Many don’t understand what it means to be racist

In the wake of recent events during the federal election, it seems to me that if Canadians are to address the continuing significance of race and racism, we had better make up our minds to do so head-on.

When images surfaced of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface and brownface, many Canadians wondered why that was an act of racism. And then NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was told by a white Montréal man that he “should cut your turban off…. You’ll look like a Canadian.” The man then said he hoped Singh would win the election.

Why aren’t Canadians better at making sense of what racism is?

What we need — besides action and good policies — is a good, hard-nosed theory of racism. It should be a theory with interesting and useful metaphors. It should be a theory folks can grab hold of. It should be a theory that has the capacity to make sense to white nationalists and white supremacists.

Right now we use concepts like “white privilege” and “implicit racism.” These can be useful ways to quickly explain white racism in non-threatening ways in everyday life. They also include an understanding of the history and politics of racism. But they may also be too easy and too superficial and so they also also nurture white complacency.

We need to find ways to articulate the phenomenon of racism and the intricate ways it is experienced, observed, measured, practised and resisted.

What is racism?

Let’s start with a brief definition of racism. First, it consists of prejudice as values — when one holds positive self-perception and negative attitudes and stereotypes of others: one cannot exist without the other. This is true even if that prejudice is expressed in positive terms, such as “Chinese are good at math” or “Africans are great athletes.”

Second, prejudice is mobilized through power — the coercive power of state and cultural violence. This power manifests itself as discrimination that benefits one group at the expense of others.

In Toward the African Revolution, 20th-century philosopher Frantz Fanon argued that there are “cultures with racism and cultures without racism” and so “the racist in a culture with racism is therefore normal.”

But not all racist cultures are created equal.

Pierre Van Den Berghe, sociologist and author of Race and Racism, explains that despite the independent discovery of racism in a number of societies, the western strain of the virus has eclipsed all others. Through the colonial expansion of Europe, racism spread over the world. He also explains that culture should not be an excuse for individuals to absolve themselves from the responsibility of white racism.

Therefore, we need a theory that brings together the interplay of cultural permissiveness with individual responsibility to resist the racism in one’s culture.

Racism is in our cellular memory

One suggestion I have is to borrow from scientist Rupert Sheldrake’s unconventional theory of what’s known as morphic resonance. The idea of morphic resonance is that habits of self-organization are learned and transmitted across time, place and space. These habits are then built up as inherited memory.

Applied to the social context, what this means is that racism is a habit of mind and concrete practice in cultural organization.

Maybe the theory of morphic resonance can help us understand how racism is produced and reproduced through social forces. That is, as Fanon explained in Black Skin, White Masks, racism is sociogenic: it is literally and metaphorically learned behaviour that becomes engrained as a cultural imperative.

Real people are racist, not institutions or systems. Thus racism is relationally “contagious” within and across generations through cultural memory in aphorisms, stories, ideas and ideologies.

Racism is not only learned, it is experienced as pleasurable, is materially rewarding and is passed on in the nurture of culture where it deceives its perpetrators by appealing to the worst elements of human nature.

Racism is a habitual way of thinking and practising power that circulates among living members of a culture and is bequeathed to future generations. It is epigenetic — meaning it influences our genes. But genes are no more destiny than culture. Both can be altered, if not transcended, through fostering alternative habits of thought and behaviour.

For anti-racist cultural transformation to take place, a critical mass needs to commit to policy, politics and good faith to create a cascade of changed hearts, minds and behaviour. Given the deep and learned habit of racism, this is no easy task.

Here is the rub: racism, for all its utility to individuals and groups who wield it, is in fact self-defeating and socially dangerous.

The latter is evident in Nazi-ism, nativism and totalitarianism. Even aside from the fact that negatively racialized groups are terrorized, racism doesn’t stop there. Berlin journalist Charlotte Beradt’s gathering of anxiety dreams experienced by ordinary Germans after Adolf Hitler came to power tells us that racism is a chicken that, sooner or later, comes home to roost.

This self-defeating nature of racism is too easily concealed by the elites it principally serves, as the authors of Boomerang Ethics: How Racism Affects Us All explain.

