Posts Tagged ‘battle of ideas’

America Votes Soon…

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_3268" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Fabric Of America By Adam Elliott"][/caption] In less than a week, on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, the American Voter will decide the future of the republic as it moves forward in 2011. Or backwards. And goodness, have you talked to the "American Voter" lately? It's a bit worrying. A couple years ago, I remember a lot of discussion about that American Voter being patient. And willing to make sacrifices as the Obama Administration made some very tough decisions about fixing the economy, health care, Afghanistan, the auto industry, credit cards, etc. To the American Voter, I say Ha! Voting Republican this year is like eating a Big Mac. It may taste good at first, but it's so bad for your health, the environment, gives you a headache in 1-2 hours and shouldn't you be buying local? Now, voting Democrat, you may be pissed at them, but really, they are the only chance of using that powerful tool known as the federal government to do really important shit. Like investing in solar, building a light rail system (remember, the FG built the Interstate system), stimulating the economy (yes, the stimulus was a good thing) and doing all the other things only the federal government can do in order to fix our big problems with health care, energy, environment, education and so on to eternity. So, if you're so concerned about our deficit, about leaving our children with piles of debt, well let's get to making some sacrifices. No more wars, tax cuts, oil subsidies, social security and Medicare. If you're more concerned with leaving our children with an uninhabitable planet because our carbon emissions officially ruined all chances to grow healthy food and breath clean air, well we still need that ole federal government. Because the states are a bunch of whiney crybabies. If you're tired of politics and would prefer to stay at home on November 2nd, really, some people are going to do that? And if you're a designer and want to make a poster about all the batshit craziness that is American Politics, please submit to Thank you.

The Grassroots vs. The Drones (Happy 4th)

