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Sustaining sensibility: What is obscenity?

From my perspective, the local controversy regarding nudity is a minor matter compared to some of the issues we are facing regionally and nationally.

As a metaphor, when emperors are wearing no clothes, it's compelling to make sure that average bodies are covered. By concentrating on nudity, we can divert our attention from job loss, foreclosure, drug addiction, hunger, child abuse, climate change, energy issues, food shortages, overpopulation, etc. When things have gone so awry at the highest levels of financial and fiduciary responsibility, it's not surprising that we want to cover every front and fanny and have no reminders of how the middle and lower classes have been fiscally denuded. No one wants to face feelings of powerlessness.

If society is a pyramid, then a lack of compassion, creativity and sacrifice at the top can erode access to credit and job opportunities at the base. In order to support a healthy, stable economy, we must have jobs on the ground now! It is wrong to kill programs and services, raise college tuition or require people with degrees to go back for more training. Passing on fees, fines, property taxes and penalties to the masses forces those who are least capable to bear further burdens. We mustn't forget that even the proudest pinnacle will crumble when its foundation is etched away.

What is obscenity anyway?

War, starvation, sickness, hate, lies, control, famine, hoarding, negativity, pollution and withholding care and education are obscene. NASA shooting missiles at the moon using our tax dollars is obscene. Not taking care of our water here on Earth and looking for fresh sources in outer space is obscene.

On television and in theaters, every dark avenue of depravity, mayhem, perversion and murder is viewed. In the bedrooms and boardrooms of this "bread and circuses" world, we're fed the bread of distraction and the circus of entertainment to keep us from seeing what's really important. Seven-year-olds are subjected to horror films of slashers or planetary destruction for adults' amusement (or parents' inability to afford a babysitter!) and the network news is a tawdry porn light of celebrity inappropriateness and a boisterous conspiracy to not get to the point.

The debate around nudity is distracting us from larger issues such as misdirected stimulus money that has not reached the people and exorbitant fees being charged by creditors, banks and other institutions that are like vampires sucking the life blood out of citizens who fall behind.

Not providing any $10- to $20-per-hour jobs on the ground right now is causing stress, depression, criminal behavior and the need to hit the road. It's revealing that the few new jobs being funded are almost exclusively in three sectors: criminal justice, mental health, and in building more roads. We warehouse people in our criminal justice system or marginalize them with antidepressants, diagnoses and labels or by simply choosing to not see or address their loneliness, needs or struggle. Often the unemployed are forced to relocate in search for work; it's sad to think how new roads that should connect us are instead leading us further away our families and friends nearby.

The cure is real jobs for real people in every region. Green jobs, jobs that pay while you train, forestry jobs, jobs to clean the environment and to boost agriculture. Jobs for young and old, jobs that help us educate, heal and reclaim a sustainable world. If everybody had a job, there would be more happiness and less time for frivolous debates or questioning practical wisdom.

We must dispel the myth, held by many young people, that people who lost retirement funds or who are in home foreclosure did anything wrong. A few people took some risk, but the majority of people thought they were just doing business as usual, following prudent and safe investment advice and practices. A main function of government in America was to level the playing field, regulate business and financial transactions, provide equitable education and opportunity for all citizens. The biggest failure has been honesty and the biggest loss is not money, but trust.

When Courbet unveiled his then-scandalous, now-famous painting "The Origin of the World," a truth was revealed. We come into the world in bodies through bodies. We are born with our fists clenched, bringing some gift or luck or beauty to the world. We leave this world with our hands open and empty. Naked came I and naked I will go. Whether it is wise to traipse around town like that is not one of the big, searing questions of our time.

Perhaps our nude guys and gals could be asked to serve as portable garden statutes on the private estates of potentates and pundits. This nude, living statuary could remind the purveyors of pestilence, poisons, ill-gotten gains, war and ruin, disillusionment and death that the bigger they are, the harder they'll fall. Ultimately, everyone is naked before the judges of history, morality and their own hearts, consciences and higher power.

Catie Faryl is an artist and writer whose work explores the human condition. She interviews experts on aspects of sustainability on her KSKQ local radio show, "Mother Nature Says Clean Up Your Room."