"There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes 'the practice of freedom,' the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."
—Richard Schaull, from the foreward for Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
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On display are posters from fifteen artists and designers, including the likes of Luba Lukova, the Guerilla Girls, and...get this...myself. It's pretty snazzy to be included with such good company.
The show has been extended through February 10th, with a closing reception on January 26th. For more details, download the announcement (PDF).
Visual Voices: The Freedom of Expression
Center Gallery, Fordham University Lincoln Center
113 West 60th Street | New York, NY 10023
Hours: Monday-Friday 10-8 | Saturday & Sunday 10-5
Through February 10th
Closing Reception: Tuesday, January 26th 5-7pm
Well, the results are in (sort of) for the Cooper Hewitt People's Design Award. My Re-nourish team has actually waited to post anything about the results because we were trying to find out what our final ranking was. Unfortunately, the Cooper Hewitt won't actually give us that information (nor will they release how many votes each nominee received).
Doesn't matter, though. The fact is, we placed in the top three, and we gave some pretty big players a run for their money. And way more important than that is that everyone who supported us sent a message that it's high time the design industry changes how it defines "good design."
Re-nourish believes design has to expand beyond politics, personalities, and mere aesthetics, and address—in real terms—both social and environmental impacts. Please read Re-nourish's full "thank you," because I think it says a lot about why we're doing this in the first place.
And please, let us know what your thoughts are—either here, or over there.
Thank you to everyone who voted, or has otherwise supported us as we continue to bring independent tools and information to working designers everywhere!
Wolf's basic premise is simple and hard to dispute: when studying dictators throughout the world's history, there are ten patterns of behavior that emerge that contribute to their rise to power, and George W. Bush and his administration has pursued each of these steps. While never outright calling Bush and his posse a fascist dictatorship, Wolf certainly connects many dots and sounds a clear warning. Paper coups are still coups.
The Ten Steps Towards Fascist Dictatorship
Wolf's arguments and examples in most cases are incredibly strong and well documented (including 14 pages of reference notes and a full bibliography). Unfortunately, there are stretches that undermine her message. She too often conflates the media (particularly the right-leaning outlets and blogosphere) with the administration itself, as when she hammers Ann Coulter for her book Treason. But these leaps become a little easier to swallow when we remember that much of Hitler's power lay in his use of ordinary citizens, as well as organized media, to further his message. Just because one's finger is not on the trigger doesn't mean they aren't responsible for the death.
- Invoke an external and internal threat.
- Establish secret prisons.
- Develop a paramilitary force.
- Surveil ordinary citizens.
Example: USA Patriot Act and TIPS
- Infiltrate citizen's groups.
Example: Talon and multiple state-level incidents
- Arbitrarily detain and release citizens.
Example: The TSA no-fly list, specific individual arrests
- Target key individuals.
Example: Direct Congressional pressure on academia, attorney firings
- Restrict the press.
Example: The outing of Valerie Plame, detainment of reporters, deliberate withholding of information
- Cast criticism as "espionage" and dissent as "treason."
Example: Revived use of the Espionage Act
- Subvert the rule of law.
Example: Military Commissions Act of 2006 (the suspension of habeous corpus), Fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill (the gutting of posse comitatus law)
That said, the book is by no means a simple comparison of Bush and Hitler. That would be too simplistic, and could be easily brushed off as left-wing rhetoric. Wolf's arguments transcend this, referencing more than just the obvious Nazi regime (who, after all, were simply better at such tactics than anyone else). Mussolini, Pinochet, Stalin and others all appear frequently to bolster her points. In fact, there are suprisingly few histrionics; Wolf spends much of her writing merely cataloging events and listing actions from different regimes side by side for the reader to compare.
While the book's premise is strongly supported by facts, it's the epistolary format and sheer number of wrongdoings that makes the book a little heavy-handed. Of course, this is the author's intention, but it would have been nice to see a few practical suggestions other than be aware, be vigilant offered to the reader. I suspect this omission is deliberate, though. Wolf's aim is to awaken, not necessarily to direct. She is asking her reader to consider the true meaning of patriot, someone who actively participates in and engages with one's civic society. And to do so, one must first pay attention.
