Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Students for Liberty and Brno: Interview with Jan Škapa

Jan Škapa
My first encounter with Students for Liberty in Brno was sort of random. I was sitting at a local café with my friend and as the night was getting closer I noticed a bunch of people coming in and setting up a meeting in the underground premises of the café.

One of those people was my friend Dave Stancel and I knew that he was a part of some organization focusing on political ideas and liberty. Since I was always interested in those topics I decided to stay and see what all the fuss is about. It turned out to be a lovely night full of both information and discussion. I believe the topic that night was: „Why Scottish Independence Failed?“.
I have been a huge fan of the organization ever since and I attented a bunch of other meeting which are being held regularly over the semester in Brno. That is why I decided to make an interview with one of the founders of Students for Liberty CZ, Jan Škapa. He currently works for the Europe-wide branch but he is also active in Brno with a bunch of other people.
If you are looking for a group of open minded people that you can meet regularly to talk about politics, freedom or just a friendly chat, this article is for you!

So to start with something, tell us a little bit about yourself and then something about your organization, what is your aim and how did you come up with the idea to make a Czech version of it?

Okay! My name is Jan Škapa, I am 23 years old and I study Law at Masaryk University and a masters programme at Brno University of Technology. Besides that, I am interested in a wide array of other subjects – i.e. IT, the Web, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Physics, Economics, Philosophy, Business and more.

One day two years ago, after studying a lot of economics and thinking deeply about how a society works, I came to a conclusion that I simply couldn’t sit still and do nothing. I strongly felt that without individual freedom, any society can perish.

So I decided to do my part to prevent such a thing from happening. And as there were no apolitical student organizations dedicated to debating these important issues yet, I didn’t have a choice but to start one.

While looking around, I discovered an international organization full of people like myself – Students For Liberty – with whom I was able to collaborate and from whom I was able to draw inspiration and knowledge about how to create and run such an organization. This led to founding of our Czech spin-off (which we called Students for Liberty CZ) and igniting of a community here in Brno. It also allowed me to connect to a number of like-minded individuals not only in Europe, but also in the US, South America, Africa, Asia or Australia.

Right now, I still study in Brno and attend the events of SFL CZ there, however, I primarily work for the Europe-wide branch called the European Students For Liberty, as an Events Associate, putting together conferences and other events everywhere in Europe from Lisbon to Tbilisi.

What was the cooperation like in the beginning, even more so, what was it like in Brno? Because I know you started from scratch, how long did it take to build the community you now have in Brno and what ideas or events helped it the most?

I was very lucky to have visited the European Students For Liberty Conference in Leuven, Belgium in early 2013 where I met other people from Brno who were also contemplating to start a pro-liberty student organization in our city. So we exchanged contacts and then things started moving rather quickly.

In the beginning, it was hard because talking about ideas is not something students are used to do around here. So the idea was to think of an interesting topic to organize a big lecture on that would get us in the spotlight. The topic we decided for was Bitcoin, as It was something we were very interested in and it also was a very new topic at the time. A free, virtual currency was the thing that set us off greatly, as it was a great success – over 100 people came!
Liberty Evening in Brno
After that we continued with lectures and informal meetings. Our biweekly series of Liberty Evenings runs throughout both semesters each year and all people who are open-minded and want to discuss ideas are more than welcome to join (even English speakers). We usually have around 40 people coming to the biweekly meetings in Brno alone.Our lectures at universities are usually in Czech, as we invite local speakers to offer their perspectives on pressing issues. If people want to get involved, they should contact us and they can organize a lecture or an informal meeting on the topic of their interest. We are highly decentralised, so it's really up to you to come up with things to do.
At the moment we have a community of more than 35 active students in Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Liberec, České Budějovice and hundreds of people who attend our events regularly and sympathise with our mission and goal. All of this took 2 years to establish, and we are still growing.

Where can they contact you in Brno and what is the easiest way? Should they just come to the meeting?

Yes, the easiest way is come to one of our events. You can easily look up Students for Liberty CZ (or Brno Students for Liberty) on Facebook and the posts there should keep you informed. All open-minded people are always welcome.
Perhaps the best way is to come to one of our Liberty Evenings, which are very informal and allow you to meet others in a pleasant atmosphere.

Liberty evenings are those bi weekly meetings mentioned by both of above. Could you please tell the readers more about how it usually goes there and what were some of the most interesting topics so far?

Usually, a Liberty Evening starts at 20:00 in the underground room of Café Falk. Each time, there is a different topic. Usually something pressing and current. At the beginning we have a short introductions to the topic and then we play some videos on the topic (for and against), or have a speaker share his or her opinion.
At first we discuss the topic as a group and after the debate stops, we free things up and have an open discussion. You can sit next to pretty much anyone and discuss the topic further or just have fun. With a beer or a glass of wine in your hand. The topics really vary but we try to choose such topic that lead to an interesting discussions – such as abortion or right to own guns.

I think this is more than enough info for the beginning, is there any message you would like to send to our readers? Something you want them to remeber or any last words to encourage them to become involved?
Governments are slowly taking away our freedoms, so we need to be alert. Because if we give up our liberty for security, we will end up losing both.
Also, do not forget to come to our Liberty Evening in Brno to see what we are up to! Like us on Facebook and look forward to the first evening coming up 14 days after the start of the autumn semester!

European Students for Liberty conference 2015!

Photo sources: Facebook - Judd Weiss, Facebook, Students for Liberty CZ

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