words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

Politics

linear data | the shape of water | make america great again | the rise of the minority and the rainbow coalition

the shape of water final 300 dpi text.jpg

The Shape of Water won numerous awards at the 2018 Academy Awards. Most notably for Best Picture and Best Director. As with his earlier film Pan’s Labyrinth, Director Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water continues the exploration of individual disenfranchisement and national conflict.

The Shape of Water was set in Baltimore, MD in the 1950’s. A period of time that our current President, Donald J. Trump presumably feels we need to return to—in order to “Make America Great Again”. I believe undoubtedly that the thought of his idea and many others like him in making America great again refers to the dominance of white nationalism, white privilege, and white supremacy in our national identity.

The Shape of Water intelligently turns the concept of the “monster” as “villain” into the embodiment of beauty found in the “other”. In a sharp contrast, there was the pundits—the alt-right propagandists/commentators on FOX News. Their description and analysis of the film was one of simply referencing “a woman having sex with a fish”. Debasing the motives of the film by decimating it and declaring it as a freak show. They also tried to politicize it by focusing their attacks on so-called “Hollywood Elites” and Liberals alike. Promoting the idea that the low viewership of the awards were due to the “American people” (I never feel they are talking about me or the vast majority of the America population when this phase is uttered on the political right)—being tired of politics in their entertainment. In reality, the film spoke truth to the oppressed, and marginalized: That they had a voice, even when unable to literally speak; that they weren’t second class citizens, a minority; and were free to be who they were in sexual orientation. In this regard the film was about freedom, the love that encapsulates freedom and the struggle we must undertake to possess that freedom.

In conclusion, I thought the film was masterly done and beautifully crafted. The lovely shades of green that permeated throughout the film. And the various ways in which water was manipulated was imaginative and powerful. True art.

In my interpretation of the film’s central visual construct (that being the ending sequence with the Amphibian Man and Eliza Esposito floating together in all-consuming rapture beneath the surface of the water), I wanted to create a rainbow coalition of linear and cubistic form to mirror this moment.

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Urban Contemplation: 14 – The Industrial Revolution and its Deconstruction

The city series….

The forming of an industrial moment in time

The cities where the industrial revolution was founded….

I remember the period in our American history, when the industrial revolution was coming to an end. I was in my mid-twenties and working as a Process Engineer at the DuPont Company. If you were a young person in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s trying to believe in the American dream, a job with the DuPont Company was a great place to start.

Or so I thought. Little to my knowledge, things were about to get very difficult. Life was going to become very hard. The way in which our society ran and governed its social, civil, economic and political spheres were about to change.

The social agenda of the New Deal that sustained the dreams of many families and individuals would slowly be deconstructed until it (with the hopes of some) would be gone forever.

In the mid-seventies, early 1980’s and in 1991 we had economic recessions of various lengths. They were short, but a tell-tale sign of things to come. In 2001 we had another recession. These four recessions were not as severe as the present recession; however, the factors that led to these five occurrences over time are similar; deregulation, the creation of a “false paper economy” and an insidious construct to shift the wealth from the middle class to the wealthy.

And unfortunately it is working.

I was laid off from my job at DuPont after having worked there for four years. Still emerging from the perception that all you had to do was start at an entry level position with a good company; move up the ladder and retire 30 years later. Remember how your parents or grandparents followed this rule and uplifted themselves into the middle-class? It appears that in 2011, that route to the middle-class is long since gone and not returning any time soon. It is a global world now. It is now a have and have not world that is shattering the dreams of many. It is 146 million Americans in the United States living in poverty or near the poverty line. It is a health care system that is dysfunctional and over-wrought with cost. It is an education system that is mostly for profit (remember when the California State Schools were free). It is a manufacturing sector that barely exists.  And it is a corrupt body of government that wants to protect the rich, sustained the rich and become rich, at the expense of the poor.

And the attack is calculated and vicious to the core.

But I love America. With all its faults, it still has the potential to be a great nation. But we must learn from our past, and if possible turn back the hand of time just for a moment. And perhaps in that moment we can have a true political and social conversation, wherein we remember what we fought so hard for—a fair and equal society for all.

This post is in support of all those who participate in the Occupy Wall Street protests in America and around the world.


The New Colonialism

Searching for the freedom beyond the new colonialism….

The New Colonialism

There is the old colonialism and the new. In years past Empires were made by invading “primitive” third world or developing countries. In a brutal process of conquest, nations achieved their goals of domination via enslavement, government control and wars.

