Monday, September 12, 2011

The Iconoclastic Dead

Not long after my first international show is my second, The Iconoclastic Dead, a Dia de los Muertos themed show in Mexico. We were asked to illustrate one of our personal heroes in the muertos style. The person could be living or dead, but not fictitious.

A disclaimer here: I try to keep this blog ONLY about my art, but I saw this piece as a good excuse to express some of my views and why I chose the person I did to illustrate. For that reason, what follows is much more personal than my usual fare. Feel free to skip it if it's not really your thing.

I have a little trouble considering any celebrity a "hero" except in a loose sense. There are tons of famous people whom I admire for what they do, but of course I don't know any of them personally, so for all I know they could in actuality be unsavory individuals in some way. For example, think about all the people who consider(ed) Tiger Woods a hero. You can look up to him as an athlete, but may need to ignore his personal life.

I feel this way because I'm naturally skeptical and tend to scrutinize things before I'm able to commit all the way. Because of that, Penn Jillette seemed like a good choice for my piece since he's a famous skeptic. There's a lot I admire about the guy from what I as a fan can gather about him.

For one thing, he has never drank alcohol. Ever. If you know me, then you know why this alone is enough to push somebody most of the way to hero status in my eyes, but I'll save that long and personal explanation for another time.

The main reason I like Penn is because he thinks. Or maybe I should be more fair and say because he thinks critically. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people do something just because everybody else is doing it, and I mean that in a very broad way. Not just wearing a certain brand of clothing because it's popular, but adopting the core beliefs and opinions of other people without actually questioning them. I'm going to get into some deep territory here, but the persecution of homosexuals is a good example of that. Lots of people hate homosexuals because their religion tells them being gay is wrong. If they would actually think for a second, really, genuinely turn on their brains and think, independently of what the people around them are saying, they would realize that hating people for such a reason is a ghastly thing to do.

But people like to take the easy way out. TV says this thing is popular, so now I like it too. I'm a democrat/republican, so I have to adopt every last belief that goes along with being a member of that party. This commercial says X disease is the number one killer, so I have to buy this product to prevent it. But tomorrow Y disease is somehow also the number one killer, so I have to buy this other product too. It just seems like we are bombarded with so many "facts" every day, mostly from people who want to benefit from us in some way, and rather than being skeptical of that we buy into these things hook, line, and sinker.

I find Penn, and specifically his show Penn & Teller's Bullshit, to be vastly entertaining and encouraging because he questions anything and everything. There's the stuff that you would expect to be questioned, like psychics or hot-button issues like religion, but also things most people wouldn't question, like recycling. The Bullshit episode about recycling is one of my favorites for that very reason. Not everybody recycles, but the vast majority of people agree that it's a good thing to do. I mean, why would somebody be actively against it unless they were just trying to be different for the sake of showing off? But would you believe that recycling is actually bad for the environment? It sounds counter-intuitive to the point of being absurd, but it's true. The reason is because it actually takes more resources to recycle things than it does to make new things from scratch. After all the sorting, transporting, machinery, etc, you've actually done more harm than if you'd just thrown the bottle away and let somebody make a new one. But what about all the non-recycled trash that goes into dumps? There are plans in place to use a percentage of our country the equivalent of a pin point on a map for all our trash over the next several hundred years. And what's more, when a landfill is full it's covered up, turned into a park, and all the gas produced from the decomposing waste is used to power entire cities. The only thing that is actually more efficient to recycle is aluminum. That's why when a bum goes through your trash he keeps your soda cans and not your plastic jug of sour milk.

Now, I'm not anti-environment or anything like that, and I never did the research myself to find out if recycling was bad, but it did always rub me the wrong way. Not because I wanted to destroy the planet, but because people make you feel bad for not doing it. Anything that uses fear-based tactics to get you to do something immediately makes me question it, so I've never been a recycler, even before I saw the show. So if it's really so bad then why do people recycle? Because TV says to, that's why. And TV would never be used to exploit the public for the benefit of an industry or political standpoint, now would it?

Believe it or not I DID intend to write all this stuff when I sat down at my computer. It's not so much that I care where somebody arrives after they question something, just that they question it period. I don't agree with everything I've heard Penn say, I just love the fact that he is willing to question so many things and not care what anybody else thinks. Even for all my skepticism I can't claim that, because I've found that people don't like it when you point out the faults in something they believe in. Like Penn says, a true skeptic doesn't ignore new truths, they demand to be proven wrong.


Uncle Erik said...

Well said!

Raydancer said...

What if someone loved the person and believed that the person's homosexual actions were deeply wrong? You say that anyone against your position should "actually think for a second" and to "genuinely turn on their brains". Do you realize that these are ad hominem attacks, and that perhaps you have been politically programmed to use them? What if THEY are actually thinking for themselves and it is YOU who are not? You could blame religion for doing the programming or I could blame a pseudo-civil-rights political movement, but shouldn't the ideas themselves be questioned and tested rather than the way by which they are acquired? And what if true discussion and debate has been intentionally stifled by pushing a topic into the sphere of deviance? What then?

I've been going through a testing of my own beliefs lately. Read this article: The Intolerance of Tolerance. I'm curious what you would think of it.