The Intersection of Storytelling and Research

By: Lesley Isaro, Blessing Digha

What sort of Reasearch are we talking about exactly?

Some of what will be touched upon can be applied to many other forms of research, but we will primarily focus on storytelling as it relates to Community-Based Participatory Research.

Storytelling is not and should not be limited to written texts or speech. Storytelling can involve music, movies, or even facial expressions. In this same way, so can research. Think of folklores and the ways in which they are utilised to communicate values or virtues. Like the one of the cracked tortoise shell and how it is meant to instill in young children that it is never right to lie.

Pictures are also considered a medium of storytelling, and in a sense a medium for research data collection, or for the communication of research findings. Think of photojournalism for instance, and the ways in which photographs are used to depict to audience what may be lost in written or verbal translations.

Origin stories the world over present timeless windows to the many ways, those who came before us thought and processed the world around them. Right here in North America alone there are so many different and unique stories of humanities origins, and all are valid.

Storytelling in the case of research can also serve as a vessel for researchers to present their findings. Who is to say that scholarly research can only be disseminated by way of journal articles, and essays? Why not a song, or a film?

“Word Choice IS important.”

In the case of both storytelling and research presentation alike, one must be mindful of word choice. Overly complex language may leave your audience or readers more confused than they when you first began.

When engaging with storytelling, in your own work or for research purposes. Allow yourself to express whatever emotions come over you. It only makes you human, and if anything it expresses sincerity.

Whose Knowledge Do We Care About? Unpacking the Colonial-Whiteness Permeating ‘Objective’ Knowledge & Knowers

Written by: Kanishka Sikri

Touring through the key themes and strategies for community engagement I found most memorable throughout IDSD10: Community-based Media Tactics for Development Advocacy and Social Change, I make salient and explicit the multilayered and power imbued structure of knowledge production, means of knowing, and praxis of sharing within both the “legitimate” academy and “illegitimate” community. Situating such dialogue, I locate how we can understand community and grassroots development as a site to subjectify practices, embody knowledge, and lived experience, as well as a location to develop toolkits and pathways to begin decolonizing our own psyches and consciousness.

From our first class to our last, a thread running through our discussions was one of privilege consciousness. As students of University of Toronto who hold the privilege and positionality that provides us praxis and power of knowledge, we must organize and create spaces on and off campus such as our class, that bridge the divides between the binary of community and academy; which does not have to be a binary at all. Creating and claiming areas of consciousness raising groups or community engagement collectives takes effort, support, and political and social will to create spaces outside of the bounds of objectivity as power. At the end of one of our seminars, we briefly touched upon the idea and key concern of whose knowledge the academy traditionally respects. Who is producing what we consider fact? Why are they producing and writing as such? Interrogating the objective as a site to conceal the interests of the seemingly universal—white, middle class straight man—it is our duty to bring subjective knowledge, which is marked positively by emotion, materiality, and lived reality, into our spaces. Our seminars have forced me to think continually about how objectivity has become the site for academic rigour, and concurrently displaces subjective and embodied knowledge, such as storytelling and spoken word. Blessing for instance, offered an important insight in that community sharing such as storytelling is a fundamental part of our existence, and when we own our stories and creatively make them known, we disrupt and transgress such dominant views of knowledge production and translation.                                                    

Alongside the importance of these community spaces, another key theme salient throughout our workshops and classes was the idea of  “internalized inferiority” as coined by Frantz Fanon, and the ways it is entrenched and embedded in the psyches of black and brown peoples; thus influencing the ways we navigate our own personal relations and broader societal interactions. In such space, education and professional experiences are shaped by how we view ourselves and how we perceive others view us—thus exaggerating stereotypical dismissal and profiling of black youth and women of colour in particular. I particularly enjoyed Taibu’s consistent recognition of the ways the systematic and individual exist in interplay with one another. Many anti-racist Afrocentric approaches can overdetermine the role of the individual without recognizing the ways systematic racism and individual supremacism support and curate one another. As Taibu stressed, without utilizing system-based approaches, we can rarely if ever tackle the one-off, personal relations where white supremacy is exerted.   

