A Diverse Country Turned Into a Disaster – an Un-Success Story: Brazil

A Diverse Country Turned Into a Disaster – an Un-Success Story: Brazil

Brazil is another melting pot in South America with an abundance of geography and a relatively short history. This country showed its potential in the 2000s and reached a prominent spot in the BRIC(S) Alliance, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. South Africa is in brackets because they joined later and their economy is not at their level. Brazil is incredibly rich in minerals in the Amazonian region, and there are gas fields near the shoreline. They could have been a success story in terms of environmental issues since they have the Earth’s largest remaining rainforest. Nowadays, headlines show that due to climate change and human behaviour, the forest was on fire. We all know how diverse (and therefore, valuable) the flora and fauna in Brazil is. The arrogance of the newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro only obstructs the healing process, because he does not believe in climate change. Not believing in the issue means they are not committed to the world. We have to act local, think global and not the other way round—like what took place in Hungary in 2006. Brazil refused the international aid given by Germany and Norway to cover the damages done to the rainforest! They are on a different continent, but they are more committed to the environment and not “brainwashed” as the Hungarian President at the General Assembly said. In terms of diseases, it does not matter who is an immigrant and who is not, it doesn’t matter who votes for the left and who does not. What matters is making an effort. We are all global citizens. We are all part of the world. Who is more committed to humanity? If you are dedicated and make tons of effort, you can become a promising success story, like Brazil’s father, Portugal did. Or Austria, a pioneer in clean energy and recycling. Once again, efforts. I am not saying that everything is perfect in these countries, for sure they have downsides. Dear Brazil, do you want to keep your position as a potential superpower by saving the State of Amazonas? Your first time act should have been army intervention to help firefighters as soon as the first flames were identified. You only intervened after serious international pressure. This is very poor, especially if you are the commander-in-chief. You should not have been this arrogant to the nations around you, neither to the Earth. If the Amazonian rainforest burns down, the mining industry cannot continue, because it will drain the freshwater supplies as well, since some metals (like copper) need an abundance of fresh water to excavate. The soil is not suitable to grow plants because the amount of rain washes all nutrition away. It is worth noting here that Brazil is a breadbasket since they are leading the world in coffee production. They have extensive fields of coffee. They are in favour of Arabica coffee, which needs a lot of rain and shade as it cannot stand the hot weather. Where is the shade, if there are no trees? Rejecting international aid is very immature. This is the main reason why the biodiversity turned into an absolute disaster because the Amazonian rainforest appeared to be on fire. This is the most obvious sign of climate change.

But the turn towards a disastrous future started when the Trabalhadores (the Workers’ Party, a Brazilian social-democratic party) was in power, led by Lula Inácio da Silva and further on, Dilma Vana Rousseff. She was an ambitious leader because, with her leadership, Brazil hosted two important sporting events: the FIFA World Cup of 2014 and the Olympic Games of 2016. They showed that if they want, they can fulfil their potential. They had a flourishing economy in heavy industry (they have iron ore fields in Minas Gerais) and aluminium industry (Minas Gerais and São Paulo). Belo Horizonte is the heavy industrial capital of Brazil. Because of this, they have extreme potential in IT as well, as the above-mentioned city is the Silicon Valley of Brazil. Besides this, they are playing a prominent role in the South American automotive industry, as Daimler, Volkswagen and Ford built factories all around São Paulo. Therefore, this latter city is the automotive capital of Brazil. Ship and aviation industry is led by São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Everyone knows Embraer. This brand is Brazilian and prominent in manufacturing short-range planes. Therefore, everything was given to build a success story and later on, a superpower. However, corruption and bad public security put a stop to all those above. Why is the latter so bad in this country. I am sure everyone has heard of favelas, which are the poorest areas of big cities and also home to cocaine. The police are patrolling, but they are vulnerable to band corruption. These bands are fighting vigorously with heavy arms. The only way out of this poverty is quality education, or having extreme talent in football or other sports. Universities are pretty good in Brazil, but what about the basics? Yes, the same problem as in Hungary, underperforming in math and reading. Are we 100% sure that it is necessary to cram students with dry facts? Because of this, the difference in income will be visible on children. Therefore, it can be a good idea to introduce a uniform program. Uniforms do not take away or obstruct freedom. They rather unify children to act together. Therefore, we should not teach children what coordinate geometry is about. I learned about that. Have I ever had to use it? Questions in other areas also rise. Why do not we teach what we have to use later on? Such as analysing graphs (referring to my first articles) and making predictions? I am not sure whether it is a good idea to cram children with facts and sacrificing deep understanding. Our brain should pan for gold, rather than function as a sponge. If a kid asks a question, it does not necessarily mean he or she does not understand something! Never stop children from being inquisitive. Never talk back to them with replies like: “Have you read your textbook?” They just want to know what that thing is about because the wording of their textbook is vague. Teaching requires having a lot of patience. But if you are not patient and not understanding, you are not a teacher. However, in certain subjects, like math, you must cram everything in your mind and visualize geometry. Moreover, a teacher should acquire an enormous amount of knowledge and should require a lot in classes. My math teacher was excelling in math (she was a mathematician, not only a teacher). She did not do anything but bring the requirements of the Soviet Union. What does it mean? She could not accept the fact that you got an A from straight Cs or Ds. At that time, she launched a conversation with you and started to test you more often than others. The outcome of those conversations was: “See? You can do it if you want!” Yes, math is a cruel subject, but it is immune to misinterpretations. What does it mean? If you do not provide basic math education to everyone, their future will not be dark, even if there are pretty good universities. After all, you cannot build a house if you start from the top.

Public corruption is also a huge problem in Brazil. I am sure everyone knows that the former Brazilian president, Rousseff was involved in many scandals. Operation Car Wash has been linked to many government executives and giant Brazilian companies, namely Petrobras and Odebrecht. This scandal has been investigated in many other Latin American countries. The scandal started in 2008 when a businessman reported an attempt at money laundering through his company. A judge revealed that the launderers were linked to the state-owned oil company, Petrobras. Former executives of the company were detained and asked for evidence. They were sentenced less for collaborating. This detainment brought along several further arrests and the investigation extended worldwide. The construction company, Odebrecht was also involved in illegally paying for government officials allegiance. Their executive was sentenced to 19 years in prison for paying bribes to Petrobras. Later on, the former president, Lula da Silva was incarcerated for nine years. This meant the position of Dilma Rousseff weakened a lot because she was not collaborating with the authorities. She was accused of fiscal peddling during her campaigns, as these sums were not scrutinized and were late in being paid back. As it was revealed, millions of Brazilians demanded her impeachment. These demonstrations only affected the parliament in 2015, when they started proceedings, and Dilma had to leave her office in December 2015 and was replaced with her vice-president, Michel Temer, who was almost as muddy in corruption scandals as Dilma was. He was booed at when he opened the Olympic Games in Rio. This political tension and instability led to the win by the far-right politician, Jair Bolsonaro, who is very military-minded as a former army officer. He is extremely homophobic, as he said he would even kill his child if any of them declared they were homosexual. Can we make a distinction between Brazilians? Who is a real Brazilian, then? Brazil is a melting pot of hundreds of nations. Does it make sense to elect a nationalist politician as a president? Is it the answer to the problem? We know from history what it meant. A World War! Do we want a world war? Brazil is a big-big country. But they have a treasure, the precious Amazonia, which appeared to be on fire. This is not a joke, a treasure of the Earth is dying. If it is not treated immediately, the Earth will die. The rainforest is the key to the Brazilian economy. It affects the breadbasket status of the country. If the rainforest is on fire, slowly but surely the savannas will also catch fire, because of climate change. Then it eradicates the land’s flora and fauna. Dear Jair, for heaven’s sake. Do not pretend that this does not exist and such a belief can solve it all. It will not. You could only solve it by aiding your fire brigade with the army! Or ask the people to start volunteering for the fire brigade. It will ease the pain. Also, seek help from your neighbours, as they will also be affected. Surely, you cannot wish your country becomes a desert after flourishing with diversity? Conserve the treasure, conserve your economic status, and start showering your people with love. You could become a real superpower. You have everything required. Accept the aid from other countries, and do not throw it back just because “they are responsible for climate change”. For sure, Norway owns the majority of the North Sea gas and oil fields, still, they are very committed to the environment.

However, be more realistic when you bid as a host for the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games. These are very expensive and you must have a clear plan of what you want to do with the venues after the games. Are you sure that they will be used for anything later on? You should not play with the country’s money. These two events made the Brazilian economy stammer. Then it was revealed that construction of venues was severely hit by corruption and overpricing. Remember: the Sochi Winter Olympics were stolen. Every single venue was badly designed and overpriced. The Olympic Games is a nice concept, a nice idea, I support the idea of them. But please, do not organize them, if you cannot show a plan after the games. Of course, it is good to be ambitious, but do not talk too big. This leads nowhere. Venues have to be maintained in good condition because they have to attract people. That is why I am not quite sure whether Budapest could host the Olympic Games. It is a historical city, full of beauties, but considering the costs of organizing international competitions, are we 100% sure we have a definite plan after the games? It is better to act, rather than talk. So, dear Jair, do your part to stop the fire rekindling in the Amazonian region, and also you, dear reader, start thinking about your part. What can you do for the region?

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Role of Video Games and Cartoons in Education

Role of Video Games and Cartoons in Education

Do you remember your childhood cartoons? What about your school life? How was it? Were you talking about every single episode of your favourite cartoon with your schoolmates? What was the cartoon’s effect on you? Also, were you interested in video games? Were you spending time in front of a TV screen to play them?

A few days ago, when I was walking in a street, a young boy passed me. He had a school bag with him. I noticed that the school bag had a logo. The logo belongs to a popular video game called “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)”. Even though I have been interested in video games since my childhood, I have never tried to play this game but I know what it is like. It is an online game. I guess around 100 people can be online in the same warzone (map). The aim is to remove the rest of the people playing it. If you are removed, you can start with a new map and people.

I will not talk about any more details of the game. After I saw the school bag, my elementary/secondary school days came to my mind. I have begun to think about what we had at that time. We had Lucky Luke, Popeye, Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, He-Man, Transformers; and later on as video games, Captain Commando, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Final Fight, The Punisher and so forth. All of these had two sides; one side was the bad side (bad characters) who wanted to destroy the world somehow, and the other side was the good side who wanted to save the world from the bad characters. My friends and I were excited when we were watching these cartoons on TV. We were watching without blinking. After they saved the world at the end of an episode, we have become really glad. When we were playing these video games, we were sure that we were part of the good side always. Our aim was clear. Stop the war for peace and a better world. As I wrote, all of us were their fans, we all had notebooks, books, pencils, school bags, notebook cases with their stickers, small posters, images etc. Even if these cartoons and games had violence, we wisely separated what/who was bad and good and aligned ourselves with the good sides.

We grew up, and now we see that real life has two sides, like in our cartoons and video games.

But now, a video game-like PUBG has no side. One hundred people on the same map. No one is good or bad. The aim is just killing others. Even if your friend is online too on the same map, in the end, you have to kill him/her to win the game. I do not want to blame PUBG only. There are many games like this, but I don’t know them.

My question is: why are there school materials with these kinds of game logos on them? They enter schools easily on school bags, notebooks, pencils, and so on.

Dear reader, could you understand what I mean by this? Our kids are following bad examples, unfortunately. What can a student learn from these games/cartoons? If the aim is to kill everyone, they cannot even notice who is bad/good. Students must have role models to show them the right way. Unsupervised freedom takes them down unknown paths during their youth. I’m not saying that they should not play games or watch cartoons. It is impossible in this era. Also, I’m not saying this because I spent many days in front of the screen. Both parents/teachers must keep track of what is popular among youths and, if necessary, block it from harming their kids/students. Ministries of Education must sanction companies that produce these kinds of materials. They must not enter school!

The gaming sector targets our kids to make more money. If games are like our games in the past, I welcome them. But contemporary games are a big question mark for me. Violence is part of this life (unfortunately), but we must find the brightest paths forward, and support the rightful ones.

– Oğuz Yılmazlar

Why It Is A Bad Idea To Veto Common Climate Actions

Why It Is A Bad Idea To Veto Common Climate Actions

A few months ago, the European Commission issued a call for a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, but it was vetoed by four countries, one of which was Hungary. A Hungarian right-wing website argued that being environmentally-conscious should not be a privilege reserved for the left-wing parties. As the Earth is our home, we have to look after it, so I agree with this statement. Climate change is a common issue, its effects do not follow where a person belongs. It does not matter if you are communist or conservative, you become a victim as well because you might have to leave your home when it is no longer inhabitable.

Do we want that? Of course not!

This article functions as a response paper to a Hungarian article, which posits that left-wing parties do not give any solution to the problem of climate change and suggests that joining in any common goal initiatives is unproductive. Do not make any excuse for not ratifying climate goals, just because you need financial support to achieve them. Suggest some countermeasures instead, they are worth more and accept the fact that the European Union is not an ATM. Keep in mind, that you never build a house from the top. You should build it from the bottom.

Now, let’s go through the article “A Note on Right-Wing Green Politics” (1), which is in Hungarian. The article begins with a critique of the ideology. The idea is to think globally, act locally. However, it should not be a privilege to any particular political affiliation. We have to accept the fact that everything is part of the world. We have to commit ourselves to a better world. Nowadays, we have corporations who commit themselves to a good cause, so it may not be a privilege to anyone in particular. If you want to progress, you may have to enforce a couple of policies that might adversely affect others at times.

So why can’t Hungary follow the examples of Austria? Or Iceland? Or Japan?

Do not simply come up with the GDP or the size of the country (even so, Austria is smaller than Hungary for that matter). It is not about comparison. According to Warren Heaps (2010), every country must have different markets and compensation programs should reflect a balance between global corporate philosophy and local practice and culture.

Successful companies (like Levi’s) have already adopted this principle in pricing, selling, and so on. Therefore, big companies build factories in countries where labour is cheap. They want a big profit with limited costs. This is a cliché, everyone knows it. A common argument against Levi’s is that their jeans are very expensive. For sure they are (anywhere in the world, they cost 3 or 4 times more than an ordinary pair of jeans), but they have top-notch quality. Accordingly, purchasers can wear them for ten years or more. So what? If you are poor, you should not buy cheap things, because they will not be durable. So do not complain about the price. You get what you pay for, after all. That is why you should engage in some saving and do not be too extravagant.

The Hungarian article posits that building factories in countries where labour is cheap is not a good strategy. Why? Because it is easily communicable, it does not give a real solution, and debates become impossible because of the ideology. I agree with this because debates are part of politics. But can you ever admit your faults? It is not understandable to me why ideology is in focus here. It is rather your incapability of holding real debates.

I remember in 2006 when the current governing party, FIDESZ (Alliance of Young Democrats) lost the general elections against the Socialist Party. The governing Socialist prime minister crushed the other candidate in a debate (2). The other candidate said “I want to increase this” and “I want to decrease that”. But no definite goal was set in this debate in case he won the elections. The governing party had targets and results. If you want to be a good leader, you have to set a definite goal, and you have to set the measures for its success to be responsible for what you say. If you are a leader, you must know the country very well. The prime minister in 2006 could not set a proper goal to decrease public debt and address the dangers in our economy, but argued for “more resources for all”. If someone says this, he or she is lying at some point, especially after having had the opportunity to do so (between 1998 and 2002). At one point, he wanted to eradicate bureaucracy, then he said: “it might be necessary to set a Ministry for Budapest”. This is a contradiction.

This contradiction also appears in the current governmental structure, especially if we have a look at the number of secretaries and their assistants. The total number is 196. So, who is bureaucratic and who is more extravagant? Please, be consistent and honest when you are setting a goal. So arguing the lack of debates because of the ideology is not the right argument. You can convince the other half in a debate but show the basis and why your point will not fail, if you are elected.

Then, the Hungarian article says that Democrats in the US introduced the “Green New Deal” bill. Its policies included a minimum wage and basic rights. The article said Democrats belong to the left. Well, to be honest, with some background in Political Science, it is quite excessive to place Democrats to the left and Republicans to the right as several points, which are typical of the right, are still owned by the Democrats, and vice versa. Therefore, the left does not see points of certain policies as their privilege. Hence being Green on the outside does not mean they are Red on the inside.

Later on, the article takes a relative demagogue position: the left appears to be scientific while foreseeing an ecological disaster. So, let us clarify it: science never serves political parties. Authentic science looks for facts. Facts are sometimes cruel, they do not always serve your position for sure, still, you have to accept them.

Moving along, the article posits that Germany is slowly shutting down all its nuclear power plants, and the remainder will only use fossil fuels and renewable resources. Thus the price of energy became very high by the end of 2018, which was true. However, could you have a look at Ellen Thalman and Benjamin Wehrmann’s article in 2019 (3)? The German population support the idea of a transition to renewable energy because the costs are high enough to look for alternatives. It is important to recognise that wholesale energy prices have been dropping in recent years—the taxes and other surcharges are raising the bills. Still, these prices are not high enough for alternatives to viable yet.

The article of Thalman also asks one question. How frequent are power outages? Cheap energy may not mean a stable source of energy. If something is cheap, then it does not mean it is unreliable as well. If something is too cheap, it might be suspicious.

The Hungarian article goes further, saying joining international treaties, like the Paris Agreement of 2015-2016 (4), end up failing. The EU has ratified it on behalf of its members. The agreement has the main goal of carbon reduction by 20%, increasing the renewable energy share to 20% and increasing energy efficiency by 20%.

Referring back to my previous articles, the recuperating Portugal had made promising efforts to be energy efficient and consume just as much as required.

Other countries have shown their commitment to this agreement. The Netherlands made an ambitious program: by 2030, all-electric railways will be powered by the wind within the Dutch national rail lines. I am pretty sure that they will be able to do it, as they have been described as a success story in climate action in my previous articles. If a small country can do it, a slightly bigger country, like Austria or Hungary must be able to do their part as well.

Another example is Norway, a success story in almost all of the SDGs, which will ban selling diesel or petrol cars by 2025. Norway is not an EU-member, but see how committed they are to our environment! Oh yes, their prime minister is a woman. Where do we get from here? It is better to comply, otherwise, she will steer everything to crush you.

These latter countries have committed themselves. Let us do the same! We have clever and well-educated people! They are not a danger to our positions. If they want to follow an ambitious goal, let us follow them. They worked a lot to set baselines, they provided us with frameworks on how we should reach them. Let’s reward them by following them. It will not be harmful.

More recently, Hungary vetoed the EU Climate Agreement of 2050 (5), because of the fear of adverse economic effects and the lack of financial aid to finance it. However, the most hilarious argument against the climate policy was from the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis: “Why should we decide 31 years ahead of time what should happen in 2050?” Well, you may not be alive at that time, but as I mentioned: these are targets. You have to do your part in them. Why is it a good idea to join it? You must show how committed you are to the European Union and its values, not just look at it as an ATM.

The Hungarian article argues that the Left was not environmentally conscious, yet they are demonising nuclear power. Let us clarify it again: nobody is diminishing it, they just want to make you understand: there was a Mayak, Chernobyl and Fukushima. All linked to nuclear power plants. Do we want the same with Paks? Could you explain to me why the local average temperature near Paks is higher than the rest of Hungary? Why is the Danube warmer there? Please do not argue the different structures of Chernobyl and Paks. What is more, Paks lies close to a tectonic fault. What if an earthquake strikes the area? Does Fukushima ring a bell?

Furthermore, the article says conservatives also act on the side of our climate, it is not necessary to be on the left. For sure it is true. Margaret Thatcher was a committed and ambitious climate activist, let’s never forget what she had done to mitigate against the depletion of the ozone layer. So it does not make any sense to posit things like the left considers environmental affairs as a privilege. Nobody said things like that. The American Democrats are not on the left-wing, as in the United States such things do not exist. It is very steep to place Republicans as conservatives and Democrats as liberals.

The Hungarian article also posits against the idea of “global citizens”. I have no idea why it has become a negative element. It is a good idea to be open to the world’s problems. Because your nation is a part of the world. Therefore, we are open to them as well. We want to act locally and think globally. Everyone wants to do his or her small part. However, since the events that took place in Hungary in 2006, it seems a lot of people are following the exact opposite. That is: “The price of bread has increased! Let’s damage the headquarters of a television station!” This is what happened.

Furthermore: “Ferencváros [Hungarian football club] got disqualified from the Hungarian Championship! Let’s damage the headquarters!” This is what happened. If you are thinking globally, would anyone care about this Hungarian team? Be committed to the world and heal it yourself by taking small steps. I have already been doing my part by cutting down on plastic. My team had already achieved in Bandung. Are you ready to do your part? Be aware: we do not have as much time as we think until 2030, or even 2050. The years are just blowing away!

– Gergely Lázár

    1. Orbán Balázs: Jegyzet a Jobboldali Zöld Politikáról (this article is in Hungarian, I translated the most important points of it above)
    2. The decisive debate between the two Hungarian prime minister candidates in 2006: Gyurcsány Vs. Orbán Választási Vita 2006 (it is also in Hungarian, I translated the key parts of it, which are what led Gyurcsány to win the election)
    3. Thalman, E., & Wehrmann, B. (2019, June 26): What German Households Pay for Power
    4. Paris Agreement
    5. Rankin, J. (2019, June 20): Central European Countries Block EU Moves Towards 2050 Zero Carbon Goal

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

 

The Difference Between Diversity and Discrimination

The Difference Between Diversity and Discrimination

I was recently on a panel at a leadership event at a girls’ school, and one of the questions these bright young women asked us was: “Have you ever been discriminated against as a woman?”

“Yes.” was the answer. Unsurprisingly, all three women leaders on the panel said we had faced discrimination, to varying degrees, at one point or another.

Have I been discriminated as a woman? Yes. Of course, I have. For and against being one. I was discriminated ‘against’ every time my mother, concerned for my safety, would ask me to be home earlier than she would ask my brother to be home. I was discriminated ‘for’ every time a man opened a door for me or carried my bags or offered me a seat.

Were these good things that happened to me, or bad? Neither. It’s just the way things were. I could (and did) argue with my mum about my ‘curfew’, and I could argue with any man whoever does anything nice for me (because, of course, he is only doing that because I am a woman and he sees me as less able, right?).

And of course, at various points in my career or my life, I have also experienced discrimination in the form that we commonly understand it. Assumptions have been made about my abilities because of my gender, my race or my age. But discrimination, in itself, is not damaging to us.

We will all experience discrimination in big and small ways in our lives. I have been told I was too fat. I have been told I was too skinny. (Neither was true). I have been told I was too polite. I have been told I was too rude. (Both were true). I have even been told by a guy that he wouldn’t date me because I was always well dressed! We have all felt ‘targeted’, singled-out, excluded, differentiated against, or told-off for something or the other. But discrimination only means something in our lives when we make it mean something about us and what we can and can’t do.

Here’s the other, and deeper truth about discrimination that is not often talked about: We discriminate against ourselves.

More than anyone else has ever discriminated against me, I have discriminated against myself. I have assumed limitations about myself because of my gender, or my age, or because I didn’t speak a certain language or didn’t have a certain qualification. I have excluded myself from opportunities and refused to allow myself to do things that I would have loved. I have told myself countless times that is how I need to be, to be a good daughter, a good girlfriend, a good friend, a good employee, often at the expense of what I would have loved to do. I have often made up my mind that current circumstances or perceptions are how things are and that they are too hard to change, nothing will ever be different, this is how it has to be. And in doing so, I have held myself back from expressing my heart, my true self in the world.

Every time we allow an incident, a perception or a circumstance to mean something about us and limit us, we discriminate against ourselves.

Every time we say the words: “it’s a man’s world” or “men can’t be trusted” or “you have to be tough to succeed”, we are joining the discriminators’ brigade. We exclude ourselves from opportunities, or we teach ourselves that being our natural, authentic selves is not good enough, or worse: we make assumptions about and judge other people, too! Every time we think, speak or act based on a bias (even if we are putting our energy into proving it wrong), we are fuelling that bias.

Diversity, by its very nature, also points out differences.

But diversity looks at people and all of their differences with curiosity and wonder and possibility, and instead of putting the attention on disproving or fighting bias, it focuses on creating the world we would love to live in. It focuses on utilising the unique gifts and power of each person, rather than debating them.

Diversity is not a denial of differences, but a desire to further understand, to support, and to create something bigger, greater, more colourful and magical as a result of the differences and variety available.

Diversity includes an awareness that not only are our physical characteristics different, but also our gifts, our hopes, our dreams, and our fears make us who we are. Whereas discrimination would judge me for some of these inner traits and fears and behaviours, diversity proceeds to accept me as I am, and allow me to bring my unique take to any situation in line with a shared vision.

Diversity and authenticity go hand in hand. Diversity can only truly exist when you are being yourself without fear, and I am being myself without fear.

Diversity acknowledges differences and sees opportunities. Discrimination assumes limitations.

Diversity says: this is what is. Discrimination says: this is how it should be.

Diversity is open and curious and questioning. Discrimination has its mind made up and is afraid to ask, question, discuss.

And we all know this one: Diversity includes. Discrimination excludes.

Diversity is when I acknowledge that I am a woman of a certain age and a certain background and a certain nature, and take all of that and say: “How can I create something from all of this that reflects who I am and what I can bring to any situation that will add to the greater good?”

Discrimination is when I believe that I cannot have the life that I would love, or live my purpose in the world because of who I am.

And no matter which of the two philosophies the rest of the world lives out, whether I live out my life with the fearful limitations of discrimination or the endless possibilities of diversity is up to me.

Whether I go for that job, despite voices of doubt, and showcase my fitness for the role is on me. Whether I let age become an excuse to not do something is on me. Whether I take that remark referencing my racial heritage to heart and let it depress me, or express myself in what I love to do anyway is on me. Whether I let my current level of physical fitness dictate what I can or can’t do, is on me.

My destiny is down to me.

Women in the 1900s discovered radioactivity, fought for human rights and ruled the world. Children aged 10 and 12 have created million-dollar businesses. Men and women with no arms or even no limbs have painted, driven, married, had babies and even led successful careers on stage. What’s my excuse?

Sure, I will never stand up and ‘relieve myself’ the way a man can, and thankfully I will not have to worry about the hair in my ears growing out as I age. But that is one of the many things that makes me a woman and what allows me to be one.

Discrimination only serves its fearful purpose when we allow it to be a limitation. Everything else is just an acknowledgement of the beautiful, fat, rich, skinny, pimpled, male, female, old, and young multi-coloured and multi-abled diversity that is humanity.

– Stuti Singh

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

© Stuti Singh 2019 (stutisingh@gmail.com)

Get out of Your Comfort Zone and Partner for the Goals!

Get out of Your Comfort Zone and Partner for the Goals!

I thought after being a member of AIESEC for five years and being on two Member Committee Executive Boards (MCEBs) would be enough for my leadership skill development…

Then, I signed up for a Global Talent Program and quickly realized I was wrong. I knew from arrival, this experience was going to transform me from the core, once again.

I am Edem Hlonu, former Member Committee President (MCP) of AIESEC in Togo 2016-17. After my term, I was in India for a whole year with the ACE Career Development Program powered by TATA CONSULTANCY SERVICES (TCS) during 2018.

“Why India?”

“It is too far…”

There were plenty of worries from my friends and family across West Africa.

Living in Bangalore, a 12-million-souls-and-counting city was a truly challenging experience, as my entire home country has only 7 million inhabitants.

My first month had been just an introduction to their culture—I was shocked every single day!

How rich and how extremely poor people can be and still share the same city. You can tell the difference so clearly as the caste-system still exists. I was living near my fancy office, but the neighbourhood looked dirty and crowded everywhere.

There was a queue every place I went, no matter whether it was a small or big shop, a church, a restaurant or a barber.

“Spicy or chilly?” These are the only two options for food. As most of the locals are vegetarians, which is unusual where I come from, vegetarian cuisine was foreign to me at first. But later, I started to appreciate it, and even now, as I’m already back in my home country, I miss it dearly.

In India, prepare yourself not to eat beef.

The cow is one of their many, many gods. That is why you can see them on the street roam undisturbed. Every day is a festival for a god, so there are almost three holidays every month. Their culture is different from any culture in the world and I appreciate it. Men and women do not mix. To greet someone from the opposite sex, men can shake hands, but never should try to hug women in public!

I looked strange to most of the locals there. My blackness drew attention and people asked many things based on assumptions: “Are you African? Or wait, are you from Jamaica? Perhaps from South Africa?”

“No, I am actually from Togo.”

It was not much of my surprise that nobody knew where Togo was. Nevertheless, they were all curious to learn, so they asked me to explain.

The craziest request they had was to take selfies—like I was a superstar, even though I told them I was not— but they insisted to snap a photo right there on the street, while eating at restaurants, or wandering around at malls or markets. I even got used to it and started to enjoy it too.

Some of my colleagues even used to touch my hair to see how it felt, as I cleaned it differently. As most of them studied IT at school, I guess they had not been focusing much on geography. Therefore, I was often asked to teach them everything I knew about Africa. Burst some misconceptions, I might add, such as Africa was not a country, but indeed a diverse continent with more than 50 amazing countries!

But there was a lot to be learned too.

I visited Hindu temples and witnessed amazing wedding ceremonies, which I learned were an important event for not just friends and family, but the whole community and neighbourhood. So they share a lot of their joy. I have met some African interns from different regions of Africa too. So my internship not only enhanced my Indian cultural awareness, but I learned about other cultures and habits from my continent too. Things I had not known before.

Working at TCS, a top 3 global IT company, was challenging for me as I did not graduate from the field of IT or anything similar. I had skills in need to them in speaking two international languages fluently (French is the official language in Togo, and I learned English). They often joked: “How did you get to work in an IT company?” But also were curious by asking: “What will you do after the internship?” So to help me professionally with the job, TCS provided a 4 weeklong training course on IT and security, which I completed.

I became a Language specialist, supporting clients in IT. Working in a service desk project team looks sometimes like working in an emergency hospital. As things change suddenly in the field, and the tasks are diverse, the position made me more flexible. I needed to learn new things every day to update my knowledge as well, so it required me to be more patient and proactive.

The company is huge, with many employees, teams, processes, rules, leaders and organizations inside it. Apart from Indians, I was also working together with other interns coming from countries like Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Netherlands, Spain, Kenya, Namibia and Indonesia. We had a lot of fun with the project team during our team building days, and even in our free time.

Working on a crazy shift timetable, as our project was running 24/7, we were supporting Europe and North America. The time zones were different, therefore I had to work from 4 pm to 2 am, working sometimes on weekends as well.

I quickly learned to plan extra activities flexibly. I started going to the gym, doing Yoga, reading English books from the company library… which all were a new experience for me.

Every time I could, I planned short trips to visit numerous places across the giant country as India is. Sometimes I used my long weekends to get further.

At one point, I could travel to New Delhi, Mumbai, Pondicherry and Goa where Indian culture looks even more different than what I got familiar with living in Bangalore—India truly is a country of millions of cultures and religions.

I can clearly state from my heart, that going for an internship was one of the best things that happened to me. It changed my perception of life and shaped me into a better person, and an even better leader, which I thought I’d already mastered as an MCP.

Besides that, I had developed my professional and personal skills and network too. Now I know how to work in a multicultural environment and how to survive far from home. How to report to different leaders and how to be accountable for my responsibilities.

Now I had mastered how to plan differently and be more focused according to the priorities and the ever-changing environment I faced. How to handle change is part of my daily life as sometimes a process that I thought to follow might not work to solve one problem, so being a solution-oriented person, I learned to how to handle change.

Today, after India and year-long professional experience, I am a more self-aware and open-minded person who is more adaptable and welcome to differences and cherishes them from the heart.

I can give to my friends in Togo, who look up to me because I was able to live in completely different conditions on my own for 12 months. I learned how to motivate and condition myself to see the opportunities in everything. The experience truly shaped me in my very core.

After it, I could see my professional career differently. I am more comfortable in customer management and IT now, even though originally I had a background in Law.

I will always encourage young people to get out of their comfort zones and if it is needed, travel to the other side of the world to discover their true selves and find new horizons.

Travelling and working in a drastically different culture might be the best thing you can do in your youth that will positively impact your entire life.

© Edem Hlonu 2019 (edem.hlonu@aiesec.net)

  1. Career Development Program (ACE) by Tata Consultancy Services

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Former Star of the World Woke up – a Success Story: Portugal

Former Star of the World Woke up – a Success Story: Portugal

Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and they have the westernmost point of continental Europe. They have an abundance of both history and geography as well. Even though the country has been struggling with wildfires due to climate change, they are pioneers of responsible production and consumption. They realized its importance after the crisis of 2008 when thousands of people became unemployed, and the problem is still present in the country. However, they started to make a lot of promising efforts, which qualified them as a success story. They are prone to climate change and the constraints of their economy with a high unemployment rate, especially among the youth. Moreover, they are also lacking the necessary workforce, even though there are thousands of immigrants from their former colonies. Many people leave for France and the Benelux for a better salary and a better life. Still, their efforts are really promising, such as banning disposable light bulbs and giving a lot of discounts on energy-saving fluorescent ones instead. They provide excellent light and consume a lot less than their old equivalents. Therefore, electricity bills became a lot less. Besides that, in many public buildings, they installed water-saving faucets, which consume just as much water as required. What does it mean? Water expenses became lower and lower. There is no need to manipulate people with “cutting down on utility costs”. This is where it would have been better to have given discounts on electric cookers and ovens, which is what Portugal did. They did it the right way, to give discounts on energy-saving utensils and make thousands of efforts to promote recycling. Because of this, Portugal recovered a lot after the crisis, they are in a much better economic situation than Greece or Spain. They are former economic superpowers but failed due to their extravagance.

Why is Portugal a former economic superpower? They have a long history of being a trading hub on the Atlantic Ocean. They still have important commercial ports with direct access to the ocean, namely Lisbon and Porto. This area was inhabited by the Romans, they formed the province called Lusitania. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes (Suebis and Visigoths) invaded the area, and later on, the Moors invaded and remained there for around 4 centuries, until the Reconquista. The Moors (Arabs) left tons of architectural beauties on the Iberian Peninsula and therefore, Portugal. If you have ever been to Lisbon or Sintra, you can see several of them, for example, the Alfama castle. The Christians conquered the country in the 12th century and the kingdom began. The kingdom’s period lasted until 1910 when the monarchy was abolished and a republic was proclaimed. Then a relatively unstable period began because, within 15 years, the country had 45 governments and many coup d’états. This started an infamous dictatorship called Estado Novo (New State) in 1932 and it was even claimed as a fascist one. This was led by António de Oliveira Salazar. His era ended in 1968 when he suffered a serious brain injury at home, so he had to be removed from power. In 1974, a bloodless coup ended the dictatorship (Carnation Revolution), when soldiers with carnations in their guns came into power. That is why this flower symbolizes socialism. Twelve years later, the country joined the EEC, later known as the European Union and introduced the euro in 1999. Let’s take a closer look at their way of becoming a superpower!

As we all know, Portugal was very ambitious and wanted to open itself to the world. Many people thought that the Earth was flat, as they saw the ocean at the end of the continent. Pillars of Hercules signified the end of the world in Greek mythology. Nowadays, it is called Gibraltar and it belongs to the UK. However, some ancient Greek scientists doubted whether the Earth was flat when they observed the disappearing ships, and they saw that ships did not disappear all at once. They thought the Earth was round because the ships disappeared step by step. Eratosthenes claimed first that Earth is (approximately) a sphere. However, his works did not remain in full. Turning back to Portugal, they had good connections to Morocco, being its most significant trading partner at that time. Being an offshore trading partner, naval science appeared in Portugal in the first half of the 14th century. They possibly started an expedition in 1336 towards the Canary Islands. Schools were founded in Portugal to educate explorers, the most significant being by Prince Henry the Navigator. The column in Belém, just outside Lisbon commemorates his explorers. They built new ships, the most significant being the Caravel. In 1412, the Prince ordered expansions towards Africa and the Canary Islands. These were successful because they reached Madeira seven years later and started to colonize it. Their ambitions led to further successes: they mapped the African coast. They expanded further westwards when they reached the Azores a few years later and started to colonize it around 1430. In 1436, they arrived in Western Sahara and discovered Rio de Ouro, later on, they arrived in now-modern-day Senegal. During this time, they actively traded with African slaves, like other European powers. In 1456, their boats (led by Alvise Cadamusto, originally Venetian) arrived at Cabo Verde, an archipelago which was uninhabited at that time, and Portugal took slaves there to inhabit it. In 1460, Henry the Navigator died but his results were outstanding: his boats had reached the Sargasso Sea, which is very close to North America. 1471 brought a new milestone for them as they crossed the Equator, led by João de Santarém and Pedro Escobar. The following year, they got very close to North America again: Joao Vaz Corte-Real and Álvaro Martins Homem approached Newfoundland, and they found new opportunities to fish, as they named it Terra Nova do Bacalhau or Land of Cod. Diogo Cao approached Congo in 1482 and two years later, he arrived at Walvis Bay, Namibia. 1488: another milestone, as Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. At this time, South Atlantic voyages were made to map the winds. Bartolomeu proved Ptolemy’s theory about the Flat Mountain in South Africa. As we all know, there is an important city located at the southern tip of Africa, namely Cape Town. In the year of America’s discovery by Columbus, they reached the Indian Ocean. In 1494, Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas to share newly discovered lands with Spain; they got the eastern part of the line west of the Azores. This treaty was reauthorized in 1525, in Zaragoza. In 1498, another milestone was passed when Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut (now Kozhikode) in India. His achievements are sung in Luis de Camoes’ famous book titled, Lusíadas. Two years later, Pedro Álvares Cabral reached the coast of South America where there were plenty of brazil woods (in Latin, its name is Paubrasilia echinata). Therefore, the country was called Brazil. Later on, they started to rent Macau in Southern China, and this city belonged to them until 1999. These discoveries were unique because they added value to our mutually known world at the time. What can we see on the flag of Portugal? Yes, an armillary sphere, resembling the Earth. After all, they reached further than their neighbours. Therefore, their cuisine is probably one of the most interesting ones in Europe.

Unfortunately, the golden age ended very early, because Portugal did not invest much in its economy, they only facilitated trade. Therefore they fell into a recession after the 18th century and could only keep some of their colonies. The 20th century of Portugal was very eventful, as they had political instability. After a serious crisis in 2008, they had to find a way to get back on track. They could, they scrutinised themselves to discover what went wrong. The main reason was the irresponsible consumption of energy, and therefore the irresponsible expansion of benefits. They repealed a lot of their social benefits, and they said: if we do not have any fossil energy source, let’s take advantage of what everyone else has. On the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, the wind provides enough reasons to build wind power stations. Besides that, the interior of the country receives enough sunshine to construct a large solar farm; for some time, they owned the largest one in the world! What does it mean? If you want and are dedicated to a target, you will be able to reach it. They turned towards renewable energy. In the first half of 2010, 70% of all produced energy was renewable. In the north, they started to experiment with wave power, near Póvoa de Varzim. They installed a plant in 2008, but they shut it down and dismantled it very quickly because it turned out to be very expensive. Therefore, electricity became exportable and very affordable. Besides that, they invested heavily into combining renewable energy: a wind-powered turbine pumps water uphill at night and in the daytime lets water downhill to generate electricity. Furthermore, the population is encouraged to install rooftop solar cells to distribute their electricity. Therefore, they only use what they are required to use and do not produce waste energy. What is more, they also made water-saving taps extremely cheap. Dripping taps consume a lot of water. Because of this, many buildings use infra-taps to cut down on using water. This means Portugal could recuperate more or less from the crisis and became a promising success story for everyone suffering the effects of a recession. If you want to become successful, you can. All they need is ambition. They are historically ambitious, so they will be able to get back to being among the stars. Their star gained new light. They just have to keep it that way. However, they still have many problems to cope with, and one is very serious: corruption. They have to make tons of further efforts to reduce it and tell politicians: it is never a good idea to buy people.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Turn Harmful Into Useful – Success Stories: The Netherlands

Turn Harmful Into Useful – Success Stories: The Netherlands

The Netherlands is located on the seaside, below sea level (hence the name), that is why they are prone to the rising levels of the sea. Therefore, swimming is very important to them. Because they have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario when the sea floods the country. This country has proven to be successful in fulfilling many SDGs, especially in innovation and remaining sustainable at all costs. Why is it so? They are a small country, even though they have an abundance of history. They started to develop quickly when discoveries began around the globe. We know Spanish and Portuguese sailors had started to navigate the seas. Before the 16th century, these areas were under the control of multiple countries. They were called Low Countries and were under French (later on, Habsburg), Spanish and the Holy Roman Empire control. They were unified by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and the king of Spain, under the name Seventeen Provinces. In 1568, a ferocious Eighty Year War began between the Provinces and the Spanish king. These provinces were mostly Protestant, while Spaniards were Catholic. The Duke of Alba struggled a lot to suppress the Protestants and he killed many of them with extreme ruthlessness. He managed to capture Haarlem, but after a long battle with them, which cut Holland in half. The Duke promised that if they surrender, the city could remain on the earth. In 1576, Spanish soldiers attacked Antwerp and executed a ruthless massacre there, and the city was torched. After that, delegates of Brabant, Holland and Zeeland agreed to join Utrecht and William the Silent. The Dutch sought help from the English Queen at that time, but she committed to the Spanish fleet. In 1578, a Battle of Gembloux killed many rebels and therefore, the southern states seceded the Seventeen Provinces and formed the Union of Arras and expressed loyalty to the Spanish throne. Opposing them, the north formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579, they swore to defend against the Spanish army. The Spanish troops captured Maastricht and it forced the north to rebel further. In 1581, the North deposed the Spanish monarch with the Act of Abjuration and since then, Elisabeth I stood at the side of the Protestants. Following their independence, the northern provinces formed a confederation. Their capital was The Hague. These provinces were autonomous and their generals were sent to the capital for the assembly. Yes, it was a parliamentary democracy. In the Dutch Golden Age, spanning much over the 17th century, this country became a seafaring powerhouse. Besides that, they invested heavily in trading and arts. We all know the baroque painters of the Netherlands, like Rembrandt and Jan Vermeer van Delft. At this time, they started to colonize some parts of the world and opened trading posts. They had no purpose to subjugate their colonies, they were for trading purposes. Their most significant colonies were Suriname (Guyana had proven to be very fertile), Cape Colony and Dutch East Indies (which is now called Indonesia). Let us not forget that New York was founded by the Dutch as New Amsterdam. As I have mentioned earlier, they had a post in Dejima, in Japan to maintain trade. Their ambitions paid off: they had one of the largest empires in the world. They imported a variety of new products to Europe: tulips, silk and textiles. The latter two were from India. Amsterdam was the richest port in the world and the first stock exchange was placed into operation. Therefore it is said that Holland was the first capitalist country in the world. Unfortunately, the glory only lasted till 1688, when the price of tulips significantly dropped. They were at war with the French and the German bishoprics, which exhausted their treasury. However, they could maintain their position on the sea, and they could build defence lines on the water by constructing artificial islands and trapping attacking ships. These water lines were a challenge for engineers: they had to know what was the ideal depth so that only a man could swim through them, but boats could not pass through them. Swimming in the 18th century was a privilege. Yes, the Dutch have a long tradition of swimming. It is not by accident why they are excellent in water sports. Just think of Femke Heemskerk, Inge Dekker and Pieter van den Hoogenband. Needless to say, they are excellent in water polo, especially women. Why is it so? Because originally players used to be swimmers. In water polo, you cannot be a good player if you cannot move in the water well enough. In the Netherlands, all children must get a certificate before going to a primary school that they can swim in difficult conditions.

Let’s turn back to their discoveries and their colonies. As I said earlier, they were establishing colonies to enhance trade. They played a prominent role in innovation as well, since they introduced drinking beer at their colonies and eating chocolate around the world. The Dutch taught the inhabitants of Bali to drink beer. They started to export beer roughly at this time and they become one of the largest beer-exporters in the world. Everyone knows Heineken. They own many brands around the world. Going on with discoveries, let me mention Abel Tasman, who was employed by the Dutch East-India Company and he was relocated to Batavia (now Jakarta). In 1642, he reached the southern coast of Australia, and the western coast of Van Diemen’s Land after Anthony van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. In 1856, it was renamed Tasmania, in honour of the first European discoverer. Originally, Abel intended to sail northwards, but the currents were unfavourable, so he steered east. One month after reaching Tasmania, he arrived at the South Island of New Zealand. It was named after the Dutch province of Zeeland, three years after Tasman arrived there. The Netherlands was responsible for discovering the southern parts of the Pacific. Besides that, to enhance trade they invested a lot in development and built the main roads of the Dutch East Indies. Their most significant infrastructural development was the Great Post Road, or De Groote Postweg to enhance transportation and the postal service. Besides that, they built many European-style buildings, most of which preserved their original purposes.

As I mentioned earlier, the Netherlands is a success story in quality education, but their success does not end with the ship traps they installed to defend themselves. At a Dutch school, students are not stressed. Some schools cooperate with the children, listening to what they really want at school. For example, what children want in the playground. They go there, so they decide what they want to use. They introduced various new methods to teaching, for example, teachers are required to act as students at times to enhance compliance. In Hungary, people would be really confused—how does it happen that a child is not disrespectful to the teachers? For sure, if such things take place, teachers have the right to bring children back to reality. Their success does not end here in quality education. They built their industry near their ports (like Rotterdam) to save time and costs of transportation because they lack in raw materials. Furthermore, their education is open to the world. The country is open to the world. There are no fences in front of the houses, no dark curtains are draping their windows. Because they have to be so if they want to become a trading superpower. Besides that, they are a success story of Gender Equality. In the 20th century, all of their rulers were females (Queen Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix). Because a woman will require you to comply, whether you like it or not. While they were on the throne, the Kingdom of the Netherlands loosened colonial policies and opened the gates for the locals as well.

How did they manage to sustain themselves, even though they are below sea-level? They are prone to the effects of climate change and global warming. The Netherlands has an abundance of plains, so the terrain is perfect for cycling. They built safe cycle paths and they have the right of way if they cross the road. You can exceed the speed limit, but there is no use to do that. Many people go to work by bike. Therefore in the countryside, they can reach zero emissions. Therefore the air is clean. They can produce clean and renewable energy by using windmills and wind power. Therefore, recycling is also an important thing to learn from the Netherlands. Turn harmful into useful by reusing them for the community. Just recently, they opened a cycle path made of the plastic collected from the countryside. We all know how dangerous plastic waste is and why it enhances flood risk. They say that it can be three times as durable as the asphalt. Besides that, it is easy to transport and install, and it is very easy to fit in sensors and pipes. The Netherlands has quite a wet climate, and this road is designed to drain off rainwater. Further developments include installing the same in Giethoorn and in the cycling capital, Rotterdam. They turned harmful into useful.

Furthermore, they know that a potential source of plastic waste is the supermarkets. They opened a plastic-free aisle in Amsterdam, in an Ekoplaza, which is a supermarket chain. They opened more than 70 similar aisles in the same year in their branches. What does it mean? We can live without plastic if we really want to. Moreover, these aisles are a testbed for compostable bio-materials (glass, metal, cardboard). This idea had proven to be popular and now Great Britain is thinking about introducing one. What does it mean? If you are so prone to climate change and the rising sea levels, turn them on your side and stop flooding by eliminating the root causes of them.

The Netherlands is a success story itself, including building peace and partnerships as well. They are founding members of the EU (1957) and most importantly, AIESEC. Yes, the organization used to be headquartered in Rotterdam. The one which I am a proud alumnus of, and a proud member of for three years. Without the Netherlands, there would not be peace in Europe and the European Union would not function at all.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

The Purpose of Education

The Purpose of Education

“It’s impossible for humans to fly.” “The earth is the centre of the universe.” “Smoking is good for health.” All of these ‘truths’ the ‘educated’ once believed.

What we know changes. Because the world around us changes. And because we change. We grow, and we learn new things. No ‘knowledge’ is static and unchanging. And yet, we start to assume that things are as they are – in the world, in our societies, in our lives, in ourselves. Because we have an inherent evolutionary fear of stepping beyond what is known and familiar to us, even if we don’t like things the way they are.

What, then, is the purpose of education? If everything ‘that is’ changes, what should we even attempt to learn?

The constant thing is that there is always a) a way that things are now and b) the way we would love things to be and c) action or inaction that will lead us to either further deal with the way things are, or to create what we would love.

Sounds simplistic and far-fetched? So was flying.

The purpose of education is to help us see the world around us both for what it is and what it can be; to help us deeply understand our current reality and our own fears of going beyond, and to help us fall in love with our vision and our inherent genius, and to teach everything in this dual context.

“Humans can’t fly” then becomes, “We currently don’t know of a way for humans to fly. Is that something you’d love to explore? What support do you need to create that? An understanding of physics and ratios and optimal angles? An understanding of how different materials react to the weather? An understanding of cultures where people have tried similar things before? Knowledge of the best locations for you to try this? The skills to share your vision clearly and compellingly with others through words and pictures? Here, let me show you how. Let me share your journey and help you create the world you would love.”

And before you know it, what was once just a ‘crazy’ desire of “I want to fly” transforms into one of the greatest services to humanity: “How can people fly?” – not only enabling the human race to experience the miracle of being up in the air but forever opening up world economics, demographics, cultures and possibilities.

How can we know how each desire will change the world? We can’t.

Our job is to help each individual learn what their true nature and desires are, what they would truly love to create, for instance, “I want to explore flight” or “I want to eradicate malaria”. (Different from a ‘fearful vision’ of “I would like to score 90% in my exams because that would please my parents.” – or the adult version of “I need to get a better job title because that would get me more appreciation.”)

Our job is then to help that individual understand what the current limitations are, both environmental, “This is the way the law of gravity works” and, crucially, also internal, “I haven’t taken this action not because I can’t do it, but because I fear disapproval if I succeed.”

And our job is then to help bridge the gap to the vision. (“Have you tried wings with variable angles for take-off and flight?”; “How can you create what you would love beyond your fear of disapproval?”)

Anything that we were born with a love for, we were born with an ability to create. The only thing that limits us is that little voice of fear that tells us, “This is how it is, and this is how it has to be.”

The true purpose of education is to help us find our heart’s highest calling and put paid to anything that holds us back from fulfilling our potential – creating the next level of planetary evolution in the process. That, right there, is quality education…without fear.

– Stuti Singh

About the Author:

Stuti is known for her ‘A Life without Fear’ series of talks and workshops at events around the world, and her Fearless Mastery coaching and leadership development programme.

She combines a degree in Psychology and an MBA in International Business with Intuitive Mastery and has held various leadership positions at blue-chip companies including Unilever, Pfizer and GSK.

Her mission is to help individuals and organisations realise their power for the greater good of the planet.

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

© Stuti Singh 2019 (stutisingh@gmail.com)

Is It Possible to Reach Total Equality?

Is It Possible to Reach Total Equality?

The motto of this article is a stanza of a Hungarian poem, written by a Hungarian poet, Sándor Petőfi. He is the most well-known Hungarian poet outside Hungary. Read it and make your judgment:

When all men lift the horn of plenty

in one happy equality,

when all men have an equal station

at the table of justice, and, see

the spiritual light break shining

through the windows of every house

then we can say, no more wandering,

Canaan is here, let us rejoice!

(Petőfi, S: The Poets of the Nineteenth Century, 1847, trans. by Morgan, E)

It sounds like a utopia. It can never be achieved. There have been numerous attempts from many countries, like the Soviet Union and China. The former one failed.

According to conspiracies, the failure was already planted in the 1950s with the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt. That dam had (and still has) a huge impact on Egypt according to many views. As we all know, Egypt has played a prominent role in history for thousands of years. We can see millions of remnants of that culture throughout the country.

China split from the Soviet Union at the end of the 1960s and create its version of Communism. This is when the Cultural Revolution began and the Communist Party was beheaded because Mao Zedong wanted to strengthen his power and influence everywhere. This era had passed long ago, but still, it is a taboo. Nobody is allowed to talk about that. Nobody is allowed to talk about the Tiananmen Massacre either when tanks blew away a demonstration organized by students. What is more, given China is a giant country, the country is unevenly developed. There is the Heihe-Tengchong line slicing the country from the northeast to the southwest. 94% of the population lives east of this line. This line is not in the centre of China. To its west, 57% of the area can be found. Besides that, due to uneven development, cities were classified into four tiers. The first tier consists of four cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou (Canton) and Shenzhen. These are the most populous cities in China. Shanghai is one of the most populous cities in the world, with more than 30 million inhabitants, including agglomeration. Here’s a fun fact: it is three times Hungary in terms of population, while the area is about a fifteenth of Hungary. The second tier consists most of the province capitals, like Nanjing, Chongqing, Hefei (to some extent), Hangzhou and so on. The rest are the rural cities. Competition is very high.

The same classification applies to universities. If someone is not lucky enough to get into at least a second-tier university, then he or she will be lost. Employers rely on the origin of the degree. Is it an equal treatment of graduates? No, it is not. It is very unfair, to make matters worse. Therefore, everyone coming from rural areas, are so much in need of education. All of their careers are determined at the famous entrance exam to higher education, the GaoKao. Only one assessment and then your life is determined. It is very unfair. Therefore, it is not possible to reach total equality for some countries on a macro-level.

The closest community to such a phenomenon is the kibbutz system of Israel. It is a community based on agriculture and the wealth is in the commons—there is no private property. Everyone gets compensated proportionately. They even eat together in the communal dining hall. These kibbutzim are declining in number nowadays. These collective communities were forerunners of reduced inequalities.

How can we make efforts to reduce inequalities?

By taking actions, such as building schools with specializations. That is, mixing the original curriculum with an increased amount of certain subjects. This will help to form open-minded people, who are very aware of current issues.

Fortunately, mine was one of them. My school specialized in music and the Kodály method is applied. But what about the other subjects? Are they going to be removed from the curriculum? No. Some subjects will get more emphasis. Let me mention my school as an example. Music is a very complex discipline. You cannot be a good musician or composer if you do not excel in a variety of subjects. Most importantly, you have to excel in math and physics. If you want to write a song, on top of those two, you have to be good at literature, grammar and history.

Where do you need math in music?

Composing. You have to know which tempo is the best, you have to determine the note value and so on. That is why it is extremely important to count well when composing or conducting. Many conductors are originally mathematicians. You need even more math when composing music for the lyrics. You have to be aware of the length of words, like how many syllables they have. Then set the note value. Then, you have to adjust the notes so that the lyrics remain intelligible. Singers must be aware of them as well. I was also a choir singer in my school. You get the foundations through such a curriculum and then go to choir rehearsals to put them into practice.

These choir rehearsals taught me why it is important to have a team and why it is important to understand that everyone is equal. Rivalries lead the class and the school nowhere. That is why it is crucial to conceal social inequalities at school, like applying a uniform policy. Then it will be an honour for the kid to be at school and on the stage. Later on, at work.

Another tool for reducing inequality is that leaders should be role models for everyone in the world, like the ones in Canada or Austria. Canada is idolised because it promotes that it does not matter where you are from, they welcome you. Why is Austria an idol? Because they showed us that you do not have to be over-regulated and over-stressed. They never introduced Reinheitsgebot (purity law of Bavaria), still, they can make excellent beer. They have very well-known brands, and their beer culture goes back to the 13th century. They also show us how to live without nuclear energy and turn to renewable energy at all costs. Besides that, Austria is like a heaven for music. Everyone knows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn. Yes, music education is crucial for Austria, that is why the education system produces idols in the world to reduce inequalities.

Another tool for reducing inequalities is restructuring the welfare system. Let me mention one example, which should be followed: Finland. When a woman is pregnant, the state provides her with a big box, which contains clothes and accessories for her newborn baby. Of course, there will not be a baby bed. The best thing is that: it does not matter whether it is a son or a daughter. These baby clothes look excellent on any gender. Besides that, these supplies are enough for the first few months. Of course, there is another option, the financial benefit. However, nobody chooses this, if the first option is that promising. Therefore nobody is left out, and everyone receives the same treatment. More importantly, it does not matter how much the parents earn. All children are equal. It cannot happen that families do not have a child, just because they cannot afford one. If a woman is pregnant, let us help her with this box of love, in the form of baby clothes, as these will be important for her. Because there are many things which can be bought for money, but life is not one of them.

What does that mean?

Nobody can be bought in Finland. Finnish people are precise and punctual. They need acts and facts, not words. They know where demagogy and populism begin and end, and why it is not a good idea to let them into the parliament. It is not enough to talk huskily to the people promising this and that. Make an effort, not an excuse for not being able to achieve your aim.

In this article, I mentioned three tools to reduce inequalities. Full equality cannot be achieved, as it could be in Canaan. But we can reduce it by applying these three tools, initiating a slow process. Of course, there will be people who would not like my ideas. But what can we do? We cannot make a system which is liked by everyone. Hypocrisy leads nowhere.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Miraculous Recovery after The Disaster – Success Stories: Japan

Miraculous Recovery after The Disaster – Success Stories: Japan

This article is about the miraculous recovery of a country after an ecological and infrastructural disaster, the Second World War. Specifically, Japan. We have some knowledge about their industry, innovation and infrastructure. But it has not always been the case, as Japan used to be very isolated, they only opened their gates in the late 19th century. More so after the Second World War. They still have an abundance of history and geography as well. We would suppose that they were the pioneers of trade and openness, because of their location, and they are required to stay relevant. However, it has not always been the case. They were very isolated, they did not want to trade with anyone in the world. Moreover, they were not open to foreigners. Japan always had been very aggressive within, we all know from history books who samurais were. In the medieval times, Japan had been in wars with the Mongols (who used to have an extensive empire, a Khaganate spreading from Korea to Kiev, Ukraine). This is when a wind storm destroyed the Mongol fleet, which became known as “kamikaze”. This means “divine wind”. At that time, the Japanese society was very feudal and this tradition is even tangible today. Just think of the shoguns or the daimyos! The Europeans first appeared in the 16th century, when Jesuit missionaries (including Francis Xavier) and Portuguese traders arrived and started spreading Christianity as well as firearms (Japan is a Shintoist country, a religion native to Japan, which practices Buddhism too). They could not remain there for a long time because Japan consisted of warring states, and only those who used European technology could remain on the scene. This is when the Edo period began (lasting until 1868), which was full of political tensions. This is when Tokyo became the capital of Japan. In 1639, the “sakoku”, the isolationist policy started to come into effect, which meant breaking any relations with the West. The only link with the West was with the Dutch, controlled in an enclave in Nagasaki called Dejima. The Dutch brought many customs to Japan, for example, drinking beer. Nowadays, a Japanese brand called Asahi is one of the most renowned brands in the world. Also, chocolate was introduced by the Dutch. The Japanese are lovers of chocolate too. This dichotomy started two ways of studying: “rangaku” (studies of Western knowledge) and “kokugaku” (studies of Japanese knowledge).

What does this imply? Japan is a success story on Quality Education, not just Industry.

This isolationism somewhat loosened in the second half of the 19th century, when the ports of Japan had to be opened up by the Kanagawa Treaty. This is when the Meiji era started, and its influence lasts even today as the state became centralized under the Emperor, and the Shogunate fell. The country stepped up Westernization and quickly became an industrial power. Their military traditions made them a superpower. The population doubled in the next 60 years from 35 to 70 million people. Europe did not want to get into conflicts with Japan. They were more focused on China. Japan defeated China and Imperial Russia. Japan gained control over the southern half of Sakhalin and Taiwan. Later on, they joined the Allies in the First World War. They captured the German possessions near Shandong and advanced into China. Japan expanded the Empire further, they captured Korea, and in 1931, they founded the puppet state of Manchuria. The early 20th century was still full of political tensions, the system was a very fragile democracy, there were many coup attempts in the Great Depression. This gave a new rise of aggression and hostility. Following the international condemnation of invading China, the government announced they would quit the League of Nations. Japan became part of the Axis by signing the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936. They started the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. They captured the capital and Nanjing in the same year and conducted an enormous massacre there. At least 300,000 people were killed with incredible hostility. Three years later, Japan occupied Indochina and Singapore, therefore engaging the British Empire and the United States in the Second World War in the Pacific. The U.S. imposed an oil embargo on Japan. The response was a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. president decided to step into the Second World War to restrain Japan. The British Empire and the U.S. could defeat them, but with enormous effort. The war cost Japan their colonies, but they refused to give in, only after the infamous atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did they capitulate. They signed an unconditional surrender agreement on August 15th, 1945. The atomic bombs killed around 300,000 people, and the radiation decimated the local population further over the next few months. Much of their industry and infrastructure was destroyed by the bombings, too. How could Japan recover from such devastation?

Following the end of the Second World War, all income was spent on Education. That is why Japan is a success story of the potential of Quality Education; because without education, we cannot talk about industry or innovation at all. Compulsory education was introduced in 1872 to comply with Western standards. But it consisted of militaristic materials as well, besides being very nationalistic. The U.S. had a plan after the Second World War to somehow pacify aggressive Japan. Therefore the nationalist and anti-American materials were blackened out, besides removing other aggressive content from the curriculum. This resulted in a two-digit increase in the size of the economy because Japanese students were very well-educated.

Besides that, I have to add, Japan was the first country abroad to adopt the Hungarian Kodály method in music teaching. There is a common stereotype that Japanese people are not able to pronounce the letter “l”, therefore they are not able to sing either. This is not true. They can sing very well, thanks to the Kodály method. Because of this, there are many Japanese conductors, who reached their career peak in the late 20th and early 21st century. Let me mention a couple of examples, such as Seiji Ozawa, Yoichi Sugiyama and Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi. Kobayashi had gained a lot of fame in Hungary by being the conductor of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra for ten years. What is this, if not Quality Education? The Kodály method teaches us to be proud to go to school. Why is this not the case in Hungary, where it originated?

Let me mention the automotive industry. We all know how famous Japanese brands are for their reliability. Everyone knows Honda, Toyota, Suzuki, Nissan, Mazda, and the list goes on. They produce cars with extreme reliability besides sporting futuristic looks. When the new generation of Honda Civic (starting in 2006) appeared in Hungary, everyone thought, “wow, this is a spaceship”. Same reaction with the Toyota Prius (a hybrid car, Japan is a pioneer of these). Everyone wanted one. Because they look “insane”. Remember the sporty sound of a Honda when revving the engine? Just watch the video at the end of this article. These cars (and motorbikes) are designed for “the infinite run”. They will run like a bullet until the world ends.

Let me mention another industry: electronics and computers. Everyone knows Canon, Casio (my watch is one), Citizen, Fujitsu or Sony. Durable, top-quality and technologically sophisticated brands. I have been wearing my watch for 12 years. It had next to no serious issues. So where do experts come from? Yes, the quality education system.

So, after such a serious disaster, you can do miracles by investing in education. Educate your community. Japan showed then – they could do it. However, sticking to their feudalistic and militarist traditions also helped them remain disciplined.

Due to its location, Japan is very prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, as it lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Therefore, infrastructural planning is crucial to minimize damages caused by them. They started to build earthquake-proof apartments and buildings throughout the whole country, especially after the deadly Hanshin-Awaji earthquake of 1995. The technology was invented in New Zealand (which is also prone to volcanic activities and quakes), called rubber-bearing. Then Japan tested it to perfection (see Nakata 2009). This technology was used in hospitals. After the Miyagi earthquake of 2008, this technology helped a lot to minimize death tolls by accommodating rescuers in hospitals and easing evacuation. However, this technology was not yet available in Fukushima, and the earthquake in Tohoku (2011) caused an incident just as significant as Chernobyl. After that, Japan’s government decided to slowly decommission nuclear power stations around the country, to some extent. As a replacement, for example, Japan decided it would place 80 floating wind farms offshore near Fukushima to replace nuclear energy.

Let me mention transportation in Japan. We all know that roads in Japan are in excellent condition. The public transportation system is top-class. We all know of the Shinkansen, the bullet train. Why was it pioneering? It is not grinding the railroad, to some extent. It almost floats on it, being able to reach speeds over 300 km/h. It even adds to the level of comfort and safety. Moreover, it is noiseless, so it is not disturbing anyone, just flying through the provinces of Japan with extreme speed and comfort. What is more, it is operated with military precision. What does it mean? It is never late. So, dear Hungary and other countries where trains are always late, this is an example of a responsible operation! They know how to operate public transportation in the Far East because they learned over the years! Wake up, for heaven’s sake! Make an effort to reach these levels. Stop making excuses why you are not able to reach them. Make your fellows proud to be part of a nation, a team, or a company. As I stated earlier, they made students proud to study at school. Music is a great tool for that, not just cramming dry facts. Then they make employees proud to work in the workplace. Because they know that the future depends on well-educated people. Without this, they would never be as up to date, as they are right now in Infrastructure, Innovation and Industry.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.