Connection and responsibility

Today's New York Times leads with the U.S. Presidential inauguration and Obama's vow of an era of responsibility.  I've grown quite used to a life of denial and have been wondering what an increased awareness of my responsibility within and for the world and its people might look like.  The prospect is challenging...

My photographic renaissance took place fairly recently.  After an early professional career, I hadn't touched a camera in 20 years but then began to play with a simple point & shoot digital that my wife left on our picnic table. Like many parents the automatic subject was the kids.


Nothing too challenging here and I was left reflecting on an idyllic and comfortable Western lifestyle; yeah, I've worked hard but even so, things could be a lot different.  I have two healthy kids who go to school each day- that seems like the main thing.

But then something curious started to happen that left me rattled.  Connections started to spark in some of my more dormant synapses.  Here is what I wrote in my journal:

‘I played with the digital image on my computer and wondered what could be prompting such a response.  Looking more closely, I magnified the image and I found that my daughter had been transformed into a ghoulish version of her usual self.  In the image I see her as ragged, dark eyed, hollowed, decaying; an ugly child in a Halloween mask.'

'I make no claims that this magnified section of the image shows any form of ‘reality.’ I have deliberately chosen to see my daughter like this and to magnify and distort her image.  Yet the image resonates with the ugliness that lies in the shadows.  And so, as I love and nurture her, I wonder at the hidden impact of apparently innocent decisions that we make on a day-to-day basis and the quality of life we bring.  The health and prosperity of my daughter, my son and my wife, and the privilege that we experience, clearly has a significant social and ecological shadow.’

We make unwitting connections; I know that my children wear clothes and shoes that are made in countries with dubious records on child labour and human rights.  Out of shot is other paraphernalia of a consumerist, Western lifestyle.  Our efforts to become socially, economically and environmentally responsible seem truthfully minimal.  Like many of us we are keen to support an ethical stance and yet still contribute to the problem.  I wish Obama the very best of luck in generating a sense of responsibility within all of us and, at the same time, realise that this is a job only we can do.



Steve MarshallComment