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Yvonne Stanford Interview Transcript

Sept. 25
Yvonne Stanford
310 6th St., NW #2
Calgary, AB T2N 1R9
(W) 403-283-0831
(Fax) 403-283-7254
Email -

Dave Beckwith:

The starting questions are sort of what do you do, why do you do it, how did you get started, whichever one of those you'd like to start with I'd love to hear.

Yvonne Stanford:

Okay. What do I do is kind of a moving target, it kind of depends on the decade you're talking about. Right now I'm shifting, kind of in the trenches, coalition building. Community organizing has become… I need a rest from it, and that's primarily because in Alberta there is so much to do and there are no resources for it, so the infrastructure of communities are just being zapped. We have no staff, we have no social change agencies, they've all become really service delivery and status quo or they lose their funding. We have very few even public spaces for meetings, everything that we build has been pretty well smashed and of course the agenda that did that is the same agenda that we need to work against. So I'm not sure how familiar you are with Albertan politics, but, it's scary and you know, for years we would go to the national action committee on the status of women AGM's (Annual General Meetings) and say, don't think of this as being just Alberta, you snotty Torontonians, Ontario folks, this is coming your way and of course we don't have to say that anymore, they know that. So, for me, as of a year ago, I have stopped that kind of work. I finished a course of studies at the justice institute in Vancouver in Conflict Resolution and am looking for a different way of work professionally as well as in the community. I haven't figured out how to do that really other than that finding creative solutions and incremental solutions seems to be more apt for me right now than continuing to believe in the revolution kind of thing cause. So that's where I am now. But that's coming from I guess about 25 years of active community organizing. First in the peace movement, beginning locally and then building national networks. The Canadian Peace Alliance was my first kind of national coalition building and I found out I was good at it, it was a, phenomenal experience of uniting hard core trade unionists with grass roots flaky, drop out neighborhood peace groups and everything in between, large urban coalitions, everyone with their own culture and traditions and way of work and what we learned to do was respect that diversity and find a way to build unity and a consensus and it was a phenomenal experience for me. I actually left my paid work, which is a primarily based in my professional social work and managing community agencies. At that point it was the Canadian mental health association, I left that to actually spend about two and a half years volunteering in the Canadian peace alliance, building it. And at the end of that time when I needed to go back to paid work, I stayed with it for a while, a combination of paid work and the community and those, you know, 70 hour a week jobs. That having to have jobs that pay, with long hours of volunteer work has always been my struggle, how to. And at that time my paid work gave me some opportunities for that. I was a director at the YWCA for about five and a half years and at that point they still considered themselves a feminist organization and I could kind of push the envelope and organize using the credibility of the institution and that was a good run. Partly because of the agenda that I spoke of earlier that even social change institutions are pulling back from social change in order to protect their funding and partly because the YW is a pretty staid place, I can't deny that too. So why do I do it? I guess, if I think of the kind of periods in my life, that peace movement was my first activism that the kind of theology of feminism informed that. My work locally and nationally and a little bit internationally in terms of the feminist agenda led me to then personally confront some of my own innate racism and heterosexism, and as a fairly privileged white female I had a lot to learn as soon as we began to talk about intersectionality theory. And so, and Judy (Rebick) was one who challenged me on NAC (the National Action Committee on the Status of Women), we were building diversity in that, and Judy was leading the way, as president to be a more inclusive movement than the white middle class feminist who had begun the second wave of feminism. So when I met Judy and believed that I needed to work locally, that's actually the work that I did for about 10 years was anti- racist work and anti-poverty work as a middle class white female, but they're both phenomenal opportunities for me.

And that was here in Calgary?

