website maintainers. This constant updating brings people back to the site, without too much work from the website maintainers.
  10. Brings previously unheard points of view to a public forum.
  11. Allows media makers to get their content out quickly, and have it quickly retrieved by independent publishers.
  12. Get many points of view, rather than filtered through world view of a small group.



  1. not striking a good balance between open publishing and comfortable web space for the environmental and social justice movements
    • lots of hate posts and other crap
    • no organization by topic or locale
    • few volunteer editors — not enough to cover policy
    • policy needs to be stronger, but needs software change to make that acceptable
  2. site could use a facelift
  3. needs more local coverage throughout Ontario (and people to do this)
  4. no ongoing training or support for volunteers
    • most potential volunteers are in the Toronto area; no collective to hook them up with
  5. no ongoing organization to deal with the issues; e-mail doesn’t seem to work for most discussion
  6. some anarchists don’t like the somewhat top-down nature of indymedia, and have serious (and legitimate) concerns about the global organization, which could be a barrier for working with allies
  7. open publishing allows the easy spread of disinformation, hate propaganda, etc. using our resources.
  8. legitimate work gets drowned out by off-the-cuff rants and asinine comments.
  9. because of power dynamics (including access to technology and time) and its free-for-all nature, the newswire becomes a white-male-dominated forum.
  10. because of the open nature, there is no coherent message from our website, and analysis loses out to sensationalism (just like the corporate media).
  11. stuff gets lost easily on the single newswire — hard to find what you want.
  12. People don’t understand the open publishing concept, and blame us for the content.


Possible Solutions:

  1. we need an organization in Toronto that meets regularly, or we need to be able to refer Toronto people to other groups to meet their needs
  2. web site and editorial policy need overhaul
  3. we need to figure out what IMC Ontario is, and whether it really can exist as an organization
  4. should we have regular spokescouncils, with active collectives sending a member, and at-large members also attending?
  5. for Ottawa, and people who can’t travel, should we do teleconferencing, computer IRC, or what?
  6. what services do we offer as IMC Ontario?
    • Is it the website?
    • e-mail lists?
    • special event media spaces?
    • other collaborative projects (like print)?
    • should we have major networking projects (building contact lists of media and activist groups)?
  7. Implement categorization by topic and locality, and have subgroups work on certain topic areas, with a separate set of features for each [TWiki handles this]
  8. Allow easier access to the editorial collective, but more accountability — each person has their own password, and must state reasons for their actions [Done — need to add to TWiki]
  9. We will clearly state that appeals should be directed to imc-ontario-editorial.
  10. We will revoke privileges for editors who abuse them, and review their decisions.
  11. Two levels of article hiding: First level will still have the article one click away, but not directly in your face (and will explain that it’s hidden and why). The second level will only be accessible for those with an editorial password only (for serious breaches of legality, etc.).
  12. More restrictive editorial policy (balanced by one-click hiding as mentioned above)
  13. In order to accomplish this, we could port our software to the San Francisco version of Active (or Baltimore’s DadaIMC?) [or TWiki], and do some custom programming to meet our needs. Later, when Active 2 is finished [if it ever is], we could port to that, and get more advanced features.


Feedback from Toronto Social Forum (January 2003)


Why has indymedia come to be?

  • people didn’t / don’t feel represented in the conventional media, they don’t see their feelings, sentiments, priorities reflected in the mass media
  • the media is controlled, by political ideology as well as by commercial interests
  • people took the energy they found in the indymedia convergence in seattle (and at other more recent protests) and took that back to the local level
  • the internet provided a new opportunity to communicate with people and link independent media organizations
  • video could be an effective means of communicating strategy, and creating energy and excitement around issues and possible tactics — you could draw on expertise from elsewhere.
  • a point was also made about the need for activist movements to DOCUMENT their struggles, and then to EVALUATE how they are working… which is why we carry news and opinion.


What does it mean to activists/movements/society?

  • it serves as a central hub of up-to-date activist information and coverage, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all the different issues
  • helps counter the overwhelmingness that people can feel by the huge number of websites related to specific groups / organizations / causes / etc, with one place that can link to all of those
  • opportunity for activists / movements to have control over the media coverage of their event / issue, and to decide what is emphasized in the coverage
  • opportunity to connect people and movements globally through the global indy network
  • generates excitement and interest in media-making (lots of people will be able to see whatever it is you make)
  • survey of range of diversities in social justice and environmental movements
  • we can’t have a real democracy without a democratic media, which means a participatory media, and so far this is as good as it gets, so lets get with it ;>
  • Indymedia helps the DOCUMENTATION and EVALUATION of activist struggles
  • Indymedia provides important LEGAL SUPPORT, supplying evidence that can get charges dropped
  • Indymedia has had success at bringing together hard-to-find resources. (e.g. the anti-Olympic movement in Australia)
  • hope. Coverage of concerned citizens, standing up for something, trying to make change, gives me hope. Just knowing so many people exist, and so many actions are being taken, makes me feel that my actions are not irrelevant.


