Jan: What drives me, what scares me (1st draft)


###Why are you here?

I am concerned about the rise of right-wing populism, not only professionally, but also personally. As an anthropologist, I am trying to figure out how people’s understandings of the world influence their political affiliations and actions. Particularly I want to learn more about the rising popularity of various forms of illiberalism and populism. But this interest has a powerful personal dimension. Like all families in Eastern Europe, my parents and grandparents had suffered tremendously during WWII and I grew up surrounded by the tortured memories of the horror inflicted on the people by the earlier versions of right wing populism, fascism, Nazis, and the Stalinist communism, all version of illiberal, non-democratic systems. I worry about my children; I do not want them to experience what my parents had to go through.

###What are you interested in?

I am dreaming about finding a place for myself among those who want to make the world a more friendly, open, and tolerant place. I would like to be useful, outside of my routine, job-related tasks of researching and teaching. I am trained to study the workings of culture and would like to figure out as many ways as possible to help change culture in the direction of more openness and mutual understanding. Our work with Edgeryders promises to provide a place to engage with many people, understand better how they think and form their views, particularly collectively. I am interested in devising effective ways of helping people to overcome their fears, that often drive them to accept extreme views and solutions, and to be abls to challenge at least some biases, stereotypes, and prejudices that drive their thinking.

###What are you struggling with?

I am struggling with two kinds of anxiety. The first one is related to the growing aggressiveness of public life in many countries, particularly the two I have close links with: the US and Poland. It is diffuse yet exasperating. The second has its roots in the frequent feeling of being overwhelmed by too many responsibilities, by being engaged in too many projects. The paradox is that this over-commitment is also an effective method of dealing with the first anxiety.