Yah, that work was here in Calgary. Occasionally there's, I haven't been organizing actually, and occasionally there's complications and. yah, so coalition building like treaties or racism, lots of inner-city work. Anti-poverty work, anti-poverty coalitions, political lobbying around poverty and that kind of stuff. And then believing ultimately that the focus for me had to be in coalitions that were of some breadth, that that single issue, or single constituency work of which the Canadian Peace Alliance was in some ways a good example. Even given the broader agenda against us, that we had to form multi issue, multi constituency coalitions. And that takes lots of work, it challenges, for me it challenged everything I knew about myself everything I knew about the world, everything I knew about my community, forced me to look at and accept all different ways of working in coalition and finding focus. You know, we started to say if your coalition is comfortable than it isn't big enough. I kept pushing about this and that to me was, I'd love to go back to that, Dave. To me that was, I get to your end question of how should we be working, that would be my answer. How to do it without resources is my struggle now. I personally will not work in a coalition that isn't resourced anymore. That’s just a recipe for disempowerment and despair. And just there in Alberta is our biggest problem and the apathy that comes from believing that we can't do anything about it; it's all-pervasive.

One of the things I'm interested in is, to go back to what got you started. There are jobs that pay regular money, you know, people go every day and then they go home and then they go back the next day.

Well and even the why was an interesting decision. This was after the ‘88 federal election and I'd been out of the work force for a two and a half years, I planned on two and then we had a major federal election, it was the free trade election and we were running a major national peace campaign as well, so I had to stay around for that and then it was time to go to work again. I actually had 3 options and for me it was kind of a classic intersection in your life. One was, we had established a national campaign coordinator position in the peace alliance and it would mean poverty level wages, no benefits. My grant ran out, but this was the essence of the work that I wanted to do at the time, more travel than I wanted, but. On the other end of what I began to think of as a continuum was, I still had some connections from the time that I spent in downtown corporate Calgary. It was an opportunity to work with a law firm with 102 male lawyers. An old friend of mine was a managing partner and he needed a controller and an accountant and he needed a controller to bring in a new accounting system, you know the systems. I began to think of it as a good way to replenish my bank accountant in a very short time, and the idea of having to dress up every morning… The YW job was kind of in between the two. It was an institutional setting, and in my interview it was clear I had to attend to programs and service delivery and all of that kind of managerial work. But I could also do social action work and did. For example, shortly after I got to the YW we almost recriminalized abortion in Canada and we formed a pro-choice coalition and I could bring the YW into that coalition. That was very effective lobbying, very effective strength to a community-based coalition. It was fragile work because although the YW had a pro-choice policy position, how you work with that position is kind of the tricky part,

In the face of active opposition,

Oh, yes, membership, and the executive director getting scared. And so I thought I was using all the skills I could manage to kind of tend that fragility. Then as soon as the bill was defeated and the pro-choice coalition wanted to move onto other longer term issues, that's when we pulled back, because it was going to be a drag. What I learned I guess from that was trying to master the use of institutions. At that point I was internal to the institution, but since then I've been able to use that to talk other institutions, if you have an internal ally or connection it doesn't have to be all or nothing it can be focused and specific. So that was good and there were other events with the YW but what it often meant was that was overtime work. The grants were not funding that work and a lot of the anti racism, diversity work that I wanted to do I just had to add to my job description so, you just get really efficient with work that you're getting paid for, so that I could save some hours that way. And once I ended up counting my volunteer community work, which I've always tried to budget 15 or 20 hours a week for. Add that to my job which is essentially what I did, and did it that way for about 5 years. I'm happy with that. And in fact, the, tricky part of it is when you add the kind of resistance to the agenda that you're struggling against, along with resistance within the institution that you're connected to, gets to be a bit much.

Yah. Where is the safe place?

Exactly. Of course you build your network, from hiring and you can start to influence the shaky things when you get higher and recruit volunteers and you can do all of that stuff but yah, it actually ends up being, you feel like you have to keep walking, pacing all directions...

The YW is a Christian organization, is there a faith aspect to your background?

To the YW?

In your story, your history.

