Defending The Open Society
Defending the Open Society Seminar was held between Sept 17-29, the majority of which at the IAF Academy at Gummersbach, Germany.
The total number of participants was 24 — made of by more than 20 nationalities — and facilitated by Sven Gerst, Dr Bican Sahin and Ester Povysilova.
It was a fascinating journey to the origins and developments of a liberal society, a thoroughly open society which has already and continue to advance the progressive society.
There were very high-level guest presenters to augment the excellent programme, people like;
1. Johan Norberg, author of "The Capitalist Manifesto"
2. Steven Davies, UK's Institute for Economic Affairs' head education
3. Tom Palmer, Executive Vice President of Atlas Network
Mr Davies and Palmer flew in to the academy and spent two days each for their respective lectures and to engage the participants throughout their stay.
The seminar coincided with the rise of the extreme right-wing in Germany, and it was brilliant to have the excursion to both Dresden and Weimar (September 23-26) which were both under the old East Germany, strongholds of the enemies of the open society.
The participants got first hand briefs about the rise of extremism from both the political and media standpoint.
In terms of visceral experiences, the excursion included a visit to the rebuilt Dresden Church (Church of our Lady), the Stasi (secret police) Archive and Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
The church was a symbol of renewal and the pastor shared how the community in the aftermath of communist rule, reverted to deal with the void from the aftermath of an older tragedy, the bombing of Dresden during World War Two by reconstructing the building. It was heartwarming to hear how families from key nations which bombed the city came together, especially those related to bombers, to fund the project.
The Stasi Archive brought to life what everyone always knew, but to comprehend the extent to which the state spied on its people and controlled them was a strong warning to participants to never let this happen in their home countries.
Buchenwald was overwhelming. The whole sense of the place overpowers. From the administrative grounds to finally the inmates camp to the crematorium, the experience all participants cannot forget.
The Open Society cannot only be defended by lessons and reminders, but also through cooperation and camaraderie among those who will return to their home countries as representatives from the seminar. There was amazing dynamics involving most of the participants, including games of volleyball, walking trips and shared time at the academy bar and other localities.
Overall it was a great way to replenish the liberal soul.
Written by Praba Ganesan - Executive Director and President, media consultant at KUASA