Society / Evolution

purchasing power, inflation,...

Going back to work after a holiday

I am not a workaholic but love my job and one of the lucky ones who leave home with a smile then come back with a bigger smile. My students, who are mainly bank employees and whose interests range from football, food and wine to spirituality, have a good sense of humour. Nevertheless, getting back after a holiday is quiet a challenge. There are phone calls to return, paper work, backlog of emails and meetings. (I came back from Barcelona late last night and it is such a good idea to have one day off to recover physically before heading back to the class/training room).

Sports and Societies

France has just won 2-0 against Nigeria (It’s 11:00PM, 30/06/14, here): there are horns blowing, people laughing and yelling, and motorists brandishing French flags. We're in the middle of the FIFA World Cup 2014, and I can't help questioning the influence of sports on our society.

Likewise, cultures and values affect how and what sports are played by who, where and when. Sports have been in our lives as entertainment and leisure, as part of a political strategy, as an economic activity, as cultural means aimed at establishing relationships, and to show power and strength. In the middle ages, sport was used to settle disputes, punish, revenge and attract attention of women (e.g. jousting with swords, daggers and lances).

These days, football (Europe)/soccer (Australia & USA) is used as a platform to assert one’s national identity with flag bearing, singing of national anthem and wearing emblems before, during and after the games. In developed, developing and underdeveloped nations, football has faced new challenges due to globalisation, commercialisation and mediatisation which have both positive and negative outcomes.

In Belgium, football is viewed as a cementing force between the Flemings in the north (Netherlander: Flemish speaking) and the Walloons in the south and east (French speaking). Highly-paid footballers from humble socio-economic backgrounds have become multi-millionaires and influential.

On the other hand, the hosting of the World Cup costs billions which go a long way in a developing country (like Brazil). It's no surprise then that the 1994 Golden Ball winner Romario, who's now a member of the Brazilian Parliament, has been reported to have said that the money should have been spent better for health and education.

Goodbye 2013 Welcome 2014

Happy new year to you and your loved ones!

Like most of you, during the festive season, I spent a lot of time with my family and friends dining, playing board games and watching movies. I particularly like films which are based on facts or true stories, and in 2013 these ranged from horror (e.g. ‘The Conjuring’) to politics.

The last one I saw in 2013 was ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ While queuing my attention was directed at the classification notice, and I wondered why it’s not allowed for viewers under 12 years old. My husband chose this film and since I didn’t read the reviews, all I knew was that the main actor was Leonardo di Caprio (playing Jordan Belfort) and it’s about the world of finance and stock market.

After 20 minutes of the 3 hours, I thought of the under 12yo restriction. How can it be only ‘-12yo’; it should be at least ‘-18yo’. Upon returning home, I told my 18yo son that this is not worth his while -- there’s unnecessary show of drug use, sex and swearing. He looked surprised and mentioned the talent of the director. Well, to be objective, I pointed out that there are only two positive things in this movie: 1. You can start from scratch and be successful (but contrary to what Belfort’s said, I believe money does not automatically make you a better person); and 2. Crime doesn’t pay (Belfort made millions by defrauding others. In his Dad’s words “someday you’ve to mend the broken pieces”. I watched it in French so this may not be the exact phrase in the English version).

On the other hand, my 12yo and 18yo sons have watched “Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom” and I’m glad they did. At first, I was skeptical due to the scenes of violence (which really happened; e.g. police brutality and ‘Soweto uprising’ in 1976). To date, we still continue to talk about it; especially issues regarding human rights, equality and what make a ‘great person’ – discussions that have led us, so far, to exchange views on Gandhi and notable presidents.