No, no. Actually, I describe myself as a recovering Catholic. I specifically consider the Catholic church and many other Christian churches as being part of the problem rather than part of the solution, that's not to discount all of those who come from a Christian base, and there were many in the Canadian Peace alliance, for instance. The YW I have to check this out, because I went as a non-Christian, they say they're informed by the Christian faith, but they don't promote it. In terms of the diversity work that some of us were doing, it actually had to be back burner, like how do you attract the multi-diversity of people in a multi-cultural society? They left it in their name but they barely... They want to keep YWCA, but they don't want to keep Young Women's Christian Association, you know, they don't want to be just young and they don't want, actually they no longer want to be just women. So, no, for me it is not, it's part of the problem. A personal struggle for me has been to pull out the kind of spiritual values that have been formed all of my life from the community I grew up in, the family I grew up in, without attaching them to a religion or an institution.

You grew up here?

Close to here. In Canmore. A small mining town. My father was a small businessman kind of by accident, came from poor Italian immigrant stock and my mother in another age would have been the chairman of IBM. She was very managerial and ran the whole community. And both believed strongly not only in extended family, which is very Italian, where you look after everybody to you know, third cousins, 5 times removed, but the whole community. To whom much is given much is expected, was really kind of the ethic of our family. And for the most part our community. A mining town is very egalitarian. Like the mining directors are not in town, they parachute in a couple of times a year for a board meeting. I mean there is a hierarchy within the mine, but within the whole spectrum of rich and poor it's a fairly small piece of that. The town itself as well as being fairly egalitarian, my mother and father knew everybody. When my father died I learned even more all that he had done, a lot of it I didn't know about, but all the miners' kids that he'd helped send to University and all of their families, he carried on credit for their groceries during strikes etc. So that was just part of how I grew up. And what I didn't get was that you could change things. This was within a concept that you take it the way it is and you don't put your head up very high. My father as an Italian reported to the RCMP during the Second World War. They didn't round up the Italians like they did Japanese, but they kept track of them. And I would say from my father particularly there was a lesson, keep your head down. Don't get too uppity, even though we were probably better off by the time I was in high school when many families in town. I couldn't have like two sweaters new in the fall and everybody else has got one and it was kind of an egalitarianism, and not being uppity or show-offy.

Where does this crazy idea come from then that you can change things?

My kids.


Yah. Because I think that, this was growing up in the 50's and that was the status quo decade and you looked after people, but you kept the system the way it was. My kids taught me, all three of them. The oldest is my son Jim, who was very active by high school, he was looking for how he could change and believed that he could make change and his avenue was the young communist league and went from there into all kinds of change organizations. Watching him and listening to him particularly convinced me that if we worked together we could make change, and that was like, like an epiphany. It was mind exploding, and you know, a year behind my son came my daughter who became a very militant feminist by high school. I thought I was fairly courageous for my decade of women but she said she thought I had compromised my life away. Not having a historical perspective when you're 15 or 16, but this was certainly true for her in terms of her vision of where the world should be. She was active in anti-racist, anti-apartheid work, and brought this very exciting world into our home. I remember when Miriam brought home the first letter writing, a campaign to free Nelson Mandela. And then everything that my first two didn't challenge, every assumption, every belief I'd ever had, Kim coming along 5 years later finished it off! So I consider it phenomenal to have been a parent of those particular 3 kids, because something, maybe egalitarian philosophy from my own mother and father combined with the decade they were growing up in and my willingness to support and listen I think produced them. For a while Jim and I worked together in the Canadian Peace Alliance and the assumption is that the mother passes it onto the son and that was untrue. That actually, the reverse is the truth.

