This Sunday afternoon I attended a lovely conference held in the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, organised by the Nexus Instituut. The set of people, thinkers of all kind, tried to answer the question ‘How to change the world?‘. Philosopher Alain Badiou held a keynote to kick-off the conference and two panel discussions dealt with the topics; ‘what is the state of our world’ and ‘how can we change it’.
Kars Alfrink did a nice recap in a tweet:
Nexus conf takeaway: Happiness is to be found in individual, real & local engagement with the world, while accepting its imperfections.
The opening keynote of Badiou was very well constructed and offered some great thinking. He analysed the sentence of the questioned first wondering ‘what is the world’. He stated there are five levels of worlds we are fulfilling. On the changing part he introduced 3 concepts. Event, Real and Consequences. Building up to the notion that the local and the real are the most important context for change. Where the separation following an disruptive event delivers a new constraint. What you want is an adaption of the world as it is. The result lies in the change itself.
The concepts of freedom and happiness were touched. Freedom is not what you want, the very sense of freedom is the art of discipline. Composed from differences. Happiness is not satisfaction. Satisfaction is the harmony between the own objectives and the context as it is.
So to answer the question how to change the world, Badiou stated that it is key to be happy in the change itself.
In the first panel the polemics went on. The strongest discussion emerged on the question if you need to have a fundamental yes before you can say no, or that this would block change and you rather go for an implicit yes.
In the end in this first debate the actual state of the world was less discussed than the approach to it. Or is this in the end more defining?
In the second debate the different speakers were less building on one statement and shared their own takes on the question. Like Rory Steward, who as a real politician knew how to engage the audience with his vision. We need to think less abstract and be more concrete. And Evgeny Morozov made a solid statement on Solutionism, the result of a tech driven society where we want to solve all problems. He stated that all the people want to be in the business of big ideas like the TED talks symptomizes, we need to get our hands dirty.
Margareth Atwood added our disconnection with reality in a digital age where we cannot fix anything anymore ourselves. If we kill the ocean we will not be able to breath.
The important of the local scale is repeated by Morozov and Parag Khanna: we will see devolution to local government. John Gray signalled that civilisation is a fragile state. Technology can not change the imperatives, but can change a bit of the balance.
So bottom-line you could conclude that the way to change the world lies in embracing the moment of changing the world. Not striving for perfection by finding all solutions for problems, but let the imperfections be the constant inspiration for our will to change. Fire this with events in the local context.
Here some of the tweets that were made during the conference.