Monday, August 23, 2010

Are we ready to open our minds?

Yesterday I went to see the Fotopres exposition at LaCaixa in Madrid. I have not been more disturbed in a long while. After genuinely enjoying the exposition dedicated to the professional (and partially personal) life of Federico Fellini, I went to the upper level to make it a well-rounded visit to the gallery... like when they put a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to your brownie - you have not asked for it, but it completes the experience... For a moment I wished I never stepped my foot on that floor. As you enter, you are facing several large scale portraits of women, whose faces and bodies were crippled by acid. Other walls tell you about war atrocities in Kenya in 2008, ravages in Lebanon, alcoholism in Mongolia, terror of Caracas slums, etc.

The video installations shed more light on the issues. The victims of social and political calamities in less developed countries flee to Europe not for a longer euro, but to stay alive. Is Europe ready to accept them? I am posing this question not in economic terms but more from the cultural and social angle. Confronted with the question, any educated person would say that they are open-minded and surely victims of humanitarian disasters must be given shelter, protection and possible help. What happens in reality? Every day on my way to school and back home I pass an area under a viaduct where homeless immigrants (I guess from Maghreb or Middle Eastern countries) live. This is the prestigious and posh area of Salamanca! What happens in the suburban areas of Madrid? Other cities? Countries?

One wall with pictures clearly stands out in the entire exhibition. DubaiLand. Pictures of wealth, prosperity and artificiality. Juxtaposed to all the other photographs, they somehow ridicule and challenge the "first world" and its vanity while there is so much violence and cruelty everywhere else.

You cannot NOT choose. All our life is a consecutive chain of choices. Whom do you go to lunch with? Who are your friends? Who are your suppliers? Whom do you hire? Would you prefer to work with people different from you? How different? Would you shake hands with an HIV-positive person? Would you be comfortable if it is a teacher of your children? There are so many questions which would be answered politically correctly... However, when it comes to brass tacks and real life, so often our espoused values are different from values in-use. How do we break this wall? Just like anything else - one brick at a time.

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