Parag Khanna

It was great watching Parag Khanna on TED mapping the future of countries. He published ‘The second world’ last year and talks with authority of current geopolitics.

Here is an interview he gave recently:

What is “The Second World” from the title of your book?

The “second world” is a swath of the world’s most strategic countries around the world that are located between or on the peripheries of the three dominant empires: America, the European Union, and China. These countries include: Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, and others. Second world countries are the emerging markets, but we have to understand them more than just economically: they now hold the majority of the world’s reserves and a growing share of the total global economy, but they are also endowed with natural resources and are pursuing political agendas on their own. In every second world country I have heard people talk about how they will no longer be listening to the US but doing things “our own way.”

Europe is often portrayed in the U.S. as having an unsustainable socialist economy that will soon collapse under its own weight. You see it in a very different light.

Every day on the news we hear about how our own medicare and social security systems are under great stress and may collapse, so I’m dubious about such characterizations of Europe. At least their system works now and has for decades. Europeans are for more efficient in public management with far lower inequality – America has a great deal to learn from them.

Your view of Russia and its future is something I had never heard before. Would you talk a little about that?

There are two very different views on Russia today, pitting those who view its recent short-term resurgence as heralding its return as a superpower (or at least an energy superpower) versus those who see the underlying instability in almost all aspects of its governance and economy. It has poor technology, a crippled infrastructure, a dying and sick population, an authoritarian government, and a great deal more weaknesses which will prevent it from ever becoming a superpower again. It continues to face widespread unrest in its south, while it’s de-populating eastern zones are increasingly Chinese populated. It simply isn’t logical to look at Russia on the map, as gigantic as it is, and think of it as a truly single, coherent, unified country. The world map is always changing, and Russia, whose map changed drastically for the worse when the Soviet Union collapsed, will continue to suffer in the coming decades.

Where do India and Japan fit into your global view?

I see India and Japan as two powerful swing states, sort of the second geopolitical tier behind the “Big Three.” They are not superpowers (Japan no longer and India not yet), but they can be important balancers in determing whether America or China becomes more powerful in the Pacific Rim region. At present, both lean towards the US and are suspicious of China, yet at the same time both are integrating with China economically much faster than before. So it is a delicate and precarious situation, one that very much embodies the tension throughout my book between globalization and geopolitics. It’s not clear to anyone how it will play out.

Although the United States has, by far, the world’s most powerful military, you don’t seem to believe it is of much importance.

Given that we are batting .000 in our foreign policy objectives such as stabilizing Iraq, resurrecting Afghanistan, and countering global terrorism, the burden of proof really falls on those who believe military power is most important. Around the entire world what I see is Europe and China investing into and buying greater shares of foreign economies—and thus gaining significant political and even military leverage over them—at our expense. Power has to be a fair balance among a range of tools, including the military, in order to be used effectively. We’re not doing that now, and I don’t see a good strategy coming out of Washington as to how to do it better.

The big three—U.S., China and Europe—are all pursuing Central Asia with its huge oil and gas reserves. It also offers a textbook look at the different methodologies that each one uses to engage with the world.

Very much so. The U.S. is the geographically most distant player and has at best been able to establish very small forward bases in the region in countries like Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. But in the former Soviet republics, this presence is highly unstable: we were kicked off our base in Uzbekistan in 2005, and the same could happen at Manas in Kyrgyzstan. Europe has been investing more and more in the region and has been very tough on political conditionality, freezing the travel of Uzbek officials and so forth. China directly borders the region, so has been pursuing pipelines, roads and trade in tandem to boost its connections to the region. All three styles of diplomacy are at play and in competition with each other. Whether the future of the region will be a return to the Silk Road era or the “Great Game” era is what I try to answer in the book.

You write that economic well-being trumps ideology. Radical Islam, in the minds of most Americans, does not follow any norms of rational economic self-interest. Is our view distorted? How do you recommend we deal radical Islam and also the Middle East?

Our view is beyond distorted: it is itself more irrational than the people to whom we ascribe irrationality. Quite a few studies have shown that terrorists largely come from the middle class and are pursuing very clearly articulated political objectives of resisting authoritarian regimes and American-backed aggression. There is no one policy for the Middle East, nor is there even a “Middle East” in my book. There are Arabs, and among them there are North Africans who can be elevated through the economic and political efforts of the EU; then there is the Mashreq where we need to push for a re-arranging of the borders of states such as Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan so that populations and ethic groups are not so fragmented and divided, but also allowing them to integrate more peacefully with their neighbors. Radicalism would not go away even if we did, but it could be dealt with through more socio-economically oriented programs that are driven from the ground-up rather than through our outside interventions.

