Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Obama, Bring Back the New Deal Arts Projects

January 14, 2009 By: Mel Category: Art, Politics, Seeking

Coit Tower Mural in San FranciscoArt isn’t usually the first thing on the agenda in a crisis. It isn’t fundamental to basic survival. But art is fundamental to addressing many of the issues that have gotten us into this mess in the first place.

In the 1930s, the Roosevelt administration started several federal programs which provided funding for artists. On the most basic level, the programs put artists like Jacob Lawrence to work. It also promoted United States art and culture, chronicled life in different parts of the country, and sometimes sponsored projects which tackled difficult social issues.

Seventy years later, public buildings throughout the United States are covered with murals steeped in history. Archives are filled with photographs of American life taken by New Deal artists. Museums hold paintings reminding us of the struggles that took place in securing the basic safety net that we take for granted today.

Perhaps this legacy doesn’t seem important to you, but hasn’t one of the main themes of this election been breaking down the divides between red state and blue state? Haven’t we been talking about the lack of understanding between different groups in the United States? Haven’t we been talking about the lack of understanding between us and the rest of the world?

Art teaches us about other people by enabling us to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Art appeals to the heart as well as the head and for that reason has the ability to transcend boundaries, to represent, to connect, and to mobilize. A Diego Rivera mural, a Bob Marley song, or an Almodovar movie help us to understand the worlds the artists are living in. They help us to create a dialogue. And in a world where so many problems require coordinated effort – poverty, environmental degradation, war – we need dialogue more than ever.

A new federal arts project would put American artists to work. It could document the road we have traveled to get here and the historic time we are in. Projects could show our common histories and values and help us visualize a new and better American identity for the future. It could help us share that vision with each other and with the rest of the world.

Confidence in our Financial System is Not What We Need

December 30, 2008 By: Mel Category: Seeking

The recession and gazillion dollar bailouts have provoked a whole slew of articles about the loss of confidence in our financial system.

Frank Rich says that the “wholesale loss of confidence is a catastrophe that not even the new president’s most costly New Deal can set right.” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in his October 14th statement justifying the bailout that “there is a lack of confidence in our financial system – a lack of confidence that must be conquered because it poses an enormous threat to our economy.”

The Bernie Madoff scandal has now set off a whole new slew of articles about the lack of confidence in Wall Street – articles like Bernie Madoff, Confidence Destroyer and Madoff Scam Saps Confidence in Wall Street. But nobody seems to be questioning the underlying premise that we should have confidence in these people. Isn’t too much confidence exactly what got us into this mess?

When I began my current employment, I dutifully filled out my 401k investment form. I glanced at the prospectuses for the funds I chose, but I didn’t know the companies that I was investing in. I never met the person who was responsible for investing my funds. I don’t read and investigate the claims of the companies in which my money is invested. I don’t know how they treat their employees or if they are dumping mercury in a lake somewhere. How many of us know?

Should we be handing over our money to people we don’t know to invest in organizations we know nothing about? Should we trust fallible humans with the power and temptation of dealing with billions of dollars? Power corrupts. Nobody is immune. And money buys a lot of power.

What I’m really saying is, shouldn’t we have seen this coming? Is it confidence that we need to cultivate or some healthy skepticism?