市民の目と口をふさぎたい理由


世界がネルソン・マンデラの訃報に接した12月6日、安倍政権は特定秘密保護法案を強行採決しました。自由の闘士が亡くなった日に、日本の民主主義が踏みにじられるとは、あまりにも皮肉です。

なるほど今の法律ではできない情報隠蔽や言論弾圧の必要性が差し迫ってきた、知られるとまずいことがあるのだということが、彼らの拙速なやり方でかえって明らかになりました。

秘密は隠せば隠すほど、ハデに知れ渡る
1898年1月13日、文豪エミール・ゾラがスパイ容疑で逮捕されたドレフュスを弁護する手紙を、L'Aurore紙の一面に「J'Accuse...! 我は弾劾する!」という見出しで発表しました。フォール大統領に宛てたその手紙が世論を喚起し、冤罪事件解決への大きな一歩となりました。

Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. On verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres.

(要約)真実を黙らせて地下にうめると、それは増幅し爆発力としての力をたくわえ、ある日、一切を爆破しふきとばす。有名な一節です。

Japan's secrecy law

"Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. On verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres."

Émile Zola (1840-1902)

(Extrait de la lettre "J'Accuse... ! Lettre au Président de la République, M. Félix FAURE")

(When truth is buried underground, it grows and it builds up so much force that the day it explodes it blasts everything with it. We shall see whether we have been setting ourselves up for the most resounding of disasters, yet to come.)

(Excerpt of the letter "I accuse... ! Letter to the President of the Republic, M. Félix FAURE")

[Translation and notes © Shelley Temchin and Jean-Max Guieu, Georgetown University, 2001]
 
 

The hasty passage of the secrecy law has made me think that some leaders have urgent issues to desperately hide. In other words, they are afraid that the truth will hurt them soon. I can think of two of them.

特定秘密保護法案

欧州にいてもこの法案を、ずっと心配してましたよ。この法案が通れば、日本を離れる人がさらに増えると思い、じゃあヨーロッパに移住したい人たちのお手伝いをしようかと昨夜は考えたものでした。でも、簡単に日本を出れない人のほうが多いでしょう。

自民党の石破氏は、「大声を出すデモはテロと同じ」とおしゃったそうですが。ヨーロッパのデモを体験したことがないのでしょう、あの方。農民がトラクターで高速や幹線道路を完全にふさぎ、トラクターの古タイヤ(タイヤだけで人の背丈ほどある)を議会の前で燃やすのですよ。黒煙はあがり、公道はめちゃくちゃになるし、トラクターで一気に突進するから負傷者も多くでる。でも、職を失ったり税金が上がることがどういうことかみんな知っているから、互いにかばいあい、社会の機能は麻痺して、政府は大被害がでるから民意を尊重せざるを得なくなる。市民の声を聞かない代償は、高くつくのですね。

飛行機だって客を乗せてからスト、鉄道だって客を「人質」に国境あたりでいきなり動かなくなるのですよ。いつ終わるかもわからないゼネスト。日本のデモやストは、みなさんがんばってらしゃるけど、お行儀がいいなあと感じます。

。。。下につづく

TPP as Star Wars’ Trade Federation!?

I find trading is like a war. When I wrote a blog on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in Japanese a few months ago, I drew an analogy between the TPP and Star Wars’ Trade Federation. I did not mean to be funny at all. Rather, I think my analogy was not bad at all. Senator Palpatine (who seemed to be a good guy in the beginning) said:

"Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate, a tragedy has occurred, which started right here with the taxation of trade routes, and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation!" (from Star Wars wikia)

Now I see Mr. Obama is like Senator Palpatine who is eager to conclude the TPP, “corporate power tool of the 1%.”

Remember? In his August 31 statement on Syria, President Obama said:

"I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Find more references here...

Are you emotionally gifted?

Are you emotionally gifted?

Last week, in our Business English class, we had a role play on hiring the best person for a middle level position, i.e. choosing one of these 2 job applicants: A) a qualified person with little experience but is more likely to integrate well in the workplace; B) a highly experienced and technically savvy individual. Without hesitation, my 3 students explained why they would choose applicant A, who they described as “the more emotionally intelligent of the two.” When I asked for further explanation regarding emotional intelligence, they spoke vehemently about good interpersonal skills, ability to manage emotions, resilience, foresight, quick thinking, effective decision making and optimism – a cocktail of personality traits and cognitive & emotional intelligence.

