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Is it possible to go back to where we came from?
Focus Questions 1. How important are your personal origins to real life outcomes? How much of your respect of other people is influenced by their birth status? Has your DNA been analysed? A lot of people attach importance to their racial / ethnic / cultural / status lineage. There is pride in saying they are descended from nobility, a religious caste (in some cultures), a professor, a general, a famous person, an ethnic group etc ? On the other hand, as individuals the people we really turn into is heavily shaped by living experiences. Even genetically related characteristics tend to be diluted away within about three generations. 2. If the past reality of a society cannot be recovered, what elements of it can or should be re-created in a modern context? Think of examples. 3. How well can children understand parents, let alone earlier generations and ways of living? How much of the good and the bad should they be told about, even if they will listen? Think of examples. The marvels of an age, as well as the events or people who were admired, usually stood out because they differed from was normal at the time of their occurrence. These exceptional people, events or creations might seem boring and everyday to people living a generation later. 4. Are we doomed to cultural dementia and misinterpretation? A good novel or film might completely reshape memories of our 'known' world a generation later. It even happens within a lifetime (or a news cycle in an overstimulated world). For example, it is common for adults to return to some childhood location and find it no longer matches the magic of their memory. They are no longer living in a child's world. And this displacement happens geographically. Tourists often visit exotic and picturesque locations. That is, exotic for them. The locals in those places find them very ordinary, even backward, and envy what they see as the glamorous worlds of London, New York and Paris. 5. Are false historical memories harmless and justified as good entertainment for today? Or can they have more negative consequences? Think of examples. For example, theme parks are often miniaturized and romanticized versions of imaginary worlds. Disneyland is an iconic example. Theme parks are popular, but like television, they can create new 'realities' in people's minds. You could call them fake memories. For example, China now has a vast tourist industry based around fake 'ancient villages' (e.g. Dali in Yunan), fake 'traditional city sights' etc. (e.g. Kaifeng in Henan), all tied to a highly sanitized historical story. Most other countries attempt similar historical recreations on a smaller scale. Large numbers of people come to believe that 'this is what the past was like'. 6. How should we interpret the writings and thoughts and actions of people from earlier ages whose behaviour does not fit the template of what present society considers proper? Literary and artistic revisionism for example is very common (especially in universities). Consider Rudyard Kipling, who was an icon of the British Empire. His "Recessional" was sung in school assemblies and memorial services. His poems were widely known and loved among ordinary people. His children's story "The Jungle Book", about Mowgli, a child raised by wolves in India was known to every child. He was a man of his time, and also a superb craftsman with words. Colonialism has become unfashionable. Kipling is now sometimes condemned as a racist. To speak in praise of Kipling today may invite severe criticism. His is not an isolated example. [I strongly recommend this article which deals exactly with the discussion topic" Krzysztof Iwanek (August 06, 2018) "Kipling as Mowgli: One View of The Jungle Book - Both Mowgli and Kim represent Kipling as a child, raised at the intersection of two civilizations". The Diplomat @ ] [Focus questions continued in the Comments section]

The Rose cafe

31 East Terrace · Adelaide


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What we're about

Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar (ALS)

1. Introduction

• ALS is a meetup where we explore questions around a topic, then have a friendly discussion. Topics themselves vary, depending upon our imagination and what seems interesting at the time. Topics may range from social to political, to technical, to scientific, to historical … and so on. Generally each particular meeting will be fairly focused in the form of a seminar among equals. Sometimes the discussion might be more free-wheeling. This group also has a Facebook page at

•The general rules of the game are that whoever turns up works together on a given topic.

•A topic and about 10 focus questions will be published before the meetup. Feel free to contribute other focus questions around the topic too. Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding. Note: clearly not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.

•Seminar groups like this work best if people can add more than casual prejudice and opinion. Expertise is especially welcome. If you at least do a Google search on the topic before you turn up, then everyone gains.

•If you want to suggest a future Lunchtime Seminar topic, try to think of some focus questions to go with it too. Inventing focus questions clears the mind wonderfully.

2. Time and Venue

At the moment the Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar meets in The Cafe Delores, Charles St Plaza, 20 Charles St, Adelaide CBD. Recognize me from my black cap on the table or check a photo at; . This cafe is quiet, has lots of seats and is never crowded. A cup of tea will cost you about $3.

Meetups happen every second Monday from 12:15 pm to about 1:30 pm depending on demand (the timing is flexible).

3. History

For earlier members a little confused by name changes, Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar has gone through a series of formats and names in search of the most workable approach to thoughtful discussion. It began in Brisbane as 'Active Thinking'. In 2015 it moved to Adelaide with the same name. After a year successive changes were made to call it 'Question Everything!', then 'Eh, Why Do You Think Like That?', then 'Adelaide Question & Answer'. Meetup times tried have been Sunday afternoon in a pub, Monday evening in a pub, and now at lunchtime in The Cafe Delores, Charles St Plaza, 20 Charles St, Adelaide CBD.

4. Resources

A couple of American websites have recently emerged with a torrent of interesting topics, though typically oriented of course to American culture. Don’t just echo their questions, but they may give you a lead on the kinds of things many people find interesting:

a) Quora (This website can become addictive)

b) Change-my-view

c) A list of sites similar to

d) A list of software that might be adapted to something like

5. Contact:

The organizer of Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar is Thor May;

He has published a lot of essays and papers at . If you need to find Thor at a venue, here is a link to his photo: (

Thor has run other meetups built around questions and discussions. An index of all the topics covered by these is online at

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