Meet Jerry or a Lesson about Human Dignity

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When we deny the poor and the vulnerable
their own human dignity and
capacity for freedom and choice,
it becomes self-denial.
It becomes a denial of both our
collective and individual dignity,
at all levels of society.
Jacqueline Novogratz[i]


This is a true story that occurred today. The name was changed as I promised to Jerry not to divulge his real name, nor his whereabouts.

Jerry is a homeless itinerant, very hard to guess how old he is, yet after listening to his discussion ones knows he’s the kind of guy who’s seen and lived a lot. The circumstances of my meeting with him, unplanned, unexpected yet “never say never” as they say, we did meet.

The place, downtown Montreal (Canada), on St-Denis Street, at a well-known Coffee Shop (BTW they have an exquisite long double espresso with enough “crema” (Italian word for that rich and thick foam) only a professional barista can make. Ladies who ordered a latte had a little extra flower or heart toping the foam of their beverage).

Since I am not working on a regular basis, I go to the downtown rarely, unless I meet with former coworkers for a coffee or lunch, and for my hobby in taking pictures of places, buildings, these objects we care so little to notice, and last but not least I move where the action could happen and be at the right moment the right place to take the picture of the year” kind of thing!
So today was one of these days, and the St-Denis Street was a random choice, I’d say it was the first time I headed this area of my city, especially early in the morning. No shopping malls, or department stores, but many restaurants, pubs, cool places where people enjoy to hang on evenings, in other words the Montreal night life extravaganza! Not to forget the 24/7 coffee shops.

After an hour of taking various pictures, my caffeine crave was badly hitting its lowest level, I had to have some real good coffee.
I easily found the place, to get there you had to climb a couple of steps, I waited out of courtesy for the person in front of me to go in, he held the door, that is when I saw his face and clothing and felt surprised, very surprised to see an itinerant homeless person waling in such a place! We humans, are, at times our own worst enemies, we judge other people by their look, their hair, their clothes, I mean we categorize them according to certain (wrong, very wrong) social criteria and values based on the way they are dressed. When looking at Jerry (that’s his name for the sake of my paper, so guys this Jerry, Jerry these are the people who are reading this story!) I felt the shame rising to my face, as I realized how badly I misjudged the person as he was holding the door with a kind smile for me to get in easily, nodding very politely.

There was a line-up, the place was nicely designed various isles to allow people to enjoy a relaxing moments, the inevitable counters where students could spend long hours glued to their screens, headphones of their ears, you could wonder which planet they were visiting (I wished I could go back to these times of my life *Smiles*).

When Jerry’s turn came, he ordered a latte, a medium latte with an extra coffee shot. The young woman taking orders, whispered the barista that this order was a freebie.

My second cliché reaction surfaced instantly saying it was normal for “these people” to get their order for free, well hello for the humanistic and responsible citizenship I had been an advocate for so many years: I was judging a person in a situation based on appearances but also on accepted ideas (misconceptions) towards people who aren’t the same we are!

I guess the employee lacked discretion as Jerry heard her and said in a well-mannered French denoting this guy was not just well educated but had substance in his syntax and use of proper word, he expressed his disagreement about refusing charity, he also said it was a matter of human dignity to pay for something he purchased. He handed a five dollar bill, and tipped the young lady when getting his change back.

This guy felt obliged to prove to the people in the coffee shop he really earned the money and never begged for it, as we mostly think. That is when I felt how humiliating it must have been to defend himself, should he wore different clothes I’m certain nobody would have cared!

I felt my entire world shrinking to its smallest expression, such a sad scene. Nobody in the shop said a word, but how terrible can be a collective with stern faces all looking at the same person in such a screaming silence! It is sad to note that people who aren’t in conformity to our clichés seem to disturb the order of things, we tend to associate the external appearance to the so-called “standards” we are given in our days.

It was another chapter of my lessons learned not just for the day, I guess for a lifetime!

