Tuesday, January 26, 2010


One of the most striking sights during our visit to Munich was an art display at the Haus der Kunst. This particular display actually covered the whole facade of the museum itself and was visually stunning.

From afar it looked like a huge canvas with Chinese characters painted mostly with primary colors. However, when we took a closer look we could see that hundreds upon hundreds of backpacks were used to form this gigantic “canvas.” It was quite impressive.

This piece, called “Remembering,” was created by Chinese artist Ai WeiWei. Each of the 9,000 backpacks used in this installation represented the thousands of schoolchildren who fell victims to poorly built school buildings that did not stand the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

The politically active artist wanted not only to remember the many innocent lives lost but also to expose the unscrupulous authoritarian Chinese government. This natural disaster occurred while China was preparing for the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and the Chinese government feared a public relations nightmare. The disaster, the extend of the destruction and the actual number of injured and dead people were downplayed by the state propaganda machine. Ai WeiWei himself was arrested and beaten by State Police when he was trying to further investigate the real cause of the high death toll.

Our very own infrastructure in the United States is crumbling at an alarming rate and yet nothing is being done about it. While politicians only point fingers at each other and blaming others for incompetence or wasting money on unwinnable wars, things are getting increasingly worse. Does anyone seriously believe that cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles could withstand earthquakes of the magnitude like we have just seen in Haiti, without any widespread damage? L.A. would more likely resemble a devastated Port-au-Prince and the aftermath would be much worse.

Remember how the U.S. Government responded after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans back in 2005? How did the federal authority in charge not notice the decaying condition of a freeway bridge in Minneapolis before it collapsed into the Mississippi River in 2007? Not much has changed since then.

Try making a reasonable point during a discussion about the current deplorable state in this country and you’re being treated like some kind of un-American commie lover. It’s even worse when you’re trying to compare the U.S. with other industrialized countries and how far advanced they are. Now you’re just plain and simple a traitor and an enemy of the state. But instead of taking a moment to listen about the problems we’ll be facing or making a serious effort to finding solutions, most people would rather ride the patriotic wave of American self-aggrandizement. And the propaganda machine in the United States is doing a fantastic job convincing its citizens otherwise.

Put on those blinders, people. And keep waving that American flag. It’s all very nice but it takes a bit more than Old Glory to fix things in desperate need of repair.

But apparently, all we need now to fix everything are a couple of tea bags.

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