Indigenous History

Kent Monkman The Scream (2017)

Justin Trudeau announced on June 1 that it is National Indigenous History Month 2021.

You and I know that the Government of the Dominion of Canada will not be teaching its citizens about the history of colonization based on the Doctrine of Discovery, the genocide of the original inhabitants of Turtle Island, the theft of the land by the British Crown, the extraction of its resources to enrich the representatives and corporations of the Crown, and how the education system, the parliamentary democracy, the corporate capitalism, and the constitutional monarchy function as mechanisms for social, economic, and political control of the population to carry on the business of colonizing other nations through the resource and value extraction empires of mining and banking.

Justin Trudeau says one thing in public and does the opposite in the courts. That is how White Supremacy works in Canada. That is how it has always worked.

Designers are complicit, because we are the priests of the colonial-settler empire by serving as the scribes and town criers for the Crown and its corporations.

Priests of Modern Culture

Designers hold the office of priests in our culture. In the days of the pharaohs and kings, the priests had the magical ability to read and write. Literacy was a closely guarded secret of the intelligentsia and the elites in the courts of the ancient monarchs. The tools of the trade have improved over the years: tablets, hieroglyphics, papyrus, alphabets, paper, printing presses, books, newspapers, radios, televisions, computers, and smart phones. Now, we have come full circle, back to tablets again.

However, we also have influence, capacity, and agency to take back the power that we have handed to corporations and governments to instead do the things that the corporations and governments will never do: educate people about the true histories of this land.

So, what if we run a series of social media posts, inviting the participation of designers, to create the education platform that should exist, collaborating with Indigenous Peoples to raise their voices? Then we bill the government for the services.

Justin Trudeau also just announced $2.2 billion for the Federal Pathway over five years.

Of course, this should not be self-serving but empowering Indigenous voices, writing, design, and creativity.

This gets to the idea that I have been exploring, how design is evolving from physical artifacts to living systems. Design is now exploring XR: eXtended Reality.

If we really want to transform the GDC, this needs to be a participatory design project. As the old saying goes, we need to eat our own dog food. But we can go beyond that. We can create the kind of world that we want to live in. It could be part education, part ethics, part transdisciplinary design, part documentation (history) — a fully collaborative process that invites everyone to play, not just designers.

But, Roman Mars says, design is “anything a human touches.”

That means we are all designers. That changes the scope of the work that we are doing. Our organization should not be as small as it is for an entire nation of designers.

What I am actually saying is that we should challenge the notion of a national design association by integrating with the International Council of Design, as we are already doing and blow up the whole idea of national divisions. We are one planet figuring out how we imagine, design, and build the future together. We are a builders collective, a planetary Bauhaus.

I was thinking that we could start by using the social media platform of the organization to do a series of daily posts to focus on Indigenous history. When National Indigenous History Month comes to a close, the government will likely go back to focusing on itself. We do the opposite. We shift to Indigenous Futurisms.

When we change the focus from being self-serving to creating a world that works for all, we can change the conversation so that we realize that the colonial laws set up to build and maintain a corporate-controlled apartheid state owned by the British Crown is a ridiculous shell game. We can write our own stories instead by beating the government at its own game of weaponizing human communication by creating a corporate monopoly of the information ecology.

Design for resilience recognizes that things can go very wrong. In design, we expect that things will go wrong. We research, we listen, we empathize. Then we engage in small, controlled experiments where we build prototypes with the people whom we are trying to serve with our ideas. Then we work with them to test whether the ideas meet their needs. When everyone seems to be satisfied with the way things are working, then we release the product to a small beta-testing group and test the rate of adoption. Through design, we upend the colonial concept of democracy as the rule of the majority of those who have been enfranchised into the system over those who are in the minority. Instead, design is in service to all.

If we start with listening to the histories of the marginalized, we will be in a better position to understand how to create a world that works for all. Design for resilience starts by recognizing that humans make mistakes, but that we can learn from our mistakes. It is how we learn and grow into mature human beings.

Exterminate All The Brutes, a four-part HBO documentary series from filmmaker Raoul Peck that challenges how history is being written.

We can also weave in design principles. There are no edge cases, for example.

When we design for those who have disabilities, we design a better world for everyone.

We can make the argument that we can stop working for billionaires, because they are making the world more terrible at a faster rate than we can deal with.

The problems that are proliferating are beyond our ability to solve, because we are scaling technologies to the size of the globe before anyone has had a chance to recognize the unintended consequences of each technology. Technology is not neutral. Neither is technology inevitable. Really bad decisions are being made by billionaires because millions of people are enabling them. We can actually just stop enabling them by doing something different. The difficult part is changing habits.

We change habits by teaching people that they are designers who have influence, capacity, and agency to change themselves and change their world.

Design is a process and a skill, but it can be learned.

Rather than compete with what The Futur is doing, which is really ambitious — “Teach one billion people how to make a living, doing what they love.” — we supplement it with intention, purpose, and ethics. Why do we design?

To make a world that works for all of life, and not just humans. Because we depend on all of life for the planet to flourish and thrive. That means we have to value life, not money.

We shouldn’t be trying to make a living. We should be learning how to live.

We invite people to collaborate with us in the process of changing the world by first changing ourselves through the process of design. We will begin by recreating our own realities by starting with an understanding of our relationships with each other and to all living beings and to the universe of shared experiences in which we find ourselves. We will begin with an appreciation of the complexity, diversity, and unity of this Creation that binds us to each other as neighbours and kin.

We acknowledge that we are living on the unceded territories of those who have lived on these lands from time immemorial. We seek to share the good things of this earth, taking only what is given, living in reciprocity by giving back more than what we have been given. This land does not belong to us. We belong to the earth. We are here to learn, to live with compassion, and to be good ancestors for the generations that will come after us.

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Designer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective. We are exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together. https://bldrs.co

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Stephen Bau

Stephen Bau

Designer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective. We are exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together. https://bldrs.co

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