Jerry and I sat on facing separate tables, he opened the newspaper he took from the stand and after reading some of the headlines asked the manager for a pen and started solving the crossword challenge of the day. I noticed he smiled and laughed when finding the correct word. Not sure if ever someone among the present people ever cared what this guy was doing, he was training his mind and brain to keep on learning (his own way, but what an amazing way). I wonder how many of us who once done with college, keep any kind of learning pace for their own benefit.
Although Jerry needed a haircut, a shower and a change of clothing, he was shining among many others through his courage and will to keep up with his mind and self-esteem.

I engaged some conversation asking if the crossword grid of the day was an easy one, he smiled and said he usually solved it in less than 10 minutes he then said in a lower tone so I could be the only one to hear him “That is why I sit at this table I have the wall clock in front of me so I could time my challenge!” I felt wordless if wordless is enough strong to express the state of mind I was at that moment! I was, and beyond appearances in presence of a great mind, a great human person, someone who kept his own dignity with pride who did all what it takes to protect it.

I could read in his shining eyes that pride in his ability to challenge himself with mind games but also to win his challenges. It was for me time to head back home, so I thanked him for his company when asking permission to take a picture he laughed and said joking “Don’t go and sell it and make profit on my behalf!” We both laughed and I assured him I wanted the picture as a souvenir for this particular moment.

To say the truth, this guy not only made my day but showed me the most amazing lesson about human dignity! A lesson that will be hard to forget.

Until our next chat

© Michel – 2015
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[i] Jacqueline Novogratz is an American entrepreneur and author. She is the founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture capital fund whose goal is to use entrepreneurial approaches to address global poverty. Acumen has invested over $90 million of patient capital in 80 businesses that have impacted more than 125 million people in the past year. Any money returned to Acumen is reinvested in enterprises serving the poor. Currently, Acumen has offices in New York, Mumbai, Nairobi, and Accra.

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What is wrong with our educational model(s)?

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Education is my lifetime passion. “Educare” means raising someone or take his hand and elevate him from the state of ignorance to knowledge. I am the opponent of the theory of apprenticeship as of the information age, they have distorted pedagogy[i] while accompanying children.[ii] – Dr. Antoine Courban – 2015[iii]


The model of actual schooling expects teachers to perform like movie stars, in other words to bring the wow effect, as in a more academic expression: ensure these kids become job ready candidates once they finish school! In a world where once educators have finished their job, learners are in principle prepared for a reality that sustains the vocational education model and so much less their many years spent discovering and collecting and appreciate the limitless possibilities of knowledge!

My statement may seem odd, I know and I am fully aware of that. The art of education is – and I am a true believer of Dr. Courban’s definition – by itself a humanistic process, walking with the students towards knowledge until it is reached when learners (kids) are fit to walk into their adult life.

As much as odd my statement may seem, I frankly recognize that in many situations it is sadly the case. It must be very disappointing for graduates (and their teachers I assume) to find out how different are the realities of the job market. It must be very disappointing not to say upsetting to be told they may work in different fields than what they studied for all these years.

If the present model is in anguish from within, it does not mean it is completely wrong, at the same time the vocational education model is also facing many challenges and criticism, that model cannot be completely wrong as well.

The two models would gain a lot, for the benefit of the learners to connect, to communicate and put together the best they could bring to the wellbeing of learners. I guess this is where thing go wrong: no link between the two!

Students cannot become good employees or skilled workers, while spending 15, 20 years or more studying in domains that keeps them in ivory towers far from the real world, but at the same time will never benefit of intense vocational training, one will see the entire forest and ignore the tree as the other will have the opposite situation. Learners need both realities.

If academic education is the food for the mind, vocational education is supposed to adapt such knowledge into the real world with the support of soft skills[iv] (See the endnote section). In order to avoid misunderstandings, let’s define soft skills as the various series of behaviours that help people work and socialize together. It is important not to confuse it with what hard skills that address the technical abilities someone learns and masters to perform specific tasks.

Both models are required to provide to graduates what they need to join the workforce. Vocational education will never replace academic and neither academic will ignore vocational. Both are meant to exist together and closer than ones may imagine.