What sustains you in your work, I mean, you've made transitions, you’re sort of reinventing your life and your work,

It's a fragile time for you to ask that question. I fight this fear every morning of my life. The last year has been one of retreat and trying to rekindle the hope and the belief. I'm really fragile in that area. Environmentally, I’m frightened; I'm frightened of the sweep of the right. I mean I want to believe that the pendulum is going to swing back and you know, every year we try to find indicators of that, they're few and far between. I've been doing a fair bit of reading and talking about kind of the evolution of the human spirit, looking at it from a much longer perspective than I ever have. Maybe it's more encouraging. When I was working with some of the Central American groups I used to ask about this. They would have had generations and generations of resistance and with unbelievable consequences to that resistance, like torture and death and especially, the refugee groups here in Calgary that I would work with, I would just come home and think how do they sustain themselves. They would shrug and say this is life, that the people united will never be defeated, they believed that, it sustained them generation after generation. Some of the folks that I invited in to do, it's part of diversity work that I was doing was focused on human rights and that was probably the last major organizing I've done, was the coalition of human rights in Alberta to struggle against anti-immigrant legislation and push it forward in support of the courts. For example, as of two years ago sexual orientation is now a prohibited ground of discrimination in Alberta, and god, we never would have believed that would have happened. And it's not like there aren't indications that of progress, it's that they are meager and the resources are so few. It's probably why I did the conflict resolution work because there's kind of a fundamental belief that conflict resolution can be transformative, that the process of conflict resolution, of listening, of going to basic interests and values can be transformative to the people involved in it and there are hints of that in the work that I do now through the consulting firm. But I'm also and this is really embarrassing at 60 to say, I've never really accepted, I think, that there is evil, and that there are evil people in the world. I mean, that people could be evil. Well my kids call me a bleeding heart liberal, you know, like believing that if they were given the right opportunity and the right information and we work hard enough and that can change. Part of my despair is I think recognition that that might not be true. So on how do I sustain myself, I haven't. I've retreated the last year. I have been very selective. A really clarifying example for me this year was the women's global march. That seemed promising to me. We had done five years of hard work. This was a march against poverty and violence. Nationally Canada was taking a lead in this across the country. It was good planning, good organization, good unity around the two key demands, I mean lots of things were in place, eh? And so comes last January after I had resigned my last community commitment the June before, so six months later the community kind of called and said we want to organize locally for the global march, would you plan and facilitate our first meeting? Coalition had a lot of planning and everything behind it, I think okay, maybe this will work, I can do that. And it was awful. But it was really hard for me to say, we'll rotate leaders, this is my meeting, somebody else do the next meeting. The next meeting was not done, women are tired, they're exhausted, they're coming to the meeting at 500 and there's no plan for it. I had to say I gotta get out of here. If I stay I have to take a leadership position and then I don't know how to boundary that, I'm not ready for it, and.

That must have been tough.

And if I stay as a cranky old veteran I'm not doing anybody any good. So I got out of there and it was a really nice clarifying experience that I not only have to look at boundaries. I have to be really precise and building on what is possible. What do we want to achieve, how will we measure success? What have we got to do it? And if it’s focused and measurable that's better than the despair and the disempowerment that comes from another failed coalition.

Say a little more about your consulting firm, what you're doing and what kind of projects you're on.

Mmm, hmm. Actually it's a fairly creative time for me, looking for ways to apply the conflict resolution model to that organization consultant that I've been doing. That's 6 years now. And mostly the work I've been doing in my own practice has been the work I did as an employee in agencies, with just more control over who I do it with and what, so I can do restructuring, program evaluation, all those kind of non-profit managerial components. Here is an example The school board, after years and years of lobbying and cut backs and everything agreed to an ESL task force both internal and external including the bureaucracy but also the communities. And they've come to ask if I would coordinate that task force, which is typical work for me to do. And I was a natural to do it both in terms of my skills but also the long years that I had worked in the ESL coalition. But I, that seems to be going back to old ways and what I was looking for was new ways to work and feel consensus. So I said, no I wouldn't coordinate it, but what I would be willing to do is facilitate the decision making of the task force. Hire a coordinator and let me apply my facilitative decision making skills to the work of the task force. And that works really well. Everybody loved it, I felt very productive and creative and we made really good decisions, they're being implemented as we speak, in terms of rebuilding some of the structure that was lost, putting more money into it in really thoughtful ways. So that's one example. I'm also doing work with community agencies. At a time of kind of despair and cut back, work with minimal resources, our agencies are in trouble. It starts to show with burnout among leadership and management. It starts to show in really bitter struggles amongst staff. Some of those I am being asked to come in to mediate. You could look on it as work place mediation, but to me there is a broader agenda behind it all and I try to accept the offers that come from organizations and agencies that still have a hope. They might have retreated from that but they either have a history or a tradition or still consider themselves activist. Or sometimes I take it even further, god dammit they should be working in social change. So then I can get paid for my services with organizations like that.

