SPEECH @ THE 18th EURASIAN ECONOMIC SUMMIT, ISTANBUL, APRIL 2015

WHERE DOES HUMANITY GO?

It helps to know where humanity comes from.

I will highlight the following instincts suggested by Darwin’s evolutionary theory -the Survival Instinct and the Art Instinct. (1)

War and Peace if you like.

And wıll focus on the roles of visual communication and education on our road to peace.

First Art: 

In protohistory, independently of ethnogeographic factors: we were defined by our belonging to one specie and not to different tribes. 

Our first ancestors, created the same art pieces (hand axes),pursuing the same skilled perfection,  all over the world.  One could talk of a Universal Art.   

Further studies by philosopher Dennis Dutton (2)

and neuroimaging confirmed that human beings today all over the world still find beauty in the same visual experiences, the so called Darwinian aesthetics.

 

After the pleistocene, Mystic Art gave way to different forms of Religious Art, relevant this time to ethnogeographic factors. Further on in time, Art divided itself in two spheres: Western Art and the so called Ethnic Arts. And it is only since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of China, that new artistic expression has exploded worldwide.(3)

Today, all over the world, Art has one language: 

we are in presence of Universal Art….again. 

We are one tribe again, 

and in more worlds that just the Art world: in science, humanities, business etc…as you well know.

The same culture exists wherever there is internet access. We can see the same images, hear the same music, from a Korean Gangnam style video, to a South African wildlife video battle at Kruger.

Neuroscience established that visualisation, experiences, exposure to other cultures modify the circuitry of our brains: our brains are “plastic”. 

Therefore an increased contact to our epoch's hyper-culture, as opposed to subcultures, will influence us all similarly epigenetically, meaning that our DNA, our heritable traits are modified by the same environmental influences.   We are becoming as a whole multi-cultural.

This will hopefully reduce this second instinct that we share: the survival instinct, which according to Darwin led to both legitimising the use of violence against an enemy and tribal loyalty.  In todays world: clash of civilisations and sectarianism. 

To the extreme this instinct dehumanizes human beings, as exemplified by Isis. 

We could also attempt to fight against Isis on the visual communication field. Think about this image: a row of beige Toyotas orderly topped by armed men, clad in black…  At first view, it purposely recalls Hollywood blockbusters, inviting acultured, purposeless and lonely youth to become valiant heroes if they join, under a flag that smartly marries the Kalashnikov to the Ancient Mujahideen sword and has the sacred book of Koran on the world.

Visualisation has a huge impact on the brain’s cortex, processing information at multiple levels, conscious and unconscious. 

Numeral studies are still being done, but in laymen term we all understand the expression “ a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Let us propose counter images linking Jihadists to the Nazis,  let us make of “Ubuntu” our rally word (4),let us promote multiculturalism as the Republic of Azerbaijan does it at both the National and the International levels,  let us make heroes of the blue peace corps.Our press only shows the bad, it should show some good.  We need not act like powerless children in front of Islamist’s mastery of social medias and visual communication.

Dehumanisation.... studies have been done to counter it in relation to Nazism.  They propose intergroup contact and communication.(5) 

UNO created in 1966 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. …In the 80’s it was extended in Europe to one week ( European-wide Action Week Against Racism). 

This proved to be insufficient.

A way that at least intergroup knowledge can be enforced effectively and easily is in schools,  educating kids about the world and our fellow humans via images, via movies.

This is done in some schools in the United Kingdom:Ms. Beeban Kidron, film maker, created the FILM CLUB(6),  an organisation that runs weekly film screenings followed by discussions. Confirming neurosciences findings, I quote Ms. Kidron:

“Movies have the power to create a shared narrative experience and to shape memories and world views…

Raiding the annals of 100 years of movie masterpieces, we build a narrative that would deliver meaning to the fragmented and restless world of the young ….

What became extraordinary was how the experience of critical and curious questioning translated into life. The films provided communality and communication across all manner of divide.”   On top of ıt...kids grades improved!

Another example: In some schools in Korea  France and South Africa, a class called “Teaching the Universe” (7)

by showing mesmerising images of our galaxy and of our unique, precious, and microscopic planet emphasises how precious Earth is and how much it is we share rather than what divides us.

The impact of visualisation is still being studied today:  some neuroscientists evoke the possibility of mirror neurons(8)neurons which respond with an equivalent force when for example I perform an action, such as yawning, as when I observe ...you performing the same action. 

Imagine the possibilities of positive visualisations versus negative ones.

To implement worldwide film programs in school in view to teach that “ we all think we’re so different , when we’re painfully similar”(9) is of tremendous importance today. It would be a step in providing counter visualisation to the abysmal appeal of extremism on youngsters, a step on our road to peace. 

Thank you all and particularly, Mercı ınfınıment Dr. Suver.

References:

(1)Darwin: The Origin of Species;  The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex.

(2)Dennis Dutton: “The Art Instinct”

(3ARTHUR C . DANTO : Philosophical disenfranchisement of art

(4)Ubuntu is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally "human-ness," and is often translated as "humanity toward others," but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity". "About the Name". Official Ubuntu Documentation. Canonical. Retrieved 5 January 2013.

(5)  Wikipedia Dehumanisation, F. Albarello et M. Rubini, « Reducing dehumanization outcomes towards blacks: the role of multiple categorisation and of human identity », Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., vol. 42, 2012, p. 875-882 ,

(6)  https://www.ted.com/talks/beeban_kidron_the_shared_wonder_of_film/

(7) created by Professor George Smoot, Nobel Prize winner in Physics 2006 among others educative projects undertaken by his Center:  PCCP, Paris Center for Cosmological Physics

(8) Discovered in the 1980s and 1990s by Professor Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team at the University of ParmaItaly.

(9) http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/yasmina-reza/happy-are-the-happy- A funny, caustic book about how we all think we’re so different – when we’re painfully similar" - Viv Groskop, Red.