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Interview with the President of the Republic for radio Štajerski val

Ljubljana, 02/21/2007  |  interview

The interview of the President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovšek for slovenian radio Štajerski val is published below.

Published on: 21st February 2007

Announcer: The month is coming around again and here on Štajerski Val we are continuing the series of broadcasts we call Better World. In these shows we offer a series of talks with Slovenian President Dr Janez Drnovšek, and in this way together with his wisdom and courage we are strengthening our efforts for a more just and balanced world. This time you can hear about the kind of impressions with which he returned from India and why he is convinced that we also need Gandhis today. Why is the president a stern critic of the European common agricultural policy? Why does he remain faithful to vegetarianism? Where does he see a solution to social and environmental imbalances? And since we celebrate our cultural holiday in February, we also asked him why he did not attend the Prešeren Prize award ceremony. Talking to the president was Barbara Furman.

Barbara Furman: Good day to you Mr. President, and welcome once again to the company of Štajerski Val listeners. Recently you have again been the focus of media attention, but I propose that we skirt around that glare of internal politics and concentrate on subjects and issues that seem to me today significantly more important. And of course to begin with I would very much like to know how you are, how you are feeling. Before we started recording, you told me that you are involved with writing again, or rather with the translation of one of your books into English.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: May I offer a very warm greeting to you and all your listeners. I feel very well. Political turbulence like this does not derail me at all. It is true that I prefer talking about the kinds of subjects that we will probably discuss now, but also for the reason that they seem to me more important. Because somehow they build foundations. They build people’s consciousness and better people. And if we have as many people like that as possible, politics will also become different. And that is why this seems to me more important. Changing politics itself is quite hard. So it is in some way already removed, dealing with its own self, and in fact it is hard to get through to it with any such positive messages. But people who increasingly raise their consciousness will increasingly demand a different kind of politics – the kind that will then truly create a better world.

Furman: About the book ... Can you be a little more precise? What do you have for us this time?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: About the book? Well last year I wrote Thoughts on Life and Consciousness [Misli o življenju in zavedanju], and then The Essence of the World [Bistvo sveta], and then also that little booklet of hundreds of thoughts. Now I have been dealing with the English edition of my first book, which has to date somehow been the best read, including in Slovenia. Or for example in Croatia, and it came out just recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so I was working not just on having the English text as precise as possible, in other words in line with my messages, but also on slightly changing and improving the book. So I think it will make even more of an impact. It will come out soon in English and I think pretty much around the world. I am also talking about it coming out in Slovenia in a new edition, since as I know, it is already out of print here. Indeed the two first editions are out of print, and now a new one is in preparation, so I will provide this new text.

Furman: I propose, Mr. President, that now we first head off to India, from which you returned a few days ago. You were participating in the conference “Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment – Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century”. You addressed the participants at the meeting, and stressed that we also need Gandhis today, that we need values and a higher level of consciousness. What other kinds of message did you and the participants send out to the world, and what was in fact the purpose of the conference?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Gandhi is important. Gandhi’s messages are important and also relevant in the world today. It is about that mainly. So I, too, took part in the conference – because it was not just about discussing some historical figure, but much more about today and tomorrow. Gandhi’s example is therefore very important. Gandhi was the first to base his messages consistently on the need to change the world without violence. So you have to do this in a peaceful way, through passive resistance, but always without violence. And another thing, he laid great emphasis on the truth. Truthfulness as something vital, we have to be truthful. I usually say, I must first acknowledge myself and tell myself the truth, and then others, of course. Because without this it does not work. Whatever we build on untruth, on lies, will collapse very quickly. So if we want to establish firm foundations, they must be based on some universal truths. What is still important about Gandhi is that his mission back then a hundred years ago, when he started his march around India to free it from the colonial yoke of what was then the most powerful nation in the world, Britain, seemed entirely unfeasible and impossible. That he alone – and he started literally alone – would walk barefoot around India, succeed in raising India up and freeing it from the colonial yoke, an entire subcontinent, seemed truly impossible. All the material might was on the other side, and all the institutions, but he succeeded. In the end he succeeded. So you could say that in this case the spirit won against the material, against all that material power that was on the other side. And this example of his is very precious. Because to many people today the world appears unchangeable. It seems we are aware that it is wrong, we are aware that it is destroying itself, and its climate, for example, but it seems to us that ultimately we cannot change anything. All these global mechanisms grind away for their own ends. Global capital follows its own course, all institutions, politics … and what can a person, an individual do against this? But Gandhi’s example shows us that it is possible. Even if it seems impossible at first. And this is why I say we have to make people aware, raise their consciousness and increasing numbers of them will join this march. And of course changes without violence. In this situation, too. And I always say this. But changes through consciousness. By being conscious that we need to create a different, better world with less social injustice, one that we should not destroy. We should not destroy nature, which is the foundation of our life. We must once again live more in harmony with nature than we are doing today.