Both models need to clearly understand that students are not recording machines who have to memorize data, more data, and nothing but data. If students cannot make any use of this data then education has a major problem, far more serious than what is ongoing nowadays.

For many years, I criticized the academic top-bottom model, for many years I defended and worked for a radically opposite model (bottom-top) , and I confess I was wrong!

I was wrong simply because I excluded one for the benefit of the other, in my mind as in many other people, if a model dos not respond to the expectations then we change it for another. Well if there is anything unique to education, it is a matter of people, human, minds, emotions and unpredictable behaviours and reactions. Besides if a model worked for so many years, there must be something (at least parts of it) good and profitable about it.

We are part of an entire complex environment in which the most intangible parameter is to know how people act and behave! No science, no course and no model could ever predict that!

Education as in capital “E”, is above all, knowledge (and know how) that interacts with human, with people! That could be the first amendment we ought to consider and then seek of where both worlds connect for the common good of people (learners). Knowledge is in no way data, just data, and learners are no either demographic or statistic data!

Educators and vocational specialists need to meet, need to share their art! Their partners, the learners, at the core of their thinking.

Turn your data into a story, into a game, into art! (Mark Sample), I discovered this quote a few years ago during a research I was conducting about modern pedagogy vs. the “old school pedagogy”. The words snapped into my mind, I found finally a simple but how real description of what I was hoping to offer in education program development. A definition of what a real pedagogue must be: an artist about linking the best of people and the wonders of endless knowledge. Oh! It is no secret to say there is no such thing “old school pedagogy” it never ages as it walks hand in hand with learners of all times!

We are desperately short on true pedagogues[v] who will inspire educational models to foresee the real challenges and more importantly the perpetuation of the real spirit of pedagogy in harmony with the 21st century realities.

The clock is ticking. Every year we lose in sterile discussions (eventually in no discussion at all) will provide another wave of people who will hold a grad in “drop out from school!”.

Until our next chat,

Michel – October 8, 2015

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[i] Pedagogy is the discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education; it thus concerns the study and practice of how best to teach The word comes from the Greek παιδαγωγία (paidagōgia), from παιδαγωγός (paidagōgos), in which παῖς (país, genitive παιδός, paidos) means “child” and ἄγω (ágō) means “lead”; thus literally “to lead the child”.

[ii] Original translation (French): L’enseignement est la passion de ma vie. “Educare” signifie “élever” ou prendre quelqu’un par la main pour l’élever du niveau de l’ignorance vers celui du savoir. Je suis un des ennemis de la théorie de l’apprentissage et de celle de l’information qui ont dénaturé toute pédagogie dans l’accompagnement des enfants

[iii] This citation is a free translation from the French original citation from the author, an eminent Medical Doctor, Teacher, Educator and Humanist!

[iv] [iv] Soft skills is a all term referring to various behaviors that help people work and socialize well with others. In short, they are the good manners and personality traits needed to get along with others and build positive relationships. Unlike hard skills, which include a person’s technical skill set and ability to perform certain functional tasks, soft skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries

[v] The word pedagogue was originally used in reference to the slave who escorted Roman children to school. On the way back children used to discuss with them about what they learned and the discoveries they made The pedagogue’s job is usually distinguished from a teacher’s by primarily focusing on teaching children life-preparing knowledge such as social skills and cultural norms. There is also a very big focus on care and well-being of the child. Many pedagogical institutions also practice social inclusion. The pedagogue’s work also consists of supporting the child in their mental and social development

Public Speaking!

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“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you go, and fix it along the way…”
― Paul Arden


 

I never thought I would write a paper about public speaking [i] (I liked what William Pittenger says about acquiring and practicing Public Speaking – see the endnote of this paper), as I never considered myself to be knowledgeable in such a skill.

It is true I have been in teaching and training for many years during my career, and it is also true I feel that amazing thrill when I am in presence of an audience. Yet I always feel the anxiety of the unknown before and for the first 50 seconds of each event.