The third most explicit takeaway for me was the importance of prioritizing diverse means of knowledge sharing and community development. In our workshop on storytelling, broadening spoken word and poetry from white conventional and mainstream understandings of what poetry is, Salma made a very insightful connection between activism, struggle, and community change with oral tradition. Spoken word, even while not defined as such, has been a tool for community engagement for centuries around the globe, even while poetry has been considered a white form of creativity. As a Black Muslim woman, as Salma has powerfully stated, utilizing spoken word and claiming it, has been a way for her to rebel against the dominant status-quo that continually picks and chooses which parts of her identity are considered important in different spaces. Analyzing writing as a colonial enterprise, as Salma encourages utilizing Frantz Fanon as a guiding script, allows us to look at writing as a proxy through which whiteness is imbued within everyday relations and interactions. Since writing in its historical and contemporary form, is predicated on the lens of the objective English word, it concurrently displaces community based sharing as inferior; the more we ascribe to writing as a tool of power, the closer we come to whiteness, and eventually assimilate into it.                                                                                           

Taking part in this course, I have been at a heavy crossroads with my future path in international development. Throughout the years, the cracks of the academy and the NGO world have deepened, exacerbated, and opened new issues and challenges I could never imagine. Both spaces—the academy and the international development space—are built upon the same structures, systems, institutions of oppression that hurt, discard, torture, kill our world and its peoples. For instance, learning in our Volunteer Toronto workshop the staggering impact of the volunteering-NGO dynamic on our economy not only makes explicit its power, but the methods in which NGO’s are commodified and utilized to further specific interests such as that of the rich and few funding providers. Thus, it is not only that NGO’s have this economic impact, but that their existence and practices are constantly (re)manufactured by a select few powerful actors through economic incentives. As I continue my path—in or outside the academy—I must try to mitigate (or at least be conscious of) the ways we hold power as researchers because it is important to create toolkits that utilize community methods of sharing and translation, such as that of oral storytelling. To do so, we must place our priori toolkits backwards—still there for reference—and utilize community practices to create ones rooted in contextualized and localized design, not a mere checklist.                                                  

Throughout the course, I have also seen and tried to implement the idea that various variables/structures of oppression do not just collide with one another, but consistently determine and (re)manufacture one another. For instance, cultural violence such as honour killings are made possible by patriarchal standards that give authority and legitimacy to men. If and when these structures change, the other variables/structures will also follow. Examining and entangling our various capstone projects together, we can look at the connection between gendered violence, immigration policies, and gun violence among the African Canadian community, and understand the ways in which the other systems support and curate the other. We can examine their interdependency as immigration policies breed fear and secrecy for immigrant communities with legal institutions, which in turn allows gender-based violence to flourish as women do not want to engage with formal institutions for grievance reporting.   

Concurrently, we have focused on understanding the mechanisms and processes through which we can mark, understand, and analyze “complex” issues which are invisible, and in many cases deliberately concealed within formal international development interventions that disengage the “parts” from the whole. I will carry this frame/matrix of examining structures throughout my professional and academic experience to target the root through which development is hindered and contained. One quote I am placing in my own toolkit is, “who is ‘managing’ whose ‘development'”? We must unveil the power dynamics that place certain actors and agents as superior and capable of defining what others need. In adhering to such saviour-esque beliefs we ignore the localized, contextualized, and participatory process of learning and community change that grassroots organizations are striving for. Within this localized frame of thinking I hope to carry with me, we can understand cultural conceptions of time, and the ways in which we place certain acts of oppression in a past temporal scope—i.e slavery, violence, and genocide against racialized and gendered communities—without recognizing the ways in which these “technologies” of oppression have shifted, moved, and been altered to become more applicable and accepted within our social fabric. By ignoring the non-linearity of oppression, we are unable to attend to current development issues, both in and outside of Canada.                        

