Feel free to get inspired!
What have you wanted to be when you were a child?
Architect. Although, I thought I was not good enough in drawing and dropped this idea and wanted to be a biotechnologist. In the society, there is a general tendency to talk about money and talk about how your job should provide enough for you to have a family and a dog, a house, a car and a tree, which you need to plant. And a son, definitely. For some time, I was partly following this trend and I started to study biotechnology in France and that was not a good idea at all. Maybe biotechnology by itself is fine but but the French education system sucks and its focused too much on money. I decided that I want to do something meaningful which brought me to studying in DNS.
I was part of a green association in Poland, I was quite active politically there. I received some information about DNS and it looked interesting. I just wrote to them that I would like to stay in touch and when my French adventure at some point failed, I decided to come and study here which was much more fun.
What was your biggest adventure in life so far?
I had quite a few. I made it through Western Africa and back with a bus. Maybe my biggest adventure was to pack all my stuff, buy a one-way ticket to France where I didn’t have the job, I didn’t speak the language, had savings which could last for one month. I sent the application form to the university and I just left. It worked out.
How in short would you describe your years while studying at DNS?
It went quite fast because it was busy all the time which was good as I was never bored. There were always interesting projects to do. In general, I dont stand having the same routine. Every month, there is different programme, different focus - so you are always challenged and have what to look forward in the future. At some point, you look back and then you realise how much you have actually learned and how many things you have done. I think I learned in DNS much more than ever before and I thought that I had already known a lot before coming here. And I learnt many things you cannot find in the books.
What is it like to be a teacher at DNS? What were the most valuable lessons you have learned so far?
I think in general, it’s awesome! There are so many people around who have the same goal and I like this that we somehow work together, there is not so much hierarchy. Because I don’t really like to have a boss who is deciding everything and I am expected to obey, follow the commands and trying to make it through those 37 hours a week. I like that we are a collective and we come to consensus. I think the biggest lesson I have learned as a student and later on is to be open and don’t make general conclusions before coming to the meetings. You should be open, listen to others and then figure out the solution together. Also, problem-solving in our culture especially in Poland, probably in other countries too, is a lot about judging: who did this, who is too blame, like a court case or in some eschatological Biblical sense. Its good to know what went wrong but the focus is on actually finding the solution.
What do you think about alternative lifestyle? Depending on how you define the word alternative.
I sometimes react suspiciously when I hear the word “alternative” because this word has often been abused and lost its sense because some of the alternative activities became mainstream. For example, youngsters smoking weed. This is now mainstream. Things are not necessarily good or bad just because they are alternative. You could say that here in Tvind we are alternative but I much more prefer the expression “counter culture”. And how I understand it, is not that it means to oppose everything from the mainstream culture but that we should not take anything for granted. I think it is important to go out of the box, question everything, and find different ways of how people can be together and how they can make an impact together.
How do you think the world will change in 5 years?
There are so many opinions about this topic. I am just writing a study task about it. It’s difficult to say what will happen but I can tell what I wish to happen. I guess, most of people have the same idea about peace on Earth, mitigating global warming, eradicating poverty, inequality. How it will develop? I don´t want to sound pessimistic, there are many facts which suggest there is going to be more war, more violent conflicts, more poverty, higher temperature... I think it will not get better in any measure of austerity in Europe, rebuilding capitalism, inventing a new economical system. But I look at all that having in mind something, we call at DNS, “Open Future”. To say it short Well, future is not decided and it matters what people do. But it matters when people do it together. The world will change you if you are alone but if you are a group of people - together you can change the world. I try to play my part in it. And I think I can do it best by being a teacher at DNS. If you do something good as a person of course that is very good. But if you do good as a teacher you can mobilise others to do it together. As a teacher you multiply your impact by teaching people to be responsible world’s citizens.
It doesn’t sound that pessimistic after all.
I read a lot of news and you could get really pessimistic because of things which are happening and which are not that pink. There are not so many unicorns out there. But especially when you go to travel, to do investigations you meet so many people who live in circumstances that you could never imagine. Not just under political pressure but in extreme poverty. They are getting up every day and fighting for the better. I met so many people whose strength, determination to live, to not give up It all made a huge impact on me. I think that’s what keeps me going.
Which 3 books have inspired the biggest transformations in your personality?
As you can see, in my office there are a lot of books and I don’t know which ones to choose. Maybe some inspired changes and I don’t even realise that. One book, you might be surprised, has nothing to do with politics at all. It is a series of Le Petit Nicolas books, I read them in Polish when I was a child and it tells a story of a small boy called Nicolas who is super super naïve and his way of describing the world is very childish. And sometimes, I think this child was much righter about the world than most of adults are. It affected me in the way to think that adulthood is something different from what society thinks it is and what people do is actually quite silly if look at it from outside.
Another one is Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and it might seem very harsh or pessimistic because it puts another reflection on historical development of the last half a century at least. The material collected by the author is an amasing research and it’s not like somebody saying: oh, capitalism is bad, bad rich people decide everything behind the curtains... There is no preaching in this book but many well-documented facts. To find the 3rd book is quite tough. Maybe there are some cooking books on the shelf?
Yes, there are some here actually.
Oh, I know what this book could be! It’s again from childhood. The book which really changed my life is an atlas combining historical and geographical maps. When I was a kid I would like to go page by page, I would find a lot of meaning in the pictures provided. And I was ridiculed by my family: oh, you will never go there, why do you waste your time looking at these maps? But I was so surprised when I started visiting those places, like for example, when I was in India, those maps were still in my memory and I could easily figure out where I was! I met some people: oh, you come from Lucknow, oh, Delhi is on the way, the railway goes to Kolkata or I in Africa: oh, you come from Togo, between 1884 and 1918 you were a German colony, that’s why this and that… People were usually touched as the people in the West are maybe not so knowledgeable about some small places in the end of the world. So, I think all this made a big impact for me being interested in the world and getting connections with people. If you can say a few words of local language, some historical facts or some cultural relevancies - to them it is really meaningful, especially when we are talking about outside of Europe. Because the world is so Western-centered. Like one author [Leela Gandhi after Edward Said] said: if you write a book about India you have to relate a lot to Western authors, none will complain if you ignore the Indian voices! But if you write about Europe, nobody would expect you to quote a Chinese… And that’s somehow painful. In the academic world, economic, cultural, any world you are expected to relate to Western values, Western Enlightenment. And I like to brake this image that I am not a tourist who explores continents in order to have fun at expense of local people or a businessman who wants to profit from their cheap labour. I want to come as a partner as an equal and learn from that.
So, yes, I think these were the most meaningful books... (laughing)
How many languages do you speak?
Well, I am good in Polish. I speak English, I actually think in English now, sometimes I am having difficulties to express myself if it’s not English. Also, I am fluent in French, mainly because of my French and Luxembourgish adventures. I live in Denmark and this is a tough one but my Danish is quite communicative. I can communicate in German and I speak some Spanish.
What subject at DNS is your most favourite?
All of them. They are so awesome and have funny names like Big Issues of Our Time. That already gives an insight what the subject is about. You could say, its part of Social Science but the names which we have and the understanding about them - they are not just for fun. It’s not like you take a subject and you draw a border here or there. We call them [the subjects] anchor themes because the knowledge is closer or further away from some defined core. I definitely like The History of The World because I am crazy about history. And we have about 2000 hours combining 7 anchor themes which could be defined as Social Science, which I like a lot too and that’s like already half of the curriculum. I like all of them.
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