Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca


Published on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Old technologies, modern markets

Change does not depend on modern technology. There’s nothing modern about knitting needles – two sticks, essentially. But knitting needles lifted 45 families in Bolivia out of abject poverty.

            When the rich tin mines in Bolivia closed, in the late 1980s, miners simply left in search of new jobs, abandoning their wives and children. Many of these women ended up on the streets of the city of Cochabamba. All through the Andes, women knit soft alpaca wool into sweaters and shawls.

            These women had knitting skills. But no markets.

            Enter a Canadian connection. Save the Children Canada organized some of these displaced women into a knitting cooperative, called “Minkha,” which means “women working together” in the local Quechua language.

            Volunteers brought some of their beautiful hand-knit garments to Canada. Where Beverley Edwards-Sawatzky saw them. She fell in love with the quality of the knitting and the concept of the project.

            That was 2001. Since then, Bev has travelled four times to Bolivia, the poorest nation in South America, at her own expense, to get to know the knitters personally, and to make sure that the profits really were going to the knitters, not to invisible marketing agencies.

            By organizing annual sales -- in Edmonton, Calgary, Cranbrook, and now here in Lake Country – she has been able to funnel close to $1 million to the women of the Minkha cooperative.


Making connections

            This is the global economy at work.

            Knitting has brought a new life, both for the women and for the next generation, their children.

            A woman named Yola was pregnant with her first daughter when she began knitting with the Minkha Cooperative 18 years ago. That first daughter is now training as a nurse. A second daughter plans to become a human rights lawyer. Another knitter’s son recently graduated as a doctor, and has come back to Cochabamba to serve the community that gave him his start.

            A million dollars sounds like a lot. But the Cochabamba knitters are hardly rolling in luxury. Skilled knitters may earn $300 a month – about $1.60 an hour -- after the costs of wool and other supplies.

            It`s not much. But as Bev points out, “In one generation, they have gone from total poverty to owning and operating their own business.”

            In Canada, the sweaters – also coats, vests, ponchos, for men and children as well as women – typically sell for $135 to $250 each. “It sounds expensive,” Bev admits. “But in Canada it would cost that much just to buy the alpaca wool.”

            Other items like scarves, shawls, and children’s sweaters sell as low as $40 to $70.

            The Minkha women also knit most of their patterns in Peruvian pima cotton, which Bev calls “the Cadillac of cottons”, a beautiful fibre with a silky sheen.

            Minkha knitted products will be available at a sale Saturday May 13, at Winfield United Church in Lake Country, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., in Winfield United Church on Woodsdale Road.

            The products are beautiful. But so is the message. As a technology, knitting goes back at least ten centuries. Moving it – or anything else -- into a modern global economy depends on making connections.

            Everything depends on those connections.


Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca





Lots of thoughtful responses to last week’s column about the possibilities of an “inferior god.”


Rachel Pritchard: “I like your definitions -- they make me think of democracy. I wonder how long it will take our neighbours to the south to realise that they don't want an almighty god and prefer an inferior god as they had before?”


Tom Watson: “My gosh, Jim...if we go around creating inferior gods in the same way we created superior ones, who's going to lead people into wars, and cause tornadoes or floods as vengeance upon human acts? And nobody's religion will be better than anybody else's anymore. Pretty soon, too, we'd be creating inferior devils who no longer made us do stupid stuff. Feels as if the whole world order that we've long known would be breaking down.

            Hmmmm...on second thought...”


Br. Mathias Stanosi: “While God is Superior, I am not. So, my perceptions of GOD and what GOD might want at any given moment or situation need be held and understood as imperfect representations, open to revision. A little human humility goes a long way.”


Don Schau: “Great column to make us think. For me, the issue is humanity’s definition of superiority. As I was reading I kept thinking about 1 Cor. 3:18-20 – ‘Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.’

            “I think the superiority of God is in God’s decision to give us free will, not to impose will upon us. Someday we will figure out how to use that free will to the benefit of all rather than impose our will upon others. Of course, that is my human wisdom speaking so it is no doubt flawed. But I will keep trying.”


Ruth Shaver: “Interesting take on superior vs. inferior. I, however, think that only God who is Superior/Almighty could CHOOSE to give up power, first to walk among us as one of us, and then to refrain from calling upon that power to free God's human male self from all that happened in service of a greater good. Matthew 21:18-19 is one instance in which to my ears the human Jesus called upon God's power out of anger: the fig tree with no fruit dies when Jesus curses it; I don't have that power and I don't know anyone who does. What greater good did using that power serve, when the potential existed for the tree to bear fruit in another season that would feed a family or a village? Jesus' anger was assuaged, a selfish result even if he did use it as an object lesson (and compare Mark 11:12-14, where it says it wasn't even the season for figs!).

            “The lesson for me is that any power I have over another person is to be used cooperatively for the greater good, not held within myself for only my benefit.”


Anne McRae: “I like your message, it reminds me of something I heard years ago--God won’t do what I can do, and will do what I can't do.

            “I am a child of God but he expects me to grow up and do what I can -- sort of like us letting our children become adults. It is easier sometimes ‘to do it myself’ but a child does not learn that way.”


Dave Denholm: “If I were to own up to believing in an inferior god, or in anything other than the almighty superior god, the church would say that I am an a-theist, a heretic; my ordination would be in jeopardy because I can no longer affirm the historic statements of the church ... Thank goodness I am retired.”


Jim Henderschedt: “What an insightful piece. Much of the theology of the ‘Cosmic Christ’ echoes your sentiments. So much intolerance exists and is practiced today due to exclusivity and a false sense of religious superiority. Kudos to you for raising the important questions that have been avoided for centuries.”


Nancy Hardy: “In 1962, I listened to a sermon preached by Roy Wilson in which he said that God is not perfect (gasp). I was reminded of that when I read your column. Like Roy’s sermon, I liked it a lot.”






Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 feels to me like the last desperate cry of a person drowning in a sea of sorrows. I’ll let you fill in your own circumstances.


1          The winds of fate buffet me, Lord.
I cling to you.

2          Gales of temptation try to tear me from my security.
I'm being blown away, Lord. I need shelter.

3          Give me something to hold onto;
don't let all the effort you put into me go to waste.

4          I went way out on a limb for you, Lord;
don't let your foes cut me off.

5          I can't hang on any longer;
I cast my fate to the winds. Don't abandon me now!

15         My life is in your hands.
I've lost control. Only you can save me.

16         Bring back the sunshine and the gentle breezes, Lord.
If you love me, save me!


For paraphrases of most of the psalms used by the Revised Common Lectionary, you can order my book Everyday Psalms from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.





        Ralph Milton most recent project, Sing Hallelujah -- the world’s first video hymnal -- consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at www.singhallelujah.ca

        Isabel Gibson's thoughtful and well-written blog, www.traditionaliconoclast.com

        Wayne Irwin's "Churchweb Canada," an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://www.churchwebcanada.ca>

        Alva Wood's satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town are not particularly religious, but they are fun; write alvawood@gmail.com to get onto her mailing list.

        Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at twatson@sentex.net






If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

            To subscribe or unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to jimt@quixotic.ca. Or you can subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message or subject line) to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at softedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

            My webpage is up and running again -- thanks to Wayne Irwin and ChurchWeb Canada. You can now access current columns and about five years of archives at http://quixotic.ca

            I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca






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