21st Karlsruhe Dialogues - Speakers
Morning Panel Discussion - What Needs to Be Done? Thoughts and Experiences for the Protection of Pluralistic Society
Mike van Graan
1. In your opinion, which “enemies” pose the greatest threat to pluralistic societies?
I think the two biggest enemies are ignorance and arrogance. Ignorance about ‘others’ – and then we make all kinds of assumptions about ‘them’ based on misinformation and stereotypes. And arrogance – the belief that our values, ideas, worldviews, etc. are the best, and that everyone who subscribes to a different culture is uncivilised, barbaric, and in need of evolutionary development. We are different, not ‘better’.
2. Public trust in elites and the media has been declining in recent years. What do you think can be done in order to restore this trust?
I am not sure that such trust needs to be restored. If we truly believe in democracy, then it is not so much about putting trust in elected officials or in public or privately owned media, but rather in ourselves. Technology has made it possible for us to disseminate our own ideas, and to share the ideas and information we trust and believe in ourselves. It is about empowering ourselves to be active citizens to hold accountable those who shape and influence our lives (such as the media) and those who seek to govern us (politicians). We need to empower ourselves rather than elites and the media, who already have power.
3. In pluralistic societies, how can awareness of the advantages of freedom – and the appreciation thereof – be raised, in particular when it comes to those who lack experiences with unfreedom?
In the long term, this is done through education and lived experience. In the short term, it is not only about educating those who are new to so-called ‘free’ societies about those freedoms, but also citizens of ‘free’ societies learning and being educated about the circumstances, life experiences, and value systems of those who come from different social and cultural backgrounds. Too often, ‘pluralism’ is understood as assimilation – the new and the weak and the minorities being integrated into the dominant, hegemonic way of life on the terms set by the dominant – rather than co-existence, which is what pluralism would demand more. There needs to be more humility on the part of the dominant, and an openness and willingness to learn from and be influenced by the new, the different, the less powerful. It is counterintuitive, but necessary in order to build really pluralistic, democratic societies of the future.