Science: Rationality & Imagination

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Science: Rationality & Imagination (May, 2005 The Netherlands) by Blerina Berberi

Introduction

By studying the “Philosophy of Science” I have been struck by the quest for clear dichotomies of approaches to knowledge, scientific and non-scientific. The Scientific Revolution that settled science as the only objective, rational, true, method of discovery for human knowledge, which is based on observational and experimental facts makes the “pool” of dichotomies becomes bigger and the boundaries seem to get blurrier when other issues within the realm of science and non-science, such as related to epistemology, ontology and methodology became clearer.

This research focuses on the importance imagination in science. The aim of the paper is to show how rationality and imagination, can be, and have been reconciled in the field of scientific discovery and present imagination and science as reciprocally related and progressed.

1. Scientific theories: Imagination

The Scientific Revolution is stated to have started either in the 16th, 17th century or maybe has not even started yet. Nevertheless, the basis of such a claim is the belief that science was the only field of looking at facts of observation and experimentation as the serious foundation of knowledge, i.e. “science is derived from facts” (Chalmers, 1999, p.1). Still factual knowledge is under dispute. When it comes to explain Galileo’s discovery as scientific, many do not agree on the interpretation of such discovery. H.D. Anthony states that what was different in Galileo’s discovery, was his attitude in taking observable facts as the main factors in building up his theory (Chalmers, 1999, p.1). For science observational and experimental facts on which scientific theories are based do really represent the reality, Realism, while others, such as Anti-Realists, claim that Galileo’s logical reasoning could not lead to such a theory. But before we discuss this in more details let’s take a look how scientific theories are set.

The two main schools of thought are the empiricists and rationalists, but while empiricists claim that knowledge derives from observation, rationalists hold that true knowledge lies in thinking. While the former claims induction is the best approach, the later holds deduction to be the right approach to true knowledge (Boon, Lect. 3). Thus scientific theories are set either by inductive or/and deductive logic. According to Chalmers, induction is building up laws and theories from facts acquired from observation, and deduction is deriving from the theories and laws predictions and explanations, so reasoning from the general to the particular (Chalmers, 1999, p.54).

Both approaches have their strong and weak arguments but most important is to see the validity of scientific theories that derive either from induction or deduction. The two dichotomous approaches to scientific theories are Realism and Anti-Realism. According to Anti- Realism:

“The enduring part of science is that part which is based on observation and experiment. The theories are mere scaffolding which can be dispensed with once they have outlived their usefulness” (Chalmers, 1999, p.227)

Anti- Realists claim that theories of the past weren’t correct descriptions of reality and that the scientific theories are just a set of claims that can be substantiated by observation and experiment (Chalmers, 1999, p.232). Moreover, Anti-Realists claim that theories are just useful instruments that help us just correlate and predict results of observation and experiment. An example, are Galileo’s discoveries which logically could not have derived at those theories. Furthermore, Anti- Realism holds that scientific theories developed either from the inductive or deductive logical approach are not true. So realists hold that observable facts are true but scientific theories are not. Thus Anti- Realism disagrees about the “truth” relationship between observable facts and scientific theories.

Yet Realists state that theories of science are true about the world since it describes the world as it is. Realism states science is realist in the sense that it attempts to exemplify the structure of reality, and has made progress by approximation of theories (Chalmers, 1999, p.245).

Furthermore, Realists state that nowadays-scientific theories are truer than the ones before. The reason is that they are based on true, rational, observable facts, and science progresses as we build more theories on the basis of the greater accumulation of facts. Anti-Realism, and other similar approaches, holds that history has tested scientific theories and many of them have failed to succeed and exist at the present time, thus nowadays scientific theories are not better than the earlier ones. The reasons are different and the conclusion is that if scientific theories really represent true, objective, rational knowledge than they would have not been discarded through out time.

Here we see a distinction of scientific theories with scientific observable facts whose truthness is questioned by Realists and Anti-Realists. But what escapes these two approaches is that in the processes of deduction and induction, another process takes place and that is imagination.

According to Hempel the narrow inductivist conception of scientific inquiry, is untenable. Even though the mechanical procedures for inductively “inferring” hypothesis can be specific for situations, he states about induction and “inferences”:

“There are no generally applicable “rules of induction”, by which hypothesis or theories can be mechanically derived or inferred from empirical data. The transition from data to theory requires creative imagination. Scientific hypothesis and theories are not derived from observed facts, but invented in order to account for them.” (Hempel, p.47)

Hempel seems to have the same approach as the Anti-Realists who claimed that Galileo’s logic could not have led him to those theories. And Hempel is stating that scientific theories set by induction are invented but still they can be proposed in science but have to be accepted by the scientific knowledge. Furthermore, Hempel states that:

“…imagination and free invention play a similarly important role in those disciplines whose results are validated exclusively by deductive reasoning, i.e. mathematics” (Hempel, p.47)

As we can see, Hempel claims that in building scientific theories, either by induction or deduction, there needs to be some ingenuity to make inferences to facts or theories through imagination and invention. Moreover, other scientists have also made discoveries not just on basis of scientific data, but on basis of their Imagination, such as the case of the chemist Kekule who in 1865 he found out to devise a structural formula for the benzene molecule just by gazing at his fireplace. Here, we come to Albert Einstein’s claim that:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge, for while knowledge points to all that is, imagination points to all there will be” (IM-BOOT, 2005).

This might be the case but maybe not always. The ancients’ imagination was that the world was flat but of course science proved the contrary and of course it deserve some credits. Still through their imagination they were wrong and gave the spark to science to develop and test their imagination.

In the following section I would like to demonstrate how imagination that is often regarded as opposed to rationality (science), which started with the Scientific Revolution, are both reconciled and have a necessary ontological relationship with each other.

2. Science: Rationality and Imagination

There are a lot of disputes about science and scientist’s position and a stream of different theories from many people, such as Chalmers, Kuhn, Popper, Lakatos, etc., have spread an extreme demand of trying to settle different perspectives of science. Yet the quest for rationality has neglected the crucial role of imagination. Toulmin says:

“… the man with the best trained mind can afford to give the freest rein to his intellectual imagination because he will be best qualified to appraise the rational context of his current problems and to recognize significant clues, promising new lines of analysis, or possible answers to his questions, as they come to mind.” (Toulmin, 2003)

As we know, in general the demarcation between science and non-science creates the dichotomy of rationality, objectivity, true knowledge, prediction, etc., and non-rationality, subjectivity, false knowledge, continuous change that doesn’t permit prediction, etc. But according to Toulmin it seems as though science needs imagination, as Hempel also stated, in order to make inferences between different theories and facts. Furthermore, the clear distinction between science and non-science is expressed in the following lines. For example, Adam Smith and Thomas Henry Huxley state:

(Smith) “Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.” (BrainyMedia, 2005a)

(Huxley) “Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.” (BrainyMedia, 2005b)

But others state that science is not just facts, logic, rationality, etc. Henri Poincare and Albert Einstein state:

(Poincare): “Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.” (BrainyMedia, 2005c)

(Einstein): “ The mere formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skills. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.” (QuoteWorld)

Here we can see, as in many other philosophers like Hempel, that imagination is also important to science and not just rationality. The list of these differences and that of the critics that doubt all these features of science is long and clear even though most of the times not always clear enough. The main reason for such complexities is the disregard of imagination, its role and place.

However, my point is that rationality and imagination co-exist and this love & hate relationship helps each other to be developed and tested. According to Nigel J.T. Thomas imagination is:

“(Imagination is)… what makes our sensory experience meaningful, enabling us to interpret and make sense of it, whether from a conventional perspective or from a fresh, original, individual one. …It also produces mental imagery, visual and otherwise, which is what makes it possible for us to think outside the confines of our present perceptual reality, to consider memories of the past and possibilities for the future, and to weigh alternatives against one another.” (Thomas, 2004)

The power of imagination is something often opposite to rationality. Being rational and exercising imagination are both conscious processes. However, sometimes imagination can be attributed in some cases to unconsciousness. We can try to distinguish between rationality in science based on facts and imagination as inferring facts and theories, but we know that they are not the same. Still, many scientists and other philosophers hold that imagination is important in order for science to progress.

But imagination can also lead to science fiction and other fantasies that are completely out of our objective reality. But that is not the point here. It can be said that our imagination created rationality, since our ancestors did not the science of our days, and furthermore rationality places a boundary to extreme imagination, such as to religion, but still science cannot progress or make new discoveries if we don’t have the power to imagine that we do not know much.  Yet the extreme imagination not confined at some extent to reality is not fruitful to science. According to ScienceDaily:

“Progress in scientific research is due largely to provisional explanations which are constructed by imagination, but such hypotheses must be framed in relation to previously ascertained facts and in accordance with the principles of the particular science.” (ScienceDaily, 2004b)

&         “One hypothesis for the evolution of human imagination is that it allowed conscious beings to solve problems (and hence increase an individual’s fitness) by use of mental simulation.” (ScienceDaily, 2004c)

First, imagination in science should be not completely free from objective constraints and practicality. However, imagination and rationality, science, both have an important relationship for each other. This is also the point made by Einstein, Poincare, etc., that without our imagination science would be just a heap of stones in the house (Poincare), and that without our imagination science doesn’t advance (Einstein). Furthermore, Wittgenstein also states, the contrary to Einstein, that science advances our imagination:

“Is scientific progress useful to philosophy?  Certainly.  The realities that are discovered lighten the philosopher’s task, (i.e.) imagining possibilities” (Wittgenstein, 1982, p. 807)

Thus while imagination exceeds some boundaries of objectivity and rationality, science tries to test, based on facts by observation and experimentation, the reality, rationality, truth, etc., of our imagination. In its course of finding the truth of our imagination science does progress. Whether the development in science can completely be attributed to imagination, I couldn’t tell, but the role of imagination is far greater in science, more than some rational scientists can even rationalize about.

3. Conclusion

Imagination and science go hand in hand with each other. Our imagination of the future gives science the “dream” to be achieved. While imagination trespasses the boundaries of objective reality, science tests these imaginations and in some cases it limits them, i.e. at the present there are not as many religious believers are there used to be, and in other cases it gives free reign to imagination, as is the case of Star Trek. Some recent news say:

“During its life in orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope has delivered transporting views of the heavens, pictures that fire the imagination of an unimaginably vast portion of the universe that we can’t otherwise see.” (Britt, 2004)

&       “Viagra, the famous sex-boosting drug, has grabbed headlines, imaginations and pocketbooks since its debut in April of 1998.” (WebMD, 1999)

In the first case, news states that science has advanced in finding out new images in space, and that our imagination of the universe is contested and in the same time our imagination of the universe expands as more scientific data we gather. In the second one, science has progressed by fulfilling our imagination. It is also worthy to note that most of scientific developments also claim to have captured our imagination, as though as it is trying scientifically too hard to fulfill our “dreams.”

Herclitus of Epheus (535- 474 BC), known as the “obscure” Heraclitus, stated:

“Men do not know how that which is drawn in different directions harmonises with itself. The harmonious structure of the world depends upon opposite tension like that of the bow and the lyre.” (Herakleitos, frag.52)

We can say that the demarcation between science and non-science is a necessary distinction to be made in order to understand the opposites, dichotomies. But that doesn’t mean that there is no harmony. There is harmony as long as the tension of one field doesn’t supersede the other. Thus a certain balance of opposites needs to be perceived in order to have harmony.

Finally, on February 8, 2004, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting was discovered to bare similarities with the stars discovered by the Hubble telescope (ScienceDaily, 2004a). This case can be just a mere coincidence and it might be too much to ask to go back and discover what the ancients believed and see if the science of the future will discover the same things. But science doesn’t just discover the future it also makes it. Yet, as Einstein said:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning”!!!

References

– Boon, L. Lect. 3. (2005) Lecture 3, on  “Critical Rationalism and Karl Popper”.

-BrainyMedia (2005a). Retrieved from: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/q118634.html

-BrainyMedia (2005b). Retrieved from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomashenr118633.html

-BrainyMedia, (2005c). Retrieved from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/henri_poincare.html

– Britt, R.R. (April 22, 2004) Hubble still stunning of 14th birthday in Science and Space. Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/04/22/hubble.bday/index.html

-Chalmers, A. F. (1999). What is this thing called Science? (3rd ed). Open University Press.

