We Believe: Manifestos, Creeds and other Declarations

Manifestos, creeds and declarations are making a comeback. The Leap Manifesto – A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another continues to make waves. Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s controversial manifesto presents fifteen suggestions for raising a feminist. Michael J. Fox offers 6 Rules for Surviving Adversity (they’re well worth reading even if you don’t have Parkinson’s.) Ottawa-based Helen Ries wrote a Manifesto for the Family Arm of the Disability Movement that is refreshing the Canadian disability world. Technology guru Kevin Kelly issued New Rules for the New Economy. The Califonia Legislature came up with a Manifesto of Defiance immediately after “that thing that happened down south” in November. And Dark Matters Laboratories recently released, Ten Key Ingredients for Collective Impact.

One reason for this resurgence of popularity is political and social upheaval. People are looking for experience codified into wisdom.  They want something more than rhetoric. They know things are changing, must change and manifestos serve as rules and guidelines making the future less uncertain and less ambiguous.

The best of these creeds combine three elements: a vision of the desired world; values that will guide behaviour and practical steps to get there.

Some manifestos ignite a movement. Some cause revolutions. At the very least they serve as a wake-up call and a call to action. Moses wrote a pretty good one. So did the founders of AA.

To honour this emerging phenomenon I will be posting manifestos from the past from time to time. My hope is that they will enlighten and illuminate your way through the tumult.

The first one, Refus Global/Total Refusal emerged from the Quebec avant-garde art movement of the 1940’s, The Automatistes. The fabulous painter Jean-Paul Riopelle and painter/dancer/sculptor Françoise Sullivan are two of its most illustrious members. Their manifesto, which included Sullivan’s essay “La danse et l’espoir” (Dance and Hope), is considered one of the sparks that led to Quebec’s Quiet Revolution.

Here’s a translated excerpt from their sweeping manifesto:

Therefore, our duty is simple.

To break definitively with all conventions of society and its utilitarian spirit! We refuse to live knowingly at less than our spiritual and physical potential; refuse to close our eyes to the vices and confidence tricks perpetuated in the guise of learning, favour, or gratitude; refuse to be ghettoed in an ivory tower, well-fortified but too easy to ignore; refuse to remain silent… refuse to serve and to be used for such ends; refuse all intention, evil weapon of reason — down with them, to second place!

Make way for magic! Make way for objective mysteries! Make way for love! Make way for necessities! …

Today, a group exist with wide, courageous branches that extend beyond frontiers.

A magnificent duty falls on us: history elects us to preserve the precious treasure it bequeaths.

Real things require relationships repeatedly renewed, or challenged, or put to question: relationships impalpable, exacting and dependent on the vivifying force of action.

Our treasure is a poetic resource: the emotional wealth on which the centuries to come will draw. It cannot be passed on unless it is transformed, and lacking this it is deformed.

Let those who are inspired by this endeavour join us.

Click here to read the complete Manifesto.

Click here for a recent CBC interview and profile with Françoise Sullivan. She is still painting at the age of 93 and recently completed an exhibition “Resplendent Trajectories at a Montreal art gallery.


Your days will pass, one by one,
words in a breathless sentence strung
together without punctuation, your actions,
those thoughts that come at such a cost,
wont follow you, but if they do
it will be as perpetually vain regrets, little
will it matter, very little, whether you
betray or remain faithful, because each will
come to you in turn…” (excerpt from A Voice Heard in a Dream, Upon Awakening, by Québec poet Robert Melançon) 

Musical accompaniment this post is Nostos ft. BUFFLO by Montreal composer and pianist Jean-Michel Blais. Support his music.


Forget Your Perfect Offering

P(reaching) Beyond the Choir

The Lakehead of Democracy

Stash Your Plan in the Cutlery Drawer

Take a Leap – Take a Bold Leap

It’s Good to be Lost

Flight of the Ordinaries

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