Dig in for the long haul

I believe Trudeau played racial politics with his apology. The prime minister confused his personal misdeeds as solely his wrong, and wilfully missed the point of his conduct.

Second World War-era philosopher Hannah Arendt, in her essay “Responsibility and Judgement Under Dictatorship”, demanded that we strike a discerning balance between the culpability of a mass group and the responsibility of leaders:

“…it is obvious that every generation, by virtue of being born into a historical continuum, is burdened by the sins of the fathers as it is blessed with the deeds of the ancestors.”

Looking at Trudeau exercising the manifest power of state and the latent power of white Canadian culture, it is vital that the conversation moves beyond good versus bad, guilt versus innocence and indifference versus intent. These stark oppositions tilt too far into the subjective experience of individual responsibility to offer much analytical value.

The emphasis ought to lay with the reality that anti-Blackness and white racism is a group dynamic shaping the conduct of individuals and groups.

Can white Canadians bring themselves to radically theorize and dig in for the long haul to meet the challenge of eradicating white racism and nationalism?

Which white political leader living in the fragile glass house of whiteness will have the courage to throw the first stone? Leaders need to lead, sometimes ahead of the lowest common denominator they too often follow.

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The Untalked Burnout Pandemic

 A growing share of younger workers are starting to run out of steam, amid growing workloads, long hours and inadequate support, CNBC reports. The stress is exacting a hefty toll, with half of the millennials and 75% of Gen Zers saying that they have left a job due to mental health reasons.

Stress – from the Latin “stringere”, to squeeze tight, touch or injure – is not bad, per se. Positive stress and adrenaline in the right circumstances can make us stronger, happier and healthier. Yet, in certain work environments, chronic stress provokes anxiety, detachment and fatigue that can lead to burnout.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly every fifth child or teenager and every fourth adult will be affected by burnout at some point in his or her active life. The situation is so widespread in developed countries that the WHO has added burnout to its list of globally recognized diseases, defining it as a syndrome of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” which “includes feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, results in increased mental distance from one’s job and reduced professional efficacy.” 

A Gallup poll of 7,500 full-time employees indicates that one in four employees feel burned out at work very often or always, while nearly half report feeling it sometimes. The trend seems particularly acute amongst the young. A Deloitte study on workplace health in the US suggests that 84% of millennials have experienced burnout in their current job. Women are more likely to suffer from the disease than their male counterparts.

Although the global economic burden of burnout has not been calculated, it is estimated that the global cost of mental illness will grow to $16 trillion by 2030, in part, owing to the increase in burnout.

As we celebrate World Mental Health Day, let’s take a look at the drivers of burnout.

Burnout: a disease of the 21st century

We live in a high-speed world, where digital interconnection, sophisticated technology and social media purportedly make us smarter, faster and more effective. But greater digitization is also causing acute isolation; our connection to other humans and to nature is quietly superseded by FOMO (“fear of missing out”) and social media angst.

Medical research indicates that our connection with ourselves, other humans and with our natural world improves our sense of health and happiness. Conversely, when we lose our sense of connection, anxiety, depression and burnout are all too frequent.

As the pace of change increases, so organizations are asked to produce more with fewer resources. This is perhaps where the squeeze of burnout is most keenly felt. Year-on-year the bar gets raised, without the requisite reflection on human costs.

Gallup’s study of the primary causes of employee burnout found that the main factors have less to do with expectations for hard work and high performance, but are more closely associated with the management and treatment of an individual.

Oversized workloads, unreasonable time pressures, lack of role clarity, lack of communication and support from management and unfair treatment at work correlated most with incidents of burnout. When employees say they often or always have enough time to do all of their work, they are 70% less likely to experience high burnout. Similarly, when employees strongly agree that they are often treated unfairly at work, they are 2.3 times more likely to experience burnout.

Work environments are the least equipped of all support networks to respond constructively to burnout with just 27% of supervisors responding positively to incidents of burnout and only one in three colleagues offering the support needed.

Women are more likely to experience burnout in part because of factors outside an employer’s control such as low self-esteem and poor division of labour outside of the workplace. A significant contributor, however, is unfavourable working conditions that hit women harder than their male counterparts, including fewer professional advancement opportunities and more frequent occupation of low-authority roles.