-Science Daily, (2004a) Space Phenomenon Imitates Art in Universe’s Version of Van Gogh’s painting, Retrieved from:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/03/040305071444.htm

– Science Daily, (2004b) Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/encyclopedia/imagination

– Science Daily (2004c) Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/encyclopedia/imagination

-Hempel, C. (E-reader) The Role of Induction in Scientific Inquiry, p. 41- 49

-Herakleitos of Ephesos (Fragment 52) Réfutation des toutes les hérésies, IX, 9, 2.. Retrieved from:

http://philoctetes.free.fr/heraclitefraneng.htm

-IM-BOOT, (2005). Retrieved from:

http://www.imboot.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=631

– QuoteWorld. Retrieved from:

http://www.quoteworld.org/browse.php?thetext=imagin&page=4

-Thomas, Nigel J.T. (2004). Imagination, Mental Imagery, Consciousness, and Cognition: Scientific, Philosophical and Historical Approaches. Retrieved from: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/nthomas/

-Toulmin, S. E.. (2003) Movements of Scientific Thought, Discovery and Rationality in “The Competitiveness of Nations in Global- Knowledge-Based Economy. Britannica”. Retrieved from:

http://www.compilerpress.atfreeweb.com/Anno%20Toulmin%20EB%20Philosophy%20of%20Science.htm#Stephen

– WebMD, (1999). Retrieved from:                 http://edition.cnn.com/HEALTH/women/9910/15/viagra.women.wmd/index.html

-Wittgenstein, (1982) Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology (1948-9) i, p. 807; tr. Luckhardt and Aue. Oxford.

Female Ethics and Moral Imagination

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Female Ethics and Moral Imagination (May 27, 2005 The Netherlands/ Blerina Berberi)

This research focuses on the distinction between moral reasoning and female ethics, where the latter is discussed as being related to moral imagination theory, which with its distinguishable perspective on humanity brings forward benefits for the individual and society that are much greater compared to what the principles of moral reasoning have tried (or failed) to establish.

The idea that women think differently from man has been the explanatory factor for the subordination of women to men. Like Aristotle (384-322 BC), who said that women are not as rational as men, also Kant (1724- 1804) wrote that women “lack civil personality” and should not be involved in public life (Rachels, 2003, p.160). Kant’s theory on the Categorical Imperative holds that our moral obligations, duties, are different from the hypothetical “oughts” that are based on desires, and are based on reason. And moreover, the categorical “oughts” are derived from a principle that every rational being must accept and all humans should be bound to moral reasons in all times. But in the same time Kant denies any strong rational faculty to women, which according to Kant is vital in dealing with civil matters. Furthermore in Retributivism, Kant states that “paying back” is better than manipulating personalities (Rachels, 2003, p. 136). So is Kant paying back to women what they deserve by denying certain reasoning capacities to them? How come women deserve such a position? Kant’s theory also implies that women’s inability to be involved in civil matters is subordinated by men’s power of reasoning. The discussion in the following pages evolves around the idea of whether being involved in civil matters and lacking the ability of (men’s) reasoning, is really a bad thing for moral theory. There is also some analysis to advantages of female ethics in related to moral imagination,

The idea of female ethics, or of ethics with a ‘feminine’ nature began in the 18th century. At that time the industrialization of societies, led to an attention in the role of females in the society where woman so far was considered as holding virtues that were subordinate to the “private’ sphere of domestic life” (Grimshaw, 1991, p. 491).  Moreover, Rousseau said that “characteristics which would be faults in men are virtues in women”(Grimshaw, 1991, p. 491). His idea is related to the simplicity of rural life that counteracts with “evil manners” of the city. However, Mary Wollstencraft (1759- 1797), who is considered to be the herald of feminist movement, made an attack on subordination created by social attribute which denied to women the educational and other rights needed for equality of status. She talked about “tyranny of men” and calls for a change in social attitudes. But she also acknowledges some differences and says that women should be educated not so much for their own sakes but enough to fit and be elevated companions to their husbands. Moreover, her wish was for a society where “distinctions of sex are confounded”, thus ignored (Cottingham, 1996, p.433). Wollstencraft tried to make a relationship between the public sphere, and Kant’s “civil” one, and stated that the “…public virtue is an aggregate of the private” (Cottingham, 1996, 437). She claimed that if parents do not have friendship, which is based on the level of knowledge of both parents, the future generation would not be educated properly. So it is necessary to educate women, which would become “companions of man” by progressing in knowledge and virtue. At the present the situation has changed and the participation and involvement of women in education is not anymore a concern, at least in most Western countries. According to Rachels, in the 60s- 70s that the men are rational and women emotional was dismissed. What remains crucial is relationship between public virtue, which is attributed to men’s reason, and private virtue attributed to women’s virtues.

Yet some still see a distinction between female’s morality and the men’s one. Galligan states that women moral orientation is caring for others, which is a care in a personal level that is not concerned for humanity in general (Rachels, 2003, p.161). He also states that women’s are sensitive to needs of others and that leads to a different voice. Thus, how different is the ethics of care from the male approach?

The “male way of thinking” appeals to impersonal principles while “female way of thinking” is taking care of others in a personal way (Rachels, 2003, p. 164). This seems somehow really far-fetched for women who have acquired knowledge and progressed their morality. However, Nel Noddings states that the basic notions of ethics of care are “ intuition and feeling rather than principle” (Rachels, 2003, p.170). In 1990 Virginia Held advocated that maybe caring, empathy, and feelings for others should be central to moral theory instead of the abstract rules of reason (Rachels, 2003, p.164).

Let’s take Kant. If we would always act in family and with friends according to “ought to” as rational beings, than parents would be just doing their duty and not loving their kids. The ethics of care than is more suitable and “duties” are not fundamental, and it suggests that personal relationships are prior and according to Rachels that is a sound moral conception (Rachels, 2003, p. 169). And how is this possible that women have a different morality? According to Rachels,  “ethic of care can be just psychological conditioning that girls receive” (Rachels, 2003, p. 166). Nevertheless that is also related to some religious aspects, that even though have been said to be neglected by reason are prominent in moral theory. Furthermore, the roots of morality are strongly held in the Judeo-Christian tradition. According to Donagan, the universal laws in the ethics of the Western world is mainly which emphasize reason specify what is morally permissible and absolutely forbidden. According to the religious perspective humans are half animal and half rational. By bodily nature men are brute animals and by virtue we are rational. It is said in Genesis 1:26-27 that God created both man and women in his own image. So humanity being created as (half-) rational by God, means that “our reason can ‘participate’ or take part in divine reason’” (Johnson, 1993, p.20). This dichotomy came “down to earth” and men and women were seen different which in religious perspective, either because God created Adam first or because Eve ate the forbidden fruit of knowledge that descended Adam and Eve from Paradise. This entails that if we want an absolute moral theory we should remove this dichotomy, which is religiously inherited even those theories of moral reasoning. In Kant’s theory, as Johnson discusses, there is the main break with rational ethics with God. According to Johnson, Kant “…replaces divine reason with a universal reason, but he preserves the absolute and transcendent character of reason” (Johnson, p.25). So we are free rational creatures not subordinated by God, but not all of us, since Kant excludes the possibility of reason to women.

Johnson states that in the traditional rationalist theory: “Law induces or restrains, by virtue of the force of reason. We are moral insofar as we bring our willpower under the constraints of such universal law, and thereby exert force and control over our bodily actions” (Johnson, 1993, p. 29). By referring to God and to divine law and reason, then human reason through its participation in the divine one can get access to the fundamental principles or moral laws binding us all. Central to this is that reason is practical so it means that it guides our actions of will. If we accept that women do not exercise the power of reason equally as men, then we are left just with the Ethics of Care. To summon up, the Ethics of Care attributed to females holds that women are sensitive to the needs of others and care in a personal level (Galligan), intuition and feelings are vital to it (Noddings), and finally caring, empathy and feelings for the others, in the ethics of care, should be central to moral theory and replace the abstract rules of reason (Held). A new Moral Imagination theory has been introduced and it emphasizes the role of empathy.

Empathetic imagination has become very important to moral theory since it is an “imaginative empathetic projection into the experience of other people” (Johnson, 1993, p. 199). Here we see the shift from the not-personal universal reason of Kant, to the empathy of others which female ethics focuses on. Some philosophers have referred to subjective moral theory but in female ethics the involvement in empathy is not merely imagination, but deals with the feelings and needs of the others in a more personal level. Hume in his moral theory referred to sympathy and fellow feeling but yet did not refer to empathy as in empathetic imagination, which is concerned with imagining ourselves in different situations and conditions in different times. Johnson state that our attitude toward humanity should change and we should approach it “others worlds” “… not just by rational calculations, but also in imagination, feeling, and expression” (Johnson, 1993, p.200). He states that those people who are morally sensitive can live out through experiential imagination “the reality of others with whom they are interacting, or whom their actions might affect” (Johnson, 1993, p. 200). This approach, whose factor of empathy is crucial, is related to female ethics, but it does not mean that empathy is possible only for females. What female theory offered to moral theory is the new approach to humanity, and as Johnson states Moral Imagination, like the female ethics, “…undermines absolutist pretensions and supplies us with a range of possible meanings and directions that we might have previously overlooked” (Johnson, 1993, p.200). Therefore it opens a wide realm of diversity in our thinking and which makes possible to us to solve problems or accomplish our goal. Going a few steps further form female ethics, the role of imagination is very important and in Moral Law of morality, where the imaginative activity is neglected, rules “…get whatever meaning they have only from our interpretation of them, and all interpretation is irreducibly imaginative in character” (Johnson, 1993, p.31).

The Moral Law folk theory holds that “every aspect of morality is imaginative”(Johnson, 1993, p.13). Johnson more clearly advocates that fundamental moral concepts, understanding of situations and reasoning of situations are imaginatively structured and based on metaphors. Moreover, moral imagination doesn’t dictate the right thing to do, as the Moral Law theories tried and failed to since they “never gave the right thing to do either” (Johnson, 1993, p.187). This statement is doubtful because what this moral reasoning might have shown as the right thing was to prove its own failure and opened the new field of moral inquiry through imagination. In moral imagination, metaphors are crucial since they are not arbitrary or unmotivated. Metaphors produce us to the moral modesty about personal moral claims and recognition of the diversity of morally possible ways of living, thus moral knowledge. As it is mentioned below, the benefits or the consequences of moral imagination are similar to those of female ethics.

In conclusion, female ethics, with a focus on empathy, might have led to, after the failure of the cold reason, to moral imagination. Moral imagination theory is with the focus on the “experience of the others on more personal level”.  Female ethics, like moral imagination, disregards reason for the sake of a better relationship between humans and as Rachels puts it: “To be loving, loyal, and dependable is to be a certain kind of person, and neither as a parent nor as a friend is it the kind of person who impartially “does his duty” (Rachels, 2003, p.171). One of the benefits of female ethics and moral imagination is the exploration of possibilities for “human flourishing” (Johnson, p.31).

In 1979, Bronfenbrenner after some researches concluded that: “No society can long sustain itself unless its members have learned the sensitives, motives, and skills involved in assisting and caring for other human beings” (Berman, 1998, p.1). Once again, the female ethics, ethics of care, is seen as vital to our society. In addition, according to Berman, studies have shown that young college students are less involved in politics, community activities, in influence social values, etc. This is alarming because “our democratic culture and social wellbeing depend on the renewing energy of young people who have the sensitivities and vision to help create a better world. Indeed, the very fabric of our national community depends on the degree to which we care about and treat each other with respect and civility” (Berman, 1998, p.1). Regarding education it is better to teach students not with rigid and strict regulations but as Berman states: “The most productive instructional strategy for developing social responsibility, therefore, is to teach young people skills in empathy”(Berman, 1998, p.1). Berman also states that by being empathetic we are more concerned about the community. Grimshaw also acknowledges the frutifulness of female ethics, which is also related to moral imagination, and states:

“…in a world in which the activities and concerns which have traditionally been regarded as primarily female were given equal value and status, moral and social priorities would be very different from those of the world in which we live now” (Grimshaw, 1991, p. 499).

I conclude that if we all, not only females from which the female ethics sprung from, exercise empathy, which is possible for everyone to do, then we would see the world as a big family and the principles of female ethics, thus virtues of female character, would make it possible to consider every one of us a member of the same community in which caring about each other is vital to our living. My remaining question would be: Do our contemporary leaders, especially in politics, exercise empathy?

References

– Berman, S. H. (1998) The bridge to civility: Empathy, Ethics and Service, American Association of School of Administrators. Retrieved from:

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JSD/is_5_55/ai_77196102

– Cottingham J. (1996) Western Philosophy: An Anthology, Blackwell Publishers.

– Johnson M. (1993) Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics, The University Chicago Press.

– Rachels, J. (2003) The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 4th edition, New York: McGraw- Hill

– Grimshaw, J. (1991), The idea of a female ethic in “A Companion to Ethics”, edited by Singer, P. Basil Blackwell.

Management of Cultural Expressions in Contemporary Albania

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Backgrounder: Management of the cultural expressions in contemporary Albania

By: Ekphrasis Studio

TIRANA. Almost 20 years after the first student called “We want Albania like the rest of Europe”, the strong, ancient history of artistic and cultural information of the Albanians continues to be a persistent dialogue alongside not yet developed policies, qualifications and education. The result of this combination is un-planned, sporadic cultural organizations and events. Arts and heritage boards have almost the same character; they depend on which political wind is stronger.