Personality is one piece of the human triangle that defines us as a unique individual. It is made up of patterns of feelings, thoughts and behaviours that remain stable throughout our lives. Like personality, cognitive intelligence (Intelligence Quotient – IQ) doesn’t change. In my book “Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave” I explored the subject of IQ as ability and potential - the brain. In this article, I concentrate on the third side of the triangle known as emotional intelligence/quotient (EQ) - which is about awareness and 'touch'.

Innovation and Luxembourg, Suffering a Brain Drain!?

Ten years ago, when I started going to the Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg (BNL - the National Library of Luxembourg), the “poverty” of the library (e.g., infrastructure, resources, services, etc.) of the world's richest (if not mistaken) country shocked me. The BNL was so underdeveloped, when compared to many public and private libraries in the USA. More surprisingly, many libraries I had visited in Brussels, Paris, and other cities were not so nice, either.

(Just note that some BNL librarians appear to be cold and distant at first. But, when they get to know you, they can be friendly, very helpful, and even sweet.)

Over the last ten years, the BNL has improved dramatically, and has become one of the best/favorite libraries I know in the region so far. Although I still miss some aspects of American libraries – for example, specialized librarians (e.g., law librarians) and more conducive, competitive, extremely intense, and intellectually stimulating atmospheres for studying, I am OK with the BNL. Hope that it keeps improving in coming years.

However, talent management in Luxembourg concerns me/us greatly.

It is obvious that Luxembourg has an advantage in attracting people because of competitive salaries, benefits, etc. But, it may not be so good at retaining their top talents in some sectors (though, of course, there are really talented people in Luxembourg, but some of friends have been disenchanted. They have moved to other companies and countries with better opportunities).

There seems to be something dysfunctional: something does not ignite, but undermine the passion of people.

この素晴らしき世界

先日、日本では衆院選がありました。その翌日、ここフランスでもニュースになるかと思いきや。日本の政権交代はnon-event、つまり公然と無視される、話題にもならない期待はずれの出来事だったようです。

翌朝のラジオ(France Info) が伝えた主なニュースは、オバマ大統領が小学校乱射事件の追悼会で銃規制の強化を訴えたこと、エジプトの国民投票、フランス内政、重税をのがれようとベルギー国籍取得に動きだした俳優ジェラール・ドパルデュー、アフガニスタンの話題、そして最後に天気予報。

一時間ほど聞いてましたが、日本では政権交代があったにもかかわらず、全く報道されませんでした。反対に、その10日前くらいに東北地方で起きた比較的大きな地震のニュースは、何度も報道されてました。その報道の仕方が、フランスおよびヨーロッパでの日本の政治に対する期待度を物語っている気がしました。

ですが私たち日本人は、政治に無関心ではいられません。日本・日本経済の先行きに不安を抱いている人が多いようですが。ここで二点だけ、私も不安に思うことを書きます。

まず、日本は軍事・外交戦略に対応できる高度なIT(情報技術)専門家を、早急に多数育成する必要があると思います。領土問題で争うのは19~20世紀の政治で、緊迫性がやや欠ける過去のことでした。現在、国の中枢機関、陸・海・空・宇宙、機密情報はすべてコンピューターでコントロールされています。銀行も、病院も、企業も、飛行機・飛行場も、交通網も、そして原発も・・・。以前のように直接現場に行かず、サイバー攻撃や遠隔操作で(口にするのも恐ろしいような)大被害・大事故やテロを引き起こすことが可能になってきています。抜きんでたITなくして、日本の経済も危機突破も、国防軍もへったくれもありません。

無駄吠え、警戒吠えする小型犬のように不要な摩擦を起こすのでなく。首相には日本・世界中の優秀な人材を集めたチームをつくり、そのアドバイスに耳を傾け、平和・非戦を維持できる真の外交的・軍事的実力のある世界レベルの政治をなさっていただきたい。

Environmental and economic factors contribute to racism and xenophobia

«You told us Australians are cool, considerate, welcoming and simply easy-go-lucky. Have you seen today’s newspaper L’essentiel?” my Belgian student said while taking off his jacket. After he had sat down, he added, “You will be shy, as an Australian, of what they did to the French tourists.” (I suggested the word “embarrass” instead of shy).

