So, today is Thanksgiving. Between the attacks in Mumbai and the watching of the documentary Why We Fight last night and ruminating on our nation's scary, heart-dropping Capitalistic military industrial complex, it's hard to find big things to be thankful for, let alone to have much hope. But I'll give it a shot.
Today, I've decided to be thankful for people. This is a big step for me, especially in light of so much destruction, perpetrated by people for one reason or another, be it their religion or their greed. One has to keep in mind that for every individual destructive force, there is, hopefully, one for good. I'm thankful for all the people who work to make the world better, less violent and more altruistic. Often, it seems like those people are few, or that their voices are rarely heard above the din of explosions or the gibbering nonsense of mobs. They’re there, though. They feed the hungry, they clothe the needy. They speak to authority and make tiny inroads to right wrongs. And they are frequently derided as being day-dreamers, as if defending the rights and needs of other human beings in light of those ever-present and insidiously undulating ‘needs’ of caustic forces, whether in the form of, say, corporations, or worse, nameless, faceless dogmatic concepts like religion or nationalism, is passé. As if this work is not worth doing, and even if it was, it is useless, or powerless.
I was recently involved on my campus in bringing Mark Rudd in as a speaker. He was a high-ranking member of the Students for a Democratic Society in the 60s, and went on to become a member of the Weather Underground, spending seven years or so as a fugitive. While he regretted the path and the actions of that group, both for moral and logistical reasons, he did not necessarily abandon the impetus for such actions, which I appreciated. Towards the end of the lecture, a friend of mine spoke up and told Mark that, during that time, he considered him as a sort of hero. Mark is a wonderfully affable and humble person, and for a moment, it seemed he didn’t quite know how to take such a statement. My friend, John, clarified with this: Some people care about shapes, and colors, and we call those people artists. Some people care about people. Those are moral artists.” There was a thoughtful silence in the room for a few moments. A moral artist. Someone who cares about people the way an artist cares about, say, the picture he’s painting, or the sculpture he’s shaping—colors as needs, shapes as rights, and putting it all together so that it becomes a coherent image of what we have and what we require to live on this planet.
I am thankful for all of the moral artists out there.