During this last week of celebration of America's independence, I feel good. I remember the TV show FRIENDS where Phoebe and Joey debated the unlikely notion of "the selfless act." This last week I have taken steps to reach beyond my own borders to help others who are in greater need than myself. I wanted to reach out and learn more about strangers in need. On this week of America's independence I wanted to in my own small way provide a tiny shred of independence for someone else...or at least begin to work in that direction. It was to be a "selfless act" but it didn't turn out to be so. My efforts (only just begun) feel really really good. I feel connected to something bigger than myself and it is incredibly satisfying on a deep emotional level. It is a feeling I haven't experienced before.
What does this have to do with design? Well, really not much. This post won't talk about making a great online portfolio, or how to market your art. But... it is my firm belief that as a designer and as a citizen of this world, I need to have a solid understanding of current events and issues effecting my neighbors on a global scale. I believe that as a designer I need to have a basic understanding of different cultures and that the field of graphic design is uniquely positioned toward ethics and social responsibility. I believe that significant damage has been done to the reputation of our nation during the present administration and I believe that leaving repair up to a handful of politicians is not going to be terribly effective..regardless of their party. I believe that it is the people who can make a difference as long as we don't all sit in front of our TVs grumbling over the state of the things and do nothing. We must move. We must act. And it is through this action that we might not only better someone else's life, strengthen diplomatic bonds between nations, but also experience that amazing feeling that comes with the "selfless act."
For those of you who read ArtLOOK regularly, you might already know that I have taken the pledge at Eric Karjaluoto's Design Can Change regarding issues surrounding global warming. I believe this is an issue we should all be concerned with and act upon. Making lifestyle changes toward this end, even the smallest changes (replacing light bulbs, using both sides of the paper in our printers), should be givens just as we wake up each morning and brush our teeth. Designers, please consider taking the pledge.
Participating in one movement or concern shouldn't necessarily prevent us from caring about or participating in others. Additional concerns I have are:
HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Education for children and women in developing countries
Clean water for all
I don't consider myself a terribly religious person; however, I know that rather than having religion tear us apart it can, (and should) bring us together. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions all speak of the tenets on care for the widow, the orphan and the stranger. This is a common bond. From a political standpoint, lets look to the 2008 presidential candidates to inquire what they would do for the poorest in the world. As Bono states in the July issue of Vanity Fair "It's hard to hate a country which puts your kids in school and gives medication to save your husbands life."
Books and publications: I have read the following to better educate myself on a variety of topics. I recommend them to you:
The Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl: Story of Wall Street Journalist, Daniel Pearl
Dispatches From the Edge - Anderson Cooper
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (excellent excellent!)
Note from my Travels - Angelina Jolie
The Assault on Reason - Al Gore
July Issue of Vanity Fair, Africa - Co edited by Bono (pick it up at the newsstand or visit the VF website)
Websites I have visited and read:
Save the Children
The One Campaign - Devoted to fighting extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS
Ryan's Well - Amazing story of ONE boy making a difference. H20 For Africa
One Shared World
Global Volunteers International
Vanity Fair, Africa
Vanity Fair, Green - sorry folks but each time I tried to access this site for the URL it crashed my browser! But you can find the issue of this magazine in your local library, I'm sure.
Steps I have taken thus far:
In addition to signing the pledge for Design Can Change, I have joined Live Earth. I hope some of you were able to enjoy yesterday's amazing concerts from around the world and that the program offered you some ways in which you might be able to assist saving this beautiful planet.
I have also added my voice to The ONE Campaign. I have signed the Declaration, sent emails to Congressmen Joe Courtney, Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Chris Dodd. I have joined as a volunteer to ONE and will be writing newspapers to increase awareness and open discussions up about extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS. It is my hope that this post also serves as a start to my beginnings on opening up and continuing a dialog on these issues. I have made a small donation to ONE and will be also wearing my ONE wristband everyday with pride. A larger goal for myself, is to visit Tanzania in 2008 or 2009 to learn more about this area and to assist however I am needed. I have looked into Global Volunteers International and to this end, I will put a percentage of my earnings toward this goal.
When I have finished this post, I will email everyone I know inviting them to visit ArtLOOK and the resources listed here to learn more about sustainability and extreme poverty. I will send the URL to my contacts at the press and just about anyone else I can think of. I don't know if my words will fall upon deaf ears. I don't know who will take action. I don't know who will provide feedback but I know...Americans are among the most generous and kind hearted people in the world. And if ONE man, Greg Mortenson, can nearly single handedly begin a school building project in Pakistan and ONE boy, Ryan Hreljac, can build 266 wells providing clean water for Africa...I can certainly write a few articles and letters. If just one of you clicks the banner below and signs your voice to the ONE campaign, my time writing here is well spent. ONE is not looking for your money...just your signature and consideration. With the some of following good people signing the ONE declaration we would be in good company: Claudia Schiffer, Bono, Dave Matthews, Danny Glover, Bob Geldof, No Doubt, John Cusack, Kate Hudson, George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Kate Bosworth, Liam Neeson, Susan Sarandon, Steve Buscemi, Orlando Bloom, Brad Pitt, Heidi Klum, Tom Hanks. Already almost 2.5 million Americans have signed up for the ONE campaign...Please join us.