Forum of Cultures

"Matters of our time" are brought up and dealt with in most of our projects in joined efforts of activists, scientists, and artist.

The foundation provides mainly an independent forum with a certain range of relationships.

Subjects usually are particular aspects of the forms of life in contemporary contexts while approaches come from societal or artistic or ecological, philosophic fields, preferably in common perspectives.

Projects become realized in cooperation with institutions like the Goethe Institute and individual initiatives that are successful in organizing the necessary funds.

The Forum is an independent foundation in the administration of the Stiftungs- und Fördergemeinschaft Modellprojekte GmbH (http://www.sfgm.de/).

Eine Vielfalt weltweiter Verbindungen mit Menschen, die zu Problemen der Gegenwart, oft gegen vorherrschende Strategien des Denkens und Handelns, hat in den Jahren der "Jaspers Vorlesungen zu Fragen der Zeit" am Ende des vorigen Jahrhunderts einen grossen Reichtum gebildet: Zwischen Philosophien umd Ökonomien, Religionen und Geschichtsbildern, Technologien und Lebensformen.
Ihn zu pflegen, auszubauen und für neue Projekte fruchtbar zu machen, wurde die Stiftung "Forum der Kulturen zu Fragen der Zeit" gegründet. Eine private Stiftung mit denkbar bescheidensten finanziellen Mitteln, die in Kooperation mit wechselnden Partnern bestimmte Fragen herauszuarbeiten versucht. Sie initiiert interkulturelle Gespräche, transkultrurelle Entwürfe, interdisziplinären Ausstellungen.

Die Stiftung setzt, auf ihre Weise, die Intentionen, Themen und Beziehungen der Colloquien der Jaspers Vorlesungen zu Fragen der Zeit fort. Eine Auswahl besonders prägender Beiträgen aus den Jahren 1990 bis 1995 sind in dem grossen Band ZUKUNFT ERMÖGLICHEN publiziert bei Königshausen und Neumann, 2008

AIM


To establish a Forum of Cultures on Matters of Our Time as an independant Foundation with the aim of dealing with contemporary issues and problems on interdisciplinary and transcultural grounds.

RATIONALE


In view of the growing concern about many difficult world economic, social and cultural issues and problems, and increased endangerment of the world environments, there is a need to continue the programme activities of the Karl Jaspers Lectures on Matters of Our Time, supported during the 1990 - 1995 by the Niedersachsen (Lower Saxonia) Foundation. It is particularly important because the lectures were declared as a contribution of Germany to the UNESCO World Decade for Cultural Development. Many urgent issues raised by the Karl Jaspers Lectures, even when perceived as a "problem" within the framework of the international agenda, have not been adequately dealt with otherwise.There is a need to expand the exploration and clarification of many cultural and in-ternational issues by incorporating their historical, societal, economic and educational dimensions.

PROCEEDINGS


In order to launch the proposed foundation, Prof. Dr. Rudolf zur Lippe organized a foundational meeting, inviting prospective members of the future curatorium and executive board. The meeting was held in the former monastery of Hude, near Bremen, Germany, that will also serve as temporary headquarters of the foundation.

The meeting was composed of:

  • Prof. Rodrigo Carazo Odio, former President of Costa Rica, president of the UN University for Peace, Costa Rica.
  • Dr. Farhana Yamin, Director of the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) at the Law Department of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, England.
  • Prof. Jesse Mugambi, Chair of Philosophy, University of Kenya, Nairobi, and a leading member of the All African Council of Churches.
  • Dr. Sudipta Kaviraj, Professor of Political Sciences and Director Department of Political Studies, S.O.A.S., University of London.
  • Dr. Janis Roze, Professor of Biology, City University of New York and Co-Director of the CCNY-UASD International Program, Advisor to the UN Center for Science and Technology for Development.
  • Christine von Weizsäcker, biologist and activist, founding member of ECOROPA and advisor to many associations, Bonn, Germany
  • During the meetings were discussed the aims, composition, scope, and activities of the foundation.

SCOPE OF ACTIVITIES


The foundation will focus its activities on three levels consisting of

  • elaborating a list of urgent problems worldwide with examples and comments from actual experience of different cultures and societies. The results will be widely distributed to raise public awareness in general. Further definition and clarification of signifi-cant contemporary issues will be carried out in collaboration with selected institutions and organizations.
  • organizing a series of annual events consisting of a) public lectures of widely rang-ing topics, b) specialized working groups, and c) a colloquium of recognized specialists and committed personalities from around the world. Each annual event will pro-vide a comprehensive analysis of an issue, identified in foundation's list. The conclusions will offer material for promoting appropriate cultural understanding di-vising efficient economic and political strategies, and for raising public awareness, as well as clarifying human and natural values.
  • establishing a cultural and international network with institutions, organizations, interested groups and individuals of simular interests for promotion of exchange and exploration of issues and problems of our time. The foundation will organize approriate networking activities to explore significant cultural, social and economic issues. Members of the foundation will also interfere in ongoing processes of public interest in order to attract attention to the information and insights gathered thanks to its activities.

