Thursday, December 21, 2017

When wealth becomes murder...

I have nothing against the reasonable accumulation of wealth. Please, go out and work hard and earn a good living. Make a comfortable life for yourself. Provide well for your family. Buy that nice car, heck, buy two or three. Build your dream house, if you want have a second one on a tropical beach somewhere. Travel the world, enjoy nice meals, I hope that you can accumulate enough wealth to have a pleasant and wonderful life.

But do you need 100 cars? Do you need ten mansions? Do you need a Swiss bank account overflowing with money that you will never spend?

Have you ever considered what all of your wealth means to other people? You may think you are a wonderful person because you use your wealth to build business empires that employ large numbers of people, but that has nothing to do with generosity. Employment is a transaction, you exchange money for labor, and in most cases you pay as little as you can possibly get by with. You don't provide jobs out of the goodness of your heart or to make the world a better place, you hire the minimum number of people and pay the lowest possible wages to get the benefit you desire, more wealth for you to hoard.

Wealth is not a zero sum game over a long period of time. New wealth can, in rare circumstances, be generated from nothing. But at any given moment there is a set, limited, amount of wealth in the world. The gains of one mean that others will loose, at least in the short term. When a person has more wealth than they can ever use they are denying that wealth to everyone else. They are removing that money from the economy. They are preventing others from having the money required to feed their children properly or to get the medical care they need or to have suitable housing. When laws are passed to reduce funding for programs that help those in need so that the wealthy can gain even more wealth that they have no real use for it is even worse. It is promoting the suffering and death of those in need, It is, in my opinion, the indirect killing of those without wealth. It is class based genocide happening slowly enough that we don't notice it. It is murder.

In many countries around the world you will find "Duty to Rescue" laws on the books. These laws state that if you see someone in immediate danger you have a legal obligation to try and help them if you can do so without risking your own safety. If you stand by and do nothing you are breaking the law. We don't have laws like this in the US, the tax bill just passed shows that we favor the exact opposite idea. We know we have people in our country who are homeless and hungry and unable to get the medical care they need and we want to make things even harder on them. We want them to die.

There is nothing wrong with wealth, but excessive wealth should be seen for what it is, a crime against humanity. For now it seems we are happy living in a society where we think there are some perfectly acceptable, even commendable, ways of killing people. We can change this, at least we can change it if we haven't become too comfortable with the killing.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trump is a huge problem, but Trump isn't THE problem

Saturday my newsfeed on Facebook was filled with shock and horror at the events unfolding in Charlottesville,VA. White supremacist protesters using repulsive words and imagery turned to violence and terrorism against those who disagreed with them. Donald Trump tried to place the blame on everyone who was there when it was more than obvious who as truly to blame. Soon my newsfeed switched from reports of what was happening to attacks on Trump. People said he was the reason this terrible event had happened, they placed 100% of the blame directly on his shoulders.

It is easy to understand why they posts I was seeing moved in this direction. Trump has use racist rhetoric again and again. He has attacked the rights of transgender Americans. He has adopted hate as the primary message of his presidency. But Trump is not to blame for the events in Charlottesville.

Yes, Trump emboldened the Nazis and white supremacists and other un-American protesters that were there, there can be no doubt about that. But it can also not be denied that racism and hate existed long before Trump was ever born. America has a long history of hate and oppression and using hate to divide and oppress us. What we saw last Saturday was just a continuation of what has been going on in America since before it ever existed as a country. Trump did not cause this, he has simply opened the curtains and let the light shine in on this hate so some of us can see it more clearly, though for many it has always been crystal clear.

Now we are seeing more and more people speak out. That is a really wonderful thing, but they need to be speaking out about the real issue.

If you watched that horrible scene of a car running over pedestrians and thought to yourself "Trump has to be stopped" you need to stop and rethink things. Trump is terrible for America and I hope we can find a legal and peaceful way to make his stay in the Oval Office as short as possible. The thing is that getting rid of Trump won't solve our problems. Putting all of our efforts into getting rid of Trump is like taking a cough drop for lung cancer. Trump isn't our problem, he is only a sad symptom of our problems.

