November 27, 2010

Where Is The Blood?

HUNGREED - A compound word (hungry and greed) 
seen on the sidewalk at 57th St. and Park Ave. in NYC

In an Op-Ed article titled Hiding From Reality published in the New York Times on November 19, 2010, Bob Herbert writes:

The wreckage from the recession and the nation's mindlessly destructive policies in the years leading up to the recession is all around us. We still don't have the money to pay for the wars that we insist on fighting year after year. We have neither the will nor the common sense to either raise taxes to pay for the wars, or stop fighting them.

State and local governments, faced with fiscal nightmares, are reducing services, cutting their work forces, hacking away at health and pension benefits, and raising taxes and fees. So far it hasn't been enough, so there is more carnage to come. In many cases, the austerity measures are punishing some of the most vulnerable people, including children, the sick and the disabled.

Further in the article, Mr Herbert writes:

All we are good at is bulldozing money to the very wealthy. No wonder the country is in such a deep slide.

. . . . . . . . 

I noticed with much interest the following powerful response in the Readers' Comments written by dad, nj.

Thank you, Mr. Herbert, for caring. I care, too. But I think these issues are less about denial and more about deception. "Highly developed" human societies tend to grow in favorable ways only in the event of certain circumstances, usually following a deteriorating spiral which begins with greed and manifests in war. When enough blood has been spilled, and given fortuitous leadership, a new society might be born, better than the one that preceded it.

The golden age of the American middle class, now coming to an end, was born of the crucible of World War Two. A national mobilization here in the U.S., complete with shared sacrifice, rationing, progressive taxation, and universal conscription set the stage for a comparatively unified culture and societal bonds which cut against issues of class, race, and educational inequalities. It did not, however, cure these issues, it merely eased them for a considerable time.

We are in dire straights (straits) again, but without the shared sacrifice and common sense of purpose. As a people, we are being viewed more and more as simply another accumulation of wealth being aggressively plundered by a new world order of privileged criminals, running under the flags of multinational corporations. We have little value as human beings, with little dignity granted. We are digits, being exploited for our value as consumers, or our value as "the insured," or our value as a nest egg which can be tapped through market forces, or better yet, end of life care.

I'm not saying that the great majority of people are without caring. I'm saying that our leaders are without nobility and that we are becoming buried in their convenient deceptions, all designed to part people from their resources, both potential and accumulated.

People cannot bond to things they don't believe in, not in a healthy way. Lies, deceptions, manipulations, and abuse of trust do not make for cohesive societies, and so ours is not.

But somewhere up there, in the rare air of the power-mad, people have plans for us, and it isn't going to be pretty.

You lament, on many occasions, the conditions of those of us who are left behind, as though we would want to be included in this spectacle, when many of the disenfranchised want nothing to do with "the man's" ideas of success because it is so corrupt. Sadly, the laws that exiles impose on themselves, their neighborhoods, and the families can be equally cruel and misguided, or more so.

I think people need to begin to recognize the real slave masters before they can embark on a real discussion of what ails us. Even so, the masters will never give up power willingly. They need to be confronted by forces greater than themselves and their egos. The rest of us are caught in their play. Some of us will endure, many will perish. When enough blood has been spilled, and with the good fortune of true leadership, we might emerge again, as an improved society. But those times are rare in the course of human history.

For my daughters' sake I am hopeful, but the depth of the lies we are being fed is almost unfathomable.

November 17, 2010

Love Is The Answer

During the holiday season, the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York will be exhibiting an eclectic Staff Picks show from December 9, 2010 through January 15, 2011. Following are my thoughts and selections for the show.

. . . . . . . . 

In a time of rhetoric and ideologies, I look again to creative thinkers to instill a sense of hope and human commonality. Two thoughtful lines from John Lennon's song "Mind Games" often come to mind:

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower, you got to let it, you got to let it grow

The photographs I have selected by Werner Bischof, Robert Frank, Dave Heath, Marc Riboud, and Josef Sudek all show small moments of beauty and possibilities. Peace and empathy must prevail if we are to indeed grow as a people.

- Pak So

. . . . . . . . 

Werner Bischof
Japan, c.1952

Robert Frank
Tulip, Paris, 1950

Josef Sudek
White Rose, 1950-54

Marc Riboud - Confrontation between a flower and the 
bayonets of soldiers guarding the Pentagon during the March 
for Peace in Vietnam, Washington, D.C., October 21, 1967

Dave Heath
New York City, 1959-61

November 8, 2010

Independent Moral Agents

Motherwell in his studio, New York, 1943 
Photograph by Peter A. Juley & Son

Excerpts from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell, edited by Stephanie Terenzio and first published in 1992 by Oxford University Press, NY:

The social condition of the modern world which gives every experience its form is the spiritual breakdown which followed the collapse of religion. This condition has led to the isolation of the artist from the rest of society. The modern artist's social history is that of a spiritual being in a property-loving world.

