PART SEVEN: SLOVENIA VISIT BEGINS
JANUARY 15, 2003 NOVO MESTO TO MORIBOR
This was going to be a very busy day. I awoke rested and ready. However, the night before I had detected the tell tale signs in my sinuses that I had the symptoms of the common cold beginning. This would be the wrong time to have such a thing happen, with running nose and constant coughing making my presentations, seminars, workshops, and lectures much more difficult. Also, into the third week of my three-week trip I needed to focus on keeping my energy up.
At breakfast I asked Bojana if she could get me some
vitamin C tablets and cold relief medicine, as I already had aspirin, which
I had begun to take. I had some eggs and could actually feel a fever coming
on and I began to sweat. I said that we should continue with the day's schedule,
At breakfast I asked Bojana if she could get me some vitamin C tablets and cold relief medicine, as I already had aspirin, which I had begun to take. I had some eggs and could actually feel a fever coming on and I began to sweat. I said that we should continue with the day's schedule, however.
<== Hotel in Novo Mesto
<== Hotel in Novo Mesto
We drove to Gymnazija Novo Mesto for our first engagement. It was a beautiful school in a lovely town situated along a scenic river. Framed in a clear sunny day with a thick carpet of pure white snow covering the countryside and the buildings, it seemed like a scene from a storybook. The debate program here is one of the most successful, guided by Helen Zalokar (the principal) who coaches the Slovenian language program and Mitja Turk who coaches the English language program. It was Helena who had come to drive us to the school.
We arrived and went upstairs to her office, One of BojanaÕs university debaters, Igor Angelovski, was there. I had heard much about Igor and found him to be engaging g and straightforward. He had brought me numerous medicinal aids, and I was most interested in the vitamin C. When faced with an oncoming cold I usually overdose on vitamin C (1 to 12 times the suggested daily dose) teamed up with lots of water and lots of sleep. It often keeps thee progress of such an illness down so that while it still runs its course, the effects are minor. I hoped it would work this time.
Helena Zalokar talked about her school and her happiness at being recently reappointed as the principal of this school by the Ministry of Education. I was introduced to two outstanding student debaters, Vladka Ilic and Slavija Plaic. We chatted while I was served an amazing pastry called 'your five minutes.' It was delicious but not on my suggested diet, but one has to roll with the punches while visiting other places and other peoples. We had a nice chat and then we went down to the classroom where I would meet with the debaters. There were about 30 students there, and they seemed very attentive and interested in what I had to say.
| View from school library | In Helena Zalokar's office (she is on the right) |
I was feeling feverish and was not at my best. I got through my material and then we took a break. I was given an excellent tour of the school, especially its marvelous library with a grand view of the river far below. I went back to Helena's office and expressed my frustration at my poor performance. I took some more vitamin C, drank some water, slapped myself in the face a couple of times, and marched back to the classroom ready to do a better job. It seemed to work, as Bojana reported I was much better and the students responded very well to my remarks.
One of the things that would happen over and over in Slovenia was the way that I could present some very simple policy debate materials to considerable benefit of the students. They had just recently shifted from having the affirmative (proposition) team called za in Slovenia (for pro) support thee while proposition to supporting a specific plan. Plan debate had become very popular and everyone agreed that it made for a much better and focused debate. Not being familiar with policy debate concepts embodied in the plan, I found that over and over again I could satisfy audiences with such items as seven ways to attack affirmative plan workability, how to develop and structure disadvantages of the plan, and how to determine if counterplans were valid reasons to voice negative. Thus it was in this situation.
| Gymnazija Novo Mesto | Slavija & Vladka, debate superstars |
The response by the students was excellent. Vladka and Slavija had asked excellent questions and showed a pretty deep understanding of debate concepts. They are surely current and future stars of Slovenia debate.
We jumped into Bojana's car that Igor had driven up from Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, and headed to the capital itself. On the drive there was a good conversation between Bojana, Igor and myself. Slovenia is not a large nation, and so we were soon in the capital. We were bound for a leading restaurant in the downtown area for an authentic Slovenian meal, at which correspondent Jure Aakesic of the leading magazine Mladina would interview me, as well as a television interview with the leading news program called Studio City.
| Mladina magazine interview | Studio City television interview |
The meal was excellent, and during the meal Jure carried out the interview. He was masterfully prepared, and had obviously been into my website and had read a number of my publications. His questions were pointed and direct. They were linked to debate but there was often a link to the general curiosity about the American popular mind, the American media, and the threat of American invasion of Iraq. I found the interview very stimulating, and it seemed to work against my illness symptoms and perk me up. He did ask some questions that I found it hard to answer (Who is the best communicator president of the USA, who shows ideal communicator characteristics, etc.), but he understood my unwillingness to answer questions that were inherently hierarchical in nature. Knowing the importance of Mladina magazine in Slovenia I was glad to have had this interview.
