The Junta Manifesto

June 2008

“A man accustomed to hear only the echo of his own sentiments, soon bars all the common avenues of delight, and has no part in the general gratification of mankind.”

-Samuel Johnson

Idea

The Junta is a philosophical society, a place for people to gather and discuss issues uninterrupted by the callings of daily life in the modern world and unencumbered by the social norms that frequently inhibit deeper discussion, in particular of controversial topics. The Junta will provide a forum for informed, reasoned discussion of complex subjects at length.

Participants in the Junta present topics for discussion in which they may reasonably be considered experts, or that they have sufficient passion and insight into, with the aim of enlightening and engaging others. More importantly, they bring inquisitive, open minds – and ears. Listening plays a greater role at the Junta than speaking.

Spirit

The Junta strives to balance a formal setting for discussion with a relaxed and unpretentious environment. We want to avoid an excessive devotion to form; yet the Junta must be organized enough to separate it from more casual social occasions.

For those who have found that everyday social settings are easily upset by conversation topics considered “too serious,” the Junta will be a refuge. Those who believe in the value of discussing important (and sometimes contentious) issues in detail will now have a home. The Junta provides an atmosphere of academic discussion and argument for those of us lacking it.

Structure

Meetings will last approximately two hours and consist of 2-3 separate topics, each brought by an individual participant who will start the conversation. Speakers will ideally circulate background documents prior to the meeting: newspaper or magazine articles, books or films, including ideas of the speaker’s own composition to serve as a starting point for discussion.

At the meeting, the speaker will lay out his position for the other participants, who will subsequently enhance, challenge, or question it, and things will progress from there.

Meetings will be documented so as to keep a record of insights and events, and for publicizing (to some extent) the Junta and its goals.

Location

The Junta will convene in different places in New York where the atmosphere lends itself to gatherings of its kind. The meetings will aim to broaden personal and professional connections, and expand our knowledge of the city.

Origins

In 1727, Ben Franklin formed a “club of mutual improvement” … “conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth.” He called that endeavor the Junto, derived from the Latin for to join. Today, the New York City Junto, founded in 1985 by Victor Niederhoffer, still meets regularly. We have decided to call our little project the Junta, because we enjoy the menace implied by the slight linguistic twist – and we hope to someday graduate the group into hatching plans of intrigue and political subterfuge over top-shelf scotch or cheap draft beer.

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Jeremy Hurewitz