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The Ongwhehonwhe: The Real People

Written by atuuschaaw Tuesday, 31 January 2006

That it is the nature of the oppressed to imitate the oppressor, and by such actions try to gain relief from the oppressive condition.

Paulo Friere, in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed speaks of the banking concept of education and how this concept is used to maintain a control of oppression. In the banking of education, the teacher is the depositer and the students are the depositories. The teacher passes on information that the students receive, memorize, and repeat. In this form of eduation, there is no communication or interaction between the teacher and the student.

The truth is, however, that the oppressed are not "marginals," are not living "outside" society. They have always been "inside" the structure which made them "beings for others." The solution is not to "integrate" them into the structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so that they can become "beings for themselves." Such transformation, of course, would undermine the oppressors' purposes; hence their utilization of the banking concept of education to avoid the threat of student conscientizacao.

I knocked and the door opened, but I found I'd been knocking from the inside.

It is about coming to the realization we are on the inside looking out, not the other way around. We have been boxed and manufactured since day one and we are beginning to see that things look much different from the outside of our little boxes. The views are quite spectacular and at the same time, very frightening. It's a shock to our psyche, contradicts our belief systems, and totally undermines what we have been taught our entire lives. A total culture shock for sure, and it takes a bold person to explore this new world outside their nice warm cozy box. Like the newborn child is thrust into a separate reality they do not understand, so also we find ourselves in this new world. Some people embrace this world out of the box and exploration becomes their desire. Other people will step out of their comfortable surroundings for short periods, but must return before their world implodes. Perhaps it's my experiences from the sixties, but I find life out of the box as very elating and the more I remain out of the box, the harder it is to return to it. My mind lavishes in the freedom of the other side of the door and I don't want to go back in. This separate reality is where I find the real people, the Ongwhehonwhe.

The use of critical pedagogy places us in a position where we must question ideologies and practices considered oppressive, and encourage liberatory collective and individual responses to the actual conditions of our own lives. Perhaps we need to create a critical pedagogy forum and discuss views and definitions of oppression and possible remedies of those oppresions. Who knows, we all may learn something about ourselves and each other. And building an alternative reality which benefits "all" people of our earth should be our focus. Once out of the manufactured existence we are all accustomed to, we should strive to re-design society within the commonality of equality, justice, and truth.

Author, teacher, and documentarian, Douglas Rushkoff, has published many enlightening pieces about culture and interaction. I particulaly like his book on open source democracy and the premise of the possibility of changing or re-designing political structures through the interaction of millions of people. A possibility which could bring about new solutions to our current and future social problems. Open source communities have already found that solutions to problems will emerge quicker and be more beneficial for the participants with the interaction and participation of loads of dedicated people. In comparison to a centralized planning structure, open source participation wins hands down in my opinion. A true form of power of the people. A version of Rushkoff's book done for the UK policy think tank Demos is viewable in pdf. It's entitled Open Source Democracy: How online communication is changing offline politics.

Rushkoff explains how interactivity is the birth of resistance, and he mentions three stages of development in which the media programmed people can return to autonomous thinking, action, and collective self-determination. These stages are:

- deconstruction of content

- demystification of technology

- do-it-yourself or participatory authorship

I particularly liked this quote, "While it may not provide us with a template for sure-fire business and marketing solutions, the rise of interactive media does provide us with the beginnings of new metaphors for cooperation, new faith in the power of networked activity and new evidence of our ability to participate actively in the authorship of our collective destiny."

The values engendered by our fledgling networked culture may, in fact, help a world struggling with the impact of globalism, the lure of fundamentalism and the clash of conflicting value systems. Thanks to the actual and allegorical role of interactive technologies in our work and lives, we may now have the ability to understand many social and political constructs in very new contexts. We may now be able to launch the kinds of conversations that change the relationship of individuals, parties, creeds and nations to one another and to the world at large. These interactive communication technologies could even help us to understand autonomy as a collective phenomenon, a shared state that emerges spontaneously and quite naturally when people are allowed to participate actively in their mutual self-interest.

The emergence of the internet as a self-organising community, its subsequent co-option by business interests, the resulting collapse of the dot.com pyramid and the more recent self-conscious revival of interactive media's most participatory forums, serve as a case study in the politics of renaissance. The battle for control over new and little understood communication technologies has rendered transparent many of the agendas implicit in our political and cultural narratives. Meanwhile, the technologies themselves empower individuals to take part in the creation of new narratives. Thus, in an era when crass perversions of populism, and exaggerated calls for national security, threaten the very premises of representational democracy and free discourse, interactive technologies offer us a ray of hope for a renewed spirit of genuine civic engagement.

So this interaction and civic engagement is one of the possibilities offered us "out-of-the-boxers" as we explore this new, designed as we go, world of ours. It's a world we design. It's a world with unlimited possibilities and that is what makes it so spectacular, vibrant, and exciting. It's an explorers dream come true as we are steadily searching for what lays just over that next hill. It's a world that the Ongwhehonwhe will use to create a better world.

Originally published at Mitakuye Oyasin

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