So as we are on the eve of saying goodbye to 2021, I thought I would, as has become the norm, share some thoughts and reflections of 2021. For the most part, 2021, at least on a global scale, appeared to be a repeat of 2020, except this time we knew Covid-19 was here; perhaps we had naively thought it would disappear by the summer?
On a political, global scale, I remain cautious. Activities in Ukraine, the South China Sea and Hong Kong continue to be a matter of concern globally. Likewise, the ravages of Omicron, although less severe than previous incarnations, continue to wreak national health care systems. Sadly, even in such dark times, the poor, most notable in the developing world, continue to fall far short of the developed world in accessing vaccines. When will the penny drop? We are all in this TOGETHER!
While some leaders dither, lives are being unnecessarily lost to Covid and those impacted by its repercussions. Likewise, a general malaise on the part of some does appear to be hurting the ability of health care workers to make an impact. So, wear a mask and wash your hands; at least, if nothing else, it will help decrease the spread of other contagions, thus creating some breathing room for our health care workers. Besides, there are some very fashionable masks out there ;-).
Today also marks the anniversary of George Nkencho; an Irishman shot at the hands of Garda. While the facts of the case remain unknown, they remind us of our collective responsibility to explore and expect complex answers rather than seeking a simple solution. Why the Garda shot and killed an unarmed man remains unclear. However, unlike other places, the family and guads continue to work together to resolve this shooting both recognising that the death of this young man is complex and in retrospect unnecessary. As Irish people, we know only too well the role unchecked power and profiling played in our collective history. As a nation, we must hold ourselves and those who represent us to the highest level of respect and competence.
Also in a political vein, the ongoing re-discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools across Canada is serving to highlight not only the plight of First Nations but how poorly educated the general population is regarding them. I recall as a young researcher visiting the `Fluffs and Feathers` exhibition at the Iroquois museum and being struck by the sobering realisation that for many, First Nations exist in a myth. They are not permitted to exist as complexities within the present.
As a former employee of DINAD and a First Nation, I witnessed firsthand the challenges such nations face. I saw how often nepotism, ill-conceived policies and sometimes downright disregard played out nationally and at the Band level made equity such a pipe dream for many.
Residential schools are a complex topic and simply placing them as an outgrowth of racism fails to understand and accept the depth and complexity of the issues at the heart of this grim past. What is needed is a deep commitment to mutual respect and listening. And yes part of this discussion MUST BE holding each other to account for failing to do so infantilizes both. Only with mutual respect, can the ongoing truth and reconciliation process serve as a bridge to rightfully return native people to their central place within a modern, multi-ethnic nation. However, the federal government spending 100 Million (CD) to fight land-claims it agreed to under this commission does not bode well. Perhaps the funds could be better spent in improving clean water supply and health care on reserves and native communities across the country? Likewise, holding band councils to the same standards of financial regulation as other local or national authorities may enable broken and divided societies to heal.
This year proved to be one of a few hits and many misses on a personal level. My health has continued to spiral in the wrong direction, albeit at a slower pace. Despite my attempt to correct a botched surgery, hip issues and lack of mobility are impacting lifestyle and well-being. Also living with acute Diverticulitis - which I may add is not so cute at all has made me feel rather sorry for myself on more than one occasion. Fingers crossed with ongoing work 2022 will see this trend reversing itself.
The trip to Okinawa to research Chinen (Chitose Tsuyoshi) was a highlight, meeting his great-grandson the best of all possible outcomes. The support of many senior karate people in Okinawa, Japan and North America for this endeavour was heartwarming and energising. What was not welcome were the angry voices demanding me not to write this history for to do so would detract from the Chitose legend. As I have said here and in other places, I firmly believe such views to be grounded in at worst self-promotion or at best a sense of misplaced loyalty.
The history of Chinen is one of the Okinawan people bereft of tinsel and rose-coloured glasses. The challenges Chinen, and by extension, the Okinawans faced as they sought to make their way in an unkind world needs to be told - for it is a celebration of the spirit of the downtrodden.
Thanks to ongoing conversations with senior instructors, the year has also been fruitful as my understanding of Budo, especially Kobudo and Karate, continued to evolve with age and retrospect. The enigma of Okinawan video continues to be a well, I drink from consistently.
Personally, the major highlight of 2021 was making contact with some folks from my past. It brought peace of mind which I had not known in a long time.
So in closing, this is my metaphor for this year is/was:
One is never sure how a pebble cast in a pond and its ripples play out.
Okinawan and Japanese Budo
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan