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14 October 2010

Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

Watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons (transcript of Ted talk by Derek Sivers)



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20 May 2010

Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World

Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes. What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems? Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how.



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14 February 2010

The Girl Cell in All of Us - Eve Ensler

In this passionate talk, Eve Ensler declares that there is a girl cell in us all - a cell that we have all been taught to suppress. She tells heartfelt stories of girls around the world who have overcome shocking adversity and violence to reveal the astonishing strength of being a girl.

About Eve Ensler:
Eve Ensler created the ground-breaking Vagina Monologues, whose success propelled her to found V-Day - a movement to end violence against women and girls everywhere.



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11 November 2009

Ian Goldin: Navigating Our Global Future

As globalization and technological advances bring us hurtling towards a new integrated future, Ian Goldin warns that not all people may benefit equally. But, he says, if we can recognize this danger, we might yet realize the possibility of improved life for everyone.



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20 December 2008

Playing for Change

Ever since he heard some street musicians outside a Subway station move some 200-odd passerbys to tears, Mark Johnson has been thinking up a way to shine more light on the transformative power of music. After ten years, this Grammy winning filmmaker has got something. Something remarkable, actually: bringing together musicians from around the world -- blues singers in a waterlogged New Orleans, chamber groups in Moscow, a South African choir -- to collaborate on songs familiar and new, in the effort to foster a new, greater understanding of our commonality. As part of 'Playing for Change', this is moving remix of the popular 'Stand By Me' performed by more than 100 musicians from Tibet to Zimbabwe!

Watch a Bill Moyers interview with Mark Johnson, where he describes the back story of his work.

Read more about Playing for Change.



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And who gets the bed
Added: Saturday, 11 October 2008

watch original V-Blog in Persian

watch original V-Blog in German

In my last v-blog I described a family reunion at my in-laws' house and mentioned that in the end it doesn't matter whether you slept on the floor or on the bed because our time together is so limited. A few people found that a little challenging. Because it seems that so much of our earthly existence seems to revolve around just that – moving up from the floor to the bed; making it big, growing financially, having comfort. And yes, of course it's easy for the relatively well off to say "wealth doesn't matter" when they're not the ones turning around every penny. But what I was trying to express with that statement was the relativity of things in our life. And it depends on your outlook. If you believe that life and 'meaning' begins and ends here on this physical earth, then it will naturally be more important to you to achieve material comfort or luxury than someone who sees this as a very temporary station along a journey that is everlasting.

My view is that if you take our little family reunion as a metaphor for our time here on this earth, bearing in mind that there is something that comes thereafter, then your priorities tend to start shifting. And you realize that it's not so hard to sacrifice things for other people because it gives you pleasure to see them comfortable and happy. If we truly saw each other as one human family, cells of one organism, we wouldn't feel jealousy or competitiveness, we'd look out for the wellbeing of the other in more selfless ways.

But I think that we're paralyzed when it comes to looking at the world in that way. Not only do we not see each other as one family (Donald Trump doesn't give a toot about me, why should I consider him my brother?), we also accept the status quo as though we'd reached the end of human evolution!

Cover image I was speaking to Michael Karlberg the other day, author of 'Beyond the Culture of Contest' and he said that we seem to be suffering from a sort of inertia and paralysis of the mind when it comes to viewing our world. We look at what's underneath our societal structures: namely a win/lose, adversarial culture of contest that favors some and not others and we accept this as a necessary evil. In our democratic systems, for example, we simply accept the consequences of our adversarial culture, such as the subordination of governance to market forces, the oversimplification of complex issues, short-term planning horizons and a loyalty that is limited to constituencies and that can't possibly meet the needs of a world that has become so interdependent that it demands collective solutions to ecological and economic challenges. And we say it's naïve to think that we could change our paradigms and move towards mutualism and diversity with a more decentralized notion of power – at the very least until we've solved the problems and inequalities that the world faces.

But it's those very systems and paradigms we keep subscribing to that are keeping us sick! And the world won't heal or become more 'equal' until we change our very assumptions about our human nature and relationships. So it's actually naïve to think that playing the game the way we always have will heal anything. It's naïve to think that peoples' needs must first be met before we attempt to change the system, because it's the very prevalent order that is keeping those needs from being met. And it's naïve to think change is not possible, because that would be proposing that we've come to the end of human and societal evolution. That we've reached the end of history. Who can tell us we've reached the end of history? Perhaps it's the end of the world as we know it – but it sure is also the beginning of a new world as we've not known it and it's our responsibility to quit the old game and try alternatives.

Comedy & drama
Added: Friday, 3 October 2008

watch original V-Blog in Persian

watch original V-Blog in German

I just spent a few days with my family and extended family, celebrating the wedding of my sister-in-law to a guy, we all agree, is just the perfect match. It was an amazing few days, and I tried very hard to live in the moment and not think of what lay beyond this family reunion with all its excitement, drama and fun.

