Frido Mann: “Democracy Will Win”


– Good afternoon. I’m Veronika Fuechtner. I’m the chair of German Studies
here at Dartmouth College, and it’s my great pleasure
to introduce this lecture. It’s a great pleasure
to introduce Frido Mann, who’s here together with
his wife Christine Mann who’s sitting over there in the audience. They’re both Montgomery
Fellows here at Dartmouth. Frido Mann’s lecture is
part of a larger event, namely a workshop titled “The Mann Family – Lives and Fictions.” The Mann family has
been called the Windsors of the German intellectual
and cultural scene. And, indeed, their lives and fictions never cease to fascinate. Particularly the works of Thomas, Heinrich, Klaus, and Erika Mann, have significantly shaped German culture and politics of the 20th century. But they also shaped culture and politics on this side of the Atlantic. One might think of
Thomas Mann’s courageous political stance against Nazi Germany during his exile here in the U.S. and his vision of another Germany. Or one might think of the
American critic Susan Sontag, who at age 14 invited herself over for tea to the house of Thomas
Mann in Pacific Palisades. In her essay “Pilgrimage,” she describes the awkward meeting between, as she writes, “an embarrassed, fervid, “literature-intoxicated
child and a god in exile.” Mann’s many works, such
as “Death in Venice,” “The Magic Mountain,” or “Doctor Faustus,” would never cease to exercise a profound hold over Sontag’s work through themes such as
the politics of language, the fascination of fascism,
or the metaphors or illness. And these themes also resonate
with the Dartmouth workshop that this lecture is part of. This workshop brings
together established scholars with nine younger scholars. These postdocs, graduate
students, lecturers, and assistant professors have
submitted article drafts, and we are all discussing them together in the two days of the workshop. The workshop participants have come here from all over the U.S. and from as far as Berlin,
Vienna, and Hyderabad. The article drafts have already made clear that the themes and forms
of many Mann family writings really do speak to the present moment. They force us to think, and we’ve had these discussions today, they force us to think
about the possibility of creating utopias
about toxic masculinity or about antisemitic tropes. And I want to actually take a moment to have the nine scholars who came in to submit an article stand up, and give them a round of applause ’cause they’re just amazing. (audience applauding) Frido Mann’s work is also being discussed and it is thus very special that he can be present
for the conversation, and I do want to thank the many sponsors that made this event possible. I want to thank the
Montgomery Fellows Program and particularly Klaus
Milich, the former director, Steve Swayne, the current director, and Ellen Henderson who
administered the program. I want to thank the Distinguished Harris
Visiting Professorship which brought Irmela von der Luhe, one of the readers of
the workshop from Berlin, Kathleen Woodburn and Jane
Carroll, in particular. I want to thank the
Department of German Studies, my fantastic colleagues in it, and also Wadeane Kunz, the administrator, and Lisa Oberberger
who’s been helping a lot with the workshop. I want to thank the
program in Jewish Studies and particularly Susannah Heschel, who’s here in the audience, for supporting this workshop in many ways. And finally, the Arts,
oh, no, not finally. I’m not done yet. (laughing) The Arts and Sciences deanery, particularly Dennis Washburn who financed Nisha Narayanan’s ticket from India to come here, and the Thomas Mann House
in Pacific Palisades, the house that Susan Sontag visited that is now a very different place, and they helped fund this workshop also. I want to thank the student
assistants for this workshop, Ashi Assisi, Lisa Oberberger, Josh Kallianos, and Kate Brundage, and a special thanks goes to Kelly Palmer who administered this workshop and has been just amazing
putting everything together. There will be a reception
after the talk, outside, and I would like you to stick around and to maybe mingle and
continue the conversation. And so without further ado, I’ll jump in and introduce Frido Mann. I met him through my
own work on the mother of Thomas and Heinrich
Mann through Yulia Mann, and I have to confess, I was first a little bit
hesitant about meeting him because as scholars
working on famous writers, if you ever have dealt with
families of famous writers, can be a difficult relationship, and I was so happy that
that was not the case. Frido Mann has been an amazingly generous, and welcoming, and open interlocutor, and is very involved in the scholarship on his family and on himself. Frido Mann is accomplished in many fields. Firstly he studied music,
wrote compositions, and played the piano. He studied theology and has
deeply engaged with questions of religion and spirituality
through many of his works, and he studied psychology, which led him to work
in psychiatric hospitals and ultimately led to an
academic career as a professor for psychology at the
University of Munster. He’s also a prolific
author of many fiction and non-fiction works. Among others, the play “Terezin” about the concentration
camp Theresienstadt, which was staged by the
great director George Tabori; the novel “Braza,” a
multi-generational family history which was inspired by the life of his Brazilian
great-grandmother Yulia Mann; or his autobiography, “Achterbahn,” the title of which
translates as rollercoaster and it indicates the many
unexpected ups and downs and steep curves that his life took. Frido Mann is married to the daughter of the founder of quantum
physics, Werner Heisenberg, and Christine and Frido
met as students in the ’60s while both were studying theology, one Catholic, one Protestant, and as their families merged, they had to negotiate the
different family pasts: national socialism on the on the one hand and exile and anti-fascism on the other. Together they co-wrote two
books on the philosophical and ethical dimensions of quantum physics, and they managed to stay
married throughout the process. (audience chuckling) Frido Mann is the grandson of Thomas Mann, and he was very close to his grandfather. He was born in California
and partly grew up in Thomas and Katia Mann’s
house in Pacific Palisades. He recently returned to this house after the German government
bought it three years ago and created a new space there for political and cultural dialogue. He returned after many decades as a fellow of the Thomas Mann House. His latest book, “The
White House of Exile,” from last year narrates this return. It beautifully blends
