Thursday, December 29, 2011

Opening spaces for ourselves

Honestly, I am pretty tired (for now, at least...but I don't think I will be rejuvenated any time soon) of talking about the role of "government", "industry" and "education" to addressing the problems we face. We always hear from the industrial and corporate world, "Well, if the governments only did this, this and this, things would be okay," or "We need to deregulate," and so on and so forth. Government, on the other hand is dependent on the private sector more than ever before, whether it is for election campaign expenditures, taxes, war machinery, or whatever. Education seems to be the default answer to everything...and it's true. I do not disagree with that. Education (which to me means at bare minimum being equipped with knowledge and communication, cultural, analytical and critical skills that we can distill into critiques, appreciation, and wisdom to advocate for change, take action, tear down oppressive systems and forge ones, big or small, based more humane and ecologically sensitive values, and being able to live at peace with ourselves, our families, and communities...and not just something that provides us with a resume so that we can get a is clear that this isn't what our government thinks of the role of education) seems to be the default fallback for all conversations: "If we only educate people differently, or better, things will change." Well, no duh. But education and changes to it also take time to unfold, all the while while ecosystems are being destroyed, waters polluted, and more and more people getting obese by eating shitty food.

And so, I hear this government/industry/education discussion all the time...and barely anything changes. For example, let's talk about something that we all relate to--food. You all probably know or have heard of Jamie Oliver, the sustainable and healthy food advocate from Essex. His awesome work and efforts have won him great recognition and publicity--a TV show, and the 2010 TED Prize. I encourage you to watch his talk below.

Oliver is energetic and passionate. Watching his talk makes you want to jump up and do something. Oliver has done a tremendous job at figuring out systemic problems in food production and service in the US and elsewhere, and has talked passionately about how government and corporations need to change. In response, he gets something like this: "Tomato sauce on pizza is a vegetable, says Congress." Now, I don't want to hear about the lobbies, about government intervening in our lives, and such. We all know about this. And so given this mess, what can we do? How can we open spaces for ourselves to create movements, change or tear down "the system", find the chinks in the armor? I am inspired by JR, a photographer, graffiti artist, activist, and winner of the 2011 TED Prize. Watch his amazing talk below.

There seems to be something so unique and different and exciting about JR's approach to awareness and engagement. It seems that his approach touches at something deep and fundamental and raw. And clearly, he is changing communities, and the world. I wonder, how can we jump on a different wagon of engagement and activism, rather than the same, old approaches that always seem to get diluted?

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