Saturday, June 27, 2009

Art Blog: The GREEN People

A few weeks ago, I was using Twitter and I was having a hard time seeing who was whom. My eyes aren’t very sharp these days. I struggled to distinguish one tweeter from another. Finally, I tweeted something like “What is with all the green icons???” Almost immediately, I got a response. I was told all the green overlay icons were showing support for Iran. Oh…….I see. Thank you for letting me know and understand this.

I did not change my avatar. I left it bright pink. I have this thing about being honest and not coming off as a hypocrite. I mean, why would I put green all over my face to show I support Iran? Of course, I support Iran and the rights of the people there. I want the very best for all of them and they are in my prayers. However, I am not booking a flight to go over there and fight in the streets for them. I am not in it that way. I guess I am not a true GREEN person.

Of course, I am being facetious. However, I can’t help myself here. I am outraged and feel very uncomfortable about the GREEN icon people. I see it as fake. It is like a fad or fashion. I believe too many of those with color overlays, did it for no other reason than to be a part of the crowd. They want to be seen as cool or part of the current trend. In other words, it is pure B.S.!

When I started to rock the twitter boat tonight, I got called on the rug. There were words like patriot and phrases like dying for your country thrown here and there. I will be brutally honest. I would not die for my country. I just wouldn't do that. Of course, I would fight to the death if someone invaded my own home. However if I was told to go to a foreign country and start shooting at people, I would not do that. Nor would I pretend to know what is going on in a country full of civil unrest and injustice. I certainly wouldn't believe turning my photo green would help those in such a state. Yes, we see and hear the news, but putting GREEN all over your photo isn’t changing anything. If you want to make a true impact, spend your GREEN and go there and fight in the streets!

Like I told someone tonight, I can’t help the way I think. I am of the Vietnam era. I know about senseless strife and political unrest. I know about the idiotic decisions and opinions of decades of misguided leaders. I know about tragic wars. Also, I know about the 21st century tendency to have a world driven by media and trends. This is my thesis. I am asking if your icon is GREEN because you are really working to change things in Iran or are you just GREEN because it is the thing to do right now. Let me know. The comment section is waiting for responses.

Sheree Rensel
Digital Sketchbook, 7” X 5.5”

Regardless of my opinions and stance, I am very patriotic. I love America. I am thankful I am American. In fact, this position is exactly why I am allowed the privilege to ask the questions posted here.

P.S. Not to make light of the magnitude of importance of this topic, however one of the funniest tweets I read this week had to do with the GREEN people topic. The tweeter asked something like "So now that Michael Jackson has died, what color do we overlay our avatar?" I laughed and laughed. The reason I laughed so hard is because like any good humor, there was a biting grain of truth.


Christy said...

I saw the first green avatar and really thought nothing of it. Then someone tweeted a link to me about what was happening in Iran and I watched a video of news coverage there. I thought alot about that. But I didn't put the two together. Then I finally saw a tweet that brought the two together for me... cause and effect? I am unable to go to Iran and fight in the streets, but I support the right of the Iran people to do that. It is why my avatar is green. Not because I want to be 'cool' or because everyone else was doing it. But because it is the least I can do to say I support the Iranian people's right to protest (just like I support my right to protest). Hope that helps. Oh, and I originally found your blog on Twitter and added it to my feed reader, so I didn't see any of the tweets about this discussion yet ;)

Sheree Rensel said...

Christy, I admire your candor and aspiration to be supportive of Iran. However, what are you DOING to support them besides having a green picture? I mean, are you writing letters? Making phone calls? Working with local Iranian community groups? What kind of support are you providing?

I am not trying to be rude to you; I am truly curious as to how have a green avatar makes any difference to the Iranian people?

I also wonder how many green people are ardent students of Iranian history, government, and culture? In other words, how many truly have knowledge of Iran? (This is a rhetorical question. I know the answer to this question already.)

Annie B said...

Hi Sheree,

Interesting post that made me think for a long time. Wanted to share a few of my thoughts.

As visual artists we work with images and symbols all the time, and the images and symbols we manipulate have tremendous power. Sometimes images and symbols have just as much power as standing in a crowd of demonstrators or writing a letter that will never be read.

