Ours is an era of endless streams of information, instant access and around-the-clock interaction. An era of tweets, posts, shares and re-shares. An era in which the practical negation of time and space through digital exchange has made the uncertainty begotten by informational blindness a distant memory. So it seemed. Because ours is also an era in which human kind lost its ability to communicate.
Perhaps counter intuitive at first glance, lack of communication does not necessarily manifest itself in silence. Our times could hardly be characterised as silent. Images of visceral violence mixed with mundane scenes of everyday lives all appearing within the length of a single scroll. Furious men wielding the fiercest of tools fill our daily news feeds. Strategies and memes. Grave warnings and GIFs. Treaties and troll posts. Trade wars and flame wars. Catastrophes and cats. There no longer seems to exist a clear divide between what matters and what does not. And while everyone is busy talking and shouting, we are running out of time to stop and listen. In all this chaos and confusion, one divide does exist – that between people. A divide which is becoming wider by the day, and one that we will be able to bridge only by regaining our capacity to listen. For listening necessarily precedes understanding. This is what we set out to do at the 13th Bled Strategic Forum.
Listening, we discovered, is not easy. Even if we could somehow liberate ourselves from all the informational clutter, it would hardly make much difference. Because the unsettling truth about our world is that it contains no single, universally internalised reality, but is instead composed of multiplicities.
Our worlds are in a constant process of mutual negotiation. As long as we are willing to hear what each of us has to say, they will continue to co-exist. It does not mean they will not change; however, they will do so peacefully and probably for the better. If, on the other hand, we allow our perception of other people’s voices and the realities they portray to become reduced to mere inconveniences at best and existential threats at worst, sooner or later our worlds will collide.
Earnestly stating that Bled Strategic Forum 2018 succeeded in bridging any of the deepest contemporary divides would do little more than signal a profound lack of insight into the complexities of our time. What this year’s conference did achieve was an honest and open exchange of views, made possible by everyone’s willingness to listen. And as we slowed down just a little, we discovered that, although rifts run deep and bridging them will require patience, some of the bridges still stand, at least for the moment. Needless to say, merely preserving them will not suffice. Nor will it be possible without also allowing ourselves to change. Yet as we contemplate the new, we should not lose sight of the old. Because it was built for a reason. We are immensely grateful to all our participants, our partners and sponsors, the organising team, and everyone else who in any way contributed to another successful Bled Strategic Forum for making us realise that – by helping us to listen.
Secretary-General of Bled Strategic Forum
Read the 2018 Bled Strategic Forum conference report here.