Immediately after lunch we went outside for some photos by the Mladina photographer and my television interview by Studio City. The Studio City interview was almost exclusively about the pending war on Iraq, although I kept trying to work debate into the conversation.
With the interview over we piled back into the car after saying farewell to Igor. Bojana's son and a friend joined us and he drove to our next stop, Trbovolje. We were a bit late and called ahead to let them know we were on the way. Bojana apologized but indicated to them that national publicity was very important to the overall program.
I was told that Trbovolje was one of the less economically resilient parts off the nation, having been a coal-mining town where the mine had been closed. It also supposedly has the tallest smokestack in Europe, and I did catch a glimpse of it in the distance. One thing Trbovolje does have is the nationÕs largest debate club, called Logos, with a motto of pro bono publico. The director, Jakob Strous, has done a fantastic job of building the program and cultivating community roots for it. I was later to see their beautiful program booklet and get a copy of the instructional CD they have put together for students.
The program was to be my attempt to answer questions posed by the students. We arrived and I found a group of about 30 students active in English language debate. Although a bit hesitant at the start, they soon had a number of good questions going and I was fully engaged in answering them, often with long answers justified by open ended questions. As time went on the students seemed more and more relaxed. My fever from earlier in the day was gone and I was performing in a way that satisfied me. It seemed like as the time went on I was really bonding to these students. Of course, as I usually do, I used music as a way to reach students. I talked about my interest in reggae music (something they were very interested in as well, just as students in Novo Mesto had been) as well as my interest in and knowledge of their own local group, Laibach.
<== Logos debate club of Trbovolje, Jakob
Strous standing next to me
<== Logos debate club of Trbovolje, Jakob Strous standing next to me
We went considerably overtime but I did not mind. Afterwards thee students lingered to just keep talking to me. I got this feeling that they liked me and did not want to let go of me, but it did have to end. I specifically remembered good questions by Ort Podlogar. I distributed a lot of my cards and Jakob took us off to a dinner he had arranged for us.
We went to a small country restaurant and were situated in a small private dining room with a roaring fire and fantastic service. The food was fantastic, and I was especially interested in the special homemade pinecone and walnut brandy that was served. As we talked in a relaxed atmosphere and enjoyed the meal, I suddenly noticed that the Slovenian language radio broadcast in the background had used my name more than once. Jakob seemed please that his publicity efforts had succeeded, and I felt both honored and appreciated. Jakob talked about club organizing and asked me about the possibility of graduate study in the USA, and I mentioned to him what opportunities might be available and what various courses of study might be like. Jakob Strous is a very impressive man, a total debate fanatic, and obviously an inspirational leader of young people. As the meal ended I knew that I had made a new and important ally in the global struggle to promote debate in Jakob. Jakob drove us back to the school and we got into Bojana's car and began our drive to Maribor, our next stop.
It was warming slightly so there was considerable snow spawned fog that slowed our trip, but nit also gave it a sort of fantasy edge as we journeyed through small villages and rolling countryside and then onto a major superhighway leading to Maribor. Maribor is a lovely university town where I would spend the next day and a half. I was very tired after a long day, and although the vitamin C had held my illness symptoms in check, it had taken a toll on my strength. We arrived in Maribor and searched for the guest faculty dormitory where we had rooms. We found it, and it was an excellent facility, very modern and spacious. We moved in and I found my bed just moments before I fell asleep.
It had been a good day, but I knew the next day would be one of my busiest.
JANUARY 16, 2003 MORIBOR
I awakened in good condition but I was a little concerned about the way my nose was running. I knew I would have to blow it many times during the day to come. My throat was also getting scratchy and I was actually more concerned about my voice as the day went on.
I brewed some decaffeinated coffee in the room (there was a little kitchenette) but Bojana needed the real thing. We went over to the Maribor University food court and I had some real coffee and some eggs. It was a gleaming and excellent facility, indicating to me the kind of standard I would find at Maribor University. So far I had been very impressed by the quality of life to be found in Slovenia, and today I was told that Slovenia has the 4th highest per capita income in Europe. As well, it seemed as if there was quite a bit of social equality as well. Perhaps TitoÕs non-aligned socialism had given most people an equal start when Slovenia broke away from Yugoslavia and became a capitalist economy.
| Guest faculty quarters at University of Maribor | Student food area |
We walked over to a classroom building for my first gig of the day, a lecture in the faculty of philosophy. They had asked for a lecture about the American state of mind and its foreign policy, and Bojana had indicated to me some weeks previously that people were very curious and public lectures on this issue would be extremely welcome.