It's funny with family. You've got uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and everyone is related and some of us even share one culture (mostly Persians living in the West), and yet, each branch of the family, even individual members, have their very own distinct 'culture'. With that I mean a way of doing things; habits, expectations, traditions. So with family arriving from every continent of the world, it was no surprise that from time to time you'd have the occasional misunderstanding, the tension, the "I can't believe him or her". We're all so very different. There are those who served and toiled and those who got served and enjoyed, those who gave and those who received – but all of us did a little bit of all those things at some point or another.

And no matter how different we were, across family cultures, or across geographic cultures, in the end, it wasn't about keeping score of who paid what or who slept in a bed or on the floor. In the end, when it was time to say goodbye, it started hitting us that we were probably not going to see each other for a very long time to come. And that's when the tears began to flow and all of us wished we had been even less selfish and even more selfless. We wished we'd taken more time to listen to granny's stories and complaints, more time to help in the kitchen, more time to say sorry. Because time is so precious and the love we have to give is the only thing we get to keep once the house is empty and everyone's gone.

So if my family is any indication or microcosm of how the world functions, then in the end it doesn't really matter if your neighbor has a fancier car, a bigger house, or a pool he can't possibly handle on his own. It doesn't matter that someone pushed ahead of you in line today, or got the job you wanted or took the best watermelon in the grocery store. In the end, life is too short and precious to keep score of those things – and when the end nears, we wish we'd taken less and given more.

My Persian sister-in-law married a Columbian-American and the two of them have already begun their own family and their own unique culture. Their union is bringing together even more people as our family expands. Weddings remind us of what is most important: love. And I can't but marvel at their wedding vow, one that I have heard so often; the vow that is not a proud promise to the other half, but a humble admission to our Creator, namely that "we will all verily, abide by the will of God" – whatever His will shall be!

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6 September 2008

Carrotmob makes it rain

Everyone needs to buy things. But we tend not to spend our money in a socially organized way. So Carrotmob, a new environmental advocacy group, had an idea: what if those seeking the same kind of product got together, pooled their dollars, and used them to collectively support local companies that were also doing the most for the environment? Watch what happened when Carrotmob pulled a big crowd together to spend a lot of money at the local convenience store with the strongest environmental commitment. If we live our values, business can--and does--listen.



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What we think we have
Added: Saturday, 16 August 2008

watch original V-Blog in Persian

watch original V-Blog in German

After I did my German v-blog about Mastering the Human Instrument on Youtube, where I likened our diversity to the notes of a piano that can be played uniquely and beautifully but in harmony rather than cacophony, I got an interesting comment. The comment said something like this:

"So what – now we need a dictator or even a God to play us? Because the piano won't play itself! No thank you. I'd rather exercise my freedom to sound as I please".

Juicy!

Although I'd like to visualize the symphony being conducted by a loving musician rather than a hostile 'dictator', he raises an interesting question. Is it better to sound like a symphony and be 'confined' by the limits of the music or is it better to sound like aimless noise, yet be able to decide when and how we sound? Because we do, after all, need a common denominator, a 'set of notes' in order to have unity in diversity.
Which brings me to the theme of the day: freedom! The glorious thing we so celebrate in the West. It is what's set us apart from those horrible places, where they have censorship and oppression. But what is real freedom?

Many Youtubers, for example, believe that they can post any nastiness they please under my videos and they seem to interpret this as 'freedom'. They have nothing to say about the content of my videoblogs, because I'm happy to publish comments that disagree with me. Instead, they just list profanities with no aim or purpose. These comments I do not necessarily publish. Censorship? Maybe. But if the freedom of these people begins to jeopardize my freedom, it's my right to do so, I think.

This theme is obviously related to my blog about 'sovereignty': What is the meaning of freedom (or sovereignty) when that freedom jeopardizes other people's freedoms?

If you really deepen on the theme of freedom, you find that borders and limits are a huge part of freedom. Those who think they are truly free because they can say anything they want the way they want to, or can do as they please with others, soon find, that they have actually enslaved themselves. They are enslaved by their egos. True freedom lies in being free from self and passion.

If any politician in this world exercises his freedom and that freedom robs the freedom of his own people or that of the people of other nation's, then what is the meaning of his freedom?

Coming back to the comment, although I have a problem with the totalitarian view of a dictator that my viewer expresses, I agree with him that we need a common denominator. We need to know when to sound and when to be silent. We need to know where our limits are in order that everyone can celebrate their freedom. We need to free ourselves from our "selves" and give ourselves to the music that is 'us'...

From cacophony to symphony
Added: Tuesday, 5 August 2008

watch original V-Blog in Persian

watch original V-Blog in German

I have a German video blog on Youtube that was suddenly featured as blog of the day for two consecutive days in the German-speaking world. As a result I got a lot of messages and comments. It was fascinating to see how people began discussing issues among themselves in discussions that branched out among the comments posted. That feedback was extremely fruitful for me, as it highlighted what concepts viewers were struggling with. I often think, Doubletake attracts predominantly like-minded people, whereas the audience on Youtube was completely random and very critical. So their feedback was more representative of what the world at large is thinking. Three major concepts emerged that people were really struggling with and that I'd love to address. These are basic assumptions we make about life - as a global society. Paradigms, that I'm suggesting, can be turned on their head.