Right after leaving his company, I rushed to get the copy of L’essentiel, the most read newspaper in Luxembourg because it’s free and easily accessible (it’s in stands and distributors in strategic places, such as bus stops, train stations, airports, shopping centres and supermarkets). Page 2 of its 23/11/12 issue had an article about the verbal harassment of xenophobic nature against a young French woman by bus passengers in Melbourne. It had a photo with this caption, “La video de cette aggression sur www.insultes.lessentiel.lu. I did watch this video and, in the beginning, felt embarrass. As the video was coming to an end, however, I started to reminisce on positive Aussie qualities and multiculturalism. I salute the fellow who filmed the incident! Xenophobia (fear of people who are different from the majority in the population) exists Down Under, but it’s not widespread and not tolerated by the general Australian population.

The last 4 years of my public service job in Australia, before moving to Europe, were spent participating in many working parties, policy development, debates and activities geared towards eradicating racism and discrimination. Though governments and many Australians endeavour to have a just, fair and tolerant society, there’s still a lot that can be done.

【京都雑感】 愛情の振り子・時代祭り・日本とヨーロッパ、どっちも好き

Japan women manifestation1.「何がなんでも、日本に帰るんじゃないよ。」
「政治家選びは、52枚のカードをつかい回すトランプと同じ。時々、絵札や呼称や構成が変わったりはするけど。日本の場合は52枚じゃなくて、24枚の中から転用してるのね」と義母が笑った。

そんな彼女が「さちえを絶対に日本に帰らせるんじゃないよ」「日本はもう終わりや」と、何度も夫に言ったらしい。外国人の彼女が首相になった方が、まだマシなのかなと思うほど日本の政治は逆進的で「20世紀」の感じがする。

欧米の友人たちの警告を胸に、機上の人となった。帰国してみると拍子抜けするように、関西はフツーに機能し、人々は勤勉に働き以前と変わりなく暮らしていた。それにしても、電気会社や政府やマスメディアによる情報操作があまりにもひどいと感じた。放射能が漏れ続けている危機的な現状にもかかわらず。よるべなき基準のない日本の日常。在日の外国人の友人は「みんな、(原発が)危険なことは知ってるでしょ」と言うけれど。福島以前のように、ショッピングや美食にと刹那的に、それでいて厭世的に生きる人たちがシュールに気味悪くうつった。フランスに帰ってみると、日本の原子力規制委員会のメンバーたちが電力会社などから報酬や寄付金などを受けていたニュースを何度も報じていた。2週間半の浅い夢から現実に引き戻された気がした。

Multipurpose summer holiday: intensive courses, sporting competitions, family, friends, charity, networking

Séjours linguistiques (language trainings), intensive courses in subjects that range from mathematics to personal development and sporting activities (close to 1 million visitors to London during the Olympics Games of which about 300,000 from overseas + 5.5 million day trippers + 10,500 athletes and 7,500 officials) are some of this year’s summer holiday interests.

My acquaintance and her husband plan their annual summer holiday around chess tournaments. They visit beautiful towns in France and nearby European cities while their 15 year-old-son collects trophies. Gone are the days when the sole destination was the beach, mountain, touristic spots or entertainment park to relax and have fun. Consciously, or otherwise, we engage in a multipurpose holiday, e.g. our travel luggage includes a laptop, net/notebook, iPod, Nintendo, headsets and other electronic gadgets. Do we really need these gadgets when our main goal is to have a nice break from work, school or a routine activity (especially strenuous one)?

