Excerpts from The Chiangrai Dialogue on Walkouts
Opening Invitation: Wisit Wangwinyoo (Thailand)
This list is created manually by me, Wisit Wangwinyoo; its name is Chiangrai Dialogue. The other day when I talk with Joseph Harris, an American master degree student who decided to come and learn with the Chiangrai community here, he mentioned some disagreement toward the idea about walkouts. I just told him, why not write it down and create this living interactive writing dialogue!
The way the idea of the walkout was explained to me, or at least the vision that it conjured in my head from my secondhand explanation, was the mobilization of a massive number of school-age people (and perhaps their dissatisfied parents as well) basically walking out of the traditional educational system in India.
From what was related to me, I envisioned something along the lines of a second Gandhian movement, at least in scale, where people from all across the country are joining one another in "walking out" of the school system in protest of the way education is being offered currently. In this way, one could imagine many similar movements springing up all over the world if the first one met with some success in changing the system there in India.
This image was immediately inspiring to me. I got excited -- a second movement on the scale of Gandhi's old peace movement -- wow! Then, the pragmatist in me, began to ask some questions. First, where would people involved in the walkout go after they walked out? What jobs would they get to feed themselves? How would they cope? After being in one system so long and then suddenly jolting into another, albeit structureless, system, how would they manage the space? Hopefully they would begin to navigate on their own, but my heart harkened back to the first question - where would they go? How would they make money to eat? … How would employment work in such flux? By what qualifications would we judge people?
The second thought that entered my mind was: in such a structureless environment, who would guide these people's educations? … It seems that the new educational system that arises out of the aftermath of the walkout movement would need some very good guides for all these millions of children to teach themselves effectively… Such questions seem to beg for a sort of gradualism in transformation in the educational system in India, rather than a shotgun solution .
First, I should clarify… Our interest is neither in school/college reform, nor some kind of mass mobilization campaign. Rather, it is to connect and support those people who have taken the decision to leave school or college, and take their learning back into their own hands. We also include in our definition of walkouts, those people who decided to leave other mainstream institutions, attitudes, goals, etc., which are tied to a dominant (and dehumanizing, violent, and exploitative) model of Progress and Development. Some of these people have been schooled, some have never been, some have partly been. But what connects them is their sense that learning can and does happen beyond the walls/limits of schooling (in which, indeed, very little meaningful or deep learning happens). They also share the sense that by transforming how/where/with whom we learn, we also have the chance to transform how we live…
This brings me to your question, Joe, about what people will eat and how will they manage to avoid living on the streets? […] Today, it is a fact in India that there are hundreds of thousands of schooled youth who are desperately searching for jobs. Their schooling has equipped them with this sole desire: a desk job, where they will have to work minimally, pushing papers and the like, and earning at least Rs.5000 a month. Of course, such jobs are hard to come by these days – what with down-sizing in government, greater technology in industry, more competition, and other related aspects of the global market economy. Yet, because of their schooling and parallel processes of urbanization, these youth have lost contact with their traditional occupations – farming, crafts, etc. – and have also been infused with all the material desires that come via education and the media…
The walkouts we are with are trying to find other paths for making their living, which build upon and grow their talents and skills, and which connect to different kinds of local economies. Some are re-learning their traditional occupations; some are entrepreneurs, creating their own kinds of businesses and work; some are artists, who are trying to share their art in unique ways; some are combinations of the above. As I’ve said above, walking out does not just mean leaving school or college; it means forging a path of learning which is connected to the way in which you hope to live – which for the most part, is simpler, more balanced with the earth, more in service with/to other people, more personally meaningful. It involves thinking more in terms of needs – real needs – vs. manufactured wants and desires…
Notably, in the current economic environment, ‘qualifications’ of degrees and certificates are quite useless – not just because so many people have them, but also because many employers feel that these are no indication of the quality of a person’s thinking or work. This is because the kind of education that people are getting leaves them unable to think for themselves, work well in groups or be creative. So these days, many companies are creating their own criteria for hiring, and are privileging experience over formal education. This is another shift which supports walkouts.
The last thing I will respond to is your comment about structuring and guiding. I agree that we all benefit from having various partners, mentors, friends, peers, and colleagues in our lives. But who will decide who these will be – or rather, can’t any one or every one be such a person? Is it not up to each of us to decide who our guides should be, depending on what we want to learn and how and where and when? And many times, we – our questions, our talents, our intuition and inner voice – may be our own guide.
A Collective Blessing: Melanie Kilmarx (Zimbabwe)
I LOVE what I perceive as the spirit of walkouts. The intent I read in them is to encourage us to finally STOP and OBSERVE what we do and how we do it — and then to CHOOSE something else, something fresh. This is the essence to me, its core practice. I love it. As consciousness elevates on the planet, this is inevitable and so delicious to have happen in so many places! As humans in our historical, and mostly current, state of consciousness, we are inherently wired to make life mean certain things according to our teachings and culture (conditioning). We then take our particular and unique "filter" (ego) and see it as "TRUTH", how the world "actually is". And so we proceed out of that filter, set of beliefs, with automatic behaviors and reactions, thinking we are making choices but actually following a very proscribed set of pathways we think we must adhere to, OUR PATTERNS of thought and action. […]
…all this stress and breakdown is our collective blessing really... Without it we would potentially stay stuck. With it, we are moved to try something totally different, new paradigms… I can imagine the fruit of many walkouts in action: the potential for people to begin to think differently, freshly and to act in totally new ways, separating consciously, peacefully (power NOT force) from the un-thinking hoards and even from their own internal limits and filters. And out of this practice, something else can arise. A raised consciousness and a life observed and acted from a new direction.
The Power of Walking Out: Lisa Steindorf (Germany)
…walking out has tremendous power in it. Taking a stand, non-judgementally but with conviction, adds its own momentum. In the end we can only do what feels right to us individually. Yet stating that, clearly, where it may be helpful to be heard, could be a very important aspect of walk-outs. Or perhaps that is already a part of this movement?
Let’s Celebrate Breakdown! : Wisit Wangwingyoo (Thailand)…
The other delicate part of this talking about walkouts is the security about one’s life and work. And remember Joseph Chilton Pearce and his idea about de-evolution and how the fear plays a very important role in playing down any new possible radical ideas. That ancient reptilian brain tries to nail you down to someinstitutionalized structures, which means repetition of old paradigm practice. Reptilian brain is still very useful but you have to use it wisely. And one of its powers lies in fear. It would bring fear to drag you down the old history circular pattern. Let’s all celebrate mess, stress, breakdown and all kind of uncomfortable feelings when you try to move into any new areas that you are not familiar! In that way when you are pushed to the edge of the chaos, you will have a chance to discover new crystal order, that you can realign your work, life, community and world in the most meaningful way.