Countering a culture of fear

Standard protocols for addressing burnout in the workplace are starkly nascent. Those affected by the disease tend not to speak out for fear of reprimand or out of shame. This culture of fear inhibits the early identification of the disease and makes reintegration into the workplace more challenging.

If you are feeling emotional, mental or physical exhaustion, or if you are demotivated, frustrated, cynical or anxious at work, it may be time to ask yourself some hard questions. If burnout goes unaddressed, it can translate into panic attacks, digestive issues, heart disease, immune disorders, migraines, depression and – in the most extreme cases – could lead to suicide.

As we move towards a fast-paced technological age, where we pride ourselves on equality of opportunity and efficiency, let us not forget the importance of being human-centred at work. Once we recognize burnout for the pandemic it is, we can begin the journey towards healthier and happier lives and work.

US Presidential election and Hinduphobia

Ever since Tulsi Gabbard announced her intentions to run for the top US office, she has been subjected to some of the most vicious smear campaigns by the ultra left and Jihadi groups from both within and outside of the Democratic Party. Gabbard, the Democratic Congresswoman from the 2 nd district of Hawaii, was back in the Democratic Presidential Debate after missing the last one. Many, including Gabbard, had blamed this omission to the ‘non-transparent’ qualifying rules of the Democratic Party.

On the debate stage last night, Gabbard specifically called out CNN and The New York Times, the two hosts of the debate, for their ‘smear campaign’ against her. She called it ‘despicable’. The allegation against Gabbard were so vile and personal that it made even New Gingrich, the former US House Speaker and a Republican, question them. He tweeted “Why is left so afraid of Tulsi Gabbard? I don’t understand the viciousness of the attack on her by NY Times and others.”

One of the main reasons Tulsi Gabbard gets attacked so viciously is because of her faith. Gabbard is a practicing Vaishnava Hindu and a follower of the Hare Krishna movement of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. She is also the first Hindu ever to be elected to the US Congress and the first Hindu to run for US President. A vegetarian, Gabbard took her oath of office on the Bhagwad Gita. She has released year after year her now famous Diwali greetings videos and she was instrumental in getting the stamps released by the US Postal Service in recognition of Diwali. She also has a good working relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact on one her visits to Delhi, she gifted the copy of the Gita she took her oath of office on to PM Modi.

In an interview with TOI’s Chidanand Rajghatta, Gabbard called such attacks on her “Hinduphobic”. While talking about her faith doesn’t bother her, she said, but what concerns her is that “it may discourage other Hindu Americans from running for office. It discourages them from being able to celebrate being who they are – a part of a beautiful unique fabric of diversity that is the United States of America.”

Hinduphobia in the society, media, and academia has more that 200-year old legacy in the West. It is, like any phobia according to Jeffry Long, a Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at the Elizabethtown College in the USA, “an intense and deeply rooted aversion – a fear and hatred – in this case, of Hindu and Hinduism.” This Hinduphobia, writes Long in his paper ‘Reflections on Hinduphobia: A Perspective from a Scholar-Practitioner’, “as a set of intellectual claims that portray Hindus and Hinduism in a negative light.” One of the salient features of a Hinduphobic discourse, writes Long, is that any positive and progressive aspects of Hindu faith and society are either ignored or attributed to outside, non-Hindu influences.

During the last 200 years or so, foreigners and the Marxists have dominated the study of India, its culture, traditions, texts, religions, etc. For example, the emergence of Indology as a field of study of India can be traced back to neo-Protestant theology and their debates over scriptures as well as its anti-clerical prejudices. These prejudices over time, but consciously, were applied to the Indian texts where one can easily trace the antecedents of anti-Brahmanism. These Indologists, according to Vishwa Adluri, a Professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, USA, held the belief that “Indians lacked access to the “true” meaning of their texts… for Indians never developed scientific critical thinking.” The University College Chapel, Oxford monument of Sir William Jones is a prime example of this attitude. The monument shows Sir Jones comfortably sitting on a chair and writing something on a desk while three Indians squatting in front of him. The inscription underneath the monument reads, “He formed the digest of Hindu and Mohammedan Laws.”

