February 24, 2011

Your food, your choice... right?

It was Friday night and I was on my way home from a meeting with my friend Eugene, an extremely talented violin player better known as Dr. Draw. Amongst the things we discussed, we talked about the possibility of him playing for a Beads for Beds event; the organization I'm directing.

I left his studio in a state of bliss after he treated me to a bit of his violin. His music is an experience difficult to reproduce in words but all I can say is that it makes you look at the world from a different perspective, a hyper-realistic-down-to-earth one; where everything becomes more tangible and enticing.

As I walked to the subway station, his music resonating in my head, the outside world seemed perfect. The streets were deserted and the snow on the ground had a magical orange glow, a reflection of the lamp posts' light above. One car passed me by and the sound of its tires against the slushy pavement made me feel alive. I was free and extremely aware of my surroundings...

I entered Ossington station and was overwhelmed by a group of teenagers on the opposite platform that were yelling at each other, obviously intoxicated. A man on a long black coat shifted a Rubik's cube in his hands at a speed that fascinated me and it gave me the feeling that some invisible force was directing the whole scene. People's public behavior changes on Friday nights and me, I was the silent and oblivious participant of many stories.

Amongst the over-excited voices of intoxicated youth, I sat and observed the string of ads above the passenger's heads. All of a sudden I became disenchanted, the feeling of oblivion was gone. One after the other, the signs seemed to be telling me what to do. "Build your own box" the ad for Taco Bell read. Right next to it, "Share the good" -Foodland Ontario. "Look no further" -French Education board. "Transfer some money at your next transfer" -RBC. "Protect yourself from the flu" -Government of Canada- Okey, at least they care about my health, right?. "Turn yous passion into a career" -Ontario Government. "Change your life" -some book of self-help. And finally, the BIG punch: "Do you need a psychiatrist?"

So yes, you are crazy. You are also fat, ignorant, unhealthy and have no idea what to do with your life. So let us tell you what to eat, what to wear, what to smell like and what to do with your time. I looked at the ads with perplexity, realizing how many subliminal messages we are being force-fed daily. I wonder if I'm the only one noticing that all these ads have one thing in common: they all start with a verb. A verb! What does that mean? Advertisement today does not work as suggestions, they are commandments; at least so it seems...

On the bus from Dufferin to King the same scenario. One thing was different though. Amongst all the ads telling me what to do, one stood out from the crowd; it was from Centennial College. "What did you want to be? Over 250 programs to help you become what and who you always wanted to be" It was a reminder that we still have a choice...

Here is a video on The Command Economy. Humor is the key...

February 20, 2011


To the Human Race;

Every morning I wake up and look outside the window wondering what the day will bring about. I get out of bed, have a glass of water, feed the two cats that live with me, cook breakfast, eat breakfast, brush the teeth, wash the face, get dressed and walk out the door. As I leave the apartment I greet the concierge, the neighbours and the squirrels that come to the front door to be fed. I take a deep breath as I step outside and feel the sunshine on the face. I look at the colours in the sky and watch a flock of pigeons fly by. Everything is harmonious and life outside the body I inhabit is dancing graciously within the universe. I feel full and content and I want nothing but to share the love with your people. As easy and effortless as this might seem, interacting with the human race can sometimes be quite challenging.

As I walk around the city the eyes and the heart are open. These eyes look for other eyes so that the heart can feel other hearts. However, sharing the heart seems to be discouraged on this planet. Your people appear to be terrified just by the thought of doing so. On Earth, the fear of the unknown seems to be a widespread virus and many do not find it comfortable when an alien smiles at them on the street, even when there is much warmth in this heart. Mostly every person I run into seems to be rather discontent with life. Most are in a constant hurry, embittered about not having enough money or time -I am still puzzled by your concept of these two 'values'- to stop their thoughts for a moment and accept a passing smile. You humans seem to live in a constant paradox, wanting someone or something to solve your problems but running away in fear and second guessing hidden intentions when someone comes to your rescue.

