Hugh Brody, the Kwikwexwelhp Healing Village, and The Meaning of Life.

There is a correctional institute in British Columbia (Canada) called the Kwikwexwelhp Healing Village (good luck pronouncing that)—a remarkably progressive, alternative and controversial penal facility, and simultaneously limited in terms of numbers. Kwikwexwelhp is a fifty bed facility.

At its heart Kwikwexwelhp is a minimum security facility, with even less restrictions, whose healing/rehabilitation practices are inspired by indigenous cultural and spiritual practices. Its inmates are generally prisoners who, over time, have ‘cascaded’—a term used by the director of photography after the film—from maximum security, to medium security, to minimum security, and through their own initiative and courses taken, qualify for Kwikwexwelhp.

I just saw a simple, provocative and moving documentary (DOXA) on it by the wonderful Hugh Brody (I didn’t know much about him until two friends filled me in—thank god for friends), called The Meaning of Life. At the core of so many of the inmates’ original fracturing are those shameful, horrendous, racist residential schools. My god, the damage—the structural violence—inflicted by some of the people in that god-forsaken institution. Of course, the past doesn’t by necessarily absolve a crime in the present (it does in some places, politically), but it sure as hell is good to know the nature of cause-and-effect in a deeply fractured world.

Here’s a newspaper link about the film.

Really worth seeing.

Structural violence, institutional violence, happens in countless, faceless ways. Eduardo Galeano (as quoted in Paul Farmers’ Pathologies of Power) sums up one form of institutional violence here, from his South American viewpoint. Perhaps the view can be extrapolated worldwide:

The big bankers of the world, who practice the terrorism of money, are more powerful than kings and field marshals, even more than the Pope of Rome himself. They never dirty their hands. They kill no-one: they limit themselves to applauding the show.

Their officials, international technocrats, rule our countries: they are neither presidents nor ministers, they have not been elected, but they decide the level of salaries and public expenditure, investments and divestments, prices, taxes, interest rates, subsidies, when the sun rises and how frequently it rains.”

And these decisions, by whom is left out, result in what Dr. Paul Farmer and others call ‘structural violence’—where limited options lead to violence, violence against the person with painfully limited options.

Galeano continues:

“However, they don’t concern themselves with the prisons or torture chambers or concentration camps or extermination centers, although these house the inevitable consequences of their acts.

The technocrats claim the privilege of irresponsibility: ‘We’re neutral’ they say.”

And the more privileged, the more affluent the country, would it be fair to say the more these sins are all of ours?

I don’t know the answer, but more compassion is always called for. Compassion with discernment, with love.

And here’s to all of us who are not (which is everybody), as Sister Prejean (of Dead Man Walking fame) once said, ‘the worst thing we’ve ever done.’

Lots of love to you,



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