Faith, Delusions & Woody Allen

'Magic in the Moonlight' movie still

‘Magic in the Moonlight’ by Woody Allen, movie still

In the time of emotional turbulences in my life, I tend to become a bit of a film addict. I often turn to my favourite directors and re-watch old movies. Recently, it was Woody Allen, who I have been a fan of ever since I was old enough to watch “adult” films.

The two films I chose to re-watch, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) and Magic in the Moonlight (2014), explore a very similar topic: faith vs. rationality. This was a purely accidental choice, though it strangely coincided with some events in my personal life. A close friend of mine had recently been prescribed anti-depressants. That friend is a devoted believer and a very spiritual person, who has always seen significance in everything that a non-religious person would consider random. Her recent breakdown, which I found very upsetting, made me think a lot about the common notion of religious people being sheltered from depression.

In Magic in the Moonlight, which takes place in the 1920s—time of exquisite fashion, jazz and an interest in séances—we have Stanley aka Wei Ling Soo, a celebrity illusionist who is on a mission to expose the trickstery behind the work of Sophie, a young woman who claims to be a medium. His long-held atheistic and rational views of the world and unmoderated condescension towards anyone who thinks otherwise are challenged when it becomes clear that Sophie does indeed have magic powers to predict the future. The discovery that “there is something more to our life than we see” turns bitter and cold Stanley into a much happier person. But as he is on the verge of starting to believe in God and prayer, his rational mind begins to rebel and Sophie does in fact turn out to be charlatan.

In You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, we have a group of characters, who, typically for Allen, get their lives complicated in various, both dramatic and comical, ways, and mostly end up unhappy. This includes Roy, a one-book writer who ends up destroying his marriage and career. He lives off the financial support of Helena, his mother-in-law, whose spirituality he viciously mocks. Yet the recently divorced Helena, who takes advice from a fortune-teller, and her new friend Jonathan, a widower, who runs an occultist shop and tried to contact his departed wife, are the only characters who are genuinely happy.

By making the rational Stanley grim and unhappy, and the rational Roy a self-destroying loser, Woody Allen makes a very strong point about atheists being unable to find true happiness. At the press conference for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, asked to share his views on the subject of Helena and Jonathan, Woody Allen said:

“This is my perspective, and has always been my perspective on life. I have a very grim, pessimistic view of it, I always have since I was a little boy, it hasn’t gotten worse with age or anything. I do feel that it’s a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience, and that the only way you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies, and deceive yourself. And I’m not the first person to say this or the most articulate person, it was said by Nietzsche, it was said by Freud, it was said by Eugene O’Neill: one must have one’s delusions to live, if you look at life too honestly and clearly, life does become unbearable because it’s a pretty grim enterprise. So I feel that those people are the only two people that are happy, they are capable of deluding themselves. If I saw them at a party in real life I would think that they were foolish people and dumb, and silly, and I would laugh at them, but they would be happier than me.”

'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' movie still

‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ by Woody Allen, movie still

If we disregard Allen’s dry and sarcastic sense of humour, his perception of faith as the happiness-bringing factor was until recently a common belief among psychiatrists. It was believed that religion and spirituality can provide shelter from depression. But a recent study, analysed by Dr Raj Persaud in an article for the Huffington Post, has demonstrated that “there is an opposite relationship between religious belief and depression. Religion, and even more, spirituality not tied to formal religion, appears to be unhelpful in terms of protecting you from low mood, and could even be linked with more depression.”

When reality does not meet our expectations, we are likely to feel bitter, sad and hopeless. The problem with religion is that it creates unrealistic expectations: unanswered prayers are likely to deepen our frustration. If we then add a sense of guilt on top of that (prayers haven’t been unanswered because we don’t deserve kindness etc.), the result can be crushing. Accepting the randomness of life takes away a big chunk of the frustration that comes from futile attempts at examining the reasons behind everything that happen to us. To quote Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics, “The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.” (Androcles and the Lion, Preface, 1916)

Of course, what religion can bring to one’s life is a very strong sense of purpose and meaning. According to Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl, who conducted his research in concentration camps as well as at a private clinic after the war, these two things—purpose and meaning—are crucial for individuals to survive and thrive in life. Frankl, mentioned by Gleb Tsipursky in his article for The Richard Dawkins Foundation, called them a “will-to-meaning.” Tsipursky mentions also Michael F. Steger, a psychologist and Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University, whose research “demonstrates that people who have a sense of life meaning and purpose feel in general more happy as well as more satisfied on a daily level, and also feel less depressed, anxious, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.”

