The Table of Free Voices

Bebelplatz, a square in Berlin, situated near to state opera and the Humboldt University buildings has an infamous past. Seventy Three years ago (1933) Nazi youths instigated by their Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels burned around 20,000 books, including works by Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx and many other authors.

Yesterday on September 9, 2006, Bebelplatz was redeemed of the infamy of the above crime. Dropping Knowledge, a Berlin based NGO invited 112 scientists, social entrepreneurs, philosophers, writers, artists and activists from around the world. These inspiring individuals, renowned for their lasting creative, social or humanistic contribution seated around a vast round-table called the ‘Table of Free Voices’ in that historical square. From 9 AM to 6 PM they engaged with answering 100 questions selected from the ‘donate your question campaign’ open to the global public.

Treehugger blog covered the event live with photos.

Hafsat Abiola and Willem Dafoe made their opening remarks against the backdrop of Humboldt University and an oversized pile of books, supposed to represent the invention of the printing press but suggesting also the greatness of the human mind and the tragedy of suppressing human creativity. Yungchen Lhamo put the participants into the proper spirit with a poem and song, in a Tibetan devotional style which she learned from her Grandmother in secret, since such songs were banned in her native land. The exotic melody silenced all present and received a round of applause before the real work kicked off…100 questions in 9 hours.

Each of the 112 personalities invited to the Table is set up with a microphone and video camera of their own.

Read the rest. More background news at the Deutsche Welle.

You can see the archived videos in the Living Library. There are pictures in Flickr.

In this complex world, people need to question a lot of things in order to bring about a change. German insurance giant Allianz donated more than $3 million for this initiative and was not immuned to face the question:

Why has a big company like Allianz no social responsibility and fire 10.000 workers in Germany even they have big profit?

Now what will happen? Dropping knowledge says this is only the beginning. It wants to start and sustain a new kind of global dialog, simply by prompting people online to ask and answer the questions on their mind. They want to bring protest, political dissent and activism into the internet age:

Dropping knowledge is a way of asking and answering questions that recognizes multiple viewpoints. When you ask in order to understand, when you answer in order to share, you are dropping knowledge.

Little drops can make an ocean someday.

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