New York, August 25, 1992
Friends of George Soros in Budapest who happened to be my friends as well were my intermediaries in arranging an encounter with Mr. George Soros. In the late afternoon I drove from Stamford, Connecticut, to Manhattan, as I did more often. New York feels like a magnetic field, absorbing and transforming whatever presents itself with new ideas and new energy. I wanted to talk about an International Centre on the island of Sardinia, in the middle of the Western Mediterranean, near Tempio Pausania.
My dream was and still is to establish Sala-una, an International School whose main focus and ambition are to stimulate people to connect their inner worlds, their paradigms, ideas and values, with the inner worlds of people with other paradigms, ideas and values. The only common feature that participants with divergent professions – businesswomen and -men, politicians, students, intellectuals and artists – have to share together, are intellectual and aesthetic curiosity. This means a mutual willingness to listen to each other in order to make doubtful what seems evident, and to make evident what seems doubtful. These words are Leszek Kolakowski’s definition of philosophy. This is what the world in the 21st century needs in the first place: not that people change their religions, philosophies or even political views, but that people are open-minded enough to be interested in other stories and new arguments. The process of listening is the first step on Jacob’s and Wittgenstein’s ladder that leads us from not knowing that we don’t know, via the Socratic realization of knowing that we don’t know, to the realization that we don’t know that we do know, and so on, and so on. We have to grow slowly towards an inborn consciousness of what it means to be human, to be one Earth, one cosmos.
George Gurdjieff, Black Wednesday and Karl Popper
In hindsight, that evening in his private apartment I didn’t present my case about Sala-una convincingly enough, anyhow not in a way that Soros might have expected. We talked about George Gurdjieff and differed about a statement by Gurdjieff, when he told a group of New York businessmen not to trust him. For Soros enough reason to say: I wouldn’t trust him, while I replied, I would trust a man who says something like that about himself. At least he is honest enough to do so. I asked him to explain how he managed to be one of the world’s foremost money managers. Listening to Soros, I understood a little bit better how he managed three weeks later on Black Wednesday, September 16, to break the Bank of England, earning one billion dollars. That evening we were served a Chinese dinner. We talked about Karl Popper of whom both of us were students in one way or another and – if I may say so – friends. Popper was far-sighted enough to advise George Soros not to become a philosopher but to go into finance and banking.
Soros about Gorbachev
“We tend to believe that a leader’s primary objective is to gain and hold power. Gorbachev, with his brilliant maneuvers in consolidating his position, seemed to fit the mold. Yet I did not believe that Gorbachev wanted power at any price, as witness his behavior over the Armenian issue when it first arose…I could not see him turning into a despot in the manner of Peter the Great. In particular, I could not see him presiding over the use of force in the Baltics.” Underwriting Democracy, 1991, 48. The far-sightedness of Soros is no less sharp than Popper’s, whose lectures were followed by Soros at the London School of Economics and whose ideas about the Open Society he helped to promote in Central and Eastern Europe with all his means.
Toulmin about Soros
In the International Humanist News, June 1994, the philosopher StephenToulmin wrote about Soros: “While the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) spent millions on marble for its headquarters, the private financier George Soros spent his millions on a Central University in Prague, and other constructive East European projects; and all the thanks he got from European governments was to be attacked for the profits he made in currency markets when the Exchange Rate Mechanism collapsed.”
A pleasant and adventurous evening
Before saying goodbye that evening, George Soros signed ’Underwriting Democracy’ with the words “on the occasion of a very pleasant evening together,” and warned me not to return via Central Park to the northern exit. And yet, I left Central Park via the northern exit anyway. Two guys on heavy motors “escorted” me for miles, each on one side of the brand-new Saab of my parents-in-law, their front wheels in the air. I drove at such a speed that they didn’t get a chance to block my way without risking their lives. The spirit of that evening travelled with me into the night.
Notes from my diary
Kapberg, Warder, 2012