Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:39

The Other

Written by Rik Leaf
Tribe of One Tribe of One

A lot of people look at life through an, ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ lens. For these people, the first and most important step is determining who are the good guys, (that would be Us) and who are the bad guys, (that would be Them) Over the years I’ve discovered this is why I never really felt like I fit anywhere…cause I felt like I fit everywhere.

This way of looking at the world transcends every political distinction, religious conviction and sexual orientation. The Right do it, the Left do it, Christians do it, the LGTB do, so do Muslims, Eastern mystics and hedonists…everyone does it.

I grew up in a small conservative prairie town that was kind of like a hydroponic grow op for the Religious Right. Religion has spawned more ‘Us’s’ & ‘Them’s’ than you could swing a scepter of frankincense at. Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Brethren, Methodists, Pentecostals, Baptists, United, Presbyterians. Wikipedia says there are 41,000 Christian denominations, which is fascinating when you know that these 41,000 different beliefs come from people reading the same book.

Of course a country like Canada has a history steeped in this sort of thing. We’ve been fed a steady diet of Anglophones vs. Francophones, British vs. French, Immigrants vs. Indigenous, Protestant vs. Catholic and East vs. West since our inception.

Anyway…one day I grew up and ran from the Right and threw my lot in with the Left. Only to find the exact same thing in a diametrically opposed juxtaposition where ‘Us’ was now ‘Them’ and ‘Them’ were now ‘Us.’ But fundamentally…nothing had changed; it was still good guys and bad guys. If this isn’t the problem, it sure isn’t the answer.

A few years later my professional and personal life were entwined with the LGTB community. Oh the sweet naiveté of my youth when I thought gays were immune to this sort of thing! Until I tried to navigate the world of Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Transvestite, Two-Spirit, Pansexual, Polyamorous, Asexual, Omnisexual, and in case by some act of god you still didn’t feel represented there were the catch all categories, Other and Ally. Certainly a far cry from 41,000 distinct sexual orientations…but give it time and who knows!

These experiences can leave you feeling like you’re a first year student at Hogwarts and the Sorting Hat is determining whose side you’re on and where you fit in the grand scheme of the grand scheme. Everything is a fight and everyone’s flailing about and it’s just a matter of time until you hit or get hit.

My whole life I’ve been searching for a different way of looking at the world…one that acknowledges the Other. The Other who believes differently than me. The Other whose sexual identity or culture or experience is different than my own. The Other who holds an integral piece to the puzzle without whom, I can never see the whole picture. When we lose our connection to the Other, we start to fear them and eventually act on those fears. We lose our connection to how closely we’re tied together.

I initially found what I was looking for when Tribe of One grew into a multi-cultural melting pot of inter disciplinary awesomeness and artistry. The First Nations and Métis cultures inherently acknowledge and welcome Other ways of knowing, Other ways of living, Other ways of believing and behaving. Every sacred ceremony, pow wow, rally or feast I’ve been to all start by acknowledging, honoring and welcoming the Other.

To be honest, the part of the Idle No More that’s struck me as most colonial has been the ‘US’ and ‘Them’ mindset that’s framed the conversations with Colonist, Colonizer, Squatter, Settler, Canadian, Guest, Newcomer and Ally vs. Indigenous, Aboriginal, Indian, Native, Métis, Inuit and First Nations. Let’s face it, the way we describe ourselves usually defines what we believe we are capable of.

When we lose our ability to see and feel our connection to the Other, we become detached and believe their struggle and suffering has nothing to do with ‘US.’ The biggest challenges we face right now are man made; we got ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out, but only by all of ‘US’ working together.

Rik Leaf

Rik Leaf

Creative Director, 2005 - Present -  Recording Artist/Producer/Slam Poet, Published Author. Rik has released numerous CDs, worked in TV/Film tours internationally as a solo artist and with Tribe of One. Through his artistic activism he has worked with the UN and the Department of Foreign Affairs.



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