I was sad to hear that Hans Rosling died today. I appreciated his unique approach to analyzing and using research data (especially qualitative data). He produced animations that made complex statistics lively and meaningful. As the BBC noted:
Facts, Mr Rosling believed, could correct “global ignorance” about the reality of the world, which “has never been less bad”.
As his son, Ola Rosling, said on Twitter, Hans Rosling had a “dream of a fact-based worldview.” We have never needed it more. The “fact tank” he helped found, Gapminder, will carry on his dream and his work.
The subject of this blog is “difference-making” communication. David K. Harbour gave a stunning example in his acceptance speech at last night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony:
In light of all that is going on in the world today, it is difficult to celebrate the already-celebrated Stranger Things. But this award from you, who take your craft seriously and earnestly believe — like me — that great acting can change the world, is a call to arms from our fellow craftsmen and – women to go deeper and through our art, to battle against fear, self-centeredness, and the exclusivity of a predominantly narcissistic culture and through our craft to cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society by revealing intimate truths that serve as a forceful reminder to folks that when they feel broken and afraid and tired, they are not alone.
We are united in that we are all human beings and we are all together on this horrible, painful, joyous, exciting, and mysterious ride that is being alive. Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 Midwesterners will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy what we have envisioned for ourselves and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility!
Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I spent it reading Behind the fireplace: Memoirs of a girl working in the Dutch Resistance, by Andrew Scott and Grietje Okma Scott.
Grietje, who died a year ago, on January 4, 2016, at the age of 93, was just a young woman when she joined the Dutch Resistance against the Nazi occupation of her country. Through her story, we see the difference that one person can make in the lives of others, the course of a war, and the fate of a nation, as well as the web of social connections that supported her brave actions. Her story also serves to remind us of a theme that runs through human history: where there is oppression, there will also be resistance.
Howard Zinn, the late historian and activist, once said, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” The train is moving. Here are some principles on which I cannot and will not be neutral:
- All people deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. This includes especially those people who seem to be easy for others to marginalize, demonize, and victimize: women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, the elderly, the poor, the sick, prisoners, and people who choose religions other than Christianity as well as those who choose not to affiliate with any religion at all.
- We must uphold and defend our Constitution, including our First Amendment protections for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom to petition our government for redress of grievances.
- We need to maintain the separation between church and state.
- A vibrant democracy requires a free and independent press.
- Education is a public good that creates an informed citizenry. We must support access to free, high quality public education for all.
- Our public officials should be accountable, ethical, transparent, and truthful.
- Service to citizens is the essence of government. Our government officials should not enrich themselves, their families, friends, or donors, at the expense of the citizens they serve.
- Health care is a human right.
- We need to protect the environment and the world’s natural resources from greed and undue reliance on fossil fuels.
- We have a right to live our lives in privacy, free of government and corporate surveillance.
- Severe economic inequality destroys the fabric of society. We must recognize that laws that unjustly enrich the few at the expense of the many, rather than any individual’s lack of effort or merit, are often at the heart of economic inequality. When we see laws that foster inequality, we must fight to change them.
- People should come before profits.
- Corporations are not people.
These principles are not radical. They have been expressed, to greater or lesser extent, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also The Constitution of the United States. On these principles, I am not neutral and will not be silent.