Similarly, Hinduphobia has deep roots in the centers/departments of South Asian Studies across the globe. In the US universities, the emergence of the departments of South Asian Studies as the powerhouse of academic activities related to India is purely a result of the political and strategic exigencies of the US government during and after the WWII. One of the main objectives of such Centers was intelligence gathering in the South Asian region. Many of the stalwarts of these South Asian centers, according to Nicholas Dirks, a South Asia expert and the Chancellor of the University of California, Berkley, were spies of the US working undercover in India. The struggles of the Hindu-Americans in fighting the biases and inaccuracies in the California high school history textbooks is testimony to the Hinduphobia perpetuated by these South Asian centers.

In the later part of the 20th century, Marxists consciously hid and denied any reference to India’s past achievements. They also picked up from where the colonialists and missionaries left in demonizing almost each and every facet of the Hindu society. Much of it is reflected in the Indian textbooks as well as in the media coverage. The recent Hinduphobic social media post of a journalist of the National Public Radio (NPR) is a case in point. That journalist had to resign after intense pressure from the Hindu-American community.

While concerns about Hindu-Americans testing the political waters in the US are genuine, the real concern lies in their safety. The recent hate crime data released in 2018 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shows that the number of Hindu victims of hate crimes has tripled since 2015. Some, if not all, of this uptick, can be attributed to Hinduphobia as well.

Sunday Special: Visualization & Mental Imagery Can Make You Better at Life

Improve your precision skills, achieve your goals, and optimize your health by visualizing desired outcomes. Visualization is simply a mental practice of imagining or meditating, with a particular focus on imagery.

As opposed to silent meditation, where you let go and don’t intentionally guide your thoughts, visualization is about consciously creating mental images. Our minds can treat visualized experiences and real experiences as much the same when it comes to practice and learning. This effect is so profound that visualization has been scientifically proven to benefit the development of fine motor skills, such as hitting a golf ball or shooting a target.

The benefits of a visualization practice can apply to health and business, too. How you see yourself and how you imagine your desired future can improve blood markers and may make you more capable of achieving your goals.

In this article, we are going to dive into the science-backed benefits of visualization, and then I’m going to share the specific mental imagery practices I use to optimize my life and that you can use in yours.

Plastic Surgeons, Self-Help, & Science

My first major introduction to visualization came in the form of a powerful book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Though few today have heard of this work, it was once known as “the bible of self-help” and has been changing lives since the 1960s.

Despite having been written over 50 years ago, I found the book to be positively fascinating and surprisingly scientific. Maltz was a prominent plastic surgeon, whose most common service was to give people new faces by correcting abnormalities. He quickly noticed that his clients often became whole new people after the surgery, finally freed from this-or-that blemish or scar.

To Maltz, however, it wasn’t these incredible success stories that caught his attention, but the failures. Though most people came out of the surgery feeling like a brand new human being, others would feel that nothing had changed, and even accused Maltz of doing no surgery despite the obvious changes to their face. Family and friends could see the obvious differences, but the client denied it vehemently.

Maltz developed a theory that physical changes to one’s image only matter if they cause a simultaneous change to one’s internal “self-image.”

Our self-image is, simply put, the way we see ourselves — not just physically, but also the many talents, traits, strengths, and weaknesses we believe ourselves to have.

If the image we see in the mirror and the image we have in our head does not align, we will deny the evidence in front of our face in favor of our mental visualization of reality. Maltz felt that people were not capable of doing something that contradicted their self-image without also changing that image.

For example, if you believe strongly that you are incapable of making a basketball three-pointer, and then you make one, you change your self-image.

Some people hold so tightly to their self-image that even proof that it’s false will not get them to change. If you’ve ever seen someone like this, it feels like witnessing a person with short-term memory loss.

I used the three-pointer as evidence for a reason. When I was a kid, one of our basketball team members, Jacob, was absolutely convinced he couldn’t make a three-pointer. We spent a whole practice making him shoot for a three to (hopefully) prove him wrong and get him out of his funk.

First, we could tell he was shooting badly on purpose, trying to get out of it. When he realized our resolve to make him shoot for the whole hour, he began trying. Eventually, perhaps purely from the pressure of being singled out, he made a three.

Of course, we all celebrated, but Jacob didn’t react to it. It isn’t that he tried to deny it or be humble, or even sulk. He just went back to the rest of practice and continued to insist he couldn’t shoot threes.

