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Archive for July, 2014
Tags: ARTIST IAN PRITCHARD, commodification, discordion, Nestle, Water Stressed
This is an artwork I included in my BA Hons end of degree exhibition this june, The installation was on the subject of the commodification of water and an attack on the CEO of Nestle who said he believed water should be a paid for resource like coal or oil.
Companies proclaim water the next oil in a rush to turn resources into profit
Mammoth companies are trying to collect water that all life needs and charge for it as they would for other natural resources
“Is now the time to buy water?” enquired the email that showed up in my inbox earlier this week.
Its authors weren’t worrying about my dehydration levels. Rather, they were urging me to think of water in quite a new way: as a commodity to invest in.
Making money from water? Is this what Wall Street wants next?
After spending nearly 30 years of my life writing about business and finance, including several years dedicated to the commodities market, the idea of treating water as a pure commodity – something to bought and sold on the open market by those in quest of a profit rather than trying to deliver it to their fellow citizens as a public service – made me pause.
Sure, I’ve grown up surrounded by bottled mineral water – Evian, Volvic, Perrier, Pellegrino and even more chi-chi brands – but that has always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to whatever home I’m occupying. All it takes is turning a tap. The cost of that water is fractions of a penny compared to designer bottled water.
This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity.
At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.
In his view, citizens don’t have an automatic right to more than the water they require for mere “survival”, unless they can afford to pay for it. For context, the World Health Organization sets such “survival” consumption levels at a minimum of 20 liters a day for basic hygiene and food hygiene – higher, if you add laundry and bathing. If you’re reading this in the United States, the odds are that flushing your toilet consumes 50 liters of water a day.
Brabeck is right to argue that we risk depleting the world’s supply of fresh water irresponsibly through careless and thoughtless consumption of an apparently free resource. How many lush golf courses should we be sustaining with millions of gallons of water in parts of the world that are naturally arid, like Arizona or southern California?
And then there are the bizarre mixed messages that some California residents are getting: don’t water your lawns in the state’s long-running drought that has depleted its aquifers. On the other hand, some are also being warned they’ll be fined if they don’t keep their lawns and neighborhoods looking nice.
But Brabeck probably isn’t the best standard-bearer for the cause of responsible water management, by any stretch of the imagination.
Consider the fact that as the drought has worsened, Nestle’s Nestle Waters North Americas Inc division – the largest bottled water company in the country – has continued to pump water from an aquifer near Palm Springs, California, thanks to its partnership with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Their joint venture, bottling water from a spring on land owned by the band in Millard Canyon, has another advantage: since the Morongo are considered a sovereign nation, no one needs to report exactly how much water is being drawn from the aquifer.
In the Canadian province of British Columbia, Nestle has been using another loophole.
Until this year, British Columbia didn’t have rules that required the company to report how much it drew from the province’s aquifers – or pay a penny to the government’s coffers in exchange for the resource.
As of last year, therefore, Nestle was able to bottle 265m liters of fresh water and pay nothing for the resource that Brabeck believes should have an economic price attached to it – at least, when it is consumers that are paying that price. (For the record: the situation in BC is in the process of changing: a new Water Sustainability Act, passed this spring, will be fully in force by spring 2015.)
If you’re curious to know what a society existing on “survival” water supplies might look like, just take a glance at Detroit. When the city became the largest US municipality ever to file for bankruptcy protection, it’s not all that surprising that they began to look at the payments residents owed to city hall – including delinquent water bills.
Now, instead of letting it slide, the city is cutting off water – leaving thousands, perhaps more than 100,000 of the city’s 700,000 citizenswithout running water in their homes. If you can’t pay for your water, you won’t get it – although Nestle, and others, will truck in emergency supplies to make sure you’re receiving your “survival” level rations.
Today, throughout most of North America and Europe, we take the ready availability of clean, running water for granted.
We have forgotten what its relatively recent arrival on the scene – within the last 100 to 150 years – has meant for health, nutrition and hygiene – and for the development of society, business and industry, as a result. To the extent that we allow purely market forces to shape water consumption, we limit future contributions to our world to the scions of wealthy families.