The management of cultural expressions in Albania is something of a “tabula rrasa”, and is mainly a vague economic understanding of cultural goods. There is rarely a measurement for success, other than an opinion or statistic claiming to be better/worse than the activity before. There is little education.

During the last 20 years, infrastructure for creating and presenting cultural expressions has actually decreased.  The cinema has been reduced from 450 movie theatres in the late ’80s, to only a handful in 2009.  Recent cultural activities, especially contemporary, have taken place in un-used military zones, crumbling castles, the abandonned Hotel Dajti and so on. Infrastructure is critical for creative development, but state facilities are severely lacking in funding and maintenance, countless historical objects have been looted and the building of the Albanian League of Artists was turned into the new Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports. With its long title (listing its responsibilities and administrative duties), this institution has the monopoly as the busiest cultural manager in the country.

The only information not to find from this Ministry is the state’s Cultural Policies. There is only one page on the Cultural Strategy which states only what has to be achieved rather than how developments will unfold. Policies are for planning the budget, meaning the use of taxes collected according to the needs for developing and preserving cultural goods. Through policies, the statutes of artists are defined and arts management mechanisms that create the market(ing) encourage production of all creative expressions. Without policies – that is to say guidelines that need to be carefully evaluated on their impacts – there is no plan or incentives. What is here today, is not assured for tomorrow.

 

A policy in the simplest sense, is like having a road map with directions to get somewhere. It exists to address an issue that has been deemed important, with guidelines on what the outcome should include. Essentially, if policy does not exist, no defined problem or issue exists either – thus, no map, no guidelines and no particular outcome.

Earlier this year, this was proven in dramatic fashion when the Deputy Director of the National Art Gallery openly announced that he would curate an exhibition of his own art at the National Gallery, using public funds, for his political party’s election campaign. This was approved by the Director himself, and every authority right to the top of the government.

Can a state administrator with a specific job description also be a curator and artist at the same time within the same institution? If so, everyone who has these skills should become a state administrator to exercise them. One must ask what was the merit of this project being in the National Gallery. Artistic quality and subject matter of national importance? The “deputy director’s” position within the gallery? The “artist’s” position within the government? Definately the latter two.

Qualifications and human resource management are essential to any project management and above all the main assets for any country’s future. Qualifications act as a proof of knowledge, at very least proof of the ability to acquire knowledge. Human resource management is the ability to put people where they will shine. A merit based system through open calls for applications is crucial. Un-earned honours, awards and job positions do nothing to improve the outcome, furthermore, with an under-skilled staff one can expect limited achievements at best. Add this to an un-specified policy, and you are left with very little.

This leads us to education – in schools, but also in other activities. All members in the cultural conversation must be reached out to and heard. Research of Albania’s cultural values in the world and understanding Albania’s culture through intercultural dialogue are among many other European and world concepts that are heard only during some government level international conferences. All participants and citizens must be the drivers of dialogue as well as active participants in the design and realization of their presentation. This means alternative spaces to host the cultural conversation.

To start the conversation, a system of merits is often established through transparency of Open Calls, asking willing participants to present their ideas in a competition. These calls are an aspect of an open policy to support and quantify the work of artists. The process enables the most suitable artistic expression to be presented, and serves as a collection point to establish a database and network of working artists. This process invites all willing participants to the conversation, to present their point of view, while also helping administrators determine how many ‘willing participants’ exist.

Naturally, not all submissions will meet the criteria, however the fact that criteria has been set, indicates a policy to facilitate meeting some defined objectives. A call for submissions is an exhibition in itself and is a chance for any curator to examine numerous presentations of a subject, critically selecting the most appropriate creative work/worker. The same can be said for anyone in the creative realm – to critically select the most appropriate. These calls are rarely made in Albania.

“The Government has no monopoly of knowledge and ideas. To understand and tackle our challenges fully and vigorously, we need to draw on the expertise and resources of all our people.”

-Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore

Numerous jurisdictions around the world have supported the development of the culture sector

through the creation of cultural policies. This has generally been a positive step, but the successful development and management of cultural expressions requires that culture and creativity are everyone’s concern, not just the culture sector’s, and certainly not just the Minister’s.

Canada has just begun a national initiative to increase Canadians’ awareness, accessibility and participation with art and artists and engagement within the cultural sector. Meanwhile, President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities includes twenty-six private sector citizens who have an interest and commitment to arts and humanities, along with twelve government members whose agencies have cultural programs, such as the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the U. S. Department of Education, the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

What about Europe? Recently, the Manifesto on the Status of the Artist (a collaboration of the International Federation of Actors and International Federation of Musicians), highlights five key points to improve in European policies including job stability, social security, pensions and copyrights. Europe is also in year three of a six year, 400 million euro cultural programme including policy measures expressed by cultural organizations regarding cross border dialogue and trans-national mobilty of artists, artworks and products.

Ekphrasis Studio is the first and only Arts Management & Creative Industries Studio aiming at policy, project and educational development in Albania. Directors: Bela Berberi & Kevin Tummers.

Visit us: https://ekphrasisstudio.wordpress.com

Graham & Kosuth “Pavilion of Babel”

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Blerina Berberi, The Netherlands, 2005

Dan Graham and Joseph Kosuth

End of story:

The Pavilion of Babel

Conceptual art is commonly stated to have started around 1960. Robert Hughes wrote that the ‘sparkle’ of conceptual art is Robert Rauschenberg, who invested in the assumption of art existing anywhere in whatever form, material and for any purpose and destination such as in his telegram: “This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so”[1]. Furthermore, Robert Rosenblum stated that artists after 1960 ‘owned’ to Rauschenberg the challenging of restrictions of art and the belief in all life is open to art[2]. Rauschenberg also referred to Marcel Duchamp and the use of “readymades”. His influences were also interfused with those theories of Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, etc. He wasn’t the only one to ignite the ideas about conceptual art.

The basic definition of conceptual art lies in its conception since according to Duchamp “All art is conceptual because art only exist conceptually”[3]. But conceptual art doesn’t completely get away with the object since some artists such as Dan Graham tried to establish a new relation between object and idea, physicality and meaning. According to Williams conceptual art is less a movement and more a “reorientation of artistic strategy”.