Here in France, friends (sometimes even strangers) constantly ask each other these questions “When are you going on holiday?” “Where will you spend your summer vacation?”-- which are not easy to answer when you’re going nowhere. As well, these are always followed by further questions and comments, such as “Are you working all summer?” as if you’ve been punished for being inefficient; “Your children will be bored for 2 months” as if they didn’t have parents, siblings, toys, nearby parks and local activities to keep them busy. Sometimes it’s not enough to mention a place; it has to be abroad – such as England, Spain and other top country destinations!

There are many worthwhile activities during the summer holiday period aside from consuming artificially high-priced accommodation, airline tickets and entertainment. One of my trainees has just left Luxembourg as a participant of a one-month car rally in Mongolia. He’s so delighted that his summer holiday has raised money for charities through sponsorships and donations. In last nights’ news there was a segment about students working for nursing homes as volunteers this summer.

Pleasure and not pressure at work

A paid employment is necessary – it’s an indispensable work as it provides an individual with an income, self identity and social status. Due to some societal changes and the financial crises, the pleasure of being in a paid employment has been replaced with pressure, stress and race for survival. The original idea connected with the Protestant work ethic of independence and saving has disappeared, and what’s left is hard work and competition. Most of us are busy earning money hence we have no or little time for leisure.

Unlike workaholics, we rely on periodic leisure (which is associated with holiday as the British call it; “vacation” American) to spice our employment. I rarely hear of employees raving about having the pleasure of working. It’s not only money that makes our work environment pleasurable. It may not be possible to get pleasure from all our daily tasks, however, we can see the glass half full in times of pressure when we have a good sense of humour and take time to relax. There’s also pleasure, instead of pressure, when we have a shared interest (e.g. sports, entertainment, arts) with our colleagues, update our work station (e.g. new photos on our desk and fosters on the wall), vary our office snacks and meals, dress up differently and change our lunch activities from time to time (e.g. picnic in the nearby park or trip to the swimming pool and a quick sandwich).

As I mentioned in my previous article, I didn’t have internet access for 10 days by choice. I leisurely explored the mountains and lakes in Scotland and played a typical tourist in England. The 12-day holiday with my family was fantastic though I really didn’t need it as a break from my paid employment. A staycation would have been leisurely productive and pleasurably relaxing. This is because I enjoy what I do for a living. We can only have fun with our job when we are passionate about it. Can we instil passion in our work? How can we handle pressure and obtain pleasure when we aren’t passionate about our employment?

あじさい革命雑考 ╾╾ おまわりさん。デモの目的を、わかってらっしゃらない?!

Hydrangea Revolution (Ajisai Kakumei in Japanese) in Japanフランスに住んでいると、デモは日常茶飯事のように見かける。群衆の巨大パーティー、ハレの場という雰囲気が常にあるけど、時には耳をつんざかんばかりのシュプレヒコールが鳴り響き、発煙筒の黄色い煙りが目にしみて、その大混雑から早く立ち去りたくなる場合もある。ヨーロッパには、劣悪な労働条件で働いていた人たちが、デモをして今の社会保障を勝ち取った記憶がまだ生きている。大人も高校生たちも、デモの重要性をよく知っている。

Youtubeで、6月29日の首相官邸前デモの様子を見た(下ブログ)。なんと警官が「シュプレヒコールをやめてください」と叫んで群衆を制している。誰にも聞こえないような静かなデモをして、どうするんですか(大笑い)。

デモの趣旨は、人々が公の場で声を極限まであげて、憤りや抗議や政治的な主張を訴えることである。そういう示威行為の音量は大きければ、大きいほどよい。あんなに、ごみもつくらず、暴動にもならない秩序を保ちながらの大規模デモ。日本の国民は冷静に怒っているのだ。その怒号や叫び、「人々の声」を聞くのが民主政というものだし、本来ならば、官邸前に20万人が結集した事実を報道するのも、(民主主義の)マス・メディアの責務である。

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