Furman: You also met numerous senior politicians, including the Indian prime minister, who apparently praised your efforts in some of the global crisis points, such as Darfur, and I wonder Mr President, do you ever have the feeling that your foreign policy efforts or rather your efforts in the world are more valued elsewhere than at home, for instance?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well, I get that feeling quite often. In a way it surprised me that the Indians were very well informed about my activities and that they ascribed considerable importance to them, as their prime minister said. Of course, you wouldn’t that here in Slovenia.

Furman: Now let’s take a look at your latest, or second, book, The Essence of the World. It struck me somewhat in the sense that if a conscious person becomes involved in politics here today he would have difficulty succeeding, even though we just talked about how it is ultimately possible. But I wonder how much is politics today still a challenge for you, or do you perhaps see some other, more effective ways of working?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: In my book I write that it is possible to change the world through politics. It has within the main instruments and mechanisms, although it is very difficult to do this in politics. This is because a relatively low consciousness prevails within it. There is so much negative energy within it. A lot of selfishness, a lot of fighting, constant fighting for power, jostling to get into power, into some position, and then hanging on to it. In this there is a very great amount of negative energy. At times there is very little room left for any substantive change that might benefit people. And if someone arrives in this kind of politics with very positive intentions and desires, he will for instance have a tough job making headway in such a situation. I say he will get tripped up a lot. He will also be ridiculed for being some kind of idealist who has no idea what is involved and so on. In various ways they will try to disqualify him. There is an example right now, with Obama appearing in America as a presidential candidate; he seems to me relatively broad-minded and positive. But they have immediately tried to disqualify him in the dirtiest way. That is an example of just this kind of thing. So of course I say that this is praiseworthy, and of course such attempts – and the more there are, the better it will be – are worthy of praise. But it is very difficult to break through. For this reason we need to work as much as possible on the foundations. On the broadest possible consciousness of people, so that as many people as possible are aware and so that this pressure on politics then comes from below. So people can no longer be misled by some populist election campaign. Indeed countless experts are engaged to work on creating an artificial picture, the kind that is desired in advance, and then they help the politicians, in short the whole thing of course costs a great deal of money, but none of this has very much to do with truth and sincerity. But people will gradually become increasingly immune to this, and they will no longer allow themselves to be misled in this way. They will know what they want and they will not allow themselves to be seduced like this. So I always reiterate – the key thing is awareness in people, in the greatest possible number of people. You cannot build a better world from the top down, this pressure must come from the bottom up.

Furman: To what extent does it seem to you that people working in culture and the arts, that this community can contribute to raising consciousness?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Art can be important if it is accompanied by positive energy and if the artist himself has a higher consciousness and a great deal of positive energy. Then this can be transferred into his work, and this then touches us and triggers something positive in us, too. So art can of course be very important. Not all of it is like that. But I would like to have as much of this kind of debate as possible about art that comes from some higher awareness. Art that does not just serve its own purpose.

Furman: We missed you at the main national celebration. Did you wish to send any kind of message with this?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well, I think that in general we have too many celebrations. More and more of them. I don’t know if we are achieving anything sensible by increasing the number of celebrations. It is not accompanied by any higher awareness, and is more about politicians showing off, more about yet another way of winning over the public, if I might say. At least this is how I view such affairs, and in fact they do not even seem to me to be very sincere. If we are talking about the cultural holiday, Prešeren Day. Now we are exalting Prešeren, but if we look at how the Slovenians treated him back then when they denigrated and rejected him… His poetry then was the same as it is today, but then of course no one respected it. I ask myself, how would it be if Prešeren were to appear today. Would he really be appreciated, or would he be thrown out in just the same way? So we need this kind of sincerity, and not now to ritually repeat some celebration and so forth, while at the same time we do nothing for truth, for sincerity, for awareness, and in fact we cover everything up behind some kind of stage scenery. In this case we are hiding behind Prešeren.

