Weimar Rendezvous 2015

Engelsberg Bookstore in Weimar's city center, one of the main events for the Rendezvous. Here is where the podium discussions and lectures took place. Photos taken in November 2015
Eckermann Bookstore in Weimar’s city center, one of the main events for the Rendezvous. Here is where the podium discussions and lectures took place. Photos taken in November 2015

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WEIMAR- In your opinion, do you think we are living in a society that is utopian? Does democracy and utopia co-exist, or is it dystopian or even an illusion? How does our environment affect our society and the way it is run? How many forms of topia exist or were invented? These were the questions that were addressed at this year’s Weimar Rendezvous. Every year since 2009, an average of over 1000 people, including students, intellects and interested people have attended the four-day event, consisting of presentations, podium discussions, films, exhibits and music festivals with a focus on a theme that is politically and historically relevant to today’s society.  This year’s event looks at the topic on “Utopia,” where presenters (consisting of historians, professors, politicians and members of civil society organizations) took a look at this topic, how it was developed and how it plays a role in our current society. This year’s event was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Paris (see the article in the Files by clicking here), but it did not stop visitors from listening to the topics and integrating the events in France into the theme of the weekend.

The Weimar Rendezvous was established in 2009, based on a similar event that has been taking place annually since 1998 in the French town of Blois. As Weimar is not only the place of multiculture and various forms of architecture (including Bauhaus), but it is the platform where democracy and literature came into frutition and blossomed. Goethe and Schiller met in the city and some of the works were based on their stay in Weimar. The Weimar Republic (1919-1933) was conceived in Weimar. Many greats of fine arts stayed in Weimar and used their experience as a platform for their careers. And with the Rendezvous, Weimar has been the platform for history and politics, as many current topics, laden with theory, science, architecture and especially history, have attracted many intellects, teachers, professors and students, in addition to others interested in history. Weimar is part of the Weimarer Dreiecks, where most of the themes are focused on the three European countries: Germany, Poland and France.

As a teacher of English, social studies and history, the Weimar Rendezvous is an excellent place to gather information on and deepen the topics of interest, thus providing some ideas for the next class session. Especially for the topic on utopia versus dystopia, for the latter was completed in 9th grade social studies class, where the group watched the film “In Time,” which depicts dystopia in the future tense. Here we compared dystopia with utopia in a theoretical sense, then compared them with how they were used in reality, using the examples of democracy and dictatorships that existed in history, and garnering some ideas to create the main idea of the meaning of democracy vs. dictatorship. Little do we realize is that utopia and its various forms have their roots dating back to the 1500s. Over the next 300 years, the concept branched out in several directions like a tree, each one shaping the way society is running in both a positive as well as a negative sense. Traces of the -topia can be seen today, as they have played a role in shaping our country and how their relationship with other countries. This includes the role of religion and the environment, two hot topics discussed during the Sunday sessions, as well as the African-American movement and its history and development in the United States from 1865 to the present.

Some highlights of the event from the author’s perspective include the following:

  1. According to the podium discussion on the history of Utopia, we found that Thomas Morus produced a book bearing the title in 1516. With his envision of utopia, which was a perfectionistic society with equality and uniformity, this was the seed that was planted which later bloomed into a tree with various forms of (u)topia.
  2. In another podium discussion on religion and utopia, the word apocalypse and its argumentive definitions, was used by the founders of the Churches to describe the replacement of a corrupt society in biblical proportions in favor of a utopian society. It was stressed more so by Martin Luther when he introduced his demands for reforms in the 1500s and later by his followers.
  3. During a podium discussion on the environment, there came a consensus by the speakers, when asked about the role of the media in influencing society’s thinking, which was as long as the public believes that the United States has less sunlight than Germany, as stated by Fox News, a staunch opponent of solar energy, no change will happen until it is too late.
  4. In a podium discussion on Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, never seen before photos of Rosa Park’s arrest and jail custody for sitting in the white zone of a transit bus, King’s speech and many Nazi propaganda posters against Barack Obama were displayed with a clear-cut message: America is (and will never be) ready for a non-Caucasian President, especially in light of the racial profiling and violence dominating the American landscape.
  5. In an evening podium discussion on architecture and utopia, the concept of modern architecture and futurama originated from the 1930s but was advanced further in the 1950s in Europe.