This is similar to what Dr. Maltz experienced with clients who claimed he had skipped performing surgery on them, and that they couldn’t see any changes even when it was obvious to everyone else. Their self-images were stubbornly rooted, and physical evidence alone wasn’t enough to change them.

Wanting to solve his client’s problems, Maltz began to explore the deep realms of psychology, and soon having clients who he’d council and help to change their self-image without ever going under the knife.

Maltz coined this field “psycho-cybernetics.” Psycho refers to the mind, and cybernetics refers to the feedback-based system of the self-image. Like a thermostat, your self-image is a feedback-based machine. You feed it images and experience, and it aligns with reality based on that.

Another great metaphor is the homing missile. Homing missiles don’t just go straight to their target. They are actually making slight mistakes on their flight path and making constant slight corrections the whole time. They operate by having an aim and correct themselves along the way to reach that aim.

Maltz believes this is how your self-image operates. You supply an aim, like the missile’s target, and then your self-image edits itself over time to reach that aim.

I know this may seem like a lot to wrap your head around, but it will become more clear once we look at some research.

The Science

Maltz’ concepts sound great in theory, but in the modern era, they’d be worthless without science to back them. Fortunately, science we have.

One of the easiest ways to see the benefit of visualization is to observe it’s use in physical skill, such as improving one’s golf game or improving one’s basketball shot. In this study by the Department of Justice at The University of Lewisville, visualization was used to improve firearm capability as a way of aiding in police training.

72 student volunteers were grouped into visualization and control groups to test the efficacy of visualization. All students practiced their marksmanship physically, but those who also made use of visualization improved an average 32.86 points higher than those who simply practiced physically.

In psycho-cybernetics terms, these students improved their shot by providing their mind with a target to aim at. Just like the homing missile described earlier, the students aimed mentally at their target, and visualized themselves successfully shooting.

This process helped tune their self-image to see themselves as capable of shooting well, and then their shots improved more than if they had simply practiced physically.

I have a personal story that convinced me of the power of tuning your self-image for success, especially with motor skills.

One of the most famous, yet most difficult movements in CrossFit is the Ring Muscle-Up. To perform this move, one must grab onto a pair of gymnastics rings hanging high above the ground.

Then, you must find a way to get the rings under your shoulders so that your torso is above and between them. Then, you do a tricep press. The total sum of this movement looks something like swinging your body to gain momentum, jerking your body up towards the rings at the top of the swing by using your arms, and then engaging your core like you’re doing a sit-up to swing your torso above the rings and “catch” yourself in the upright position.

Despite watching several technique videos, I could not for the life of me finish the movement. I knew I had the strength, and my technique was great, but I just couldn’t get my torso to pull upright over the rings.

But this whole previous year I’d been using Maltz’ techniques to optimize my life across multiple spectrums, so I decided to apply a little self-image tuning to the muscle-up.

I sat down, and first visualized myself performing the muscle-ups in the third person. I saw myself doing the entire movement smoothly and perfectly. Then, more importantly, I visualized myself in the first person, as though I were actually doing it in real life.

When I stopped visualizing, and got on the rings, I did my first muscle up like it was easy, and went on to perform the move regularly.

The biggest change I noticed had nothing to do with technique. It’s that when I tried to do a muscle-up this time, I felt like someone who already knew how to do muscle-ups. Before, I felt like someone who had never performed a muscle-up, so I wasn’t confident.

By behaving as though I’d already performed muscle-ups, even if it was only true in my mind, I blasted through the movement with no issue. The biggest barrier was confidence, not technique or strength.

Visualization can heal the body

Before we move into the visualization techniques, I want to discuss one last thing.

Visualization can literally heal you.

Consciousness is one of the least understood realms of study. We know that our biology houses consciousness, but so far, it is impossible to tell where physical body ends and consciousness begins. Sure, the brain is the primary engine for consciousness, but the brain and mind affect the function of the body.

With regard to visualization, a meta-analysis of 15 studies by Peter R. Giaccobi et al. found that guided imagery, aka visualization, appears to be beneficial for improving arthritis in afflicted patients.