fiction and non-fiction. It delves into past childhood memories, which may sound like fiction, and at the same time imagines
very concrete dialogues for the present that
actually never happened. It presents a reflection on the fragility of democracy in the 1940s and on the fragility of
democracy today in an age when we experienced the
return of autocratic leaders, the rise of populist right-wing movements, and the resurgence of
deadly antisemitic attacks in many countries, including our own. I want to help you welcome Frido Mann. (audience applauding) – Thank you, Veronika, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming. Today we’ll talk about the dignity, the power, and the
importance of open dialogue for the pathway for
fortification of democracy. It is a little different
than this eight, nine times I had that lecture in the last five weeks, when I was hopping from city to city, from coast to coast, from the
East Coast to the Heartlands, which were quite different,
and the West Coast. And because already then I was really interested
to go beyond this lecture, have contact with as many
as possible high schools and colleges, also too, universities, to have the opportunity
to talk with young people, students, scholars, about their situation, about their opinion about
America, about the world. Because I have more and
more the feeling now regarding the situation
of the young people who go out on the streets more and more, that maybe even they could be, let’s hope, could be our last, maybe our last hope for
rescuing our democracy. I’m thinking of them. And that’s why I’m so thankful and so glad that now the last 10 days, that’s why I’m saying it’s different now talking about this. Different than weeks before. I am together with Christine. I had the opportunity
to being invited here to Dartmouth College to
really talk with a bunch of so many gifted and
wonderful young people, students, and not less wonderful teachers and professors
here in the last 10 days. There were not only just conversations, there were really dialogues. Really that kind of dialogue, I’m wishing that it could
be more strengthened, more and more again
between the two continents which are somehow drifting apart, and also in America, in a
fractured country like here, and that’s why I’m very
glad, I’m thankful for this. That’s why this lecture today seems to be not much more than a
theoretical frame of that, what I now really have
experienced now these days. I’m so thankful that I’m in, I’m hoping that some time, I don’t know, in a year or so, I could even
continue these encounters with these people here,
with the youngsters here. But it was already at a early age as a child born in the
U.S. that I could feel, well, at first atmospherically and later more more consciously, deep democratic conviction of
my parents and grandparents. In their American exile,
they had soon adopted the basic nature of the
American Constitution from 1787, the oldest one in the world. The first words of this preamble have quickly become ingrained, “We the people of the United States.” It was not about our
nation or our country. Not about some super-individual, ideologically-abstract,
hierarchically-ordered stately entity demanding
obedience and submission and even less about an ethnic community. At its center instead was the freed Union, a free individuality people. We the people. In 1933, my family had left the worst people’s
community that ever existed, Germany under national socialism, and had immigrated from
Europe to the USA in time before the eruption of
the Second World War. A few years later, they
become American citizens. Towards the end of the Second World War, their political conviction was slowly transferred to me more
and more consciously. My grandparents’ house was host to many co-emigres,
writers, and musicians. Early on I could sense their consternation that the perversions of human rights and the great cultural tradition of their abandoned homeland. And myself had always been filled with a proud sense of
community at the primary school at Mill Valley, San Francisco,
where my parents lived, when my class had to
sing the national anthem every morning before school started. We were standing unblocked before the more than head-high American flag
next to the teacher’s desk, boys saluting, girls with their
right hands on their hearts. Democracy for us Americans,
constitutionally established, was for me from the beginning
the emblem of civil autonomy. It stood for freedom of
opinion and co-determination on the basis of fundamentally
equal status for all people. As an adult, I understand
this social, political, and legal signification increasingly as an expression of an
even deeper conviction. It is based on the
philosophy of enlightenment and our Jewish-Christian
concept of humanity. It was the basic understanding of an indiscriminate
equivalence of all humans. For that reason, the concept of democracy
remains first and foremost sustained by the awareness
of human dignity. This is also how it was put in 1938 in the passionate address
to the American people by author and Nobel Prize
literature laureate Thomas Mann, with the title, “The Coming
Victory of Democracy.” There he writes, “We must define democracy “as that form of government and society “which is inspired above every other “with a feeling and consciousness “of the dignity of man.” It is reminiscent of the great American thinker and poet Walt Whitman, whom Thomas Mann studied intensively. One of the most important
statements of Whitman was, “For I say at the core
of democracy, finally, “is the religious element. “All the religions, old
and new, are there.” Or elsewhere he says,
“And topping democracy, “this most alluring record
that it alone can bind “and ever seeks to bind
all nations, all men, “of however various and distant lands “into a brotherhood, a family.” Thomas Mann tend his speech “The Coming Victory of
Democracy” in the spirit of his contemporary political
and humanist role model, American’s president
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And he never tired of presenting a speech on a lecture tour from coast to coast, lasting several months. For Thomas Mann, this democratic conviction
was not too innate, especially during World War I. He still drew a clear
line between himself, a committed monarchist
with nationalistic notes, and the Western democracies, but this changed after
the end of monarchy. Oddly in 1922 in a speech
“Von Deutsche Republik,” the German Republic, he pledged himself to the new governmental structure and found it in the formula for democracy. “The state has become