But religion is not the only path to gain a sense of life meaning and purpose. Having discovered that Sophie doesn’t possess any magic powers and that most likely there is nothing more to our life than we see, Stanley from Magic in the Moonlight doesn’t go back to bitterness and grimness. He falls in love with Sophie and this new love gives his life a whole new meaning.

Naturally, love is not guaranteed to happen to everyone, so it’s best to look for purpose in things that are within our reach and ability. Self-development, working on emotional intelligence, getting better at interacting with people and forming relationships, making a contribution towards the society, making use of our skills and the time we have, learning and sharing our knowledge, being a great partner/parent, becoming a sportsman, a musician, a politician, a scientist —there is an infinite number of things, big and small, one can choose as their purpose. On a website dedicated to lifting the prejudice many feel towards nonbelievers, we can read how various atheists define their purpose and meaning in life:  “What makes me happy is the ability, freedom, and courage to follow my dream.”, “I find my happiness in watching my children and grandchildren grow and mature.”, “Whether I’m in the lab investigating cellular respiration, or on stage making your feet move, my happiness is passionate and personal. I live on a big, beautiful planet with the health and freedom to explore it any way I choose. Add to that a world full of diverse altruistic humans who make every day unique and valuable.”, says Mark D. Hatcher, CFI–Washington, DC.

These ultra-positive testimonials clash with Woody Allen’s grim views on life. Given his speech at the conference for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, I would imagine him laugh at the “beautiful planet” sentiment. Still, however cynical he might be, he has his own purpose: telling stories. His relentlessness to make films with the regularity that doesn’t cease to amaze critics and audience makes it obvious that to him, film-making is the “delusion” he considers crucial to make life more bearable. Films, theatre, literature, any sort of storytelling can provide a great deal of healthy escapism—both for the creators and the audience—that is healthy precisely because we don’t question its fictitiousness.

The Atheist Bus Campaign, image by LeoLondon (CC)

The Atheist Bus Campaign, image by LeoLondon (CC)

The approach atheists take towards the nonexistence of God, varies greatly. Allen’s is a cynical yet charming mockery with the acknowledgment that religion does have some merits: “To me … there’s no real difference between a fortune teller or a fortune cookie and any of the organized religions. They’re all equally valid or invalid, really. And equally helpful”, he said in an interview for The New York Times. Darwinist Richard Dawkins, one of the most vocal and active anti-religion warriors, and the author of The God Delusion bestseller, certainly wouldn’t share Allen’s lenient attitude. Dawkins considers religion as a whole “a uniquely dangerous threat to scientific rationality”, and compares it to a kind of mental illness. Likewise, Steve Pavlina, famous American self-help author and entrepreneur, bluntly rejects all aspects of religion, and is not afraid to ridicule them in his blog post titled 10 Reasons You Should Never Have a Religion. Pavlina says:

“For reasonably intelligent people who aren’t suffering from major issues with low self-esteem, religion is ridiculously consciousness-lowering. While some religious beliefs can be empowering, on the whole the decision to formally participate in a religion will merely burden your mind with a hefty load of false notions. (…) Religion is spiritual immaturity. It’s entirely possible to enjoy your life without spending so much of it bent over in submission. Pull your head out of your rear, and look around with your own two eyes. If you need something to worship, then feel grateful for your own conscious mind.”

