People and Power
25 young Europeans from 15 different countries explored different dimensions of of 'power'. What does 'power' actually mean and how is it defined in the encyclopedias of the different countries? Looking at all the different definitions and associations pointed it out very clearly: 'power' doesn't mean the same in Russia and Spain, Slovenia and Wales.One more reason to dedicate the next days to the question what power means for us, what dimensions and perceptions of 'it' exist and why. The first brainstorming supplied us already with enough food for thought, but it wouldn't be the last...
Who are currently the most powerful people in the world? From the point of view of these 25 young Europeans it's quite clear: Barack Obama and Angela Merkel; embodiment of the European crisis or a surrender facing the reality? The following discussion revealed very diverse dimensions of power, the students discussed what it takes for a person to be powerful; whether you need special skills or characteristics or if it's rather your position that defines your power.
Talks to experts enriched the discussions, among them for example Norbert Robers, the biographer of Joachim Gauck, the Federal President of Germany, who told us a lot about the life of a 'powerful' person and the opportunities to be powerful without 'official' power. Examples of different peaceful revolutions and outstanding personalities prepared by our participants, added a European perspective to the discussions.
The power of media, questions of control and responsibility especially in times of digital and social media, was one of the topics the students discussed the most. Therefore it was more than adequate to invite Melissa Eddy to our seminar, correspondent of the International Herald Tribune.
Sofie from Belgium is impressed by Eddy's openess: „The lecture by Melissa Eddy probably impressed me the most. I've always talked about media (like in class or with friends or on this seminar) as an outsider actually. I read newspapers, magazines, watch the news and more and I think or say that media has a lot of power. It's a well known fact that the media have a lot of power, though I've never heard a journalist say this. It was so interesting and refreshing to hear her opinion. You could say we had a chance to take a look behind the scenes of the media.”
Berlin, stage of many historical events, center of power in different political systems, different ideologies. Symbol of power and powerlessness, creates many opportunities for excursions to see power and powerlessness directly. Thus, there were, of course, several excursions planned, like a bike tour throughout the once divided Berlin, alongside the wall, a walk through the former center of power of the NS-Regime, a visit to the STASI prison in Hohenschönhausen or the German parliament: One city, many opportunities, even more dimensions of power.
Malte from Germany points out his highlight: „Most impressive I consider the visit to the Stasi prison Hohenschönhausen. The guide and the building and all that had an important impact on me I believe. I realized that I'm not aware of a lot of important chapters of German history entirely yet, even though I am from Germany.“ Also Agnija from Latvia was moved by the atmosphere in the prison and the life story of our guide, who was a political prisoner during the times of the GDR.
At the end, all the impressions and dimensions left the participants with more questions than answers, more dimensions were revealed, but after 5 intensive days of working the group had to split and to go back home.
And the results, apart from friendships and lots of food for thought? Hard to measure, but surely everyone took something out of that week.
Evan from Wales summarises: „What really impressed me was that much of a person’s power depends on the perception of others around them, and their willingness to obey, or defy, this person’s authority. If no one in a nation were to listen to the people in government, much of their power would be lost. The only real means through which they could still achieve power is if they were to use coercion. Power comes in many forms: someone may have very little legitimate power, but maybe able to wield high amounts of power through persuasion and their strength of character and convictions.”
Jana from Czech Republic: “I have never had the opportunity to speak with people from all over the Europe and to discuss many interesting issues. I could extend my vocabulary and improve my speeking skills. The fact that I can talk to whoever I want to in english improved my self-confidence.“
Kristina from Slovakia adds: „ I really liked that the programme was balanced. For example we had discussions and group work in the morning but after lunch we went to town and learned in different way. It was really good because it made us pay attention almost all the time. But most I enjoyed working in groups - about 5-6 people - because some of us were a bit shy to speak in front of everybody. We put our ideas together and presenting them was much easier. It was also interesting to try to find a compromise in the group.”
For Seraphina from Finland the whole seminar was an eye-opener: “For me personally, it was an additional motivation kick to think about people's and my own role in the life of the society. I think I used to have some stereotypes about the ability to affect your life on a broader [political] scale, and after the seminar I realised that different types of power, such as the power of artistic expression and the power of will/belief/moral values can have a stronger influence than a power of authority/force. So it actually opened my eyes wider on the definition of power.”