Thursday, 23 July 2020

Remembering Micheal Lucas (1926 - 2020)

Michael Lucas was a charismatic political activist, author, professional graphic designer, accomplished musician, and advocate of peace and socialism.

See 68 photos

He immigrated from Slovenia, and worked in Toronto. He served as chair and editor of Northstar Compass, the publication of the ‘International Council for Friendship and Solidarity with Soviet People’, Canada.

Michael was a lifetime advocate of East-West understanding, and chaired the USSR-Canada Friendship Society from 1972 to 1991. The organization had branches in 35 cities across Canada, and I served for several years as president of the Ottawa Branch. Doukhobors participated in other branches in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Michael and I both agreed that friendship between the Soviets and the West was critical to prevent war, and organized meetings with Soviets in Canada and tourist groups to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Cold War in the 1980s was a very scary time. A popular slogan and bumper sticker in Canada and the USA was ‘Better Dead Than Red’. We needed to bring Soviets and Canadians face-to-face to mitigate hate, and approached the Canadian Department of External Affairs (now Global Affairs Canada) and other departments to see if we can use their reception rooms to host Soviet athletes and scientists for public meetings. ‘This was never done’, they said. ‘We can’t set a precedent.’

Living Room Discussion at the Tarasoff house, Ottawa, March 23, 1985, led by
Alexei Melnikov (right), a Soviet journalist in Canada who produced a short
documentary: 'Russian Doukhobors in Canada'. Photo 837-31A, (c) K.J. Tarasoff.

Where to meet? I volunteered using my home which could accommodate up to 60 people. Beginning in 1984 we began Living Room Discussions on Saturday afternoons, and hosted 17 sessions for about a year. In 1985 Michael and his wife Helen led 34 of us on a friendship tour of the Soviet Union.

Today, during this Second Cold War, we need to revitalize exchanges like Michael advocated since the 1940s. Since 1983 the USA Center for Citizen Initiatives has been organizing similar citizen diplomacy with 1000s of person-to-person bridges between Russia and the USA.

Bravo to Michael for helping to lead the way.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Q85 : Doukhobors and Racism

Alexander Kalesnikoff, Calgary, Alberta, asked on June 6, 2020:


How should we as Doukhobors look upon the current protests about police brutality and ‘Black Lives Matter’?

I believe there is too much racism of Black people, Muslims, Indigenous, Hispanics, Chinese due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and others.

Let us not forget, we Doukhobors were also the target of racism. We had many protests in the past, has any change come from that? I think not much.

It seems that we Doukhobors are beating and continually beating on the same drum, over and over again, about pacifism, war, etc. I think it is time that we start to beat another drum about domestic social problems, racism, hatred, prejudice, and a misunderstanding of others.

Most other faiths and religions, such as Mennonites, Quakers, Brethren, Catholic, Jewish, Sikh, etc., have programs addressing anti-racism. What is the Doukhobor anti-racism program?

I as President of the Calgary Folk Arts Council from 1998 to 2019, during our annual Heritage Day Festival, I presented a version of this message to the vast crowd:
It is a time to preserve, to celebrate, to promote and bring about an awareness of the cultural diversity that exists, so that we can have a better understanding of others, so that we can improve our communications with others, support the concept of mutual acceptance, which helps us to erase the racism, the prejudice, the hatred towards other cultures and religions, which hopefully will make life on Earth better, so we can live in peace and harmony, and be extremely proud of our heritage. The festival is also a time when we can reflect on our past, relive those moments in our lives that are so dear to us, and share the experience. We may have a unified identity in the countries we have lived in, but, we are all indeed proud of the uniqueness of our individual heritage.
I believe this time, change will come, as the world wakes up from their deep sleep. It is a time that we must walk with others and continue to believe we are one, we are all ‘brothers and sisters”’ as we continually repeat those words when we pray. We must unite to overcome!

Kalesnikoff sent his question the day after the Canadian media extensively showed and discussed protests, riots, police brutality, and Prime Minister Trudeau and a Black RCMP simultaneously kneeling in silence for nearly 9 minutes.

Left: Trudeau takes a knee at anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill, CBC, June 5, 2020.
Right: Thousands fill the streets of downtown Toronto for an anti-racism rally,
CP24 News, June 5, 2020.

