Friday, September 12, 2008


Of many creatures.

rather than continuing in my tradition of posting beautiful unattributed images that I found floating around unattributed on the web, I've decided to cut you all in on one of the most lovely image sites I've found.

If anyone out there reads Russian, feel free to let me know what it says. :),1,raboty_prizera_mezhdunarodnykh_konkursov_fotografa_dikojj_prirody_tim_flach.html

Thursday, September 11, 2008

loosing peace with more

For a long time, I worked hard to be easy to talk to, easy to understand, and easy to get along with. I'm glad I've had that experience, but it didn't end entirely well for me. I can do it, but it's stressful. . . and more importantly, I'm not sure that approach is what I want to support.

I question how I ought to interact with others. I don't want to hurt people's feelings--in fact, I want very badly not to, which makes it painful for all involved when I mess up and don't understand why.

Still, I blunder on, haunted by certain questions-- especially,

Why not expect more of people?

The world I see around me is in shreds.

I could say a lot about the political and economic catastrophes that lead to the more personal circumstances I'm about to describe. Those things would be important, and true. What is more relevant here, though, is a net profit of empty relationships and empty lives.

To many of my more conservative friends and family members, I must mention that I don't know the America you grew up in, or the one you live in now; I only know your experience of this place must be different from mine.

The people who have been closest to me, besides my family, are mostly young and single. They struggle to pay rent and to get an education; some of them are dying, in their early twenties, from cancers of unknown source. Many have been homeless; some are raising children they had when they were still children themselves. Nearly all have already been ground into depression by the Promethean tasks of modern "life".

They work jobs where they are disposable and have virtually no time for education or human relationships. They rarely have mentors who can help them learn the skills of survival and stability, or even temporarily aid them with the enormous economic burdens of childrearing, health problems, or education. They struggle for what to identify with in a world where they, and all the people around them, are primarily commodities, and they respond accordingly--generally by buying all they can.

Most importantly, they have no sense of power to shape their own lives; their outlook is of survival, or of drifting, or of determined conformity in a stream they never could control.

And these, we may note, are not the people being raped, displaced, dismembered or starved in Africa, tortured in China and Cuba or bombed in Georgia and the middle east. These are but a few of the casualties closest to home.

All this is merely an attempt to put into the most accessible terms my motivation: the world doesn't have to be this way. I am profoundly fortunate to have an education, and profoundly obligated to use what resources I have to bring about change.

When I am provocative, demanding, or controversial, it is because of the part of me that can't help but think that every person who lives without that sense of obligation only contributes to this inferno. Part of me never wants ever to judge, and another part thinks we all belong in hell. Both parts want me and everybody else to be better.

I want us to be smarter and more passionate, to work harder, to try longer, to never forgive ourselves and never give up. I want us to plan better, to sacrifice more, to build more awareness and more skills and more actions till we've made solutions.

I want us to cultivate a stronger morality until we actually make it happen.

I want to live in a world where being "well adjusted" no longer means having patience with injustice and accepting that there is everything going wrong and nothing you can do about it.

I have no idea how to reconcile wanting more.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

not a drop

I've just watched this documentary, called A World Without Water, which seems to have been recorded off of British television almost commercial free.

In case any of you didn't know, over the past fifteen months or so, I've watched several hundred documentaries. This is in my top ten. To be fair, this is the first I've seen that dealt exclusively with the global water crisis, which is pretty compelling material. Still, even if there is a better version of it out there, this is. . . well. . . compelling.

I think the most interesting thing about it is how it neatly skirts the basic ideas of economics, sort of grazing them as it passes by. It abandons them in favor of a foundational assumption which it never quite articulates, but which, I think, lies near the center of a lot of controversy.

That assumption? That we both can and should make a moral choice to maintain certain things outside the reach of the market. In itself this is not a controversial idea, at least in most quarters. Outright chattel slavery is perhaps the clearest example; as a culture we seem to have come to the conclusion that it's not OK to legally own each other, no matter how profitable it might be or how much it might benefit the common good.

The case this film makes, then, is that water should fall in that same category--that as a matter of human decency, it should not be so commodified.

I'd have liked to see more about how the river privatization "irrigation schemes" had been "fabulously successful" in Africa, and otherwise heard more about the other side, but however biased, this is really an interesting and thought-provoking film.

If you're looking for a particularly striking/thought-provoking experience, do as I did and watch it right after the first part of Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke, an exceptionally well crafted telling of the Katrina disaster. Between them they do wonders in broadening one's perspectives on water.