Today colonialism still exist, however it can be argued that it takes on another form—insidious in nature but with the same result i.e. the raping and pillaging of a countries wealth and resources while eliminating its ability to be self-sufficient.

Today’s colonialism is financial in nature and is developed as a means to rule the wealth of others. In the past 30 years here in America we have seen the shift from a manufacturing based economy to a financial one. The deregulation, the explosion of the commodities markets, and the Wall Street mentality of greed have all played a part in a global construct to create a new society of those who have and those who have not. The 1% and 99ers are what we are left with.

In the old form of colonialism it was understood that control came by the means of dominating the wealth, trade, language and freedom of the people. This principal in general has not changed, but today the emphasis is on domination through the control of wealth—through a corrupt identity we have come to know as Capitalism.  This type of capitalism is based on a false economy; a paper economy.

True capitalism is when the people of different nations, societies, communities understand the importance of fair trade; where respect, common interest and gain are the goals. We see it everywhere, for example in America and developing countries with our community gardens and farmer markets; where the language and freedom of trade is a positive end shared by all.

The protests we see here in America and around the globe is a testimony to the people’s vision of a true form of capitalism. It is a struggle against economic tyranny of the most devastating kind.

What do you think? Is the path to solidarity in recognizing our common need? Can we, who are the true majority, find our common goal and live on this planet with harmony and love; and for that matter unselfishly?


Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

A broken world view

This week’s photo challenge is “broken”.  The image I selected for this challenge is a
photographic still of my 1991 video installation presented at Highwire Gallery
entitled “The World Spins Black / White”. The 1991 installation was an
examination of—and condemnation of the forces of civil disobedience, war, and
social unrest that our society was struggling with at the time. The motivation
for choosing this photograph, at this specific point, is the state of our political
union here in the United States and abroad. At the core, I believe is a broken democracy.

The world is changing and it can be
argued not for the best. There is an ideology that threatens to disrupt, dismantle,
and delineate our democracy and freedom.  That dismantling presents itself in many
different forms, with a variety of sponsors. Here in the United States, I
believe its greatest sponsor is right wing conservatism at its extreme,
supported by various proxy organizations, and funded by wealthy individuals
such as the Koch brothers. At the heart of the process with malice intent are
the reduction and perhaps even the elimination of our government i.e. the way
it functions and the services it provides. Hence there is the privatizing and
systematic assault on the public sector, with the goal being the transference
of wealth from the many to the few. In league with the machinations to
facilitate these insidious methods are corporate media moguls, right wing think
tanks and Tea Party legislators to name a few.

My image for this challenge “broken” is a world globe,
wrapped in barbed wire and decaying red roses.

“The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities
only if we make ourselves responsible for that future”. … Gifford Pinchot


The Right Wing, its Proxy Media and the Rewriting of History

The Stars and Stripes

The Stars and Stripes

With the killing of Osama bin Laden, one would think there
would be a coming together in recognition of President Obama’s phenomenal and
precise political strategy. President Obama demonstrated a cool demeanor when
faced with a difficult decision. His intellectual prowess, his ability to
gather information and collaborate with his team of advisors in which to make
an informed decision is unmatched by any other president in recent history.

In contrast, George W. Bush and his lack of decisive
decision making in the capturing of Osama bin Laden is being rewritten for his
benefit by the Conservative Right Wing and its proxy media in the form of the
FOX news network.

Let us look at a few facts….

President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their security team of advisors were informed up
to almost a year prior to 911 of an impending attack by Al Qaida by the CIA.
This information was ignored. After 911, when it was reported in December 2001,
that Osama bin Laden was possibly in Tora Bora, his commanders in the field in
Afghanistan requested more troops for a surge into Tora Bora. That request was
denied, and his special forces dismantled for a new mission, namely the
invasion of Iraq.

George W. Bush dropped the ball.

Without sounding the alarm of conspiracy theories involving
the Bush Administration, one does have to ask why Osama bin Laden was allowed
to remain free. In theory, Bush needed Bin Laden. He needed him as an
enemy. He needed a reason to justify the invasion of Iraq. If Bin Laden
had been captured, we would no longer have a reason to be in Iraq. It can be
verified that Bush and Cheney wanted to invade Iraq prior to 911. All they
needed was a reason to make it happen.  We now know that the reason for going to war in Iraq was a lie. At the
time of Tora Bora it was assumed by the Bush adminstration that 911 and the world’s number 1 terrorist, if still free, could facilitate a legitimate reason to invade Iraq.