Answer

Canadian Doukhobors ‘should look upon the current protests about police brutality and Black Lives Matter’ as a plea for revitalizing and completing the long overdue Civil Rights Movement and War on Poverty, and reversing systemic racism and economic inequity.The nonkilling Doukhobor movement forbids war and police brutality. ‘All lives matter!

To Tarasoff’s 2020 Peace Day message — ‘I believe that today we can extend the [Doukhobor] movement to universal access to food, housing, health care, education, and a clean environment’ — let’s add: ‘economic and social equality.’

While Kalesnikoff’s city of Calgary has made progress in reducing the wage gap, much is lacking. One in 7 Canadians (5 million) live in poverty. White supremacy and racism in Canada is still ‘enforced through the law’. What to do?

Lev N. Tolstoy asked nearly the same question more than 140 years ago.

In 1886 after four years of research and interviews among the poor in Moscow, Tolstoy wrote Так что же нам делать? (So what should we do?) His advice, in short, was for us to personally meet and treat the poor and abused as we want to be treated.
(See: Reviews. Lvyonok Yasnopolyanskiy 10/07/2016; and 3 translations: Isabel Hapgood 1887, Leo Wiener 1904, and Aylmer Maude 1925.)
It seems that Tolstoy recommended a best solution. Instead of spending time and money supporting a protest organization, marching in the street, or writing letters or blogs about events far away, one should find and help a few local people in need, as your brothers/sisters. Work with them to escape exploitation by the elites, or else a ‘labor revolution’ will explode.

Doukhobors do not have a formal anti-racism program, but we have a belief in a 'light/God within' which should work like an autopilot to guide us to not be racist. In fact, ‘Human Races’ Do Not Exist! in nature, people created them.

Doukhobors have donated to charities. Since 2015, the Doukhobor Society of Saskatoon supported the Kinsmen Foundation 'Telemiracle', and the USCC has donated to many causes. We cannot tell if the charities are racist.

To follow Tolstoy you will need to find people to help. Check with Calgary Social programs and services. Don’t donate money, donate your time.

The larger social-political problems are very difficult to solve (yet we need to also deal with the evil of poverty and the evil of war).  There is still a lot to learn from Tolstoy's emphasis on personal responsibility in dealing with immediate issues of human needs: 
Your question about whether any change has come from racism against Doukhobors, can be answered in part. The 1895 burning of arms protests by our ancestors resulted in one-third of all Doukhobors migrating to Canada, including your family. In Canada, Doukhobors assimilated unevenly, divided, with some factions protesting and suffering more than others. Many, like yourself, prospered. Others did not. Some died. We are still protesting for peace and working to be understood.

Our Movement evolved during the past century and is continuing to change. It is up to us to continuously form and reform the Doukhobor legacy, while trying to understand and treat others as we wish to be known and treated.


Update 3 October 2020

The BLM logo previously shown was from Wikipedia. The current logo is now shown above.  

On 19 July 2020, Stephen Jmaeff tried to post a link which I corrected to: Candace Owens: "I DO NOT support George Floyd!" & Here's Why! 18 min. Youtube video by Candice Owens, June 4, 2020. 7.3 million views, 65,000+ comments — A rant against BLM.

Alex Kalesnikoff then emailed and phoned to explain that Candace Owens is a far-right agitator not appropriate for this discussion. Upon checking Alex's complaint, I agreed. Miss Owens is a lobbying pro-Trump young Black woman based in Washington DC. Therefore, the original Jmaeff post was deleted with the above explanation.

Many opinions of BLM are being tossed around in the media, and seriously discussed by some ChristiansConnor Fledman of The Atlantic explained: "It is a large, free-wheeling movement without clear leaders, and individual participants have no doubt acted badly on many occasions, as is true of [other] groups ...."

One extensive article series explains that a need for 'police' in America was controversial until it focused on persecution of slaves, a prejudice that continues today: Duret, Daphne. The legend of Bras-Coupé: How police turned a Black man into a villain to save themselves, USA Today, Oct. 1, 2020. 

But, how do Doukhobors feel? What should you do, if anything?

Update 24 November 2020  (Sent Nov 22, by Laura Savinkoff, Grand Forks, BC)

Racism and Doukhobors

A list of great questions to consider, Alex.  Thank you. 