And blow on the embers. That's exciting, I think that a lot of the work that I do at the center for community change, is that organizational change moment. Sometimes the secret is listening well, and the way is sitting there all along. It's very exciting...

And it's really exciting as activists because I think… I don't know if activism attracts people who are anti or... But activists are very quick to go to the opposition and to confrontation. I think, because I was well grown before I even considered myself an activist, and probably by personality, I am probably better at slower incremental steps with less backlash then bigger ones with more backlash. I think I'm just better suited to that. I don't argue that both are necessary. I just say to focus, people have to do it the way they want to, the way that fits them and the last thing we need to do is criticize the big step people or the little step people, we need to solve. For me, that theory especially the transformative theory of conflict resolution, which is just a part of the alternate dispute resolution field now, is well suited to those little steps because it helps people to avoid confrontation, it helps people find the common values, the common ground, the common vision. I think it has possibilities. What I really need is a network of people who want to work this way. And in Calgary mediators are tending to come out of the legal profession and it may have a more pragmatic bent. They are having a hard time coming out of their confrontation style. I need this year to find a network of people who want to work the way I do cause I am feeling kind of lonely in that way of using conflict resolution. But it feels creative and exciting, and dare I say hopeful to me?

This really does talk about the question that I have, talk about the magic moments, when did it work?

Right now. Yah. I think any time you can measure a victory. The coalition on human rights was also a good learning for me. We organized to resist at the elimination of human rights legislation in Alberta but that was to promote the kind of human rights legislation that we wanted. And that was a phenomenal success in a very short period of time in terms of a community coming together. It was almost like we had been waiting for a time when we could all have work together again and we found phenomenal energy, a huge provincial coalition of great diversity in a very short period of time. Our legislative victories were fairly small, but measurable, but the nice thing was, everybody felt so good. Well and even the wins were so small compared to what we wanted, like we didn't get sexual orientation in that fight, that came two years later. But the coalition worked and we disbanded it before it stopped working which is also a good lesson. We talked about trying to sustain it, but we didn't have the resources. Someone came up with the idea of site of engagement and a thread of continuity and that was so bizarre. We had a friend and soul mate who is actually a Philippine activist. They had had to be very strategic of course during those years. So he gave me those words, and we applied them to the coalition. We ballooned up with an opportunity, a site of engagement, but we don't try and sustain that because that's going to dribble away. That’s the disempowerment, failure phase of a coalition. So we made a positive, celebratory decision to wrap up the work, keep the creative continuity, primarily a database of people who had worked together. Every member group at that point, there was something like 120 member groups across Alberta, any member groups could call us together when it seemed like there was a new site of engagement. And that happened about a year and a half later, the supreme court decision was coming down, the big sexual orientation one that had been appealed by the government of Alberta, and the supreme court was coming back with its decision in the spring. So, okay, coalition, we organized, it was so important, because there is adrenaline, there's empowerment. We kept it together about five months, had huge public rallies and writing, lots of people with professional and institutional credibility coming on board and this is in redneck Alberta, like this is not a favorite decision. The court decision we didn't influence. I mean, it was a good one. We were ready if it wasn't. But again there was that kind of celebration and it was really interesting in that decision-making meeting when we were trying to decide. I think there was acceptance that we would not try and maintain the coalition again, that we would disband, but we held a formal decision and evaluative meeting. I think we got all the way around the room and there were probably 50 activists that came to the evaluation meeting, we got probably all the way around the room and we're counting our victories, and somebody said, by the way, we did win the legislation! Nobody had even said it, because all of the other things were so important, and working together, that diversity that we were able to keep, the respectful listening, all of the process things were what people were pumped about. I mean, this was a couple of weeks after, so maybe they had already integrated that we were a province that couldn't fire people because they were homosexual, but it was like a click moment to me, you know? One, how important the process victories are if we can measure them, but two also how quickly we integrate our victories and forget about them.