I am not an expert in foreign policy, but after thirty years of research (including reading over 1000 articles in the last two months on the Iraq issue) for debate I have a good working knowledge of American policy and thee forces that drive it. I am, however, an academic who specializes in persuasion and social influence, so my goal was to combine these two sources of knowledge into a lecture that would, hopefully, make sense to the audience.
I was introduced to two professors in philosophy, Bojan Borstner and Danilo Soster, who were my hosts. I was escorted into a large class full of attentive students of philosophy, and I gave a trial run of the lecture I would be giving later that day to a more public audience.
<== At morning lecture in Maribor
<== At morning lecture in Maribor
Here is an outline of my remarks. Please forgive me for the brevity of this outline, but I just want to give you an idea of the subjects I covered. This is, actually, the outline I spoke from.
SEPTEMBER 11 AS AN EVENT
AMERICA NO LONGER SAFE
DENIAL OF CAUSATION BY POLICY MAKERS
SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL
MILITARY IN SAUDI ARABIA
ARROGANCE OF POWER
DESPERATE PEOPLE DO DESPERATE THINGS
TERRORISM WAR AS WAR ETERNAL
WAR WITHOUT BORDERS
WAR WITHOUT END
WAR WITHOUT FRONT LINES
WAR AGAINST "THEM"
INTERNATIONAL OPINION IRRELEVANT
LEARNING FROM VIETNAM
NO USA CASUALTIES, USE ROBOTS
NO PERSONAL RELEVANCE
NO EXTENDED WAR
MERGER OF TERRORISM AND IRAQ
AMERICAN PUBLIC MIND
NOT ONLY IN AMERICA -- TRAGEDY OF GLOBALIZATION
EROSION OF CRITICAL THINKING
NOT TOTALLY UNIQUE TO AMERICA
STRONG OPINIONS, WEAK INFORMATION
TYRANNY OF EXPERTS
ISSUE ATTENTION CYCLE
REJECTION OF RESPONSIBILITY
SUSCEPTIBILITY TO FEAR APPEALS
REACTION TO FEAR APPEALS: THROW UP HANDS -- NOTHING TO DO, LOOK FOR PROTECTION
ECLIPSE OF THE PRINT MEDIA
WORSE THAN YOU THINK -- CNN INTERNATIONAL IS MUCH BETTER THAN CNN AMERICA
LACK OF DETAILS & NOT-NEWS
THE WAR DRUMS ON FOX NEWS
SELLING A CRISIS/NEED FOR VIEWERS
SIMULATIONS OF DEBATE
STARDOM FOR WHITE COLLAR WARRIORS
CENSORSHIP NOT NEEDED
THE ELECTION OF NOVEMBER 2003
CRISIS AFTER CRISIS
DISTRACTION FROM OTHER ISSUES
CRITICISM AS TRAITOROUS BEHAVIOR
SELF-CASTRATION OF THE OPPOSITION
NATIONAL AND LOCAL DIVIDE
THE PERILS OF THE IRAQ ATTACK
SCENARIOS NOT NECESSARILY SEPARATE
NO DISCUSSION OF THE PROCESS
NO DISCUSSION OF THE OUTCOME
THE ISRAELI STRIKE SCENARIO
THE OIL GRAB SCENARIO
THE HOUSE-TO-HOUSE SCENARIO
THE LONG WAR SCENARIO
WHAT TO DO?
FIND OUT, THINK DEEPLY
SPEAK OUT, CALL OUT
DECIDE WHO WE ARE
BUILD COMMUNITY, ONE BY ONE
The lecture went well and the audience had a number of interesting questions. I assessed my remarks and decided what to add and what to subtract and how to change my remarks for my larger public lecture that evening.
We quickly moved to my next stop, a talk to about 70 students at the Prva Gymnazija Maribor. The debate organizers there, Silva Rapoc and Hilena Gagie, had set up this meeting. Some of the students were already debaters but many were not. The goal I was given was to cover three separate possibilities for debate involvement: competition, public debate, and debate in the classroom to learn non-debate subjects. I made my way into a theater where the event was held and everyone was there waiting for me. I began to feel like someone who was being ushered from event to event in a very organized fashion. I had previously called Bojana my road manager in jest, but it became clear to me that she was, in fact, my road manager, telling me where to go and when so that I could deploy by presentations either about debate or about current events. The thought in the back of my mind at all times was, however, to promote debate in Slovenia and to give more emphasis to the great progress Bojana and so many others had made in this country.