50 Seconds, no less no more, such being the necessary time I gave myself to evaluate the audience, recognizing the various types of people attending (this could be an untold fact but believe it or not it is real). The friendly people, they will make visual contact as soon as they sit in the room and wave a non-verbal sign saying “hey! I’m here to listen and learn”, they will eventually take care of people who will try to disturb the pace of your delivery, and they are the ones sitting in front. The “foes”, I know it is a big word yet these people act as such. The reason is simple: they have been asked (told) to attend the course of the conference, they look at you as being the source of their unhappy state of mind, but no worries the “friends” will make sure their behaviour is contained. Coming to the third type, I like to call the “tourists”. These people have no idea why they’re in your room, sitting at the back (the very very back) hiding as much as possible (behind their sun glasses, a text book, the laptop lid, etc.). Usually the tourists will make sure you think they follow you and will nod, eventually send you a discreet smile to let you know they’re in!

I always enjoyed these precious seconds, helping me to unwind the teasing anxiety before every event ever since after so many years.

For some, Public Speaking  is a performance delivery, for others it is a moment of fame to promote ones skills and knowledge, many look at it as a stepping stone boosting their career, a few consider it a must imposed by their job requirements. Public Speaking has been for me the occasion of building a love relation with my audiences, sharing thoughts, facts, and experiences; bottom line transferring knowledge for the love of contributing for a better social and professional good.

If I had the gift to speak in public, it did not mean I was unreachable as a human, as a person like every single person; I had the task to speak as they had the listening role, thus being equals in all the other aspects of our presence at the same place.

I remember during my college years taking a mandatory course of techniques of public speaking. That course annoyed me to the point I used to yawn every time. The professor, who was a very smart person, used to “wake” me up by asking me all of a sudden to continue the delivery she did, knowing I would fail and learn from this a lesson. Feeling challenged in front of the students, I had to act very fast, so I stood up and “continued” the course getting my inspiration from my strong auditory memory elaborating the rest of the delivery. It was a special finding about my personal skills which one day led me to what I enjoyed during all the years spent teaching.

If Public Speaking is a skill we can learn or develop it is at the core some kind of intrinsic gift that is probably dormant in our nature. I think, it is the love of sharing with others that materialises once we choose to address to public.

I hesitated to write my first paper in English, feeling unprepared to create and build an appropriate syntax, unable to choose the right words, and feeling uncomfortable about writing skills. I postponed this first paper for months, until an acquaintance, a known writer whom I envied her writing style, told me to write and keep the focus on the message rather than the aspect. I still remember her words “if you tell your readers how passionate you are about what you say, then no one will criticize you about your writing skills, the more you will care to share your soul the more people will like what you say!”

So you can figure how scared I felt when I pressed the button “Submit” for the very first blog I wrote in English! *Smiles*

If Public Speaking is a powerful skill for born-speakers we need to constantly remind ourselves such gift can and will make miracles in the lives of our audiences. Don’t you agree that Public Speaking is essentially meant for the social good and the wellbeing of people? I, Do!

Until our next chat I wish you happy public speaking!

Michel – September 12, 2015


The picture illustrating this paper is a courtesy from the Blog: Instant.ly


[i] “There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence of an audience. It may proceed from the gaze of the many eyes that turn upon the speaker, especially if he permits himself to steadily return that gaze. Most speakers have been conscious of this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable. All writers have borne testimony to the power of a speaker’s eye in impressing an audience. This influence which we are now considering is the reverse of that picture—the power their eyes may exert upon him, especially before he begins to speak: after the inward fires of oratory are fanned into flame the eyes of the audience lose all terror.” ― William Pittenger, Extempore Speech: How to Acquire and Practice It

 

How safe is the future of education in today’s world?

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The context:

2035 is the target date when all of the young people who went to school for the first time in their life will be called the young adults, most of them eligible to get jobs and take over the destiny of the citizen politics and economics in their respective countries.

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
Maya Angelou

The status:

At the end of every school year people (specialists and those who have a word to say about education) meet and agree that they must come up with a plan for the next year. A plan that will improve quality, effectiveness and more to the wellbeing of the learners. Due to lack of time these well-intended actions are postponed until the next school year, and when it happens, under the pressure of tight agendas and calendars these are postponed again for winter break and so on.