Now with the recent killing of Osama bin Laden,
Conservatives, led by Peter King are trying to take credit. They are proposing
that extreme interrogation methods i.e. torture in the form of water boarding
provided vital information. Hmmm, funny how this form of torture was ended
nearly 5 years ago, yet the information that led to the targeting of Osama bin
Laden was just hanging around until now. But I digress. Truth is vital in the
writing of history. And it does a great disservice to all the men and women of
our armed forces and intelligent services that worked with integrity, utilizing
appropriate measures to gather information for the capturing and subsequent
killing of Osama bin Laden.

Shame on all, who dishonor what America stands for and who
would attempt to rewrite history to benefit those who got it wrong.

Let us be aware, of the truth.


At the Steps of Wall Street and the Powers that Be, Our Price for Freedom

Sometimes In the Waking the Reality Is More Pressing than the Dream 2011 remix

Sometimes in the waking the reality is more pressing than the dream.

Last night, I awoke after a troubled sleep. A desperate sense of uneasiness embodied my Spirit. I really wish the soul of the world somehow was different, had been different, since the beginning of time. Perhaps then, millions of people, of all races, throughout creation and evolution would not have had to fight so hard for their freedom. That fight certainly continues today, in the streets and at the steps of institutions throughout the land with a fervent oscillation of desperation, purpose and will.

We want freedom they shout!

Last night I was dreaming that I was in a Wall Street Bank that had been converted to a video store. I was attempting to return three videos and was told I had purchased a video that I knew that I had not, a video whose contents I was at odds with….

It was the stripping of my freedom.

It was a beautiful building. The architecture was designed to rise above all in its majesty and prestige. It once was a symbol of power and hard earned wealth. And now the money terrorists had taken over…literally in the dream and in life….

Scenes of surrealism abound….

In the dream I spent several minutes walking the aisles viewing such great documentary and feature film titles such as Food Inc., Gas land, Citizen Kane, District 9, Sunshine, and Inside Job. While cruising, I simultaneously began noticing a sense of tension in some of the patrons. However, most had come to grip with the situation and seemed to be not at odds with their oppressors, the money terrorists. A group of Tibetan Buddhist Monks (who I must say are at the forefront of courageous freedom fighters) are reciting mantras, handing out pamphlets and inviting everyone to India, Tibet and Nepal. A group called Meet the People Time Forgot is touring America e.g. the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, and the Philadelphia Zoo. The organization is known for its strict membership requirements i.e. only the downtrodden, the young, the old, the disabled, the unemployed, the underemployed, the disenfranchised and those lost at sea may apply. During short interludes, in life,  when all their possessions were not being taken from them, they were to be found in the rear vaults; amusing themselves and passing time by playing games of pinochle, gin rummy, strip poker and blackjack. The Buddhist Monks, after having given out the pamphlets, gracefully sat down (yoga style) and held a ‘throw-down’ Zen tea party…unreal Tea Partiers were not invited. Everyone seemed entranced, even one of the money terrorists could not resist the enticing smell of freshly baked goods such as biscuits, cookies, cakes, chunks of butter, lard and manure, and jelly-filled pastries from Dunkin Donuts. On the winding staircases that circumvent the bank, teenagers (e.g. two or more black youths (a “Wolf Pack”)), hip grunge girls from Seattle (listening to Nirvana on their IPods) are strolling (oblivious to the stealing of their constitution and American values) while sipping from designer tea cups; their right hands delicately holding small thimble sized cups of licorice, jasmine, ginseng and caffeine free Echinacea tea. The aroma and taste is downright toxic, I shake my head in affirmation; I pause, center myself, and prepare to “take on the man”.

Yeah, he puts up a good fight. They all do, the money terrorists—a lot of power and influence they possess and wield. And he is nonetheless persistent in his disillusionment, dreaming of ways of putting me down, kicking us to the curb. So I have to be as willful in my rebuttal, in my response, in my voice…..

So I protest, and line the halls of institutions and squares all over the world shouting… I am willing to die for my freedom and yours.

Join me….

And never give up the fight.

