You Don’t Have Much To Say

October 11, 2011

I just came across Al-Jazeera’s series titled Slavery: A 21st Century Evil, which I think is more than 110% appropriate for these Occupy Wall Street protests.

Let me take a tiny step back. Yesterday I was listening to Sean Hannity (my co-worker’s default radio station on the drive home). He interviewed a young lady (Zuni I believe her name was?) who made some decent arguments about the corporatocracy and what people should do. I pretty much agreed with everything she said, but then he asked her why or how the corporations should be punished. She didn’t have much of a response. It would have been the perfect moment to talk about the link between modern slavery and American corporations.

This, again, goes back to what I’ve been saying, what Kevin Bales says in Disposable People, and E. Benjamin Skinner in A Crime So Monstrous: fight with your dollar. Zuni did mention this strategy, but didn’t stress it as much as it should’ve been. The example she used was MacDonald’s. True, MacDonald’s is not good for you and it would be ideal for people to stop supporting it; however, what Hannity wanted to point out was that MacDonald’s fulfills a desire the American people want. So ultimately the solution to the MacDonald’s problem isn’t that we should tax it more. We should curb the desire to eat their products.

The same goes for the perpetuation of modern slavery. Corporations like The Gap and IKEA fill a void in our lives for affordable, decent quality clothing and furniture. You can’t simply yell at the government and corporations for paying below minimum wage overseas if you continue to support these businesses. And maybe every single person occupying Wall Street doesn’t own clothing from The Gap/Old Navy or furniture from IKEA. It’s entirely possible, but very unlikely. We’ve accepted the products of modern slavery as essential to our everyday lives. Even our food. Even some food harvested in our own country is done by modern slaves.

I’m sure the people on Wall Street and in Woodruff Park all agree with my points, but are they ready to act on them?

Update 4:51pm: just saw that the Occupiers in Atlanta have marched to Bank of America in Midtown. So…you make the effort to get to the building, just so you can yell at it? Can’t you all simply walk inside and take your money out?! Can’t you actually do something to end the “greed”?!

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Don’t Bother None

August 24, 2011

A phrase I’ve seen discussed recently in “civilian vs military” blogs, posts, and articles is “It’s what you signed up for.” It’s essentially a fuck you to military servicepeople and their families, kind of like “You knew what you were getting yourself into.” And I’ll admit it, I’ve said it to my man buddy. It’s a mean thing to say, but to be honest, it’s how I felt. When I considered doing ROTC, I truly thought about what it would mean, and eventually I decided not to join because I knew it would be a load of bullshit and I wouldn’t truly get to fight for what I wanted. (Yes, there was a time when I considered ROTC, but then realized that any photographs I’d take would be property of the government, and I’d essentially lose my copyrights.)

My manfriend has to do the stupidest things, like stay awake for 24 hours to do nothing and then go straight into work. The day before 4th of July weekend he had to run a poorly planned ridiculous obstacle course for 6 hours with no food or water. If there’s ever another debt ceiling debate that goes on too long, he has to work without pay because he’s considered “essential.” I agree that things like this, yes, you can absolutely be angry about and things that shouldn’t happen. But as I’ve said to him, did you seriously not expect this absurd bullshit from the military? No, it’s not “what you signed up for,” but was it not expected with the territory?

To me, this is different from the hardships that aren’t outlined in the job descriptions or the common-knowledge adversities (at least, what I would consider “common knowledge”). When military partners and families struggle with the emotional impact of deployment, of moving from place to place, of isolation from the rest of the population…no. No one signs up for these things. But from what I can see, the military blogging community tells similar stories to each other, and although it’s on the internet for everyone to see, no one’s looking for it.

And this is why I desperately want (need?) to start my photography project. I’m not very experienced with the military lifestyle, but I also wouldn’t consider myself a typical civilian either. I feel very in between the worlds, and so I believe that I am in the position to bring both worlds together. Not that I’m going to single-handedly bridge the ginormous gap, but I believe I can contribute to it in a way few people can or will.

Anyway, maybe I’ll include some of this in my grant proposals. But first, I have to make some work. That’s the worst part about all this: I can’t ask for money until I’ve gotten started on the project, but I can’t really start the project until I have money. Oh, the vicious cycles of applying for grants and loans…


Back to Start

March 26, 2010

A very good friend of mine recently ranted about priorities as an Army partner. Her concerns are similar to the ones I raised in an earlier post about independence and womanhood. Here’s a fun fact I learned from my aunt, who is the wife of a retired 4-star general: you don’t have to do anything.

The United States military doesn’t own you, partner. They can’t tell you what you will and will not do as the significant half of their property. And that piece of property can’t tell you what you can and cannot do either. You are not property, and you do not belong to your partners. And you most definitely do not belong to the US military. So no, partner, you do not need to live with that US piece of property you’re married to, you do not need to stay in those homes while that piece of property is deployed, you do not need to follow it wherever the government tells it to go, and you most certainly are not responsible for anyone but yourself.