<== Part of the audience at Prva Gymnazija
<== Part of the audience at Prva Gymnazija Maribor
The session went well, and I managed to finish in time for some questions and then finish right on time. I had taken the timer that is so familiar to American policy debaters with me, and had used it for every presentation and especially before every event to make sure I was there on time whenever possible.
I was whisked away to my next appointment, with administrators at the University of Maribor. We first met with the director of international relations Mladen Kraljic as well as Gregor Zorman, the prorector for students and a former debater in Bojana's program. I got a tour of their administration building, a handsome old structure that had been completely redone in a most modern style. An ornate wooden chair I was told had been named the Chair of Cognition especially impressed me. I had to have a picture of myself seated in such a chair. After the tour we received some gifts from the university, including t-shirt and hat, and then we were off for a late lunch. Lunch seems to occur a bit later in Slovenia, but that is fine with me. As long as it is good.
| Author in the "chair of cognition" | Former debater now administrator Gregor Zorman |
This was a fantastic lunch. My colleague in America, Melissa Wade of Emory University, often chides me for not giving enough attention to the meals I eat on trips like this, so I decided that this lunch would be dedicated to her. We met in a stylish atrium with lots of plants and flowers, and the sun shining through a glass ceiling. This was a welcome break from the winter I had been in ever since arriving in Belgrade. We were joined by Professor Borstner (whom I had taken an instant liking to), so there were five of us: Bojana, Prof. Borstner, Gregor, Mladen, and myself. The dishes were fantastic, punctuated by an excellent desert called bee bite because of its use of honey. During the lunch we discussed ways in which my university and the University of Maribor. We outlined at least three separate possibilities for collaboration, and everyone seemed very excited about the possibilities. One very exciting option was that we could exchange lectures using Internet streaming video, and this could be useful without costing very much money.
| For Melissa Wade: Course 1 seafood salad, course 2 cutlets with struklji, course 3 "bee bite" |
We posed for photos and were on our way. It was getting late (we had a very leisurely lunch with a lot of great conversation about a wide variety of subjects) and I needed to move along to my next stop, the site of my evening lecture, the one I had given a trial run of that morning at the faculty of philosophy.
When I arrived at Galerija Media Nox where the lecture would take place, I began with an interview by the leading Slovenian newspaper, Delo. The questions were excellent and about a wide variety of subjects, and the reporter seemed very well prepared and asked some difficult questions. I was enjoying my involvement with the Slovenian media because their questions were well thought out and well worth considering deeply in order to answer them.
<== Luncheon group poses for a photo after
a wonderful meal
<== Luncheon group poses for a photo after a wonderful meal
With the interview out of the way and with the gallery packed with people (a wide variety of age groups seemed top be on hand) I began my presentation. It was more dramatic and had more vivid examples than my morning presentation, as this was a talk to the general public not just to academics.
| Parts of the crowd at Galerija Media Nox |
My voice was beginning to give way, but I was able to keep it in operation, though it became a bit deeper and a bit more rugged. I was really inspired by the audience, as their non-verbals indicated their high level of interest and concern about the topics I was discussing. I began to pour it ion with increased drama about some of the scenarios possible after a USA invasion of Iraq, and perhaps I overdid it as several members of the audience began to cry softly. I realized I had gone a bit too far and pulled back a bit for the remainder of my talk. Everyone remained for the entirety of the talk, except for a news photographer who left to file a story. The questions were the best and most penetrating I had heard on this trip, very challenging and insightful. This was a fantastic audience. I was so grateful for the group Zofijini Ljubimci, directed by Boris Vezjak, who had arranged for this lecture. It was a wonderful experience, but by the end of it I was really spent and tired.
| Trying to get the recorder to work for Radio Mars interview | Relaxing at days end at cellar Rotouz |
But, there was no rest for the wicked. A radio interview had been organized for me with Radio Mars. The reason I had so many media contacts during my visit was because of the great work done by Beti Hohker who coordinates public relations for Za in Proti (ZiP, means pro and contra in Slovenian). I wish I had such a great PR person working with me in Vermont. I managed to make it through the interview (after they got the recorder working), and realized that my longest day was now finished.
We left the gallery and proceeded to an underground bar and restaurant located in an ancient wine cellar called Rotouz. It was an amazing chamber, and I quickly made myself comfortable. Lots of people who had organized the lecture as well as a lot of people connected with ZiP were there, so it was a very jolly bunch. This was a Lashko bunch, so that is the kind of beer they were drinking. I ordered some simple fare, as it was now quite late, and ate and drank while the jollity went on around me.
I finally had to indicate how tired I was, and Bojana took me back to my dorm in the guest faculty quarters, and I sank down into my soft bed happy with the day but incredibly tired.