The world is up for debate at Aarhus
Raquel Robayo is a Swedish-Colombian first-year master’s student at Copenhagen Business School and Aarhus 2017 student ambassador for the British Council Denmark. She reports on the Hypotheticals debates at Aarhus Capital of Culture 2017
Experts from the fields of politics, culture, the arts and academia from Denmark and around the world join Danish TV personality Clement Kjersgaard in four panel discussions at Aarhus Teater.
I joined an audience of around 700 people to hear the second debate in the series: Is community a thing of the past?
Little guy vs. big business: Whose side is the state on?
First on stage was Guy Standing, British Professor of Development Studies and co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network, which advocates basic income for all citizens.
Standing underlined the advantage of moving towards a socialist society. He criticised the way large corporations enjoy exclusive benefits in much of the western world. This, he said, results in major discrepancies in class, income and community.
Social entrepreneur Steffen Rasmussen criticised today’s welfare state system and said he believed welfare should be tailored to the individual.
Tinna C. Nielsen, founder of the not for profit organisation Move The Elephant For Inclusiveness, suggested that fair recruitment could be improved by companies assessing job candidates on how they solve job-related tasks rather than the usual system of ‘first impressions’ interviews, which are more liable to unconscious bias.
What threatens our community?
Jan-Werner Müller, German professor and author of the highly acclaimed book What is populism?, urged for a return to the original meaning of the word ‘populism’. He claimed that nowadays anyone with an opinion not considered mainstream is at risk of being labelled as ‘populist’ or even ‘extremist’.
Populist movements, Professor Müller said, tend to point towards terrorism and the rise of Islamism as the biggest threats facing democratic society. The question, he said, should instead be: Should we trust and believe all we see and hear?
Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University, Mehdi Mozaffari, focused on the misinterpretation of Islam as a major threat to society. He highlighted the importance of understanding the religion to accept it in a community.
A Muslim himself, Mozaffari believes that there is good awareness among Danes about the basics of Islam, but suggested that there are problems that Danish society still needs to address such as how second generation Muslim immigrants can feel fully integrated in Danish society.
Community and society: The secrets to happiness?
‘Being part of a society makes people happy’, said Danish psychologist Svend Brinkmann. Brinkmann drew on his own work in which he suggests that feeling part of a fellowship can boost a person’s motivation, and in which he urges people to be less self-focussed.
However, feminist activist and journalist Emma Holten expressed her concerns that the concept of ‘community’ is increasingly being used to advocate a more homogenous society.
‘Women deliver more than babies’
A highlight was hearing Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver which advocates women’s and girls’ rights, discuss the social contribution that women have made.
‘Women deliver more than babies and the world wins when we invest in women,’ she said, and stressed the need for more female leaders and managers.
But author Geeti Amiri, herself a second generation immigrant, emphasised that society still needs to support and value those women who regard family life as their calling.
Having grown up in Denmark, Amiri spoke of her struggle to find an identity that was both Danish and Afghan. She likened her challenges to those faced by many young immigrants – particularly, she said, when moving between private and public spheres.
And TV2 host and journalist Leny Malacinski, author of The Day I Discovered I was Suppressed, explained why she is not a feminist.
Today’s feminism, she said, tends to have an oppressive narrative. In her words, the worst thing you can be in today’s society is ‘a white man’.
The third series of the Hypotheticals will take place on 10 September where the theme will be Life and survival: About sustainability.