You’ve written about America decaying from within, particularly with its growing gap between the rich and poor. Can we even afford to be playing the Empire game? Is there any historical precedent for a country going into debt to a rival (in our case China) to fund its foreign wars?

Wars do of course often cause indebtedness, but indeed we are already there! The American government does not think in guns or butter terms though, so the rich-poor gap is not an effective argument against changing our foreign policies. Those who defend our current over-stretch will always say that the percentage of GDP spent on the military remains very low, which is true. I argue that playing the empire game is nothing less than playing the globalization game, which means we need to channel even more foreign investment into America, but steer it towards rebuilding our society and creating jobs.

Charles Krauthammer once wrote that “America’s purpose should be to steer the world away from its coming multipolar future toward a qualitatively new outcome — a unipolar world whose center is a confederated West.” It’s clear from your book that you disagree, but what are the long and short-term consequences of America pursuing this neoconservative ideology.

At present we are pursuing neither the course Krauthammer advocates nor the one I do! We have alienated Europe and accelerated its coalescence into an alternative pole of power within Western civilization. America and Europe will surely continue to partner on a great many things (trade, Afghanistan, Mideast issues, etc.), but that still ignores the fact that the East already is far too powerful for anyone to claim that the West alone would be the sole pole of power. In other words, Krauthammer’s vision is not only wrong, but it’s too late anyway. We need to do things that integrate East and West, not things that inspire the East to rise against the West.

Women Want More

In 2008, the Boston Consulting Group ran a lifestyle survey of 12,000 women in 22 countries. Their survey findings inform the conclusions in Women Want More, a book that details the burgeoning women’s consumer market. I have not read the book. Here is a book review which I picked up from the web.

Each chapter includes statistics, company stories, and anecdotes from individual women. Readers finish the book with an idea of how women behave as consumers, and how to gear their products for success in the female economy.

Authors: BCG Senior Partner Michael Silverstein, who wrote Trading Up (2003) and Treasure Hunt (2006). Co-written with BCG Partner Kate Sayre.

Recommended for: Corporate leaders and marketers who want to tap the growing women’s consumer products sector.


Women comprise a huge potential market for companies. They control almost $12 trillion of the $18.4 trillion in worldwide consumer spending (65%). By 2028, they will control 72%. Over the next five years, they will gain $5 trillion in earned income. The result? A consumer market bigger than China and India.

That’s just the beginning. So far, 80% of unemployment growth has been male, making the term he-cession ring true. Women own 40% of US businesses—and that number is growing. Women make most of the household decisions about travel, cars, and electronics. Many control household finances.

With economic potential like that, companies need to think seriously about catering to discerning females. “Making it pink” just won’t work.

The Survey

After reviewing the results of their survey, the authors came up with some noteworthy findings. Some of it is familiar: People have either researched and concluded it before, or it sounds like common knowledge:

1) Most women are employed.

* 71% of US mothers are in the labor force (2006 stats)
* 56% have children under one year old (2006)

2) At the same time, women still do all the housework.

* 88% are responsible for grocery shopping
* 85% make all the family meals
* 84% do the laundry
* 84% do most of the housecleaning

3) As a result, they’re stressed.

* 47% say that demands on their time are the “big stress in their life”
* 45% don’t have enough time for themselves

4) Finally, in an unrelated vein of womanhood, they don’t feel skinny or pretty.

* 68% think they’re overweight
* 44% of women rarely or never feel beautiful

Sayre and Silverstein also uncover some tidbits that you may not have heard before:

* Women’s happiness, as correlated with age, is a V-shaped curve. That means women are happiest when they’re young and old, but not so much in between.

* Love, health, honesty, and well-being are the four most important values to women

* When asked what makes them extremely happy, women said:
1) Pets (42%)
2) Sex (27%)
3) Food (19%)

Sorry, guys.

The authors claim there are still a lot of first-mover advantages in the female market. Overall, women fell pressured for time and stressed. They’re constantly looking for products that meet their specific needs (unlike men, who are more loyal to brands). If you create a product that saves women time, feel in control of their finances, or offers other key features as defined in the book, you, too, can capture your piece of the femme pie.


To learn exactly how to address women’s needs, you need to consider the archetype your target market belongs to. The authors divide women into six archetypes. They’re based on economic class, age, and family status:

Fast tracker: 24% of population, 34% of earned income
College-educated, career-minded, makes a lot of money

Pressure cooker: 22% of the population, 23% of earned income
Middle-income, middle-aged, never enough time in the day

Relationship focused: 16% of the population, 13% of earned income
Young, single, adopting brands

Fulfilled empty nester: 15% of the population, 16% of earned income
Money in pocket, enough time, likes leisure and travel

Managing on her own: 10% of population, 9% earned income
Divorced/widowed, making a lot of decisions by herself

Making ends meet: 12% of the population, 5% of earned income
Low income, less education. Low-paying jobs or unemployed. Dissatisfied.

Companies need to understand exactly who they’re trying to serve, and refine from there.

Although the archetypes serve the purposes of this book well, they don’t take culture, lifestyle, and other important market aspects into consideration. They’re a starting point for companies, but not a definitive guide for defining a market segment.

Features of Each Chapter

After explaining the archetypes, the book explores different categories of products that women care about. Each chapter is devoted to a category. Food, fitness, beauty, and apparel make up the first four categories. Financial services and healthcare, which women perceive negatively, make up the next two.

The authors cover how women perceive each product category, how they spend their money on it, and how archetypes react to it. Quotes, statistics, and anecdotes about individual women add flavor to the chapter.

The authors also describe commercial opportunities in each category, illustrating them with major corporations that “got it right.” These include Whole Foods, Curves, Olay, Banana Republic, and several other large corporations.

Next, the book talks about women in low- and high-growth global economies. The former include Japan and Europe. The latter include BRIC, Mexico, and the Middle East. Readers learn more about the characteristics of women in those countries, and how to cater to them.

Before concluding the book, the authors detail women’s attitudes towards charity and giving.


The book is well-written, even fun to read. The statistics, stories, and quotes in each story engage readers with the subject matter. Some topics might feel familiar—of course women don’t have enough time—but the book adds value to previous assumptions by going into specifics.

Sadly, several of the characters in the book aren’t original. One was sourced from Wikipedia; another came from a blog.. The authors have agreed to make revisions.

Also note that the book targets leaders of large, consumer-goods corporations (who might, incidentally, read the book and hire BCG consultants). It doesn’t go into depth with regards to service industries, outside of financial and healthcare services. It doesn’t give readers refined tips, or schedules on how to revise their product offerings. One assumes that’s where the consultants come in.

The book provides a general reminder to capture a growing market. It gives a deeper definition of who inhabits that market. And, as far as business books go, it is conventional. It covers established companies and brands. It does not mention burgeoning industries (eg. the green industry) or edgy innovations.

The material is in-the-box and focused on big companies. Undoubtedly, that serves a purpose. Just know that the business wisdom within won’t push many boundaries.

In sum: Useful and fun to read, but not groundbreaking.

Heureux batisseurs de Paix!

La Fondation Chirac a décerné un prix le 6 Novembre a deux adversaires nigériennes qui pendant une décennie ont été en opposition pour une question de religion.

Le Prix pour la prévention des conflits récompense, pour sa part, l’Imam Mohammed Ashafa et le Pasteur James Wuye. Tous deux, anciens adversaires dans un antagonisme militant, ont su remettre en cause le recours à la violence pour se consacrer à la réconciliation des cœurs et des esprits, dans un Nigeria traversé par les fractures religieuses et ethniques.

Le dialogue qu’ils ont engagé depuis plusieurs années  continue de produire ses fruits et nous montre la voie.

N’est ce pas formidable ?

Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye are religious leaders who live in Kaduna, a city in northern Nigeria.  Today, they work together to teach warring religious youth militias to resolve their conflicts peacefully.  But they did not start out as peacemakers.  Ten years ago, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James were mortal enemies, intent on killing one another in the name of religion.  In 1995, Ashafa and Wuye formed the Interfaith Mediation Centre, a religious grass- roots organization that has successfully mediated between Christians and Muslims throughout Nigeria. Together, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James demonstrate extraordinary courage and dedication every day.  Through their commitment to dialogue with their adversaries, and using religion as a resource, they leave us with a compelling example of what it takes to achieve peace and coexistence.

Gorbachev’s Glasnost & Perestroika

As the world celebrates today, the fall of the Berlin wall which ostensibly sounded the start of a new era, I am reminded of  two Russian words: Glasnost & Perestroïka. I am in great admiration of a great stateman who made history to the world: Gorbachev. Right after Mikhail Gorbachev took the office of the”General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”   of the “Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union” there were significant changes of the top Party leaders. He wrote the book Perestroika in 1987, which is now used in order to interpret beliefs of the time. Glasnost meaning ‘Transparency’ and Perestroika meaning ‘Restructure’ were the essentials  of his book.


The lessons of what happened to Russia, may very well apply today to each of us.  ‘The necessity to be transparent and to be true to oneself’ is an exercise that each of us needs to perform. More so, this exercise of transparency becomes primordial in a social environment. Trust and trustworthiness can only be built through transparency.

Easier said than done. Can you imagine the environment of mistrust and opacity prevailing in the Soviet communist era in the 80’s when the second most powerful position in Russia was the chief of the KGB?