As students and imagined eventual practitioners and/or researchers within international development, we must have the necessary support and capacity to continue analyzing issues of international development from a critical, decolonial, anti-racist, and feminist frame. The phrase, “knowledge is power” has never been more important. Having access to knowledge is critical and is power, understanding knowledge is power, learning through knowledge is power, but producing knowledge and sharing it—that is the essence through which we base power hierarchies around well, power. The academy has traditionally relied upon “legitimate” and scholarly sources, and consequently disregarded and displaced community methods of knowledge sharing and embodied learning from their analysis. We can see such power hierarchies of knowledge production in north/south divide of databases, in that countries in the “global south” even while researching and applying theory in light of being gazed at as data points for extraction, do not have access to publish their own work or read those of others because of classist, colonial, and white supremacist publishing platforms (owned by 3 major corporations) which reduce the global south to a site for data but not scholarly research and praxis.                                                   

Utilizing Ursula Franklin’s critical frame, it is our duty as students of critical development studies to retrace and reconceptualize the ways we see “objective” knowledge as objective, and understand the ways multiple oppressions underpin and permeate the seemingly “fair” and inclusive technocratic structures we live around. These structures, as highlighted by Saman during our Franklin “Hackathon” are not neutral but are curated by and through the interests of the corporations and entities designing then. We must remain vigilant in interrogating the design infrastructure as to not embed injustices as we build wider and further. The federal government, particularly its international development divisions such as Grand Challenges and Global Affairs Canada, must support free, open-access knowledge production and sharing that is not ruled and decided by capitalist corporations. While this is needed, it is seldom possible, as Canada, and North America as a whole, have built themselves on the power of capitalist genocide of communities, of peoples, of knowledge. Until the state—even while built upon this settler-colonial framework—is able to provide students and researchers globally the capacity to theorize, share, and disseminate their research, it will not be able to support true international development that targets, understands, and opposes its own creation as a form of colonial and white supremacist intervention. International development is not natural, it is manufactured, authorized, and normalized based on the knowledge we know to be true. Until we are able to give way to knowledge outside of these confines, we will not be able to re-imagine what development truly is, and who it is for. We need federal, national, municipal support, coupled with global efforts to support the decolonized knowers, ways of knowing, and sharing of that “illegitimate” knowledge.

Reflecting on why, for what, and how we can understand community-based learning and sharing as a legitimate tool to generate the necessary toolkits to foster social and political will, I feel thoroughly inspired to imagine my own role in the ways I can engage my community beyond extractive tendencies. Utilizing visualization tools, storytelling, spoken word, and/or consciousness raising groups and collectives as community-based participatory toolkits allow us to create accessible, simplified, and informed knowledge production and translation that can be widely distributed and understood; without being plagued by the invisiblization of power laden frameworks, and academic jargon that disengages more communities than it does engage. Drawing from (Patricia Hill-Collins, 1990)’s as she writes, “social science research typically focuses on public, official, visible political activity even though unofficial, private, and seemingly invisible spheres of social life and organization may be equally important”; I understand my future path in critical development as rooted in the prioritization and uncovering of these everyday forms of resistance, protest, and survival.

The Art of Online Research

Written by: Sigrid Roman

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in early March of this year, Canada seems to be holding its breath in eager anticipation of its release from social (and physical) distancing restrictions that have confined most Canadians indoors. It turns out, ‘man’ is indeed a social animal and staying home in isolation is harder than most of us expected. 

As a researcher, I too found the ensuing switch to an exclusively online environment posed some interesting challenges for conducting participatory research. The social dynamics of an online participatory process are different in many ways from the way roles and responsibilities are handled in a face to face environment because. Among other things, the online environment comes with its own set of socio-cultural rules and limitations.  