There is a role for the free market in water, however. It comes at the bleeding edge: in the area of technologies that can be developed to treat waste water or desalinate water to make it usable or potable, or, alternatively, to develop ways to use less water in everything that we do now, from growing crops and making paper to producing iPhones.
A cluster of private equity firms is backing startups in this area – and that, in contrast to the bottled drinking water business, strikes me as a completely appropriate quest to way to profit – not from water itself, but from the need to consume water more efficiently.
After that, like everything else that is a public good, somehow we have to find a way to ensure that adequate supplies of clean water are available to everyone. And we might start by remembering that the summer’s horror story for those in Detroit is still an everyday reality for 40% of the world’s population – most of whom already live below the poverty line.
Imagine the impact on them of turning water into an economic commodity? I may applaud and share Brabeck’s overall concern about what is happening to our reserves of fresh water – but a little intellectual honesty on Nestle’s part about what is happening and what the real impact of his suggestions might be wouldn’t come amiss, either.
Tags: Activism, art, ARTIST IAN PRITCHARD, artists on wordpress, aura, capitalism, Capitalism A Very Special Delirium, commodification, discordion, docile consumers of contemporary life, mass schizophrenia, philosophy, Simulacra and simulation, society of the spectacle, structural violence, The Capitalist Paradigm
The Capitalist Paradigm
My research for my essay required me studying artworks that shock/jolt the viewer from the hypnotic complacency of the spectacle/simulacra (which are, to me, essentially the same i.e. – kitsch, empty, nullifying culture and society that covers over the horrors of war, politics, disparity, capitalism, etc).
They shock by mocking the horrors of postmodern life and by making visible those horrors.
However, such is the Spectacle and Simulacra that it quickly nullifies through fetishism/desires for commodities that consume us, as much as we consume them.
Quickly, we are able to compensate the shock, overcome outrage at the horrors of the world and once again become passive, docile (Foucault) consumers of contemporary life.
This is where the schizophrenia comes into the context of my essay, as we are constantly and simultaneously in two minds, each overcoming the other, so, we do not rise up and become accepting of the status quo.
I went on to talk about how the artists’ work is to critique contemporary culture. Then how they ultimately fail, as shock is nullified and the art becomes part of the Spectacle because the artworks are after all simulacra themselves and become commodified.
The artists’ battle it out in the end as to whether they overcome or perpetuate fetishism, consumerism, the spectacle and simulacra…
More extracts here: extracts from my BA dissertation
Tags: Activism, ARTIST IAN PRITCHARD, artists on wordpress, discordion, Picasso
When it came to Picasso’s art, he was serious as a pope. Towards the end of the second world war, he was goaded by an interviewer on the relationship between art and politics. He interrupted the interview to hurl himself on a piece of paper and scribble a statement, a mini-manifesto, so that he would not be misunderstood.
“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes if he’s a painter, ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he’s a poet – or even, if he’s a boxer, only some muscles? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being constantly alert to the horrifying, passionate or pleasing events in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How is it possible to be uninterested in other men and by virtue of what cold nonchalance can you detach yourself from the life that they supply so copiously? No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.”
That flash of grandiloquence might be taken as the text for the 2010 exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Picasso: Peace and Freedom, which set out to explore the artist as a political being, through the causes he espoused, and above all through his commitment to the French Communist party (PCF), which he joined in 1944, with great fanfare, and never left.
Picasso always hoped to go on for ever, and he very nearly did. In the course of a long lifetime (1881-1973) he had seen it all, from the Spanish-American war of 1898 to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. He knew anarchists, bolshevists, socialists, communists, fascists, pacifists, falangists and Stalinists, to say nothing of cubists, futurists, dadaists, surrealists, suprematists, constructivists, destructivists and stridentists. He grew up with monarchism assailed by revolutionary anarchism; he grew old with republicanism served by monopoly capitalism. Ideologically, he had lived.
In the matter of the horrifying, he had form. Guernica (1937), then in the United States, was already a cause célèbre: “the Last Judgment of our age” or “Bolshevist art controlled by the hand of Moscow”, it was gaining in iconic status with each passing decade. At the time of his outburst on the role of the artist, he was working on the most powerful political painting he ever made, The Charnel House (1944-45), the pièce de résistance of the Tate exhibition. Picasso himself said that the work was affected by revelations of the real-life charnel houses of the holocaust. In this instance there is no reason to doubt him.