No synthesized view of reality has replaced religion. Science is not a view, but a method. The consequence is that the modern artist tends to become the last active spiritual being in the great world. It is true that each artist has his own religion. It is true that artists are constantly excommunicating each other. It is true that artists are not always pure, that some times they are concerned with their public standing or their material circumstance. Yet for all that it is the artists who guard the spiritual in the modern world.

. . . . . . . . 

But such pictures are also assertions of positive values, conscious or not, presentational structures (in the language of modern logic) there to be felt. In my own work, for instance, sometimes there is humor, a kind of blague as a critic recently wrote, with different ranges of reference - technical, social, and perhaps even metaphysical - I am not sure. Sometimes my essential loneliness creeps into the work, or anguish. But I try to suppress these qualities. It is more seemly to keep one's suffering to oneself. I resent it when I see that I was unable, on occasion, to muffle the shriek that lies deep in nearly everyone. My main effort is to come into harmony with myself, to paint as I breathe or move, or dream, to make works that are as natural in their execution, as inevitable in their ultimate form as a stone or a wall. To realize such an ideal is a lifelong task.

I take neither my subjects nor the mode of painting them from the world of intellectuals. I have been mainly a lyrical artist, a "poet," if you like, with occasional dramatic or satirical overtones. I loathe every form of ideology: politics, religion, aesthetics, domestic relations. I am interested in persons who are independent moral agents. Most "intellectuals" I have seen were quite properly labeled by a friend of mine, Harold Rosenberg, the poet, as "a herd of independent minds." But I also dislike painters who talk as though they were carpenters or some other kind of craftsman, who speak as though art is not a question of inspiration - of something in you that arises as simply, beautifully, and unpredictably as the flight of a bird.

. . . . . . . . 

A hundred years ago Leconte de Lisle wrote what could have been a dada slogan, "I hate my epoch." But the problem now, as then, is to change the epoch, not to pass through it uninvolved, like Duchamp's Young Man on a Train.

November 6, 2010

Apple Trees, Honey Bees and Snow White Turtle Doves

CAGW - The TV AD - "Chinese Professor" 
posted by fab4bear on YouTube

On election night this week, I turned on the television to watch a major network's coverage and was immediately sucker-punched by a loaded Citizens Against Government Waste ad that came on (see video above). Goodness ... select groups of the wealthy and their lapdogs don't even try to disguise their propaganda of control and fear anymore, do they? At least when creative marketers used to sell sugar water (see videos from the 1970's below) to the world, they would throw in a mini-rainbow coalition singing along to a heartwarming ditty to "connect" with the masses on a "deeper" level. 

Nowadays, ordinary citizens of the United States are easily hoodwinked to hate just about everyone and are encouraged to become the obedient fools our corporate kings and queens so very much want us to be. We're blinded and can't see the truth, even if it's right there in black and white in front of us.

Coca-Cola 70's Christmas Hilltop Commercial 
posted by cocacola86artgallery on YouTube

Excerpt from an October 14, 2010 New York Times article titled Boehner's Path to Power Began in Small-Town Ohio by Jennifer Steinhauer and Carl Hulse:

The culture wars that would later define the Republican Party were also far from the minds of the boys of Reading. "There just weren't as many issues then," said Jerry Vanden Eyden, Mr. Boehner's closest childhood friend. "You didn't know anything about gays, you didn't know anything about abortion, you didn't know anything about a lot of the social issues they got today," he said. "We didn't hear about it, didn't worry about it, didn't talk about it, didn't think about it."

It was work, and taxes, that politicized Mr. Boehner.

"Growing up, we were probably Kennedy Catholics because we were a strong devout Catholic family," said Bob Boehner, the congressman's older brother, who like all his siblings eventually switched party allegiance. "But the first time you get a real job and get your paycheck, you look down and you wonder, where's the rest of your money, and they explain to you that that's the tax you have to pay to the government, you start thinking more and more about becoming a Republican."

70's "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" Commercial 
posted by michend2003 on YouTube

Excerpt from an October 30, 2010 New York Times Op-Ed article titled It's Morning in India by Thomas L. Friedman:

India and America are both democracies, a top Indian official explained to me, but emotionally they are now ships passing in the night. Because today the poorest Indian maid believes that if she can just save a few dollars to get her kid English lessons, that kid will have a better life than she does. So she is an optimist. "But the guy in Kansas," he added, "who today is enjoying a better life than the maid, is worried that he can't pass it on to his kids. So he's a pessimist."

Yes, when America lapses into a bad mood, everyone notices. After asking for an explanation of the Tea Party's politics, Gupta remarked: We have moved away from a politics of grievance to a politics of aspiration. Where is the American dream? Where is the optimism?"