This is a confusing world. As a child, I remember hearing my parents urging me to share with others, while my Christian upbringing pressed me to give, but the society I grew up in pushed me to get ahead of the other guy, compete, and be the best. Strange messages swirled around me outside of my home: "Nice guys finish last", "He who has the most toys wins." "Win at any cost!" "It's survival of the fittest." I'm sure this rings true for many others and I think it is fair to say that the messages we have gotten from society in general have made many people more individualistic, more committed to "What's in it for me?" thinking, and I think less connected to their fellow man.
Over the course of the Community Based Master's Program I am part of, I began to hear another voice that I had not really heard before. It was the voice of aboriginal thinkers. I heard about generosity and for the good of the community over and over (and trust me I know these values exist in all cultures). Traditional Aoriginal teachings seemed to be consistently about doing what was good for all; the self had a responsibility to the group. It is such a different way than that of the capitalistic western world (and one that I think many Aboriginal people would agree has been eroded in aboriginal communities influenced by western thinking). Yet, I still see examples of this generosity today. For example, in the north, it is not uncommon for communities to raise money through auctions to help families that have suffered a loss; I grew up in a culture that believed it was shameful if you could not afford to bury your loved one. My wife (she is Dene) regularly has relatives that share a catch or a kill with her; she routinely goes to their assistance in times of need. When she does, I catch myself thinking, "What will that cost? I realize now that that thinking is a scar from my own socialization as a child raised in a capitalist world.
My journey through the Community Based Master's Program has taken me to new places and I have been reflecting on ideas that Aboriginal people have exposed me to. It started in a class as I was challenged over and over again to see things from an Aboriginal perspective. Then a colleague shared a list of Dene Laws with me; I immediately was challenged by the first law, "Share what you have." But I decided I would begin to move to be a more giving person in school.
These are small things that I consciously did this school year to be more giving; I have found 25 cents when a student was short for a drink, I have shared candy (that I had deliberately brought to school) with students in my office (even the ones in trouble), I have offered bottles of water to colleagues that look like they needed it, and I have expected nothing in return. However, what I have gotten is a feeling that I was doing the right thing - it felt good. I was sharing and making a strong human connection at the same time.
Today, after listening to Dean Shareski's presentation to my EC&I 831 class, I realized that sharing extends beyond what we have. Sharing knowledge is also sharing something of value. Perhaps, the world of Web 2.0 will move society back to the notion that we should share openly without condition for the good of our world community. Perhaps communities will become less insulated from the human condition that surrounds them and become more globally conscious. Sounds like the 21st century thinkers may be taking us to a world view that is not unlike that of traditional Aboriginal values; a strange connection indeed!
Just for the record, here are the Dene Laws. Sorry I do not have a source but I believe it has come out of the North West Territories.
1. Share what you have.
2. Help each other.
3. Love each other as much as possible.
4. Be respectful of elders and everything around you.
5. Sleep at night and work during the day.
6. Be polite and don’t argue with anyone.
7. Young girls and boys should behave respectfully.
8. Pass on the teachings.
9. Be happy at all times.
La Loche Community School – Dene Building is proud of its Dene roots. We think the world can learn lots from the Dene people and we are striving as a school to honour and respect the Dene people, their language, and their traditions.
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