Alice Neel and the Rat Race

Fuller Brush Man

Alice Neel painted most of her paintings in the living room of her apartment on 107th Street in New York. She sometimes painted a painting each week, living off of $100 a month from the Works Project Administration, until it ran out in 1943, after which she lived on welfare, and 23 years later, found a patron who paid her $6,000 a year. She had four children with four different men, and was investigated by the government for her involvement with the Communist Party. Her son, Richard, became a lawyer and said, “I don’t like bohemian culture, frankly.”

I like to paint people who are in the rat race, suffering all the tension and damage that’s involved in that, under pressure–of city life and the awful struggle that goes on in the city.

U.S. Congress Takes a Momentous Stand Against Human Trafficking

child-prostitution

I have for quite some time done what I can to help children who are used for sex. I am a contributor to organizations that fight sex trafficking, and I follow much of the law surrounding it. So I was very happy to see that the JVTA, which has been sent today to Obama to sign, passed our Congress. Here is the writeup from CATW:

New York, May 19, 2015 – The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) applauds the U.S. Congress for passing the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA), the first comprehensive bill to address domestic human trafficking. It now awaits the signature of President Barack Obama to become law.

The JVTA creates a new funding stream to finance services for U.S. trafficking victims. Up to $30 million of the innovative funding mechanism will come from $5,000 fines on perpetrators of crimes ranging from human trafficking to child pornography. The legislation also redefines federal law to clarify that sex buyers of children and human trafficking victims can be prosecuted as traffickers.

“Not only will the JVTA finance services for U.S. victims of trafficking, it puts the onus on sex buyers who cause the devastating harm. We finally have strong federal legislation that aims to prevent the demand for sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation,” says Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of CATW.

One of the JVTA’s most important provisions requires the Department of Justice to incorporate demand reduction strategies into all human trafficking training programs. Survivors have been key in demanding more accountability from commercial sex buyers who cause extensive harm to those they exploit. As a result, the JVTA also creates a new U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, with at least eight survivors, to make recommendations to the US Government on anti-trafficking strategies.

“This victory is not only the result of successful collaborations across political and ideological lines, but it is a testament to the power of survivors enlightening us with the best solutions to end trafficking and exploitation,” says Bien-Aimé.

Links to Things I Like

Tall Poppy Syndrome

  • The Death of Adulthood In American Culture. I talked about the tragic loss of American adulthood in an interview with Free Lunch Diaries a couple years ago. Oddly, people are also talking about the death of American Childhood. Maybe we’re all merging into a single, unstratified Age. Which is approximately 17.
  • Do you Speak Startup? It’s easy to agree with this article, since it builds on one of my earlier blog posts.
  • The “Ringo Starr Strategy” is a concept I came up with today, which means, if you can’t be great at something, surround yourself with people who are.
  • The Law of Jante, which is the Scandinavian tendency to put the collective before the individual, but is another way of describing Tall Poppy Syndrome (a term I didn’t realize had its origins in The Histories of Herodotus). I first learned of The Law of Jante in an interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Memorization, Facts and Learning to Learn

“Never memorize what you can look up in books” is a quote often attributed to Einstein, though what he actually said was somewhat different. He was asked, but did not know the speed of sound as included in the Edison Test. When this was pointed out, he said, “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. He also said, “…The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” See also Ray Bradbury, in Fahrenheit 451:

“Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”

The single thing I’ve found it valuable to memorize is poetry. As a child I learned hundreds of poems by heart, which I can recite even now. I wanted to become a writer, and felt that poetry was perfected language, so having it in my subconscious mind would make the music of language always available to me.

Priya Haji, 1970-2014

Priya Haji

How can we honor Priya Haji, a social entrepreneur, a mother, a friend, an inspiration to us all? She had such heart.

Priya believed that everyone, from ex-Presidents to ex-cons, were worthy of respect. When, in a group of entrepreneurs, someone had behaved badly, everyone backed away. But Priya said, yes, that wasn’t good, but here’s how he can be helped. When she met people, she saw they weren’t the worst thing thing they had done. She saw them bigger than they were, bigger than they even saw themselves. She treated everyone this way.

Van Jones, at her memorial yesterday, said that when everyone on the Stanford campus was marching around, waving banners and saying that Racism was Bad, Priya was down the road in East Palo Alto starting Free at Last. She believed everyone, without exception, could do better. From Free at Last, through World of Good, and to SaveUp, she was always working to make the world, and everyone in it, better, kinder, more compassionate. As good, and as kind, and as compassionate as she herself was.

Beloved Priya, Goodbye.

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