They become part of the landscape.

Yes exactly. And so that's a coalition that is now in it's thread of continuity place. There were other human rights issues that folks gawked about, should we rebuild the coalition and decided no, it was, we didn't need a coalition to do the work. You know, say, a court case on lesbian adoptions, it wasn't appropriate for the coalition at that point. If it went against them, maybe we could get the public voice of the coalition. Most of us felt we can't sustain them permanently.

But you sure can destroy them if you over work.

Yes. And that's the problem with a coalition, trying to sustain them, dribbling off, going to you know, a core of people who show up every week or every month or every, whatever.

A friend of mine wrote a piece on coalitions, it's called, "Coalitions Threat or Menace?"

Threat or menace. Yah. I think they work when they are focused on time and issues and outcome. Yup. I don't even know if I answered your question.

Oh yah, one of the other questions is, who's the ‘us’? Who are the folks that are in the community of activists in your movement?

I have more diversity now then ever and that's the joy of my life. Because of the anti-racist, anti-poverty work that I've been doing in the last ten years, my home of activists has multi cultural and ethnic diversity that I never had in the feminist movement and it has a class diversity that I never had. Until five years ago, a little bit longer than that, 7 years ago, we built the common front which was a very political coalition, led by organized labor to essentially resist provincial government agenda, we called it the Klein agenda, after our Premiere. And that was, I'd say a border line successful coalition and I think we could have learned a lot from our failures. That was the first time that I had worked with poor people, I mean poor people, they were in that coalition, I've always worked for them, but never worked with them. Now they are a part of my community of activists. They are few and far between, especially street people. There tends to be a lot of transition, but leaders come out of that.

Who’s organizing poor people?

Right now in Calgary there is a chapter of National Anti Poverty Organization. I am in touch with some of the Alberta representatives to the national steering committee, but I'm not aware of a community-based group here. So when you say who is my community I'm thinking more at this point, if I were to call 50 people to a meeting tomorrow, who would they be? That's how I took the question.


Right. And that isn't related to any organization so, it includes many immigrants now. I would say, particularly immigrant women, but not exclusive to immigrant women. And it includes some feminists of my age, not many, mostly younger. It includes just because of the focus of my work there last few years, lots of folks who are coming from a broadly human rights perspective and the nice thing about that field is that it is at the intersection. Like you can't work human rights without being at the intersection. So you're talking about class and gender and sexual orientation and ability,


Yup. So that community. Last year, some of us were siting around talking one day in June and one of the spaces I have, I'm just thinking I've really run out of public spaces. I should tell you about my cabin, because it's a community space and was built that way. This is what I did with my father's, the inheritance I have from my father, so. Almost ten years ago, during the Gulf War in fact, which was the pit of despair for me. For the first time in my adult life, my country was killing the children of Iraq and to be a peace activist at that time in Calgary was very difficult, the kind of fervent pro-war sentiment. I don't know if it was as much of a height as it was in some of the American cities, but it was booming here and anti war activists retreated and people were threatened and vulnerable and it was a really really hard time for me. In the middle of this, not by design, I'm building a cabin, which is meant to be this out kind of piece of bush a couple of hours away on a river. It had been my kind of retreat space with a teepee on it for about ten years. I would just go out there and meditate and tromp the woods and sit by the river. What seemed an appropriate thing to do with the money my father left me was to build a cabin so that it could be more four seasons and more comfortable for more people. Essentially it's like a teepee with warm walls and heat and running water. It has been a facility that, my hope was that I could accommodate a couple of dozen people where we can retreat hostel style. Enough room at the table and enough room in the loft. And sometimes it gets bigger in that in good season people bring tents and stuff. But I think of it as one of our public spaces. So anyway, we were sitting around the cabin a year ago June having a discussion, kind of like we're having today. And my Phillipino friend had been talking about the absence of public space and the absence he had found in Calgary of a place to just have these discussions. And I had said you know, I always wanted to have that kind of soiree in my living room. Where people would just, like no agenda, no organizing, just a time to talk and be with your fellow travelers I guess. So this particular June on the verandah at the cabin, with the sunshine, we start talking about this, why don't we have this time when we're all fighting despair, institutionalize this idea of a soiree a little bit. We said we'll start with a dozen to see how it works, so we sent out invitations, building in diversity and we called it re-imagining the revolution. Not all old time activists, but looking at how we could do our work differently, how we could sustain ourselves, how we could support ourselves better. So we did start. We’re having the second meeting at my place next week and we probably will change the format a little bit. What we did was potlucked a meal and folks came, some dropped out, they couldn't stand no action. We talked a lot about GD's, that stands for Grim & Determined, activists. Most of us agreed grim & determined is not sustainable. How we can do our work more jointly and have more fun while we do it? Now the GD label is becoming institutionalized. That is a small community, it's about a dozen people. I would say if I think of my family of activists, because the children are all in Toronto. My Calgary family of activists is probably that group now.

Do you have observations or questions or conundrums to sort of pose to the others that will be talking as part of the conversation?

Well I've touched on some of them, where I am right now the conundrum is how do you marry the infinite amount of work that we need to do with limited resources and protect our human spirit, I guess. Obviously from what I've said today, that's where I am now. We used to give workshops on how to sustain activism you know, how to be a lifetime activist. And I look back on those and think how deranged we were. You know, we talked about having fun and we talked about eating properly and having rest and retreating when you needed to and all of those are important. But my struggle with hope and despair now is more than that, it's more than that, those are still important, but it's continuing to believe in goodness and not letting the presence of evil overwhelm you I guess is how I am phrasing it for myself now. And I need them to take that dichotomy. You know, we touched on it one night in reimagining the revolution because Don Rae was there, he is a political science prof and was in the hey day of the anti apartheid work in South Africa. For him the naiveté and the innocence of someone like me struggling with these questions... He just kind of unloaded one night and said I have seen people... but this kind of liberal view that there's good will if you could just tap into it. Pardon me, Yvonne is what he just kind of gently said, that's not true and I have seen the face of evil. So that would be one conundrum I guess, Dave. And not necessarily the biggest one, but it's just in my life right now. Strategically, I think, focusing your work, being sure you have the resources, doing adequate planning so that you can have a way to evaluate your work. And cut it into pieces so that it isn't this sort of overwhelming, generalized movement towards some grand vision that we know we'll never get there in our lifetime but have to continue to believe in it through these kind of incremental, focused victories. I used to say to the high school kids, I used to do a lot of talking to high school kids when I was doing the peace and disarmament work. And what I said and believed then and probably still believe now, they would be the kind of disempowering questions. How can you do this work when you're probably going to get blown up tomorrow? Like we were still doing the one minute to midnight stuff then and the peace and disarmament movement really focused on the negative, anti negative as opposed to pro negative. So what I said then and what I probably would say now, maybe not as fervently is if I knew that the world was going to blow up tomorrow, I would be a peace activist today because it's the good life. It's the only way I know how to live and the opposite, to me, was hedonism. And I've never seen a hedonist too happy. So I would say, I meet the most energetic skilled wonderful people in my activism. I have become an energetic wonderful skilled person because of my activism; this is the good life. And that's true but I guess I still had more hope then. And now I'm less intolerant of dropouts. I used to be so passionately opposed to the kind of back to the landers you know? You have skills, you are informed, you are privileged and you are going to drop out and raise organic tomatoes? Now who is going to do the work, like everybody can't go back to the land. Who is going to do the work in the middle of the inner cities? Who is going to do the lobbying? The organizing that can't be done from five acres in god knows where. And I was really passionately intolerant of that mentality of drop out. I don't know if I'm still intolerant anymore. Like I used to give them, well if you need a retreat okay, but come back and come back real quick, because we need you. And now I've been like essentially a year out of it, Dave, and my friends are saying that to me. Where are you, we need you. It's not like I'm really dropped out, but it feels I guess to people that I am, because I'm not attached to any organized resistance or social change groups. It doesn't feel sustainable to me. It's where I need to sit for a little bit longer. Come back? Come back how is my big question. So I guess, you asked for conundrums, that's mine. It's the good life, it's the quality life, god knows we need everybody who can possibly do any step in the right direction. How to sustain that hope, because we can't do it in despair. Like to say if I knew the world was going to blow up tomorrow, I would be a fervent activist today. I don't know if I say that anymore. I have a notion I might spend the day meditating, I don't know.

