About Breda Photo
Theme BREDAOPHOTO 2012
TILT was the theme of the 2010 edition of BREDAPHOTO. It directly followed upon the economic crisis that started in 2008. But at the same time, it made us focus on a range of other crises: our energy and food supply, in the environment, and the threat of terrorism. Hence, all these issues were discussed during the festival. Today Western countries still remain in great financial difficulties. And despite of far-ranging financial measures, regulations and a gradual but slow economic recovery, the future looks all but bright.
The causes of our present problems should for an important part be sought for within ourselves. As it is mankind who, in search of personal gain, neglected his fellow human beings and the earth at large. Wholly acting in line with the old principle of the ‘survival of the fittest’, competition and rivalry became of increasing importance in order to succeed.
In addition, the world witnessed an enormous increase in scale. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the ongoing unification of Europe stirred the development of a fierce and globalized form of capitalism; a process that was also heavenly influenced by the rise of the mass media and the Internet. As a consequence of collapsing ideologies and the waning influence of religion within Western societies, the norm of groups moreover changed into the primacy of the individual, and of his or hers personal opinions and desires. A new mentality thus surfaced, which Gordon Gekko so famously summarized as the ‘Greed is good’ adage, in Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street.
These developments invite us to several broader questions. For example, how self-evident is this mentality of a ‘survival of the fittest’? And is this attitude mankind’s (sole) true nature? Are we programmed just to think of ourselves? And if so, then what to think of feelings of social commitment towards our neighbors, and towards society at large? Could, or even must we not learn from the recent financial crisis?
Like that, we could explore the ways in which human beings interact. Scholars have scrutinized human behavior for decades, but it is not a coincidence that these research programs today receive more attention than ever before. Studies on monkeys, for instance, made the Dutch biologist and professor in psychology Frans de Waal conclude that animals do have the ability to act in social and unselfish ways. Moreover, they feel a strong desire to be part of a larger group. And although De Waal endorses processes of natural selection, he also underlines the importance of empathy in order to safeguard the existence of the species. De Waal’s response to Gordon Gekko therefore reads as follows: ‘Greed is out, empathy is in’.
At the same time, however, our existence seems more and more at loggerheads with constant calls for efficiency. Throughout the years, our world was profoundly changed; resulting, as said, from growth occurring in several areas. This (economic) growth became all-dominating, and it constantly insisted that we maneuver ourselves into an inescapable high pace. We nevertheless imposed this compelling way of life upon ourselves. We told ourselves to live by the clock. We told ourselves to arrive at our jobs at a specific time sharp, and to perform at a determined moment and within a specified time. While we perceive this as the only thinkable manner of life, people prior to the Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, had completely different notions of time. Their life patterns were based on seasons, on the alternation of day and night, and by means of astronomical observations.
On the contrary, our present system makes efficiency into the guiding principle of our personal lives. A persisting ‘economical’ time oppresses the attention we should pay to inner rest and reflection, to remembrance and awareness. Being busy and constantly occupied is now something to distinguish oneself with, while at the same time we risk losing ourselves on this road. So now is the time to reconsider our ways of life. The Zeitgeist, in short, seems to have paved the way for…
… a renewed social involvement of both a large-scale commitment and a small-scale life of awareness.
Apparently we exist within a world that is status minded and merely values efficiency and material gain. Our present crisis situation is therefore not a coincidence. The collapse of our social and economic system should now prompt us to rethink our notions of empathy concerning our social and economic acts. And although the future seems all but clear, and directions are still ambiguous, it is now more evident than ever that we should strike out on a new course.