28 August 2004

An artist's statement

First, I offer you: Art 100E -- Photography : Motion Study Artist's Statement by Ian Spiers: Humiliated, Angry, Ashamed, Brown

He went on to tell me that the minute I'd photographed federal property, citing the Ballard Locks, the train bridge and the Patriot Act, that I'd, again, broken the law. Of course, I asked why there weren't any signs on that parcel of public property disclosing that photography was forbidden ...

You know, I just read (and reread) that last paragraph, and I still don't get it. I mean, you're joking, right? The Ballard Locks are easily my neighborhood's most recognizable landmark and its highest point of tourism. Tour buses and tour boats make regularly scheduled visits here, and guided tours escort groups of visitors through this landmark daily. Everyone's taking pictures.

Then I offer you the title of Milton Mayer's 1955 book about Nazi Germany: They Thought They Were Free. Of course they did.

What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with [their leader], their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

Now, because we have to be explicit about these things: No, I'm not saying that we're living in a society like Nazi Germany. Notice that I can write this and post it in public without fear of being shot or shipped off to a concentration camp. I am saying that loss of freedoms doesn't look like kristallnacht — by the time something like that happens, the cancer has been growing for a long time — that you can lose a lot of rights and liberties well before it feels oppressive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a frog that doesn't like the feel of the water in this pot at all!

- yezida