Likewise to act transparently to our environment is not an easy task.

Then restructuring and rebuilding trust follows. Changes and the improvement could only smoothly happen in any organisation when the element of trust and the wish of one and all to work towards a common and compelling future.

No wonder the most sought present training at Franklin Covey for organisation is “The speed of Trust”.

Today on the celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I see more the celebration of a great leader who succeeded in bringing new beginnings to the world. Hats off to you Mikhail Gorbachev!

Reflexion Dominicale

Dans son enseignement, il disait : « Méfiez-vous des scribes, qui tiennent
à sortir en robes solennelles et qui aiment les salutations sur les places
les premiers rangs dans les synagogues, et les places d’honneur dans les
Ils dévorent les biens des veuves et affectent de prier longuement : ils
seront d’autant plus sévèrement condamnés. »
Jésus s’était assis dans le Temple en face de la salle du trésor, et
regardait la foule déposer de l’argent dans le tronc. Beaucoup de gens
riches y mettaient de grosses sommes.
Une pauvre veuve s’avança et déposa deux piécettes.
Jésus s’adressa à ses disciples : « Amen, je vous le dis : cette pauvre
veuve a mis dans le tronc plus que tout le monde.
Car tous, ils ont pris sur leur superflu, mais elle, elle a pris sur son
indigence : elle a tout donné, tout ce qu’elle avait pour vivre. »


Quelle générosité nous enseigne le Seigneur ? Combien faut-il donner ?

Je me souviens une parole de Mother Theresa : donner jusqu’a en souffrir.  Jésus a tout donné : jusqu’à  donner sa vie.

Combien faut-il aimer  mon prochain? Dois-je tout donner par amour pour toi Seigneur ?

Aie pitié de moi Seigneur de ne pas avoir cette générosité que Tu me demandes.

Comment T’aimer plus que moi-même ?

Saint Anselme (1033-1109), moine, évêque, docteur de l’Église
Lettre 112, à Hugues le reclus (trad. Orval)

« Elle a tout donné »

Au Royaume des cieux, tous ensemble, et comme un seul homme, seront
un seul roi avec Dieu, car tous voudront une seule chose et leur volonté
s’accomplira. Voilà le bien que, du haut du ciel, Dieu déclare mettre en
vente. Si quelqu’un se demande à quel prix, voici la réponse : il n’a
pas besoin d’une monnaie terrestre, celui qui offre un Royaume dans le
ciel. Personne ne peut donner à Dieu que ce qui lui appartient déjà,
puisque tout ce qui existe est à lui. Et cependant, Dieu ne donne pas une
si grande chose sans qu’on n’y mette aucun prix : il ne la donne pas à
celui qui ne l’apprécie pas. En effet, personne ne donne ce qui lui est
cher à celui qui n’y attache pas de prix. Dès lors, si Dieu n’a pas besoin
de tes biens, il ne doit pas non plus te donner une si grande chose si tu
dédaignes de l’aimer : il ne réclame que l’amour, sans quoi rien ne
l’oblige à donner. Aime donc, et tu recevras le Royaume. Aime, et tu le
posséderas… Aime donc Dieu plus que toi-même, et déjà tu commences à
tenir ce que tu veux posséder parfaitement dans le ciel.

Flying cars by Terrafugia



Transition® Roadable Aircraft Moves on to Next Stage of Development

Woburn, MA – June 3, 2009: Terrafugia, Inc. has successfully completed the flight testing program designed for its Transition® Roadable Aircraft Proof of Concept. Having been dubbed “The Flying Car”, the Transition® completed its historic first flight on March 5, 2009 with 27 additional flights completed over the next several weeks.

The successful completion of flight-testing with the Proof of Concept concludes the first stage of a four stage process to bring the Transition® into production. Work is underway on Stage 2, the Beta Prototype. First delivery is expected in 2011.

The Proof of Concept vehicle is the first and only Transition® to be built thus far. It has now achieved its goals by demonstrating driving, flying, and automated transformation between the two in one integrated aircraft. The flights conducted a plan set specifically for the Transition®: characteristics such as handling, performance, and take-off and landing, stability and stall were evaluated. B-Roll footage is available of representative flights. The flight-testing program demonstrated the safety of the vehicle in the air while identifying modifications that will be incorporated into the next Transition® model to be built, the Beta Prototype.

Test Pilot Colonel (Retired) Phil Meteer had a positive review of flying the POC: “I would like to keep flying this Proof of Concept vehicle, but it makes sense to move on to the Beta Prototype.”

