Sunday, 11 August 2019

The Future is Now

"We must recognise the integrity of our opponents and include them in our embrace" 1.
It's easier said than done isn't it? Recognising the integrity of our opponents and including them in our embrace. 

And it's even more difficult when there are times it seems that those with whom we disagree are significantly lacking in integrity; moral, social, political, personal. That is when we must, without a moments hesitation fall back on the default setting, the fundamental human right of respecting the dignity of that person.

Respecting their dignity is something we must do regardless of who they are or whether we personally feel they deserve it or not. It is not up for negotiation. And if we find we can't recognise much integrity in them, we must still treat them with at least the basics of dignity and work to include them in our embrace.

This has never been more urgent. You will be aware as you read this, that right-wing parties across the globe are gaining credibility, influence and power by restricting their countries borders based on dubious ethnic/religious criteria, clamping down on human rights and controlling cultural activities that do not conform to, or promote their agenda. We have entered an era where an international network of politicians, lobbyists and figureheads who have formerly been viewed by the demographic at large as extremists, now feel comfortable enough to reveal their connections across the continents.

It's not only coming from the political right-wing. There are many people from a range of political persuasions, and none, who are just as angry and aggressive.

Do I recognise the integrity of any of the aforementioned people? Difficult. Can I respect their basic dignity even if I don't think they deserve it? I have to. Because if I don't, the alternative and it's consequences do not even bear thinking about. These, then, are the people that we must continually seek to engage with respect, and work hard to include them in our embrace.

 Saffiyah Khan confronting the English Defense League...with a smile. I don't own the copyright on this photograph. If there is an issue please get in touch and I,ll remove it.

A bit about the new artworks on-line including:

If Angels Cast Shadows..., mezzotint

Echoes in the Street, mezzotint and etching

Fish on a Plate, etching

There is certainly something of what I have just written above in the new artwork.

I read recently that political videos with aggressive titles are cropping up with increasing frequency both here in the UK and abroad. Although not exclusive to politics, they are an example of growing international trends for videos with confrontational titles. "The trend for videos where someone "schools", "beats", "takes apart" or even "destroys" their opponent appears to come from America's polarised political culture" 2.

Although punchy headlines have long been one of the most important skills in journalism, on the internet this seems to translate directly into on-line success. If it makes people angry they will be more likely to click, like, share and therefore spread it's message. With aggressive, negative and destructive videos "we are pushing people to hate, attack and humiliate each other. That's good for watch time but bad for society...we have a natural tendency to pay attention to fights and this only encourages video makers to emphasis confrontation over collaboration" 3. Of course, all of this masquerades as freedom of speech while failing to accept our responsibilities that come with such freedom.

Each of the new artworks is permeated (visually) with words like "coexist" "peace/war" and "shalom/salaam". One includes the line "in a lawful, moral society it is the responsibility of the rich to make sure the poor do not starve, it is the responsibility of the strong to make sure the weak are not preyed upon".

Instead of destroying our opponents, can we engage them with dignity whilst aiming to include them in our embrace? Peace after all starts with a smile.

1. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. BBC Newsnight interview. 
2. Joey D'Urso, BBC News website. 
3. Guillame Chaslot, former YouTube engineer, BBC News website.


Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Science vs religion - The Imaginary Divide

Some of you may already know, or have guessed from previous posts, that I am a bit of a science enthusiast and I am also a (religious) believer. And that's why, several years ago I started to think about the twin themes of Reason and Revelation; "the world of reason or the world of revelation - the world of the philosopher or the world of the mystic". 

That’s a phrase I coined to help me understand our faiths and beliefs, where belief can lead to conflict but also where a lack of faith can leave us without foundations.

In the West, the conditions that allowed the scientific/social enlightenment of the 18thC started to develop ideas which claimed that an expansion of our knowledge would bring about a rational understanding of our old superstitions and beliefs. That God Himself would be explained away in the reasoning that followed.

And interestingly enough, the conflict between science and religion/faith is a conversation that has been popping up again and again for me over the last wee while. My neice Esther (O'Connor, singer/songwriter with Ashton Lane) recently introduced me to a sermon on line called "The Imaginary Divide". Of the many points that were made, one thing that did stay with me is that faith, not specifically the religious kind, can take us beyond reason and doesn't have to contradict it.

It was the French writer and philosopher Voltaire who said "Faith consists of believing when it is beyond the powers of reason to believe".  A theoretical scientist for example, has to imagine a place where they have never been before. It is so true of science that many of the greatest discoveries were, and continue to be made possible by an audacity of imagination: a leap of faith. I think therefore we can question the wisdom of an exclusively reasoned and rational world- or universal-view, by saying that intuition and faith are as essential as logic and reason. Perhaps Einstein was fairly close to the mark when he said "religion without science is lame, science without religion is blind".

Now, most of us accept that there is a balance to be found between science and religion. They are different ways of expressing different perspectives of the same universe and our place within it. "What is a scientist after all?" said Jacques Yves Cousteau. "It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on." If that's the case then what is religion? I'd say it is when a curious man is looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of experience, trying to know what's going on.

And that leads me back to what the wonderful Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said in a BBC program here in the UK a few years ago. He said "Science takes things apart to see how they work, religion puts things together to see what they mean".  Dead on!

A bit about the new works...

"Like his earlier mezzotints and etchings, Duffin's newer work reflects his inner journey through philosophical and scientific matters...through form, symbol, colour and texture...the iconographic vocabulary of gargoyles, angels, doves, guns and bombs being intuitive to the Western viewer."

"Though pondering matters of war, hatred and disruption Duffin reiterates a phrase often integrated in his work: "Peace starts with a smile" reminding us that the most powerful weapon we hold as individuals is a smile. It seems however, that the power which Duffin himself holds as an artist is to raise the difficult subjects which permeate contemporary society and reflect them back to the viewer in a thought-inspiring way. What he seeks across cultural and religious divides is the humanity that connects us..." 

Isabelle Thul, ArtMag UK.