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
[caption id="attachment_2144" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Get your yard sign."][/caption] A COMMUNITY COLLABORATION Here's one for you: a designer, a programmer, a community organizer, a communications task force and a group of committed peace and justice types ranging from well-seasoned academics to bright-eyed progressives get together to advocate for a better world. It's a collaboration of the first order with high-minded goals concerning matters of crucial importance. The focus is how to make a peace and justice organization more effective at making peace and justice happen. In the back of a local coffee shop, huddled over the local paper with some veggie sandwiches and fair trade coffee, the plotting and scheming goes strong once a week for many months. Usually in good spirits, with lively discussion and debates about how a little non-profit organization moves forward, what has come out of the effort has been something quite remarkable. We certainly accomplished a streamlining our communications efforts, developing a new website, creating several media campaigns to stoke the political fires and training key staff members on technology that can be used to keep things current. But there's also been a rejuvenation of the collective spirit. I saw what I thought was glowing from several people at one of the last meetings. It could be because we've finally seen the sun out here in the Midwest, but I like to think it's been this whole "working together" thing that's the root cause of the newly intense hues. [caption id="attachment_1949" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="A bumper sticker for every bumper in Nebraska"][/caption] Hang out in Lincoln long enough, especially downtown, and you'll come across several deep blue bumper stickers reading "Nebraskans for Peace." It's probably one of the most successful bumper sticker campaigns in American history. And a nice visual mark of identity in the community. (If anybody needs one, I'm sure I can get a couple dozen by the end of the day to whomever's asking.) In the back of that local coffee shop, a rag tag bunch of liberal peaceniks responsible for those stickers got together to grow this organization. And in between deep conversations about the sad state of affairs for America's foreign policy, I'd say success has been had. We set out many months ago to make Nebraskans for Peace the best damn peace and justice group it could be, building on the old school tactics of political organizing while embracing some 21st century digital activism. And today, we are moving ahead as planned. At the beginning of the process, a communications plan was put together. Nebraskans for Peace is the oldest group of this nature in the country, so we needed to re-establish core principles and look at the changing landscape, both in political and technological terms. There are definitely things the organization does well, and of course, other things not-so-much. But coming back to the focus on community building, education and political action, after 40 years of existence, 2010 certainly was an appropriate time to look at making this little non-profit better at being a voice for change out here on the great plains. [caption id="attachment_1980" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Communications Overview for 2010"][/caption] To make Nebraskans for Peace better at what it does, we looked at four areas: online, in hand, via telephone, and face to face. A new website that can be easily updated by anyone working for the organization. A continued push for thoughtful articles and stories in the bi-monthly publication called the Nebraska Report. A renewed effort at phone conversation and dialogue with the membership and an increased presence in the community with rallies, marches and protests as well as more yard signs and bumper stickers. (Have a sticker already, how about one for your neighbor's car?) All four areas are currently being carried out feverishly. Give it a year or two, with all of our streamlined advocacy, and war will most likely cease to be acceptable and will thus have to end as more and more people rush over to our side. The two wars America is mired in are certainly one of the issues that brings people to the group. But as a peace and justice organization, the tent is meant to be big, and includes issues dealing with the environment, civil rights and economic justice and bullying in our schools. Broad thinking on global issues certainly informs the Priorities, but how they apply locally is where the most impact can be had. If Nebraskans for Peace isn't concerned about the military base just down the road that's conducting warrantless wiretaps on our citizens or orchestrating drone strikes on Afghans, then who else will be? [caption id="attachment_2146" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Stop the Drones"][/caption] It's the grassroots versus the drones. Those drone planes that drop bombs indiscriminately on villages. The tea party droners who go on and on about government spending but have yet to make a peep about our bloated war budgets. And those war hawk droners who love to hold up all the marvels of our technological prowess as if that's the high point of human accomplishment -- dropping a bomb in Yemen from a control panel in Nebraska. [caption id="attachment_2145" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The new, shiny"][/caption] The website is the online arm of the group. Carrying articles of in-depth analysis as well as graphic campaigns designed to get to the heart of bigger issues. The military base is in our community, but those drones belong to everybody. Drones that carry quite an expensive price tag. [caption id="attachment_1953" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Goin' Broke Paying for War"][/caption] The "Goin' Broke Paying for War" campaign has become a focus in these times of seemingly unending war. It's especially appropriate as the worry about deficits grows and the cries against "big government" get louder. The fact is this: if you want to cut down on our debt you cannot do it without cutting our war budget. We spend an absurd amount on blowing things up. Way more than we spend on kids, the elderly, our roads or sick people combined. It's really kind of sad, building up all that weaponry while the livingry is left to fight over table scraps. It's as if we're out for a crazy night at the carnival thinking our time in the bounce house never stops. We just keep jumping up and down, laughing and giggling as our bodies flail about. Perpetual motion, getting "massive air". On and on, forever and ever. That is, until China won't lend us money any more and the whole things deflates. Out there in a dessert. And there we are, with a case of motion sickness and no sense of direction. [caption id="attachment_2143" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="As many as you need."][/caption] It's Fourth of July time in 2010 and the battle of ideas in America continues to go on. One side is saying we spend too much, therefore strip down government. Cut medicare, privatize social security and really take on the deficit. The other side simply says, stop spending all our money on war. That's the side I'm on. The side that says enough of these stupid, pointless wars, 700+ military bases all over the world and this thirst for empire that's done so all other countries will do what we say. C'mon, it's just not a 21st century way to behave. Goin' Broke indeed. Because of all the war we've got goin' on. It seems too easy anymore, talking to my conservative friends who think we can't afford Universal Health Care. My response: shift priorities and we got it no problem. So my question now is, can there be common ground? Is the Tea Party and the Coffee Party set for a union of sorts? Perhaps Obama's push for bipartisanship is rubbing off on me. Really though, the problems we face are large. Structural problems that exist at the core of our country, whether in education, economy, environment, foreign policy or our general sense of unhelpful exceptionalism. They require a large effort in response. The "fix" cannot just exist along the margins. It must be a full-on assault of all our best intentions from everywhere by everyone. With so much uproar brewing over our debt, it just may be the thing to bring together far left and far right in a very kumbaya moment. In the back of that little coffee shop it can all certainly seem insignificant. The anti-war movement in general can seem insignificant. The noise it's made over the last decade hasn't really accomplished much. Though we didn't have a major cable news network to back us. But still. One can easily become disheartened. Feelings of futility sink in. It seems like nothing is happening. And nothing is going to change. But that's really not true. It's just self-inflicted drama grabbing hold. Take an honest assessment, and things are getting better. At least for this little community of collaborators. The general agitators that enjoy each other's company enough to make the little incremental movements that assure the rest of the population that yep, we peaceniks are out here. Still making noise. As long as there's war to be had, they'll be peace to throw at it. So from the designer, the programmer, the community organizer, the communications task force and the group of committed peace and justice types, here's to a better world. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.

A Very Sad Day.

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
[caption id="attachment_2082" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Bill Moyers Journal"][/caption] This Friday, April 30, 2010 marks the end of Bill Moyers Journal. When I first heard the news I was shocked. In disbelief. What on earth was I to do? How was I to make sense of the world? Of America? In the battle of ideas that shakes our foundations of reality, this show held firm to thoughtful discussion, an embrace of dialogue and a grasp on reality you just can't get anywhere else. And Bill Moyers is simply an amazing journalist and conducts one hell of an interview. From our wars, to our health care, to the vitally important coverage of the economic crisis, to the future of the Internet itself, this show was the show. I'd say if everybody watched this show, or at least looked at the issues from a similar place of thoughtfulness, civility and integrity, we would be better suited as a society to take on the big challenges staring us in the face waiting for us to blink. But hey, I guess it's just easier to scream like a buffoon and write a bunch of scribbles on a chalkboard. So. This Friday is going to be a very sad day. The last episode of the Journal. We salute you Mr. Moyers. For your ideas. For your passion. For your tone. For all that you have done to help steer the ship. Here's to the Journal. Onward!  [caption id="attachment_2077" align="alignnone" width="540" caption=""This is the big one." Inside The Banking Crisis. "][/caption]

Less Crazy Talk. More Illumination.

