Michel Friedman at the Conference Week - "Dispute is curiosity"

2021-02-26 Lawyer, TV presenter and publicist Michel Friedman spoke to first-year students about the status quo and the future of democracy. In a livestream, the former deputy chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany appealed to the approximately 1500 students of the Leuphana semester to keep drawing attention to injustices through active engagement.

Michel Friedman im Livestream bei der Konferenzwoche 2021 ©Leuphana/Marvin Sokolis
Michel Friedman in a Livestream at the Conference Week 2021

"If bananas are thrown every week on German football pitches because people with different skin colours are playing," Michel Friedman asks himself, "how can you continue to play when such a racist, inhuman process is taking place?" Not reacting makes people complicit, he says. Democracy means standing up for human rights, and these are not up for negotiation. All people should be allowed to live out their identity. However, this is not automatically a given. According to Friedman, this also applies to Europe: "We are experiencing processes of destruction of democracy within the EU." The lawyer cites Poland and Hungary as examples: "In Poland and Hungary, the rule of law is being trampled on." In relation to static authoritarian structures, a democracy is dynamic, where it has to be renegotiated again and again. In his keynote, Friedman urges students to take part in the negotiation: "Let's just participate!"

Democracy dies of thirst without a healthy culture of debate. Friedman believes that "progress towards democracy has seen many steps backwards". As citizens, we should participate, because currently too few people take up the offer of politics. "Those who participate in democracy have an effect," the publicist explained. Therefore, he urges the students to acquire knowledge and to keep bringing factual arguments to the table. He appealed: "Dispute is curiosity", we should always be open to learn new things from debates.

The ability to act arises from a critical approach to the past. "The classification of history signals our philosophical value attitude to the present," Friedman explains. From this follows the intention to act to prevent negative events of the past from happening again. Thus, history is always tied to the present and the future. Confrontations are tiring; it is easy, for example, to simply let the number five be even. Friedman nevertheless urges students to stand firm: "No! Five is odd."

Friday marks the final day of the conference week: In the Lunch!Show, author and journalist Georg Diez gives his opinion on "The New Hanse"- Urban Digital Transformation. In the afternoon, Aminata Touré, Vice-President of the Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein, and sociologist Aladin El-Mafaalani will discuss who owns the city.