Helen Keller Sunglasses: Insensitive Insult or Respectful Tribute?
When you wear Helen Keller sunglasses, “You see the world, the world sees you.” One wonders what the real Helen Keller, blinded by illness at an early age, would think of the Chinese company who came up with that jarringly inappropriate motto.
Helen Keller, of course, was a young Alabama girl who mastered several incapacitating disabilities with the aid of Anne Sullivan. Keller's autobiography was most famously documented in the 1962 Oscar-winning feature film “The Miracle Worker” starring Patty Duke as Keller and Anne Bancroft as Sullivan.
Keller, who passed away in 1968 at the age of 87, was widely admired in her lifetime not only for her personal triumph over adversity but also for her copious writing and charitable work on behalf of the disadvantaged. Helen Keller's well-publicized foreign travel helped spread her story to a global audience and her name is familiar even today in far-flung corners of the globe... including China.
Now an eyewear manufacturer in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen is hoping to capitalize on Keller, a well-known figure in China as her story is part of the nation's school curriculum. Part of Keller's allure to Chinese educators is the fact that she was an avowed and active social reformer; a member of the Socialist Party who espoused political views that were very radical for the time.
To quote one of her writings from 1911, “The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.” If Helen Keller isn't one of the inspirations of the Occupy movement, she darned well should be!
Perhaps we can cut the Chinese owners and marketers of Helen Keller brand sunglasses a little slack, then, and give them the benefit of the doubt when they so egregiously associate eyewear with one of history's most famous blind people.
As a matter of fact, company spokesperson Chen Wenjing was unfazed when asked about the association, stating they “were aware Helen Keller was blind, but what they valued was her philanthropist spirit which spread optimism around the world.” Works for me, though the firm's cringe-worthy motto “You see the world, the world sees you” could do with some fine-tuning. (via Ministry of Tofu, WSJ Blogs, and Liuzhou Laowai)
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