And with chilling examples, Wolf demands our attention. In the end, it's extremely difficult to write off such examples as merely rhetoric, or such warnings as unlikely to occur. Small events become significant when placed against the backdrop of government, as when she describes a TSA agent forcing a mother to prove the substance in her baby's bottle is really breastmilk by drinking it herself: "In Benito Mussolini's era, one intimidation tactic was to force citizens to drink emetics and other liquids...Of course, baby formula is not an emetic. But a state agent—some agents are armed—forcing a citizen to ingest a liquid is a new scene in America."
When the scenes play out, and the layers are peeled back, and the dots begin to connect, what remains are nagging questions: how far does the administration have to go it before its citizens refuse to cooperate? How many democratic protections must be suspended before the public demands its rights back? How many secret armies, Blackwaters, must be formed? How many innocent citizens must be harrassed, jailed, persecuted before their peers step up in their defense? On Tuesday, we heard one answer to these questions.
So, perhaps the recent election signalled The End of America over before it began. What sense is there in rehashing the last eight years, after all, when we all want to move forward? The truth is, it would be dangerous to sit back and rest easy. The Bush administration did a lot of damage; it took an extended series of measured, deliberate steps to maintain and grow its power at the expense of the U.S. Constitution. Those changes will still be operable under the new presidency—we need to know them, to study them, to be able to roll them back.
Wolf's book is, if no longer a warning of imminent danger, at the very least a guide to serious legal issues that need to be addressed by the still-forming Obama administration. So much of the Bush administration's activities were carried out in the shadows of a disinterested, and therefore uninformed, electorate, that one can only hope that Tuesday's engagement was the mark of an extended era, and not merely an emotional hiccup. The end of America may have been delayed, but this book remains a damning documentation of how close we were, and are.
Whether you read the book or not, I highly recommend watching the following presentation, in which Wolf outlines her premise and presents incredible evidence to support it. A more polished version (with commercials) is also available from SnagFilms.
While I understand that a certain portion of the population are morally opposed to gay marriage (me, not so much), I simply don't agree that it's okay to write inequality into the law. I see this as a civil rights issue, plain and simple. The problem is that Prop 8 has some pretty big-money backers, and they've taken some pretty underhanded approaches to pushing Prop 8 on the people, including claiming that by not redefining marriage, it will somehow mean California schools will start teaching kids to be gay. It's a pretty big reach, but anything goes in politics these days. So sad.
Anyway, I went ahead and created a flyer you can download and distribute—hang it in your store front, give it out at rallies, wheat paste it across your town (whatever you do, make sure it's legal).
(New) Instructions for Download:
1. Click once on the image below to open it in a new window.
2. Right-click (or option-click) on the new image.
3. Select "Save Image As" and choose your folder.
4. Select "Save."
The image above is a small, low-res version. For the full 8.5 x 11 image, click on the thumbnail above.
Rights and Permissions!
You may reproduce, distribute and display this poster anywhere and everywhere. You may not sell it, or alter it in anyway. If you distribute it, I'd love to see photos of your event or action.
"We will delete comments which deny the absolutely overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, just as we would delete comments which questioned the reality of the Holocaust or the equal mental capacities and worth of human beings of different ethnic groups. Such 'debates' are merely the morally indefensible trying to cover itself in the cloth of intellectual tolerance."As most of the posters to date acknowledge, the WorldChanging staff is perfectly within its rights to moderate and even delete comments on its site. Yet the way in which Steffen has chosen to word the announcement is so anathema to the stated objectives of the site that it begs the question: what the hell are you thinking? If the producers of WorldChanging are truly interested in "how best to collaborate, how to build coalitions and movements, how to grow communities, how to make our businesses live up to their highest potential and how to make the promise of democracy into a reality," then isn't it a little disingenuous to prohibit open discussion about a scientific theory?