Furman: In your book The Essence of the World you also write about the relationship between reason and consciousness. You write about how thus people often equate themselves only with their reason, and do not perceive that internal feeling of their intuition, and you continue this idea with the question whether through rational decisions people can raise themselves to a higher level of consciousness. You say that they can.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes, this is one of those interesting questions, because of course we need reason. Reason is our tool. But the key thing that I am saying is that reason should be our tool, not our master. Reason is tied to our experience, to knowing what actually comes from our life and experiences. But reason itself cannot go beyond this, and it cannot perceive anything more from the experiences of our physical ego, it cannot grasp that, it cannot take us any further. For instance reason has great difficulty taking us beyond selfishness, because it is somehow natural that it will constantly guide us towards what is good for us, personally, and towards what is best. So I say that we can and must go beyond reason. Through our intuition, our internal voice, which will sometimes be able to offer us solutions that reason cannot offer at all and cannot reach, because they are not within its range. Through intuition and the internal voice we come somehow into contact with a higher consciousness, I would say with the universal consciousness, where there are certain cosmic principles that apply, and this is more than reason. At the same time I say that we can determine rationally that, for instance, our world is unjust, and that it has unacceptable contradictions. So it is unacceptable that so many people are suffering, while at the same time a minority has much more than it needs. Now reason can agree that this needs to be changed. And also through reason we can arrive at this and determine that we are destroying the world. And that if we continue doing so, in a few decades we will have nothing left. So reason can also trigger within us the spark that then raises our consciousness to a higher level. For this reason I say that, for instance, alongside religion, or alongside the various paths I describe for how in fact a person can raise their consciousness through positive thinking and positive feelings, in fact reason can also lead us to a point where we can move forward, although when we move forward, at some point we will go beyond that reason.

Furman: And if we can move on: you also write that the fate of humanity in fact depends on whether consciousness will grow faster, or whether reason without consciousness, in other words without any contact with this, with intuition, will succeed more rapidly in destroying humanity. Unfortunately this divergence between technology on the one hand and consciousness is actually getting increasingly wide.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes that's true. Now is the first time in history that humanity finds itself in a situation in which it could destroy itself – and in more than one way, there are actually many. Throughout history we have had wars and there have been continual struggles between people, caught up in selfishness and the like. As well as a great deal of suffering through which people nevertheless also managed to raise their consciousness. Modern civilisation has led to a level of technological development where people can destroy themselves, and where humankind can destroy itself. But it has not raised its consciousness at the same time. It has not developed its consciousness to a level where it can master these technologies so that there are not self-destructive. Selfishness is still with us, we all still fight and jostle. Struggling for wealth, power, dominance or whatever it is we desire. This always leads to conflict situations between people, even to war, but this greed and relentless pursuit of material goods and profits are also leading towards the destruction of the earth. And the most reliable method of destruction, where nothing new need be done to ensure the earth’s destruction, is the destruction of the climate. Humanity is now destroying nature, the climate, the planet, the water and even the air, with its technologies and its economy. And if we do not raise our consciousness, our own technological development will end up destroying us, because our consciousness will not have been mature enough, and will not have kept pace with the speed of our technological development.

Furman: Well, to stop that happening, you’re telling us we should know how to retreat into ourselves, find a peaceful place where we can really be sincere and honest with ourselves, and then, of course, well speaking from my own experience, if we have the desire, we then need to know how to bring all the understanding we have within us out into our everyday lives. To live, in other words. Knowing how to live in the way we often hear and read about. And that seems to me to be a great test. And whether we pass that test depends on the genuine strength of our spirituality, the actual quality of our personalities.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes that's true. We have to work at it. What I recommend in my books and in my public appearances is that people have to change themselves, raise their consciousness, find their own inner peace and that they must be positive. This positive attitude is essential. And that has to be expressed in everything we do. Always. That’s not so easy, because there is a great deal of negativity surrounding us that keeps trying to pull us in. That's the reason we always have to face up to it. Even if we do get pulled back into negativity, we have to pull ourselves out again, by being positive, creating a wall of consciousness around ourselves to keep some distance, and then maintaining a positive attitude in our minds, so that we only create positive energy. With positive emotions, so that we don’t succumb to anger, fear and worry. That can only damage us and our environment. If we’re positive that will benefit both us and our environment. We radiate this positivity around ourselves and then others start to grasp it. The more that happens, the more positive-thinking people there are emanating that kind of positive energy, the better the world will be. At present there is far more negativity in the world. All that striving and struggling for money, success, and power all creates negative energy. All this is based on some form of selfishness, and while we remain within that circle of selfishness, we are creating negative energy. We're fighting and jostling one another, which brings worries and fears along with it. Managing to go beyond that, that’s the critical point. If we succeed in going beyond selfishness, then we find ourselves in the sphere of the positive. When we become positive we do good deeds, we think positively, and we try and help others. Above all we stop letting ourselves be pulled into the negativity and back-biting and no longer contribute to the negative energy. If we are generating positive energy, then we gradually balance out the imbalances. First we find a balance within ourselves, then in the world. Because the world is full of negativity and is unbalanced. The more good and positive things we do, the more it will be balanced. At present there is imbalance, because there is much more negativity. Far too much back-biting and greed that eventually will destroy the world and destroy humanity, if we don’t manage to find the balance in time.