Categorized as a Light Sport Aircraft, the Transition® requires a Sport Pilot certificate to fly. It is a two-seat aircraft designed to take off and land at local airports and drive on any road. Transforming from plane to car takes the pilot less than 30 seconds. The Transition® will cruise up to 450 miles at over 115 mph, will drive at highway speeds on the road, and fits in a standard household garage. The vehicle has front wheel drive on the road and a propeller for flight. Both modes are powered by unleaded automotive gasoline. By giving pilots a convenient ground transportation option, the Transition® reduces the cost, inconvenience, and weather sensitivity of personal aviation. It also increases safety by incorporating automotive crash structures and allowing pilots to drive under bad weather. Refundable airframe reservations are currently being accepted.

Terrafugia (ter-ra-FOO-gee-ah), based in Woburn, MA, is comprised of a team of award-winning engineers who have been advancing the state of personal aircraft since 2006. Founded by five pilots who are graduates of MIT and supported by a world-class network of advisors and private investors, Terrafugia’s mission is the innovative expansion of personal mobility. “Terrafugia” is Latin for “escape from land.”

Terrafugia would like to acknowledge and thank its corporate sponsors: Ansys, Nor-Tech, SolidWorks Corporation, and Additionally, the following business partners have contributed to a successful flight testing program by furnishing equipment and services: SpaceAge Controls, Garmin International, Dynon Avionics, CO Guardian, David Clark Company, Bose Corporation, Telex Communications, Aloft Technologies, Icom Inc., JH Audio, and Air Graphics LLC.

I am looking forward to the day we shall be able to drive -fly-drive to Reunion Island from Mauritius…

Frederic LENOIR

Je termine de lire hier soir, le livre de Frederic LENOIR : Le Christ philosophe. Le livre m’a appris pas mal de choses ; peut-être plus important encore le livre m’a permis de confronter ma pensée sur  nombreux de mes certitudes avec les points de vue du philosophe LENOIR. N’est ce pas le propre de la philosophie qui nous emmène à réfléchir sur notre pensée ?

Trois jours après, Je suis toujours en réflexion de la méditation de Frederic LENOIR sur le passage de l’évangile de St Jean : ‘Jésus face à la Samaritaine’.  Les pensées de LENOIR m’interpellent encore car en épilogue à son livre cette méditation tente de résumer la lecture de LENOIR sur le devenir des religions.

Voici un des articles et chroniques de LENOIR :

Il faut excommunier Jésus
Le Monde, le 20 mars 2009.

L’Eglise catholique traverse une crise d’une ampleur inédite depuis plusieurs décennies. Cette crise est d’autant plus profonde que sa crédibilité est atteinte dans tous les cercles : chez les non-catholiques, chez les catholiques culturels et chez les fidèles pratiquants. L’Eglise n’est pas victime d’une agression extérieure : les causes de ses maux actuels ne sont pas le fait des “ennemis de la foi” ou des anticléricaux. Deux graves affaires, qui relèvent de la responsabilité de sa hiérarchie, ont brutalement mis au jour ses contradictions : la levée de l’excommunication de quatre évêques intégristes, dont un tenant des propos négationnistes, et l’excommunication, quasi concomitante, par l’archevêque de Recife, d’une mère et d’une équipe médicale ayant pratiqué un avortement sur une fillette âgée de 9 ans enceinte de jumeaux, victime de viols, et dont la vie était en danger.

A cela vient de s’ajouter les propos de Benoît XVI dans l’avion le menant en Afrique, continent le plus touché par la pandémie du sida : “On ne peut pas régler le problème du sida avec la distribution de préservatifs ; au contraire leur utilisation aggrave le problème.”La première affaire a surtout scandalisé par les propos négationnistes odieux de Mgr Williamson et la triple faute du Vatican, qui n’a pas informé le pape de paroles connues des milieux avertis depuis novembre 2008 ; qui a promulgué le décret le 24 janvier alors que ces propos faisaient la “une” des médias du monde entier depuis le 22 janvier ; et enfin par la lenteur de leur condamnation.

Mais cette levée d’excommunication “sans conditions”, préambule à un processus de réintégration dans l’Eglise, a aussi profondément troublé de nombreux catholiques attachés au concile Vatican II (1962-1965) et à ses valeurs de liberté religieuse et de dialogue avec les autres religions, constamment niées par les intégristes. Dans la lettre aux évêques rendue publique le 12 mars, le pape reconnaît des erreurs dans la gestion de l’affaire Williamson et tente de se justifier sur la levée d’excommunication en utilisant l’argument de la miséricorde : “Qui annonce Dieu comme amour poussé “jusqu’au bout” doit donner le témoignage de l’amour : se consacrer avec amour à ceux qui souffrent.”