I think a conundrum for me, knowing the world is probably not going to blow up tomorrow, I'm going to have to go back to work, I'm going to have to do it again. That's hard.

The one minute to midnight work for me anyway. Yah. It needs to be more sustainable. My son phoned last week to say that he and his partner are going to have another baby and this will be my second grandchild. So this is a very good question back to fervent activists. They are comrades and collaborators; both have been since they were 15 on the front lines. And what Jim said was, that's a very optimistic thing to do isn't it, and I said, oh, you're god damned right. I say that environmentalists are the most despairing people that I work with. I say that the immigrant community is the least despairing and they've got it hard, they sacrifice much of their life for their children, but they have that hope that for their children it will be better, whatever they are believing in and whatever the reality of what they've come from. I’m thinking of Cesar and Marichu, thinking of their struggle and I don't know whether they will return to the Philippines or not, but their struggle is where are the social change groups like in Alberta, where are the public spaces for dialog who is working for change? I would say that new Canadians in my community of activists are the least despairing and I've asked them lots of times, how do you sustain this, how do you stay whole, how do you continue? Like I've said, the environmentalists are the worst, and I keep thinking because they know more than I do, how fragile we are and how close we are to destroying everything. Like think of Helen Caldecott. When she dropped out saying, it's too late, we can't survive. I remember thinking and saying then; if you really believe that couldn't you just shut up about it? Go away quietly if you need to, hopefully renew yourself, but go away quietly.

Well, I you've answered all the questions I have on my list, including, what did you learn. I really appreciate it. The project we're all on is to try and figure out what to do that seems worthwhile and the answers are not big easy answers.

The problem again, I just need to say this, the problem is that most of the solutions need to be in solidarity, that individual action doesn't do it. Like, take the kind of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ kind of anthem. Well god dammit that's not going to do it. Using old anti war rhetoric, you know one strategic air command bomber flying 24 hours a day will wipe out anything any of us can do. In our communities, etc. It all has to be done. And I kind of like the hundredth monkey idea. We all have a peace in our hearts and the planet will be peaceful, that's all shit to me, I have peace in my heart and I want you to but while we're working on that, on our own personal journeys, I do believe that we do have to come together. It will be when we find our solidarity, and in a skilled way focus on what can be changed and build from that. I guess that's where my hope would be. The new agey kind of peace in your heart stuff is kind of an alive and vital movement right now and I think it's a retreat, I really do. Well, it isn't a retreat; it never got there. I was at a yoga camp this summer with my younger daughter and it was a pretty new agey place and lots of theories of personal peace and the change that is critical to everything we're working for is missing from that. It's just not there.