Furman: I would now like to ask you for your response to two issues. In the last few days I have received two letters by e-mail. Borislav Kosi from Križevci pri Ljutomeru has sent an open letter to the Pope, in which he asks when the rivers of blood will cease to flow from animals that are killed in the most brutal of ways for human consumption, even for the major Catholic holidays such as Christmas and Easter. He asks the Pope when he will use his influence and launch a theological process that will recognise animals as having souls. According to Borislav Kosi that would undoubtedly form a basis for equal treatment of animals and people, and gradually banish the cruelties perpetrated against animals that we witness in the world today.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well, I can offer clear answers to this question. I say that animals have a consciousness too, that they are conscious. And to my mind, consciousness is the essence of life. Life is not an end in itself. Life without consciousness is not really life, it has no point. But where there is consciousness, then there is true life, and animals also have consciousness. It should be obvious to anyone that animals certainly feel sadness, unhappiness, and joy as we do. Just like us. And if we act positively towards them and do good, they are also good to us. Good and positive. But people continually harm and torment animals through their actions, placing them in impossible situations in which they suffer a great deal. Animals are only aggressive when humans are aggressive, when they feel threatened by people. Otherwise they are positive, if they do not feel threatened. It’s true that civilisation today torments and destroys animals on a mass scale. Think of, for example, what goes on in modern battery hen factories, or pig farms, and so on … or even ...

Furman: ... … transporting animals.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Transporting animals, that is terrible. That is really terrible. And then the way they are handled, all the way up to the slaughter. Animals sense the threat, they know what is happening to them. They feel, suffer and are overcome by the fear of death, which is the most negative energy of all. When animals act that way, they are filled with negative energy. And when we kill them and serve them up as steaks, we end up consuming all the negative energy that was in them. And that is one of the ways in which people are kept at lower levels of energy. It has a terrible effect on them and their energy. We can take in negative energy via our food. Not only from our environment, our interactions, our continual striving for money or power, or for whatever, but also through food. So I see the future of civilisation lying in putting an end to torturing and killing animals. Vegetarian food is sufficient. It is sufficient to feed all of humankind, and there is no need for the mass, systematic rearing, tormenting and killing of animals as at present. That is one of the most essential parts of human consciousness. Sadly, religions are generally some way behind on this issue, and so caught up in their dogma that they do not know how to move forward. In earlier times we can understand this position, taking a historical point of view, although it wasn’t the same everywhere. In India, for example, people always ate vegetarian food. They didn‘t kill animals. There have been periods in human development when there was too little food, so they killed animals. Historically we can understand that to some extent. But today humanity produces more than enough food, without having to kill animals, and that kind of food is much healthier.

Furman: Now let’s turn to a letter from Stanko Valpatič, and I’d like to mention that I know you already know him. Some days ago he sent a letter to the media in response to a parliamentary discussion on the law on plant protection products. He says that he cannot remain silent, while people permit the destruction, poisoning and killing of nature, animals and water. He speaks of peaceful agriculture as the only solution for humanity. You have also made this point. So farmers, producers and retailers all face a set of new challenges. Will they manage to respond?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: They need help. That’s why I have become a severe critic of the European Union's current Common Agricultural Policy, where large, in fact, enormous grants are given to agriculture for animal-based food. The European Union should completely change its priorities here and provide funds for a different kind of agriculture without animal-based food, and of course that is ecologically-based. It’s true that all these chemicals and pesticides are destructive. We are destroying the planet, food, and ourselves, because we are constantly consuming these chemicals. People are partially conscious of this, but not yet enough. How many of the chemicals are we consuming, and in our many different ways? And then we're amazed when we fall ill with these other diseases of civilisation.