On peut entendre, qu’au nom du message évangélique, le pape veuille pardonner et donner une nouvelle chance à des brebis égarées qui tiennent pourtant des paroles extrémistes et intolérantes depuis des années. Mais alors pourquoi l’Eglise continue-t-elle d’interdire la communion aux divorcés remariés ? Pourquoi condamne-t-elle avec une telle dureté les proches d’une fillette violée qui lui ont sauvé la vie en la faisant avorter ? La miséricorde ne doit-elle s’appliquer qu’aux intégristes ? Et comment peut-on considérer le viol d’une enfant comme moins grave qu’un avortement, qui plus est effectué à des fins vitales ?

Le scandale est tel que plusieurs évêques français sont montés au créneau pour condamner une décision inique qui contredit non seulement la morale commune, mais aussi le message évangélique. Qu’il suffise de citer l’épisode où Jésus refuse de condamner une femme adultère, qui, selon la loi, doit être lapidée, et lance aux ultralégalistes de l’époque : “Que celui qui n’a jamais péché jette la première pierre” (Jean, 8). Lui-même a plusieurs fois transgressé la loi religieuse. Dostoïevski avait imaginé que si Jésus était revenu dans l’Espagne de Torquemada, il aurait été condamné au bûcher pour avoir prêché la liberté de conscience. On se demande, dans l’Eglise de Benoît XVI, s’il ne serait pas excommunié pour avoir prôné le dépassement de la loi par l’amour ?

Nul ne demande à l’Eglise de renoncer à affirmer ses convictions. Mais ce qui ne passe pas, c’est la manière théorique et parfois brutale utilisée par la hiérarchie pour réaffirmer la norme, alors qu’il n’existe que des situations concrètes, singulières et complexes. Comme le soulignait Mgr Yves Patenôtre, évêque de la mission de France, la décision d’excommunication prononcée par l’archevêque de Recife, confirmée par Rome, “fait fi de la pratique pastorale traditionnelle de l’Eglise catholique qui est d’écouter les personnes en difficulté, de les accompagner et, en matière de morale, de tenir compte du “moindre mal””. On peut dire la même chose pour la lutte contre le sida. L’usage du préservatif n’est sans doute pas la solution idéale, il n’en demeure pas moins, de fait, le meilleur rempart contre la propagation de l’épidémie pour tous ceux qui ont du mal à vivre l’abstinence et la fidélité prônées par l’Eglise. Les prêtres africains en savent quelque chose.

L’histoire de l’Eglise est marquée par cette tension permanente entre la fidélité au message de compassion envers chaque personne de son fondateur et l’attitude de ses dirigeants qui finissent souvent par perdre de vue ce message pour privilégier l’intérêt de l’institution – devenue une fin en soi – ou s’enfermer dans un juridisme pointilleux, absurde et déshumanisant.

Le pontificat de Jean Paul II a été marqué du sceau d’une profonde ambiguïté : intransigeant et traditionaliste sur le plan moral et doctrinal, il a été aussi un homme de dialogue et de coeur, multipliant les gestes forts envers les humbles et les autres religions. Benoît XVI n’est l’héritier que du versant conservateur de son prédécesseur. Et il n’y a plus dans l’Eglise d’Abbé Pierre ni de Soeur Emmanuelle, ces “croyants croyables”, pour pousser un coup de gueule face à des décisions dogmatiques déshumanisantes, jouant ainsi un rôle cathartique et servant de précieux médiateurs entre les fidèles et l’institution.

Un schisme silencieux menace l’Eglise sur sa gauche, autrement plus grave que celui des traditionalistes. Benoît XVI entendait ré évangéliser l’Europe. Il n’aura peut-être réussi qu’à reconquérir une poignée d’intégristes, au détriment de la perte de nombreux fidèles attachés aux valeurs évangéliques et d’individus en quête de sens à qui Rome semble ne plus savoir offrir que du dogme et de la norme.

Creative Tensions

Last month you will recall at the APM convention, I had a glimpse back in the analysis and wisdom of Gary Hamel. And now, I went back through my archives to draw more of Gary Hamel’s and have to share with you the wisdom which oozes from reconciling opposites which he termed a Creative Tensions. As a good leader, one should be able to accommodate paradoxes and above all master the powers of paradoxes.

What is the well-spring of America’s unending talent for renewal? It is a series of seemingly irreconcilable opposites—tensions that America holds in perpetual creative balance. No nation has ever been so defined by dichotomy, or drawn such strength from seemingly irreconcilable opposites.

America makes no apology for its competing and clashing voices. Therein lie the roots of resilience: This ability to embrace the extremes—while not becoming extremist.

So what are these contradictions that America has navigated so adroitly? And what lessons do they offer business leaders and their companies?