Key Elements to be Healthy and Vibrant

  • having a strong internet presence, but also a strong real-world presence as well (print, radio, video)
  • presence in other media, to gain legitimacy, credibility, and to raise awareness among the general population
  • collaborative efforts with different groups (activist grooups, media groups, unions, NGOs, ..)
  • having different positions in place within the organization, where one or more people are responsible for a certain element of the overall work (doesn’t mean they are in control, or do it all, but are in charge of coordinating, and in charge of keeping track of plans, etc.)
  • have a large amount of cross-over participation, where people involved with different events / issues / groups also are active within the indymedia structure
  • need to be open, accountable, transparent in all our operations (.. what does that mean in practice?)
  • easy to participate and get involved with, to see where you can fit in
  • exposure: on streets, in public places, in businesses/workplaces, in homes, in different organizations, …
  • mix and interconnect virtual and real media (web, radio shows, video, print)
  • mix amateur and (para-)professional media makers
  • based on open source software (free software that can be freely modified and redistributed)
  • open publishing (anyone can post a story, and it is visible immediately)
  • collaboration with existing media (independent and corporate)
  • recruitment of volunteers (welcoming, inviting, exciting)
  • media studies students could be a good source
  • need strategies to ensure a good flow of high-quality content
  • people come when the goal is tangible!
  • action-hopping is popular; ongoing theoretical and organizational work less so
  • need to keep the personal interaction!


How do we implement these ideas?

  • in order to implement some good things with Indymedia, I think one thing to do is determine, what are the specific things we want to be doing
  • after doing that, I think we have one or two people take responsibility for each area, so that we can ensure we have someone focused on each initiative / effort
  • i think also that it is vital for us to tap into where the skills and resources already are. For instance, there is an Anti-Racism Media Education group in toronto (ARMEd) and maybe they’d want to help Indymedia with becoming more inclusive, and reflective of diversity
  • i think it is also vital to harness the passion and energy that is already out there, being devoted to whatever different causes (ie Iraq is a major one right now) .. i think to do this we need to show people how they can use that passion and energy to help make a difference, both for Indymedia, and for their cause through Indymedia


Feedback from Toronto Social Forum (March 2003)



  • not everyone is “on the web”
  • computers are useful tool for some news distribution, but the information must be converted to other forms that can be more widely used
  • uploading production quality material should be encouraged, with a lower-grade version available for personal previewing [done somewhat]
  • booths like “Speaker’s Corner” to create audio, video, pictures without web access.
  • more focus on outreach to minority groups
  • talk to people; understand the barriers better


Supports and Obstacles to Involvement

  • Need ways to involve people who don’t come to meetings, but want to be active
  • Needs to be fun
  • Need to have power dynamics that encourage a sense of ownership and involvement (lack of hierarchy)
  • Need to give a positive outlook — something empowering for people
  • Need to provide a local perspective on issues, to involve the community
  • Training can give people confidence, and give them skills that give the organization a positive image.
  • Organizational content in our media will encourage partnerships
  • Need more outreach (representatives meeting with community groups)
  • Fewer physical meetings with more content (see below)


Physical Meetings

  • Larger scale meetings, once or twice a year, would get more people out
  • These meetings can make major decisions on the direction of the organization
  • Training workshops can happen then
  • Collective creation of something over the given time period would be rewarding for those who attend

Transcript and audio interview with Toronto-based hip hop artist k-os. Conducted at the Bombshelter Pub on University of Waterloo campus, October 4th 2002 as part of the ‘Exit’ album tour.

Clips from interview, interspersed with music, from WPIRG radio show on CKMS 100.3FM in Waterloo:
(click here to download mp3)

Full unedited interview (as transcribed below):
(click here to download mp3)

Greg: Why did you go to Carleton, and why did you stop going to Carleton?
k-os: I went to Carleton mostly ‘cause of my father. He’s a computer engineer and he did pretty well in school. He just always wanted me to have some sort of plan to fall back on, so I was getting a lot of pressure in my house to do something academic, ‘cause I was just at home making beats and not really trying to concentrate on any scholastic endeavours. He didn’t really give me an ultimatum, but he began to get very frustrated with me and I could tell in his attitude that if I didn’t do something scholastically, it would be harder and harder for me to do music in my house. So what I basically did was, Carleton had a January acceptance, so I just kinda enrolled, got in, and then I took like one course, Introduction to Islam or something, and the rest of the time I was at the studio. In fact that’s where I recorded my first music.
Then I had gone to York the following year, tried again, but again music interrupted, ‘cause my video came out, then I had to go on tour with the Rascalz and Ghetto Concept and all that, so after York I was just like, I want to just continue with this music thing, and then maybe see what’s up with school. And more and more, I’m kind of leaning towards that way now, also to do something more academic, you know.

G: So does that mean you think you’re satisfied with what you’ve done musically.
K: I’m not satisfied as much as I’m just trying to .. I feel like it’s going to be easy for me to continue it, it’s going to be easy for me to finish off what I’ve started with this album and be in a position to make different choices.

G: Talk about your musical journey, from starting out to where you are right now.

K: I guess you could call it a natural progression. One thing I was always aware of was I never wanted to force anything. I wanted things to feel for me and also to appear to the people who were listening and watching me, that everything was happening naturally. I didn’t want it to seem contrived or prefabricated, and I think that was accomplished because I was very paranoid about the choices I made throughout the songs I put out of how it sounded and I was a bit sort of paranoid too about people seeing me develop, but I think that ended up being a good thing, of people watching me go from whatever I was doing with Musical Essence to where I am now. They feel they’re a part of your life. Something about that first video, I feel people saw me go from like a boy to more of a man kinda thing, saw me grow up, grow a beard etcetera. I think that has an effect on people, and they feel they know you and they can relate to you and you’ve just been around, and you’re something in their consciousness, so I think it was great the way it happened, and I wouldn’t wish it any other way.

