dimanche 29 novembre 2009

Identity questions : make people busy arguing and forget about real problems

Recently the French governement (namely the Minister of Immigration ... and National Identity) have launched nation-wide debates about national identity or, more precisely, about French identity.
At first, I thought : "cool, it's gonna spur debates and let's see what people, collectively, come up with". I am myself only a few years old as an official French citizen.
But my second impression was amazement. The timing seems strange. It is a time when Europe is challenged with reforms that would make it more effective and therefore meaningful, with expansion (and celebration of the expansion) to the East etc. Europe has just (compromizingly) designated its president and its foreign affairs representative. Worldwide, countries are still struggling to get out of the financial crisis. Fighting hunger or various large-scale diseases, fighting global warming have increased the consciousness of citizens all over the world.
At this particular time, the French do not ask themselves "what is a European", nor "what is a good world citizen". No. They are busy debating about "what defines a French" ...
I also tried to ask myself these difficult questions. My family and friends are spread all over the world: my parents continue to live in Romania, my sister lives in Britain, one brother-in-law lives in Cyprus, another in Canada ... Do we all share something anything else than blood ties ?

On many media, journalists, experts very often mention that common values, such as those formalized in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, are what define Frenchship. While it is true that the French were the first to formalize them in the form of a declaration, then as a the 1791 Constitution, these values have become universally accepted by democratic countries.

The more I think about it the more I have the feeling that this debate over French identity is a buzz. A clever buzz, spread by the government in order to get people distracted from real problems (economy is shrinking, unemployement is bad, politics is as dirty as ever etc). Our hyper-prezident can relax a bit: we're all busy brainstorming about national identity. Unofortunately, this has a more vicious effect : some of us are incidentally blaming not-so-good French, citizens of unhealthy origin, as the cause of many of our problems. Demonization, nationalism, they're only a few steps away.

dimanche 11 octobre 2009

My Third Toast to Siberia

A week ago I came back from Krasnoyarsk. My first trip ever to Russia, my firTaiga seen from Stolby Heightsst trip to the mythical Siberia. While traveling back, I had an undistinctive feeling of loss. It's like after a party, very early in the morning. The party goers are all tired, lying on the sofas, the music is dim, and you can hear the new day cracking. You can feel the nice, subtle warmness of the subsequent layers of alcohol in your blood. You've made new friends out of complete strangers, and with some of them you got really close: nice, deep discussions made you get so close, that it was like you've been knowing each other since childhood. You've explored together ideas and feelings, you've traveled together through extraordinary stories. And once of a sudden, you realize that you have to get back to the real world. The party is over.

It was a trip full of excitement. My positive expectations were pushed further. Beautiful, wide landscapes. Impressive infrastructures. Nice, charming people. Warm layers of vodka, soft blankets against the imminent cold weather and effective catalyzers for human links. And before each layer of vodka, a toast. Every participant has his/her turn. A surprising custom that provides the act of drinking with a real social importance: you are really together via a story, a dedication or some witty or nice words. I was told that the third toast is the most important, and it's usually said by a man: the toast for love.

This is my modest, third toast to Siberia.

mardi 28 avril 2009

Laboratory for the incubation of hectic thoughts

Potential future blogs ...
  • the web of thought : how to manage the quasi-chaotic emergence of interlinked ideas
  • what are the catalysts of this process ? Dialogging with a physical person, remarkable events, chemical stimuli (alcohol, smoke, sexmotions=sexually-linked emotions) ? Blogging, as a way of dialogging with unknown, virtully passive passive or in a loosly-coupled two-way dialogue ? The stochastic, semi-guided emergence of thoughts and emotions ?
  • mastering the power of emotions in the workplace
  • emotionally-lubricated professional relationship (The Pope, codoms and emotions)
  • Mathematics of weddings

lundi 27 avril 2009

Men Crying

(This is a post written a month ago, forgotten in a file somewhere)

Emotions. According to a recent study (unable to state the source, I heard this on the radio a few weeks ago), kids have difficulties in understanding the way adults react to dramatic events showed on TV news. Does this mean that people become increasingly unnafected by world's disasters? Is it because they have grown up next to parents who apparently have been unable to express emotions and therefore "teaching" them flat, blank psychological reactions ?

More generally, why do adults try hard to hide their emotions ? Be able not to show that you are distressed, angry, unhappy or joyfull, why is this considered as a psychological strength or an evidence of self-control, highly praised as an important professional skill ? Is it really right to force most emotions out of the workplace, and negative emotions out of the personal relations sphere ? How can emotions streamline human communication (for example, use the power of joy to help motivate the others, use the "back-to-reality" energy of dissaproval or worryness for getting something done right ) ?

... Some time ago, I interviewed a male student who was obviously very frustrated for trying to get a scholarship, a few times, unsuccessfully. He nearly burst into tears, as he did not understand what went wrong, nor why he got so emotional, that only worsened his distress ...

dimanche 1 mars 2009

In a Western Plane Heading Back from East

Back from a business trip to Romania, in the plane, I was reading a newspaper article about the risk of mixing up toghether the countries in Eastern Europe when it comes to describing their struggle with the current financial crisis. Or their faltering currencies.

I'm a Romanian-born people working in academia in southern France. I also represent my university in eastern european countries. Or at least this is how I introduce myself.

Seen from Toulouse and other places in the western world that might still be called the oldworld, heights of culture and civilisation, countries of eastern Europe look very much the same. Truly but sadly, these countries are best known as places where western companies delocalise to make more profit and bolster unemployment at home, where old Europe has invested a lot of money to help the poor cousins rise their heads after the dark communist era. The place where beautiful girls come from.

Ten to twenty years ago Romanians used to speak about the west. Going west, at that time, was a fine per se. Many people went west, no matter where, just to escape the hunting image of communism followed by wild capitalism and lack of a healthy civil society. Those times have gone by now. Romanians choose to go to Italy or Spain for work or tourism because they know they
can learn the language more easily. They go to France because they know a lot about its culinary art or interesting places tourism-wise. Now that they can freely travel and almost freely work around Europe, now that information travels easily, hardly anyone speaks about "the west" anymore.

And in the west ? Well, we continue to consider the ex-communist, eastern european countries as a block. Apart from the annoingly (for Romanians and Hungarians) mistake when intermingling phonetically Budapest and Bucharest, it is quite easy to appreciate each country's special characteristics: the painted monasteries of northern Romania, the vibrant, beautiful city
of Budapest, the oriental charm of Bucharest, the neatness, old bricks of Prague. Each country's uniqueness is even more apparent when it comes to food: despite the common assumptions, there are hardly any eastern Europe restaurants. Tourist may choose to eat Hungarian, Romanian or Serb or else Italian or French. But never eastern European.

You may still not be convinced by my argument and I honestly think it's not that easy. Eastern Europe people have a lot in common, apart from a tough common history. I feel that we/they all share a strong will to succeed, a natural taste for strong alcohols and unhealthy food, and "a lot of compassion for their poorly-minded, geography-agnostic" western cousins.