At the Steps of Wall Street and the Powers that Be, Our Fight for Freedom

 


Our Super Admiration and Grandiose Celebration of Violence American Style

It's a Super Bowl football thing

On a recent Sunday most Americans found themselves glued to a television set with friends and family, at home, in bars, and in parking lots to watch a game called football.
I was NOT one of them.
Of course I am not talking about any football game. I am talking about the highly revered Super Bowl. It’s a day when America will stop virtually everything to watch a game. The Church will cancel its evening services, the NBA will make sure it does not schedule any night games which may come in conflict with its consumer viewing, government dignitaries will stop serving the people to attend, weekend workers won’t show up at work, and kids won’t go out to play.
And drunk drivers will kill people on the roads of America.
I can never understand this fascination for a game that, for lack of better expression, celebrates violence.
But then America does love its violence….
We love war, guns and the death penalty. I have to chuckle just a little bit when I think of the millions of Texans, in particular, who just love the fact, and can boast that this monumental testimony to violence was being played in their home state. All hail Texas, the death penalty and the right to carry a gun!
What is it about men, dressed as Gladiators, running into each other at full speed with the single intent to “knock the other person unconscious”, or to “knock the %*$# out of the other player” that brings so much pleasure, so much delight, to a cheering fan? What is it about this over exaggerated state of machismo that fuels the imagination of so many people?
Have we lost our minds?
Well, there is a certain awakening or awareness in my mind. Needless to say it does not engage in, nor feel, nor know, nor need the connection to this or any celebratory and fortuitous act of violence. Am I immune to rising thoughts of violence or distraction? Of course I am not. However, I’ve come to understand through innate intuition, a daily practice in mindfulness, and structured study—the need for love, compassion and non-violence….
In a world, that often celebrates violence fortuitously, as people simultaneously struggle against tyranny, in which to build their own democracies, there is a need to step back for a moment and ask ourselves honestly….
Does this make any sense?
I say … NO, it does not.
Now, it should be noted, that I am not against sport or competition. I too have a love for athleticism that brings out the best in us. Some of my more recent posts via my blog explore my own love for athleticism (biking) and the sense of achievement that can be found in the mastery of self in athletic pursuit.  I think we all have our reasons for challenging ourselves. Maybe a closer scrutiny of the “why” is needed.
But our admiration for violence in and out of sport leaves me puzzled, and to this final question….
Is this REALLY the America we TRULY want?


Art and Place an Antidote for Violence

Lilies on the Lake 2011 Remix for the post Art and Place an Antidote for Violence

On Saturday January 8th 2011 an act of violence erupted that may well change the political landscape and its discourse. I am of course talking about the shooting, killing and wounding of numerous individuals as they participated in a town hall meeting with Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The congresswoman, a centrist Democrat, was also critically injured in this senseless attack. A very sad day for America and my condolences go out to the families and friends. What does this act say about our society as we must press forward, while enveloped in a sphere of indifference, ignorance and hatred? What should a nation as a collective and a nation of individuals do? How do we respond? And will we demand that our politicians (the right in particular) stop putting their heads in the sand as they minimize and discredit the obvious i.e. that the shootings were politically motivated while fueled by an incoherent and troubled mind.

My suggestion today (and there should be many from all of us) is the focusing of the mind, seeing things as they really are, taking time to find ART and PLACE, and finding in the quiet centered mind, the antidote for violence. “Lilies on the Lake” and “The Lake in Quiet Meditation” are two pieces I created with the purpose of finding the quiet centered mind in the beauty of ART and the ambient sense of PLACE. There is stillness in nature and in the nature of the mind. We must actively pursue this solitude to increase our awareness of ourselves and the world around us. And in doing we step one moment closer to enhancing our world, creating love, not hate, and finding peace through compassion.

The Lake in Quiet Meditation, 2005 for the post Art and Place an Antidote for Violence


Looking down from their ivy tower

The wealthy and the United States of Corporate America's historical assault on the middle class and the poor

I was communicating with a fellow artist who had indicated how frustrated she was with the state of our country, and decided to sell everything and move to Costa Rica to build a home, do organic farming, and participate in a re-foresting project. She is very happy, and I am proud of her for her commitment to the environment. But what about this assault on the middle class, on the poor, from Corporate America, the Tea Party, GOP and even some Democrats, and those who would strip the resources of our world, for their own self-gratification? How do we, the people, the true patriots fight back? I am appalled at the state of the union. And fearful. But not enough to stand down. The list of insidious machinations directed toward the dismantling of the middle class and the poor are many, and their origins date back decades even centuries.  At the very heart of it all is the elimination of all the social constructs that the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay movement, and most importantly—the right for all individuals to be free. It’s a tough world out there now. Let’s stand together, voice our dissent and rebel.