Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day & Steps to Lasting Social Change

Today, the first of December 2006, is World AIDS Day. As you may know already, there are many things you can do to mark the day, from giving to shopping, to simply lighting a candle, as one of my co-workers has done in memory of a relative today.

Betty and Bimbo think it's both wonderful and urgent that so many people and companies are talking about the global AIDS crisis and lending a small hand to help. Some of the most visible commercial campaigns, like Apple's, Gap's, and Bristol-Meyers' are very original, memorable, and cool. Still, we wonder if more could be done more often-- not solely around AIDS, but in general -- to shift resources, in a sustainable, permanent way, from people who have too many of them to people who need them.

Part of Betty's job is to try to build a dialogue about social change with people who have some extra means. It was through this work that she has been connected to Emerging Practicioners in Philanthropy and Resource Generation, two cross-class non-profits working with young people who want to better align their resources with their values. It is through Resource Generation's book Classified that Betty has been learning more about class privilege and (thoughtful, mapped-out) social responsibility as it applies to all kinds of people, even those of us without lots of money in the bank. It's definitely worth checking out.

To give you a taste of the discussions contained within Classified (which is actually a very user-friendly and approachable book full of cartoons!), below are two examples of ideas that had a big influence on the book's authors. Although the writers are politcal radicals, it may not be necessary to be a political radical to see the truth at the essence of what they are saying, and to act on it.

"In order to have the continued opportunity to express their 'generosity,' the oppressor must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this 'generosity'...True generosity consists preceisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity." - Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum Books, 1997.

"To be wealthy and remain committed to justice is no easy task. We hear little from the wealthy who use their means to further the cause of justice, of economic self-sufficiency for all. Despite their good deeds, this silence maintains their class solidarity with those who exploit and oppress..." - bell hooks, Where We Stand: Class Matters, Routledge Books, 2000.

1 comment:

venus infers said...

wow, hefty subject. freire and hooks!! that's a great combination!
-"see the truth..."

but could we ever see what lies beyond what we see?
althusser wrote that there is no false consciousness, only consciousness. what he meant was that ideology structures all our understanding. there is nothing beyond it-- for him, even breathing is full of some form of it. every scream that we make against the system eventually feeds back into it. maybe "protesting for social justice" is simply the illusion that we can change things within our bourgeois "liberal democracies". maybe even though there were a fight for "revolution," we would simply be reproducing the conditions for a return to the same structure ...

on the other hand we can't not believe that we can effect some form of change. that is why i read freire as calling for an ethical commitment to social justice. the question becomes then, how to carry out that commitment, what that commitment actually implies. letting your arms down won't quite do it.

so write to your congressmen to ask them why the federal government continues to reduce the amount of money spent on research for an hiv cure. who benefits?