*And everybody wears a suit.* – Forum Alpbach 2010

Some notes for a partial moral résumé on Alpbach

Sie glauben an ihre Worte, während sie sie aussprechen, und alle sprechen sie aus, weil sie daran glauben. […]
Gegen sie stehen die Besiegten der Welt, denn wer sie auch sein mögen, es sind zumindest Menschen.“

– Fernando Pessoa, Buch der Unruhe


Be the change you want to see in the world‚ – that quote by Gandhi is written on a promotional gift by the auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers which every participant of the European Forum Alpbach got. But Alpbach is one of the last places on earth where one is encouraged to be a change. It’s the place where people talk about change in the big world out there, and then eat a free diner.

One can hear many of the ‚important people‘ talk about change; for example ministers who drive from Vienna to Alpbach  by car to promote ecological e-bicycles and UN-secretaries who come by helicopter to talk about poverty. – And everybody wears a suit…

This years motto was Construction & Reality. In Alpbach a social reality of constructions is constructed and reconstructed. It’s a exchange market for constructed abstractions.

In Alpbach people foster their professional interests in the world: academic interests for the academics, political interests for the politicians and economic interests for the businessmen (and maybe also a few businesswomen).
Alpbach is a training ground for abstraction. The world is divided in an almost schizophrenic way into the realm of the concrete personal affairs and the abstract theoretical discourses.

Together we have practiced our professional detachment. It’s quite easy in this context of professionality. Although it’s hard work for many, work a lot of people are paid for. Only sometimes if one does pay attention, the worlds clash, become one for a moment. But drinking wine & eating food (regional, „bio“ they say) we quickly forget again that we live in the same world we debate with heavy words. While the symposia are the world of collective abstraction & depersonalisation, the receptions are the world of the small & smallest talking: One can hear people talk about the ideal sizes of swimming pools (‚It better to have a longer one for swimming exercises‘), about fashion, shoes, make-up, about 1000€ handbags. – It’s a subjective relativisation along the lines of concrete/abstract, direct/indirect, a revaluation of (ir)relevance.

It’s the ambivalence of what is taken serious only on a professonal discoursive level, topic-wise, and the importance that is constructed around the act of speaking and discussing itself, the celebrations of prominence. This constructed importance is the basis of the Forum and is mutually justified by the important roles of the speakers in the realm of their social constructions.

It’s the unbearable lightness of (too) heavy words. The construction of (all too) significant gestures.

It’s an intuitive understanding of a concept that has no political or normative meaning any more for me and my whole generation: the concept of ÜBERBAU (superstructure).

We, the participants in the Forum have played our various roles in the social play being performed in the village of Alpbach over the past 2 1/2 weeks: The spectacle of seriousness, the importance of being ‚pensive‘.
We were „interested“, interested in so many things that have been discussed; but above all we were interested in us being interested.


Was würde aus der Welt wenn wir menschlich wären?“

Wenn der Mensch wirklich fühlen würde, gäbe es keine Zivilisation.“

– Fernando Pessoa, Buch der Unruhe

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