New TEDx talk: Courage can be almost as contagious as fear

Here is my 15-minute talk at a recent TEDx event in Göteborg.


New book: 101 historiska hjältar

101-historiska-hjaltar cover

Ola Larsmo and I have written 101 portraits of heroic individuals — 101 historiska hjältar.  Details at Historiska media, including sample chapters here and here and here.  The book is available from Bokus and other sellers.

Here is UNT’s book review.  Aftonbladet (Oct. 19) wrote: “En inspirerande bok med en gemensam nämnare: Alla dessa hjältemodiga människor har en förmåga till inlevelse, vilket präglar deras livshållning.”


Recent interviews

Here is Upsala Nya Tidning’s interview with me as well as Svenska Dagbladet’s piece on the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar and Uppsala Fria Tidningen’s article on the calendar and the show.  In English, there is an interview in The Local.  Ordfront #2/2013 (April) has an interview with me about civic courage.


New multimedia lecture:  Extreme Courage — How a Global Heroine Can Change Your Life

Extremt mod — hur en global hjältinna kan förändra ditt liv

From Sophie Scholl’s clandestine pamphlets opposing Hitler to 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s fateful words against the Taliban, countless individuals have risked everything for a more humane society. Anthropologist Brian Palmer portrays several of them and shows how civic courage is the indispensable basis for solidarity and human rights. In this illustrated multimedia lecture, he gathers wisdom from heroic lives and applies it to everyday questions of surviving as an idealist in an unforgiving world. What can our bravest contemporaries and fallen friends teach us about how to live?


Calendar now available

Raoul Wallenberg Calendar

The 2013 Raoul Wallenberg Calendar — with 365 portraits of civic courage — is available in Swedish for 39 kr.  There are also English and South Korean editions, and a four-language wall calendar, pictured here.  Thank you to friends who contributed ideas about whom to portray in the calendar.


New show:  Secret Conspiracy of Hope

Musician/performer Ida Lod and I have created a show about civic courage called ”Secret Conspiracy of Hope.” We use words and song to bring to life our bravest contemporaries and fallen friends, whose acts of courage touch the mystery of existence.

The show weaves together stories of seven remarkable individuals (including Anastasia Baburova, Anna Politkovskaya and Maximilian Kolbe) with powerful songs — as well as reflections that draw on Simone Weil, William James, a Buddhist nun and others.

The show is available in English or Swedish.  It runs one hour without an intermission; shorter versions are possible.  Ida Lod and I can lead discussions or workshops immediately following a performance.

The first performance was at Uppsala’s Regina Theater.  Here are related articles from Upsala Nya Tidning, Svenska Dagbladet, Uppsala Fria Tidningen, and The Local.  The show is based on the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar (details below).


Raoul Wallenberg Calendar

In memory of Raoul Wallenberg, Forum för Levande Historia commissioned me to create a calendar about civic courage. I had made memorial calendars twice before: as a college student I put on my wall the names of fallen champions of justice and peace; and since then I have gathered material so that I can begin my lectures with the life stories of individuals who did something beautiful and brave on a particular date: ”It was on this day in 1943 that Sophie Scholl set out to distribute her last leaflet against the Nazis…”

The 2013 calendar describes 365 persons who have risked/given their lives or made other sacrifices for human rights, democracy, and peace. A team of colleagues and I produced it. The print edition is being distributed for free to Swedish high-school students, paid for by government monies. Three publishing houses are printing and selling an English-language edition, a South Korean edition, and an illustrated global edition in four languages. Sveriges Radio/Radioteatern will run a five-minute piece about each day’s individual during every day of 2013.

See below for links to articles about the calendar.  There is additional information on the websites of Forum för Levande Historia and Concess.


Background to the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar

I remember when I first started to think about people who risk their lives for others. I was a college student then, and I was reading in the New York Times about a young man who had tried to defend the rights of indigenous people in the Brazilian rain forest. Two ranchers – who wanted to take over more land – arrived in a pickup truck and shot him dead.

Something about that man made me pause. Aware that others had been killed, he had kept going. I didn’t want to lose him, so I wrote down his name on a sheet of yellow paper and taped it to my wall.

Soon I noticed other stories of courage: a “disappeared” democracy activist whose body was found in a ditch, a mother who had drowned while swimming out to save someone else’s child. I added their names to the sheet of yellow paper.

