Monday, October 5, 2009

Thinking long and hard about what I'm doing and why?

Here is photograph from a story about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome among Palestinian children in Gaza, where a young boy tells me, “The only time I feel good is when I hit someone or break something." Ragda, a play therapist who treats traumatized children at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program says, “I can only imagine the overwhelming helplessness that invades a child's psyche when flight is impossible and fight becomes inevitable, a sensation that psychologically reduces them to nothing. It strips away their precious autonomy - their ability to control their environment and their minds; attributes that distinguish people from animals, so it makes them subhuman." Children mimic authority.

I'm new at blogging and at this point I see it as an experiment, to see whom, if anyone, responds. I don't have any expectations.

From where I sit the worst danger in the world is not "terrorism" or economic collapse, but apathy, and failure to see the big picture, which boils down to the fact that there is no us and them here, only us. And I think good photographs help us see ourselves in the subject, and they can change the way we see. Documentary photography for me is a means of telling a story. It involves paying attention, inside and out, and getting as close as I can. There is no magic to this. I spend a lot of time with the people who I photograph, and I often end up photographing my friends. Mostly the photographs I take are of ordinary people and events in everyday life. Some years ago I was stunned to hear that the total amount spend on "world health" was about 2% of what is spent on the military. How sick is that?
I decided to spend the rest of my career trying to bring attention to the world health crisis.
There are many fronts to fight disease on. The big challenge is not to send the treated back to live in the same conditions that made them sick. Sleeping without a mosquito net makes you sick. Stress and violence makes you sick. Pollution makes you sick. No job, no home, no money, makes you sick. Not being beautiful and fashionable can make you sick. We get sick if we eat to little, and we get sick if we eat too much. Our health and our planets health are products of just about everything we do and how we do it.
We live in a world where big dollars are spent selling More and Bigger and Faster. We are bombarded with info/tainment. Our shopping malls have become the new cathedrals, and most of what we buy ends up in landfills or some other form of pollution that attacks our immune systems. So we ship it to China or India where other people get sick picking through it. Our politicians rant about protecting the consumer, as if they were an endangered species, while encouraging us to spend our way out of debt. We service ourselves as if we’re the only people on the planet. The only people that matter, anyway.
We have been conditioned to go through life with blinders on so we can get where we’re going and not be startled by our neighbors on the other side of the ditch. Because for most of those people the strategy of More, Bigger and Faster is not working. I see more and more people disenfranchised from decisions that most often harm their lives and their environment. Life expectancy in the richest countries now exceeds the poorest by more than 30 years. The middle is shrinking. We have increasing population, decreasing resources and eroding ecological diversity. We have a crisis with climate change, and with the limited and exclusionary perspectives concerning the sources, uses, and abuses of energy, water, food, and air. Unhealthy environment = unhealthy people =unhealthy environment. I think it was Jane Jacobs who said….”The whole idea of life should be to encourage life.”
I could describe my career as one long lesson in the in study of power. Who has it? What they do with it, or not? In Africa they say that there are two kinds of people…those that make the dust and those that eat it. The story of winners and losers, health and wealth.
We have poor people getting sick because they are poor and sick people becoming poorer, when they get sick.
Why aren't we all out on the streets screaming out guts out???

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