the concern of all of us. “We are the state.” Soon Thomas Mann had to watch powerlessly how the first attempt
of democracy in Germany, the Weimar Republic, slowly fell apart and eventually plummeted
into national socialism. In America, he began a rhetorical campaign for democracy in the 1930s
while still at Princeton in which he considered
which political system was most suitable for a
contemporary humanity. It’s likely that his personal encounters with President Roosevelt
at the White House, which made a great impression on him, contributed to this. From the Californian Pacific
Palisades, Los Angeles, Thomas Mann addressed his fellow Germans between 1940 and 1945 over the air through the emphatic 55 radio speeches, “Listen, Germany!”, “Deutsche Horer!”, and then he implored them again and again to renounce Nazi barbarities. Soon after Roosevelt’s death, the hysteria of the McCarthy
era emerged in America. The shock of my parents and
grandparents was the deeper. The entire country was
increasingly ruled by the fear of an agitation against
communists by enemy stereotypes, by suspicions,
interrogations, and arrests. Fundamental civil rights
were being restricted. In retrospect, this was my first example of how vulnerable and unstable the still very young life
for of democracy was, even in its Western birth place, America. My family suffered so greatly
from these incisive changes that they were more and
more distanced from the USA. It is from this period that the sentence by my uncle Klaus Mann originates, written shortly before his death. “Oh, America, my dream
land, my lost dream.” I relocated back to Europe
with my parents in 1949. Three years later, my
grandparents followed. But my early impressions could not end my growing
American patriotism. I was, an American by
birth, still too inspired by our heroic victory over Nazi Germany to understand the scopes of McCarthyism. The sudden geographical
separation from the U.S. felt at all the worst for
me as a nine young old. For many years I suffered
from strong homesickness, longing for my lost childhood paradise. Shortly before the end of the
Obama era in November 2016, the German federal government was able under the initiative of
then foreign minister and now Federal President
Frank-Walter Steinmeier to buy, required a significant sum, the former home of my grandparents’ Thomas and Katia Mann in California. “The White House of exile,” as the federal president calls the house, has since been fundamentally
renovated and transformed into a transatlantic center
for encounter and dialogue. As such, it is meant to be a symbol for what it was at the
time of Thomas Mann, a space of resistance against dictatorship and totalitarianism, and simultaneously a center
for intercontinental exchange for the consolidation of
a humane democratic peace. On the other hand, it is also meant to be an effective sign against the current drifting apart with the transatlantic alliance
between the U.S. and Europe. The acquisition of the
new use of the house are intended to be an
expression of Germany’s respect for the great tradition
of American democracy. From within it speaks the wish to stand with the U.S. in their current crisis. The new use of the house in this sense to be understood as a
small greeting of hope and a gift from Germany to the U.S. After all, Germany primarily
has the USA to thank for the slow and steady construction of its now relatively solid democracy after its necessary restart in 1945. This is why the house was
also planned to be a place of remembrance of the great preceding apex of democracy in the United States. In a way, it is also dedicated
to the proud leaders, such as Benjamin
Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, and emigre Thomas Mann’s American contemporary
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For me personally, the
purchase of the house makes apparent the stark difference between Germany today and that of 1945, whose condition I witnessed
succinctly from this very house. Who in this house would
have even dreamt back then, when Germany laid ashes, that in 2016 the German government would rescue and buy the house, Thomas Mann’s home in exile, and make it into a site for the protection and fortification of democracy and peace? In this sense, the
German federal president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier,
let us know his intentions with a quotation which he wrote especially for all of you here
today in this conference. “Atlanticism,” he says, “Atlanticism was an
American creation that saved “and protected Europe in
unprecedented circumstances. “In the currently unfolding
global competition “which will depend on Europe
to keep Atlanticism alive, “in the vital interest of both
Europe and the United States, “Atlanticism will require
political wisdom on both sides, “irrespective of moments of
discord and even rivalry. “It will also require a dialogue “that enriches people on both sides. “We must not become strangers
in each other’s eyes.” Against this background, it was never the intention of
the German federal government to use this house only as a memorial to Thomas Mann’s liturgy
and political work. Rather, its purpose is to serve as a space of transatlantic dialogue in regards to the future of democracy, and this transatlantic
dialogue is not only designed to strengthen the vital solidarity between American and European continent, it is also expected to help
break through the speechlessness of today’s deeply
fractured American society where fear and despair
have robbed many people of the courage and power to
feel a sense of community and to live together in solidarity. I’m thinking there also about the two traditional
political parties in the USA, which, in my opinion,
definitely have to move towards a stronger constructive
dialogue with one another. Then is currently the case. Parties in a democracy
country are by definition in competition with one another, but this competition has to remain fair and should not derail and to polarizing, or even host of fronts or icy silence. The practice that started at
the Thomas Mann House in 2018 has begun to prove that this
alternative White House, to pick up a term coined by my friend and co-fellow Heinrich Detering, can be a place of encounter
in the widest sense. They invited fellows from Germany who stay for a few months are not there for their self-realization as
artists or researchers. The reason for their stay is a dialogical exchange
through daily togetherness both with one another and with
their American colleagues. Those American counterparts
to the fellows from German are not only residents of
Los Angeles and California, they come from anywhere
on the American continent. They exchange concepts and ideas, communicate, discuss,
disagree, and stimulate. It is about friendships and partnerships, joint trips to conferences or cultural or political institutions,
from coast to coast. They give talks, or old panel
discussions, or seminars. They support each other
at eye level in the spirit of an transatlantic pluralism
of ideas and beliefs. The core idea of this attempt
at dialogical togetherness is brought to the point with a quote by Jewish philosopher Martin Buber from his programmatic religious text, originating from Jewish
and Christian mysticism, “I and Thou,” where is written, “All real living is encounter.” This means that the
identity of the human being never stems solely from itself, but always needs to be viewed in relation to its environment. Only the relation to a
human other, the thou, or to the material growth
of it make possible a certain demarkation of
the eye from its life world. Individuality can only be
experienced in relationality. Dialogues change us. This is why they should
not be primarily oriented towards definable goal,
but remain naturally open. Charles Taylor, a leading
American proponent of the political philosophy
of communitarianism, expresses this similarly. He says, “Discovering my
own identity doesn’t mean “that I work it out in isolation, “but that I negotiate it through dialogue, “partly overt, partly
internal, with others.” The German fellows at
the Thomas Mann House are selected by committee in Germany, but their dialogue partners
can in theory be any American. All of you, ladies and gentlemen, can join because the more
dialogue partners spread evenly throughout the USA a
fellow can exchange with, the better, more intensive,
lively, and diverse will the forms of
transatlantic dialogue be. This fortunate project has
brought me home in a dual sense. In one way, back to the newly-dressed home of my grandparents from
my American childhood, and on the other hand, back to the long, dormant
political involvement and the concerns of American politics. Especially now, I see myself
as an American citizen, democratically shaped by my family. Additionally, the generous decision of the German government
to bring this project into existence has
retroactively encouraged me in my decision to consciously accept German citizenship almost
60 years after the war. In this way, I am now also doing my part as a German in this transatlantic project. In Germany, from time to time I’m asked whether I see a real chance for a transatlantic dialogue
between Germany and the U.S. in times where the
administration in Washington questions transatlantic partnerships, not to mention that
democracy is not looking particularly good in Europe either and that Europe itself is on the verge of disintegration sometimes. And I also often hear that as a result of its progressing
weakening and reallocation, the now ancient NATO
alliance is finally overdue to be replaced by new correlations. In this context, Russia
and China of oft mentioned. It may be that some slow changes in this regard have become discernible, but I think it would be futile to already attempt a prognosis. And it seems to me especially futile to speak of an end of the
transatlantic alliance, not to mention that I do not
take a German involvement into a Russian or Chinese power sphere as a particularly attractive prospect. Germany and the U.S. have tightly
joined history since 1945. It consisted for a long
time of a conjoined economic and political block against
the Eastern hemisphere. However, the most important
thing that has slowly rebuilt, post-war West Germany has
learned from the West, the birthplace of Western democracy, has been to finally construct its own increasingly stable
parliamentary democracy. That is most humane and
dignified of societal forms has now become endangered
on both continents through accelerating ecological
and sociopolitical changes is no reason to throw the
baby out with the bathwater. And it’s even less reasonable
to prematurely engage in new coalitions with
states or community of states whose cultural and political structures are still miles away
from a liberal democracy based on the belief, and the freedom, and autonomy, and the
dignity of its citizens. America’s democracy, tried and tested, may well be at a particular tense moment, but this is no reason to declare all of the U.S. terminated with it. I remember similar predictions from my Aunt Erika
already in the late ’40s. Back then, Erika Mann was
an even more exposed target for McCarthy’s witch hunt
than her father Thomas Mann. Then, and also later, she would grate on my 12-year-old ears
with her prophecy of doom that America was heading
towards a swift demise. She compared it, to me, to the downfall of the Roman Empire 1
1/2 thousand years early. If this prophecy had any proof in it, perhaps an American democracy would never have even taken off after the murderous witch trials of Salem in
Massachusetts in 1692, or it would have been finished in 1865 without the rescuing
initiative of Abraham Lincoln, who repealed the division of the U.S. into Southern and Northern states. And even the fascistic like
McCarthy era did not turn out to be the endpoint of American
democracy for good reason. In his speech “Struggle for Democracy,” on occasion of the inauguration
of the Thomas Mann House at the Getty Center in Los
Angeles on June 19th, 2018, Federal President Steinmeier underscored the necessity for the enduring struggle not only for the
preservation of democracy, but also its continual renewal, because part of human
freedom is to be susceptible to weaknesses, predispositions,
and temptations which can hinder the
development of democracy and which need to be
again and again corrected. This is why democracy
is never itself evident. Its course is normally marked
by alternating highs and lows, thus we co-responsible
for the preservation of democracy need to remain alert. This alertness is aimed mainly at the principle enemies
of every democracy, programmatic irrationalism and populism, fundamentalism, and extremism, and so we have to keep
and eye on these dangers also in German and Europe
so that democracy there does not plummet into a disaster as it did at the time
of the Weimar Republic. Democracy is continually
in need of renewal. Everyone who commits their creative ideas to its preservation and renewal
can take part in insuring that democracy also remains
able to renew itself. Democracy only has a future in this way, but it remains consistent
with human nature, fragile and uncertain. The fragility of democracy is not only due to the flaws of its constituents. The system of democracy also demands constant adjustment to the changing times. Special consideration has to be given to historical context-based
hostile to democracy. If, for example, our anachronistic system of the electoral college stemming back to the founding period had by now been replaced by a more timely system, at least one of our presidents
would not have been elected. Despite having to take
our fate in our own hands, we the people, we all
share the responsibility of closing the gap between the
rich and the poor in America, between city and country,
between men and women, especially regarding their
access to political positions. We have to make sure that
the rights of all people, no matter the color of their skin, or ethnic, religious, or
culture, or background, are not just codified on
paper in our Constitution. They also have to be realized
and secured in practice. The precondition for the
reduction of the power imbalance between privileged and underprivileged and for the removal of
cliquishness between beneficiaries is to reduce communicative
barriers between the two. For this, it is important to encourage potential conversation partners tirelessly to develop confidence building with dialogical communication. This, in turn, necessitates a fostering of the ability and
willingness for dialogue also in the school and educational system. It is almost proof of the feeling of responsibility of many of our citizens that there is a growing
protest culture of people from all social strata and ethnic groups, but what impresses me most is the strident and non-violent way in which even children and teenagers make themselves heard. For example, survivors of the recent multiple school massacres in the U.S., which could have easily been prevented with stricter gun legislation, have paid visits to the
White House in great numbers. There they express the despair and sorrow for the loss of their classmates and their fear of further attacks, and they demand it, albeit
thus far without success, a change in course of the gun lobby, which shares evidently a responsibility for the serial killings. This courageous initiative
has activated their peers all over the world for the
so-called Fridays for Future. It is a student protest
movement during school hours every Friday morning
against climate change, initiated by a Swedish student, that has spread like wildfire
everywhere including also USA. In conclusion, I want to
hone in on the deeper levels of interpersonal dialogue and
within the human consciousness and will, the human will, in general, because in these depths lie our powers, which strive for self-determination,
autonomy, and freedom, the preconditions of every democracy. However, the mental
capacities gifted to us for this do not simply fall into our lap. We have to slowly acquire them by working on ourselves step by step. This is why I bring up the practice of experiential dialogue, as I call it, experiential dialogue,
which, in my opinion, play an important part in
transatlantic dialogue. This experiential dialogue
is a special form of dialogue which is practiced between all religions and all kinds of world views, the pluralism of which is
particularly strong in the U.S. What is significant about
experiential dialogue is that it exceeds any theological or philosophical discourse to also include the silence of meditation
and contemplation and the communal spiritual practice. It originally describes dialogues between ordained clerics, nuns, and monks from all global religions. Its special practice
deriving from the vaults of the oldest religious
culture and traditions is a process led more by
the heart than the head. It enables deep insight
into the understanding of one’s own religious or
also non-religious roots, and thus strengthens the perception and opening of one’s inner identity. On the other hand, it
fosters mutual understanding and values the spiritual or
also non-spiritual of the world, of the other, within the
accepted multiplicity of faiths through a prejudice-free, respectful, and empathic understanding. Through this authentic
and relational exchange, the participants can also
check the flexibility and malleability of
their own inner identity. This constructive synergy of self and us leads to particular intensity and depth of shared dialogical experience. Let me tell you about
an impressive experience as an example. Recently I participated
in a discussion in Berlin moderated by the German federal president with journalists,
theological sociologists, and an Islamic theology scholar about the relationship between
religion and democracy. Thus this, in my eyes,
particularly authentic and relational exchange
between controversial positions sounded to me like an
experiential dialogue transposed onto a scientific, theological,
and political level. Personal positions were
expressed authentically and transparently and
progressively deepened, and the concerns of the
participants were empathically and appreciatively received
and further interrogated. Because it was not a spiritual exchange of experience between ordained clerics but a factual discussion between experts of different fields, the personal religious
identity of the participants and the moderator were
never explicitly addressed, but it was clearly implicit
within all contributions. During the course of the conversation, it became more and more clear to me that I would wish the
transatlantic dialogues between fellows and counterparts at the Thomas Mann House and elsewhere to take the same form. I even see an example in it
for dialogue all over the U.S., through which we could
cultivate a stronger community and thus overcome and
climate of alienation, competition, and a dog-eats-dog mentality. After all, as I said and as Buber says, “All real living is encounter.” In this sense, following my last example, I would like to pose this question: how far could the center principles of interspiritual experiential dialogue be integrated into the
more or less factual, even controversial, political, scientific, and cultural debates in our countries? Countless experts entrusted
with difficult tasks, politicians, unionists, negotiators, seems to be keenly aware that this, that that is a beneficial to proceed an anxiously anticipated discussion or situation with a
particular inner acumen, a kind of mediative pause or step back into oneself in silence. So I occasionally hear from
state officials endowed with charismatic leadership
skills that in the event for public announcement
of an important decision, they withdraw in silence
for half an hour or so before stepping in front of a microphone and that they generally
tend to prepare themselves in this way for delicate
and decisive negotiations. It is also known that the more people are consolidated in themselves
and calm in this fashion, the more they will be ready to engage with an opponent or conflicting party, and to take them seriously as
an adequate dialogue partner. This way, through an empathetically
understanding attitude, they can arrive slowly, very slowly, at a realization of common goals and attempts to solve problems conjointly. This long-term process will over time more and more effectively replace irreconcilable opinions in categories, in victory and defeat, with conciliation, convergence, and
complementation, and balance. I think that the most apparent political application
of the basic principles of experiential dialogue is diplomacy. Long-time German ambassador in London and Washington, Peter Ammon, said in a recent interview
that good diplomacy, first, he says three things. First, requires a ruggedness
for self-critique; second, that diplomacy
is never a one man show, that can only be successful
through togetherness; and third, which is very important, also that it requires at least a minimal, a minimal basis of trust
toward your collocutor. Dialogue in interpersonal, international, and intercultural areas is corresponding to our human complexity, multi-faceted, diversely-colorful, and
highly-interesting subject. Ability for dialogue is
an irreplaceable condition for our unanimous living together. It is a mental breeding
ground for every democracy. And if we assume that democracy,
especially in the USA, is most adequate for our
modern conception of humanity and mostly likely to guarantee
a peaceful coexistence, then this dialogue is an
expression of our ability to listen, to understand,
and to verbalize a symbol of human culture and
dignity and, in particular, a basis for the mental
climate of democracy. Instead in totalitarianism, the prefabricated dogma of an ideology equipped with sanctions
is the brutal instrument of those in power to
dominate their people. This ideology excludes dialogue. It silences it, prohibits it, so that the totalitarian powers remain in control of the masses. But the basis for a peaceful
democracy is in dialogue, and the basis for a
fruitful dialogue, in turn, is a consciousness
bound to ethical values. This includes a striving for interpersonal
communication and encounter. In this sense, it is of central importance
to further develop the conversational culture
that unites the people and to attempt to realize
constructive forms of communication and patterns of attitudes inspired by experiential dialogue. After all that I have said
about the limits and risks but also the value of democracy, I would like to quote one
of the greatest politicians and staunchess defenders
and savers of democracy from his famous speech November 11th, 1947 at the House of Commons,
Winston Churchill. “No one pretends that democracy
is perfect or all wise. “Indeed, it has been said that democracy “is the worst form of government, “except all those other forms “that have been tried from time to time.” And to conclude, with his master’s voice in the coming victor of democracy, “If we say truth, we also
say freedom and justice. “If we speak of freedom
and justice, we mean truth. “It is a complex of an indivisible kind, “freighted with spirituality “and an elementary dynamic force. “We call it the absolute.” Thank you for listening. (audience applauding) – [Veronika] We have
some time for discussion. – [Ellis] Hi. – Hm, it’s off. – [Ellis] Okay, I got it. – Now it’s on, I think. Can you hear me? Yeah.
– Okay. Thanks, Ellis Shookman,
Department of German Studies. I was just curious to know
the extremes of populism that we’ve seen recently in this country seems to be a result
of incurable ignorance and the uneducatability of a
large share of the population. Does that shake your faith in democracy or do you see some way
to way to get around it? I couldn’t understand the last sentence. – Oh, I’m sorry, do you
see some way to avoid that or is there some way to
get around this ignorance and uneducatability of at
least 40% of the electorate? (audience chuckling)
– Yeah. I would say that also therefore dialogue is important to, yeah,
which I was going to say, to educate people who are just ignorant. I mean, I know that, for instance, as an example, New York City. In New York City, I think
most people are voting blue. But you just have to
go to the next village, the countryside changes. So it really is a
problem of non-conscious, what is really important. Well, I mean, once you’re really in this, for instance, I still hope they might, the Democrats might get somebody who’s really represented
for the party which is not, seems not to be now the case, that they would stick out
and really would then try to. (speaking in foreign language) – Enlighten.
– Enlighten. Enlighten the people as much
as it is possible, really, and stand them away from fake news which comes from other parts. This fake news is the most danger, the, really, most danger. – [Ellis] I pose this question
because it sounds like what you’re describing is a
dialogue among enlightened, educated people who might
as well be sipping tea, listening to streamed work, I guess. How do you reach the other people? – Just, yeah, before. I think it is very important
that people who are, have the same (speaking
in foreign language). – Opinion.
– Opinion, yeah, that they step together, but not only to talk with each other, but also to make a group, also some, modest, I think it’s possible, a network, even from in each parts, to come indicate with each other, and then to talk, to
try to talk with people who are a little farther away. For instance, let’s say in the Rust Belt, which is very poor and
with people, I think, I don’t know how many percent were voting Republican last time. So that’s what I say about,
I would say about this, but we’re now to another. I don’t know which. – [Veronica] A question? – Yeah, okay. – I thought I saw some. – Yeah.
– Whose hand up? Okay. – Should I, I mean, I can follow on this, oh, okay. (chuckles) – Thank you very much. I was curious. Every once in a while there was
a reference to spirituality, the Jewish-Christian tradition,
of concept of humanity, and then at the end
spirituality came back, and often it seems like
discussions based on dialogue would be more focused on secularism. So I was just interested if you had some further thoughts on the role of religion in these discussions. – I think it’s religion
and non-religion sometimes has a very thin borderline,
and, for instance, I think that the Catholic
monks in the medieval, they had learned very,
very much from the antique, which was covered after, during that, Fokker Vonderman says that– – Immigration.
