To Kill an Idea
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To Kill an Idea • Posted: Aug 17, 2008 11:49:35Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Someone asked recently where I get inspiration for the words I write to go with the images on this website. I told them "It comes from the photographs themselves. Many photographs I've made might be worth looking at, but for the blog I choose images that set my mind to wondering. What I come up with often involves not only the content and context of the photograph but all the other stuff floating around in my head with no particular place to go, stuff I've seen, heard, read, done, have an opinion regarding, etc., etc." Take the image above, for instance. I look at it and it simultaneously reminds me of something from my childhood and of several items in the news this week. The connection is an act of intimidation. The results are plain. What puzzles me is the rationale for such acts.

The image above is of a lavatory, an institutional washroom. In this case, probably a place of employment. But it reminds me of a washroom from my childhood, a school washroom on the first day of classes at a new school for me in a new town in a new state. I was a Northerner moving into Southern territory. Accents were different. Cultures were different. This new kid, me, needed to be taught a lesson, put into place. Peeing into a communal trough presented them with vulnerable opportunity and they took the advantage. But I wasn't intimidated, more shocked and disappointed. And in succeeding hours I took each one of those guys down and rubbed his nose in the dirt, deciding my own place in that endearing but pitiful small town. Not every similar act of intimidation results in stalemate and/or mutual accommodation, no matter how reluctant. Take for instance the BBC reported torching of girls schools in Pakistan by members of the Taliban this week and consider the attempted acts of intimidation by Georgian troops within South Ossetia and the countervailing invasion of Georgia by Russian troops.

What is the rationale behind such acts of intimidation? The intent, I think, is to kill an idea. What is scary about some ideas is that they represent a reordering of things. Privilege is in jeopardy. Acts of defense involve killing the purveyor of such ideas, or dismantling the means by which such ideas are disseminated, or trying to destroy the evidence and symbols that such new ideas predict while at the same time propagating false evidence. The Taliban and Russians kill and dismantle. The Bush administration and our own religious right take the latter tact.

One can hardly argue that the status quo is a happy compromise for all involved. Ideas that reorder things with more sustaining and healthful equity would be greatly appreciated by the vast majority of the world's citizenry. Many such ideas are in the air. How exactly can the fear of useful new ideas be defused? How can the minds of those who fear be opened to the benefits and opportunities offered? How can transition to a more healthful, equitable, and sustaining order be made both desirable and easy?

In the end, I think, new and better ideas will undoubtedly prevail. The only question is how much carnage will be left along the wayside.

Friday, August 11th, 2006