I needed to think about how to respond sensitively and honestly, for if we wish to address ‘racism’ in all its manifestations, then we must be honest and consider the feelings and experiences of others. 

So first I’d like to share my perspective on racism.  To me it holds within its mighty grasp prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, colonialism, imperialism  and all those other labels that excuse treating people with disrespect and dishonour, excluding sectors of our global family, ensuring social and economic disparity, giving rise to superiority and self-serving actions. 

Do Doukhobors practice racism?  Sadly, I must say that some do and have.  But, we’ve also suffered from the attitudes that put people down, hurt people physically, emotionally, psychologically.  Our history is full of incidences of our ancestors being treated with disdain because they dared to stand firm on their belief, their life concept, their understanding of how we, children of God the Creator, need to live by.  This history occurred in my lifetime when children were housed in a Residential School and made to build the fence that jailed them, made to march with wooden guns, not allowed family visits for speaking a word in Russian, etc.  But, even now the snide remarks, racist jokes, disparaging remarks hurt children.  But we don’t discuss or truly acknowledge the hurt we lobbed at each other —Community, Independent, Sons of Freedom.  Oh yes, let’s not forget the askance looks if you are poor, disabled, challenged in some way, live in one community rather than another, wear certain clothing, don’t speak Russian, did or did not do this or that or the other thing.  And of course the attitude towards non-Doukhobors was alive and lingers.

And yet, contained in our teachings we consider all equal and part of one global family with no enemies with all that exists on Mother Earth.  We oppose violence but somehow didn’t understand that verbal abuse is violence, that disparaging remarks are violent and that allowing someone to live in poverty is violent.  War is not the only form of violence just as attacking someone for the colour of their skin is not the only form of racism. 

I agree we need to address the issues that you listed and more.  But we must also address the issues that cause poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction, and yes war.  We must look below the surface of the actions of police brutality, racism and social injustice and address why do humanity and Doukhobors still not live up to the ideals we espouse?  Why is it we treat others as lesser?  Why do we excuse violent and abusive behaviour whether in protest or in our homes, our schools, work places, hospitals, on our streets? 

I understand why the mantra 'Black Lives Matter' is so resonant with people of colour.  I support peaceful protest and creative resistance because 'the vital powers that be’ can institute the laws to ensure all are treated with respect by police, hospitals, on our streets, etc.  But, I cannot and will not support the off shot of the movement that throw fire bombs, raid and steal from stores, riot, verbally and physically attack others in person or on social media. 

You ask if protests actually do any good. They did and still do -- when Doukhobors or others work for peace and justice, there are improvements.  Women protested and won the vote.  Unions protested and we have our Labour Code.  The Indigenous stood up and said 'enough' and the Residential Schools were finally closed.  All the codes and regulations we take for granted did not come because some politician or corporate head thought it is was good to treat people with dignity.  Our Medical System happened because people made a lot of noise.  And the same is true with all systems that need improvement.  

Without a whole bunch of us making noise, change won’t happen.  Nor will it happen only by nicely asking in a letter or petition.  It will take a concerted effort.  But before that concerted effort turns into an organized wellspring of action there is much work.  We must understand the issues by talking, meeting and yes, protesting on the streets peacefully chanting 'an end to war, violence, racism and disregard for our planet'.  We must educate and work as a team to improve our world through creative, supportive, innovative, kind, respectful, honourable, loving actions. 

It’s vital we begin this dialogue, not as USCC, Independent or Sons of Freedom but as humans, people that value what our ancestors were willing to die for.  We must be willing to work not just talk, willing to stand firm and not fold when the going gets a bit tough, willing to extend our hand of loving kinship to our neighbours, community, the global family. 

I try to do this and am not always successful.  I work with my Doukhobor family, my local community and globally to understand, support, educate, inspire and enlighten each other to improve the world we leave for our future global family.  I ask all to take Alex’s queries to heart, and have an open mind for the vital needs today.  And I ask you not to condemn my opinion; if you don’t agree that is fine, but do think about what I’ve said and about getting involved with changing the world so that Black Lives Matter does not exist, that violence out of frustration and pain does not exist, and that violence of war will not exist. 

In Universal Kinship and Loving Peace,
President of the Boundary Peace Initiative

Readers: Maybe you have a different answer. Anyone can comment below.