POSSIBLE FURTHER SUBJECTS


  1. The following issues comprise a list that is open to expansion and change as new issues are identified or some others become obsolete. They will provide the basis for discussion by the committee and, after due debate, any important findings will be published. These will be accompanied by comments by the committee members which, it is hoped, will provide insights into how these questions bear on the various countries and cultures represented, for each question has local and global dimensions as well as different consequence at different levels within each society.
  2. Globalisation is spreading a culture of "hamburgers and Coca Cola". It is eroding traditional beliefs, destroying societal and cultural patterns, and irrevocably altering existing economic systems.
  3. Global changes in ways of thinking and perceiving are also having a major impact on cultural values and our relationship to the environment. Oral and other forms of traditional knowledge are being destroyed without due accountability, and a "CNN style" of reporting means that these issues almost never come to public attention.
  4. What is knowledge and what does it do? Many relationships in nature and history are extremely complex so that many scientific terms and models, judicial definitions, diplomatic language etc. oversimplify and cheapen reality. Life, defined in analytical terms, becomes exposed to reductionist thinking and destructive practices. Equally dangerous is the narrow-mindedness and rigidity resulting from a tendency for theo-ries to become "self-fulfilling prophecies".
  5. There is a lack of regard for tradition in our modern world and this is reflected in the fact that we very rarely reflect on our connections and relationship to the past. Much can be learned when we do this. But nostalgia or fundamentalist reconstruction of past values and circumstances are equally dangerous.
  6. Political institutions change their strategy of coercion from the use of overt force to that of monopolising or redefining information to fit their particular objectives or agendas. Images and words can be extremely powerful tools in the hands of spin doctors and public relations experts. How to combat this?
  7. How to introduce children into life, society, culture, the world? What is their proper part in the life of the family and the community?
  8. One of the many failings of modern society is its failure to provide adequate rites of passage which mark the transition from adolescent to adult life. This often results in youth not only struggling to come up with an adequate conception of adulthood, but also feeling disconnected from the very society in which they live. Much can be learned by examining case studies from other cultures which can awaken and excite the modern imagination.
  9. How many languages should everybody speak? Should there be one universal language? And how can members of a family living a stone age existence commu-nicate with members of a family in the information age and vice versa?
  10. Being Human is being a member of humanity and of the family of all beings.
  11. A lack of self-identity is a dangerous situation in the modern world which thrives in conditions of anonymity. People need to break out of their isolation. But how to do this? Identity must not confine, on the other hand, in rigid terms that are borrowed from somewhere.
  12. Healing communication. How to create a medium of communication that is nourishing and healing? Some possible methods for discussion could be: To speak in stories, to think in metaphors, to learn through experience, to meet on a human scale, to reduce speed, to refrain from universal platitudes, to understand that nobody knows everything about himself, to recount a story and pursue its evolution.
  13. What does "rich" and "poor" mean? The quantitative evaluation of life in terms of statistic such as a "good or bad standard of living" demeans its very essence. We must learn to appreciate and value qualitative aspects of life which cannot be measured or compared. This will enable us to rediscover another, much deeper side of "richness".
  14. Must "state" always mean a "nation state"? What is the role of the state be-tween globalisation and regionalism?
  15. The confusion of unity with homogeneity often means that ethnic, religious and cultural diversity is undervalued. How to prevent this?

DIMENSION OF ACTIVITIES


  1. All of these issues need to claim our attention. They need to be studied in such a way as to reveal their background antecedents and how they directly and indirectly influence other issues and fields of study. Some preliminary statements concerning the general framework within which these issues are to be studied can now be given:
  2. Many of the issues outlined above seek to explore aspects of life that have either been disregarded or marginalised by mainstream thinking. Because we do not know how, and to what extent, these issues will challenge our conventional wisdom, we need to come together in an attitude of fellowship and humility. We need to meet as brothers and sisters eager to learn from one another about how we actually live and how we relate to the world around us. We need to learn to uncover and then to cherish a wisdom that is fading away under the pressure of modernisation, and then to apply this wisdom to help us to face the very many problems that we have to cope with at the end of this millennium. At the same time, we need to ensure that this wisdom is not appropriated by institutions that would then seek to use it to further their own greedy ends. Indeed, we need to foster a deep inner strength if we are going to challenge and confront the often confusing and mislead-ing ideas inherent in mainstream thinking.
  3. We need to be careful that in studying each of the above issues we are clear about the status and nature of the knowledge that we possess concerning an issue and how this can influence our thinking. The way we use terms, definitions and language is, therefore, one of the primary areas of study for the foundation.
  4. One of the roles of the foundation is to act as a pressure group for change. It is, therefore, extremely important to be clear about how this can be done in an optimal fashion. For example, it is often important that information be released so that it can spread at just the right time. Basic alliances and friendships forged by individual members of the foundation may be helpful in bringing pressure to bear or in fostering support for projects that match the aims of the foundation. Contacts and meetings with influential people or mainstream institutions may even bring about a new orientation in certain situations. In others the response from those who are discarded from the public discours must be sought. We see a possibility, in some cases, to serve as a lobby group, promoting what particular institutions, persons and groups should know, should do, should promulgate, or be opposed to.
  5. Last, but not least, there is a spiritual dimension to all of the issues outlined above. We need to understand the term "spiritual" freed from its association with institutionalised religion. This is crucial when we are analysing such things as belief, humility, service to others, freedom of opinion, free trade (who is free to do what?) etc. In traditional societies, economic and daily activities have symbolic significance and a sense of the spiritual permeates all areas of life. This links and em-beds people into a wider whole. American Indians or Buddhists, for example, have organised their ways of life according to the notion that all beings are our brothers and sisters. This is similar to the African concept that we are all bound together as in a greater family. In the light of such attitudes, we must surely see the lack of spiritual consciousness in our own culture, where other beings are seen as exploitable automata in the ongoing obsession with "get rich quick" strategies, as being deeply pathological and destructive. Similarly, the modern fascination with "objective" analysis and reductionist thinking is at first sight very attractive because it often leads to spectacular results. However, there are often hidden costs and long term detrimental consequences in seeing the world atomomistically rather than holistically that could, if not remedied, lead to untold damage and suffering in the not too distant future. So behind all of the issues for debate outlined above is the deeper question: How to rediscover the sacred in our modern world?