Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 11: "Learning How to Make Social Change"

Standard example of reflections
Today was the last day of the "Theatre of the Oppressed" lesson that we had participated in for the past few days. After our usual Qi-gong exercises, we began by once again grouping up with a partner to have a one-sided conversation. We received our prompts and immediately began speaking about how we felt and what we thought about the program so far. In my opinion, these conversations are truly representational of how society should be. A world where everyone listens to others and do not judge but rather take in and attempt to understand. When we finished with that portion, we moved onto a form of leadership drills. With our hands we would directed our partners motions as their task was to mirror our palm's movement. Eventually, we replicated this same process in groups of five, where there was one leader, whom everyone else followed. After a while of this, we grouped together to discuss what this exercise had meant to us and what we had learned. For me I found it to be a testament to how power can be a very difficult thing to manage. While in small groups it was easy to keep track of everyone you had to be directing, however, in the group of five, the difficulty was elevated immensely. It was a struggle to keep everyone from crashing into other groups or each other. Another point that was raised was the question of the necessity of leadership. Does there always need to be a leader? For me this opened a variety of different doors and perspectives. Ideas flowed steadily through my mind as I recapped every moment where lack of leadership had caused downfalls and where leadership caused greatness. After, we continued with the various scenes that everyone who had been unable to perform yesterday had worked on. We did a few in-depth analyses of the various themes that were present in each scene and how they related to situations we had all found ourselves in. 

We ended up running out of time in the morning session, meaning that my group was unable to perform. However, after lunch, it was our time to shine. Naturally, I am not a huge fanatic of acting, let alone of acting in front of an actual crowd impromptu style. While up there, many of my natural fears dissolved almost immediately and my natural speech and debate mindset kicked in, allowing me to perform without feeling too nervous. Remarkably, we did a great job and the audience responded in the way we had imagined they would. They recognized the themes of oppression in a highly religious community and how that affects the ability of a student to public portray beliefs that counter normality. At around half-way through the session, we ended "Theatre of the Oppression" and said our goodbyes to Lisa Jo. From there we gathered with a few of the teaching fellows in order to discuss the pros and cons of the lesson. I was in Brendan's group, the only male teaching fellow, and a person whom I had established a relatively close friendship with since the beginning of the program. We discussed how the lesson had essentially been a rollercoaster ride for the most part. It had its ups and downs but overall we could agree that it left a very impacting affect on our lives.
Standards for Theatre of Oppressed
 In the evening, Andy had one of his spectacular lectures again, for all those who wanted to come. Being that I was told the guest speaker was one of the best the program had to offer, I could not resist attending. The guest speaker was Professor Toorjo Ghose, although he preferred we call him TJ. He was there to teach us about the sex work movement in India. To begin he gave us a bit of his back story. He grew up in Calcutta, India, which was a prominent sex worker community. He told us how he was inspired to pursue teaching subjects such as this through being an organizer. He told us how community organizing is the catalyst for any form of social change. As introduction to the topic, TJ showed us how the issue of sex workers had first been raised because of the feminist movements during the 1960's. He explained that during this era, the first global women's conference was held and produced the very controversial legislation, ITPA (Immoral Traffic Prevention Act) which established that sex work was legal, as long as any money obtained was for self-use. This however, as portrayed by TJ, caused various issues, as 90% of sex workers have families and use the profits to support them, which by the legislation is illegal. Rather than helping workers, this only exploits them even more than before. An issue that was predominant throughout the entire lecture was the debate over the question: decriminalization vs. legalization? This question is one that pertains to various issues in society, but in terms of sex workers the question stands on which provides greater benefits to the workers. In this debate there are two sides. Those who consider that all sex work should be made illegal, and those who believe that workers should be able to have a safe environment and protections. At the end, TJ, gave us four strategies for change: framing, expanding community, establishing local institutions and politicization. I felt that the lecture had been very eye-opening and incredible to watch. I truly do not regret having attended.  

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