But writer and philosopher Alain de Botton has recently protested against dismissing religion as a whole, and came up with what he calls Atheism 2.0, which can take inspiration and positive elements from religions without the belief in God, deities or supernatural spirits. In a very popular TED talk, de Botton says that “there is something to learn from the example of religion—even if you don’t believe any of it. If you’re involved in anything that’s communal, that involves lots of people getting together, there are things for you in religion. If you’re involved, say, in a travel industry in any way, look at pilgrimage. (…) If you’re in the art world, look at the example of what religions are doing with art. And if you’re an educator in any way, again, look at how religions are spreading ideas. You may not agree with the ideas, but my goodness, they’re highly effective mechanisms for doing so.” Asked about what Atheism 2.0 can offer in place for spiritual experience, de Botton says that one can find the “so-called spiritual moments” in science and observation, without believing in the spirit. “I, like many of you, meet people who say things like, “But isn’t there something bigger than us, something else?” And I say, “Of course.” And they say, “So aren’t you sort of religious?” And I go, “No.” Why does that sense of mystery, that sense of the dizzying scale of the universe, need to be accompanied by a mystical feeling? Science and just observation gives us that feeling without it, so I don’t feel the need. The universe is large and we are tiny, without the need for further religious superstructure.”

Alain de Botton at TED

Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0 at TED

Alain de Botton has been widely criticised in the atheist community, but I am much more sympathetic to his ideas than the hard-headed atheists. As an ex-believer brought up in an ultra-Catholic country, I am very aware of the dangers of an organized religion, and the way it hampers the development of conscience. At the same time, I can see the benefits of some of its elements: the community, the rituals, the routine (I’ve written about the merits of routine in the past). I agree with Alain de Botton when he says that “The people in (…) the secular world, who are interested in matters of the spirit, in matters of the mind, in higher soul-like concerns, tend to be isolated individuals. They’re poets, they’re philosophers, they’re photographers, they’re filmmakers. And they tend to be on their own.” As much as I love science and data, I would happily share with fellow atheists and agnostics not just facts and figures, but the experience of, for lack of better word, soul-searching, mindfulness, meditation—and the dizziness I feel when I look at NASA’s photo of Andromeda galaxy.

I do believe that turning into one’s own mind for answers and recognizing that the ability to be happy lies in our own hands, not someone else’s, is incredibly powerful and positive. As charming and funny as I find Helena’s character in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, my sympathy goes to her daughter Sally who deals with things as they are and decides to follow her dream of opening an art gallery. But at the end of the day, religion is a choice, and everyone is free to identify their own sources of happiness and comfort—even if they are a complete delusion.

To quote Woody Allen: Whatever Works.

Unlikely homes: Jing Jin City & Miracle Village

Andi Schmied, "Glass House", 2014 | Sofia Valiente, "Paul", 2013

Andi Schmied, “Glass House”, 2014 | Sofia Valiente, “Paul”, 2013

The Jing Jin City and Miracle Village exhibition, which opens at Daniel Blau gallery in January 2015, is likely to arouse discussions. Very important, and quite possibly very heated discussions. The gallery has invited two very ambitious and courageous artists. Andi Schmied and Sofia Valiente, who were among the winners of 5 Under 30 competition in 2013 and 2014 respectively, are more than just photographers seeking interesting shots. They’re passionate adventurers who collect stories in remote parts of the world and bring them to an audience in the form of skilfully presented photo essays and books.

The exhibition revolves around the idea of home: people who found an unlikely home and houses that are not likely to become homes.

Jing Jin City, which Andi Schmied unofficially inhabited for several weeks, is a satellite city an hour outside of Beijing. The development covers more than 54 square kilometres and boasts 3,000 villas, a five-star hotel, hot springs resort, golf course, museum, temple, two colleges, and entertainment facilities. What it lacks is people—most of the villas are empty.

Miracle Village, on the other hand, lacks any architectural sophistication; the priority here lies in its inhabitants, the majority of which are sex offenders. If it wasn’t for 52 bungalows, set amid vast sugar cane, bean and corn fields in south Florida, these people would have been homeless. According to the Florida legislation, sex offenders are required to live a minimum of 1,000 ft. from any school, bus stop or place where children congregate. In reality, this distance gets increased to 2,500 ft. which makes it extremely hard, if not impossible, to find a place to live. As a result, many of those people end up on the streets, with little chance to re-integrate into society. The village, founded in 2009 by a Christian minister Dick Witherow, seeks to help offenders that have no place to go.

Andi Schmied, “Tile House”, 2014 | © Andi Schmied, Courtesy Daniel Blau

Andi Schmied, “Tile House”, 2014 | © Andi Schmied, Courtesy Daniel Blau

Sofia Valiente, "Paul House", 2013 | © Sofia Valiente, Courtesy Daniel Blau

Sofia Valiente, “Paul’s House”, 2013 | © Sofia Valiente, Courtesy Daniel Blau

Among the Miracle Village residents there are no medically diagnosed paedophiles or convicted child rapists, according to Lisa F. Jackson and David Feige, authors of Sex Offender Village documentary. The range of their crimes varies from serious offenses to consensual teenage relationships with an age gap. Yet to many people, those residents are monsters who should not be provided with a home, and Witherow’s community project is constantly a subject of criticism. The problem lies in the extremely broad definition of the term “sex offence”. Jackson and Feige think that “in the past 25 years, the laws governing sex offences have gone from punitive to draconian to senseless,” and that “our entire approach to dealing with sex offenders has gone tragically off the rails.” Among 747,408 people on the US sex registry (55,000 in Florida alone), there are people who had consensual sex with a younger partner when they were both minors, people convicted of inappropriately touching their siblings, people charged with the possession of child pornography, sometimes accidentally downloaded from the internet like in the case of Ben, No. 405.

Ben aka No. 405, Miracle Village

The Miracle Village book consists of a series of photographic portraits of the community, which are followed by diary-like notes, hand-written by a few inhabitants, all of which have been allocated a number. These intimate confessions, often a little difficult to decipher, bring an even greater human element to these painful stories. | Ben aka No. 405

On Valentine’s Day weekend, I had plans to get together with my girlfriend, however that’s when my life changed forever instead, and not in a good way. On the way to our date, I got pulled over. The cop said there was a warrant out for my arrest, on charges of child pornography possession. (…) It turns out that while I spent a weekend at my girlfriend’s in December, a thunderstorm was overheard outside my house. My roommate, according to his statement to the police, went in my room to turn off the computer. Instead of shutting it down, he was curious to see what I had on there. Apparently, he came across the folder where my porn was downloading to, saw some files which had people in it that were under 18, and called the cops on me, himself. Had my computer been password protected, he would have just shut my computer down, and none of this would have happened. As I’m pretty partial to large breasted porn stars anyway, I’d probably just have deleted the child porn along with the rest of the files I’d have deleted, and never given it a second thought… But I didn’t have my computer password protected, and now I’m a sex offender. Such is life. If the Buddhists are right, and we get reincarnated after we die, maybe in my next life, I’ll have better luck…

The aim of Sofia Valiente’s project was, in her own words, to portray the community’s residents in a way most people have never seen. For her book, published this year by Fabrica, she chose 12 stories of people who ended up sharing the same label as a result of very different circumstances. She doesn’t judge, condemn or defend any of these people. Instead, she invites the viewers to make their own judgement. Her portraits of the offenders and their personal, painful, and brutally honest stories bring back the human element that is missing from the public registry.

David and Matt: "David and I are like two peas in a pod." | © Andi Schmied, Courtesy Daniel Blau

David and Matt: “David and I are like two peas in a pod.” | © Andi Schmied, Courtesy Daniel Blau

Matt aka No. 611, Miracle Village

Matt aka No.611, Miracle Village

It takes a lot of work to adapt to a life with the stigma of the “sex offender” label. It’s a highly restrained life with very specific rules. On top of the distance restriction and publicly visible data, there is curfew, monthly home inspections and reports, prohibition of smartphones and computers, censorship of one’s books and films, random drug tests, GPS monitoring, weekly sex therapy. Gene, No. 404, says: “As a sex offender I cannot trust anyone because maybe someday they could be in a bad mood, tired of dealing with me or just mad. All they have to do is call 911 and say that a sex offender has bothered them and Bang! I am in jail. No questions asked.”

But despite having to carry this punishment throughout their lives, there is surprisingly little resentment and a strong sense of gratitude among the Miracle Village residents. “Honestly I’m the one who says thank you ‘cause being sentenced to prison saved my life from drugs. And I was blessed with a safe place to live and a place where I fit in at,” says David, No. 209. Doug, “The Kid”, No.401, is actually happy in the community: “I like living here. I have a home and a key and real friends that care about me.” Ben, No.405, a food enthusiast, is grateful for sharing his room with an unemployed Italian chef: “I actually eat so good now that I needed to buy all new pants, as my old ones became too tight!”.

Patti Aupperlee, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, talks about the perplexing irrationality of the legislation that makes it impossible for sex offenders to make a new start after having done their prison sentence: “There is no other crime that follows you for the rest of your life. You can kill a person and you get out of prison and you’re done. Our laws are not rational or even meaningful.”

There is a broader problem here, and the paranoia around sex crimes is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is the rejection of logical analysis and hypothetical contemplation on difficult and uncomfortable topics. In an article published a few months ago, Are There Emotional No-Go Areas Where Logic Dare Not Show Its Face?, Richard Dawkins described the problem very aptly: “When a show-business personality is convicted of paedophilia, is it right that you actually need courage to say something like this: ‘Did he penetratively rape children or did he just touch them with his hands? The latter is bad but I think the former is worse’? How dare you rank different kinds of paedophilia? They are all equally bad, equally terrible. What are you, some kind of closet paedophile yourself?”

Only last month, the best-selling author John Grisham stirred up a hornet’s nest, when he spoke of the US justice system and over-incarceration in an interview with The Telegraph. “We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child. (…) But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.” Grisham, who has spent a lot of time and money advocating for criminal justice reform and often criticized racially biased drug sentencing laws, became an immediate source of harsh attacks (“Dear FBI,  please visit John Grisham and check his hard drive and brain while you are at it,” wrote M.C Reynolds on Twitter). Again, he didn’t say that child pornography is ok, quite the opposite: “I have no sympathy for real paedophiles. God, please lock those people up.” He merely questioned the disproportionate punishment, given the degree of the crime: “So many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that’s what they’re getting.” Even his later apology did little to calm down the aggravated public. As Richard Dawkins says, “rape and paedophilia had moved out of the discussion zone into a no-go taboo area.” A mere attempt to discuss whether the penalties are justified is unforgivable. Dawkins advocates the freedom to discuss all “spectrums of nastiness, even if only to reject them.” The hypothetical comparison between forms and degrees of a crime is neither its endorsement nor an insult towards the victims.

Contrary to what sceptics say about the Miracle Village, it does not victimise the offenders. Pat Powers, the executive director of Matthew 25 Ministries, who was convicted of sexual contact with 11 minors in the early 1990s, doesn’t deny anyone’s crime. In an interview with Linda Pressly for the BBC he says: “I can see through these guys’ stories. So if we get someone here and they say, ‘I’m not guilty, all I did was look at a picture. I say, no. You’re guilty, period.’ Because the only way you’re going to change is to admit you are wrong.”

In this light, Sofia Valiente’s project has a tremendous value in the sense that it invites us all to brave the taboo areas and talk about these sex offenders as individuals who made bad choices in the past, as opposed to some mass evil. “They would be lepers in society. Here, they’re not lepers,” she told Josh Sanburn from Time magazine. The assumption that someone who hasn’t been medically diagnosed as a paedophile or a psychopath will most certainly harm others again, if only given a chance, and therefore should carry the “sex offender” stigma until the end of his life, does nobody any good. Especially when you look at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s statistics which demonstrate that no sex crime has been reported in Miracle Village since it was founded.

Thanks to Matthew 25 Ministries initiative, 107 sex offenders have a place where they can feel human. There is hope that thanks to Sofia’s project people will begin regarding them as humans too.

While Miracle Village remains the desired home for many more sex offenders than it can accommodate, Jing Jin City, explored in Andi Schmied’s project, attracts a very small number of people. According to Guo Huaxu, one of the few residents at Jing Jin City, at any given time less than 20 out of 400 villas are occupied. The 800-room Hyatt Regency hotel has no more than 100-200 guests and a dozen or so staff. Most of the villas have been bought as an investment, for retirement or holiday use. But with very few amenities, and a long commute to Beijing and Tianjin, Jing Jin City isn’t an attractive place to live for anyone regardless of their age.

Jing Jing City catalogue

“In the super garden with the area of thousand square meters, I can live up to my ideal life” (from Jing Jin City catalogue)

The project was built by Hopson Development, the Hong Kong-listed developer, in collaboration with Tianjin’s Baodi district government for a sum of 20 billion yuan (over 2 billion pounds), according to Time Weekly. Zhao Yuting, Hopson’s regional general manager, says that it was much more than just a housing project: “We are not just building houses, but a city instead. It’s not that we can create a city within 10 years”.

Just like Sofia’s documentation of the Miracle Village remains impartial, Andi Schmied’s project isn’t criticising the Hopson Development’s unsuccessful endeavour either. Her interventions are merely a “response to the current state of these empty buildings that populate this utopian resort. (…) Constructing Nothing emphasizes the Sisyphean nature of their labours.” The “strange stillness” of the city is most visible in the winter time, “when temperatures plunge, transforming the river moats surrounding the gated communities into frozen roads – giving us access to the empty properties.”

Jing Jin City (Volume I), a  publication which accompanies the exhibition, consists of five space interventions into the emptiness of the Jing Jin City buildings. Andi inhabited the place and created installations with materials she found lying around in the houses, abandoned and unused. The Wall House, located on one of the most luxurious parts of the island, was full of concrete blocks. The Tile House had four stacks of concrete tiles waiting to be assembled into a floor. In the Glass House, empty window frames were waiting for the glass to be put in, and the Grass House had an overgrowing garden which had just been cut and was waiting to be cleared. The fifth space, Curtain House, got decorated with curtains of a different colour for each room.

Andi Schmied, "Glass House, 2014 | © Andi Schmied, Courtesy Daniel Blau

Andi Schmied, “Glass House”, 2014 | © Andi Schmied, Courtesy Daniel Blau

There isn’t a defined purpose to these constructions. As Andi says, they are “a trace that may or may not be legible to future visitors. A guard, a gardener, an estate agent, or an investor might enter the interior. To them, we will be anonymous and our role as authors will be unknown. For them, the construction will be a manifestation of a place whose reason for existence is unclear.”

Perhaps the absurdity and futility of ghost cities like Jing Jin, where guards go to sleep in the empty houses they are meant to guard and sheep graze corn on the balconies of luxurious bedrooms, mirrors the futility of heated debates between people who condemn the project. It is easy to juxtapose 400 empty villas with the problem of homelessness and shortage of housing in overpopulated areas, and chastise the existence of Jing Jin City since there are people with no place to live. But one should not forget that a building, no matter how big and fancy, won’t be inhabitable for a vast majority of people unless is surrounded by good infrastructure. “Compared with thriving districts in China’s great cities, these lifeless urban areas had no established industries, and people were unwilling to move there given the lack of job opportunities and poor infrastructure,” says Many Zuo in an article for South China Morning Post. In that light, the only upsetting element is that the development was partially subsidised by the district government, so effectively Chinese citizens helped fund a project that doesn’t benefit them. If this involved private money only, then aside from a general waste of resources, it would be the investor’s loss.

But then again, if one digs deeper, more questions and dilemmas arise. Questions about the disproportions in wealth between different society groups, which manifest themselves in the fact that while one family can barely afford a small suburban flat, another will own a villa in the city centre and three summer houses. A quick read through internet forums shows that a great number of people would want the wealthy owners to pay extra high taxes or have their houses repossessed if it’s not used for more than 6 months. But without a deep understanding of economics, one should be careful in these speculations, as we can see by looking at examples from other countries. A large portion of older properties in Portugal are derelict, and therefore unoccupied, because rent controls prevented the landlords from ever increasing their charges. Trevor Abrahmsohn, an estate agent specialising in the famous Bishops Avenue aka “Billionaires Row” in London with several empty mansions, says that the way to tackle housing shortage is by making changes to the planning system, not by imposing control over private properties: “One of the things people love about this country is its freedom and liberal views. You can’t start affecting what people do with their assets.”

Both Sofia’s and Andi’s projects are likely to inspire difficult debates. Although the Miracle Village happens to expose very specific problems of current legislations, both projects are successful at addressing a very important issue: humans as individuals and humans as communities. Sex offenders suffer from being treated as a group of identical elements. Jing Jin City, created with wealthy individuals in mind, suffers from lack of understanding about developing communities: a city won’t be built around a few individuals. Understanding the mechanism behind the unsuccessful development in China and a faulty legislation in Florida is a step towards a greater understanding of humanity.