What is it about unselfish bravery that makes us want to hold onto and cherish it? What is it that moves us? When someone risks her life for a stranger, we feel that she is ”our born superior,” the psychologist William James observed in 1902. The courageous person, James argued, dares to touch the world’s brutality and try to dissolve it. To suffer for others is part of what it means to be human. ”In heroism,” James wrote, ”life’s supreme mystery is hidden.”

That mystery was present one summer day in 1941 at Auschwitz, when Prisoner #16670, a Polish man named Maximilian Kolbe, saw another inmate on the way to being executed. The condemned man cried out, ”My wife! My children! Who will take care of them?” Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to be killed in place of the other prisoner.

The mystery was there, too, in the life and death of Anastasia Baburova. As a journalism student in Moscow, she began writing about violent extremist groups. Soon she realized that she had become their target. But she did not give up.

The calendar you have in your hands tells of 365 lives of courage. Together they form a counterweight to a world of violence and greed. They remind us of what we are capable of – that amidst the dark night of indifference, it is possible for our species to shine so magnificently.


New workshop:  Developing Moral Authority: Lessons from Our Bravest Contemporaries

A workshop for companies, government offices, NGOs and other organizations.

Details are here in PDF format.


Other news items

Svenska Dagbladet put the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar (Wallenbergkalendern) on the cover of the culture section:  Here is Upsala Nya Tidning’s interview with me and Uppsala Fria Tidningen’s article about the calendar and the accompanying show.  In English, there is an interview in The Local.

Here is my brief comment for a news report about bystander passivity.

In the past several months, my work has been profiled in Arbetaren Zenit, Ergo, Länstidningen (Östersund), Helsingborgs Dagblad, Flamman, Uppsala Demokraten and Västerbottens Folkblad, and I was interviewed on Swedish Television’s Gomorron Sverige.

April 10-12 — Spirit of Humanity Forum, Reykjavik, ICELAND

From the preliminary proposal for the forum:

“The Spirit of Humanity Forum, a partnership project organised by a global network of organisations, communities and individuals, seeks to address this. It provides a safe space for deep encounter, exploration and dialogue to find new ways to move forward based on core human values.

The first Forum, hosted by the City of Reykjavík, Iceland, in September 2012, brought together 100 leaders from various fields who explored the role of higher values and spirituality in empowering effective decisionmaking at all levels. The city was chosen as the venue of the Forum as it is aiming to become a global capital for peace, and a place where the financial crash of 2008 had led people and politicians to a reassessment of their own values and decision-making process. The Höfði House was chosen for the opening reception for its symbolic value as the site where the historical summit with Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev set in train the events that brought an end to the Cold War.

Reykjavík 2014 will take place from 9th to 12th April 2014 at the Harpa Congress Centre. Jón Gnarr, the Mayor of Reykjavík will host an opening reception.”

May 2 — Föreningen S-2000/ABF, Stockholm

Frukostmöten mellan kl 8.00 och 9.00 i ABF-huset på Sveavägen 41 i Stockholm.

May 5 — Cemus, Uppsala University, Uppsala

May 6-7 — Näringslivsenheten, Karlshamn

Tentative — to be confirmed.

May 8 — Akademiska sjukhuset, Uppsala

May 10 — Vetenskapsfestivalen, Göteborg

11.30-11.45 am

Invigning av skärmutställning utifrån boken “101 historiska hjältar.”

May 10 — Vetenskapsfestivalen + Svenska kyrkan, Göteborg

Att våga i en hård värld

Hur vågar några göra det som är rätt trots att det kan innebära stora risker? Vad finns det för drivkrafter, och hur kan man hitta sitt civilkurage? Och vad händer med vårt samhälle när ett vanligt samhällsengagemang kan innebära hot och fara?

I samarbete med Svenska kyrkan.

Medverkande: Brian Palmer, socialantropolog och religionsvetare, Uppsala universitet.

Plats: Pedagogen, Kjell Härnqvistsalen

Tid: 13.30-14.20

May 10 — Vetenskapsfestivalen, Göteborg

Från massmördare till hjälte – människans förmåga till ondska och godhet

Vad får normala människor att ibland begå grymheter och övergrepp på andra människor, och vad får oss att istället begå goda och hjälpande handlingar? Vad utmärker de modiga människor som vågar visa civilkurage och själva riskera livet för andra? Författarna Brian Palmer och Eva-Lotta Hultén pratar om godhet och ondska utifrån sina senaste böcker.

Stadsbiblioteket, Trappscenen, Götaplatsen

Tid: 15:00-16:00

May 12 — Liberal Arts-programmet, Göteborgs universitet, Göteborg

May 13 — Architecture +, Lunds tekniska högskolan, Lund