Brainwash Festival took place in Amsterdam from the 21st to the 28th of October. It was hosted by the School of Life, a philosophic and intellectual organization based in Amsterdam. The festival united speakers from all over the world to discuss issues facing humanity today. I attended one of the programs on the 28th at the Opera House to enlighten myself.

The original lineup featured Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, Croatian philosopher and activist Srecko Horvat, and Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis. However, Varoufakis backed out at the last minute, supposedly due to a mysterious illness. He was replaced by Dutch anthropologist and author Joris Luyendijk.

Brainwash Festival

The format of the talk was pretty simple: the speakers were asked to name what they thought was the biggest issue facing the world today, and then give some of their ideas of solutions for this problem.

Klein was articulate, saying that she thinks it’s dangerous to prioritize one problem over another, but that climate change is probably humanity’s biggest threat. Horvat was a little less clear, but his overall message was that we haven’t been doing a great job at building a cohesive, global community. Luyendijk’s basic thought was that we need to stop “othering” each other and instead think of ourselves as one, big community that works together.

When offering solutions for these problems, each speaker had a wide range of ideas. Klein’s solution to climate change is to create a world in which we start taking care of rather than abusing the systems that keep us alive. Horvat’s idea is that we need to stop thinking in apocalyptic terms and instead start thinking of a positive future. Luyendijk again said that we need to stop “othering” each other, he wasn’t totally clear as to how we should stop doing that.

Brainwash Festival

At the end of the event, the audience was asked to write what they thought some actions might be for tackling these tough problems on a card and then turn the card in on our way out. It was a way to get the audience involved and to crowdsource some ideas for progressive action in the future.

As several of the speakers mentioned, this event was not necessarily accessible to some people who might not have been able to afford the ticket price. However, the event was outside of the normal realm of things to do in Amsterdam, and it got me thinking about bigger issues than I normally do on a Saturday morning.


Words: Rachele Krivichi

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