Art as a Vehicle of Change


This is why I love the performing arts and why an appreciation of the Humanities will go a long way in this life.

If you can understand the significance of this photo--and, believe me, few people can--then you are already well on your way to a place of cultural and historical literacy that will leave others in the dust. If you grasp how dangerous it is to celebrate and display this image in China then you know your stuff.

Really, it's that simple. If we can place images, context and history together and know what they mean, we are transmitting the importance of events into the present tense and we are informing others who haven't seen this image and don't know what it means.

Could you teach what it means to someone who doesn't speak your language? Are there Chinese parents who are trying to explain this to their children? Are there kids in the Middle East--Egypt, for example--who could communicate openly and honestly their own belief in what this image represents?

I remember it as a stunning piece of video and not a single still image. The man runs out and blocks the path of the tank. The tank lumbers forward and to the side and he moves again to block it. After a few moments--not sure how long--friends of the man pull him to safety. And he goes, reluctantly.

After all of these years and after all of the repression--it still resonates. It still hits home.

It's an icon of freedom and it actually didn't accomplish a damned thing. The tanks kept rolling, the people kept dying, and the slaughter continued. All that was left was the context of the attempt to stop them.

Yeah, it did accomplish something. That's what we have to keep trying to define.

Cirque du Soleil gave it an airing and a definition; they have flipped Chinese officials the bird. This is what the Humanities look like when properly applied.