Guided imagery lowered the stress hormone cortisol, which is often implicated in inflammation, and patients reported reductions in their arthritis symptoms.

Now, I don’t want to over-hype that power of visualization. If you have cancer, don’t try to solve it using visualization only. But the fact that there is some influence on health markers is mind-blowing in its own right.

Visualizations for Life, Goals, & Skills

While the implications of visualization for sport are obvious and studied, one of the most common uses for visualization is for long-term goals and business.

When it comes to life goals, rather than tuning a fine motor skill such as shooting a target or performing ring muscle ups, visualizing is about tuning your confidence and “alignment with opportunity.”

A huge component of achieving major life goals is the confidence and belief in oneself that you are capable of achieving them. That sounds like common sense, but think about it.

How often have you stressed over a major goal and caught yourself worrying whether you have what it takes? Then, when you finally achieve it, you realize it was easy.

For my part, I used to feel major stress about the idea of walking into a business and pitching a product back when I was affiliated with a credit card processing company.

Even though my company offered the lowest card processing rates, and had an amazing track record of saving businesses money, I was mortified by the idea of going into a business and asking if they would be interested in more information.

The first business I walked into rejected my offer, but I was ecstatic! The pitch went smoothly, and when I admitted it was my first pitch and more for practice, the owners warmed up to me and accepted some pamphlets.

From that point forward, pitching was easy, and I had no problem walking into multiple stores a day. It took me months of thinking and worrying to pitch to one store, yet I turned around and pitched to 20 more in the first week after that.

This is just an example of how our beliefs about ourselves limit achievement, and a visualization is an amazing tool for rectifying these limiting beliefs.

I use two types of visualizations for pursuing life goals and business targets.

First and foremost is something called a “future me” visualization. I learned this from the book Way of the SEAL by Mark Divine. Mark is a former Navy Seal commander who served for 20 years, as well as a master of karate and a yogi. On top of his military and fitness accolades, Mark has also started 6 multi-million dollar businesses since he retired from the Navy — and he attributes a huge component of his success to visualization and meditation.

“Future me” is a practice Mark uses to keep his aims clear and his life-path consistently in his mind, as well as to identify limiting beliefs that may stop him from achieving his goals.

The Future Me visualization for life goals

To do the future me meditation, start by taking deep breaths through your nose for 5 minutes.

If you get impatient, try putting on a calming musical track like The Mighty Rio Grande by the artist This Will Destroy You.

After 5 minutes of deep breathing, begin a visualization.

3 months: Imagine your ideal self in 3 months, having achieved your most immediate goals and in perfect health. Try to conjure up as much detail as possible. See yourself working in an ideal, happy, and diligent manner, as well as participating in activities with good friends, or doing things you haven’t done yet but want to do. Try to see color, and even bring smells into your visualization.

The more detail, the better. If you can, try to visualize the highlights of a whole day playing out as though watching a movie. What time are you getting up? When and where are you working, and with whom? What leisure activities are you involved in? etc.

1 year: Now take the visualization out even further, and see yourself living your ideal life a year from today. What are you doing? How is your work? How fit/healthy are you? Really get into it and see yourself living ideally in a year.

3 year: Lastly, paint yourself a picture of your ideal life as it is happening in 3 years. This is often where I visualize myself doing very difficult things I have always dreamed of, such as doing Kokoro camp, an event that allows civilians to experience 48 hours of Navy Seal Hell Week training. This is also where I imagine myself living in the cities I’ve always wanted to live in, having a kid on the way, or things of that nature.

You want things to still be realistic. You should have some goals you are still pursuing, even in the 3-year meditation. Maybe you’ve achieved all the goals you have now but are pursuing something new, like another degree or an independent business.

Merge: The final part of this meditation is the most important. Visualize each of these future versions of you, and collapse them into the you that exists now. See yourself as already being the person who has done the things in your visualization, so that you see yourself as someone capable of such goals.

Fantasize with purpose

Fantasize with purpose is another visualization I learned from Mark Divine’s Way of the Seal. This one is similar to Future Me in that it focuses on a desired future, but is instead focused on a specific goal.

