Where is the humanism in the Idle No More movement?

4 Mar

Neil Postman’s keynote address delivered to the inaugural Media Ecology Association Convention in New York in 2000 reveals some considerations when looking at the Idle No More movement (INM) in Canada.  At the core, Postman suggests that the term media ecology refers to a culture trying to maintain a symbolic balance.  If we look at the Idle No More Movement and the root of the movement as one founded on the maintenance and preservation of the natural environment, it may provide a different perspective.

Media ecology espouses the notion that two environments impact how we function as a species:  our natural environment – air, water, animals – and the media environment – language, symbols and technologies.  For First Nations people in Canada, their culture was able to balance these two environments with a very gentle touch since time immemorial.  Contact upset that balance and one might argue that this has undermined the ecos of First Nations people.

As Postman aptly describes the birth of the Gutenberg press as one of the most important advances in the field of communication, he also allows us to consider that this technological advance was detrimental to certain cultures – particularly the Holy Roman Church.  If you consider the impact of the written word, introduced by European contact with the Indigenous peoples of Canada, could we not say that it negated the rich oral history that guided First Nations for years and was just as detrimental to their culture?  Would it not be logical then to follow Socrates argument in the Phaedrus that First Nations were schooled by their stories and legends to follow arguments rather than participate in them?  Was the introduction of written laws and words beneficial to the history of First Nations peoples?

It has been said that history is written by victors and certainly the history of Canada was not written by First Nations people.  The study of communication history and theory suggests that the evolution to humanism has been in the best interest of most citizens:  better access to information; democracy; rational thought; enhanced capacity to goodness, etc. etc.  As a study of communication theory in relation to the Idle No More Movement in Canada, is interesting to look at the role of media and technology and ask if humanism has been beneficial to First Nations and how will this story be remembered and told?

Postman, N (2000).  The Humanism of Media Ecology.  Keynote Address Delivered at the Inaugural Media Ecology Association Convention at Fordham University, New York, NY.  Retrieved from:  http://media-ecology.org/publications/MEA_proceedings/v1/humanism_of_media_ecology.html


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