Who Won Brainwash Festival?

A Culturaal insider keeps score even though it definitely wasn’t a game 

Round 1:

Naomi Klein, Srecko Horvat, and Yanis Varoufakis are scheduled to speak at Brainwash Festival which took place in Amsterdam from October 21-28. Only Klein and Horvat show up. Varoufakis does not attend due to a mysterious “illness,” but the moderator also hints at a contract squabble. Dutch anthropologist Joris Luyendijk replaces him.

Klein: 1
Horvat: 1
Luyendijk: 1
Varoufakis: 0

Round 2:

With about ten minutes each, the contestants – oops – speakers are asked to give their opinion on what the biggest issues facing the world are today.

Klein is articulate, organized, and well-researched, and gives several brilliant one-liners such as, “It is very dangerous to rank the crises we face.” Ultimately she says that climate change is the biggest crisis of our time.

Horvat opens his spiel with, “Oh, nothing more or less than the end of the world.” He is not as organized as Klein, and slouches in his chair a bit, looking a bit bored about the end of the world. He says that our problem is that we need to create a global community, but we are not doing a very good job.

Varoufakis…where are you Varoufakis??

Luyendijk says we need to create communities without “othering” each other, and to stop scapegoating other people for our problems. (For example, Donald Trump’s scapegoat is Mexico, etc.) Instead of competing with each other, we need to “play” with each other, because play is inherently non-competitive.

Klein: 4
Horvat: 3
Luyendijk: 4
Varoufakis: -1

Round 3:

The speakers are asked to give solutions to some of these problems.

Klein first addresses Luyendijk by stating that sometimes even the “good guys” like Bernie Sanders create an “other” (in his case, the banks). She then goes on to say that her solution for confronting climate change is to create a reciprocal rather than extractive model for society, one in which we take care of the systems that take care of us (for example, water).

Horvat seems to be a bit confused by what the question is, and instead names off several movies and TV shows he has watched recently such as The Leftovers and Man in the High Castle. The point of these ramblings? Well, he was trying to say that it seems pop culture can only envision an apocalyptic future at the moment, and that we need to start thinking more positively.

Moving on to Luyendijk, the pragmatic anthropologist says it’s hard to name an exact way forward because the future is all untested. He does, however, think that we need to create a system of long-term care in which we start thinking of large, global solutions to individual problems. He again mentions that we need to stop “othering” each other, but he doesn’t give a lot of ideas as to how we should do that.

Klein: 10
Horvat: 5
Luyendijk: 8
Varoufakis: Eh, I’m over it

Round 4:

The speakers are asked to give their final thoughts for the day.

Klein, true to form, wraps up nicely by saying that everything we need to accomplish to create a healthy future can be achieved by PLANNING. She mentions a project she is involved with called The People’s Reconstruction of Puerto Rico, and also plugs her own project, The Leap, whose motto is “system change on a deadline.” In short, Klein has already been doing a lot of the work she believes in to make the world a better place.

At this point in the program a man sitting in the upper balcony stands up and yells to the front of the stage, “Ms. Klein, may I please ask a question?” The moderator shoots him down and will not allow him to speak, and so the program continues with Horvat’s final thoughts.

Horvat also spoke briefly of the work he has been doing to improve the world with his project Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM 25).

Luyendijk was pretty honest, saying it’s hard to predict a model for the future because the future is all untested and we don’t know what will happen. He briefly mentions that the longest-running system of mutual reciprocity in the world is religion, but doesn’t necessarily say we should be modeling our long-term goals to mirror this institution. The moderator cuts him off promptly as the program reaches an hour in length.

Klein: 15
Horvat: 7
Luyendijk: 10
Guy in the audience: 7 for trying


I might be a bit biased because I’m a long time fan of Klein, but I thought she was the most organized and had the most practical, optimistic, and accessible ideas for the future. Congratulations Naomi! Now it’s up to you to save the world. No pressure, or anything.

Brainwash Festival was hosted by The School of Life.

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