I dream of fearlessness in the path of injustice. I feel joy for conquering my fear.
“[How do I do it?] Well, it’s always a mystery, because you don’t know why you get depleted or recharged. But this much I know. I do not allow myself to be overcome by hopelessness, no matter how tough the situation. I believe that if you just do your little bit without thinking of the bigness of what you stand against, if you turn to the enlargement of your own capacities, just that itself creates new potential. And I’ve learned from the Bhagavad-Gita and other teachings of our culture to detach myself from the results of what I do, because those are not in my hands. The context is not in your control, but your commitment is yours to make, and you can make the deepest commitment with a total detachment about where it will take you. You want it to lead to a better world, and you shape your actions and take full responsibility for them, but then you have detachment. And that combination of deep passion and deep detachment allows me to take on the next challenge, because I don’t cripple myself, I don’t tie myself in knots. I function like a free being. I think getting that freedom is a social duty because I think we owe it to each not to burden each other with prescription and demands. I think what we owe each other is a celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.”
― Vandana Shiva
So I’m sitting there at the President’s Distinguished lecture Dr Vandana Shiva’s Lecture at UVIC March 27, 2013 with Isha who’s doing her usual squirming about. Fortunately, there are so many people in this hall that one squirming kid will not disrupt things too much. I hope. But she does move constantly. She wants to sit with her father, then next to her great Uncle Godfrey, then moi, then change seats with her sister and each of us in turn, the whole lot of us, including Aunty Megan. I always marvel at kids who sit down and stay down for 5 minutes. Isha is not like that.
I can’t say that I was *enjoying* the lecture by Dr Vandana Shiva. This wasn’t entertainment but a trumpet call to rise. This amazing woman is an Eco-Prophet, a Gandhi for our time, fighting for the inherent right of the seed. For life. I’m sitting there overcome with the over two hundred and seventy thousand farmer suicides (they drink Monsanto’s pesticides in a field to die), the enslavement of the farmers, the destruction of our soils through agent orange and DDT, the loss of biodiversity, the misinformation put out by the chemical companies profiting from selling pesticides. For example the majority of GMOs grown are not grown for human food but for biofuel. But they wrongly convince the public they are ending world hunger because of our rising population. So on one hand I’m being completely shaken to the core with an over-riding sense of justice and purpose. On the other hand, my six year old is physically shaking me for attention. She will not. Sit. Still.
After standing ovations and tears and fierce applause I sigh with relief – I got to hear the talk without having to escort a 6 year-old to the washroom. We sit back for a Question and Answer session. The hall is packed, sold out and must fit at least a thousand or two thousand or so people. Five different mikes have been set up all over the hall on three different levels.
The second question was “Dr Shiva, you are as beautiful as the seeds you preserve – and – Can I have a hug?” Very graciously, Dr Shiva called the woman down for a public hug to much delight and ‘awws’ and applause.
The photo is a shot of Esther Mujawayo and Vandana Shiva during the Save the World Awards 2009 (Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant, Lower Austria). Photo credit: Wikipedia. This photo is not from this lecture, nor was it taken by me. Unfortunately, my photos were not clear enough.
At that hug-‘question’, Isha sat up straight and stopped moving – the kid was moved into
stillness. Then the Social Science Dean Peter Keller limited questions to ‘questions with a
real question’. Isha, at that point, turned to me.
“Mamma I want to ask a question!” she stage whispered in my ear.
This demand was not a question, and there was no question about it.
I swallowed really hard.
She bobbed her head up and down.
“Uh-huh. Come-on mom I want to ask a question,” she tugged on my sleeve.
“In front of all these people?” I whispered back “Are you sure?”
I didn’t want to dissuade harshly but I know what she’s capable of. This was something to gently discourage. This is the kid who even last year, would stick her finger in the guts of men with a large abdomens and ask where the baby is. (Yes, we have explained for years to her that men can’t bear children.)
She grinned a two-front-teeth-missing-kind-of-grin.
“I want to ask my question now. Over there at the microphone.” She pointed to it with her little hand. In case I hadn’t heard her clearly.
I bit my fist.
(To come: Part 3, in which Isha asks her question)