During 1965-1975, the Van Abbe Museum in the Netherlands had its ‘doors’ wide open to the new works of conceptual art. The exhibition of such artworks depended a lot on the director of the museum, co-workers, and other political and economical factors. These experimental and technological artworks were welcomed while diminishing the traditional and conventional disciplines. The different forms of visual representation, such as films, videos, photography were consolidated in the idea of challenging the concept of art and the values of visual manifestations.[4]

The social and political circumstances of the 60s and 70s ‘encouraged’ the young generation to question most of traditional forms and beliefs concerning society, museums, and above all art. This ‘reorientation of artistic strategy’ or as Kosuth might say “new methotodology” breeds a wide range of different artworks still under the same conception on conceptual art.

But how black and white is this?

‘Analytical’ artists, such as Joseph Kosuth and Art & Language group, rejected the pre-established notion of art, its theory and practice. The basic change was the dematerialization of art works. Joseph Kosuth’s works rejected formalist and aesthetic views demonstrating it in his art theory in his works. One of his works in 1965, One and Nine- A description, is a series of ten identical glass sheets, showing different words describing the quality of the same object: clear, glass, square, etc. His idea was that the essence of something is shown by “an idea contained in language”. This was an artwork neither a sculpture or painting. It was formless and colorless. In his First Investigations, represented definitions of different words taken from dictionaries, on the basis of stating that language ‘pertains’ concepts such as meaning. Therefore no forms needed to represent ideas. The Van Abbe Museum catalogue states:

“By bringing language into the context of visual, Kosuth was able to replace the pictorial image with a linguistic definition”[5]

Kosuth’s works are titled Art as Idea as Idea which express his viewpoint on the artwork as concept, since that is all that’s important. The basic shift in his thinking about art was its context. The main idea of Art as Idea as Idea was changing the idea of art itself. New forms can’t be formed but new meanings yes. He explains:

“So I felt that all art was abstract in relation to cultural meaning, in the way that the noises we utter called words are meaningful in relation to a linguistic system, not in relation to the world”[6]

He also found that “there was more of a transcultural response to achromatic color-black, white, and gray-than to the chromatic scale, which had a much more marked difference among specific individuals as well as between cultures”[7].

Kosuth advocates not to make art for its own sake because that is dependent on its tradition for meaning, through form, which speaks to itself. Furthermore, he states that language as a cultural system is parallel to art, by being both useful in theory and practice. Therefore, ambiguity on art’s role is something that is part of the culture, language. More explicitly he states:

“I choose language for the ‘material’ of my work because it seemed to be the only possibility with the potential for being a neutral non-material; considering the transparency of language meant it use in art would, in a sense, allow us to ‘see’ art, while still focusing on the social/cultural context it’s dependent upon for meaning…art would tell us something about our art by being our art..”[8]

Regarding his new ‘methotodology’ that artists should consider, he expresses his position in relation to art institutions, politics and society. He says that “institutionalized ‘individualism’ divides us”. In this case he is referring to museums and art market whose role is considered to be negative in the evaluation, categorization, appreciation of art and the social connections in a society. He also wanted his works that by the use of the labels one person can read at a time. Therefore each individual would feel at ease “looking” or rather say reading his artworks, contrary to the crowd in front of Mona Lisa’s in Louver. Another important issue for Kosuth is that artists should talk and explain their works more than critics, since critics’ position is different and might lead to a variety of misinterpretations.

The ‘famous’ concern of many artists is something, which according to him is a simple choice if you understand the mass population of the world. He states:

“…there’s a lot more dumb people out there than there are smart ones, so if your goal in life is to be popular, and/or rich, the choice isn’t a difficult one”[9].

Briefly, Kosuth main characteristics are his new ideas on the conception and context of art, in relation to language, culture, society, institutions, politics, etc.

But what about other conceptual artists? How different were they? The difference between Kosuth and some other American conceptual artists, is that the Americans were a bit keen on Minimalist art, something which Kosuth disliked.

Is it possible that different conceptualist artists, even though their artworks are so different, can be compatible conceptually?

During the late 60s, Dan Graham came up with his Magazine Pieces where their ideological and cultural context eliminated the unambiguous. Those magazines weren’t just presented as artworks but also as art criticism. Thus his art magazines weren’t ‘merchandise’ since artworks are reproduced in magazines. In 1969 Dan Graham started focusing on performance, film and video art. His main interest lied in processes of perception, social and psychological aspects between the artist, audience and surroundings. Furthermore, he was one of the first to use video not just for recording but to expose the viewer’s conditioned behavior. In his Yesterday/Today 1975 a monitor was placed in the museum and the audience could see different scenes and people in the other rooms of the museum live, while the sound was recorder one day earlier but at same time. His intention was to show to the public what was hidden to them, the presumed neutrality of such an art institution.

The young Graham, owned a gallery which exhibited works of Sol LeWitt minimalal artist, which later on went bankrupt. In his works he was focused on video and other theories because: “I think about video in terms of its self-reference. It is a kind of mirror that reflects the unconsciousness of the subject”[10].

Later on he gave up films because he couldn’t afford making them. Graham’s interest on the concept of video as mirror, has followed his later works in glass. One of the “latest” and well known artwork is his pavilion on the DIA center in Manhattan 1995 formed of two-way mirrored glass which is transparent and reflective depending on the changes of light. Graham is really into art and architecture and he also studied different European gardens. According to Cooke, the origins of this sculpture-architecture object lies in Minimalism art, which focused on pure forms of physical contexts.[11] The basic function of this project is public rather than private. Furthermore Cooker states on the forms of his pavilion:

“The outer rectilinear structure of this site-specific sculpture makes reference to the city below: to the grid pattern which determines its topography; to the predominance of modernist and modernist-derived architectural styles in its high-rise architecture; and to its framing of the dual character of urban social experience, of seeing and being seen, of spectatorship and spectacle…the viewer cannot escape consciousness of his or her-self image as mirrored in the glass, and hence of his or her agency in the act of vision…Graham’s work speaks much to a phenomenological as to a psychological reading of the self and its constructions”[12].

Furthermore, Cooker in her essay explains that the inner cylinder is formed from the ‘bodies of viewers’ as from the adjacent watertower, a feature of the Manhattan skyline. Graham, himself considers his project as a microcosmos of the whole city, where different social activities take place and people interact. The social participation is related to the understanding of an artwork where looking is an experience of recognizing and contributing to this activity. In the rooftop there is also a lounge/café room where different videos are shown for free or not.

In an interview, Graham states that he is would like to make really large galleries in order for artists not to have competition and feel free to present simple things. He is against art market per se when there is not intellectual interest in the content of art world[13].

