Deciphering Culture

Posts Tagged ‘Politics

Redesigning the world (“Healing or Stealing” by Paul Hawken)

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I must admit I’m a sucker for a great speech and Paul Hawken gave one last year as the commencement speaker at Portland University about what “it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating.” A few excerpts below and a link to the full text.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

2009 Commencement Speech by Paul Hawkin (at Portland University): Healing or Stealing?

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

Has the construction of “Creative Cities” exacerbated economic disparities?

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An important article from the Community Arts Network that raises questions regarding the actual effects of the UNESCO sponsored effort to transform 19 middle-tier cities into Creative Cities to gain global standing. The same questions apply to other communities trying to develop reputations as creative centers.

Creative City Fever: The 2010 City, Culture and Society Conference, Munich

By Tom Borrup

Singapore skyline at night

“The built city is the most complicated cultural artefact humankind has invented,” wrote Phil Wood and Charles Landry in “The Intercultural City.” And as such, cities cannot be understood from any one vantage point or through any one academic lens. A small but significant conference in Munich, Germany, in late February 2010 brought a dozen of these lenses into one room and raised a number of timely questions relevant to all of us concerned with cities, culture and social equity.

The Creative Cities movement has spread across the globe during the past decade. Since 2004, UNESCO has promoted a Creative Cities Network highlighting cultural diversity, heritage and the unique products of urban centers. Nineteen current member cities, mostly second-tier cities, compete for the gold in literature, film, music, craft and folk arts, design, media arts and gastronomy. Corporate media outlets, meanwhile, focus on the dominance of cities and their industrial, technical, medical or financial titles. Titans such as London, Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, Singapore and Beijing compete for dominance in global finance and business acumen. Meanwhile creative-economy guru Richard Florida has turned the spotlight toward cities’ hip factor, their ability to wrestle for the top talent needed to power these 21st Century empires.

Does the Creative Economy or status as Creative City that so many North American, European and capitalist Asian cities aspire to, widen or narrow economic disparities? Is the idea of the Creative City more than the latest tourism marketing or corporate recruitment strategy? Is it an opportune rationale for repositioning investment, or a smokescreen obscuring issues of social justice, environmental sustainability and real inclusion for all people? Will Creative City Fever soon be replaced with a passion to be the Sustainable City, the Slow City, the Bio City, the Just City or just the Next Great City? (to read the rest click here)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

March 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Gentrification and the loss of music venues

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Reposted from History is made at night: the politics of dancing and musicking

Monday, March 08, 2010

Freddy’s: a Brooklyn bar facing demolition

If one threat to music venues is over-regulation through increasingly onerous licensing laws, another is gentrification. As land and property values rise, spaces of conviviality (pubs, bars, clubs) are often swept away by developers to be replaced by upmarket residential and retail buidings. In London, the clearest example is The Foundry in Shoreditch, facing demolition to make way for a hotel.

City of Strangers notes a similar case from New York, where Freddy’s Bar in Brooklyn is facing demolition to make way for the huge Atlantic Yards Development. City of Strangers ‘started hanging out in the very late 90’s, when I still lived in Fort Greene. It was nice having a good bar in walking distance. In those pre-hipster days, there weren’t many bars in Brooklyn with found video loops broadcast on a TV over the bar, or that played the whole Velvet’s Banana album or the Ramones or 80’s British punk. The back room featured everything from hardcore to experimental jazz’.

If the developers get their way, 16 high rise buildings will soon replace not only Freddy’s but a whole neighbourhood, including many pesky low rise buildings with controlled rents. Freddy’s patrons – some pictured below –have threatened to chain themselves to the bar to block its eviction.
History is made at night: Freddy’s: a Brooklyn bar facing demoltion

“Literature is like love; it is best enjoyed in private but has social consequences.”

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A short thought-provoking article from Axess magasin, a Swedish publication that “aims to unite academic culture and publishing culture to create a forum in which researchers in the humanities and liberal arts can meet a wider public.” The article is entitled “Imagination is the Enemy of Tyranny” and, focusing predominately on literature, author Per Wästberg writes:

The Earth is not the inexhaustible resource we thought it was; it must be protected as something very precious. The same is true of the freedom of expression – it has no life of its own; it must be protected but also defined in a debate that is constantly being renewed. In a vulnerable world fraught with danger, the free flow of ideas plays a vital role. The visions of our poets and thinkers are not concerned with easy solace or a flight from reality but instead with providing nourishment and energy, creating new connections, devising new solutions.

To read the entire article click here: “Imagination is the Enemy of Tyranny”


Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 2, 2010 at 7:49 pm

The role of creativity, culture, and the arts in transforming cities and nations

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On Monday January 25, The Cultural Agents Initiative presented a dialogue of Mayor Antanas Mockus of Bogotá, Colombia, and Mayor Edi Rama of Tirana, Albania on the role of creativity, culture, and the arts in transforming cities and nations.

(From Community Arts Network): Mockus (mayor 1996-1997; 2001-2003), a philosopher, became known for springing surprising, humorous and tranformative initiatives on the popoulace of Bogota involving grand gestures. Painter Edi Rama, mayor since 2000, is known for his Clean and Green project in Tirana, resulting in 96,700 square meters of green land in the city, the planting of nearly 1,800 trees and the painting of old buildings in what has come to be known as Edi Rama colors (very bright yellow, green, violet).

For more info. check out:

Video of event

“Art can help urbanization speakers say” — The Daily Free Press

“Academic turns city into a social experiment” — Harvard University Gazette (2004)

One of former Bogotá Mayor Antanas Mockus' many inspired strategies for changing the mindset - and, eventually, the behavior - of the city's unruly inhabitants was the installation of traffic mimes on street corners. (Photo courtesy of El Tiempo)

Edi Rama, Mayor of Tirana” (World Mayor website announcement of the World Mayor for 2008):

The journey of Edi Rama, winner of the City Mayors World Mayor 2004 contest, to the mayor’s office in Tirana, the capital of Albania, arguably began in what most would call a raw and rough-and-tumble way inasmuch as, even though he, while still teaching at the Albanian Academy of Arts – admittedly a site of political ferment after the termination of communism and the birth of the Democratic Party in 1990 – had quickly left what he considered a bogus movement, and was doing no more than criticize both the socialists and the democrats in print, someone showed how seriously they took that by lying in wait for him in front of his home and beating him nearly to death. Mr. Rama is in no doubt that his attackers that night in 1997 were sent by then-president Sali Berisha…. (to read more, click the link).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm

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