 

A book with a summary of the speeches from this year’s event will be published in the near future. However, highlights and photos of the events can be found in the Weimar Rendezvous website, which you can click here for more information on the event. A facebook page with photos of the event, courtesy of Juliane Fox Schwabenbauer, can be found here. The Files also has photos of the events the author attended, which you will find here.

A separate article on how to teach dystopia in the classroom is in the making and will be posted in the Files’ WordPress internet site.

Silhouette of the Statue of Goethe and Schiller in front of the Weimar National Theater. Photo taken by the author in Nov. 2015
Silhouette of the Statue of Goethe and Schiller in front of the Weimar National Theater. Photo taken by the author in Nov. 2015

 

The statues and the National Theater with flowers on memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.
The statues and the National Theater with flowers on memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Paris.

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We Stand United in Peace

A while back, while visiting friends in Potsdam, I came across a piece of artwork near the city center which caught my attention. It was a sculpture featuring a circle of three friends, a girl and two boys, dancing together in the grass. The artwork dates back to the days of East Germany, but the theme holds true today: we stand united as friends, through thick and thin, through good and bad, and through rain and sun. A member of an American expatriate group in Germany asked if there was a picture that would be better than the Statue of Liberty, which can be found both in America as well as in France.  My answer: perhaps not, but in light of what happened in Paris and Beirut, this sculpture and its symbol is as strong as liberty, and freedom and justice , as shown by Lady Liberty. I don’t think anything can top that.

To show solidarity and love for our family and friends, and stand united in the face of our enemies who committed these atrocious crimes in a war that is unwinnable on both sides, here’s the picture worth mulling over. What would you title it as? And why? Think about it long and hard, and ask yourselves, who are you thankful for and who would you like to reunite, or if you harmed someone in the past, reconcile?

We stand in unity

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The Unwinnable War

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This article goes out to the people in Paris and Beirut and the families and friends of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks of 13 Noveber, 2015, showing solidarity, love and courage in the face of the unknown evil that cannot be won unless we get to the root of the problem. The attacks happened just as the article on Civil Courage was published, and despite the question of coincidence, both this and that article should be read to get a better scope of what is going on in our society today.

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There are two important variables in life where we cannot escape, even if we tried: death and taxation. We’re all are going to die, and we are all obliged to pay our taxes to the state to keep the system and government running.

After Paris, we now have a new constant variable: war.  We live in a war every day, whether it is a classical war or a domestic war, whether we face bullies in school, backlash for murder or terrorists who try to take away our right to live in society, whether it is a war on poverty and the environmental pollution, or war against ISIS and the Taliban and their satellites. No matter how we make peace, together with when and with whom, the next war is around the corner.

But do we care about it and do something about it? Absolutely not.

We live in a world of naivety, where we try to make the difference between good and evil, spend billions of dollars in military hardware and personnel to fight the evil that we claim to see, but in all reality we do not, bomb countries and destroy lives in an attempt to destroy the terrorists, persecute those who are fleeing their homelands beset by violence for a better place. We tried that with Afghanistan and Iraq to topple the dictatorships ruling the country and harboring the terrorists. Yet what happened? Our mission, once touted by George W. Bush as being accomplished, is anything but that. The countries we bombed are still in shambles. Their people are still suffering from poverty and repression from corruptive regimes. And lastly, the terrorist regimes are sprawling, engulfing countries in their grasps.

