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

Posts tagged “Social Injustice

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Post Canvas and Paint: Variations | A Barren Autopsy

Post Canvas And Paint: Variations ~ A Barren Autopsy

a barren autopsy
of ourselves;
the lack of compassion
for a deep sense of lost
and stolen innocence

what do we see
when we look in the mirror
on cold December nights
but the tears of children
falling from our eyes …

As a society we are becoming numb to reason. And as a consequence, we may one day lose our humanity.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Between 02

Between two trees of a different kind….

Where nature and industry collide

Nature and Science….

When thinking about this photo challenge I was drawn to a question, what is the in-between space that can sustain our planet? Where does it exist, and can it be found? And what is the cost of our ignorance; of not knowing how to balance that in-between space with the complexity of our lives on planet Earth? Is the knowledge we seek, in our meditation practice, in the great institutions we build, or in our hopes and dreams? Can it be discovered in our mind’s eye, in the things we believe, or in the progress of science?

In this piece I thought about nature and technology, and how these two sources of energy interact within our lives and with the planet.  How these two vital forces; the organic intelligence of nature and the welded composite structure of modern progress collide. Trees are torn down and in their place the monuments of steel rise to the heavens.  Our ozone dies, we reach the stars; our rivers run black, the cities grow tall.

Nature dies.

The question is where is the balance that sustains?

I wish I knew the answers to these vital questions. Perhaps you and I, your country and mine, can one day without personal or national agenda sit down at the table and discover the answers.

For the sake our planet, it is the only in-between thing we must do….


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.


Penn State and Sexual Abuse: What Does It Say About Who We Are?

Sports and personal integrity

I am a native of Pennsylvania (having been born and raised in Philadelphia), and have over the years felt connected to Penn State and its football program. It was not hard to love Penn State. It was something about their attitude towards winning and the “team concept”. It showed even down to their uniforms; plain with no names and giving no sense of individuality to the players. For years, Penn State has been a testimony to team sport and the higher moral ground when it came to football and academic ethical standards.

Now as I hear the reports of sexual abuse, misconduct, cover-up, and the institutional sanctioned deception and rape of a community, I am outraged. It appears that one individual stood by while an act of gross depravity was perpetrated on a young boy. To think of the fear, the hurt, the humiliation that child and the other children felt pains me and I search for answers. How does a society allow this to happen? The shame and anger of the family of that child, and the others who were violated over the years to come—without question—is agonizing to the core. And that was only the beginning; the denial by Penn State officials, inadequate investigations, and lack of prosecution for all those involved has led to a dark and troublesome scandal. And well it should; we need things to be out in the open. We need to face ourselves.

But what also grieves me are the rioters and those who feel the need to voice their anger at the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. I mean give me a break, Joe Paterno had a moral responsibility (if not legal) to go directly to law enforcement. I do not want to just point the finger at Paterno, because the failure runs deep. But the mob mentality that emerged the other night in defense of Paterno shows the lack of an understanding, and empathy for what the true victims of these acts have endured.

What do you think? How do you feel about the sport mentality, the “good old boys club” especially in the high-end, money-making machine of professional and college sports? And last, but not least, has our society forgot about the victim and what it means to be victimized? And what are the consequences for a society that does not protect its children?


Urban Contemplation: 06 – Dreams that Never Breach the Walls of Sleep

The city series….

Dreams that never breach the walls of sleep….

Urban decay a place of broken dreams

The dreams that search for the freedom from sleep….


Life on the Edge of Nothingness

Remove yourself from the painful past and uncertain future

Sometimes in the waking we often remember that life exist with its
own set of difficulties. It seems as if we are living in perpetual change and in
transitional states of being. We are confronted with interpersonal
relationships that need our undivided attention, support, and unwavering love—while
simultaneously we must seek solutions to a world struggling with civil,
political and social unrest. It is a monumental task at times to remove oneself
from the painful past and an uncertain future. But for the sake of the communities
we live in, and our children—we must
take that leap of faith i.e. believe in something greater than ourselves,
struggle against all odds, and see beyond living on the edge of nothingness.

This piece entitled “Remove Yourself from the Painful Past and
Uncertain Future” is a reminder of how we must move from one place to another
throughout our lives, both figuratively and literally. Sometimes there is pain involved in that move. I created this piece
back in 2003 when I was going through a period of personal change, and
recollection. It was one of a series of works that reflected on a transitional time
in my life, where I needed to migrate both physically and emotionally. Part of
that process was a physical move from Pennsylvania to South Carolina.
The other part of that move was internal—from a place on the edge of nothingness—to
a place on the edge of everything….

I found that a place on the edge of everything is a beautiful place indeed.


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


Out Tonight 1989 / 2009 remix

Out Tonight / video still / digital collage 2011

http://youtu.be/dT32CziHAMc

Bonus song: The Smiths – There is a light that never goes out

http://youtu.be/INgXzChwipY

Out Tonight, the video, was first created in 1989 and mixed with the music of The Smiths and the song “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”. The video was originally conceived as a reflection of 80’s New Wave music, the club scene, and chillin out. But I wanted to add something more, and therefore centered its theme on the possible controversy, yet beauty of interracial dating. The texts used in the video, I thought I knew what would make you smile tonight ask the question of devotion, and statements after an arrest under the immorality act reveals the possible (most notably in the past) consequence. I was inspired to produce this video after seeing the play entitled “Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act” by South African playwright Athol Fugard. In the play, Fugard examined with a visceral intensity the consequences of interracial love during apartheid in South Africa. I believe that it is extremely important that we reach out and lead by example, demonstrating that love is universal and that we are all of one race i.e. the human race—diverse, complex, and beautiful.

Love has no boundaries.

The video was created using an Amiga 1000 computer with a Digital Creations’ Super Gen video mixer. Way ahead of its time, the Amiga 1000, which was first introduced to the public in 1985, was an extraordinary machine equipped with music, video and graphic cards. The 2009 version of Out Tonight is remixed with music by Nine Inch Nails.


Maybe Tomorrow a Better Possibility / Resolution and Redemption

http://youtu.be/6Gc0oD7okEk

Maybe Tomorrow a Better Possibility / Resolution and Redemption was first conceived as a collaborative project with video artist Walter Smith and fellow artist / singer / actor and friend, Ronald Freeman in 1994. The emotional impetus for the project was the ever increasing urban decay surrounding us in Philadelphia. Through substance abuse, drug warfare, and a rapid deterioration of its infrastructure, we came to see our beloved city in a struggle for survival. The original song, Hunger for Holiness, which accompanied the original video was written and sang by Ronald. The composition sought to give insight to the problems and plight of the urban construct and hope for a better tomorrow. In this remixed version, a dreamlike jazzy trance score replaces the composition to create an otherworldly sense of ambiguity, but again hope.

Maybe Tomorrow a Better Possibility / A Self Portrait of Resolution and Redemption


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.