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An Indicator

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.

-Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax

An Indicator

I left the field of Human Services for several years because I was sick of bearing daily witness to the neglect of elderly people. I simply wanted to work with objects and things that didn’t experience pain and depression. I found myself at a factory-type workshop where we assembled and constructed parts for commercial vehicles. I found myself on the “Indicator Line” where we glued pieces of cut glass into plastic holders. Each one of these pieces of glass had a word or short phrase cut into its surface, things like “low fuel” or “engine fire.” Every word or phrase was a warning of some kind. Each of the plastic holders that housed one of these pieces of glass would eventually be installed into the control panel of an airplane or another kind of vehicle and act as an indicator light. After several months of this tedious job, I couldn’t stop myself from remembering certain elderly people at the nursing home where I had previously worked as a housekeeper. I especially thought of those who didn’t have families and were essentially forgotten people. I thought about how we are so ensnared by excesses in food and conspicuous consumption that we find it inconvenient to care for our weaker brothers and sisters. I thought about the words and phrases etched onto each piece of glass, how they were serious warnings. I started to develop metaphors and analogies in my head using all of this information. I thought to myself, “If our country had a panel of indicator lights, they would be flashing constantly… flashing words and phrases like ‘gone astray’ and ‘feel empathy.'” I thought to myself, “This is an American story. We own this story— good or bad—and all share the responsibility.” I came to the conclusion that I had been a part of the problem by not more fully sharing in this responsibility. This was the birth of IndicatorArt.

IndicatorArt, a Movement

At IndicatorArt, our mission, as it develops, will be to look for these flashing indicator lights and to address them, before the systems they are monitoring completely fail. Something that distinguishes us from our Human Service industry counterpart is our understanding that we are at war. How can an agency fight a culture war when it doesn’t even know that it has an enemy? It’s actually about the survival of our country. We see this issue in an eternal context, through the lens of failing churches. We see it in a historical context, through the lens of fallen civilizations.

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Matt Palmo

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