Outside my carcass I sense there is a lack of faith for the future. I sense nothing but hopelessness in most people's eyes. Everyone seems to be defeated and the end of the world appears to be the faster and easiest way out. I have seen many billboards alerting us about the year 2012: "Will you survive?" "What will your government do for you?" and "Who will be left behind?" are some of the warnings. I have recently learnt this is in fact some advertisement for a Hollywood flick, those you like so much, but why are they inducing fear? Is the end near? Is this the apocalypse? Maybe. The world is not over and yet people walk around in a completely inward motion, unaware of what is going on around them, too concerned about their busy schedules and busy lives. You might as well be dead. Once in a while I run into someone whose eyes are open and his or her heart smiles back at this heart, but it doesn't happen too often. On my planet, eyes wide open are essential for survival. When your eyes are open you not only allow things in, you also give things out; the fundamental law of the universe. Give love and you shall receive it. Receive love and you shall be free to give it. To those whose eyes are opening, I encourage you to not be afraid by what you may see; it is only the truth and the truth shall set you free. Freedom is love, love is free and through our eyes we can give it and receive it. It is most necessary for us to co-exist peacefully as a collective, but on this planet eye contact is scarce. On this planet most of you walk while either looking down, immersing yourself in your 'cameramusic player-GPS-mail checking-web browsing phone,' looking right through people or even straight ahead into nothingness.

And so you have been taught: be afraid, be indifferent, and be ignorant. This seems to be the campaign on Earth. No wonder why you live so unhappy, unfulfilled, and always wanting more. No wonder the planet itself seems to be getting angrier and more agitated with each passing year. Fear, indifference and ignorance are holding you back. Nobody looks outside themselves. Nobody looks deeply inside either. Most everyone seems to be holding back from getting in touch with the very root of whom they are but doing so will allow you to become aware of yourself and your surroundings. It will enable you to look inside to find the answers rather than listening to the few in 'power'; those who like power too much know nothing at all. You humans need to become aware to understand the world that you live in and those who live in this world with you. You need to grow out of your shells to be able to take responsibility for your own actions; for your own fate. First you need to understand what is on the surface and what is deep within.

As it is, it seems we are indeed at the verge of civilization's collapse. Every notion that has been established as the true and fundamental grounds for human evolution is now being shaken from its core; only because some of you are beginning to remove your blind-folds. Maybe there are not too many of you yet, but my kind was taught to focus on the positive; focus on the good things and make them count as double. I have to admit that I have been living on this planet for a bit too long and sometimes I get caught up in the negativity. But I keep my eyes open.

I force myself to see even when it gets hard and painful. I wish more humans opened their eyes. I wish more and more people began to question the laws and regulations that have been imposed throughout your history. Every social concept established needs to be re-thought, needs to be broken up, thorn apart and questioned a thousand times. It is time to re-write your future, from a brighter and more ethical perspective. Your money and power based system is falling apart. Your ego trip is crumbling into a pile of dust. The current system is like an aging tree that has now died and needs to be removed from its roots so that the malnourished soil in which it stands, can be cleaned up. Only after the soil has been replenished the planting of new seeds will be possible. Chopping the tree down in pieces, a very "humane" thing to do, is further poisoning every chance of re-birth; every possibility of a new Earth emerging from its ashes. You need to make changes before you are consumed by your own fire.

I beg you, as your humble servant, to consider what has been said. Stop running for a moment. Stand still. Listen to the wind, the birds chirping and the many sounds of silence. Look at the colors of nature and the order within the chaos. Take time off your never-ending busy schedules to smell a flower or smile back at the world. Question everything and find your own answers. Do not follow those who pretend to know you better than what you know yourself. Those are liars. Be honest and speak only from your heart; that is your truth. Pay attention. Give a hand. You people need each other and the only way you will survive is by opening your eyes, to let it all in and give it all away. Love is the only way. It is what is going to save us... you...

My best wishes, as for deep inside you are all beautiful...

"Apocalipsis", by Agata Ivanna Pogorelsky. 4th Year New Media.

The work originally manifested itself through a charcoal sketch and was later brought into the digital media to become part of this book. The result, compared to the original drawing, is a rather chaotic collage of personal photographs and web-based images. The four elements in nature are represented emerging from the planet's core. Fire, air, water and earth exist within each other and are constantly transformed by human's hands. Burning factories are consumed by fire while their poisonous emissions pollute the air. Air transforms into wind to create ocean waves which fiercely wash away the land. From the land, the soil, trees emerge triumphantly half being, half digitalized. The binary code which make for their leaves go floating in space to turn into stars. The pillars of two ancient civilizations create balance opposing each other, while looking over the present time from a supreme and higher altitude. The two elements which represent God are in their original state of drawing, for as an alien wouldn't be able to photograph mythical bodies. The feathered serpent watches over the planet, the beacon of life. Her tail bursts out from the center of the Earth, through an atomic bomb that nukes the arctic pole. Her head reaches for the stars, unifying Heaven and Earth. The moon guards the Mayan temple while the sun heats Egyptian pyramids and the deserted sands of Africa. The hand of the creator caresses it all and the eye curiously contemplates, wondering if the time has come to start it all over again...

February 13, 2011

Internationalize the Amazonia?

