“In a society in which nearly everybody is dominated by somebody else’s mind or by a disembodied mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn the truth about the activities of governments and corporations, about the quality or value of products, or about the health of one’s own place and economy.
In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. And as our private economies become more abstract, the mutual, free helps and pleasures of family and community life will be supplanted by a kind of displaced or placeless citizenship and by commerce with impersonal and self-interested suppliers…
Thus, although we are not slaves in name, and cannot be carried to market and sold as somebody else’s legal chattels, we are free only within narrow limits. For all our talk about liberation and personal autonomy, there are few choices that we are free to make. What would be the point, for example, if a majority of our people decided to be self-employed?
The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth – that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community – and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.”
― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
“I did not set out to design a geodesic dome, I set out to discover the principles operative in Universe. For all I knew, this could have led to a pair of flying slippers.”
(This relates somewhat to the book I am working on.)
I recently said no to a contest featuring my books in a popular teen mag. The prize was some postcards of mine that were completed by celebrities. I turned it down because I feel that our society has an unhealthy obsession with celebrity culture, and a need to glorify superficial qualities in people (mainly appearance) and make them into role models. This is a terrible message to send to teenagers, who are often in a difficult and challenging place emotionally, and feeling physically and socially insecure at the best of times. I was at that age. I’d like to start a movement where kids are able to see the cult of celebrity for what it is. The selling of fantasy, with a focus on “selling”, and a fixation on the superficial.
This week I read an interesting article that helped me to relax my “anti-celebrity” stance somewhat, (I believe the author is Alain de Botton, who founded the school). The School of Life posted “Why We Need Better Celebrities”, which talked about how humans have always had an inherent need for role models,
“Rather than try to suppress our love of celebrity, we ought to channel it in optimally intelligent and fruitful directions. A properly organised society would be one where the best-known people (the ones whose parties and holiday photos and clothes and new hairstyles we looked at most often) were those who embodied and reinforced the highest, noblest and most socially beneficial values.”
Aahhh, yes. Let’s start a new celebrity movement, one that seeks out people who kick ass in many different ways (who don’t just have a cool haircut, but also intellect and vision.)
Let’s also celebrate our own unique thoughts, perspectives and gifts! Let’s focus on genuine qualities in people, kindness, compassion, fortitude, determination, creativity, persistence, vulnerability, etc. Doesn’t that sound better?
For a good example of promoting solid role models, (and a genuine voice) I highly recommend Rookie Mag, they have been doing this very well for a few years now! (I so wish I had this mag when I was a teen.)
(Maybe I should revisit the contest idea, with a new approach. Hmmmnn. The way to influence culture in a healthy way is to ask for the changes you wish to see.)
I am VERY proud and honored to share with you a project I have been working on with the Post Carbon Institute. Myself and 11 other artists were asked to create posters for the Public Energy Art Kit. I also did a short video about the creation of the piece. (and I got to draw my bike). Yay!
I believe that our brains, our privacy and our lives are being slowly hijacked by mass media. This applies to all media but the internet is the most recent to fall to the dark side. It happens slowly, over a long period of time, and we hardly notice it while it is happening. Our private brain space has been infiltrated with a lot of stuff that is of little to no value (invasive advertising in every corner of our lives), and it happens on a regular basis without our permission. Over time some of the messages from these things have the potential to creep into our psyches and wreak havoc. As well we may have feelings of mental overload, and a feeling of unease without really knowing the source. Our brains after all are sensitive instruments, how can we expect them to function at high capacity when they are overloaded and overstimulated? We know that if we have a diet of junk food, that our bodies do not function well and begin to fail us. Why is that we are willing to accept filling our psyches with crap also?
I have noticed recently that the internet is undergoing another period of change, one where we are now being forced to watch ads (on Youtube for example) in the same manner as television (if we wish to participate in the medium of video sharing). Let’s be clear about something, a medium that is driven by ad revenue is no longer democratic and unbiased. This new development means that video sharing on Youtube, or any other medium that has regular advertising (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Goodreads, Flickr, blogs) no longer gives power to the people. It/they exists only to create ad revenue.
And guess what? YOU are now the ad. Not only are we forced to watch the ads but we are actually being used to create them without our permission, (or at least our conscious permission, apparently we should have read the fine print).
IF we are to inhabit a position of strength and retain our sense of selves, we need to take our power back. The companies who are forcing advertising on us and taking our rights and privacy away can only function if we hand our power over to them. We can say no, I’m not going to use them anymore. No I am not going to be used to create ad revenue for a large corporation who is acting immorally. We CAN use our voice by choosing who and how we align ourselves. We can place a high value on our brain space and not let it be infiltrated on a daily basis and filled with crap. We can choose something better. Something healthier. Something that adds something of value to the world. So what is a good alternative to Facebook? I am not sure about the answer to that. Why don’t we create it ourselves? The internet began with some really amazing communities that started small and grew.
I am putting out a call to all creatives out there. We need some alternatives. That are not ad driven but people driven, compassionate, fair, lawful, honest, driven by integrity. One of the reasons people use Facebook is that there are few alternatives. I know there are people out there who are already working on these things. (So often they start out with such wonderful intentions only to sell the company for large amounts of money and let it turn into another ad driven, ugly, piece of crap (Flickr) with no regard for its users.) I will make my stand by opting out. But we need somewhere to redirect the energy.
I know we can do better. I believe in us. Let’s start with a new vision of the future. We need some new leaders. Are you willing?
Cole Skory (15) is wrecking his journal via video series (yes, I know there are a lot of you now). They also have a fun website: http://theskorys.com/videos/
Warning: Do not watch this video if you are squeamish around chocolate and applesauce!
I really had no idea how far this book would reach on social media. It’s amazing really! I can’t keep up with it all.
In other news, I was asked to write a blurb for a new book called “Amaze” by my magician friend Ferdinando Buscema and his partner Mariano Tomatis. I will tell you more about the book at a later date, (suffice to say it will definitely be on my top ten list for the year!) Mariano wrote a post about “This is not a book”, and his solutions to “make this page as big as possible” and “make this page as small as possible” are damn clever. (And you can read my blurb in the post. Which will be a bit of a tease as the book has not been released in english yet. The Italian version is due out in April, so if you can read Italian all the better!)