“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero
Jackson Katz is a filmmaker and author who focuses on violence, media and masculinity. Below is a TED Talk clip where Katz is speaking about how silence continues to create an environment that is conducive to violence:
”What happened to the dream of a girl president
She’s dancing in the video next to 50 Cent”
- Pink (Stupid Girls)
Recently, there was an open letter to Michelle Obama decrying her labeling of Beyonce as a role model. The debate about whether or not celebrities are role models is not new. While some celebrities embrace this responsibility, some actively shy away from this label. Some parents throw a fit when their child’s favorite singer/actor/actress behaves in a less than role model-ly kind of way while others state that it is the parents responsibility to be their child’s role model.
Children and young adults spend a large amount of time in the company of individuals who are not their parents (whether face-to-face, via. text messages, watching tv or listening to music). The question of who should be the role model is a hard one to answer. I believe that as children grow, it is the responsibility of parents to model behavior that is not confined to “Do as I say, not as I do.” However, as we get older, it is important that we ourselves take the teachings of our parents/guardians and try to find our own role models. If some believe that Beyonce is their role model, then I hope that they will try to emulate the best part of her (if that is even possible…with Beyonce’s and other celebrities’ PR machines shaping the way we see these individuals).
My Role Model
Sitting and thinking about this blog, I have been wondering who exactly my role model is.
1. My mother. Now this may seem as though I am only giving the answer that many would expect to hear. But my mother has worked hard for over 26 years to help my sister and I…she has provided us with not only food and a roof over our head but with sage advice that to this day drives the way I view relations between a man and a woman.
2. Cornel West. This is a man who is brilliant but does not let his intellect overshadow his most valuable trait…his compassion for his fellow man. Hearing him speak and reading his work, I can find no trace of prejudice. Love for others, genuine love for others is what I strive for.
I think it is important to have at least one role model who is close enough to touch. That is, someone you can call for advice… see firsthand their actions, not just see it from the lens of the camera or the pages of a book. We do live in a media intensified culture and celebrity role models are the norm. However, do not rely totally on a role model you have never met to give you inspiration and motivation to become a better person. I never met Cornel West but I admire his concern for the world and the people in it.
Who is your role model?
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
I am so honoured to get a nomination for a Liebster Award by fellow blogger Juicy Green Mom.
I have heard of such awards but had no idea that I would ever get nominated…at least not so soon!
Here is what they are about:
Liebster Awards go to “up and coming” bloggers with less than 200 followers. The origins of this award are unclear and are simply given by fellow award nominees to blogs that inspire them and that they enjoy reading. “Liebster” means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome in German.
When you get a Liebster Award nomination, you can choose to accept it by doing these things:
1. Share 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer 11 questions posed by your nominator
3. Nominate 11 bloggers and pose the same 11 questions to them.
11 facts about me:
1. I am a HUGE fan of The Young and the Restless
2. My dream is to one day have a large home library.
3. I can never turn down cheesecake.
4. I am addicted to serial dramas like ‘Criminal Minds’
5. When I was younger I wanted to be an FBI agent ( I am not American so that won’t be happening)
6. I practiced martial arts for one year: got a green belt and competed in one tournament where I won three trophies.
7. I still listen to 90s pop: Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Spice Girls…shh don’t tell my friends:-)
8. One day I want to try skydiving.
9. I am a tad bit claustrophobic…as a child I could never use the enclosed slides on playgrounds.
10. If I could have superpowers, I would want to have all the powers that Superman has.
11. My weakness is books…it is hard for me to go into a bookstore without buying a few books
1. What musical artist are you listening to these days?
My musical tastes change daily…I love music. Recently I have been listening to The Heavy and Pink
2. If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?
A bird. I love the freedom that they have to go anywhere.
3. What do you say when your (or someone else’s) kid asks you why the sky is blue?
4. Favorite Food? Cheesecake
5. If $$ were no object, where would you travel on your next vacation?
6. How do you like your eggs?
7. Favorite Reality TV Show?
Do not like reality TV shows.
8. What was your very first job?
Worked at Goodwill (a second-hand clothing/furniture store)…it was the most fun I had because my sister and I were working together.
9. What book is on your nightstand right now?
Chasing the Night by Iris Johansen
10. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Curling up on the sofa and watching reruns of Smallville
11.At what age is your earliest memory?
Not sure what age but it has to be about 2 or 3 and I was in Brazil…my mom was cooking and I don’t know what happened but a small fire occurred and my dad had to run out of the shower to put it out.
Blogs I am nominating (Sorry I could not come up with 11 that fit the criteria. Most of the blogs I follow have a large fan base. Below are the ones that will reach that status one day soon:
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am to blame for the Bangladesh factory collapse
That may sound like a very harsh statement. While I did not build the factory or failed to ensure that its inspection was done on a regular basis…while I did not ignore the safety hazards evident in the structure of the building, I am to blame.
Western businesses have come up with an amazing idea: they have moved away from manufacturing and the responsibilities that that entails and have simply become buyers. They order items such as the shirts we wear and it is up to the manufacturer to provide…it is up to the manufacturer to decide what to pay its employees…it is up to the manufacturer to decide whether to stop production due to safety issues…and it is up to the manufacturer to deal with the ever decreasing selling price that Western businesses demand for products.
