Another open letter in response to conversations that corporations would prefer to keep behind closed doors.
In the ongoing saga of White Supremacy in Canada, I wrote articles that address the learned helplessness that Canadians have accepted as normal when confronted with systemic racism. The silence of the corporate and business class maintains the status quo in a social, economic, and political system designed to steal land and kill people. Recently, I have expressed ideas about power and creative saviour complex in reference to my personal experiences as a designer in Canada.
This week’s instalment draws upon my reflections over the past several years as I have struggled as a designer to find my place in a society that is hostile to change.
TLDR; I hope for a new social architecture that replaces the asymmetric relationship between corporations and living, breathing human beings.
Corporations have been granted legal personhood, with the potential to be immortal and to achieve a market valuation far greater than George Floyd’s: $20 USD. Corporations have the ability to hire militarized police forces to protect their property rights and Presidents will threaten to brutalize and kill citizens to maintain social control, corporate power, and political corruption.
I would like to weigh my options. Typically, marketing and advertising companies will base strategic business decisions on a SWOT analysis, assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
The first option that comes to mind is that I should receive seven-and-a-half years’ salary as compensation for the decisions made by the executive, whether consciously or unconsciously, to silence me and remove me from my position in the organization. I would also like the names of the people who decided that my contributions to the success of the organization were worthless. I might discover why projects were shut down and why my contributions to the organization were erased from the official communication channels of the corporation, whether intentionally or not. I want to know how and why these decisions were made and why my contributions over several years did not warrant a seat at the table. At the very least, I would be able to learn from my mistakes. Also, I might be able to understand how particular structures of leadership dominate decisions within authoritarian corporate hierarchies, contrary to the insistence that the organization enjoyed a flat hierarchy, which might have been the case at the time I joined, but was certainly not the case when I left.
Another option might be to take up the advice to unionize. I am not sure how it might work to unionize retroactively, and organize those who had been wrongfully dismissed from their positions at the organization for being “expendable” human beings while paying lip service to “humanizing the web.” Enlisting the help of the Christian Labour Association of Canada might not make sense anyway, since that might automatically set up an adversarial relationship because of a fundamental difference in values. A class-action law suit might be a more viable option.
Yet another option might be to open up a discussion in the national non-profit association of designers, of which I have been a member in good standing since 1994, and where I sit on the BC Chapter Executive of the Graphic Designers of Canada as Chair of Web Communications, about White Supremacy in Canada and the authoritarian corporate culture that enables and perpetuates the Canadian Genocide and theft of Indigenous land on behalf of the Crown and the destruction of the planet’s fragile ecology and biological diversity through a global empire of resource extraction.
So far, I have the support of Valerie Elliott, National Sustainability Chair of the Graphic Designers of Canada, Mark Rutledge, President of the Graphic Designers of Canada and Johnathon Vaughn Strebly, President of ico-D (International Council of Design).
Recently, the Graphic Designers of Canada have been hosting remote discussions as Zoom meetings to learn more about intellectual property. Unfortunately, my recent schedule hasn’t allowed for much free time to attend these events.
At any rate, I have my own personal disagreements with the concept of intellectual property.
- Trump’s presidency has been a global awakening to systemic racism.
- People were not able to recognize their own racism, let alone the racism of an entire social, economic, and political system, because it is the water we swim in.
- Intellectual property is a form of human abstraction that embeds human knowledge into a racist economic system designed for the enrichment of the individual that “discovers” an idea.
- This is a racist idea, called the Doctrine of Discovery.
“That the Doctrine of Discovery that founded Canada decreed that any land that was not inhabited by Christians was open for European settlement is genocide.”
- A corporation is a form of human abstraction that embeds the concept of property into a racist economic system designed to create monopolies of power and grant legal personhood to these abstract organizations of centralized social, economic, and political power, according to a racist ideology of a hierarchy of values that can be ascribed to human beings based on an individual’s access to capital.
- Because I do not belong in this world, which has been constructed to destroy my identity and sense of self by proselytizing, neglecting, marginalizing, and silencing, I have learned that my role in this world is to act as a sort of cultural anthropologist, “a stranger in a strange land.”
- My role as a designer is to make the invisible visible.
The True Histories of Canada
Solidarity Statement: Asians in Support of Wet'suwet'en Jurisdiction and Governance
Read this statement in 中文 (Chinese)简体字 (simplified) and 繁體字 (traditional), 日本語 (Japanese) Türkçe (Turkish), Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese) বাংলা (Bangla), 한국어 (Korean), فارسی (Farsi), español (Spanish), ਪੰਜਾਬੀ (Punjabi), bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian), Tagalog, සිංහල (Sinhala), தமிழ் (Tamil) and français (French).
We, Asians living across Turtle Island (commonly known as North America), strongly condemn the recent violent actions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in invading Wet’suwet’en traditional territory and arresting their land defenders. We join numerous actions in support of the Wet’suwet’en people across the world, including mass civil disobedience, blockades of goods movement, occupations of politicians’ offices, and rallies of support.
We are deeply disappointed by the complicity of the so-called “progressive” leadership of John Horgan and the BC New Democratic Party as they continue to support Coastal Gaslink’s state-sanctioned invasion of Unist’ot’en territory in violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Anuk Nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en laws) and collective Title. We call on TransCanada, BC Premier John Horgan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to stand down immediately and respect the collective hereditary governance of the Wet’suwet’en who are enforcing Wet’suwet’en laws on their unceded lands. We call on the occupying government to respect Wet’suwet’en laws which predate colonial ones.
Indigenous and Asian struggles are inextricably linked. As diasporic Asians on stolen Indigenous lands, it is our responsibility to learn and understand the histories of those peoples on whose lands we are complicit in occupying and we acknowledge our failure to obtain prior consent. We recognize the devastating impacts of imperial conquest on our homelands and the intergenerational dispossession that it brings.
We also recognize the role East Asian capital plays in the ongoing dispossession and destruction of Indigenous lands in Canada. Many of the companies investing in the Coastal Gas Link’s LNG pipeline project are based in China, Japan, and South Korea, represented by companies such as PetroChina, Mitsubishi, and Korean Gas. While these capitalist firms seek to gain profit from the destruction of Wet’swet’en land, we affirm emphatically that they do not represent us. We support the struggles against white supremacy, settler colonialism and capitalism surrounding us and firmly connect it to our own.
Historically and now, the wealth of so-called ‘Canada’ is built on stolen Indigenous land, genocide, murdered and missing Indigenous women, destruction of matriarchy, and on the backs of exploited migrant labourers. Racial divides are used to deliberately obscure the diversity of relationships that we hold to this land and serve corporate interests. These categories serve to pit our communities against one another. We reject these divides and seek relationships anew.
We call on our communities to raise their voices, share their resources and take immediate urgent action in response to this situation. Click here to find out ways you can support the Wet’suwet’en people. These include direct email, flooding the phone lines (BC and federal), donating to the Unist’ot’en Legal Fund, showing up at events, actions and rallies, and organizing amongst our communities to write statements of solidarity.
We call on all Asians to please sign and share this statement. Only names and organizations, if applicable, will be listed.
The current North American expression of this policy is in mass incarceration of people of colour. There are a disproportionate number of indigenous and black prisoners in Canada and the U.S. Our problem in Canada has more to do with racism expressed through land appropriation. We live on unceded territory. The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King.
At Designlab, I am helping designers make the transition from a capitalist economy built for the machinery of colonization, land theft, social disconnection and isolation, economic slavery and exploitation, and politically justified genocide.
As designers, we are the mediators between corporate decision-makers and the people we serve by imagining, designing, and building solutions to real world problems. However, technologies always come with the risk of unintended psychic and social consequences.
While we have been transforming ideologies into physical infrastructure and architecture, we hardwire the habits of our societies. If we have based our society on the assumption that humans are merely cheap labour for the production and hoarding of capital, we create a society where a militarized police force will kill humans for as little as twenty dollars.
Design is facing a reckoning.
Now, we have to take responsibility for what we have wrought and dismantle the capitalist machines of systemic racism.
We start by teaching designers empathy. To understand the people we are serving, we need to get outside of the walls of the office and talk to people to discover what their needs and desires are. We listen, we empathize, and we try to uncover the root causes of the challenges, problems, frustrations, and pain that people are experiencing. Then we prototype solutions. We engage in the process of world building. We test our proposed solutions with the people we are serving.
However, we wonder whether we are creating more harm than good. If you ask Chamath Palihapitiya and Tristan Harris, we are falling for the old trick learned in the early days of public relations, advertising, and marketing. We are playing a shell game by engaging in a form of whitewashing to distract people from the massive scale of corporate economic exploitation by focusing only on the meager philanthropic endeavours of corporate social responsibility programs.
Reimagining Our Social Architecture
This week, in a 2-hour conversation with Mark Rutledge, President of the GDC, we discussed the problem of systemic racism within Canada and the design industry and the possibilities that this moment opens for discussions exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together.
We have the opportunity to raise the voices of those who have been ignored, neglected, marginalized, and silenced by corporate monopolies over public discourse.
Our social, economic, and political institutions are showing their age, and they are not aging well. The RCMP was designed to steal land and kill people to allow for the settlement of the land by white Christian Europeans and to claim land for the British Crown, yet it denies systemic racism. Canada is actively stealing land from the Wet'suwet'en First Nation to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The Trans Mountain Pipeline is morally equivalent to the railroad expansion that is part of the Canadian legacy of genocide documented by Reclaiming Power and Place.
Increasingly, we are exploring ideas about organizational transformation and social change. In other words, we are expanding the scope of design from the physical to the metaphysical: to the social, the economic, and the political.
Design Science Decade
The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) in partnership with habRitual is calling all creators: fine artists, designers, performers, philosophers, ecologists, systems thinkers, data scientists, and others who resonate with this prompt to create art that explores the principles of Design Science.
Buckminster Fuller was inspired by nature, and we currently know more about living systems than we ever have. Whether you are visualizing what society aligned with the principles of nature will look like or creating technology that will help us get there, we invite you to join our community of collaborators. Through creative expression, members of this program will co-create in service of a world that works “for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone”.
We welcome creators to apply to join the Design Science Studio and embark on a facilitated journey to use principles of nature, science and design to imagine a future that is regenerative and just.
We value what we measure
While I have been participating in a course offered by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, I joined a Zoom meeting with a self-organizing collective that was inspired by the idea of reimagining our social architecture.
We are calling ourselves Tribe of Plenty. It is based on the idea that there are societies in the animal kingdom which correspond to the patriarchal and matriarchal societies that we have found in human societies.
In my mental models for human experience, I note that the outputs of a society are directly related to the values that are foundational to that society. A society that is based on the competition for scarce resources will naturally build the infrastructure and social architecture to control, protect, and destroy. Alternatively, a society that is based on plenty and abundance will naturally build the infrastructure and social architecture for creative, collaborative communities.
The values and incentives determine the output. We concluded that the monetary and economic system that built capitalism is inherently self-destructive. We are witnessing the failure of multiple systems in real time: the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and ecological environment.
In 1988 Marilyn Waring published If Women Counted (originally published with an introduction by Gloria Steinem). The book has also been published as Counting for Nothing, but remains most widely known under the first title. It criticizes the use of GDP as a surrogate for “progress,” and argues that lacking valuation of women and nature drive decisions in globalization that have unintended but terrible consequences for the world.
In this feature-length documentary, Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. Waring maps out an alternative vision based on the idea of time as the new currency.
If you: do laundry, are (or have been) pregnant, tidy up, shop for your household or do similar labor, then by GDP standards, you’re unproductive. In this visionary talk, economist Marilyn Waring seeks to correct the failures of this narrow-minded system, detailing why we deserve a better way to measure growth that values not just our own livelihood but the planet’s as well.
The True Nature of Reality
It’s outrageous that David Bohm’s contributions to science were silenced through the willful ignorance of Oppenheimer, the director of the design and research of the atomic bomb. Scientific orthodoxy based in the value of power, capital, and technology over living, breathing human beings resulted in a scientific death cult in the form of state capitalism, military-industrial complex, and resource extraction empire pretending to be a Christian democracy.
An Interconnected Whole
We are witnessing and recognizing the convergence of art, philosophy, science, and metaphysics in our understanding of quantum mechanics. Today, we witnessed the World Premiere of a documentary film, “Infinite Potential: The Life and Ideas of David Bohm.”
A revolution with radical implications—the science of interconnection and wholeness: overcoming division and the transformation of human societies. @infinite_ptnl #interconnected #wholeness https://www.infinitepotential.com/