Dropping An F-Bomb On Tikkun Olam

When it comes to teaching about, encouraging and doing tikkun olam, it’s getting harder and harder to separate the sacred from the profane. But then again, maybe swearing to do good and just plain old swearing simply go together these days.

I started thinking about this while watching the following video produced and disseminated by Unf—ck The Gulf, an advocacy and philanthropic campaign to clean up the damage caused by the BP oil spill and oppose offshore drilling. It’s the brainchild of Luke Montgomery and Nate Guidas, social entrepreneurs who appear from their photos on the project’s website to be in their 20’s or 30’s.

These guys are clever, and they know how to appeal to young people – and also not-so-young people who aren’t offended by profanity. I found their F-bomb approach quite brilliant, rather entertaining, and most critically, effective – and I was ready to show the video to my kids. But then I caught myself, and asked whether that was an appropriate thing to do.

Fox News, of course, immediately ran a segment questioning the moral judgment of including young children using the F-word in the video. I did stop to consider this issue, but didn’t dwell on it too long. The child actors’ parents reportedly gave their consent and were present during filming. Hey, it’s a free country, and nothing here amounts to child abuse.

What I found to be more challenging was figuring out whether I would want to show this video to my students or my own children as a model for effective social activism. I concluded that I probably would, but not without some misgivings.

It’s not as though kids today have never heard the F-word before (though maybe not repeated so many times in the course of a couple of minutes). But at the same time, do caring and responsible adults want to encourage a lack of civility? Shock and awe seems to be the genre du jour, but how much graphic language (let alone graphic images, as can be seen in some other public service announcements) is too much?

When it comes to making a difference – to repairing the world – does the end necessarily justify the means?

Take a look for yourself. What do you think?

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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4 Responses to “Dropping An F-Bomb On Tikkun Olam”

  1. matthew harrison smith Says:

    it is well executed. and sparks discussion. i am for it.

  2. Rose Barlow Says:

    how about just donate the $5? More damage is done to the environment by manufacturing the shirts and shipping them from China to the USA than the spill.

  3. Renee Ghert-Zand Says:

    You make a good point, Rose!

  4. Emmi Says:

    The best thing my literature teacher taught me in high school was that cursing was okay if used only when it was necessary (and it was in certain classic literature).

    I wonder if those little kids realize they may have to live on a different planet in 20 years or so. Or that 99 percent of the rehabbed oiled birds, die within 6 months of release.

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