Maybe, and then again, maybe not. According to yesterday's post, WorldChanging's decision to delete such comments is based on the premise that climate change is a scientific fact and, as such, to deny it is "morally indefensible." This is, of course, absurd. It's no different than Christians calling non-Christians sinners and damning them to hell - it makes for a dramatic stance, but casting aspersions isn't really solving a damn thing. Nor is it trying to solve anything. And just to drive the point home, it's not even true.
Let's just say that climate change is a scientific truth and the debate is, in fact, over (you don't hear me arguing). Steffen's position (or is it WorldChanging's? It's not entirely clear, but I suspect we'll get a clarification soon enough) is that denying this physical phenomenon is morally equivalent to denying human equality. But this is an apples-to-oranges comparison; physical science and philosophical constructs are observed and measured on different scales. We could, I suppose, get into an argument about whether or not human equality really is a philosophical construct, but that would lead us to the whole "God-given right" thing, and I would argue that God is himself a philosophical construct. So let's just skip that (or not, you tell me).
Steffen would be much better off simply accusing climate change deniers of being raving lunatics who don't share the same reality as the majority of the population, and prohibit such comments on those grounds. But he didn't take a scientific stand, he took a moral stand. He hopped up on that soapbox and blasted away. Sure, WorldChanging has every right to moderate comments on its own blog. But at some point, an editorial staff needs to decide whether or not such decisions undermine its own credibility. Especially when that credibility hinges on bringing people together using innovative thinking and design models.
The sustainable design model by its very nature must consider all stakeholders when problem solving. And climate skeptics are certainly stakeholders in this environment, whether Steffen and his staff wish them to be or not. That means that if we're going to solve environmental problems - climate change problems - then we need to consider the skeptics as well. By denouncing them as moral sinners and driving them from the fold, we fail to truly address the very issues in which they are so deeply involved.
So if WorldChanging wishes to plug its ears and ignore the skeptics, then as they themselves state, "you're certainly welcome to your opinion." But doing so completely undermines their otherwise important attempts at bridging gaps, deepening understanding, and solving universal problems. And dammit, it gives the rest of us believers a really bad rep.
"Missing from USA Today's polling about electability was John Edwards--even though aside from Clinton and Obama, Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who consistently polls in double digits. And when other polls have included Edwards in questions about electability, Edwards generally does better than the other two, sometimes by wide margins. In a CNN survey of December 6–9, Edwards beat Romney by 11 points more than Clinton and 9 points more than Obama. He beat Huckabee by 15 points more than Clinton and 10 points more than Obama. Clinton lost to McCain in this polling by 2 points while Obama and McCain were tied, but Edwards beat him by 6. There's not as much of a difference with Giuliani, but Edwards still did 3 points better than Clinton and 2 points better than Obama."Whatever your political leanings, it should frighten and disturb you that your choices are being narrowed before you even know about them. Edwards is a viable Democratic candidate (to my mind, he happens to be the only one who doesn't sound like he's constantly blowing smoke up America's collective ass), but you'd never know it to watch the news or read a major metropolitan newspaper.
Sad, that. America deserves better; we should demand better.
Held at the New York Public Library, Here We Go Again: Orwell Comes to America was a recent conference focusing on propaganda in today's America—right here, right now—and how it hogties our public freedoms.
I tried to view the webcasts, in which some great academic minds debate what might be the most important issues of our contemporary society, but I couldn't get the video to work properly (I'm on a Mac, and I believe they use Windows Media Player or whatnot). Maybe you'll have better luck.
Another riveting lecture (no, seriously), is Naomi Wolf's discussion of American fascism and our current administration's echoes of previous dictatorships. It's quite well-reasoned and frighteningly enlightening. Instead of watching the latest episode of Lost or 24, watch this:
"Effective Jan. 1, dairies selling milk in Pennsylvania, the nation's fifth-largest dairy state, will be banned from advertising on milk containers that their product comes from cows that have never been treated with rBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin."That's right—dairies are no longer allowed to let their customers know that they don't give rBST to their cows. The result is that customers will have no way of knowing which dairy products they buy are hormone free (unless they buy certified organics).
The law is likely going to spread (New Jersey and Ohio are next) as Monsanto, the country's largest producer of agro-chemicals used on our nation's food supply, lobbies state governments to increase the ban. Their logic? Letting customers know what's not in our milk "implies that competitors' milk is not safe."
