By News Editor Aislinn Cottell
In an age when the internet offers, but also condemns us to, a constant bombardment of often conflicting information, a certain kind of paralysis can occur. The seemingly endless fountain of facts, “alternative” facts, opinions, and ultimatums becomes an overwhelming cacophony, and sorting through the noise to some semblance of truth, let alone determining what action should be taken in response, can seem borderline impossible to attempt.
A crucial part of navigating this often confusing and seemingly contradictory landscape, however, is to not remain a passive receptor of whatever ideas are shouted the loudest. When fear and hate threaten to tear us apart, it is crucial to seek out other perspectives, broaden horizons, and fight ignorance with knowledge. Although no one person should be looked to for all the answers, listening to the experiences of those who have already fought, and are still fighting, for a more compassionate future, is a powerful way to arm yourself in a world where sanity can feel a little bit like it’s slipping away down the drain.
This semester, VIU is hosting a number of speakers who will share their stories, offer new outlooks, and perhaps provide some guidance on how to work past the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome and do some good.
Dr. Monia Mazigh is a Tunisian-Canadian who emigrated to Canada in 1991, at the age of 21. Fluent in Arabic, English, and French, and holding a PhD in financial economics from McGill University, Dr. Mazigh is a professor, writer, politician, and human rights advocate. She came into the public eye in 2002, when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria under suspicion of terrorist links, and held without charge for over a year. During this time, Dr. Mazigh fought tirelessly to have him returned, joining several human rights groups in order to lobby for his freedom. When her campaign proved successful, she continued to work to clear his name until 2007, when the government finally offered an official apology and compensation for the “terrible ordeal” the family had faced. In 2004, she ran as the NDP candidate for the traditionally liberal riding of Ottawa South, and, despite finishing third, at 8,080 votes she garnered the most support the NDP had ever won in the area, provincially or federally.
“Human rights advocacy is not an easy task,” says Mazigh. “There is frustration, intimidation, loss, and sometimes some victories, but, overall, it is a hard fight and we can get discouraged. To keep up the fight is really important. We have to develop networks of people and organizations. Most of all, we have to believe that there is always a way to continue the fight for justice.”
“It is so important to look at the greater picture. Divide and conquer has been used by politicians for centuries, so we shouldn’t fall into these traps. Young adults and students are our future, and they should develop more solidarity with different groups. Solidarity is key. It brings us together despite our differences.”
Dr. Mazigh published her first book, Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, in 2008; a memoir dedicated to documenting her battle for justice. She has since written Mirrors and Mirages (2010), a novel exploring the struggle of balancing tradition and modernity through the lives of six different Muslim women living in Canada. Her latest book, Hope Has Two Daughters, is also a novel, and looks at two historic moments in Tunisian history— the Bread Riots of 1984, and the Jasmine Revolution in 2010, which started the Arab Spring.
Dr. Mazigh will be presenting Hope Has Two Daughters on March 9, from 1 – 2:15 pm in the Malaspina Theatre lobby (bldg. 310). A short meet and greet will then be held from 4:15 – 4:45 pm in bldg. 355, rm. 211, following which she will hold a Q&A talk titled “Despair, Hope and Beyond”, where she will share her story, and reflect on how it changed her vision of the world, and brought her into the realm of writing and activism. To finish off the evening, at 7 pm there will be a showing in bldg. 356, rm. 109, of He Named Me Malala, a documentary on the incredible story of Pakistani teenager and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted and almost killed by the Taliban for speaking out about women’s rights in her country. These events are supported by VIUFA Professional Development and Status of Women funds; by VIU’s faculties of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and International Education; by Worldbridger, and by the House of Anansi Press.
Caroline Adderson is a Canadian writer originally hailing from Alberta. She has lived in many communities across Canada while doing a wide variety of volunteer work, including carpentry, radio broadcasting, and sheep farming, and is currently settled in Vancouver. Holding a Bachelor of Education with a Concentration in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, she worked as an ESL teacher for 10 years, and has a large volume of creative work.
Adderson is the author of four novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice, The Sky is Falling, and Ellen in Pieces), and two collections of short stories (Bad Imaginings and Pleased To Meet You) as well as a number of children’s books. Much of her writing explores the human condition: relationships, revelations, and the baffling circumstances of everyday life. In her adult work, she has been much acclaimed for bringing a wry sense of humour to otherwise dark and sometimes disturbing topics, something she calls a “survival instinct”.
“Laughing helps us get through dark times,” says Adderson. “Humour is also a very powerful political tool. Despots can’t laugh at themselves.”
Her young adult books are lighter, of course. “I have a tragic-comic sensibility. Though my adult books are always funny, they usually explore dark subjects. When I write for kids, I get to be just plain old funny.”
“I have a little button someone gave me. It says, ‘Fight evil. Read books.’ I’ll add this: Focus on the personal. Strengthen your bonds with people actually in your life, then enlarge your circle of compassion from there. Be positive. Be generous. Laugh a lot.”
Adderson and has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, two Commonwealth Writer’s Prizes, the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, and the Governor General’s Literary Award. She is the winner of two Ethel Wilson Fiction Prizes, three CBC Literary Awards, and the 2006 Marian Engel Award.
On March 2, Caroline Adderson will speak live with VIU professor Kathy Page, discussing her work and writing process for plotting her novels. The event will be held from 1 – 2:15 pm in bldg. 345, rm. 103. This presentation is a part of the English Department’s Writers on Campus series.
Aislinn is a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student majoring in creative writing and minoring in chemistry. New to The Nav team this year, she’s enjoying finding out about all the interesting things happening on campus. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, Netflix, and the copious consumption of coffee.