We need art that resists commodification: art that is handmade

Problems like poverty, disease, and homelessness are so pervasive that they seem to require large-scale solutions—and therefore many people assume that the only artistic response of value has to come through art that utilizes mass media and pop genres to get the word out on a sufficient scale. This is an understandable but misguided notion. It plays directly into the way that social justice itself has been turned into a commodity: some instant uplift, a soaring rock ballad, and a small financial donation. In the face of this we need art that resists commodification: art that is handmade, art that penetrates beneath the surface of things and demands much, rather than skimming across the sentimental surface. If the needs that justice cries out about are deep and enduring, then the art we create should be just as deep and enduring. Only that kind of art can move people to make the sort of sacrifice justice would have them make.

“Poetic Justice” by Gregory Wolfe

The Unique Voice of Suheir Hammad

Suheir Hammad is a Palestinian-American poet, author, and political activist. She was born in Amman, Jordan to Palestinian refugee parents and immigrated with her family to Brooklyn when she was five.

NY Magazine interview with Suheir.

EI interview.

Poems by Suheir (here too).

• Her home page.

(videos embedded)

Confessions of a Republican National Convention Security Guard

Avi Steinberg wrote an interesting and humorous article for Slate, “Confessions of an RNC Security Guard” (here) which details his experience being a security guard during the Republican National Convention. His observation of the late night Republicans is wry and witty and I want to share the last few lines:

All the hotels in the area are dark. Thousands of Republicans stir in their beds, dreaming thousands of dreams about Sarah Palin. But Charles Hunter, an environmentalist delegate from New Hampshire and a veteran of Republican conventions going back to the 1980 coronation of Ronald Reagan at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, can’t sleep at all.

“This is my last convention,” he tells me, lighting a cigarette.

“Why?”

“I’m a real McCain guy. I served. But I liked the old McCain — when he was a true hero, before he signed on with the yahoos. I actually believe in ‘country first.'”

“Not a fan of Palin?”

“If I were McCain I’d probably bring her onto my ticket, too. That’s exactly the problem. I guess I tricked myself into thinking that McCain, even after he watered himself down for the election, could somehow restore sanity. The Democrats tried to paint him as a twin of Bush. Not true. But Palin … she does remind me of Bush. McCain has made a devil’s pact and sealed this party’s fate.”

Even though he’s old, he smokes his cigarette like a young man, with earnest haste, before he flicks it off into the dark.

“That’s it,” he said, “we’re through. Even if we win, we’ve lost.”

That sums up politics for me. Even if we win, we’ve lost.

No matter how much power, influence, or control we’ve gained, it has done us nothing. Innocent people die under oppressive regimes, children are killed in wars, disease and disaster we can’t protect against.

The truth is I want to put my hope in someone like Obama, or McCain, or Bush, or Clinton. I want to believe they can change my life, our lives, the world. That they can make America into a country people love and respect instead of hate, that they can make American into a country of peace and not war, that they can bring justice to the oppressed, not only in the states, but also in the world. And then I realize, that’s already been done, there’s already been an election and it happened three days after the cross and I have to put my hope in that.

That which does not exist he calls into being. He says, Go!

Even if we lose, we’ve won.

Sudan Plane Crash, Accident?

Another plane crashed in the Sudan. This time in the capital of Khartoum. As Fox News states, “Sudan has a poor aviation safety record. In May, a plane crash in a remote area of southern Sudan killed 24 people, including key members of the southern Sudanese government.” It’s likely that wasn’t an accident. I wonder about this one as well. Here’s video of the plane on fire.

Last week I listened to a guy named Justin who had recently been in Southern Sudan with Christian Solidarity International. The group he was with met with the vice-president of Sudan, Salva Kiir. The man he succeeded, John Garang, was killed in a helicopter crash in 2005. Kiir basically said that the south was preparing for war against the north. Which means what we’re seeing in Darfur is only the tip of the iceberg.

Katie-Jay Scott and Gabriel are in Chad, at the border of the Sudan now. They will be working in the Darfur refugee camps. They will be uploading webcast and blogs during their trip on I-Act. As they left Chad during their last trip in February, there was a coup attempt on the city, and they were forced to hide in the hotel kitchen as they listened to gunfire outside. Keep up with what happens to Katie-Jay and Gabriel here.

Here are some picture of our Camp Darfur event at PSU. We had over two hundred people write letters to legislatures urging them to do more about Darfur.

Uncontacted Tribe Photographed Near Brazil-Peru Border

Survivor International published photographs of an uncontacted tribe near the Brazil-Peru border. The photos wee taken by the Brazillian government to show that the tribes do exist. Logging is forcing the tribes to move across borders which can possibly cause international problems. The tribe members tried shooting the plane with arrows. (via churchrelevance)

Holly and Human Trafficking

The movie Holly opened to limited release in April and was featured in Portland last night at the Hollywood TheatreHolly is about a young Vietnamese girl named Holly who was sold by her family to become a prostitute in Cambodia. A wandering American, Patrick (Ron Livingston from Office Space), accidentally comes upon her and a friendship blossoms. But Patrick leaves and Holly is sold to another brothel. When Patrick returns to try and buy her freedom he must go looking for the girl. It’s a powerfully moving story with superb acting, especially from Thuy Nguyen who plays Holly.

According to RedLightChildren.org 2 million children worldwide are a part of a multi-billion dollar criminal business that occurs in every country. “In 2002, while traveling in Phnom Penh, New York Lawyer Guy Jacobson encountered a barrage of young girls, some just 5-years old, aggressively soliciting prostitution. The horror was not lost on him. Shortly thereafter, he began gathering together a passionate group of advocates determined to protect young children in danger of becoming part of the global sex trade.” He created three films, one of which is Holly, in trying to expose the truth of human trafficking and prostitution.

The writer of the movie, Guy Jacobson, was also on hand and answered questions afterwards. He said that they filmed the movie in the capital of Cambodia where the story would have taken place. They filmed the brothel scenes in an actual brothel, which didn’t make the locals happy when they learned what the movie was about. INTERPOL, the international police organization, called up the production team, and told them they were nuts for filming the movie at that location. They said they were in the most dangerous city in the world and they needed to get the hell out of there. The production team refused. INTERPOL told them that the Chinese and Cambodian mafias had contracts out to kill them.

Holly has opened in numerous other cities and is still showing in Portland. It will be opening in Seattle next week. Chicago, Columbus, and Dayton are last on the list. Here’s the Time’s review. Watch the trailer here. View more clips here.

Refugee Camp in Portland

If you’re in downtown Portland on Thursday between 10am-8pm I recommend spending some time in the PSU park blocks for the Roots Festival.

I’ll be there with Camp Darfur where we’ll be talking about genocide in our mock refugee camp while providing opportunities for everyone to send hand written letters to local government officials about the Darfur genocide.

Wednesday night at 8, we’ll also be showing the movie Screamers at the 5th Ave. Cinema for free.