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How dare they?

BredaPhoto Festival shows the state of the art of contemporary photography on the basis of a socially relevant and international recognizable theme. A pamphlet, outlining the direction for BredaPhoto 2020, is the starting point for an in-depth discussion to determine the final theme for BredaPhoto Festival 2020. Mohamed Somji, International Associated Curator BredaPhoto Festival, reflects on the pamphlet.

I obviously don’t need to explain to you anymore, dear reader, that the world is a global village. As in every village, people gossip at the bakery, complain at the butcher shop, drink at the local bar and think they know everything there is to know about their neighbor.

It’s not easy being a Westerner in this global village.

For you get to hear this and that. Turks pride themselves on the fact that Istanbul New Airport was built in barely four years, while the new Berlin (Brandenburg) Airport still isn’t ready after thirteen years. The Chinese take pleasure in pointing out to Americans that their superior democratic system delivered a boastful lout like Donald Trump. And many an African will tell you that all the Western development aid is of no real benefit.

Are these people who spout criticism right? In fact, we seldom think about this. We find the idea strange that non-Westerners should have an opinion about how Europe conducts its affairs, and of course we don’t take these opinions seriously. If a Singaporean/Kenyan/Colombian expresses an opinion about our society model, we consider it to be inappropriate. Who do they think they are? Where do they get the audacity? How dare they?

Why is this?
In the Western world, something remarkable is happening. As the Western role and influence in the world decrease, we seem to become less and less interested in the outside world. China is developing into a technological giant, the Gulf states convert petrocurrency into worldwide influence, but Europe prefers to blather on within itself about how the Greeks don’t have their account books in order during the Euro crisis. Instead of dealing with the flaws in our own political system, we prefer to blame the rise of right-wing populism on Russian trolls or on leftist NGOs.

Every local bar has a bar regular who seems to have biologically merged with his usual barstool. The type that – on his third pint – orates incessantly on moral decline, young people’s lack of manners and the bad weather. Does he need to be afraid of someone throwing a punch at him? No, not at all. But it’s also true that absolutely no-one listens to him. The similarity between Western Europe and the bar regular is painfully striking, and not only when Jean-Claude Juncker is speaking.

It would be better for us to start paying attention to the rest of the world. A large part of the world stopped listening to us a long time ago.

Jeroen Zullaert
journalist Knack