When we got together as a group to organize the third conference from below*, we quickly agreed on a main theme: Dialogue! Because the term “dialogue” has become extremely popular – it almost seems to be a universal remedy for reducing social dissatisfaction and or dealing with conflicts. But often it is not really clear at all what is to be talked about. Who should talk with whom? How? And what for?
On the one hand, we wanted to exchange ideas about dialogue, but on the other hand, we also wanted to get into a conversation ourselves, get to know different dialogue formats or methods and practice mutual understanding in a hands-on way. The exciting program was planned for the end of April 2020, but shortly before Corona thwarted our plans and we had to cancel the event. Like many others, we asked ourselves: What now?
In the past few months, we have all been confronted with a completely new situation. The short meeting at the cash desk or in the bus, the joint visit to a café, the conversations in the sports club or choir, with colleagues, other parents in the day-care centre, in the seminar room, at parties or demonstrations… All these encounters, which show us in which society we live in our everyday life, were missing. Due to the contact restrictions during the Corona crisis we experienced an extreme form of what already exists anyway: That we mainly interact with people with similar opinions and life-worlds, moving in a bubble. Work, learning and entertainment formats have also increasingly shifted to the digital space. After we as a group had dealt with the topic of dialogue for one and a half years during the organization of the kvu, it became clear to us that webinars or online conferences will never be able to replace personal conversations – the exchange from person to person.
And there was so much going on that we urgently needed and wanted to talk about. Because the crisis affects us all, but all differently, depending on our life situation and resources. For some, everyday life is still marked by insecurity, existential worries and loneliness. At the same time, new doors have opened up for some in this exceptional situation. Now the situation seems to be relaxing again, but we ask ourselves: Can we just go on as before? And is that at all desirable?
We are observing that clear positions and strong demands arise quickly in public discourse. At the same time, for us, it is often difficult to evaluate the current state of affairs, given the flood of information and the at times very quick dynamics of the situation. Therefore we need space to deal with the new circumstances, opportunities to form our own opinion in exchange with others instead of just passively following the latest developments in the live ticker, and maybe sometimes just someone to talk to. This is the idea behind our new project. So let’s create small spaces where we can speak with people unknown to us about our life reality, about our fears and hopes, where we can talk, listen, understand.
* The Conference from Below was supposed to take place in Marburg for the third time in April 2020. It was first initiated by students of Peace and Conflict Studies and arose from the idea of creating space for an exchange that differes from traditional conferences, for sharing knowledge and mutual learning. In 2015, the Conference from Below was held for the first time under the title „Conflict. Power. Creativity“, followed by the second conference in 2017 un der the titel „who are I? Who am we?) perceptions. practices. constructions.“