If we could some how manage to impeach Trump, an almost certain impossibility as things currently stand, we would all have a period of celebration, but in a few years we would find someone else, more or less like Trump back in the White House. Our House of Representatives and Senate and our state legislatures would still be filled with people more or less like Trump. Our problems would still remain, we would just be enjoying a few moments of false celebration over our accomplishment of very little. We shouldn't be as concerned with stopping Trump as we should be with stopping the hate that put him into office. If instead of fighting Trump we begin to fight hatred and misinformation and propaganda we will defeat Trump. More than that we will have defeated future Trumps. If we refuse to let racism and bigotry easily exist in America we will make it impossible for any more Trumps to ever get elected. If we take the time to escape our own bubbles, if we realize that while we are decrying racism on Facebook all of our friends on Facebook look just like us, if we put the effort into disowning our privilege, this is how we will defeat the present and future Trumps. If we only focus our anger on Donald J. instead of working to end the hate and ignorance that put him into power, we will fail and the Trumps will own our nation for the period of time they can avoid destroying it. Fight the disease,not the symptom. Work for the cure, not for self satisfaction. Worry about winning the war for the soul of our country, not the election. This is how we will make America greater than it has ever been.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I am an artist

Please forgive me, this post may be a bit rambling. I have indulged in my weakness for my favorite beverage tonight and that will probably effect my writing. But here goes, I hope you can make this journey with me.

I am an artist. This is a statement that may seem to be of great importance or it may just seem pretentious and self serving, both views are equally valid. The thing is that it took me a long time to be willing to say this, to admit this, to put this label on myself.

I have been fascinated by photography for a long time. It fits me. I am not a painter, I can't put what my mind sees down on a piece of paper or a canvas with a paint brush, I can't reproduce my thoughts with a pencil. But with a camera I can take what is in my mind and what my eyes find themselves drawn to and reproduce it in a form that others can see. This is wonderful and frightening because I have no idea how my thoughts and visions will be received. In the images I produce I am turning myself inside out and putting myself on display. You see all my talents and all my faults, all my insanity and all my rationality printed out on a piece of paper or presented on a screen. I am laid bare, I am naked in a way that taking all of my clothes off does not expose. I put myself out there as vulnerable and open as it is possible, at that moment, for me to be.

My images come from serious thought about science and rationality and how to represent these concepts in a digestible way. Most of the time I fail, not because I am wrong but because I am distracted. Distracted by the world, both inside and outside of my mind. I am a victim of my own perception and my inability to fully understand how the rest of the world perceives the world. When I see the color red I have no way of knowing if it is the same way that you see the color red. That prevents me from succeeding and gives me the drive and reason to keep trying. We do not live in a world, we live in a mass of interconnected worlds. All related but none identical.

This is why I hate being an artist, because I will always fail to achieve the goals I set for myself. It is also why I have no choice in what I am. I am an artist and I can't be anything else. My mind is only concerned with your mind, even if I have no idea who you are, my eyes only exist to explore what your eyes see, even if I will never know what that is.

I am currently working on an exhibit of my photographs that will be on display for just a few hours. I like that. What we all see is very temporary, it only seems fitting that my images will be on display for just a few hours. After this they will vanish, at least they will vanish for most people. A few will make my visions a permanent part of their world by purchasing my images or by searching them out on the internet. My images will become zombies, they will be neither dead nor alive. They will be undead and they will exist on paper, as digital files, and in a few people's minds, maybe feeding on them.

Art is not easy, this is why we aren't all successful artists. I remember being in an art museum and hearing someone say "I could do that" as they looked at a painting. They probably could, but many would say their ability doesn't matter, what matters is that they didn't do it. I disagree, the difference is that they weren't courageous enough to do it. They weren't willing to be critiqued, to hear the disparaging remarks. Or maybe they weren't willing to hear the compliments? Maybe they weren't willing to take the risk to try and feed their souls and stomachs by producing something that has no intrinsic value. Art can't protect you from the weather, it normally won't feed you, art rarely will put a roof over your head, but artists have no other choice, they have to do what they do, damn the consequences.

I am an artist, I finally had to admit it to myself. I didn't choose it, I am not sure that I want it, my value as a person is linked to how others perceive me and my work. I just hope that I don't waste who I am, I hope at least a few see value in what I do. I hope I am not a waste of oxygen. I am an artist. I hope I survive it.

If you are in the Nashville area I invite you to come see my work, to see me that I can't express any other way. Beautiful and Banal; Exploring the How and What of seeing