As designers, we have power to give our time to what is important and necessary and required. We also have power to withhold our labour from the very systems that are built to oppress us.
“Covid-19 is showing us that when humanity is united in common cause, phenomenally rapid change is possible. None of the world’s problems are technically difficult to solve; they originate in human disagreement. In coherency, humanity’s creative powers are boundless. A few months ago, a proposal to halt commercial air travel would have seemed preposterous. Likewise for the radical changes we are making in our social behavior, economy, and the role of government in our lives. Covid demonstrates the power of our collective will when we agree on what is important. What else might we achieve, in coherency? What do we want to achieve, and what world shall we create? That is always the next question when anyone awakens to their power.”
— Charles Eisenstein, The Coronation
I had a meeting with a prospective client yesterday.
I have been reading Mike Monteiro’s book, Ruined By Design.
“For the past couple of decades, the tech companies of Silicon Valley (and beyond) have run unchecked, causing havoc, destroying civil discourse, democracy, ruining personal relationships, running marketplaces of harassment and abuse, all to line their pockets. The very worst part is that they did it with our labor. This isn’t a talk, this is a union meeting.”
I used the power I have as a designer to refuse my labour.
Here is the message I am sending to ISM Sales Group.
ISM Sales Group
I am sorry I did not do my homework. I was trying to do a favour for a good friend, and I didn’t have time to review your website.
The first hint that something was amiss was when you made the quip about “two bald white guys” during our first meeting.
I am half-Chinese.
That should have been my first clue that I was dealing with a white supremacist. You may need some racial bias sensitivity training.
Now that I look at your website, it has white supremacy written all over it.
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A picture of a Roman Colosseum where Christians were killed for sport?
You sound like a bunch of imperial military mercenaries.
Had you done your homework on me, you might be aware of my protest over these past years about the monopoly of governments and corporations over public discourse.
When I initially expressed my reservations about this project, [your project manager] assured me that Noomii was a BCorp, and that gave me some hope that there was some intentionality in providing a public benefit for the common good.
However, all I heard in today’s meeting was that they had interviewed HR Managers and L&D Managers. Already, that is a red flag to me about who this product is for. It is not for humans. It is for the corporate hierarchy.
Then, when I asked about the values on which the BCorp was based, [your client] told me that Noomii was not, in fact, a BCorp. I felt misled.
When [your colleague] said the words, “We know we are working within a broken system, but we are not about dismantling the system,” it confirmed to me what the actual problem with Canada actually is: the learned helplessness of its citizens.
Marc Miller is equivocating and whitewashing the brutality and murders of the Canadian state at the hands of its RCMP.
Two years ago, the RCMP promised to modernize and reform its culture, to do better, and that Indigenous Peoples and their communities were entitled to the best there was of the RCMP. This is the minimum standard to be upheld. There is work to do.
This morning, I responded:
A good white Canadian telling us how systemic racism works: through intransigent bureaucracy and the learned helplessness of its citizens as land theft and genocide on behalf of the Crown continues unabated.
Canada is racist.
The Indian Act is genocide.
The Nazis learned industrial-scale dehumanization from Canada’s bureaucratically architected apartheid system.
Canada’s Indian Reserve System served as a policy of Indigenous genocide preceding the Nazi concentration camps of World War II.
You do not reform Nazis. You do not iterate on concentration camps. You do not pivot police brutality. You do not tweak systemic racism. You do not democratically elect your way out of a Canadian genocide.
You shut it down. Then you start over.
Instead, Canadians politely go about their work. There is absolute silence from this racist authoritarian corporate culture that pretends to be a democratic nation state.
“Canada is not an accident or a work in progress or a thought experiment… Canada is a scam — a pyramid scheme, a ruse, a heist. Canada is a front. And it’s a front for a massive network of resource extraction companies, oil barons, and mining magnates.”
I will not work to support this system of white supremacy. This toxic ideology permeates the culture, and it represents everything that I find reprehensible about this country. We perpetuate systemic racism by our inability to question it.
I know this might cost me my livelihood, but I long ago resigned myself to the failure of my career. I am way past the stage of caring, because of my utter disbelief in the depravity of this country.
Consider this my protest against white supremacy in so-called “Canada”, the annexed exclusion zone of the American Empire, while I stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and marginalized people in Canada and all other people in the world being “dominated” by monarchies, empires, and corporations with their knees on our necks.
The Language of Empire: Learning to speak the lingua franca of oppression
I have not made any of this a secret, but there is so much noise in this world, I can forgive people for not noticing. But that is exactly the problem. There is so much disinformation, in the form of proselytizing, fundraising, sales, marketing, advertising, public relations, political campaigning, and news as corporate and state propaganda that there is no longer room for human conversation.
If you have time to chat, it would be great to share a conversation.
If not, I would like to make the most of the rest of my time on this earth.