Notes from Teach-In #1
Notes and Links from Teach-in #1 (March 17, 2011, 1-5pm)
Thanks to everyone for coming! It is good to be together and try to do something with what we are feeling.
強い気持ちで頑張ろう. This was a motto for our first teach-in. It came from an email Adrienne got from her best friend, but other people heard similar things too. Daigo translated this phrase as “Doing our best with strong mental powers.” We can also say with “strong feelings.” We will try to honor and match that feeling. We can try to be our best for what this moment is asking of us.
The idea of a “teach-in” was new to some people. A teach-in doesn’t follow institutional time or disciplinary conventions. A teach-in can take-over a class or be hosted during what would normally be class time. It doesn’t need to happen in a school setting. A teach-in can last longer than a regular class session. A teach-in also usually or ideally ties learning to action. Thus, a teach-in is usually inspired by a sense that some kind of action is necessary and that we have to figure something out in order to do something about it, in order to act. Teach-ins are also different from typical university classes in that they aren’t really interdisciplinary so much as “undisciplinary” learning environments. They are totally voluntary too. Our “undisciplinary” formation begins today, and we will have more teach-ins next week and as necessary, so this is not a one-off event, but rather a 4+ hour invitation to pursue a different kind of learning together.
Since this won’t be a one-time event, Adrienne said we don’t have to feel like we have to cover and figure out everything today. Everyone should feel free to come and go as you like. Part of what can make a teach-in meaningful is that we can allow more for ourselves than conformity to institutional norms or typical classroom etiquette. Adrienne will be hosting or facilitating, and she’ll stop us every now and then to check in with everyone. We’ll do check-ins at the beginning and end of each teach-in and also periodically throughout as people come and go. Taking time out to do this periodically will also make us slow down and remind us that each of us has way more going on than we can tell simply by looking at each other. Our lives and feelings don’t start and end in this room together, and checking in can help us foster some mutual recognition of that.
It can be so easy to feel stupefied, flooded, frustrated, confused, and overwrought, but we will find ways to keep one another afloat, to buoy one another up and out of that kind of inert and shut-down, awful place so we can also be our best for our loved ones in Japan, for ourselves.
Some people have had trouble sleeping or eating. Some people have a hard time stepping away from the news. There’s no shortage of disruptive and painful feelings, frustrating, angering, crazy-making, and disempowering feelings we might have in this kind of moment. We shared many of them. We will acknowledge those kinds of feelings together and figure out ways to channel them into novel and life-sustaining actions. In these teach-ins, we won’t settle for the official and institutionalized support roles presented to us as if they were the only or best option. We won’t use this space to feed an endless forestalling of inevitably more crises and disasters by letting our precious feelings get funneled right back into the institutions and problems that created such huge problems for us all in the first place.
As we discuss and share resources, ideas, perspectives, and plans, we’ll probably need to maintain some flexibility. In addition to being a place for discussion and learning, these teach-ins will be places where we can make plans and do things — like mobilizing translation support, making material available, and sharing ways to deal with what we are all feeling.
1. Translation Corps
We are starting a translation effort to get material in Japanese (like Twitters, Blogs, Independent Media, etc.) available in English, French, and other languages, as well as material in English translated into Japanese. We will post the translations online. A number of people volunteered during the teach-in, and others have also expressed interest in helping. Adrienne will follow up by emailing the translation corps.
2. Reading Groups (on radiation, depleted uranium, universities and nuclear research and development, PTSD and radical mental health, disaster capitalism, etc.) Because a lot of us are thinking about radiation, we will probably start planning some reading groups around that issue next week and will discuss it further at our next teach-in.
3. Working Groups (radio interviews, solidarity organizing, peer support, etc.)
4. Taking Bites out of Whole Apples
Many of us are overwhelmed and flooded with feelings and stress. Adrienne shared a video that some people made for stress relief. She saw it on the Irregular Rhythm Asylum Blog.
We watched that video several times today and also made some video responses, which we will also post online.
(Thanks to Adam, Brian, and Brent for bringing apples!)
We will continue to share resources. The following were shared in the first teach-in.
1. Things to read:
>Freeter Union: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/spiders_nest/20110317
The Atomic Age Conference: http://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/atomicage/
Gavan McCormack essay: http://www.japanfocus.org/events/view/49
Monju is currently the name of a “fast breeder” nuclear reactor in Fukui Prefecture, but Monju is originally the name of a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being who sticks around to help the rest of us, to teach us. Daigo described how students might pray to Monju before an exam because Monju is the bodhisattva of the mind, wisdom, and intellect. His job is to encourage us and help us not be fooled and not be ignorant. His is a kind of educational and consciousness-raising mission. He’s often depicted on top of a lion, holding a sword to battle ignorance, illusions, distortions, etc. The above phrase is like “two heads are better than one,” or literally, “If three people get together, they can be as smart as Monju.” In our discussions today, we learned this is, in fact, true. In spite of the way his name has been commandeered by the nuclear power industry, we want to take it back and think critically together.
Links that make clear critical thinking is warranted asap:
http://www.refugee.or.jp/jar/topics/other/2011/03/14-1001.shtml#en(see especially the suggestions for what to do vis-à-vis radiation if you scroll down.)
Material we will translate:
From Japanese to English, French, and other languages
selections from (not all) http://illcomm.exblog.jp/
recent posts on http://irregularrhythmasylum.blogspot.com/
From English to Japanese
http://endciv.com/ (click on translate to get transcript)
We may also consider “talking back” to opinions like this one:
During the check-ins, some of us shared stories and talked about where we were at. Many of us want to get at bigger questions too. What kind of societies are we living in? What kind of society invests so much energy and time and resources into making itself reliant on something that harms everyone living in it? What does it mean to try and harness and control something uncontrollable (especially something with a real potential to harm you massively) in order to sustain a particular kind of society that is ultimately unsustainable? What does that tell us about such a society? What are we already doing and can do that works better? How can we build on the kind of stuff we already do and know that nourishes life? How can we take care of ourselves? And we also talked about how hard it can be to know what to say to people we love in Japan right now, but as Miwako urged, we should call and contact the people no matter what, especially when we get the urge or feeling. When you have the feeling of wanting to reach out and connect, please do it. We will all get better and better at talking about all this. Adrienne also reminded us to check in with folks, especially if someone is staying home a lot, not eating, not sleeping, etc. Being far away from people we love is always hard, but it’s really hard at a time like this, so let’s keep an eye on one another and help each other stay afloat.
Our next teach-in will be next Monday from 1-5pm, and we will have another one on Thursday, but may only be able to do it from 3-5pm based on room availability on campus. We may plan an off-campus teach-in to accommodate more people’s schedules and allow for greater flexibility. Adrienne will keep us posted asap. And remember, you can come and go as you like.
See you next time! In the meantime, take good care!