There is something excruciatingly perverse about this ruling, and it's not just that agribusiness and government are trying to keep information from consumers. What's really perverse is that dairies are labeling their milk "rBST free" because consumers want them to; it adds value to the product. Monsanto recognizes this, and instead of adapting their business paradigm to meet this dramatic shift in consumer demand, they are forcing consumers to conform to their standards. That's not really how the free market is supposed to work, though, is it?
Update [11.28.07]: "...early last week Gov. Ed Rendell's office initiated a review of the decision...Chuck Ardo, press secretary for Mr. Rendell, said the governor's office heard complaints from elected representatives of rural districts and agriculture lobbyists, prompting the review." [full story via The Ethicurian]
Update [01.17.08]: The ban's been reversed! [References via The Ethicurian]
Full story from STLtoday.com
Bovine growth hormone information from the Organic Consumers' Association
List of rBST free dairy producers
The program (which, I believe, was developed by someone in Germany) is based on the technique used by governments like China in which a user's internet habits are tracked as they enter information online. Typically, censoring governments log search engine entries and URL entries, and if the offending site is restricted the user either is denied access to the site or gets their internet connection shut down completely. So, for example, Googling "Tiananmen democracy movement" might either return very few results, or shut down your internet connection.
Picidae allows you to enter an URL via their servers, and returns an image map of the target URL, as opposed to an html page. The links remain clickable and simple forms can still be filled out (so you could search Google all day long).
It's a brilliant concept, a potentially revolutionary system. I can only hope that the inability to access picidae.net at this moment is due more to some kind of access overload than to something more insidious.
[Edit: The Picidae site appears to be up and running now.]
China has the dubious distinction of joining a dozen other countries in enforcing an internet "black hole." The above map, produced by Reporters Without Borders, shows us who is not allowed to freely surf the net throughout the world. Some of these countries filter out sites that disagree with the ruling government, some monitor and log users' internet activity, others ban private service providers and still others go as far as to imprison those who use the internet to freely express themselves.
While it strikes me as unforgivably unjust that our global economy continues to support such political oppression, maps like the one above remind me how deeply graphic depictions of this kind of injustice can strike a chord. With so much visual clutter bouncing off our retinas, it's nice to see some meaningful messages being sent through the airwaves and internet tubes, too.
(Don't forget to ask yourself: how does the U.S. fare in all of this?)
[via Strange Maps]
Welcome to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the mayor has outlawed all outdoor signage. He's been called a fascist for doing so, hailed as a visionary, and generally gotten a whole lot of publicity. But will it work? Will stripping the city bare really mark a "victory of the public interest over private, of order over disorder, aesthetics over ugliness, of cleanliness over trash," as writer Roberto Pompeu de Toledo described the new law?
I can think of three possible arguments against the ban:
- It restricts free speech.
- It ignores the possibility that advertising might actually add to the public good.
- It will put an industry out of work and affect the livelihood of thousands of small businesses.
And what about the second argument? Is it possible that advertising isn't all evil? (Bill Hicks is rolling over in his grave as I type.) Gustavo Piqueira is a designer who "worries that much of the 'vernacular' lettering and signage from small businesses—'an important part of the city's history and culture'—will be lost." I think this is a valid point. Hand painted signs, storefronts and artisan vendor advertising all add to a visual language that is inevitably unique to the community that produces it. Can it be ugly? Sure. Should it be banned? Not so sure.
And, of course, there is the final question of money; only time will tell if the law will put people out of work and negatively impact Sau Paulo's economy. I suspect it will cause more problems than it solves, although the government does expect to slowly allow a more regulated advertising industry back on the streets.
But more importantly, it raises some interesting questions about what is and what isn't culturally worthwhile. Will stripping away ads while leaving the physical framework really look better? And will it impact consumer habits? I have to admit that I'm excited that a city as large as Sau Paulo has actually taken such a dramatic step to find out, regardless of whether or not it's the right step. Some questions you just can't answer without actually acting first.