1. Coherence and diversity. America is a society born of an idea—that all men and women are created equal and capable of self-government. This idea, when embraced earnestly, puts the newest naturalized citizen on a par with the bluest-blood Daughter of the American Revolution.

We are all hypen-Americans: diverse in our roots, yet, united in our affections for this sprawling, kaleidoscopic country. Spin the globe, and you will find oppressive societies with a surfeit of cohesion and a dearth of diversity, or you will find splintered cultures with much diversity and too little cohesion. Where but in America will you find diversity and cohesion in such full measure?

2. Community and activism. President Herbert Hoover coined the term “rugged individualism”and declared this the essence of the American character. Think of the cowboy, that symbol of personal freedom. Yet the tendency towards fierce independence is only one half of the American spirit—the other half is community. Yes, cowboys often rode the range alone, but west-bound pioneers traveled in wagon trains, raised each other’s barns, built schools and towns, and shared whatever fortune gave them.

Yet, in America, the tender bonds of community have always stretched to encompass the one with the new idea, the gentle rebel who abandons “what is” for “what can be.” It is the activists and the rabble-rousers who have called America to reformation. Yet activism in America is inclusionist by nature. We have little patience for those with a sectarian vision.

3. Strength and compassion. More often than not, the history of power is the history of brutality. How rare the government that, like America’s, combines great strength with even greater humanity. When America has gone to war, it has done so with a singular combination of compassion and strength. We see it in today’s War on Terror, as American planes bear not only smart bombs, but payloads of emergency food rations. As someone who has visited virtually every corner of this planet, I can tell you that America is more admired than despised, primarily because America’s strength has never come at the expense of its compassion. Indeed, never has power worn a more compassionate face.

4. Courage and prudence. Our Constitutional system by, of, and for the people has produced leaders who only reluctantly send soldiers into the fray. The caution of America’s leaders—their reluctance to engage unless attacked, their caution in planning before joining the battle, their care in articulating the moral grounds for war—has always been a source of courage for America’s soldiers. No one asks, or expects, them to be martyrs. We don’t celebrate their march into battle. Instead, we pray God’s protection for every man and woman, and we bemoan every loss. We are brave, but we are not foolhardy.

5. Spiritual and material. America is a land in love with the new, a nation of novelty seekers who can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. And yet, as a people, Americans manage to keep sight of the deeper, more permanent things. Americans are among the most religious people on earth. About half attend religious services each week, and 65 percent are members of a congregation, a higher proportion than in any other developed county. On the other hand, who can match America’s raw commercial instincts—that ability to make a sale, or close a deal?

How strange that a country of believers should have a Constitution that bars the state from interfering in religious life. How unlikely that one of the most avowedly spiritual countries is also one of the most materially successful. Again, we welcome the extremes, grapple with them, confront them—and ultimately, transcend them.

Whenever the pendulum swings too far—towards banal commercialism or overbearing religiosity—Americans find a way of restoring the balance. Today, the pendulum is moving back towards timeless spiritual values.

What can struggling companies learn from the grand American example? Just this: To embrace the power of paradox whole-heartedly and unreservedly. To be single-minded about nothing and open to everything.

The power of paradox is the power of and. In my experience, executives too often see an either/or when they should be searching for an and. Too often these choices are posed as short-term versus long-term, control versus autonomy, cutting versus growing. But a truly resilient company can’t be all one thing; it can’t even be most of one thing. It must have all of many things: all efficiency and all innovation, all optimization and all experimentation, all discipline and all passion, all evolution and all revolution.

Accommodating these paradoxes will require ambidextrous leaders and companies where the accountants and engineers become dreamers and rebels, where bold strategies are pursued with temperate means.

Resilience is an American specialty. After all, a paradox stands at the heart. E Pluribus Unum: “From many, one.”

Happy Hak ka

If I may claim to be of HAKKA descent amongst the Han of China, I am proud to be amongst the 100millions of HAKKA of this world. This is the estimated numbers according to HAKKA researchers.

With the greatest pleasure I re-read the 60 pages booklet produced by Joseph Tsang Man Kin entitled: ‘HAKKA and HUAREN DESTINY Challenge and Response.’ It was a quick reading to arouse in me, my sense of being a HAKKA.  I am  proud of the values that I have absorbed and am ignited to the need to transmit them.

tmk book

I have a wish to document myself more on HAKKA, the history and their contributions to building the Chinese Nation and their spread in the world. I was reminded in Joseph book that the contribution of HAKKA to the Taipin rebellion is quite known, more recently it is now being let out the contribution of a number of HAKKA’s to the rebuilding of China after the great leap period past the lost of Mao.

The word Hak KAa is itself an oxymore. Could be interpreted as Guest: Home or Foreigner: home.

Has the HAKKA  a nomadic gene to be always on the move or is it the continuous search for improvement of his lot that animate him?