This is exactly the kind of issue that motivates me to do a photography project on partners of people in the military. Wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, widows, and divorcees of military personnel are just too important to ignore.


Ramblin’ On My Mind

March 1, 2010

I’ve been following this thread on Change.org about an undocumented student and her experience in the United States. The post is in honor of the DREAM act week of action. I’ve talked about my own complicated views on immigration law and immigrant rights, and this thread is just a continuation.

The question in this thread seems to be about the law and the money. It’s sad that we can’t seem to have a discussion about basic human rights without talking about economics and taxes. I get it. While Andrea’s family paid taxes, I’m sure there are plenty of illegal families who don’t. And I hear the argument “Why don’t they become citizens?”, which is another point I used to agree with.

How easy is it to acquire citizenship? And how much does it cost? And can you apply in languages other than English? It’s not easy. It’s not cheap. And you need to know English. We don’t seem to make it easy, so how can you expect that a girl who just turned 18 would have the resources to become a citizen?

The other point that someone brought up was: “People in this country that are here illegally don’t have rights (except human rights)….plain and simple!” Except human rights? So which rights don’t illegal aliens have? (Someone replied to my reply to generously inform me that the UN doesn’t create laws other countries have to follow, which is, of course, something I am well aware of.) It’s just not a statement I understand, and if you do, please explain it to me.

These issues really come down to simply being American. We’re born with our citizenship. We didn’t work for it (though some of us did). We benefit from taxes because we happened to be born here. How does that make us any more worthy than the people who’ve worked and lived here as long as they can remember? We take citizenship and nationality for granted. I think this video by a girl who went to Haiti (before the earthquake) explores how spoiled we are, and how citizenship and nationality is most definitely a human right:


Imagine This

January 19, 2010

Today I thought “Hmm. I’ve been so busy with preparing for school that I haven’t had time to even think about another blogpost.” But I found something in the final hours of the day. I read another article on human trafficking at Change.org, but this time it was an apology to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for our lack of progress. As much as I usually enjoy Amanda Kloer‘s articles, I found this one particularly useless and painful to read. Yes, there are many who believe racism is dead in the US because now we have a black president. Yes, the Golden Globes were a clear example of our seemingly frivolous ways of spending money here while many besides Haiti across the world suffer. And yes, this article in the San Jose Mercury News may be a feel good piece about teens making a difference in the Bay Area.

But these are not things to apologize for. Read the rest of this entry »


Tumblin Down

September 13, 2009

(Please note: I’ve been meaning to write this post since the end of August. Now that my senior year of undergrad has started, I don’t think I’ll be posting as often, but we’ll see…)

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Doctors Without Borders most recent ad. Apparently it’s stirring up some dialogue in the NGO and health care development world. Our friends at Aid Watch talked about it, and our buddy at Transitionland wrote about it as well. I’ve decided to give my two cents, just for gits and shiggles.

The horror people feel is like what they see (or should see) in human rights and documentary photography. We are attracted to pain. This particular ad, however, plays on a different dirty desire. The image remains the same: a desolate land with a concrete building in the foreground. (Why Aid Watch takes it upon themselves to assume it’s Africa, I have no idea.) Then a soundtrack plays of a child wailing and crying. The text that appears on the screen tells the audience that militia raped his sisters and clubbed his parents to death, and then it says, in seemingly innocent white lettering “We Can’t Operate Without Your Help.”

I agree to some extent with Transitionland. This is what MSF does. If you’ve been gazing at pictures from Abu Ghraib, Vietnam, and Chernobyl, and you can watch movies like Hotel Rwanda, Inglorious Basterds, and Saving Private Ryan, and looking at goodness knows what other imagery is out there, then you can watch this ad. If the commercial makes your stomach twist, then it’s done its job, don’t you think? It sucks that making you feel that way is its job.

But it’s not the imagery that makes you a little sick – it’s the audio. And that’s what I find so amazing about this ad. Is it just as much of a violation of dignity if the audio is heard, rather than an image seen? If the image of the boy crying and having an operation played on your screen, would you be more outraged and disgusted? Or would you have accepted it as more NGO promotional imagery? And this is what I loved about Transitionland’s post. She included more ads that are clearly worse (in different ways) than the most recent MSF ad. I don’t know about the discussions surrounding those ads, but I imagine it could be similar to the ones revolving around this one.

So congratulations MSF for promoting further discussion about your work by means of a more dignifying way. I’m interested to see how NGO promotional media will progress.


Wander My Friends

September 4, 2009

I had a Twitter discussion with Alanna Shaikh regarding pictures she posted on her wall of shame. The ads, marketing, and ex-pat no-nos is fine. They bring attention to things that are wrong with development and aid work. She also had an image up of a child, who appeared to be a burn victim or mine victim or some other unnatural cause. I said it shouldn’t be up there because it only perpetuates the problem. Her response was that “someone needs to call that woman out” and “Re: gaze. My thought was the horse was already out of that barn.” It seems like a reasonable assumption. If the damage is already done – if the picture has already been taken – what’s the harm in posting it one more time?

Read the rest of this entry »