Furman: Slovenia has great opportunities and the conditions for organic farming. There's also a lot of people ready to get involved. Some do, of course, but the government has been very neglectful of this area.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes, in Slovenia the ministry of agriculture has been caught napping, and just has not kept up with the trends. In fact so far they've been hopeless. Let's hope that things will improve now, with the new minister.

Furman: Well, not long ago I read a column by the environmentalist Anton Komat, in which he pointed out the steep growth in the population of urban areas, which is of course creating great social and environmental problems. The figures on migration from rural areas to urban areas are incredible. In 1900 just 10 per cent of the world’s population lived in towns, this year the urban population exceeded the rural population for the first time. Large cities take up just two per cent of the surface of the planet, but use three-quarters of all its resources. Where’s this going?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes, that is one of the world's major imbalances. People move from the country and lose contact with nature, with a more natural way of life. They shove and push their way into cities which keep on growing, becoming more and more unmanageable, with more and more emissions being released. It is difficult to provide all the infrastructure needed. That’s not such an issue in Slovenia, but if we look at the large cities around the world, the metropolises, it's a terrible thing. But people go on moving to the city. They are attracted by consumerism, the race for goods, and the conviction that it is easier in cities to get hold of all the things that were so elusive in the countryside. More and more people live very confined, unnatural lives, crushed together in these cities lurching towards ever greater imbalance. But I think that living in these metropolises one is also very vulnerable. What will happen when a large catastrophe hits, when suddenly all the normal systems are out of order for a while? Just imagine it – no electricity, all the computer systems in large cities failing, shops not being able to operate for a week, it would be chaos. What would people do when faced with all that? How could they act? It’s unbelievable how vulnerable they are. But we can imagine these catastrophes happening anywhere. They happen. Remember New Orleans, the hurricane that hit New Orleans and caused such an appalling situation that even filmmakers...

Furman: ... couldn’t have made it up.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Exactly.

Furman: I would also like to link this with one of the reflections you published on the website of the Movement for Justice and Development. Ultimately, people are drawn into cities today by work. They want to be closer so they don’t have to drive a long way. But you point out that modern technology will gradually mean that all this commuting is unnecessary, and that we will be able to do a great deal at home.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Exactly. That's just where my vision for some form of future balance is based. We will have to do more work where we live, and modern technology will help us. Using the internet, for example. We won’t even need to go to a doctor’s and wait in a waiting room, because a lot of that will be possible via the internet, and I believe that branch of medicine is already developing very quickly in some parts of the world. That will reduce the need to pollute the air with exhaust emissions while driving around. Everyone tries to go to work at the same time, leading to traffic jams, people wasting time, getting upset, polluting the air. We will have to reorganise this mess. The situation is becoming increasing unmanageable, it can’t go on. Some people in large cities end up spending two hours to go to work, and two hours to go home. That’s just not normal. It's not right. We have to find a more balanced way. I see the answer lying in greater decentralisation, that we should be more and more in rural areas, in smaller settlements, and organise our society and state like that so that we operate at that level. The alternative is completely unsustainable.

Furman: Well we'll draw things to a close now, and I’d like to finish on a more optimistic note. Mr President, despite all the negativity we are witnessing in the world today, life is still a wonderful thing. One very nice thought I came recently across in a book I was reading by Louis Hay: "Release yourself into the depth of your own soul where the strength and wisdom lie, and then act as if your already have that which you desire”. That is a rather special way of inviting good into one’s life. But I wonder, do you agree?

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Well, that can be said in an even simpler manner.

Furman: Do tell.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: I’d say that seeking strength and wisdom within yourself is already being too ambitious. It’s enough to just stop ourselves, our reason, which is always looking and wanting more. If we just bring that to a halt, and are satisfied and present in the moment, the here and now. And that will make us much calmer. We won’t be tormented by fears and worries, we won’t think about the future or the past. That is when we really make contact with ourselves, when we empty ourselves of all these efforts and plans. Then we can find an inner peace and contact with the inner voice, intuition, the universal consciousness, and then good, positive things will start to happen to us.

Furman: Thank you. If we have managed to encourage at least one of our many listeners to start to change themselves, I think we will have achieved our purpose. Thank you once more.

Dr Janez Drnovšek: Thank you.