In September 2014, the National Book Foundation awarded Ursula LeGuin its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to recognize a lifetime of literary achievement.
In her acceptance speech LeGuin had this to say about the power of art, change, and envisioning alternatives:
Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.
Right now, we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximise corporate profit and advertising revenue is not the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.…
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
A week ago I tweeted a link to a stunning collection of dramatic photos from protests around the world in 2014. It was an amazing year: Ayotzinapa, Bangkok, Catalonia, Euromaidan, Ferguson, Hong Kong, Taksim…
But it bugged me that such a list omits the many protests in 2014 that were less spectacular or photogenic, but just as vital to the participants.
So for your consideration, a heatmap of protests across the world in 2014:
I drew the data from the GDELT project, which monitors media around the world and logs people, places, organizations, and events into an open database. Doubtless, many actions did not receive the media hit necessary to make it into the dataset, but the map gives a better sense of the breadth of activity this year.
2015 should be interesting.
Happy new year!
There have been some fantastic graphics coming out of Occupy Central in Hong Kong, but this brief chronology of the Umbrella Movement in comics is one of my favorites thus far. It was drawn by Dolly for Passion Teens Weekly.
It’s fascinating seeing elements of pop cultural representations of protests feed back into the visual vocabulary of real political protests in the streets:
“Do u hear the people sing,” a banner at the protest in Hong Kong right now comes from the title of a song in Les Misérables, that hugely successful Broadway musical set during French Revolution.
This past June, Thailand’s Junta warned protesters: “[T]hey are monitoring a new form of silent resistance to the coup — a three-fingered salute borrowed from “The Hunger Games” — and will arrest those in large groups who ignore warnings to lower their arms.”
And of course, the Guy Fawkes mask from Alan Moore's comic book V for Vendetta, later adapted into a Hollywood movie, was adopted by various Occupy protestors.
Related, the Pink Bloque (2001-2005) was a Chicago-based radical feminist dance troupe challenging the white supremacist capitalist patriarchal empire one street dance party at a time.
The group used matching pink outfits, choreographed dance routines, and humor as tactics to draw attention. For instance, performing Janet Jackson’s Nasty in front of Chicago Police Department, and Outkast’s Hey Ya! at a pro-coice rally, and in the face of anti-abortion protestors.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the poem All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. It’s a classic of American infantilism, that innocence, heart, and “values” are more important than thinking. I’m all for the sharing and wonder celebrated in the original, but it’s notable the teachers are conspicuously absent. They are an invisible benevolent force, a manifestation of good-natured fairness guiding the core values of the room — not inappropriate for poem written by a minister. When power and authority are invisible, it makes sense that it all seems normal and natural.
I found this not to be the case. Having just put my daughter through Kindergarten, her first engagements with teachers and classroom discipline were hardly invisible. In fact, navigating power and order was a hallmark of the year. As such, it was interesting to draw out other lessons from the experiences of these little people engaged with a bureaucracy for the very first time. So here are other things to know I learned from Kindergarten: