Here is my image for Task 1:
Although it might be a bit too simplistic, I believe you can create more impact with a few strong elements than with a more complicated concept; what is more, this image will be shown online, and it needs to have a strong thumbnail even in very small sizes. So I think the choice of style fits the purpose.
This is an image I took just after we were introduced to the #creativact project, in the break before our afternoon workshops. I think it is a good idea to go out and do something when you’re still inspired by what you’ve been listening to, so I took a camera and went around town. To be honest, I often take similar photos, because I am always fascinated by architecture and the meaning it conveys. Cold, straight, repetitive structures we’ve grown to associate with cities, the modern, ‘western’ world, and economic power. For me, they are more a symbol of lifelessness, emptiness, lack of purpose and fear. Also, of course, a fair amount of control and power – I think big structures always have this nuance in meaning, often related to masculinity, control, pursuit of power and greed. People are put into these cold, uniform boxes, and they obey the system; and each of our actions is reinforcing the system and its rules.
I’ve published the image on Flickr, and I’ve added it to a couple of relevant groups (I’ve also added other of my Flickr photos to some of these groups):
I put a few group searches on the site, to try and find groups I can join. The search queries included ‘creative activism’, ‘political activism’, ‘occupy’, ‘99 percent’, and ‘capitalism’. There are lots of active communities and discussions around the Occupy movement, as well as all sorts of talking about ‘capitalism gone wrong’.
When I first found out about the #creativact project, I wanted to identify the issues I feel strongly about, things that I have an opinion about, and I could express it in a creative manner. Here are the three main issues:
Capitalism, corporate greed and imbalance of power
I am not a socialist, and I do believe in the idea of free enterprise. But capitalism, in its current form, has gone too far. For me, the biggest problem lies in the credit / debt system. I believe we have limited resources on Earth, which includes limited energy, materials, natural resources, etc. – so anything that is not available today, is something we are not entitled to use.
This is why, for me, big-scale, long-term, structured, and all sorts of complicated debt is wrong. It means operating with non-existing resources, enslaving the person or organisation in debt for years to come, and giving unnatural amounts of power to the person or organisation the money is owed to. I also think it is wrong to trade debt, to bid against debt, and all sorts of manipulations and speculations related to non-existing resources. I think this type of activities are the main reason capitalism has turned from the relatively good idea of freedom, rights and obligations of business and enterprise, to this monster of ‘evil’, faceless, un-human corporations more interested in short-term profit than in long-term wellbeing. What is more, capitalism has made people powerless, it has created a culture of consumerism, where you are either part of the assembly line, or the consumer (and often both), part of a large scale process – big, incorporated businesses with aggressive and disrespectful politics, instead of small, local, ethical businesses – and of course, it needs us to be ‘consumers’ that are attracted to low prices more than to being good and ethical to our fellow human beings.
Taboos and censorship in media and culture
I believe in free and open communication, not restricted by rules of ‘political correctness’, censorship, and hidden agendas. As I’ve written before, if something in the world exists, we should be able to speak freely about it. Censorship and taboos bring about uncertainty, helplessness, and often are the source of more pain than if we’d talk about the issue freely. Making it ‘impolite’ to talk about issues of desire, sexuality, gender, rape and abuse, has created more problems and has led to more violence than if it were treated the same as other every day things. Because, these things, in the end of the day, are natural, part of being human, and I can’t understand why we’d put so many layers of added meaning, confusion and taboos.
Another aspect of this are health problems and any type of ‘abnormal’ happenings around the human body. People are taught to be afraid of speaking about these things, and as a result, millions of people never seek help, and suffer in loneliness and despair. What is more, when people are taught to not talk about certain aspects of their lives, this often expands to not even thinking about it – which creates lots of insecurities, induces fear, and guilt. When it comes to media, I agree we do need some system of warnings and ratings as a guideline, but I believe in the free and open availability and access to information, both on the receiving side, and when expressing opinion. When something is a taboo, it creates more curiosity, mystery, and attracts unhealthy attention – while often things that are taboos are ‘one-hit’ occasions which quickly peak and then quickly disappear and lose on their significance and meaning – but if we put mystery and taboos around them, they attract people’s attention and can lead to more distress.
Hypocrisy, guilt and false charity
This is something relevantly new in my life, so maybe the strength of my belief is due to the fact I’ve just recently found out about this. Since I’ve moved to the UK (one year ago), I’ve been gradually introduced to the scale of this issue here. It is a massive effort in the corporate world (and, recently, small business and normal people), to wear a socially responsible mask, while in the meantime still operating with vast amounts of money.
Because of the UK’s emperial history and general image of an economic power, it also wears the mask of a world helper, bringing on ‘much needed’ aid, organising charitable events, etc. I do believe this is largely hypocritical, first because of the amount of tax breaks associated with charity work, second because of the enormous budgets of ‘charity campaigns’, and third because of the simple fact charity organisations have employees that are paid, and usually paid quite well. See, in Bulgaria, a charity organisation usually means an idealistic group of people, who barely make ends meet for the organisation’s expenses, rely heavily on people donating their time and money, and are largely unpaid. I think that if an old lady donates her time and products to cook a meal and donate it to a group of orphans, this is real charity – but if an incorporated organisation renting big office spaces, paying millions in pay checks and contracts, uses someone else’s donated money to buy ready made meals from a big company, this is pure hypocrisy.
These types of organisations rely on the imposed guilt in ‘rich’ societies, and on people’s beliefs that ‘they can afford to help the less fortunate’. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle of guilt, hypocrisy, and ‘buying indulgence’, being ‘freed’ from their sins such as greed, and generally believing they can ‘balance out’ their accounts of bad deeds if they do something ‘good’.
It is part of the human condition to feel powerless and to want to feel empowered, and at the same time, to be able to say ‘I am worth more than you’ – and the charities are exploiting this ‘brain bug’ in people’s operating systems heavily. I also believe that, on a bigger scale, lots of the charities are making things worse, or doing things wrong – the most obvious example is tackling symptoms, effects, instead of dealing with the causes of a problem.
Here is a real campaign, illustrating this last statement:
‘Tackling the EFFECTS of war, poverty and disease’
Correct me if I’m wrong, but until we deal with the CAUSES, there will always be people suffering from the EFFECTS of things such as war, poverty and disease.
To be honest, this sounds like the perfect business strategy – find a never ending source / hard to solve problem and exploit it indefinitely – but I don’t think it is a good cause for someone who is trying to help people and to be ethical. If your reasons for joining such a cause are ethical, that’d mean you want to join, do the best you can do, IMPROVE the situation, then make yourself REDUNDANT – so, ideally, the situation would improve so much after you’ve intervened, that you are no longer needed – and then move on to solve another problem. That is, if the people actually ask for help. Otherwise, it’s arguably the same type of aggressive behaviour we see when corporations are targeting new markets. And you can’t help people that don’t want or don’t need your help.