Below is an insightful response from the Brazilian Minister of Education, Buarque, better known as a poet, composer and musician. In a visit to an US university, Chico Buarque was asked about the possibility of ‘internationalise’ the Amazonia. His response highlights the complexity of the issue, the powers in play, the threatened sovereignty of nations and the double standards applied when deciding on these issues. It also reveals a humanist approach, honesty and wisdom of a government minister such as Chico Buarque.

Internationalize the Amazonia?

Brazil’s Amazon basin, some 360 million hectares cleaved by the world’s largest river, the Amazon, whose 80,000 kilometers in length is equal to the distance between New York and Berlin, holds the planet’s greatest biodiversity reserve. This unique, complex, exceptional ecosystem is a colossal Patrimony of Humanity. Should it be internationalized?

Cristováo Buarque

During a debate in a US university over four years ago, a young US ecologist asked Cristóvão Buarque, then the Workers Party governor of the Federal District of Brasilia and currently Brazil’s minister of education, about his ideas on internationalizing the Amazonia, so often described as the “lung of humanity.” It was then and still is a theme strongly sustained in Washington’s power circles.

The young man said he hoped Buarque would answer with the vision of a humanist rather than of a Brazilian. What he got was a response that was both Brazilian and humanist, one as valid and timely today as it was four years ago. As increasingly happens with such important and surprising messages, it has been repeated on various Internet pages, accompanied by the implicit digital sign, “pass it on,” it’s for everyone. Hundreds of groups, organizations, institutions and publications that present alternative ideas to today’s “single thinking,” most of them outside the United States, have already reproduced his response. Better late than never, envío is also helping to disseminate his brilliant and clinching message, which we strongly applaud.

“From a humanist perspective...”

“As a Brazilian I would always argue against internationalizing the Amazon Rain Forest. Even though our government has not given this patrimony the care that it deserves, it is still ours. As a humanist who fears the risks posed by the environmental degradation the Amazon is suffering, I could imagine its internationalization, just as I could imagine the internationalization of everything else of importance to humanity.

If, from a humanist perspective, the Amazon must be internationalized, we should also internationalize the world’s petroleum reserves. Oil is as important for the well being of humanity as the Amazon is for our future. The owners of the reserves, however, feel that they have the right to increase or decrease the amount of oil production, as well as increase or lower the price per barrel. The wealthy of the world feel they have the right to burn up this immense patrimony of humanity.

In much the same way, the wealthy countries’ financial capital should be internationalized. Since the Amazon Rain Forest is a reserve for all human beings, no owner or country must be allowed to burn it up. The burning of the Amazon is as serious a problem as the unemployment caused by the arbitrary decisions made by global speculators. We cannot permit the use of financial reserves to burn entire countries in the frenzy of speculation.

“Let’s internationalize all the world’s children as patrimony of humanity”
Before we internationalize the Amazon, I would like to see the internationalization of all the world’s great museums. The Louvre should not belong merely to France. The world’s museums are guardians of the most beautiful pieces of art produced by the human genius. We cannot let this cultural patrimony, like the natural patrimony of the Amazon, be manipulated and destroyed by the whims of an owner or a country. A short time ago, a Japanese millionaire decided to be buried with a painting by a great artist. That painting should have been internationalized before this could happen.

The United Nations is holding the Millennium Summit parallel to this meeting, but some Presidents ohad difficulties attending due to U.S. border-crossing constraints. Because of this, I think that New York, as the headquarters of the United Nations, should be internationalized. At least Manhattan should belong to all humanity, as should Paris, Venice, Rome, London, Río de Janeiro, Brasilia, Recife... Each city, with its unique beauty and its history, should belong to the entire world, to all of humanity.

If the United States wants to internationalize the Amazon Rain Forest to minimize the risk of leaving it in the hands of Brazilians, we should internationalize its nuclear arsenals, if only because the country has already demonstrated it is capable of using these arms, causing destruction thousands of times greater than the deplorable burnings done in the forests of Brazil.

In their debates, the US presidential candidates have defended the idea of internationalizing the world’s forest reserves in exchange for debt relief. We should begin by using this debt to guarantee that each child in the world has the opportunity to go to school. We should internationalize the children, treating them, all of them, no matter their country of birth, as patrimony that deserves to be cared for by the entire world. Even more than the Amazon deserves to be cared for. When the world’s leaders begin to treat the poor children of the world as a patrimony of humanity, they will not let them work when they should be studying, die when they should be living.

As a humanist, I agree to defend the internationalization of the world. But, as long as the world treats me as a Brazilian, I will fight for the Amazonia to remain ours. Ours alone.”