And what have we done about this? We’ve converted our country from a democracy to a pseudo-democracy, where Big Brother is watching us, through internet, surveillance and other forms of spying to ensure that we are believed to be living in a utopian society- or any type of topian society where what we say or do may be used against us. We shift our focus away from the universal problems affecting us- global warming and the devastating effects on many regions of the world, poverty and social inequality, the degradation of our domestic programs- and focus on problems irrelevant to today’s real problems: defaming a dentist killing a lion, watching a TV show of Cops versus Afros, debating about Steve Jobs’ last words, and listening on the radio about the debate of how long Chloe Cardashian’s boyfriend will stay with her while pregnant before he leaves her and she seeks coalesce with her sister, Kim. This is in addition to our lives being watched by machines, focusing on how big of aetheists or “Jesus freaks” we are, plus exploiting things that we are private to us.  In other words, we have become a selfish society where every man is for himself but only under the loop of Big Brother, living in a topian society that is fictitious and far away from the reality that we have turned our back on- and the people who need our help badly.

The bombings of Paris is a clear sign that we are still at war. The grim reality is this war is perpetual, never-ending, closing in on apocalyptic. Our ignorance to the people in need, their homelands no longer liveable because of the disastrous effects of global warming combined with warfare sparked by the war on terrorism, has come at a price that is exorbitant, where the next generations will never be able to pay it off. We are fighting a war that we cannot win because our policies, strategies and technologies are not enough to win it. But at the same time, the war cannot be lost because our enemies (the terrorists) are suffering from the same problems we are facing- their warfare strategies and technologies are not sufficient enough to destroy our modern society. We are at a stalemate, where no matter how many lives we lose on both sides, the war is not winnable. We can tackle the problems by sending tens of thousands of troops to the ISIS regions in Syria and Iraq to eradicate the groups once and for all,  introduce Israeli-style security measures at all public events, reinforce surveillance to match that of George Orwell’s 1984 or the film, In Time, and integrate refugees into our culture. We can take measures to reverse the effects of global warming, even. However this will not solve the problem of the war that we are in.

What can help alleviate the pain is showing solidarity to the victims and their families, reach out to those in need, offer peace to our enemies and find out what they want and compare it to what we want. In other words, we can only afford to collaborate, find universal solutions to the problems causing this constant warfare, and find a peaceful co-existence, for anything else beyond that- increased security and surveillance, exclusion of people of other backgrounds, more military action and other forms of radical thinking- we have already exhausted our resources for them, and it would be a waste of time and money to reinvent the wheel.

While we cannot return to business as usual, we cannot afford to take measures deemed radical, especially in a war that we cannot win on both sides. But solidarity and collaboration may be the first steps in the right direction. Everything else that happens afterwards depends on how both sides can profit from the talks….

IMGP3629

Flensburg Files logo France 15

As a way of showing solidarity and the need for a peaceful co-existence in the time of crisis and war, the Flensburg Files and its sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will each present their logos representing the colors of France. This will remain in effect for the rest of 2015. The Files features the French flag as a replacement of its famous sailboat avatar with a green background representing the need for peace and solutions to the universal problems that we can no longer afford to ignore. While the battle against the terrorists is one of these problems, larger ones, such as rebuilding the regions torn by war and beset by terrorists, tackling global warming and the impacts on all aspects, and evening out the gap between rich and poor have yet to be tackled from all aspects of society.

The Unwinnable War

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new

This article goes out to the people in Paris and Beirut and the families and friends of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks of 13 Noveber, 2015, showing solidarity, love and courage in the face of the unknown evil that cannot be won unless we get to the root of the problem. The attacks happened just as the article on Civil Courage was published, and despite the question of coincidence, both this and that article should be read to get a better scope of what is going on in our society today.

 IMGP3612

There are two important variables in life where we cannot escape, even if we tried: death and taxation. We’re all are going to die, and we are all obliged to pay our taxes to the state to keep the system and government running.

After Paris, we now have a new constant variable: war.  We live in a war every day, whether it is a classical war or a domestic war, whether we face bullies in school, backlash for murder or terrorists who try to take away our right to live in society, whether it is a war on poverty and the environmental pollution, or war against ISIS and the Taliban and their satellites. No matter how we make peace, together with when and with whom, the next war is around the corner.

But do we care about it and do something about it? Absolutely not.