The image that comes up to my mind now is: a rolling stone will forcibly become a ball with no shape edges. The roaming to different places, the intermingling with different people, the experiencing different situations forcible transform self into a smooth and versatile body. As such, through centuries of roaming the HAKKA people have been refined in their ways and above all developed versatility and adaptability main traits, at least more than other Hans.

Tong Sin @ Hua Lien

On last Monday, I attended a talk and sharing around Tong Sin at Hua Lien club chaired by Andre Li.

It was a very good idea and the function was well attended by some fifty members of Hua Lien club.

What is Tong Sin?

As indicated on the Hua Lien ‘s invitation, we meant to discuss on sets of values that drive the behaviours of the Chinese in our multi cultural society of Mauritius.

tong sin

The scope of the subject is so vast.

When I read the  invitation notice, I was glad that some frames were given to focus on the theme. However after attending to the wonderful and very pleasant meeting, I came out with much learning from the various speakers and yet still hungry for more learning and hungry for an action plan for myself and a collective action plan. Was it meant to be only an awareness session?

I identified as part of the discussion would be on Culture and Values of the Chinese in Mauritius as practiced by our ancestry. The 2nd November being the day of remembering of the arrival of our forefathers, I thought that it would be an occasion to review the values and behaviours that drove the early settlers to succeed and transmit to them to the community. In the same time bring to light those values and behaviours identified as singular or of highest importance to the Chinese settlers and offer them for integration to the National heritage.

Whilst I argue that all human values may be the same for humanity, each community may well classify their order of preference differently. Respect to the elderly specially Parents, for example is rated amongst the top values in Tong Sin. This might not have the same rating in other communities. Duty to the community supersedes duty to self is very Chinese: yet another example which illustrates the hierarchy of values especially in this present  individualistic generating tendency.

It was interesting to deepen my thoughts on the meaning of ‘Culture’ in the context of Chinese culture as the word ‘Tong Sin’ seemed to signify. I quote here the Wikipedia definition:

Culture from  cultura stemming from colere, meaning to cultivate is a term that has different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn  compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:

  • excellence of taste in the  Fine art and Humanities, also known as  High culture
  • an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

When the concept first emerged in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it connoted a process of cultivation or improvement, as in  Agriculture  or Horticulture. In the nineteenth century, it came to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through  Education, and then to the fulfillment of  Nationalism. In the mid-nineteenth century, some scientists used the term “culture” to refer to a universal human capacity.

In the twentieth century, “culture” emerged as a concept central to Anthropology, encompassing all human phenomena that are not purely results of human genetics. Specifically, the term “culture” in American anthropology had two meanings: (1) the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with Symbol, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and (2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively. Following World War II, the term became important, albeit with different meanings, in other disciplines such as Sociology, cultural studies, Organizational psychology and Management studies.

I would single out the two definitions as pertinent to Tong Sin:

  • an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

Roland Tsang was designated to be the scribe for the meeting and I shall be waiting for his report.

For my part I have observed  several traits of our ancestors who drove them to succeed in the early days. Based on the history books I have read on the early Chinese settlers, it would appear that they had a high sense of identity. The men would wear their Chinese hats and kept their long pleaded hair to go around the country attempting to sell their wares. Their dress and demeanor identify them and they proudly showed themselves in spite of unpleasant remarks from others.  Consciously knowing who they were, where they came from and where they were going gave them an unbeatable mental construct to wage all adversities.

They were 1. Emotionally resilient and 2. Persistent in their sense of duty, thus hard working with a sense of purpose.  Emotional resilience was their main asset: they have demonstrated positive behavioural adaptation.

This resilience is defined as a dynamic process that individuals exhibit positive behavioural adaptation when they encounter significant adversity or Psychological trauma. Resilience is a two-dimensional construct concerning the exposure of adversity and the positive adjustment outcomes of that adversity. Adversity refers to any risk associated with negative life conditions that are statistically related to adjustment difficulties, such as poverty, or experiences of disasters. Positive adaptation, on the other hand, is considered in a demonstration of manifested behaviour on social competence or success at meeting any particular tasks at a specific life stage.

At the meeting at Hua Lien, I heard one of the participants making a remark on his blurred  identity.

The question that I am asking myself now: In the light of the changing environmental factors are we as a community able to reproduce these traits & strength needed  for our survival or progress?

How our Tong Sin would nurture our behaviours to contribute to the nation? Would there need to search in our heritage of Tong Sin  traits, values and behaviours to be in congruence with today’s realities of a fast shrinking numbers of our community and cultural metissage? Are we today conscious of the necessity to reconstruct ourselves for the new environment we shall be faced in the coming years?