To perform fantasize with purpose, pick a major goal you are pursuing. For my part, my goal is to have Keenan Eriksson Fitness become a powerful hub for online courses, one on one coaching, and to have a physical location in San Diego where I can train clients and run my business with a team.

Once you’ve picked a goal, again begin by performing deep breathing for 5 minutes.

Now, imagine your goal either as you are fulfilling it, or after it has already been fulfilled and you are maintaining it.

For example, if you have a goal that involves a one-time achievement, such as making a big sale or climbing a mountain, then visualize yourself training for it and then performing this achievement perfectly.

See yourself doing the prep necessary, such as reading books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, or doing hikes around your neighborhood with a heavy backpack.

If your goal is something that will fundamentally change your day-to-day life, then you also want to include visualizations of that life.

For example, with my goal to house Keenan Eriksson Fitness in a physical facility in San Diego, I both visualize the training and steps to make that goal a reality as well as the day to day life after I have achieved it.

I see myself and my training team working at the facility and teaching clients, and living this ideal life.

Batten down the hatches

Once you start visualizing achieving goals, you will likely notice areas of your mental practice that seem more important. For example, you may notice that future version of you has a set of skills that you lack, but are crucial for making your goal a reality.

This is where you want to identify a piece of your visualization to practice daily.

You can still explore your fantasize with purpose visualization by adding new things, but make sure to repeat your visualizations of things you find difficult. This is akin to the students who used visualization to improve their shooting, but instead you are practicing the most difficult steps of your future goals.

Now, not everything can be practiced in your head. Some of these steps will be less like skill-practice, and more like advertisements for things you need to do in real life.

An example would be seeing that you need to read a book about marketing or buy a backpack for hiking. For these types of visualizations, I still suggest repeating them daily, but you should buy these tools or start doing it in real life within a week.

If you still haven’t bought a backpack in a week, put a pin in it and visualize something else. Otherwise, the backpack visualization will simply be noise and time you could spend identifying other important tasks. It will come back up when and if it is important enough.

The key to fantasizing with purpose is repetition. This is the kind of practice you want to perform daily until you achieve your goal.

Mark Divine used a mix of Future Me and fantasize with purpose to blast through BUD/S, the section of Navy Seal training that includes Hell Week, which is considered by many the hardest military training in the world.

Mark not only became a Seal, but also a Seal officer and the honor man of his Bud/s class, which is a distinction given to the person considered the best among a Seal graduating class by his peers and instructors alike.

Mark attributes his success to a visualization he started performing in the year leading up to his joining the Navy. Mark would watch a popular TV advertisement for the Navy Seals at the time, and then visualize himself in the ad. He’d see himself performing drills, doing log PT, and getting “wet and sandy” with “his” crewmates. Mark would visualize himself not just surviving, but thriving through navy seal training, and that’s exactly what he did when the day came.

Skill practice visualization

Last but not least is skill practice. This is actually the first visualization we discussed, as it is the act of practicing a skill in your head to improve in real life.

This one is pretty simple. Start by taking 3 large abdominal breaths, relaxing with each exhale. Ease your mind and come to a place of stillness.

Now, imagine yourself performing a skill you are aiming to improve, perfectly. This is easiest to imagine with sport skills, but it’s also incredible for things like music or preparing for an event.

First, see yourself in the third person as though on video. See yourself perform the skill a few times perfectly, as though you were a world-class expert.

Now, move to the first person, and feel yourself performing the skill perfectly a few times. Notice how your body is moving, how it feels, and really get into the visualization physically.

I use this meditation often in fitness or sports. I’ve used this to improve in martial arts, dance, olympic lifting, swimming, and even to exert more strength during exercise.

A great way to boost the power of this visualization is to record yourself performing a skill on video and watch technique videos before visualizing. This will arm you both with the knowledge of what perfect looks like (the technique video) as well as what you look like.

Many of you will find this visualization more useful in business or general life. Use it to “rehearse” before an event or anything that intimidates you.

Giving a speech? Practice it in your head. Going bungee-jumping and feeling nervous? Practice doing it calmly in your mind. I used this meditation before doing door-to-door sales for the first time.

Virtually anything that can be practiced can be used in this meditation. Don’t limit yourself. It’s incredible how much you can improve by taking a few minutes to visualize detailed success before going to perform in real life.