To give you some context on a particular example, the class I was a teacher assistant for, had to conduct focus group interviews for a community-based partner. Initially, this was all to be done in person, with the customary social lunch and good will in tow. The structure was clear, the ethics perfectly embedded. COVID-19 took us all by surprise. In the span of one week, we had to switch everything we had planned with our research participants and the community partner online. 

Time-constraints aside, ‘horizontal’ participation as a right in research development became more difficult (though not impossible) to enact in an online environment and we too had to adapt to this new tension. Maintaining an entire classroom of undergraduate researchers, a large group of research participants, as well as keeping the community-based partner informed and equitably engaged with the research process online is complicated stuff. 

I learned that this transition is much more complex than simply switching what you would do in person to an online environment without any adjustment. Many things stayed the same, true, but some social aspects needed some adjustment. Here is what I learned, as briefly as I can put it,

It is hard in a chaotic and rapidly changing situation like what we have been facing with COVID-19 to remain participatory in the true sense of the word, if for no other reason than most of us have been inculcated with the idea of having outputs and the tendency of a (or self-) designated leader to assume managerial responsibility. That said, it is important to retain the active notion of what I call a ‘horizontal participatory hierarchy’ and all that the concept implies.

The practices of research-doing and how we, researchers, conduct ourselves with our partners is key. Though we can never really get rid of power relations, making sure no one overtakes the research process is vital for being participatory from the get-go to the end. At this point I found it is important to consider who participates, who frames that participation, who speaks, who keeps silent and whose voices are heard while interacting online. Indeed, we must consider what practices offset power imbalances so that we might eliminate them (or at the very least, try to mitigate their effects). 

Our class can definitely count itself lucky, I think, because we had some time with each other in person and we could establish a close relationship with everyone involved in the research process. We had frequent check-ins, decision making forums, and open conversations about the complex relationship between prescribed ways of doing research on paper and the reality on the ‘ground level’. We shared our fears, hopes, and slowly became a tiny community. Therefore, when we switched to an online environment, we made it work because we already had that foundation of trust. Though in theory this can be done in an online environment as well, I keep wondering if the end result would have been the same if we did not have that face to face period beforehand. 

The same in person processes described above, for instance, took infinitely longer and were more ‘condensed’ once online. It was a subtle shift, but it was there, nonetheless. People now spoke in a more structured way, eager to be done and refrained from the ‘naturalness’ of face-to-face conversations which includes humour and story-telling. 

The moment we switched to online platforms for communication, we also immediately agreed not to have any meetings that went over one hour because the level of attention required was higher and therefore, far more exhausting. Eye contact, for example, had to be retained at all times or one would risk rudeness. You could no longer get up or have related side conversations, often natural reprieves from total overwhelming focus. I could no longer doodle even though that makes me concentrate. In other words, our behaviour was more uniform and to the point. 

Taking the time to build relationships—a possible solution?

This challenge translated to our interactions with focus group interviewees as well. It will not come as a surprise by now that knowing how to conduct yourself with other people (other than just fellow researchers) is an inherent key element of research doing, online or otherwise. Anyone who has ever engaged in a research project, knows being a researcher means, at least to some extent, being a people person. 

Taking the time to build relationships is absolutely vital, especially if you do not have an already established relationship and, in addition, you must interact through (or on) online platforms. This was absolutely the case with our participants. When we broke off in each of the agreed upon focus groups, some student researchers, by their own accord, felt some groups were more successful than others in collecting data and getting the participants to “open up” because some student researchers took the simple initiative of interacting more without an explicit research-goal in mind. This is reminiscent of face to face interactions where inevitably, parts of yourself unrelated to research come up. 