– Yeah, if it’s in the early second century. But they rescued the antique culture and then they brought it up again because there are similarities
between the religious encountering within the
monasteries with antique, Socretarian, and Platonian dialogue. I think it’s all, and then ancient Asian tradition of Buddhism and even
the older than Buddhism, or even the Hinduism,
is also very similar. And that’s why many, I
know monasteries have, from Benedictines especially, who have a very strong
connection with Buddhists. They found many common things
and that’s very important. And then to see that the
difference between the religions is not a really based on religion, it’s based on the culture. People often see that the
differences come from the roots, they come from the different cultures, but they all want the same. Even many times also religious
and non-religious people, they sometimes they discover
that there some parts, and these are the important parts. Ethics, for instance. Dalai Lama once said, “Ethic is more important than religion.” Even himself, the leader of Buddhism, but he, for him, ethics is not a rule. It’s not a sum of rules. Ethics is really something experiential. And then he says, in this sense, it is better and more
important than these, religions have some rigid
institutionalization with which you can’t,
I mean, follow anymore, or many people can’t follow anymore. Fundamentalism is one, okay. So, yeah, no, no. I want you to save it. (chuckles) Which is this light, I find is, okay, who was now? Oh, there you are, okay. – Thank you. I was very intrigued by your
inclusion of Harriet Tubman in your list of American
figures who might serve or who might have influenced Thomas Mann or a service model for us. I actually assume that Harriet
Tubman is your addition, or do you have any
evidence that Thomas Mann even knew of her or
took an interest in her? And slightly, perhaps, a
larger and more important question to build on that is
what would you say to people, I mean, you don’t have to convince us about the significance of
Thomas Mann, obviously, you’re preaching to the converted here, but what would you say to
people from various backgrounds, various ethnic backgrounds,
racial backgrounds, who maybe are not naturally
drawn to Thomas Mann, who see in him a white, older male, patrician kind of figure, and to ask, “Why should this person of all people “be our model for dialogue?” – Because Thomas Mann changed so much when he came to the United States. And even in 1922 when he
wrote “Von Deutsche Republik,” it was very hesitating,
it was a beginning. He read Walt Whitman, but
he read it in the German, not in the original, and
in the ’30s when he said, in the late ’30s after 1934, I think, it was the first time in
America, it was four times, until he was really then
immigrated to Princeton. He really changed. And I also know other members
of the family who changed by much through being in
America in the ’40s and ’50s. It is a country where we have
an other way of communication and I think it was not only
theoretical and politically, but also in all day life. He had another opinion about democracy. He was losing somehow his old patriarchy, patriarchalism of rubric. Of course, he’d sometimes also towards me, he was talking about his father sometimes, how proud he was and so, but
still, he changed very much. For instance, he told me
once a story when he was, I think it was in his lecture tour, and he was going by train, and then he went to the
dining room, the dining– – Car.
– Car, and there he’ll sit, and then another man came and said, “Oh, hi, I’m George,” and
he said, “Oh, I’m Tom.” (man in audience laughing) (chuckles) And then, in other words, conversating very nice and the other one was taking his photos with my wife, and these are my children. He didn’t have any photos. Maybe next time. And so this is very was him. He could somehow, how you say it, (speaking
in foreign language). – [Veronika] Land in two, one. – Yeah, so, yeah, it was really, and that’s why he was so
awful hurt when he saw that, it was in October, it was in fall ’47, when he had his first very happy traveling to Europe after the war. It was a beautiful summer. He had lectures in Switzerland and London, and not in other countries, and then we came back and
it October it happened. It was whoopsie-daisy. Then it was for years and years, and this was a real, a bad shifting then, being forced to go back, not in the country but in the continent from which he had escaped from Nazism, and when he was there, he still was having homesick
to California again. So it was a real, so that’s why I think this is
a sign how much he changed. He really changed. Somebody else? Ah, yeah. – Hello, so in my class we read “The Coming Victory of Democracy” in which Thomas Mann talks
about how young people are more attracted to
other political movements because they’re more exciting or they bring a sense of novelty. So what, I guess, what
is your opinion on that and maybe how do you think
democracy can bring a sense, how can democracy bring this renewal in a way that will excite young people? – I think that there’s a big different between the young people then and the now because dictatorship and identities, they’re attractive, okay? Left and even more right, but this today is, today we,
as I said in the beginning, that the young people,
they can get very critical, and they are very aware
of things grownups, old people, don’t want to know anymore because they have
experienced many bad things. But they’re still, I don’t know. Anyway, they can cohabit strong, strong, this is also very, very important, that they don’t go
isolated or in small groups but really in big groups. That’s what I think is a, could be a very important
model also for us grownups. Not only communicate with a few people, but really makes a great, grand groups. And so, as I said, I have some, when I’m just now went
through the United States, I had opportunities before I was here in high schools, in
universities, in colleges, and here especially. I’m coming home enriched
by the experience I’d done. I can’t do any prophecy. I don’t know how really it
will work, but it’s a hope. The thing to have any hope today is the most important
because it’s very dangerous where we are living in all continents. Okay. Yeah. – [Man with Gray Hair] Thank
you very much for your talk. There was a BBC
broadcaster a few years ago about Thomas Mann in America, began with Thomas Mann speaking, and I think I can reproduce sentences. They made a strong impression. He said, “I have not much faith. “I have not much faith in faith. “I have faith in goodness which can also be the source of art.” You probably know this quotation. Now here’s my question. Art and democracy, a kind of propaganda, a propagandistic art to
reach the uneducated. Mann speaks more than
once in various talks in America in the ’30s about the necessity of a propaganda on behalf of democracy. He just now spoke about
goodness as a source of art, a kind of, right, a new sort
of social democratic realism that might conceivable reach that group that Ellis has spoken of
because rational dialogue or secular dialogue reaches a quick end, but a kind of theater. If you could think of young