Therefore, Graham as a conceptual artists, also at some extent a minimalist one, differs from Kosuth on his representational forms and some ideas, which are mostly psychological due to his ‘fixated’ use of mirrors and glass.

To conclude, the main idea of this paper is that Graham and Kosuth are compatible. Why?

Ernst Gombrich states that in the late 18th century some ideas were centered around primitive and child art, which consisted on the use of language of symbols not natural signs. Thus art grounded not in seeing but knowledge, so art operated with “conceptual images”. For example, kids are satisfied with conceptual scheme of tree not its branch and detailed characteristics. Therefore more important is conceptual construction rather imitation. Gombrich in more details states:

“All art originates in the human mind, in our reactions to the world rather than in the visible world itself, and it is precisely because all art is “conceptual” that all representations are recognizable by their style”[14]

Conceptual art and pictorial images are just as looking at ‘different angels that still derive the same information’, and there are no correct or false answers. Also, language doesn’t give names but articulates our world of experience so concepts can’t be right or wrong. They can be useful for formation of description.

Therefore, Kosuth on the idea of art as represented by language is ‘looking’ from a different angle form Graham, but still both do derive at same information or idea, conceptual art. More importantly, Kosuth in his early works made use of glass as Graham did in his latest artworks in parks and the one in DIA building. Shortly, the later Kosuth is ‘closer’ to the early Graham. Both of them in general are against some museum conventions and do accept the role and participation of the society and culture as determining and apprehending works of art, though at some extent. Both of them would agree with Gombrich that: “The form of representation cannot be divorced from its purpose and the requirements of the society in which the given visual language gains currency”[15].

Still, while the formless and context of Kosuth refer to language in relation to art, Graham is more an artist-architect whose ‘public service’ of art is more exercised than Kosuth. But most importantly let me explain the title of this paper:

The story starts with the tower of Babel, which was supposed the reach Heaven. But God, in order to stop the workers raising it so high, he confounded their languages so that they were not able to communicate and understand each other so that the project failed.

This story emphasizes the importance of language. Therefore, even though Graham has a different interpretation of his pavilion in DIA, still it is language that made his art work possible. Furthermore interpreting or better say conceptualizing Graham’s psychological and psychoanalytical theories of glass and mirror, it is possible that mirror and self-reflection are somehow related to Narcissistic tendencies. Narcissus who fell in love with his image in the lake, lacked the understanding of the importance of the language. Thus he died because he didn’t communicate through language but “loved the image, object”, so he ignored language, and fate the fatal destruction of not believing in the power of language as building or connecting realities.

Getting back to what is being mirrored and reflected in Graham’s pavilion is not just some people and buildings of the city. What is reflected in that pavilion is what language has created. Therefore Kosuth is right in relating language to art, since the meaning of art is also to be found in language which built the city and the pavilion. Therefore the pavilion is a symbol finalizing the tower of Babel project, which didn’t arrive at heavens but at the highest pure idea of the concept of art.


[1] Hughes, Robert, The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change,Thames & Hudson, ed. 2002, p.334

[2] Hughes, Robert, The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change,Thames & Hudson, ed. 2002, p.334

[3] Williams, Robert, Art Theory: An Historical Introduction, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004, p.221

[4] Van Abbemuseum. A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Art. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2002, p.106

[5] Van Abbemuseum, A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Art. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2002, p.101

[8] Kosuth, Joseph, Painting versus Art versus Culture in : Art after Philosophy and after: Collected writings, 1966-1990, MIT Press, 1991, p. 92

[10] Nonomura, Fumihori, Manga Dan Graham Story, in Brouwer, Marianne (ed). Dan Graham. Works 1965-2000. Dusseldorf: Richter Verlag, 2001, p.387

[14] Gombrich, E.H., Art and Illusion. A study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1956, p.87.

[15] Gombrich, E.H., Art and Illusion. A study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1956, p.90

Some of our paintings are missing…

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Some of our paintings are missing …

Is state-owned art in safe hands?

By Brian Brady, March 2009

They are some of Britain’s most prized public treasures, jealously guarded by the Government on behalf of the nation. But not, it appears, when they are placed in the hands of ministers, ambassadors and civil servants.

State-owned paintings worth hundreds of thousands of pounds have been lost, stolen or damaged while on loan to government departments in the UK and around the world over the past four years.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has admitted that 19 works from the Government Art Collection have been reported lost or stolen from buildings as far afield as Jakarta and Sao Paolo since 2005. (Four of these, including Strand on the Green by Rodney Burns, were later found elsewhere on the same premises.)

Twelve more were damaged and had to be repaired at a cost of thousands of pounds. Repairs to two works at 10 Downing Street, which included a portrait of Sir Robert Walpole (for “tears in the canvas – cause not established”) cost £5,000 alone.

The DCMS is considering demanding compensation for the losses, recovery and repairs running into thousands of pounds.

But opposition politicians last night complained that ministers and officials were “too casual” with the 13,500 treasures in the Government Art Collection, which range from original works dating back to the 16th century to limited-edition prints. The Conservatives called for stiffer discipline to force staff to take more care with the valuable items entrusted to them.

“When people reach a certain level in public life, they are given access to the Government Art Collection, but this art still belongs to the public and it needs to be looked after,” said the shadow Culture spokesman, Jeremy Hunt. “These figures suggest people are becoming far too relaxed about the art that is on loan to them.”

Eight years ago, five paintings worth almost £250,000 went missing while the British ambassador to Argentina was moving to a temporary residence in Buenos Aires. The then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, pledged that his department took the safety of official premises seriously and was reviewing security at the embassy as a result.

The DCMS pushed for a financial penalty against the FCO to compensate for the losses but later dropped the issue. However, an inventory of the collection’s missing works has revealed that more than half of the 27 instances of theft, loss and damage in this period happened at Foreign Office premises around the world. Six mishaps occurred at the department’s main building in Whitehall.

Two paintings worth more than £80,000 were taken from Somerset House, in London, in February 2008. After a huge international police operation Shipping, by John T Serres, and Sir William Chambers, by Francis Cotes, were eventually recovered.

Several works were damaged because of problems with the paint or canvas, but in two cases the explanation was simple: “fell off wall”.

http://www.independent.co.uk

Ten Years Later, Ten Days with Mother Teresa (2007)

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Tirana – September 5th marked the tenth anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa. To honour this occasion, ten days of tribute were organized in Tirana by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and resulted in being a superficial publicity campaign. The events began by unveiling a plaque on the wall of an urban villa. The plaque blatantly attempts to twist history, and translates into English as “The family of Mother Teresa lived in these house”. Aside from an incorrect translation, the plaque has nothing to do with Mother Teresa herself. Her family lived in Tirana a decade after she had left home, and she never set foot in that house.  (click here for image of the plaque) (More images at bottom of page.)