Friday, January 15th, 2010
DESIGN IN THE DEBATE [caption id="attachment_323" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Design work in the Health Care and Climate Change debates."][/caption] There is certainly a lot of shouting these days. From left, right, above and below. It's a strange thing, those moments when the white noise nonsense sends you spinning. Duck and run for cover. And please, let's just talk about the latest blockbuster. And maybe that new tech gadget that will make our lives better. Just not the politics that remind us all of the blowhards and windbags. The pundits and politicians, crooks and liars, droners and deceivers. It's just too painful. And not that entertaining, no matter how many sound effects a corporate news show adds to the discourse. America's great debates we've seen in the last year have been heated to be sure. At too many times incomprehensible. For the record, I don't watch all that much of the cable news networks, but what parts I do pick up on are enough to shock me into a coma. The things people will say, and the volume at which they'll say it. Everybody is supposed to want to have their say. From the all-powerful on one side to the average citizen on the other. Sloppy democracy at work. But it appears a good majority are opting out. Because the point people on our little operation of representative democracy seem to be crazy. I mean, if you want to get in on this debate, it would appear you have to either be really pissed or have just uncovered something so sinister the only thing that will save us all from it destroying every last man, woman and child is to unearth it in a spectacle of patriotic duty. Plenty of outlets will give you a brief glimpse of stardom for your offering. There is a lot in play. A lot of balls in the air if you will. Could it be we're muddling through a great transformation in terms of our collective priorities and values? It's possible. There are signs of it. Could it be that our society is finally shifting toward something more healthy, just and sustainable? Sometimes it seems so. But then the "debate" offers us a swift kick to the gut and we fall to the ground in pain while the specter of a socialist, fascist, neo-nazi death panel is waived in front of us. Most likely it was hatched by an art program in some liberal university dorm room on a coast somewhere that will indoctrinate all our school children over a side of organic carrots.  Ultimately, what we have here is a battle of ideas. One would assume a battle is going to be intense. But seriously, the cost to jump in seems to be your sanity. And we need active participants in our sloppy democracy, otherwise it's the all-powerful who win while the average citizen just becomes exhausted, which seems to be happening to a lot of us. What are we to do? Enter graphic design. That wonderful little tool of visual wit and starry-eyed idealism. My vision, once America has gone through its great transformation, with it's special ability to enlighten and inspire, graphic design will be used before, during and after exchanges of opposing views on a subject. To inspire full engagement, verify information and dissect further implications of the debate. (No, bullet points are not graphic design.) In an enlightened society, up there in importance with investigative journalism, illuminating design, yet another sign of healthy democracy. Now, what I mean by great transformation is that it's the average citizen who benefits from how our country works. Not the all-powerful. In terms of health, environment, workplace, economy and so on. Specifically, what our debate has been about lately; we have a public option in the insurance exchange, America leads in developing a clean energy economy while paying our climate debt, workers are allowed to join unions if they want to and the people are allowed to use their government to bring green jobs to lift them out of crisis. That Nebraskans approve of this historical health care advancement and our generation is excited about the idea of service and using design to make our communities better. At least, that's whose side I'm on. Yon can see these ideas reflected in the accompanying images. [caption id="attachment_329" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Exhibition focused on worker rights."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_330" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Artwork for"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_338" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Health Care campaign at the Wendell Potter event."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_343" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Workshop on service and design for social impact."][/caption] Design can make a piece of legislation understandable, a choice clear or an idea reality. In the debate we are having right now, it can turn on an entire community. There does become a time when complexity leads to complete immobilization. (Or crazy talk ends in blank stares.) The left/right, back/forth just keeps going on and on and numbs us to the need for our own critical thinking. By simplifying ideas while opening up the mind for deeper discovery design that becomes part of the debate can lead to more engagement and understanding by the participants. With all the infosnacking, sound biting and attention overload, we do need serious discussion. Design, with its ability to not drone on and on — to succinctly clarify, motivate or to simply spell things out — can lead us there. There is not only a place for design in our democracy, but it can fulfill a crucial function.  Refer to the following mini-manifesto: As people, we need communities that look good and feel right. As lovers, we need those communities to welcome everyone. As citizens, we need a universal declaration for those communities. As designers, we need to show what those communities will look like and inspire their creation. In our current debates, there is honesty and deception. Contrived and the authentic. There's agendas from all sides. From the oil and gas companies. The insurance industry. Powerful politicians. Powerful brands. Powerful ideas. Citizen groups. And the average citizen. It's a mess. Which is exactly what democracy is; a mess. But it is desperately needed and with as many people as possible. We need to be able to speak to our government and to each other directly in the most productive way. The work here is designed to participate in that capacity. Specifically, to inspire people to demand progressive policies from their government. In my view, it's those policies that will lead to a more prosperous decade than the last. I'm really pulling for a great transformation. And a beautiful alternative to the debate we've been subjected to for a painfully long time. Helped in no small measure by the tool of graphic design and all it's capable of. But it is the battle of ideas we are dealing with, so consider that whole beautiful alternative bit more starry-eyed idealism from this graphic designer. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer.