Most conferences come and go without much consequence. This past weekend was an event that could really make the history books. Even if it does not, it hardly matters because it was the sort of event that truly does change history.
Brownstone Institute brought together some 30 top thinkers for a remarkable weekend of idea sharing. In attendance were scientists, economists, lawyers, medical doctors, journalists, literary scholars, web architects and technicians, media people, and various others, all chosen for their depth of thought and passion for the cause.
These are people that academia has long kept apart due to the imposition of department separation, extreme specialization, and institutional barriers. When lockdowns came, the separation became more severe. Those in the resistance were cut off from the old communities while censorship inhibited us from finding new ones.
But we persevered and eventually found each other. Meeting in person these days is not only like a reunion. It is a kind of intellectual retreat or even salvation. We need this kind of interaction. Online contact only gets us so far. There are things we can only say in person and ideas we can only convey in an environment of trust.
We had a hotel in Avon, Connecticut. The agenda for the conference consisted of nothing but meeting times in a comfortable place. The page was otherwise blank and we let individuals fill it in with a topic of their choosing as it relates to the ongoing crisis. It was not public or advertised, which allowed absolute candor.
The results were simply remarkable. The cross pollination of perspectives is perhaps what people experienced many years ago in academic environments and old-world salons but which the ruling class attempted to stop over three years.
We could tell that things were going well when there seemed to be electricity in the air at the opening dinner and people stayed up late that night sharing stories, literature, and insight. The next morning, every seat was full and no one was willing even to check their phones or take other calls. It went on like this for two and a half days.
There are reasons for this. The format drew out the brilliance of the speakers. The quality of the attendees inspired people to dig deep to their best thoughts and share with others. The last three years of isolation, plus the censorship, has given people a deep hunger for ideas and collegiality.
People who did not know about law learned what was going on in that field, and they shared with doctors on the front lines, who in turn drew insight from journalists and know-how from the technicians. We went round and round, all in an environment of trust alongside Chatham House rules (which is to say that it must all be kept within that space only).
After a while, it became obvious what was happening. This group had begun to recreate an academic-like environment with interdisciplinary focus – not the modern university but the way perhaps it was long ago. It was a setting that protected and celebrated thought and reflection. And it happened not with long speeches but short presentations followed by comments and additions by those present.
Not one attendee missed a single session, and if you know how this stuff usually goes, you know that this is highly unusual. In casual conversation with those in attendance, we kept hearing the same thing: this was the most valuable two-day conference people had ever attended.
What comes out of this? Well, from long experience, we’ve begun to distrust short-term emphasis on action plans, strategic agendas, and to-do lists. These are not what drive change. What matters most is the passion and courage born of conviction which in turn comes from top-quality research and ideas shared among trusted colleagues.
That is not to say it doesn’t have an effect. Last week, Brownstone published a detailed examination of the World Health Organization’s international health regulations. Thanks to our published channels, the word got out. A dozen or so articles appeared after that, both in the US and the UK, and this morning, a group of Republican Senators have banded together to oppose the change tooth and nail. This is how research and ideas work, provided we have the right channels.
No change is possible without gatherings of this sort, which allow sharing and growth. In addition to the group gatherings, there were myriad private conversations that went on throughout the event. You could just feel the rise of knowledge in the group and the formation of a genuine and powerful force of resistance. More importantly, this group is here to inspire, explain, and build the renaissance we so desperately need in this country and around the world.
So much needs to be rebuilt after the last three years, but among the needs are serious intellectual communities. The colleges and universities have, for the most part, been taken over or smashed. The major media is captured. Our companies are forced into an obsequious stance. Our previous networks have been shattered. For lovers of freedom, we’ve experienced something of a diaspora.
But what have people done in the past when the diaspora comes upon us? We find safety and shelter. We build sanctuaries. And we use that sanctuary to become a light unto the world to guide the way into rebuilding. It happened after the fall of Rome and it happened in the interwar period when Europe’s greatest centers of learning were shattered. We need to face that it has happened to us again.
We need not give up hope. On the contrary, we have the crucial weapons on our side: truth, sophisticated information technology, and robust new communities. Brownstone’s structures of sanctuary and enlightenment have already made a huge difference. A credible idea backed by courage and truth can rock the world.
We have this chance now to rebuild before it is too late. We simply cannot pass it up. This is why Brownstone is doing this. We have the scholars, the intelligence, the strategy, and the platform. Ideas are like magic. There is no limit to their reproducibility. But they do have to be produced and supported.
This event went forward without funding but Brownstone has learned from our short history to have faith that doing the right thing draws benefactors, you among them. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We welcome your continued support.
It is perhaps true that neither you nor Brownstone will be given the credit in the history books, but what does it matter? When civilization is at stake, every person must throw himself or herself into the intellectual battle, commit to keeping the darkness at bay, and shine a light to inspire the rebuilding of a new and better world.
We are here for this battle, no matter how long it takes. There is hope, however. We saw it and felt it this weekend. We are so grateful to have you as partners in this great effort.
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