We live in a world of naivety, where we try to make the difference between good and evil, spend billions of dollars in military hardware and personnel to fight the evil that we claim to see, but in all reality we do not, bomb countries and destroy lives in an attempt to destroy the terrorists, persecute those who are fleeing their homelands beset by violence for a better place. We tried that with Afghanistan and Iraq to topple the dictatorships ruling the country and harboring the terrorists. Yet what happened? Our mission, once touted by George W. Bush as being accomplished, is anything but that. The countries we bombed are still in shambles. Their people are still suffering from poverty and repression from corruptive regimes. And lastly, the terrorist regimes are sprawling, engulfing countries in their grasps.

And what have we done about this? We’ve converted our country from a democracy to a pseudo-democracy, where Big Brother is watching us, through internet, surveillance and other forms of spying to ensure that we are believed to be living in a utopian society- or any type of topian society where what we say or do may be used against us. We shift our focus away from the universal problems affecting us- global warming and the devastating effects on many regions of the world, poverty and social inequality, the degradation of our domestic programs- and focus on problems irrelevant to today’s real problems: defaming a dentist killing a lion, watching a TV show of Cops versus Afros, debating about Steve Jobs’ last words, and listening on the radio about the debate of how long Chloe Cardashian’s boyfriend will stay with her while pregnant before he leaves her and she seeks coalesce with her sister, Kim. This is in addition to our lives being watched by machines, focusing on how big of aetheists or “Jesus freaks” we are, plus exploiting things that we are private to us.  In other words, we have become a selfish society where every man is for himself but only under the loop of Big Brother, living in a topian society that is fictitious and far away from the reality that we have turned our back on- and the people who need our help badly.

The bombings of Paris is a clear sign that we are still at war. The grim reality is this war is perpetual, never-ending, closing in on apocalyptic. Our ignorance to the people in need, their homelands no longer liveable because of the disastrous effects of global warming combined with warfare sparked by the war on terrorism, has come at a price that is exorbitant, where the next generations will never be able to pay it off. We are fighting a war that we cannot win because our policies, strategies and technologies are not enough to win it. But at the same time, the war cannot be lost because our enemies (the terrorists) are suffering from the same problems we are facing- their warfare strategies and technologies are not sufficient enough to destroy our modern society. We are at a stalemate, where no matter how many lives we lose on both sides, the war is not winnable. We can tackle the problems by sending tens of thousands of troops to the ISIS regions in Syria and Iraq to eradicate the groups once and for all,  introduce Israeli-style security measures at all public events, reinforce surveillance to match that of George Orwell’s 1984 or the film, In Time, and integrate refugees into our culture. We can take measures to reverse the effects of global warming, even. However this will not solve the problem of the war that we are in.

What can help alleviate the pain is showing solidarity to the victims and their families, reach out to those in need, offer peace to our enemies and find out what they want and compare it to what we want. In other words, we can only afford to collaborate, find universal solutions to the problems causing this constant warfare, and find a peaceful co-existence, for anything else beyond that- increased security and surveillance, exclusion of people of other backgrounds, more military action and other forms of radical thinking- we have already exhausted our resources for them, and it would be a waste of time and money to reinvent the wheel.

While we cannot return to business as usual, we cannot afford to take measures deemed radical, especially in a war that we cannot win on both sides. But solidarity and collaboration may be the first steps in the right direction. Everything else that happens afterwards depends on how both sides can profit from the talks….

IMGP3629

Flensburg Files logo France 15

As a way of showing solidarity and the need for a peaceful co-existence in the time of crisis and war, the Flensburg Files and its sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will each present their logos representing the colors of France. This will remain in effect for the rest of 2015. The Files features the French flag as a replacement of its famous sailboat avatar with a green background representing the need for peace and solutions to the universal problems that we can no longer afford to ignore. While the battle against the terrorists is one of these problems, larger ones, such as rebuilding the regions torn by war and beset by terrorists, tackling global warming and the impacts on all aspects, and evening out the gap between rich and poor have yet to be tackled from all aspects of society.