Wednesday, February 08, 2006

So I've started my assignment and so far it's a lot of office work, which is a challenge for me since I haven't spent eight hours in an office in, well, EVER. Overall the staff is great and very happy to have us, even though everyone is so busy it took a while for them to figure out what they wanted us to do. We got taken on lots of tours the first two days and got to see an amazing in-school performance.

That's all good but what I really want to ask everyone is totally unrelated to this VISTA assignment. I'm working on compiling and editing a progressive journal with another artist/activist friend of mine and we wanted to open it up to contributions. This means you! The working theme of this issue is "transported," and so far the articles and artwork relate to community, collaboration, environmental issues, compost, transportation, politics, spirituality, and of course art. i'm posting a rough draft of the editorial written by my co-editor below. Please feel free to edit and revise it or respond to it, post it here or mail it directly to me, and we'll consider whatever you submit for the journal. You're all also invited to contribute digital images of your artwork if you so please. The journal is distributed free becasue we get it printed free, but you'll get a copy if you contribute or probably even if you ask for one.

Thanks everyone, and I hope you're all settling in nicely.

THis ONe #8
Editorial TRansported
(beherenow, over the top, take your pick)
Maybe it's just me, but these seem like times that try the human soul.
When we (in the literary sense) began our work to publish this latest edition, it was our intention to focus on what's happened since our last publication of a positive nature, and to celebrate with more original art. During the past months of gathering materials there have indeed been bright moments, encouraging news of positive change. and yet there is the other side of the coin too, and there's no getting around that. So we're torn- between the need to affirm what deserves affirmation and encouragement...and the need to call attention to what needs critique. The affirmation part feels pretty easy, and enjoyable- up to the point where it feels like being a pollyana. Celebrating incramental gains and well-intentioned efforts that have minimal or negligable effect in the now, while our problems (environmental destruction, resource/power inequity) require individual and collective effort on the grand scale, the radical scale, well, at some point, we find ourselves saying "what the hell?" and then after awhile, we remind ourselves that there are two fundamental choices (within an infinite spectrum of choices, of course), and these are to do nothing or to make the most powerful effort possible, given one's understanding and abilities. Of course, making this grand effort may not save us from the cumulative effect of past or present folly, and yet somehow the human spirit demands of us that we make this effort. No matter how we slice it, learning to cooperate and share will make whatever is coming down the pike far easier to deal with.
OUr incramental efforts may indeed be far too little far too late to avoid massive changes in environment/weather patterns, of the sort that make life on earth MUCH more difficult for human habitation. Then again they may not. We just can't say for sure, given the long-term cause/effect cycles that our environment manifests. And of course, given our cultural orientation, this makes it harder for us to face the future we're creating, and to address it with radical cultural, individual and collective action.
What has been particularly frustrating in recent months is the evidence of just how comfortable we are, including self-proclaimed progressives, liberals, and activists, how given we are to protecting our own personal comfort even at the expense of the rest of the human family and our individual/collective futures. We Americans, comprising 4.5% of total global population, seem quite willing to go on consuming 30% or more of global resources, simply because we have grown used to this lifestyle. Knowing that this behavior (and the selfishness it manifests) is a fundamental cause of environmental destruction, violence, and other forms of human-caused suffering isn't enough to motivate individual or collective change. Some guilt maybe, but guilt rarely leads to positive changes in behavior.
And this motivates us to ask how we can get beyond guilt or complacency. In the end, it seems that educating oneself and making the effort to work with others for positive change are still the two most powerful things humans can do to bring about positive change. Until we learn about what is possible in the area of positive change, until we learn once again to imagine what is possible and let go of the mantra that "you can't change the world," we are stuck in guilt and complacency, doing the calculus of "take care of number one."
So yeah, we want to celebrate the good, we want to be "transported" by celebration of what good things we and others have done, are doing. At the same time, we cannot deny that at present we are being transported, carried along by spiritual/ethical systems, systems of transport, systems of resource use, that are leading us to a very unpleasant future, to speak politely and demurely. and in the end it is us who must choose to transport ourselves and the rest of humanity toward positive change, or not. From here, the choice seems obvious.


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