Being themselves, therefore, actually made their participants feel more comfortable and moved things over into that sweet spot of trust and comfort that is so vital to participatory research. Participants were also far more forgiving with the time frames allotted for the interviews (and not following them) when they felt a more informal atmosphere, where researcher students shared their own experiences, as can be gathered in the difference between how rapidly some interviews were done (20 minutes), while others happily lingered on (45 minutes-1hour). 

I must put the disclaimer at this point, before I finish, that I do not believe online environments are by default worse. Though, I personally do not prefer it when it comes to conducting research because I believe in its current state, it is not a proper replacement for the face-to-face equivalent. Without a doubt, something is distinctly lost when interacting in a strictly online environment. The question is then, how can we (if we even can) rectify this and if we eventually do, we must question whether we should have tried to do so in the first place.

You are a storyteller, too.

Written by: Blessing Digha

Once, a hare saw a tortoise walking slowly with a heavy shell on his back. The hare was proud of himself and he asked the tortoise. “Shall we have a race?”

The tortoise agreed. They started the running race. The hare ran fast, but the tortoise walked very slowly. The proud hare rested under a tree and soon slept. But the tortoise walked slowly and steadily, eventually reaching the goal. At last, the tortoise won the race.

Moral of the story: pride goes before a fall.

My first memories of storytelling are my parents and grandparents telling me stories of the tortoise and other animals and using morals to back them up. Little did I know that I would eventually use storytelling in my work as a social worker on issues that affect girls and women. In the quest for more knowledge, I received training by Storytelling by The Moth, a non-profit group based in New York City dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.

In March, as part of my placement, it was an honor to lead a workshop alongside Salma. I took the session on Storytelling while Salma took the session on Spoken Word. Spoken Word is a form of storytelling hence the transition between Salma and I was seamless. As much as taught, I also learnt a lot.

Storytelling describes the social, professional, and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics or embellishment, data, statistics, and fact for the purpose of education, entertainment, motivation, engagement, advocacy, cultural preservation, or instilling moral values.

“We are all storytellers, there is a story in all of us” is a phrase I always say whenever I talk about storytelling because we use storytelling in our daily activities mostly unbeknownst to us. When you are telling someone about how your day went, guess what you are doing? You are telling a story.

Storytelling comes in different forms such as spoken word, writing, poetry, films/movies, mapping, narration, media such as photography, costumes, statistics and many more.

How do we tell stories you might ask? Simple.

  • Know your story without memorization
  • Ensure your story has a head (beginning) 
  • Establish characters, setting(s), plot, the conflict, and resolution (these are the five basic/essential elements of a story)
  • Use simple and understandable terms; otherwise define or explain terms being used
  • If you have graphics or slides during your presentation, be mindful of fonts, colors and media included so you do not distract your audience
  • Do not apologize for your story; the emotions you feel or show when telling your story—they are all valid

Attached is a link to one of my own stories for reference on how to incorporate these features into your own work.

There is a story in you or in the work you do, string it together. You are a storyteller, too.

Community-based Media Tactics for Development Advocacy and Social Change: Course Reflection

Written by: Naziha Nasrin

My journey in this course began with uncertainty and taking a leap of faith of trying to learn something different in Development Studies that I had not been exposed to before. I remember sitting together with my fellow class mates on the first day of class as we introduced ourselves. Almost everyone had taken a course with Professor Chan before and was familiar with his research and I remember not having any idea what to expect. However, after going through this journey together with everyone including those from Professor Sicchia and Professor Von Lieres’s class, I felt that I was part of a community much larger than this course itself where we learned to create collective change and advocacy by breaking the barriers of traditional methods of learning through workshops, collaborations and unity.

One of my takeaways from this course was that of learning about mapping systems, systems thinking, and how different systems interact with each other on different levels. While it was hard to grasp at first and understand the core concept of how to map the system, I was able to engage in my topic regarding the barriers of post-secondary education faced by international students in a more in-depth level. It was very interesting to learn about how local, national and global systems interact with one another in a non-linear and constant manner. Traditionally, systems are thought to be technocratic, linear and following a hierarchy but however, technocratic means are not the solutions to systems which are rooted in hidden agendas, invisible powers and political context. This is why it is crucial to identify the gaps in the system and disclose the invisible and hidden powers so that solutions can be proposed. Learning this guided me to reflect upon my topic and search for undisclosed invisible powers within the university system and the invisible power of the global knowledge economy.

