Uffe Elbæk was an expert at this years SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM “Where does freedom start and where does it end?” in Gmunden.
The Interview with Uffe Elbæk
Any conversation about freedom makes me ask questions: Are we talking about freedom from or freedom to? Inner freedom or outer freedom? Freedom for everyone or freedom for the few? When I think about these questions and my life, it begins with my parents. I’m 61 years old now. When I was 20 I would have said, “No, I’m not like my parents at all!” Now that I am older I see how much my parents and my upbringing have meant for who I am. My parents have always been educators, social activists, very political. During World War II my parents were part of the resistance movement. My father had to go underground. My mother’s brother was sent to a concentration camp. My grandfather was jailed.
“How can we create a pace where we can be who we are?”
The way we were raised, my siblings and I, was that we should follow our heart. We should stand up for what we believe in. We should develop our own personal voice. We should have fun doing what we do, but we should also be serious about it. It should matter. So when I look at my life, there is a red line going through it: How can we create a space where each of us can unfold our life to the highest level of meaning?
As a politician and head of my own political party in Denmark I have a lot of insights about what is happening in Europe and the world today. But actually on a personal level what I am focusing on right now is, how can I be even more free inside myself? When I’m on the floor of the Parliament discussing with the Prime Minister, how can I speak from my heart? How can I be even more true to what I believe in? How do I take my own inner freedom to the next level? It has nothing to do with money or ego or prestige. It’s about can I get even more transparent and honest in the way I am?
“Freedom is the connection between head, heart and hands.”
One thing this has allowed me to do is to start my own political party, the Alternativet. I was declared super-dead when I announced it, but actually the Danes have responded for two reasons. First they were fed up with the political culture as we know it today. You see this not only in Denmark but also all over Europe. You see it in the United States with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Second they were curious about how we can define a new perspective on economic growth. People were tired of the whole neoliberal economy, the competition mentality, the individualization, the split between winners and losers. Can we create another definition of growth: cultural growth, social growth, spiritual growth?
To me, that is the question we should all be focusing on. What kind of economic model will come after the current, known version of capitalism? One thing we know is that we can’t use up more of the limited resources of the planet. Another issue is the growing inequality in the world today. In the long run the world will not accept a situation where 63 people own the same amount of wealth as 3.6 billion people. With that kind of inequality the system will break.
Some years ago NASA did a study of what made civilizations fail in the past. There were two main parameters with every collapse: A lack of resources and too big of a difference between the rich and the poor. We need to figure out what kind of a new economic model will address diminishing resources and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
Uffe Elbæk is a political fighter for freedom. In 1991 he founded the „KaosPilots“ School, with the objective to establish not the world’s best school but to build the best school for the world. To this day this school model inspires international schools in Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands.
From 2007 to 2009 Elbæk served as CEO of the Outgames, a sports and cultural festival promoting equality and freedom for homosexual, bisexual and transgender people. During the years 2011 to 2012 he acted as the Danish Minster of Culture, but resigned from this position after criticism for favoritism, which was later invalidated.
Uffe Elbæk was invigorated by these events and in 2013 founded his own party „Alternativet“, which first partook in parliamentary elections in 2015. Despite many critics, Elbæk‘s party claimed several seats in the Danish parliament where he acts according to the self-imposed values of „Alternativet“: courage, generosity, transparency, modesty, humour and empathy.