Friday, March 23, 2007

Feminism in Art and Barack Obama

Lack of vision and

How we know what we know

One of my favorite themes to write about is “How we know what we know.” That means, when the witness is in the chair, how do I know if he’s telling the truth? It means, when I’m hearing a story, what aspects of the story should concern me? What should pique my awareness? Why does the truth seem to fail to cross generational lines?

Three days ago I was at “Art Talk”, a local group of artists and connoisseurs. The subject was “feminism in art”.

One of the participants made the comment I hear more and more. It comes not only from the women’s movement, but the civil rights movement, the labor movement, and others. The woman’s complaint was that the current generation is not as in tune to women’s issues as the last generation. She went down the line. No awareness of the suffragist movement, no awareness of equal rights, of equal pay, of Title VII, Title IX, no awareness of central figures in the movement.

The speaker made a further list of why the current generation is not as aware of the conflicts and struggles of the past generation. Those reasons include a cushier life style and the catch all “they’re being provided with all they want and need.”

I understand the concern. Oh, how I understand. The concern is why this is happening. And that is easy to answer. A mentor of mine had a favorite scripture to answer this question. It was Proverbs 29:18 of the King James Version, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Emotion is what makes life real to us. Intellect can guide and inform us, but it is emotion that spurs us to action. Even when the current generation knows about the suffering of the past generation, it is an intellectual thing. It is an abstraction and never gets related to the issues of the day. It has little reality and thus there is little call to action. The generation with no emotional attachment to the past will drift away and look for other more immediate, pressing and emotionally arousing concerns. When the present generation of women perceives that they can pursue any career, apply to any college, get a job at any level, they will lose interest in their mother’s fight and seek out their own. Once the current generation has the ability to do so, they will short circuit what was holding back the prior generation and work straight toward the ultimate goal of the prior generation, capture the flag and then seek their own conquests.

Unfortunately, the goals of the prior generation, the goals of the civil rights movement, of the labor movement, of the women’s movement have been perceived as personal economic development. And when the goal is “to get mine”, once the goal is reached, the movement is no longer needed.

Many of my friends who were black, or my friends who were female or my friends in the labor movement have had goals which were to attain equality. Equality with white people, or men, or captains of industry. I’ve always recommended that they needed to set their goals much higher. The goal needs to be the well being of all those around us, not just our own well being. If we attain our own well being in the midst of the squalor of out neighbors, how can we be safe, at ease, or at peace. Should we follow the current Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, INC doctrine? Should we go to war with the rest of the world?

The question, of course, is what to do about today's lack of vision.

Barack Obama is interesting, and sincere and it is what he has been doing to focus our eyes on the higher goals which has been stoking the fires of his popularity.

Obama has been giving us a vision. He has been making us aware that we have not been told the truth. This is not the greatest country in the world any longer. In fact this country is in crisis. And the old solution of starting a war is not bringing us out of the crisis.

This country needs to go back to the understanding of the 40s, 50s, and 60s that prosperity for the nation does not come by trickle down economics. We do not live off crumbs from the master’s table.

Economic prosperity begins at the bottom. In a cash to cash cycle economy, hoarding cash at the top among the rich leads to ruin for all. Prosperity comes from more and more cash circulating at faster rates at the bottom of the pyramid. At the personal level. Not necessarily at inflationary speeds and not necessarily at the “Pocket Fisherman” retail level which lead to the inflation of the 70s. But prosperity does begin at the road repairing, school building, hospital building, and health care providing level of the people.

If Obama can give the nation visions like this, he can lead us out of the pit.

But be aware. The remnants of the Nixon dirty tricks squads are still out there. If we let ourselves be sidetracked by the manufactured rumors of Obama and Clinton lobbing personal attack grenades at each other’s campaigns, we are doomed.

If you want to strike a blow against the deterioration of the movements of the last century, ask a young person if they have ever heard of Nixon’s “Dirty Tricks” divisions. - © 2007 The Chewed End All rights reserved.

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Seamus O'Bròg is an artist and freelance writer who tries to turn life's irritations into life's lessons.

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