My second takeaway from this course was the learning the power of community through the bi-weekly workshops from Volunteer Toronto, the TD Centre for Learning and Development, and the Taibu Community Health Centre.  Prior to this course, I was always distant from community organizations for advocacy and change at the local grass roots level because I did not think that community groups can make big significant changes at the local and national level. However, attending these workshops and hearing the stories of the lived experiences of the members of each community group, completely changed my perspective. I was so honored and humbled to be among each group, especially the women from the IWIP Training Program from the TD Centre for Learning and Development. Each group within the IWIP Program tackled extremely important social justice issues including researching the link between income and financial abuse in the households of South Asian women, affordable childcare in Toronto, the struggles of Post-Secondary Education faced by immigrant women and the integration of newcomer youth in Toronto. All of these research projects by the IWIP trainees had very strong impacts on the local level through deputations at City Hall regarding childcare in Toronto, having media coverage by Global News and furthermore, their research had an impact on an institutional level by sharing their experiences with students at UofT. This in turn showed me that the validity, legitimacy and strength in community development through active participatory community based research is more powerful through primary forms of knowledge creation and lived experiences than secondary sources from journal articles to create advocacy change.

This brings me to my third and biggest takeaway from this course, that is, breaking away from traditional methods and norms of academic research and solely relying on secondary journal articles to have legitimate and valid scholarship in knowledge creation. It was very eye opening for me to learn about the broader global knowledge economy influencing how we shape our ideas and how it creates epistemological forms of violence through knowledge commodification. As an IDS student, I had never been exposed to this phenomena of the monopoly in the legitimate production of knowledge by private corporations and equity firms. This concept along with the Hackathon Workshop regarding the work of Ursula Franklin heavily influenced how I thought about the invisible barriers of my topic that many international students faced as a result of this presumed expectation for them to conform to a western education system. By researching further into this for my topic regarding the barriers to access post-secondary education by international students at UTSC, I was able to find that the previous knowledge, cultural, traditional and lived experiences of international students are not considered valid in the western university system. Furthermore, this causes many students to feel internally inferior and the lack of mental health services by the university to cater towards their needs also leads them to struggle academically as a result of this. This can be related to Franz Fanon’s ideology of a form of inferior assimilation created internally within individuals due to the lack of legitimizing their lived experiences as mentioned in the workshop by the Taibu Community Health Centre.

Furthermore, with the control over knowledge production by publishing companies, in the global North, it makes it more difficult for scholars of the South to have their works published and for students to access these journals as well. This was reflected in our Hackathon Workshop where Ursula Franklin’s work was mainly cited by scholars from western countries such as US, Italy and the United Kingdom rather than other countries from Latin America, Africa, East Asia and especially Germany as she was from German origin. Moreover, every scholar who publishes their work is given an ID and if one does not have an ID, they cannot have their work published. This showcases the inequality in the production of knowledge and how even the solutions which many experts propose regarding development studies, are mostly influenced from a westernized ideology as a result of knowledge commodification.

Learning these three takeaways has been very impactful as this has helped me change my ideologies and how I think about creating advocacy change within development studies. From this course, I was able to learn that meaningful and impactful change comes from community at the local level coming together to create collective action. Furthermore, change is created beyond secondary traditional methods of academic research, that is through creative forms of storytelling and new media platforms that engage us to share our collective lived experience. These include sharing spoken word, short stories, creating podcasts, making infographics, websites, blogs, photo journals and data visualization through hackathon methodologies.

In terms of recommendations for improvement and support regarding student led advocacy in International Development at the institutional level here at UTSC, I think that the biggest change that should be made is to broaden the platform and scope of opportunities given to international students academically and in student engagement programs. For example, in our topic regarding the barriers to access post-secondary education by international students at UTSC, we found that international students are not able to apply for executive positions part of Scarborough Campus Students Union (SCSU), as executive positions require members to be part-time students and international students are not able to do so because of their visa study permit requiring them to be full time students. Executive positions at the SCSU such as Vice President Academics give students the power to make significant changes within academic policies in the university from which international students are excluded and yet they face more challenges than other domestic students such as high tuition fees, lack of legal and financial aid. Furthermore, in regards to academic opportunities in International Development Studies such as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Program, international students are excluded from applying as one of the conditions for the program requires students to be permanent residents or Canadian citizens. In order to provide advocacy and change especially at the institutional level for international students, these opportunities need to be broadened to include the perspectives and experiences of these students in order to give their voices a platform on how to make significant meaningful change in development studies.

Overall, my experience in this course was very unique as it truly broke down the barriers of traditional academic learning methods and allowed for hands on learning by experiencing the stories of community and creating meaningful relationships where we can make change through collective action. I would personally like to thank Professor Chan for this opportunity along with Maggie and Blessing who were willing to share their own personal experiences with the class to inspire us. I would also like to thank Myuri for working so hard to put everything together for the workshops and introducing me to this course. I wouldn’t be in this class, if it was not for her!

More than Good Intentions: A Dialogue on the Ethics of Community Engagement Reflection

Written by: Alfred Jean-Baptiste, Executive Director, Toronto Centre for Community Learning & Development

I was looking forward to joining others on the More than Good Intentions: A Dialogue on the Ethics of Community Engagement panel, and sharing what I believe is—while not new—a very timely topic. I was going to advance the basic thesis that community engagement and university-community partnerships are vital cogs in addressing issues of poverty and injustice. And can go a long way in advancing community and society in general,  if the focus is on embracing and promoting people’s lived experiences without, at the same time, encouraging, promoting, or supporting false consciousness. I have observed the tendency, even among community agencies, to accept, without challenge, stories, ideas, and problems/solutions advanced by clients and residents, to the detriment of their efforts. In my experience I have come to recognize that community and agency knowledge is not always enlightened. Taking the side of community also means identifying and challenging false consciousness.

One of my favourite Gramsci quote reads,

“I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life. That is why I hate the indifferent.

The indifference is the deadweight of history. The indifference operates with great power on history. The indifference operates passively, but it operates. It is fate, that which cannot be counted on. It twists programs and ruins the best-conceived plans. It is the raw material that ruins intelligence. That what happens, the evil that weighs upon all, happens because the human mass abdicates to their will; allows laws to be promulgated that only the revolt could nullify, and leaves men that only a mutiny will be able to overthrow to achieve power. The mass ignores because it is careless. And then it seems like it is the product of fate that runs over everything and everyone: the one who consents as well as the one who dissents; the one who knew as well as the one who didn’t know; the active as well as the indifferent. Some whimper piously, others curse obscenely, but nobody, or very few ask themselves: if I had tried to impose my will, would this have happened?

I also hate the indifferent because of that. Because their whimpering of eternally innocent ones annoys me. I make each one liable: how they have tackled with the task that life has given and gives them every day, what they have done, and especially, what they have not done. And I feel I have the right to be inexorable and not squander my compassion, of not sharing my tears with them.

I am a partisan, I am alive, I feel the pulse of the future city that those on my side are building is alive in their conscience. And in it, the social chain does not rest on a few; nothing of what happens in it is a matter of luck, nor the product of fate, but the intelligent work of the citizens. Nobody in it is looking from the window of the sacrifice and the drain of a few. Alive, I am a partisan. That is why I hate the ones that don’t take sides. I hate the indifferent.