Why are we Indians always self-critical

ZfkD: "It is not always easy for educated people to be self-critical"

Zurich has countless collectives - what drives them, how are they organized and how did they experience 2020? We found out for you in this series.

Complexity is the program, making it accessible goal of the collective Center for Critical Thinking. What sounds like a house full of critics discussing the problems of our world late at night with a glass of red wine in hand is actually six women, two men and a dog who want much more than that. What is critical thinking and how do you practice it? The central question of the ZfkD, how the association abbreviates its name, is easy to read - and still almost drives the members crazy. But Andrea, Myrta, Selina, Rebi, Cristiana, Alex, Severin and Moritz are happy to accept that.

"In order to promote social change, every single person has to think along," says Andrea on behalf of the collective. Everyone should deal critically with the questions of our time. And to train exactly that, they founded the ZfkD. The eight pioneers have been working on it since the beginning of 2019 - and would learn every day: "We are not professionals in this field," Andrea admits. Critical thinking is a process and enlightenment is probably not worth striving for, if it were up to the collective.

The decisive point is primarily that they not only critically deal with the world as individuals, but also want to convey this to others. While the center for critical thinking used to be the kitchen of a team member, the collective now carries its message out into the world (or at least to Switzerland): in classrooms, on podiums, in podcasts or at the regulars' table in a bar. Away from the ivory tower the bottom of facts where critical thinking can become commonplace.

Tsüri.ch: The year 2020 in three words?

ZfkD: It turned out differently.

What challenges did the Corona crisis bring - and how did you deal with them?

The most difficult thing for us was not to fall into blind actionism. If, as a “center for critical thinking”, you observe the emotionalized reporting on the one hand and the behavior of the population on the other, you can quickly get the feeling that you have to make Corona a central issue.

Back then, we took a compulsory one-week break to protect ourselves. After a few days it was clear: Corona is just one of many important issues and we will continue to take care of those that will now take a back seat.

The bottom line is that Corona had a positive impact on our development. After being founded in October 2019, we had a strong focus on live formats that we had to postpone. Suddenly there was time. And we dared to tackle the central, but also the most demanding aspect of our association's work. Namely, the question of what critical thinking actually is and how you can train this quality. The in-depth discussion was quite a revelation and we were able to find that our association is dedicated to a wonderful topic, which we had little idea about when it was founded.

What is your message as a collective?

We have a few of them. The bad news: You have very little control over your thoughts. The good one: Once you know that, you can train your critical thinking skills. Above all, critical thinking has to do with empathy. It means: listening, empathizing, wanting to understand. The result is less trench warfare and more rapprochement between people. And to our team: You can only bring good things into the world if you are good to yourself.

Who or what inspires you?

People who are able to change their minds. People who become more humble as they gain knowledge. People who remain friendly in spite of everything.

Why do you do what you do in Zurich - and not in another city?

We see ourselves as a location-independent collective and have already carried out events in Lucerne and Zug. However, since our team is spread across the whole of German-speaking Switzerland, we cannot imagine a better “home port” in Zurich.

The fact that Zurich also represents a good playing field for our concerns is always shown when we are asked how we want to get out of our “urban left bubble”. This question is based on the assumption that our “bubble” thinks more critically than others. Of course, it's nothing like it. It is not always easy for educated people with a lot of knowledge and clear political attitudes to be self-critical or to empathize with other realities of life.

Do you pay yourselves a wage?

Not yet. But we are working towards it. Because we believe that meaningful work should be rewarded at least as well as less meaningful work. We don't yet know exactly how we will get there, but it is important for us to formulate this objective in order to one day break the volunteering dilemma. Our wishful thinking: A single parent should be able to live on our wages.

Have the city and its residents been good to you so far? Where did they put obstacles in your way, where did they open doors?

Yes they were. We are particularly grateful to Viola Schwarz from the former “Casa Mondiale” and Karin Landolt from the Knowledge for All Foundation.

Thanks to Viola, we were able to carry out the first formats such as “Bier und eis ufd Ohre”, further develop the “Club of the anonymous clueless” and currently team up with Charlemagne. Karin, in turn, brought us on board to implement a project for media literacy and critical thinking in schools. Thanks to her, we were able to hold our first critical thinking workshop at Kanti Trogen at the beginning of November.

Viola and Karin placed their trust in us at a time when we as a club were still in our baby shoes. Thanks to them, we were allowed to dare to do things in our first year as a club that made us quickly grow beyond ourselves.

What was your best moment since you founded?

When our own club was recommended in a Tinder conversation.

In addition to the positive encouragement, it is above all the many small moments of learning that shape our association: For example, when someone said after a long day of conversations that we should try to make less generalized things. When someone brought in new information that could now speak for the gender asterisk - after we had decided to use the colon a month earlier. Or when three of us locked ourselves up for an evening to find out what the difference was between facts, statements of fact and opinions.

How do you as a group deal collectively with decision-making processes?

We decide with the help of the so-called consent principle. This is a decision-making method from sociocracy. At this one does not ask whether those present agree, but whether there is an objection to the proposal. So decisions are not an attempt to find a perfect solution, but should primarily answer the question of whether a proposal is safe and good enough to move on.

Above all, critical thinking has to do with empathy.
Critical Thinking Center

What do you want from Zurich?

Empathy. Openness. Courage. And a little more awareness of your own privileges.

It is you who make our city what it is. They invigorate - culturally, but also politically. What are you planning for the coming year?

  • We want to make our Critical Thinking Workshop accessible to a wide variety of groups and at different levels
  • We want to further develop our digital education platform Rethink the World conceptually and crowdfund it
  • We want to launch the “Club of the Anonymous Clueless” as a podcast
  • We want to continue our advent calendar and make it visible in the analog world
  • We want to develop a meditation format through which the mindful handling of one's own thoughts can be trained
  • We want to organize discussion walks where the topics change after a certain number of kilometers
  • We want to develop a glossary on the topics of racism, sexism and ableism.
Series «Zurich Collective»