The aftermath of such a horrific event has led many businesses, such as Canada’s Loblaw Companies Ltd, to state that they will work to ensure that building inspections are done regularly and that funding is available for maintaining factories so that ‘accidents’ do not occur. Where in the public discourse is the topic of wages? Yes, a system needs to be in place to ensure that a building does not collapse again. But there are workers in Bangladesh who are working for a mere 18 cents an hour! This reliance on and exploitation of cheap labor will continue to occur if companies continue to demand rock bottom prices.
A frightening chain will continue to occur:
Customer wants to buy a t-shirt for $5 –> businesses want to purchase t-shirts from overseas manufacturers for $1 –> manufactures know that it costs $3 to make so they have to decrease wages in order to fulfill their contractual obligations with big business and make a profit –> workers are paid mere cents.
The above illustration is fabricated…maybe it is much worse that I imagine!
The point is that there are many players in the chain: the consumer, the buyer (Big Business), the manufacturer and the cheap labor.
This is a very complicated issue that cannot be resolved with tackling just one aspect of that chain. Indeed, businesses need to be willing to spend a bit more to buy products but there are so many layers to this issue:
(1) Labor unions need to be given power
(2) Building inspections needs to be done regularly
(3) Consumers need to take a stand against slave-like conditions of the workers who make the products we purchase
While I cannot tackle all the issues because (1) I would have to write a book instead of a blog and (2) I am sure I do not know about all the factors that contribute the slavery in 2013, I want to focus a bit on our shopping habits.
Consumerism and the role of advertising
In capitalist Canada, the economy is controlled by multinational corporations whose main goal is profit maximization. With a myriad of commodities on the Canadian market, multinational corporations have become a dog-eat-dog industry that epitomizes ruthless competition. In order to ensure that consumers are aware of and choose to buy a particular corporation’s commodity, the avenue of advertising has become crucial in ensuring profit maximization. To increase the consumer’s awareness of a commodity, the process of branding has been applied to all major products on the market. As Naomi Klein stated in her book No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No jobs, this process of branding is about marking a product with a logo that sends a clear message to the consumer about its consistency and quality. Once affixing a logo to a product, corporations engage in mass advertising to attract consumers. Today it is not enough to simply create television ads to increase awareness; advertising has to manipulate consumers by telling them how to think and what they should want. Every day consumers are constantly being bombarded by images of products on television, buses, newspapers and even coffee cups. Mass advertising has become ubiquitous because corporations believe that the ingraining of products into the minds of consumers will create a system of wants that will inevitably increase consumption of goods and services.
As different companies advertise the same products, advertisers have realized that it is not enough to bombard consumers with images in the hopes that they will choose one product over the other. Consumers need to relate to and forge a relationship with products. It is only then that one product can be superior over another. To ensure product superiority, an influential form of brand management is being used across Canada: emotional branding. Emotional branding is a relational and story driven approach that is aimed at manipulating consumers by encouraging them to forge a deep bond with products. As a result, modern day capitalism is not about selling a product but about selling an idea or a lifestyle. This idea of lifestyle branding focuses on creating the ideology of brands being able to enrich lives so that consumers begin to associate the brand with good conditions such as happiness or youth.
Photo Credit: Evian
To further stress this newly created false ideology, celebrities are increasingly being incorporated into advertising in order to sensitize young consumers to brands. This false ideology results in the increase of hyper-consumerism and conspicuous consumption. As a result of this false consciousness, consumers become slaves to mass consumption and in effect become slaves to the self-interests and self-preservations of multinational corporations.
With such strong forces shaping our ways of thinking, we do not see the dangers of hyper-consumerism. We often hear that eating food in moderation is a healthy way to live. What about shopping in moderation? With individuals often being critiqued based on what they wear, it is no surprise that our malls are continually packed…it is no surprise that credit card debt is increasing at a fast and frightening rate.
I am to blame
I am not saying that I am the sole factor in the equation that provided the environment for the collapse of the Bangladesh factory. I am but one of the reasons that slavery still exists today. I am a shopper. I do not go to the mall everyday. There are times where I haven’t stepped into a mall in months. However, if you look into my closet you will see many dresses, t-shirts, pants, shoes…many of which I have not worn in years. But I still buy new clothes or new shoes.
Our need to keep up with the ever changing fashion trends has led to many of us buying clothing and only wearing it for a season because heaven forbid we wear a pair of pants that was so last year!
Walking through the stores in a mall, a trend has been emerging where poorly made clothing are not only sold but shoppers are aware that they are poorly made and they are still willing to buy it. With poorly made clothing being sold at low prices at stores such as Forever 21, we justify buying it because next year a new fashion trend will be around and we will have no need for that poorly made outfit. In our minds, it is better to buy an item of clothing that only lasts for 2 months than to buy something that lasts for a year because it is easier to throw away/stop wearing that tattered item than to throw away/stop wearing that perfectly fine item.
I am not saying that we need to not shop ever again. But do we need 15 pairs of shoes? Do we need 5 different style of dresses in the same color? Do we need to follow the advice of the fashion police who yearly compiles a list of what to wear and what not to wear?
If I keep buying clothing when I already own enough that can fill a store, I am only contributing to the continued exploitation of workers. If I keep shopping, demand will increase and corporations will have to go looking to places such as Bangladesh to purchase more clothing at low prices. If I keep shopping, more buildings will collapse and more people will die. If I keep shopping, I will continue to be a slave of capitalism.
I leave you with a trailer for a movie I saw once about advertising: