The Sense of Knowing

Ana: Hello everybody, I’m Ana and I’m not very good at words so I will ask … German I need your body here and Dave can you help me with something also? Sometimes when we talk we think that we are talking about the same things and we use words, but I heard you all and I thought that it might be good to see something.

Can you stand up in that chair for me? There’s a difference in height there, that is justice, and it’s fair. They’re both standing on a chair. Can you look that way, are those two people looking at each other and being able to see that difference? Can you turn around now? I need actually somebody shorter, you shorten up a little bit and now German I will ask you to step down on the chair and hug him. There’s no way that we can hug each other and give the person that we have in front of us if we are not really looking at them.

We need to shift from standing backwards to … I’m really nervous here. To look at each other’s eye and without assuming be able to ask, “What do you need?” “What do I have to give you?” “What do you have to give me?” and how together we can really reach equity but it’s not the same thing that justice or something fair, equity needs two to get there. Thank you.

Ziad: No, it’s okay ma’am. Sit down here. I need you to translate for me if you don’t mind. I speak refugee’s English. My name is Ziad Abbas, I was born and grow up in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem area. You know Bethlehem city right? Yes, me and Jesus we were born in the same city. Actually when I looked at the question, I start laughing. I’m a Palestinian, what is this justice? Equity? Democracy? When I was travelling to Europe I saw some people shouting in the streets, “What do you want?” “When do you want it?”

I came to America they were asking, “What do you want?” “When do you want it?” The idea for me is to speak about democratic education and I’m coming from a region without democracy. I’m coming from a region that is boiling right now and different countries because they are seeking equity, social justice and democracy and it will affect the world. What we have right now is we have new generations, young generation; they broke the walls of silence and they took to the streets to raise their voice and to change the reality for justice, equity and democracy.

I’m a Palestinian, I’m not a victim. I refuse to be a victim. I’m struggling and democratic education needs struggle. If you don’t struggle for that no one will give it to you, you earn it. Through the struggle you can achieve that. I believe as a people we are taking responsibility to build a new society focused on democracy, we need as our sister said in the beginning; a foundation, a basis. To be honest with you and don’t be upset with me, we don’t need to discuss that. It’s the basis of why we are here; this should be the basis for any democratic education here or anywhere.

The other issue I believe you need to take an action, not just to speak about justice, justice needs action. As I’m Palestinian and I have time to be honest with you on this conference, I can speak because my narrative, my story is almost censored and I’ll not accept that and I was thinking of leaving the conference because some people don’t want to look at me and to see me exist, I deserve rights. I deserve to be equal like everyone; I deserve my right of return to my village.

I don’t like to organize conspiracies but here I am and I am here because I believe in the new generation and our responsibility is to plant the seeds for a new democracy. Democratic for everyone, no matter who you are, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist; which I prefer. Black, white, tall, short, equal for everyone and the only possibility to achieve that is if we focus on justice and equity and to have real ways to achieve that. To struggle for that and we need to take action. I’ll stop there. Thank you for the translation.

Shilpa: Hi everyone, my name is Shilpa. I live in California and I work with Yes! This question is very interesting for me and what I want to offer is a different language. The language that works for me which is an invitation for whoever wants to take it today and the invitation I offer is to try to have this conversation and speak from the “I” and bring in … what I’m going to try to do is to bring in my own sense of my perspective and the limitations of my perspective and the beauty of my perspective and the fact that I have something to offer and yet it’s only going to be a small piece of the puzzle.

This morning I was thinking about the story of the blind man and the elephant. Have any of you heard that story? So that there is this big elephant in the room and there are three blind men and one blind man touches the tail and he says, “It’s a broom.” Another blind man touches the trunk and say, “No, no it’s a hose.” Another blind man touches the body and says, “No, no, it’s a wall.” In fact they all are right on one level and yet they’re all wrong it’s an elephant.

I just want to invite that. For me I know when I’m having these conversations, I get stuck on the word true. Who’s true? Who’s the right true? I like that word “s,” environments which for me has been my grandmothers kitchen, it has been my neighbors garden, it has been my friends cotillion, it’s been many, many spaces that I’ve experienced where actually I feel everyone gets to participate and share and those places feel true to me. What is your true? I don’t know until I ask you.

I want to ask questions today. I’m going to be approaching the day with a lot of sense of knowing yes I know my little piece, and it’s my little piece. It’s my broom, it’s my hose, it’s my wall, it’s my little piece and there’s an elephant that I know I can’t possibly see unless I start asking you what is your piece and how do you see it and how are you working on it. When I can do that then maybe I can get some of the sense, even if I can never know the whole elephant because it’s impossible for me to know every single person’s narrative, every single story and every single place and every single part of the world; I recognize my own limitations and I’m okay with that.

I know that at the same time I can keep learning, the offering I have and the invitation that I’m going to be working with is to speak from the “I” as much as possible. To notice that if I go to the “you” or the “we,” that’s probably because I’m afraid of my own vulnerability in that moment and so I invite that and I invite people to support me with that. I would be happy to support you if you’d like to be supported with that and I also want to invite a both and opportunity. That there’s a spectrum, it doesn’t have to be either or, it can really be both and, and, and, and, and, and, some more. Thank you.