I have taken part in my share of protests. Iâve worked side by side with other advocates who are struggling to achieve social justice. I firmly believe that there is no need for the suffering that we see all around us. But I have also been frustrated because I think that sometimes activists are so certain that they are right that they are unwilling to consider what the best strategies are for creating real change.
This seems to me to be particularly true in the area of poverty eradication. There is tremendous wealth in the world, yet people are hungry, poorly clothed, and forced to suffer from easily preventable disease. Advocates have spoken out, demanding debt relief, increased foreign aid, and changes in the international trade rules. I think all of those are great ideas, but I also donât believe they will end poverty. It seems to me that advocates would rather blame corporations for the way they conduct their business (and I agree they are often blameworthy) than work with businesses to change those practices. Donât get me wrong; I think that we need some people who will âname and shameâ those who behave immorally, but I also think that a need isnât being met. That unmet need is empathy.
My project seeks to be an empathic link between members of the business community and anti-poverty activists. Through my project, I hope to encourage an entirely new kind of thinking about how poverty can be ended. I was inspired by stories of social entrepreneurs, people who are going into business with a foundational belief that their business can help the world. I want to encourage creativity in approaching poverty alleviation, begin a revolution in which people begin to see that they can make a difference in the world simply by making good choices in the way that they live.
To this end, I created a website that I hope will become a space in which ideas flourish. I want it to ring out this paradigm shift in anti-poverty efforts, and I want it to be a hub for the creation of other (perhaps more specific) concepts that help change the way we go about trying to deal with social injustice. The majority of my efforts on the website thus far have been focused on my first video.
The video features two sock puppets, Hip-E and Yup-E, who represent opposing views of poverty. Hip-E, an activist, believes that poverty canât end without ending capitalism. Yup-E, a business-type, thinks that capitalism is the best thing for poverty eradication. I decided to make a video for a couple of reasons: 1) I think that poverty often seems like something remote, impossible to deal with, and boring. I wanted to add some humor to make the issue of poverty seem like it can be tackled, 2) I wanted to explore video as a medium, since Iâd never tried it before, and 3) I think that web video is really taking off right now and might be a way to reach new audiences.
Making the video was a challenge that involved a variety of media. I think I truly learned the meaning of the message, âFear is the mindkiller.â I found myself having to simply jump headfirst into unknown territory. Along the way, there were more technical setbacks than I can count. To record the audio for my movie, I used Garage Band, an application I had only used once before, when we made podcasts for the course. I experimented with it, even figuring out how to create other âvoicesâ by changing the pitch of recordings Iâd made.
I also used Adobe Photoshop Elements, to change photos that I found on the internet. The search for photographs was a major challenge in itself. It was difficult to find public domain images that matched my needs. Thank goodness for Google, and an even bigger thank goodness for freefoto.com! I literally spent hours locating appropriate photographs. It really drove home the idea we discussed in class about the need for aggregators and the importance of information-sharing. I truly saw for myself how sharing through cyberspace can build creativity. In looking for photos, I sometimes found images that actually helped me shape the ideas for my presentation.
I put together the video with imovie, using some of my own video footage that I shot with my digital camera. It was very important to me to use only resources I could get with reasonable ease because to me, this project was a test of my ingenuity. I am advocating that we can end poverty through creative thinking, and I wanted my project to be a testament to that sort of inventiveness. So I taught myself imovie because it was loaded on my computer. I really got a sense of how powerful these cyber technologies are. I think that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era, one in which the communication of new ideas over the internet will give us the opportunity to change the world. We only have to let go of our fears, and leap into a whole new kind of thinking.
Finally, I put it all together using iweb, a web-creation tool. Although I have some html skills, I wanted to try iweb because I had never used it before. It seemed appropriate for this class, which was itself an experiment of a whole new type of learning. The project challenged me to think differently, to consider how to speak convincingly to a whole range of perspectives. I think that one key that I learned from this was similar to Professor Nessonâs description of the requirement for an effective lawyer. Professor Nesson told us that the successful lawyer is the one who can convince the jury he or she is the most honest and reliable person in the room. I found that the first step in deciding what arguments to make does have to be to consider what is weakest about oneâs own argument. Once weâre willing to challenge our own thinking, we break out of the limitations of our own perspective, and we can come up with ideas that we never would have otherwise considered.
It is kind of like that ubiquitous Necker cube. Before we challenge our own beliefs, we can only see one version. Once we start empathizing with others, we gain a whole new perspective.