Failure of Imagination


How you suffered for your sanity

And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they’re not listening still

Perhaps they never will


Those are lines from that memorable 1971 song “Vincent” — which Don McLean wrote after reading a book about the life of Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh sold just one painting during his lifetime. But today, at auction, paintings of his will likely sell for tens of millions of dollars.

A couple weeks ago at the National Gallery in London, two members of the activist group Just Stop Oil, threw tomato soup onto Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” then glued themselves to the wall. This was done in an effort to shine attention on the issue of climate change. The painting wasn’t damaged — it had a protective glass covering. But the act received much criticism. And very rightfully so, in my opinion.

What van Gogh did was creative. What Don McLean did was creative. But what so-called activists do when they engage in such action, to me, demonstrates the opposite. A failure of imagination.

Do they really think someone who doesn’t believe climate change is a serious issue, is going to witness this and think, “Okay, you’ve persuaded me. Climate change is a serious issue”? I doubt it. In fact, I hope the world never gets to that point, where throwing soup or throwing food is how you get people to change their mind about something.

And would they want others copying their example? I think not. Think of the 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election, for example. Would you like to see his supporters performing similar stunts to bring attention to the things they believe in? I wouldn’t.

Blocking traffic, closing down bridges, splattering paint on buildings, or inside showrooms, letting air out of tires, throwing soup or mashed potatoes onto works of art. That’s not how you change hearts and minds. It’s simply a failure of imagination to imagine all the things we can be doing that might actually make a real difference.

I have lots of unique, original ideas — big ideas — that do fit that description. These involve things we can be doing right now, that could make all the difference in the world in terms of whether or not we save the planet. The problem is, I’ve been advertising for almost nine years now (about my need for funding), and have yet to hear from a single potential backer. Not one. Yeah, my advertising budget is small. But are you familiar with that “six degrees of separation” concept? For every one person who sees my ad, think of all the people within their orbit:  parents, siblings, relatives, in-laws, coworkers, neighbors, friends, peers, social media followers, acquaintances, etc. Not only is there a failure of imagination on the part of these activists, and a failure of imagination on the part of the general public, there’s also a failure of imagination on the part of potential backers to recognize the golden opportunity to help ‘save the planet’ that is staring them right in the face, every time one of them happens to see one of my ads.

When I first learned of this soup-tossing incident — while perusing the homepage of The Guardian — I tweeted this comment:

“Throwing soup on paintings does absolutely nothing to solve environmental problems. Their hearts may be in the right place but their minds aren’t. We need the two to be aligned. I have BIG ideas aplenty but need funding.”

That was on October 19th. And since then, more and more such articles and opinion pieces have appeared on The Guardian’s homepage. One, by Aileen Getty, is titled “I fund climate action — and I applaud the Van Gogh protest.” You can probably guess where she stands. To further help you connect the dots, it’s worth noting she gave $1 million to an organization that has funded Just Stop Oil (to the tune of $1.1 million). Guardian columnist George Monbiot wrote a column titled — spoiler alert — “Do we really care more about Van Gogh’s sunflowers than real ones?” Guess where he stands. There’s also an article that reports on another such recent incident: “Climate activists throw mashed potatoes at Monet work in Germany.” This time, the group responsible wasn’t Just Stop Oil, it was Letzte Generation (Last Generation). Another article, this one from Oct. 20th, reports that Just Stop Oil activists splattered orange paint all over the front of a Harrods store in London.

Again, I don’t support such “activism.” Whether done in the name of causes I support or causes I don’t, I don’t want people engaging in such tactics to get their points across. Indeed, it’s because of acts such as these, that I cringe a little whenever someone uses the term “activist,” to describe what I do. For me, acts like these signify the opposite, a lack of imagination. If people funding such “activism” are frustrated with the direction in which the world’s headed, and truly wish to help set us on the right course, hello, I do have a contact page. Hint, hint.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re one of those individuals bidding tens of millions of dollars for a chance to own a van Gogh, then the above applies to you as well. That money could be much better spent directed towards helping save the planet, instead. Hint, hint.