G: How about your spiritual journey, from where you were when you started in music to where you are now.
K: My parents were very, very religious, so a lot of that was set for me from probably 0 to 16. It wasn’t till I was around 17 or 18 that I started to make choices of my own and investigate miles and mounds of paper and religions. That journey has just continually shown me that you just have to have faith in yourself and a lot of the secret and answers lie within. People always search outside for answers, but spirituality is about how you feel, how you relate to the God within you, how you relate to the infiniti and the greatness within you that’s already there. I think that the prime battle everyone’s going through is happening within.

G: You say battle …
K: You know, battle, ‘cause the world is one way and what you would like to be may be another way. In other words, the world might be one way but who you want to be inside might be different, so you’re forced to deal with your environment that’s going one way, but you’re also forced to deal with the feelings you have inside. For those of us who aren’t extremely fitted for pop culture or whatever the world dictates, there’s going to be a battle there because you start to end up seeing that you don’t really fit in, and then you either spend your life trying to fit in, or spend your life fighting not to fit in. I don’t know, it’s kind of weird.

G: How have you gone about dealing with the environment …
K: The first thing is that you can change people, no one man can change the world, those are important things to remember I think, and I think the other side of it is, you can actually affect your own environment, and when you affect your own environment then there’s these trickle down effects, there’s these domino effects that happen outside you, but first you have to fix yourself. Complete freedom starts within yourself and then it goes without. If you try and change your environment first, then you’re trying to fight something you have no control over. If you change yourself, you start seeing new vibes, you start pulling different people into your environment, different people start becoming attracted to you, you start becoming attracted to different people. It’s kinda like if you rent a Hyundai and you’ve never driven one, all of a sudden you start noticing all the Hyundais on the street. It’s the same thing with spirituality, once you start noticing universal laws, your life, your outlook starts to change.

G: I heard you talk of hip hop as religion, and then there’s spirituality, and religion and spirituality aren’t the same thing …
K: Well, no, religion is just the observance of your spirituality. All religion is, if someone was to be spiritual and to live a certain way, it would be someone documenting that way of life, and trying to follow it. Because you see, religion first came out of people trying to follow other men, so they had to document the lifestyle they were living so that they could follow other men because they maybe didn’t go within themselves and try to make those changes so they would naturally live like that.
So religion then becomes like driving lessons, it’s like, some guy might drive a tractor on his dad’s farm since he was 10, so when he starts driving a car, he has a natural .. he understands things about using the steering wheel and the equipment, that he doesn’t have to be told by a driving instructor whereas someone who’s never driven before needs to be shown a diagram and dadadadada ..
It’s the same thing with religion. Some people naturally find their relationship with God, and then there’s other people who see that and want to be like that, so they ask those men, well how did you do that? And then they start telling them, and then they watch them pray five times a day, so they do it .. So religion isn’t this bad thing that was made up by people who were spiritually inclined, ‘cause the most spiritual men, from Jesus Christ on and on and on will tell that you have to see God within you, the kingdom of God is within you, but I think more importantly religion a lot of times is something that’s there for people to follow.
And that’s why I said hip hop is religion, because people have to grasp it as religion first before they can grasp the spiritual aspects. They have to see that it’s sacred, they have to see that they can’t just copy it, and use it for a Pringles commercial, etcetera. If it’s religious then maybe that’s a good way of communicating to people that it’s not an entertainment only, that there’s a religious aspect to it, and that’s why I said that.

G: So following something is okay?
K: Following something is okay, everyone follows, it’s just what you’re following, you know what I mean. If we didn’t follow, money wouldn’t work. If we didn’t follow, everyone would bump each other when we got on the train. There has to be, the universe has some order to it, it’s just, mankind has the option of not following, and so therefore he’s a free moral agent, which actually makes him very unique creations, is that unlike a lion or a dog or something, we have the ability to go against natural law and that allows us to be free, within that freedom to disobey. It’s kind of the genius of creation, but I think sooner or later man will figure out that there is a way to do things, whether he wants to run away from it or not.

G: In your lyrics, you talk about getting people to realize they aren’t who they think they are …
K: That more comes from what I just said, is that the people who we, the images we try to put out to people, the images that are pushed upon us, might not always be who we are, we might just be those things because we think it’s cool to be it, or something in our soul feels that we’ll be fulfilled if we’re this type of person, but maybe that’s not who we really are, maybe we’re something deeper that .. maybe we need to look in a different type of mirror, and not just compare ourselves all the time to what society says, maybe we really need to see who we really are. It’s just a metaphor for self-awareness, and seeing what’s beyond the surface.