Posters & Banners

There were more mistakes. Massive posters with the image of Mother Teresa were scattered throughout Tirana, and the seemingly English phrase “In memorial” topped them. However this was in fact a spelling mistake of the Latin phrase “In memoriam”.

Several were corrected by pasting the letter m over top of the letter l which looked like Memoriahn, while others remained unchanged.

 

It quickly became obvious how little preparation had been made. Blunders like these suggest a Government with unqualified people working within it. The fact that these errors “slipped through” demonstrate poor attention to detail and indicate last minute planning.

 

Art & Exhibitions


The following day the art exhibitions began. Exhibits were held in the International Cultural Pyramid Arbnori, The National Gallery and the National History Museum and of the three, only one clearly indicated it was about Mother Teresa.

It was not apparent what the viewer was looking at in the exhibit entitled “The Miracle of Love” at the National Gallery, and though slightly more relevant the same held true in the Arbnori. These exhibits could have been about anything. Beautiful but uninspiring works were chosen, and while it is the task of a curator to select relevant pieces, these had a very obscure connection to Mother Teresa, if any at all. In a country where at times favours outweigh integrity, it is no surprise to see the irrelevance of the pieces selected.

Days later, politicians described the exhibitions as “spiritual”.

At the National History Museum, there was a well organized display of paintings, photos, relics, sculptures and a short video. The theme of this exhibit was clear, and was to draw attention to the fact that Mother Teresa was Albanian. This was indeed a meaningful exhibit for Albanians, however it was not a commemoration of her life’s work and humanitarian achievements, simply one of birth and ancestry.

 

Concert


The following week, the “Great PEACE Concert – Homage to Mother Teresa”, was held at the National Theatre. Organized by the wife of the Prime Minister, Liri Berisha and The Minister of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sport, the concert featured classical artists from Europe and the Balkans, including an orchestra, a choir and several soloists. It was by invitation only with politicians, high society, and foreign dignitaries among the guests.

Blue and white sashes resembling the clothes of Mother Teresa were distributed at the door, and youth in traditional Albanian costumes greeted guests. A statue of Mother Teresa stood behind the performers on the stage. The musical selection appeared well calculated, closing with the symphony which is used as the anthem of the European Union. Cell phones were in action until the end, and people’s attention drifted. Theconcert to promote peace excluded virtually all Albanians, while those who attended seemed to wish they hadn’t. While the concert added to the high culture of Tirana, it did not contribute a great deal either to peace awareness or to Mother Teresa’s work. She opened soup kitchens for the hungry, hospitals for the sick, orphanages for the homeless, not concerts for the elite.

That same night countless children and their families slept outdoors in the streets of Albania, cold, hungry and wet from the rain. It is unlikely that any of these people even knew about the “Great Peace Concert”, which more suitably could have been called “Peace, by invitation only”.

 

Speeches


Later that week, Prime Minister Berisha proclaimed “Mother Teresa, an Albanian who with her spiritual force could occupy the hearts of all humanity and all citizens, is the honour of our nation.”

Beautiful and empty words. A news report that week about Tirana’s hospital, ironically named Mother Teresa Hospital, explored the hospital’s poor equipment, lack of beds, and inadequate staff and supplies. A week later, scandals involving blood infected with HIV made headlines, followed the next day by heroin dealing within the hospital. These seem not so unlike the conditions Mother Teresa herself worked in for so many years in the gutters of Calcutta. But this is the major hospital in the capital city of a nation who claims her as its own, and while 50,000 euros worth of art exhibitions, peace concerts and commercials promoted her name and heritage, the sick and uncared for remained sick and uncared for.

Mother Teresa was an advocate for the poor and helpless. Her mission was, in her words to care for the “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

 

Basic Services


On the anniversary of her death, basic services at Mother Teresa Hospital in Tirana were free to the public. This act was a true reflection of her legacy, and was by far the most significant and most relevant act made throughout the entire ten days.

During these two weeks, there was no word of anything done by other ministries, including the Ministry of Social Affairs and Equal Chances, who could have certainly offered service to those “shunned by everyone”. With a small degree of communication, several ministries could have cooperated to organize a socially just and relevant tribute to Mother Teresa.

 

Sculpture and plaque

(see gallery below)

Towards the end of the tribute, politicians, dignitaries and a contingent of media gathered at Mother Teresa Airport to unveil a four metre bronze statue of her. The sculpture was commissioned in conjuncture with the opening of a new terminal earlier in the year, but was not ready and thus added to the anniversary events (in ceremony, not budget).

President Topi gave a speech with words to the effect of Mother Teresa being a universal saint who never forgot she was Albanian, and that she was a role model for everybody to follow. The ceremony was brief and lasted a no more than 10 minutes. It isn’t known what the cost of transportation and security for the dignitaries was, but it is certain the money would have been more effectively spent on hospital supplies and increased care, and it wasn’t.

Albania is a country where the media portrays the leaders as demi-gods, flashing them on TV dozens of times a day. These ten days gave The Prime Minister, The Minister of Culture and The President two weeks worth of positive exposure. Other things the country gained from this tribute included a chance for the upper crust to mingle, and plenty of “on the job training” for the Prime Minister’s security team.

It also gave Albanians two weeks of blind nationalism, reminding them that a famous person came from an Albanian family (albeit she was a pioneer in the Albanian brain drain, leaving at a young age to learn another language and help another country). The failures of this event heavily outweighed any successes. The event showed a government lacking professionalism, cooperation and attention to detail. It showed it can exclude its citizens, and it can present a version of history appropriate to its agenda. The people truly in need saw little to none of the benefits of these events, and after all is said and done little has changed. The hungry still scavenge, the homeless still sleep in the streets and the unwanted are pushed further away.

I find it unlikely that Mother Teresa herself would have attended any of these events, for she would probably rather have found herself at the hospital, or in the streets helping those who needed help.

 

 

Image Gallery of Mother Teresa Sculpture at Tirana International Airport

2007 Inauguration

2010

Below are the shoddy repairs to the base of the scupture, after being hit by a car in 2009.  On the right is the state of the plaque as of May 2010.

June 2010

The plaque has been fixed.

August 2010

Back at it again…this time at the National History Museum in the city centre of Tirana.  Notice who’s name is bigger and bolder?!!