Earlier today I came across this post by illustrator Tim O'Brien on the illustration web site Drawger. Look at Tim's drawing and then scroll down and read some of the comments, most from Iranian people. There is a huge outpouring there of emotion, gratitude to Tim for offering his support through art, thanks for Tim's "sympathy" and for simply being aware of their plight.

I believe that symbols do matter. Sympathy does matter. Even if we are only now becoming aware of and educated about Iran because of this news event, or because of the Green People, is this not a good thing?

Yes, putting a green overlay on a photograph is a silly inconsequential thing. Drawing a picture is also a silly and inconsequential thing. Except when it isn't. In both cases we're trying to express something. Sometimes it's a successful expression, sometimes not, but I think it's always worth a try.

Just some thoughts provoked by your post.


namastenancy said...

When I first read your post, I was completely against all the green avatars and other (to me) useless symbols. But after reading Annie and Christie's posts and looking at the drawing on Tim O'Brien's site, I have more sympathy for those who want to express their support and yet, really can't do much in reality. I don't know what the answer is. Like Sheree, I "survived" the 60's. I marched, demonstrated, carried banners, wrote manifestos, tried to change history. Do I think we succeeded? Yes, in some ways, no in other ways. But we were lucky enough to live in the USA and in the West with a strong tradition of democracy and political dissent. Other countries are not so fortunate. As for me, I still do what I can although my actions are local and not international. But I don't want to all my cynicism to stop me from showing my support of democratic movements (although it's unclear if the unrest in Iran is really about democracy or another version of Islamic fundamentalism). I fear it will end in more tragedy and for that, I am more than sad.

Tim Grosvenor said...

"Read your blog. Interesting. But how do you know what motivates people? Is it a guess? Or do you have more than a hunch?" I don't think this is that complicated or indeed unclear. Of course some people might follow a trend. It happens with public demonstrations. The point that you are making is that this became in some way trendy. Maybe, but I don't feel in position to say why other people have done it. I can only say that my family is half Iranian, many still living in Iran. I think the whole point about the green was that people were NOT going to fight in the streets of Tehran - would that make things better? People were showing support in many complicated ways. Perhaps people became more aware and read more to try and understand what is a complicated situation. I'm not being critical of what you written (as you support free speech on the web) but I think you are assuming that there was a common reason and I don't think it is that simple. Anyway, aren't there more important things to get angry about?

deb said...

when people start throwing words like patriot and security around the hackles on my neck go up. Thanks for speaking your mind Sheree, that's something I admire about you.

JafaBrit's Art said...

My support for human rights hasn't changed from the time I saw Iranians being gassed by weapons supplied to iraq by the USA, to now. I support amnesty international and human rights international, always have. They are not interested in selective human rights and partisan based umbrage or hollow expressions of support. Likewise as a mother of a veteran I found the "support our troops" ribbons a crock. all people supported was the company who profited from the sales of them. I didn't see meaningful support for our troops (you know like money to help pay for life saving vests and equipment and veteran benefits).

If an awareness of situation, of the country, of it's culture comes because of green overlay GREAT, but somehow I don't think it will.

Andrea Stern said...

I put the green on because I do not have the wherewithal to go help and seeing a sea of green avatars can provide much needed moral support to the Iranians who can access Twitter. LOL on the overlay for other subjects; I did not go purple for Maddie, and do not know about other causes that may want to do that, but I do get that action is more important than something silly like changing one's avatar color.

JafaBrit's Art said...

I think Andrea people feel the need to help and if that means a show of support that is what they do. I just am concerned that in a rush to support people are forgetting what exactly we are REALLY supporting. I mean sure we all support human rights etc, and the right for citizens to speak out, but in this case is the losing candidate going to be that different. The real power in Iran are the mullahs, no matter who the faux elected figurehead is. so are we calling for and supporting a revolution that will depose a theocratic government, or just the more moderate sanctioned candidate who will continue to work within their control?

Sheree Rensel said...

I want to thank everyone for posting their comments here. This has been a great discussion. I stand by the words in my post. I am not against bringing awareness of issues via simplistic gestures. My primary point is if you are truly passionate about situations in the world, DO something concrete. Making your face green will not change the world to the degree change is needed.

Thanks to all who took the time to speak their mind!