G: So how do you go about doing this hip hop, do you have a daily routine that you fit in that allows you to accomplish what you want to?
K: No not really, I kind of just do what I feel.
G: Like you were saying how it comes natural, just kind of let it come
K: Yeah, it’s kind of like riding a surfboard you know, hip hop would be the wave, and your job is to figure out how to .. you can’t try to attack the wave, you can’t try to conquer it, basically you have to just ride it. It’s the same thing with hip hop, you just got to get a feel for the natural movements of how it goes and know when the wave is moving this way, you move that way. You get very sensitive to this giant, this natural phenomena of hip hop.
G: and just doing it, you learn it more,
K: You learn it – yeah, you fall down, you get up, you make mistakes, you learn.

G: I want to talk about your trip out to California, about getting away from everything, seeing things in a different way. What was it about that, that really made it work so well, or help you out, or ..
K: Probably because being at the centre of that whole Hollywood entertainment capital of the world, it made me start coming to some important decisions about who I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do, or how I wanted my career to manifest. I guess it just forced me in a corner to realize that I didn’t want to be like what was out there, and I think it was just a good lesson in what not to do.

G: Something I wanted to talk about here was … hip hop, and issues around race and stereotypes and prejudices and misunderstandings …
K: Hip hop is a music that has been evolved out of the ghettos of inner cities, whether it’s in Jamaica or the United States. Inner cities are composed of all races, from Portugese to Black to White, however this music has ended up being primarily Black and Latino, and now with the arrival of Eminem etcetera it’s now being branched out into. Other cultures are starting to grab onto hip hop and see that they can be a part of hip hop too. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with other cultures participating in hip hop, I just think that there’s been a lot of Black music that has come out of the ghettos that have been exploited and sort of changed to fit more of a pop format. In a way, the record companies are like musical colonists, it’s like they come into a music, they take it over, and they use the resources to create whatever they want.
That’s my biggest issue with pop culture and Black music, is that people don’t give anything back to the music, they just take it and exploit it, so that the lovers of it don’t even want to touch it anymore.
When I was on a farm living with my grandmother, with my family, in Trinidad when I was a boy, my grandmother used to tell me not to touch the puppies when the dog had just had puppies, because if you touch them too much they start smelling the human touch and they don’t want to touch the puppies anymore, so don’t interfere with that. But I think that’s what happens with a lot of Black music, is that it starts at a certain level, and then all of a sudden people exploit, people touch it and they change the feeling and the smell, and it ends up we have to move on to something else. That’s why hip hop was created, no-one was feeling what was going on in the seventies and eighties music so we created something new, and I think people are on the verge of creating other new things now too.
That’s my biggest issue with race is, that people should respect these underground street musics that sort of grow, because it’s vital to the pop culture. It drives pop culture, it informs pop culture, and the biggest racism issue in hip hop is that the true originators of this music, whether it’s KRS-One or whoever, are never recognized for who they are, it’s always some band like NSync. It’s never New Edition, it’s NSync. Michael Jackson gets made fun of, but Justin Timberlake imitates him, it’s like, I don’t know, people take the music and do what they want with it, you know.
But music is for all of us, it should be for everybody, if you respect the cultures of the people that created it. That’s why, there’s other music like Spanish music and some deeper stuff, that’s harder for people to just take it and manipulate it, so they just leave it alone. But I find Black people are always open to letting other cultures into their music. As long as you’re good and you make people dance and laugh and have fun, they’re down with you. That’s beautiful but dangerous at the same time.

G: Something else I wanted to ask you about was the stereotypes that people have of hip hop music, who don’t hip hop music, and how they see it, and also how your music is making it more accessible, like I know you’re on CBC radio .. so is that something you intended to do?
K: I think it comes back to these types of conversations that are perceived as pseudo-intellectual, you know, you become a spokesperson and people like the CBC or the more intelligent aspects of our media will want to gravitate to you because they probably always wanted to talk about hip hop but there wasn’t really a good dialogue. I think people are attracted to this music because it’s saying something, because it seems positive, you know, the cover’s green, it’s about ‘let’s go, let’s move forward,’ you know. I think because that happens, people are open to trying it. It’s kind of like a new dish that people aren’t afraid to try, this sort of album. It’s just Exit

G: And there’s singing on it, not just rap
K: No, there’s everything on it, yeah, there’s all kinds of just whatever I felt like doing, it was done, you know.

G: There’s no swearing on it
K: No
G: Not at all. That’s not common in hip hop.
K: It’s a challenge, I mean I swear in my regular conversations, but I think if you have time, if you have a three-and-a-half minute song that might last forever, you should choose your words wisely, you know. You want to pick words that are going to mean, every single word’s going to mean something, and sometimes those words do mean something in the right context. I’m not saying you can’t swear and make it mean something, just in my case I didn’t find any use for that.

G: How about the Canadian hip hop culture versus the American hip hop culture
K: The realization is that we basically are American. Canada is becoming more and more American so it just forces the MCs in Canada to have to compete with the States by making music that sounds American. If you’re not creative enough to try to find something that’s different, and not everyone .. like I had a fluke, I started singing before I was rapping, so I sort of have that as my sort of thing that’s a bit different. Not every rapper, if you’re just straight rapping, it’s harder to find something to gravitate to, that people are going to like. I don’t really blame some of them, but on the other hand we do need to be creative and we need to make music for our own country first before we make music for other people

G: There’s this great synergy – Figure IV, West Coast, Toronto .. they’re uniting Canada maybe? How do you see that?
K: I don’t know, I don’t see them uniting Canada, I more see it like the Rascalz when they first came out, just represented the four elements of hip hop and you can’t come any more raw than that and people were attracted to that. I think that’s what drew people to that group of people, was hip hop, and just like this new video I put out for Superstarr, it’s unbelievable how many people get drawn to you because you’re doing real hip hop, because it’s like an art form, a martial art, people are intrigued by it. So I wouldn’t give it up to any kind of management company or label, as much as I would give it up to the hip hop, you know.