people devoting themselves to this sort of liberal,
democratic, socialist, I mean, as Mann would
speak of, the liberal, socialist democracy, a
theater to reach those who are not moved by
ordinary conversation. – Of course, art you can’t do it in a positive or negative way. That’s when he meant the positive, but, you know, I’m still quite surprised at these young people. I was something, somehow
before this I got aware that how many people got, in
a good way, for a good reason, on the street about, many have just, they stick the whole
day with their computer, and I was getting pessimistic. It was not happening. And many things are happening, but I think it’s sometimes
in my age, at least, it’s oft I have to then get aware that I’m misunderstanding them, I have maybe a wrong perception of them, but what they are doing
now when they talk, even if many of these children
have a very restrictive, a very small knowledge,
but what they say is right, and they can learn and
learn, more and more. And that’s why I have some since, many, since a few years, my
faith for them are growing. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinking, I’m now going this straight, this trial. Okay, yeah. – Thank you, if I may suggest, and this is an answer to the question that was raised before, how can you, why should Thomas Mann be model. Just read some of his fiction. Pick up “Mario and the Magician” and you’ll know why Thomas Mann is a good advocate for democracy. That story tells about how a hypnotic, charismatic individual subdues the will of an audience in Italy. It’s fascist Italy, not
fascist Germany yet. And when you see how he takes that apart, that’s an indirect argument for democracy. So you don’t always have
to look for democracy. See what he does in his fiction, not his non-fiction, but his fiction, and you’ll get the message. – [Woman in Audience]
Well, thank you so much, and I really liked your concept about the experiential dialogue. Perhaps you could just share
a little bit your experiences with the students
because I know you toured a lot of high schools and universities. So just your experiences
from the dialogues that you had with the Americans
and what was different, perhaps, from dialogues
that you would have with German students
or German pupils, yeah. – A nice experience was twice. Once it was in the South, in the California State University in Long Beach and here. Twice students asked me the same question after my lecture, the same one. And they asked me, “How can one learn experiential dialogue?” And I couldn’t both give the same answer because in the first group, it was so big. I just couldn’t do it
very slow, very quick, but the group here was
smaller, younger students, and there I could do it a little more. And I said experiential
dialogue is no technique. You cannot train it. It’s a habit. Or it’s a, what do you say? (speaking in foreign language) – [Veronika] An attitude. – Yes, an attitude. It’s an attitude, and it’s an attitude you cannot just switch in and have. That is not my attitude. It has to be learned very slowly by, as I told, by trying to meditate, it’s not so hard, to contemplate. And, of course, there are possibilities to get a fortification in
it when you use these many, also from far Asia coming, things like yoga or
there’s another method too. It’s called, it’s called… Which it’s very common, but it
can be also very surfaceless, I mean, without very
deep, without any depths. And I told if you really want to know it, what this is, maybe you go sometimes into a monastery and ask, just talk with a monk or a nun, and ask her, “What is this? “What is contemplation? “Show me something.” I think this is the best way to begin. It’s only beginning, of course. And then to step slowly into it, or just listen how,
it’s also a possibility, how monks and nuns from
different religions, how they talk with it,
or how they meditate, or how they read, or these things. And it’s a slow, slow, slow process. It’s a training. It is a training, but it’s
another way a training. So I think this is just something to have, might is to say it’s a slow motion. It not something we can do it quick like learning a computer
or learning something. It’s really slow and that’s
the only thing that I can say. Just learn, go to people
who know about that. – Thank you. I did actually want to just to comment on, I mean, you talked a lot about the situation here in the U.S. and Trump, but we haven’t really talked
about the situation in Germany, and I think you have a
different perception of what is going on in Germany and
what is going on the U.S. I wanted you to comment on that. – Yeah, I think that both, that the most important thing is both have absolute different
background, different history. The American democracy is 250 years old and has made some tests they ran through and they got up again. We don’t know what’s going to
happen now in the next years. We don’t know this. We only can hope. But I have some confidence
that in the long term, the long term, because
of the long background, there is quite a hope that
we can, that in America, things will get fixed in such a big land with so many people, and
so many difference places, and also resources they have. In Europe, Europe is small. Europe has a democracy,
the most countries, not more than 100 years. 70 years in Germany. In England, that’s the oldest one because America’s learned
it, of course, from England, even if they have a king. But in Europe, Europe is small. Europe has very, very different nations, with very different cultures,
with a very different history, having had wars with one
another, against one, and so decades, no,
through centuries even, going a thousand years,
and now they are exposed to that giant flow of
refugees from big continents. I’m a little worried in the long term that they won’t stand
it, but maybe they can. But for this, I think in Europe, despite of dangerous movements, right-wing movement in some
countries, also in Germany. The AfDs is in the
countryside of East Germany. It’s dangerous and we
also had some situations where we didn’t know how
will the Dutch people vote, how will the French, and they did vote in a rational, in a good way. In Italy, some shiftings
have been positive. I was more pessimistic half a year ago. Austria has had good
votings, Switzerland too. So the green movement and the children. Again, the youngsters. So I’m not sure, I’m very open. I don’t know what’s going on. There are positive and negative things. I’m a little worried, but then with less. It’s changing always and we’ll see. I mean, both continent
are very, very different, and that’s why I think they should learn from each other more. They should have a really strong relationship with each other, so they can learn with each other to, also to consolidate with each other to together strive for democracy. – I think this is actually
the perfect closing, (chuckles) closing sentence. So I’m going to break
here and we can continue the discussion over the reception outside of the lecture hall. So thank you very much for your talk and the discussion. (audience applauding)

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