Agendas, schedules, meetings and of course reporting seem to be of greater importance than the global and critical orientations of education itself.

Countries cut in certain domains to favour others, so for the sake of maths, science and other topics, the skimming process on arts, literature and humanities are inevitable. In some other places the lack of funding makes the learning content suffice with a bit of everything but a lot of nothing much, and so on. Budget and administrative considerations seem to prevail on the rest.

Considering some topics of lesser value than others seems, at least for me, jeopardizing the quality of education. Such risk being to graduate generation with deficiencies in global knowledge, mankind history and healthy faculty of thinking.

Most schooling models produce generations of future workers ideally trained and prepared to the needs of corporations. I remember when it was time for me to go to school, parents and teachers were encouraging us to consider becoming doctors, lawyers or engineers. I still remember the words “Noble professions” that would definitely assure us good and respectable life.

Looking at today’s model, if words changed, the idea remains identical, graduating generations of future employees who will fit to corporate requirements. During my career I often heard these words “why change it if it works?” always surprised to note such a rigid mentality with little openness to improvement that would wait major crisis to act.

The future of education can no longer expect a crisis to change, we know what level of quality solutions that come from the urge of a solution can be.

A few days ago most students returned to school, and most kids face the consequences of a certain lack of vision. No wonder why some, if not more, will be tempted to drop out during their learning path, preferring to get a source of income than walking onto a path that is not clear for them.

Most experts would argue that the business requirements somehow impose such realities, I could agree with that thinking if on the other hand students were able to choose and freely decide their own learning path rather than driven by “requirements”.

Education as in schooling is the continuation of what has started at home and will never replace such reality, so we, as educators, do not need to educate our students, but share our deepest passions and most important discoveries of knowledge. Motivating and inspiring those future adults to the quest of limitless curiosity that is what education is about, isn’t so?

The wish:

Teach how to learn is the most precious gifts we have in our hands, there will always be enough time to memorize content and facts. So let us keep in mind such gift when time comes for planning and scheduling. The good thing about it? It does not need any extra budget or funding!

One of the most rewarding moment I had during teaching was when asking a student to teach the class (that included me sitting on a chair) how and what he or she understood about the lesson…

I can assure you the things you may discover would inspire you writing the best sellers of each school year!

Until our next chat,

Michel – September 5, 2015


The picture is from the site : Eyes on the Future

Humanware, the Missing Link between Hardware & Software!

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The real problem is not whether
machines think but whether men do.
B.F. Skinner


This paper’s title may look somehow unusual, yet it is a reality we, the humans, face this unusual status regularly since the creation of the first tools that drove mankind into our days.

I estimate the problem residing at the design and concept teams who since the beginning thought of solutions in favour of a certain productivity rather than seeking what and how people would feel using the components. Of course I do concede that the 20th century’s inventions such as machinery, homeware, were meant to ease the life of workers and people (essentially women at that time) for an easier life reducing time and effort. It remains though these inventions were “invented” between 4 walls under the supervision of specialists and skilled designers who did not necessarily used these components. Therefore unwillingly creating “things” people needed to adapt to instead of the opposite.

So saying that People, being part of the equation as Humanware are missing most of the time from the process. Missing alas from the needs analysis till the delivery, leaving to market studies and its experts the task to develop such markets motivating clients to be willing to buy these products.

We do not need to have rocket science expertise to find in our daily activities how many useful products were meant for people yet people had to adapt to using these.

A simple example, I went through myself when I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist was all smiles announcing their national banner decided to change the model and the way to open the vial. Looking at the little container I found it somehow intriguing trying to guess how I could open it in a snap as the pharmacist was saying. After trying a couple of times, she smiles at me and offered to show me how. Two attempts later I managed to open the vial, phew! That was something! Looking et my smiling young pharmacist, I thought about the people who cannot afford using easily their fingers as it should to open the bottle and wondered how would they do. Would they give up and put their health in jeopardy or would they need to ask for help all the time?

On my way back home, I felt enough puzzled to wonder how the people who designed this type of vial did think their idea, the ergonomics and usability of the bottle, was it designed just for those who could easily use their hands, being enough skilled to synchronize the two steps in one to open the bottle.

With all due respect to the good intentions of the designers, I think they missed a certain point: bring in their team the user experience element, that Humanware that obviously was missing here.

How we were forced, unlike our natural abilities, to change these in order to be able to use these objects that lacked such fine touch in their design.

I am part of the people who are left handed, those who are had no choice but to adapt, luckily the further we moved into our timeline some of these objects we conceived a bit more accommodating, maybe among the designers was a left-handed person that certainly helped! Not to say about the scissors, the spout of a saucepan manufactured only for right handers, etc.

I know there are compromises to be done from both sides, yet when it is related to the comfort of a person, I think regardless of any other consideration, people matter before processes and schemes.

The concept if Humanware is not of my creation, it became part of my professional culture, my social presence among peers and people, Humanware was to me a stunning discovery when I started developing teaching and educational programs. A fortunate encounter, 10 years ago with the author Ulf L. Andersson and his book: “Humanware practical usability engineering” made me understand how important people are in every solution.

Not only about manufacturing or engineering utilities and goods, but also in education, social life, politics, and more. People first, people at the core of every solution, people matter, these slogans say what should be seen in practical life. There is a long way to go before these altruistic slogans and mottos become reality.

Our digital reality has brought a new challenging layer on the real importance of people in today’s history of humankind. When virtual reality tends to keep us alone though connected to the planet, we need more than ever to remind ourselves, we, the humans, count first not the other way!

Until our next chat,

Michel – August 10, 2015


Picture: A courtesy from the site: El Mundo Del Humaware

Please do not keep your knowledge to yourself!

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Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility. Robin Morgan[I]


 

There were many changes during the communication era, the power of knowledge and the value of what it can provide not only to individuals but for humanity. Today, we stepped into the times of connecting among each other a step far above information, and communication. The admitted and promoted purposes were stated by many leaders, experts, people of interest and influence. Initially such promised knowledge is supposed  to serve the wellbeing of populations. At the same time, globalization was sold to people as the solution for that wellbeing.

There are still too many countries struggling with internal issues such as starvation, lack of basic quality of life, poor education, difficulties accessing essential resources, and so more disappointing results. Ones may say not to blame it on globalization! I would fully agree and support such idea if it weren’t at start that the whole idea of a Healthy globalization did not carry a hidden agenda that would empower more than ever the key players who are building their wealth at the expense of less fortunate populations.

I am a true believer that we, the people living on this planet, can solve our own problems and fix all the things that aren’t really Okay! We can stop wars, provide food and education to whom has none, build true relationship among nations, and still strive to advance in technologies and reach places no one has ever imagined. I know it takes the will to do it, but I am also convinced that nations in need, have to take care of themselves according to their traditions and cultures. For that to happen, they need knowledge. Knowledge that is abundant for some, let’s admit it, less fortunate people do not need international aid programs, nor blankets or wheat even milk or baby food. What they really need is the knowledge to take care of themselves, to learn how to manage their water, their fields, their basic resources.

I once saw a documentary that seemed to hit a wow among viewers, showing an international aid team going to a country where the access to milk and its derivatives to build a factory to collect milk and transform it to various sub-products. One little thing the documentary did not say: there weren’t any cows in that country!

Sharing our knowledge and skills is critical to our own kind and oddly such thing would cost ways less than sending cargos of emergency supplies to the same people in need.

Our journey in this life is relatively too short if we compare it to the timeline of our history, shall we burry this richness in our minds, vaults and servers and pretend we want to help humankind?

Until our next chat,

Michel – August 7, 2015


The picture is from the Blog site of Women in Business


[i] Robin Morgan American Poet

Robin Morgan is an American poet, author, political theorist and activist, journalist, lecturer, and former child actor. Since the early 1960s she has been a key radical feminist member of the American Women’s Movement, and a leader in the international feminist movement. Her 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful has been widely credited with helping to start the second wave feminist movement in the US, and was cited by the New York Public Library as “One of the 100 most influential Books of the 20th Century.” She has written more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and is also known as the editor of Ms. Magazine.

Is Global Citizenship at Risk?

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We are citizens of the world. The tragedy of our times is that we do not know this. Woodrow Wilson


 

A few weeks ago I shared some thoughts about Digital (or Virtual Democracy), and was pleased to note some interest about the topic. Of course sharing a personal opinion is meant more of an awareness and food for thoughts, a tremendous job is awaiting the various sources and organisations who will have the task to define the foundation, thus the foundation of such new social and political paradigm.

Digital democracy can – at least for me – be only of one type, nations and territories, frontiers can no longer exist when it relates to such political format. Such democracies are built by Global Citizens (Call it Virtual Citizens as well) I am not a big fan of existing political views that exist in our world today, yet I respect each as I find each is in its growth process, changes will occur when times comes and when most elements in favour of such change are met. Digital / Global Citizenship is on its own path and its pace can be compared to the speed of a travelling comet! Not so sure any human force can stop it, eventually slow it somehow.

Virtual Citizenship is inevitable just looking at the trends of today’s virtual world: in some countries the ratio of intelligent devices is almost a 1 on 1 (952 smart devices per 1000 capita). If I translate it into my own language or comprehension, it means (to me) that people, need to brake their loneliness and connect to other people regardless of the barriers, frontiers and regulations to slow migrants to move from a place to another. People care to connect more than any other mean for a wellbeing when they are given the choice.

It is not uncommon to observe lots of criticism about the duality of real and virtual life. Still people claim these aren’t the same. They are right from a rhetorical and etymological point of view, the fact is more people connect every day on popular social networks and get friends with other people whom they would never imagine meeting in real life. These persons can be considered as the first generation of virtual citizens, I may say Global Citizen.

If you are member of one of these networks just look at how many people you got in touch with, numbers add up so rapidly. As a matter of fact I did that “human” inventory of the acquaintances and friend and business contacts I have made for the last 12 years, figures are overwhelming! One of the interesting thing is that I spoke to each of them not less than a couple of times, some occasionally but many on a regular basis. If I had to spend time in real life that would took me most of my life to reach half or even less people to speak or just say hello.

That brings me to share more thoughts about the title of my paper. Is Global Citizenship at risk? I guess it will be if we as citizens of this world do not first consider ourselves as ones who are part of this planet, and second if we do not care about who and what will provide what every community requires to ensure a better life in this virtual realm.

Digital Democracy is something new to most political systems, Global Citizenship is newer than ever. As most countries and their organisations are still limited with goals that speak of nation, borders, identity, ethnicity, and more of what defines a nation rather than a group of nations.

Imagine for example that each government decides to create the virtual or digital version for his citizens, what would have changed? Nothing much I guess! For believers that it is a viable mean to expand ourselves into a digital realm, keep in mind that if it happens it will inevitably come with all of the drawbacks that our reality is carrying and enduring since ages.

Global Citizenship requires a new social contract, a new paradigm as it will affect the entire planet. Education, communication, trading, and even human relationships. I am not trying to speak from an idealistic approach, on the contrary, let us think of what has changed so far in our day to day activities. Banking, purchasing, official communication with our governments, ordering food, learning, virtual visits to places we would never think of, and more to come. Under which system will this Global Citizenship be regulated? Who will be eligible to be recognized as such, will there be segregations, shall we admit and tolerate illiteracy in our own places of living not to say the rest of the world? Will the news channels dare to interpretation of critical events and serve these as our daily meals three times a day?

Global citizenship can start from home and our neighbourhood, our communities, just spreading good ideas, discussing, sharing our opinions, regaining the ownership of our decisions and freedom of choice.

I am not against laws and order, they are meant to keep a nation in order how about our planet, but it takes free minds to ensure the very existence of a true democracy!

Until our next chat,

Michel – August 6, 2015


The picture of this paper is from: Global Citizen Daily