G: so is Superstarr part 2 hip hop?
K: No it’s .. yeah, well the attitude is because it’s talking about people wanting to be superstars. Even if you check that Peter Tosh interlude before it, it’s kind of saying you know, we know that everyone’s sort of been trying to fool us from the beginning, they want to divide people and make them into superstars. That song’s really about people thinking they can use their personalities to blind other people, and think that’s their superstar, and that’s a big aspect in hip hop, with the blind bling blind blind bling bling, it’s the same thing. And it’s funny, people are just basically blinded by the bling, you know.

G: What’s the difference between blinding somebody and showing them the light?
K: I think that the light’s always already there. Showing people the light isn’t showing them something they haven’t seen before, it’s showing something that they already know to be true, whereas if you blind someone sometimes it’s too much for them. You know, some people when they’re sleeping, when you turn on the light, they say thank you ‘cause it’s time to wake up, other people want to throw something at the lamp. It’s the same way with the truth. Some people you show them the light because they’re open to it. Showing people the light has nothing to do with you, it has to do with the mindset of the person who’s looking

G: You talk about highs and lows, are those analogies for something .. marijuana
K: No, yeah I used to smoke a lot of weed but I stopped when I came to certain understandings about why I was smoking, so now it’s more about .. I drink a little bit now, I drink quite a bit, and to have some glasses of wine, but marijuana to me was something that I dealt with. I think it opened my mind to certain things, and once it was open I didn’t really need it anymore, ‘cause I just started to see things like that, just all the time

G: Is that like when you said your eyes say stuff that your heart couldn’t believe? [in the album liner notes]
K: Yeah, exactly, that’s what it is. People, when your eyes are open to certain things, it’s like this has sort of been going on all along but you never really were receptive to what was going on, you kind of maybe blinded yourself so you didn’t have to deal with this, the consequences of seeing the truth, you know.


Fifty or so local people participated in a Facilitation Training workshop starting off the “From the Ground Up” series of local community-building activities.

The workshop was delivered and facilitated by Tree Bressen, of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (web site: www.ic.org). Bressen explained the need for a facilitation workshop: “Most people’s associations with meetings are that they’re long and boring and frustrating and they waste time. I think that comes out of people not handling meetings in a skilful and effective way … as you learn how to facilitate better and how to participate better … groups can have meetings that are productive, that are upbeat, that are great, fun, and make decisions together well and come out of the meetings feeling energized and not … drained.

“But we don’t grow up learning these skills, so a lot of us actually need to learn from a workshop or a book or practice or something, because a lot of us don’t grow up in institutions that really encourage this way of relating to each other.”

Two primary areas to focus on are: 1) to help each person feel heard; 2) to find the common ground in what different people are saying, and reflect this common ground back to the group.

Workshop participants were actively involved in activities and discussion. To start the day off, everyone had to introduce themselves to the group, with some sort of gesture or movement. Right after lunch, a non-elimination form of musical chairs was played: ‘Big Wind Blows.’ The day ended with an intuition circle that left participants on a high.

This effectively illustrates one of the principles being taught on the day, that of working with the energy of the group and planning the agenda with that in mind. Another principle was the use of “choice creation” or “dynamic facilitation”, which is about going deeper and exploring one person’s passion to bring out creative, radical and positive ideas that might otherwise not be voiced. Some questions offered as examples to help draw out people’s passions are, “What’s the best-case outcome – what do things look like?”; “What would be the first step?”; “If you were in charge, what would you do?”; and “I guarantee you success, so what is it you want to do?”

The concept of consensus was covered. Consensus is a search for unity, not a vote, and is based on a common purpose, openness, democracy, fairness, honesty, simplicity, love and time.

Participants came to build together, and left with a greater understanding of facilitation and communication, and a positive charge of energy. Colan Schwartz commented, “I came here because I’m really interested in facilitation and I think that communication is really important – it’s something that as a society we need to work on a little bit more. Working collectively really helps to get problems solved much faster.” He also noted the value to “summarize what’s happened and also reword things that people have said in such a way that the group will understand and it will help work toward achieving the goal.”

Tanya Williams observed how it was important to have “those questions that will allow people to think, envision beyond getting caught up in ‘I can’t do that’ and the barriers that are in the way… try and get a sense from them of what is really important to them.”

Cory Kobbert noted, “[The workshop] gave a good framework for intuitiveness and to address people’s concerns, to understand the exceptions of people who may have opposition to you in a group. I think it is a very crucial aspect of gathering together a community … to address their special concerns if they’re in agreement with the direction that the group is going, or if they’re in disagreement, regardless. That can be met with the group … the power structure is decentralized among the group, and an individual can really have an impact.”

The Fellowship for Intentional Communities is “a non-profit that promotes cooperative living …We’re a resource organization to help people find communities, and help communities find people, and give the media accurate information about communities instead of them getting portrayed in sensationalistic ways, and we serve the academic researchers, so we’re trying to serve a pretty wide set of constituencies and we’re an umbrella organization: any group doing any kind of communal living, from co-housing to eco-villages to communes to anything is totally welcome to associate with us and get involved as long as they don’t participate in violence or coerce members to stay who want to go.”


I wrote this article over the December 2001 holidays, and it was published 4 months to the day after the September 11 attacks, in the University of Waterloo Imprint student newspaper. It’s not completely comprehensive, and there’s been a lot more research and hypothesizing in the time since, but I think it provides some food for thought – basically raising some troubling questions. For some more discussion on the topic — including on the ‘psychology of belief’– please see Eric Francis’ podcast at PlanetWaves.net


The World Trade Center was taken down on September 11. That much is for sure. But start talking about who did it, and you might be on shaky ground.

Apparently, we are told, there is evidence against the Al-Qaeda terrorism network, including Osama bin Laden. To date, the most compelling evidence is a self-incriminating videotape of bin Laden; yet, in an age where movies like The Lord of the Rings can be made, seeing should not necessarily mean believing.

There are many troubling questions that surround the September 11 attacks. Given that “U.S. military leaders proposed in 1962 a secret plan to commit terrorist acts against Americans and blame Cuba to create a pretext for invasion and the ouster of Communist leader Fidel Castro” [Baltimore Sun, April 24 2001], the possibility of U.S. government, military, intelligence complicity in the attacks should not be discounted.

However, we have others who tell us not to think about the possibility. Speaking to the United Nations general assembly, George Bush said, “We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th, malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty.”

Yet others are not so sure. In the first footnote to his presentation “Why there is a war in Afghanistan,” delivered at a teach-in/forum in Toronto on December 9 and sponsored by Science for Peace, University of Guelph professor John McMurtry stated, “With any such hypothesis, one looks not only for the evidence confirming it, but more conscientiously, for the evidence disconfirming it.

“The evidence confirming U.S. and allied security awareness of and possible complicity in the 9/11 attack is considerable, but I have found no evidence disconfirming it,” he said.

Let’s look at some of the questions that have been raised.


There are many reports that the surprise attacks were not really a surprise to the various U.S. government agencies — the CIA, the FBI, the military. The fact that, with all the resources they possess, these agencies were unable to do anything to prevent an attack by people they were already closely monitoring, is as surprising as the attacks themselves.

“The governments of at least four countries — Russia, Germany, Israel and Egypt — gave Washington specific warnings of terrorist attacks in the United States involving the use of hijacked airplanes as weapons, in the months leading up to September 11.” That from a January 5th article posted on the World Socialist Web site (www.wswj.org).

Former U.S. Special Forces master sergeant Stan Goff, in an essay posted on www.narconews.com, writes, “As a former military person who’s been involved in the development of countless operations orders over the years, I can tell you that this was a very sophisticated and costly enterprise that would have left what we call a huge ‘signature.’ In other words, it would be very hard to effectively conceal. So there’s a real question about why there was no warning of this.”

Yet, despite all that, the terrorists were still able to organize, plan and successfully carry out these attacks. Even once they had successfully hijacked the planes, there was still an opportunity for the attacks to have been averted …

Events the morning of . . .

One question that has been raised is why no military planes were scrambled to intercept any of the planes once it had been determined that hijackings were taking place. One allegation being made is that orders from high up were given to stand down — to not follow the standard procedures for dealing with hijacked aircraft — which would have included sending up aircraft. Particularily troubling is how the third plane that crashed into the Pentagon was allowed to fly unimpeded towards Washington and the Pentagon for a half-hour after the second plane had crashed into the WTC.

Questions also exist as to whether Ghost Hawk remote control flying technology could have been used to take over control of the planes, and as to whether the fourth plane crashed, or was shot down by a mysterious white plane (see www.flight93crash.com). So far, none of the black box recordings have been released.

Investigations hindered

The hope would be that the people investigating the events of September 11 would be able to get to the bottom of everything. That may not happen.

“This is almost the dream team of engineers in the country working on [the investigation of the WTC collapse], and our hands are tied,” said one team member who asked not to be identified. Members have been threatened with dismissal for speaking to the press. “FEMA is controlling everything,” the team member said. (NY Times; December 25 2001)

The editor of Fire Engineering, a 125-year-old monthly firefighting magazine, has called for a “full-throttle, fully resourced” investigation instead of the current “half-baked farce.” (NY Daily News; January 4 2002).

The National Security Agency has been destroying evidence since September 11. “Some Central Intelligence Agency analysts and staff members of the House and Senate intelligence committees fear that important information that could aid in the investigation, and perhaps even redirect it, is being lost in the process.” (Washington Globe; October 27 2001).

An investigation into insider-trading activities on airline stocks prior to the attacks has led to a bank in Germany with connections to the CIA (www.copvcia.com).

A November 6, 2001 report on BBC TV’s Newsnight detailed how some investigations into terrorist connections were being covered up by US authorities.


One of the first thing any detective does is consider the criminal’s motive. The U.S. administration, military or intelligence community has enjoyed many benefits since the terrorist attacks.

U.S. interests wanted to install an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to access oil reserves in the former Soviet states, said to be potentially the richest reserves in the world. The U.S. had pre-existing plans to invade Afghanistan in mid-October, according to former Pakistan foreign secretary Niaz Naik. In fact, it would have been nearly impossible to plan for such an invasion in the short time between September 11 and October 7 (according to Stan Goff).

As well, the attacks gave new-found legitimacy to an unelected president and consolidated power in the hands of his administration and the military and intelligence communities. The huge profits to be made off of the “War on Terrorism” lead back to American interests. Laws have been passed and civil rights stripped away; the people have lost, and the powerful have gained.

There is not enough space here to cover all the questions that are left unanswered. Further research can be done online; some sites to visit include www.rense.com, www.counterpunch.org, davesweb.cnhost.com.


by Greg Macdougall – Sept 21, 2001 | University of Waterloo Imprint (page 10)

It seems like we’re at war now. But I think we can still change that.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

Besides some war in some far off place, there’s already been some serious shit going down here. Racism and violence against Muslims and other ‘Middle-Eastern-type’ peoples is happening. It’s not isolated incidents. It’s everywhere. Two shooting deaths this past weekend in the States are the most extreme tip of the iceberg.

Incidents have been reported at this university. Yeah, that’s right, right here. So, I’ma bit disappointed right now – about a lot of things, but very much so about the way some people are racist. Not that that is anything new, though.

Another thing that I’m very disappointed about is how the media is racist. Not that that’s anything new either. But just the way that all the papers and TV stations splashed pictures of Palestinians celebrating the terrorist attacks, but didn’t have anything to say about those who may not have been celebrating, and were instead mourning.

Also, the way that they condemn any anti-Muslim backlash when they are in fact doing so much to fuel it. The way that the Record published a big story on how a local synagogue (Jewish) hired police for protection, yet only put four paragraphs in about how a Guelph mosque (Muslim) was attacked by racists who spray-painted “killers” and “go home” in foot-high letters on the door. This was buried at the end of a story on an area man from Afghanistan who is scared for family that he has living in that country.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m also disappointed with the mainstream and corporate media, not that there’s anything new there either. They’re pretty much promoting that we go to war. They’re preparing us for it – Tuesday’s Record headline was a quote from Bush, “There will be costs.” Wednesday’s Record screams, “Bracing for Holy War,” like it’s the Afghanistanians who are the ones starting this war – like they’ve got any choice at all. I could keep going but it would probably take me more space than I’ve got.

The media features way too many. government officials and military. types, and way too few people who might be opposing war. The interview I did with PACS director Lowell Ewert, who doesn’t like violence, is an anomoly in the sea of voices screaming for blood.

If you want some historical reference, check out the type of propaganda that passed for news back during the Vietnam war. We’re living through another period of that type of shit being fed down our throats. It’s pretty hard to evade it, it’s everywhere.

If you think there’s nothing wrong with the media coverage of this stuff, then – nothing personal – I think you’re smoking crack.

“Never indeed is hatred stilled by hatred; it will only be stilled by non-hatred-this isan eternal law.”

But it ain’t all bad. There’s alternatives to all the hype – the Independent Media Centre here in K-W has put out a special two-page edition of the paper, Blind Spot, to promote peace. You can get it off the Web at ontario.indymedia.org article #1821, or click on the K-W Blind Spot link.

“If they make us all panic then they can start martial law.”
-Dead Prez


Peace and conflict professor calls for words, not war
by Greg Macdougall
September 21 2001 – University of Waterloo Imprint student newspaper

Since last Tuesday, there’s been a lot said about what the terrorist attacks mean and where we go from here. Unfortunately, most of it seems to call for a solution involving military action.

Do more innocent civilians need to be killed? Many seem to think so, but not Lowell Ewert, director of the Peace and Conflict Studies program and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel College. He thinks there may be a better way to deal with the attacks, and he cautiously admits that something positive may come out of this mess.

As the American government declares war on terrorism, Ewert sees “the need for the world community to come together and define this thing called terrorism and agree that its wrong.” But, that’s easier said than done: “I think that’s going to be a more difficult process than George Bush or anyone else thinks at this time because I don’t think there’s a real agreement on what terrorism is.

“As someone said, this is a problem that only the world community collectively can solve; it’s not something that one individual nation can solve. I applaud that.”

Ewert suggests there’s a silver lining in the horrible acts committed last Tuesday. “I mean, there are a lot of people talking to each other about this topic now who weren’t talking two weeks ago and I think that’s very positive.

“I think that first and foremost it needs to be defined as a criminal act. As I heard someone say, defining it as an act of war gives it a certain legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve. It’s a criminal act and it should be treated in that way.”

Ewert sees value in looking “to listen to victims’ groups about how they define it, to listen to government officials, to listen to those who are involved in trying to prevent it, to really consult widely.

“To push the learning, the knowledge, the debate and dialogue on that issue is important,” he says.

“I think that civil society can play a very important role in defining terrorism and clarifying for world political leaders that it is not an acceptable political act. So I think we can really get involved in creating a political movement that limits the practice of terrorism.”

How can we limit terrorism? “If you create an international consensus against it, you’re going to make it a lot more difficult for people to find the human resources, the financial resources and the physical resources. I think it starts drying up the pond in which this kind of movement can flourish.”

Ewert suggests that healing for the victims of terrorist acts can be found by bringing them together. “You look at groups of victims who have been subjected to some horrible reprisals internationally — Latin America and other places in the world where there have been a whole bunch of civilian victims — to get them talking to each other and with the people in New York, to talk about their common humanity, their common anger at being victimized and their common fear at being targeted. I think building those kinds of connections between victim groups around the world would be a very valuable part of both healing and solidifying world opinion against terrorism.”

But how can we deal with this horrific act of terrorism committed against the targets in the United States? “From the peace and conflict perspective we believe, and I believe, that another cycle of violence won’t work. I think further research on looking at whether violence, and indiscriminate violence, actually promotes peace. I don’t think it does.

“I think the peace community could, and it hasn’t yet, but it could help the world understand that there are very effective ways non-violently to respond to these horrendous acts, and that blind military striking out may not be the answer.

“I think there’s a legitimate role that police forces play, and I think the distinction that’s typically made is between legitimate policing functions and military. Military forces are subject to political control and they are usually sent for political purposes whereas a civilian police force or a police force is more subject to the rule of law. I think there’s a profound difference.

“Some of the rhetoric seems to say that a military response alone is going to be the solution. Violence typically doesn’t work. Violence typically creates the fertile ground for very, very angry and bitter people to come along and commit other acts. I’m a little concerned that the talk of revenge and retaliation will, if history is a guide here, create more people who have an axe to grind with one or more of the parties and it will not result in a peaceful and just solution for all. So that kind of revenge and retaliatory language is something that I think is misguided.

“There’s been some pretty scary articles that I’ve read basically saying ‘strike back and if a lot of civilians are killed that’s too bad; it’s regrettable but it’s okay.’ That kind of thinking really is frightening to me because it assumes that violence will work.

“Some would justify harming other civilians because of what happened in New York. I just don’t think that’s appropriate. Civilians are to be protected. When people deliberately target civilians, I think we draw the line. We do draw the line, I don’t [just] think that. You don’t target civilians.”


by Greg Macdougall – Sept 14, 2001 | University of Waterloo Imprint (page 12)

You can call it the most terrible thing that has ever happened; you can call it pure evil; you can call it karma.

What goes around comes around, some people say. And on 09/11, the big bully on the playground, the U.S., got sacked in the nuts. The question now is how will they react?

Yes, there’s also a lot to deal with coming to terms with what happened: the horror, the sadness, the fear, the anger. How can you deal with all that?

The easy way is to hit back, hard, and that’s what people seem to want: ‘Kill the bastards!’ As horrible as Tuesday was, I’m more scared of what’s to come. Not from more terrorist attacks -contrary to a lot of people, I don’t feel any less safe today than before the attacks – but from the devastation and horror that people’s reactions could unleash on the world.

I think that the only way a good reaction can come is if we’ve dealt with the emotions that come from this, which is very different from acting on those emotions. And if we’ve made an effort to understand what happened and why. When I see Bush talking of America’s “quiet, unyielding anger” and how the attacks “cannot dent the steel of American resolve,” I feel more sick than I did watching a person free falling from one of the towers.

As we condemn the terrorists to hell, are we going to follow them? Is the current president the man to take the high road, or is he going to lead us on a downward spiral of violence begetting violence?

I’ve heard this attack being likened to Pearl Harbour, but I haven’t heard anyone mentioning what the States’ reaction to that attack was -two atomic bombs dropped on another country, killing how many more people and contributing how much more senseless violence?

Bush claimed that “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.” He seems to have missed the fact that, for many, America symbolizes the exact opposite: the repression of freedom. By attacking the crowning symbol of America’s capitalistic might and the heart of America’s military might, a very clear message was being sent.

The personal hatred I hold for American imperialism and militarism gave way to many mixed feelings in witnessing what went on. The hatred that we all hold in our hearts, directed wherever it may be, means that we cannot outright condemn others, ‘foreigners,’ and hold ourselves to be above them. We cannot fall into the trap of thinking that we are good and they are bad. Only by recognizing our own shadow, as Carl Jung called it, can we hope to come to some resolution.

The American shadow is a dark one. For example, they originally backed Osama bin Laden, who they and the media now portray as the face of evil incarnate (without anyone having a clue as to who did all this). Twenty years ago, the United States was training bin Laden and supplying him with arms in his terrorist fight against the Soviets.

The hypocritical nature of the rhetoric spouting from Bush’s mouth, and coming from all the journalists, editors, and opinion columnists creating hatred and hysteria in people’s minds, makes me as sick as the actual act itself.

I also note how ‘good’ this is to Bush and his presidency in so many ways. Everyone is united behind him; all the bad things he has done are gone from people’s minds. As has been noted many times before, a war is sometimes the best medicine for an ailing leader.

However, I hold out some hope that maybe some good will come of this. Maybe this will be a big enough of a shock to people that they change the way they view their lives, the way they relate to other people, the way they live their lives. This is a chance for us to stop ignoring the hatred that is endemic in the world, and to instead acknowledge it while at the same time looking to let love overcome it.

I was once told that all action comes either from love or from fear. I have to ask, where does revenge fit in there?

For more analysis, visit www.zmag.org