Firstly, the concept of 'unity' (of humanity/ unity in politics/ culture/ religion) seemed to evoke fears of 'uniformity'. A lot of people felt that an international auxiliary language for example, which would help us communicate better as a human family, or the process of 'globalization' (a very loaded word) would ultimately undermine diversity and create a 'bland soup of uniformity' – to quote one of the viewers. But I'm suggesting this would not be case at all. On the contrary, our very diversity would become more vibrant.

One of my favorite analogies highlights this very poignantly. When you take the keys of a piano, each and every one of them is unique and different. You wouldn't want them to be the same! But there are two ways that you can play a piano. You can randomly bang and hit the keys and create a loud, chaotic and painful cacophony of noise, or, you can play these keys with a measure of love and know-how and create a harmonious, melodic symphony that allows every single note to emerge at its most beautiful without compromising the diversity of the keys in any way!

The first scenario highlights how our world is functioning at present, and the second how it could be. Now a lot of people say that this second option is nothing but a 'dream', a 'desire', a futile 'utopic' image of what this world could be like. But I venture to argue the opposite. It is not a dream, it is a necessity of our day and age. The world used to function on a win-lose paradigm, where one nations'/ groups'/ factions' interest existed in isolation or opposition to that of others, but now we're living in a very interlinked, interdependent world, where our survival is no longer dependent on the fittest, but on the wellbeing of even the 'weakest' link - the entirety of the human race.

Besides, it is only the "can do" attitude that has achieved any of history's greatest feats: the abolishment of slavery, the discovery of electricity, aviation...anything! Of course it's possible! We must just want it!

And yes, globalisation is a loaded word, because people associate it with the materialism and self-interest that fuels it at present. But does it matter what fuels it? The end result is that we come together. I always say it doesn't matter whether you protect the environment for idealistic reasons or for selfish reasons (because you can no longer breathe the air around you and your life depends on you protecting the environment). The result is the same! The only draw-back is that the second options causes a lot more prolonged pain and suffering in the process, which is obviously what the world seems to want. We keep doing things the way we've always done them, until we are literally forced to do them differently. Oh mankind's stubborn clingings....

Secondly, a lot of people felt very strongly that it is in human nature to be aggressive and have conflict. It's something we've always done and we'll always do. I suggest it is not! It is in our culture, it's something we've learned to do, because our circumstances have required it so far. But those circumstances have changed. We live in a world where our survival depends on our reconciliation and on our unity in diversity. So as soon as we get through this pubescent phase, we can decide not to react impulsively and aggressively. If I park my car in my neighbors driveway, and he comes out and yells at me; hauls the worst insults at me, I still have a choice whether I submit to my own aggression and anger or whether I chose to control it. That's the beauty of the human soul! We have free will. We can decide. There are no more excuses. To say we've always waged wars and fought is a weak, weak attitude. Because it requires no change and no evolution on our part.

Lastly, after reading Michael Karlberg's "The Culture of Contest" I suggested that our western liberal democracy is being held back by the black and white party political system it subscribes to. I outlined how Baha'i elections are held internationally as an example of a system where you do not have interest/ lobby groups and parties, and where your constituency is the whole (community/ humanity). A lot of people felt that the elimination of parties or camps would, once again, compromise diversity and force people into a homogenous mind-frame where it's about conforming. They felt that we naturally have different interests and priorities. Yes we do – but they don't conflict! I (Karlberg) argue(s) that it is precisely partisan politics that compromises our diversity of thought and our various different interests. Because it arranges everything into right and wrong, left and right, black and white. You're either with us or against us! One party's victory is another's loss. Whereas reality or truth is multi-facetted. Our various perspectives should not be seen as oppositional but complementary! Our various points of view give us a more complete picture of issues.

A simple example demonstrates this. Take any object and have a few people sit around this object. You can have either of them describe what they see from their point of view and yell at each other to try and disprove the other and prove that their perspective is right. Or you can accept that each of these views is complementary and gives you a more complete idea of the reality of the object in its entirety! The oppositional paradigm is passé.

It might all sound so simple. But all the things I'm saying about unity in diversity has unbelievable consequences for politics, for economics, for the environment, for religion! Why do we insist that religions are to be seen as oppositional (we're going to heaven and you're going to hell) when they can be seen as complementary? They are all revealed by the same loving God and can be seen as the successive and complementary stages of one and the same unfolding revelation.

As long as we see each other as isolated entities with our own unique interests that conflict with those of other human beings and groups, we hold back the necessary process of turning our cacophony to a symphony. Judging by some of the fears and concerns of people responding to my video blogs, I have a feeling that people are very much in desperate need to make a change, but that this process is going to take a lot longer than I'd like to think...

Recommended Books:
Michael Karlberg: "Beyond the Culture of Contest"
An abridged version is also available titled How everyone can win.(Beyond the Culture of Contest: From Adversarialism to Mutualism in an Age of Interdependence)(Book Review): An article from: One Country

Greg Dahl: "One World, One People: How globalization is shaping our future"Cover image

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