The pages of his newspaper, the Communist daily L’Humanité, were full of graphic accounts of the camps, complete with illustrations. An article on the crematoria at Natzweiler-Struthof, near Strasbourg, included the macabre detail that the executioners had tied the hands and feet of their victims, like the central motif of the painting, and the heaped corpses in the death zone that constitutes the lower part of the canvas are reminiscent of the first shock photos of the camps – and of Goya’s Disasters of War (1810-20), images at once unprintable and unforgettable. In the death zone, crucified innocence and clenched-fist defiance grapple with mass killing and dismemberment. The upper zone is less horrific, though no less eerie. Some elements of a contemporaneous still life enter in Pitcher, Candle and Casserole (1945) – the candle, symbol of hope, obliterated. The Charnel House is the offensive and defensive weapon deployed: memento mori, indictment, tribute to sacrifice, howl of despair, and proof positive of lyric poetry after Auschwitz.
Tags: Burn Out
“It’s better to burn out than to rust.” ~ Neil Young
While I’m not sure that’s true, either way, the process can be painful. The great news is that if we burn out, we have the chance to light up once more.
Life can seem difficult for introverts, and by introverts I mean those people who find energy from their alone time. If you’re an introvert and feeling lost, unmotivated or perhaps like a failure, you’re not alone.
Modern life is best suited to the extraverts among us. Introverts feel too accessible for their own comfort. We’re expected to respond to emails or texts immediately. We’re always on our phones because people expect an instant response. At work we’re expected to do more with less; to produce more or see more clients in a shorter amount of time.
Introverts can be quite passionate, and passionate people burn out, especially when doing something that just isn’t “you.” Work stress can sometimes leave us emotionally and sometimes physically exhausted. With burnout there may be a loss of self; we no longer feel authentic in our work, or in alignment with our truth and values.
According to data from Gallup, only 13 percent of employees are “engaged” in their jobs. Sadly, most are killing time or totally disengaged, like Amanda, who came to me completely burned out. She dreaded going to work every morning. Together we created strategies to help her cope, and a series of things she could do both at home and at work so she could take back her life. Soon she was having fun and enjoying life again.
This is the five-step process I used with Amanda and it will take you from where you are now to where you want to be. I call them the Five Rs to beating burnout and rediscovering authenticity.
1. Recognition. With anything, awareness is always the first step. Often we put our heads in the sand to ignore what’s happening. You can’t do anything about burnout if you don’t recognize it before it takes its toll. Deal with it before it turns into depression, illness or addiction, or exacerbates an illness. Stop and listen to your inner voice. It never lies.
2. Responsibility. Take responsibility for your life. It’s easy to blame burnout on your job or on your boss or the economy or significant other or anybody else. The truth is that we are in charge of our own lives and make choices every single day. You don’t have to like them, but acknowledge and own the choices you’ve made that have led you to this point.
3. Root Cause. When you find the root cause of things, you can focus on solutions, not problems. It’s not healthy to use avoidance mechanisms, like ignoring, procrastinating or drinking. You need to get to the root of the problem to discover why this is happening. Is it work? Is it your relationship? Have you neglected your own needs for too long? Pinpoint the underlying cause.
4. Replenishment. This is all about setting boundaries, taking time out and creating meaning in your life. The result is a you that is more balanced and present. It’s a you that is more authentic and true to yourself. Burnout sucks all the energy and life out of you, so set boundaries to protect yourself. When you have boundaries that you stick to, you have time to re-connect with yourself and your family. You rediscover what energizes your soul and makes you feel alive. You have time for joy and time for peace. You have time to replenish everything that has been missing in your life, and replenish your inner spirit, too.
5. Reflection. One advantage introverts have is their strong inner voice which speaks up during times of reflection. Take the time to reflect on where you are now, and how you are feeling. The first four steps will help you make your situation more pleasant while you’re there, but if you still can’t find that spark, the best thing to do is to trust yourself. Trust that inner voice and have the courage to move on if you need to.
Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Burnout, though difficult to go through, may actually be the process which ignites a whole new and vibrant life for you. It may be the process which brings back the authentic you, and allows you to light up a bright new world.
What is your inner voice telling you?
Tags: ARTIST IAN PRITCHARD, artists on wordpress, desiderata
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with god, whatever you conceive him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
desiderata a video
Tags: ARTIST IAN PRITCHARD, democracy dead, discordion, Drip law, totalitarianism
Last week, a new emergency surveillance law went from announcement to enactment in only eight days. Here a researcher in law and technology at the University of Cambridge explains succinctly and savagely why the law and the process that established it are a “complete abomination” (viaGuardian Technology)
UK’s Drip law: sceptical, misleading and an affront to democracy
Demonstrating the lack of knowledgeable leadership and the failure to engage in democratic debate, this ‘data retention’ surveillance law seeds distrust.
The UK’s new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (Drip) law that went from announcement to enactment in eight days, is a complete abomination. Everything about the process – and here, process is critical – is an affront to democracy, to the rule of law, to the rights of British and global citizens, and even to the erstwhile ends of national security.
The completely unsatisfactory process involved the announcement last Thursday that the three main party leaders had been working in private towards supporting a bill that wasn’t yet public, followed by a three day fast-track process through the Commons and Lords, an overnight afterthought on human rights compliance, vague and uncoordinated attempts at amendment, and a government reshuffle and countless other matters to distract and detract.
What Drip represents is the absence of true political leadership and an utter failure to engage in an open, mature, public debate about the clash between privacy and security online.
The debate shouldn’t be between blanket, universal data retention and no retention at all, as it was misleadingly cast. It should be about retention that is necessary and proportionate.
Instead of engaging with what it termed an ‘emergency’ – that, months ago, the European court of justice, the European parliament, the United Nations, communications providers, civil society organisations, and other governments clearly stated that blanket, indiscriminate data retention and mass surveillance infringe human rights and are not necessary and proportionate – parliament pushed that debate, those rights and, in the long-run, that data, underground.
As Martha Lane-Fox said in her speech to the Lords, with uncharacteristic gloom: “The web I want seems to be disappearing,”she said. “Addressing the ECJ ruling and planning this bill far earlier could have been an extraordinary opportunity to instigate a wide-ranging and sophisticated review about the future, a review which carefully considered the implications of data collection, the role of surveillance, and the trade-off between privacy and security.
“Instead, we are being catapulted into legislation that builds on the badly understood and arguably dysfunctional Ripa legislation. This bill sets a precedent from which, even with reviews and a sunset clause, I believe it will be hard to row back. I sincerely hope that we do not regret it.”
The clash between privacy and security goes to the heart of the kind of society we want to live in. It has been shown that governments and corporations routinely collect, retain, and process the most intimate details of our connected personal lives.
What kinds of limits and safeguards exist on that data collection and data retention?
What limits and safeguards should exist?
By outright depriving us of that debate – and by doing so with such obvious propaganda (“emergencies”, paedophiles, terrorists, and crooks at every turn), deception (“status quo” and “clarifications” masking naked extension of interception powers and extraterritorial reach), and hypocrisy (the UK can no longer meaningfully criticise surveillance conducted under more repressive regimes) – Drip may be so bad that it is almost, perversely, good.
What possible good is there here? The problem with the privacy/security debate, like many of our great challenges, is that laziness favours the bad.
We all know that lazy needs to stare down its bloated, weak, and depraved reflection before it is stirred into action. And Drip is part of that ugly reflection. It might be just a glimmer; a fleeting mirage, but it is significant.
If government fails to lead, respect, and restrain, it is a call to action – an appeal to us all, to technology, to society.
To quote again Lane-Fox: “Public trust is at an all-time low and I fully understand why. We ignore people’s anxiety at our peril.”
By making such a comprehensive mockery of the processes of public consultation and proper parliamentary scrutiny, Drip in all its disappointment should seed scepticism, anxiety, and restless distrust. It may be part of the nudge we need to compel the masses from their desk-chairs and to start reclaiming the web we want.
Julia Powles is a researcher in law and technology at the University of Cambridge. Find her on Twitter @juliapowles