Subverting the empire

Good day yesterday at the CMS blah on Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire with Brian J. Walsh, Sylvia Keesmaat. Lots of interesting correlations with where we are, and Flow particularly around the use and practice of Targum Highwaymen movies in synagogues. It raises questions about the approach we should take to using what until now we have called re-contextualised bible stories. In the traditional approach to targum the original is also read, however I have questions about how obsolete our christian language has become because of Christendom and the corruption of the christian stories through the ages.
For me this was a weakness of the targum that Brian and Sylvia had written, as it contained quite lot of christian language. There is the question of who are you talking to, and in the main their targum based on colossians was to believers, but in our context, even though it was well written and eloquent, I still think people will hear it through their cultural lenses. Brian mentioned it was longer than the original texts, and this was in part to try and convey the real meaning behind the text. I wonder if keeping it shorter but using a new language would be more helpful, as then people would need to dialogue with you around the meaning, and you are less in control of truth and meaning is discovered together.

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Flow chi

Jonny has an article in the Lausanne World Pulse published and mentions Flow. One image he uses is a group engaged in what looked like tai chi, although I can’t be sure. Maybe I was reading too much into the image but it caught my attention as I have been exploring the idea of adapting tai chi as way to explore Flow. I used to use Anthony de Mello Sadhana Christian mediation in eastern form quite a bit with young people, and am interested in adapting tai chi in a similar way to help the skaters develop a more reflective way to engage Flow. Still working things out and trying to get my head around it but there may be some mileage in it.

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Guardian article-

According to a new report from the UK’s children’s commissioners, our young people are not becoming increasingly criminal; our society is simply treating them like they are. The report states that whilst crime committed by children fell between 2002 and 2006, the numbers being criminalised went up by over a quarter.

This clampdown might be justified if the offences were actually causing harm. But many young people are now being subject to authoritarian interference before they have actually done anything tangible. They are, for example, chastised for “hanging around” certain areas or wearing hoodies. In Essex, “forward intelligence teams” allow police officers to follow and record young individuals who might engage in antisocial behaviour. Being perceived as a threat, it seems, now constitutes an offence worthy of police intervention.

Moreover, instead of being punished as individuals for specific acts, young people are now being penalised as a homogenous whole. The commissioners’ report criticises mosquitoes, devices which drive all young people away from public areas regardless of what they are actually doing there. The message these generalised “solutions” send is a dangerous one. How can we teach young people not to judge people by the colour of their skin – or dismiss all adults as unworthy of respect – when they are targeted in such a blanket way?

Looking at the media, “British young people” come across as something akin to rats. They’re all the same, and they all need fixing. In 2005, a media survey found that 71% of stories about young people were negative, with one third focussing on crime. But 70% of our young people’s behaviour is not negative, and our perceptions have become skewed.

Criminalising young people doesn’t just lack principle; it lacks pragmatism, because it can perpetuate the problems it’s trying to solve. Putting people into young offender institutions doesn’t “teach them a lesson”, it teaches them new tricks, and encourages them to define themselves as criminals.

The same applies to those young people who suffer from discrimination and stereotypes outside the prison walls. Authority and adults come to be seen as “out to get you”, rather than something to respect.

Discrimination also makes young people apathetic. If a potential employer has already labelled you a troublemaker, what’s the point of applying for the job? If you don’t think the police will trust you when you say that you were merely loitering outside the newsagents to check your shopping list, what’s the point of trying to have an honest dialogue with them?

If you lock young people up – be it behind metal bars or psychological labels – you lock a mindset in. Instead of assuming the negative, we should have better hopes and higher expectations for our young people – we need to have faith in our young people if they are to have faith in us.

Instead of blaming young people for the rise in offences, let’s have the courage to listen to the experts we’ve appointed. Let’s make an effort to see the subtlety behind the stereotypes, and question whether young people really have become more antisocial to the rest of society, or whether society has simply become more antisocial to them.

About this article

This article was first published on on Monday June 09 2008. It was last updated at 17:53 on June 09 2008

Women Bishops, Power and change

The debate about the ordination of women bishops in the CoE is being discussed again Rob highlights pro petition and john a case against, and Maggie notes the issue raised in the house.

Having just come out of a day teaching on community organising and change a few thoughts went through my mind. Firstly how the issue of power is so pertinent to many of the anti arguments, the issues of power and control are not explicit in the writing, but bubble under the surface and can be seen by the way names and titles are used, the magic power (as community organisers would call it) as jargon and quotes are couched into the arguments, that bedazzle the reader. Although this can be also seen in some of the pro posts read although to a lesser extent.
The second issue is the general tendency to avoid too much tension and how the strategies for change employed such as petitions are quite weak. There seems to be bit of a lack of imagination in the process for change, (maybe this is why is seems to be taking so long) perhaps because of the avoidance of tension. Creative methods to promote change will need to accept that tension may be caused, but organisers would happily live with this as all action is in the reaction.

Non formal learning

The National Youth Agency has published a new paper exploring the contribution of non-formal learning, and the distinctive contribution of youth work, to young people’s personal, social and emotional development and to their future life chances. It is part of a wider education project being conducted by the Fabian Society, which is investigating ways of narrowing the gaps in educational experiences and outcomes between children from different social and family backgrounds.

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