Bonus: Freestyle visualization

Though I’ve outlined 3 specific visualization tools you can use, you can expand on them to develop your own. If possible, begin with at least 3 deep breaths, and ideally 5 minutes of deep breathing for more powerful visualization.

Then simply visualize desired outcomes. Don’t be afraid to visualize things you may think are beyond your control.

When I was sick, I would visualize myself healing. Meditation has been shown to lower inflammation, and it’s possible that visualizing yourself healing can actually “heal” you, to some extent.

In the realm of chronic disease and functional medicine, it is a common experience that people will not heal until they address their emotional state. Even though they’ve done all the supplements and have their body should have the resources to heal, they stay sick until they go deep and see themselves as a healthy person instead of a broken one.

We don’t fully understand the mechanisms of how consciousness affects the physical body, so don’t underestimate the power of getting your head in the right place.

Other forms of freestyle visualization are to see yourself in a loving relationship or having a family. This isn’t about making things happen for you without doing the work. I don’t think of these practices as magical or that they get the universe to give you what you want. However, I do think they prime you to believe in yourself, and see yourself as someone who could confidently get the things you desire in life by doing the work.

Some of the most difficult problems can be at least aided with these practices.

For example, perhaps you have infertility issues, which are all too common among both men and women these days. I know of people who have solved their infertility with lifestyle and dietary changes. Visualizing yourself as fertile and conceiving a child probably won’t make it happen on its own, but it can prime you to be more receptive to solutions—and then follow through with action.

Remember, the main purpose of visualization is to set your aim both consciously and subconsciously. The better you have aimed your mind at a goal, the easier it will be to take the needed action to pursue and achieve it.

My main point is to say: don’t limit yourself. If you want something in life, no matter how out-of-control it may seem, apply your visualization process to it and truly imagine it becoming a reality.

It Works

My own story is actually one you are witnessing right now. I had health problems for about a year and a half, and I was determined to make an income despite being unable to work classical jobs.

I also realized I had a huge tome of powerful health and fitness information in my head that could help others. There were many things I had tried that helped, and I had deeply researched many others.

I re-read Mark’s book, as well as Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau (which is about turning an idea into income in 5 weeks) and within a month created a website where I wrote health and fitness articles. Within 4 months, I was writing for Better Humans.

Without my visualizations, I would not have believed myself to be skilled or knowledgeable enough to write for this publisher, but in my head, I saw myself as a true expert and leader in this field during my “fantasize with purpose” drills.

A year ago today, I couldn’t work out and I had bad mental and physical fatigue. Today, as I type, I can feel the soreness of yesterday’s kettlebell workout, and later tonight I’ll go two-stepping with some coworkers from my part-time job at a dog training facility.

Anyone who is familiar with chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disease, adrenal problems, or other chronic disease knows that these conditions often plague an individual for decades, if not for the rest of their life.

I employed many tactics to overcome my health issues, but the bedrock was my aim to heal and belief in myself. I learned to do this by practicing visualization, and even when I was too mentally frayed to meditate, I would write down my fantasize with purpose and future me exercises as stories in a journal.

The result? I healed from a chronic condition in two years, instead of the 15 or more years that it often takes others.

Visualization is a free and easy practice that can have magnificent results for your life.

From improving motor skills such as shooting a target or perform sport skills, to pursuing goals, and even becoming your ideal version of yourself, use of mental imagery is a powerful way to optimize your life

As ever, thank you for reading and good luck on your life journey.

Civilisation States

Since the Second World War, the dominant global political idea is of equal nation-states living under globally shared democratic institutions that emphasise peaceful interaction and negotiation. While the actual practice has fallen short, few have rejected the ideal till recently.

The two key components of this ideal are nation-states and global institutions. Nation-states ideally refer to developed states like Japan and Germany whose populace largely belongs to one race, faith, and ethnicity. Multi-ethnic states like Switzerland were also accepted as nation-states where people with different identities voluntarily live together due to its perceived benefits. Finally, newly decolonised states were treated as nation-states though most of them were heterogeneous and their borders had been created by colonial powers. With increased immigration, nationhood in even developed states became defined less in terms of identity and more in terms of citizenship.

These nation-states are bound together by evolving global political institutions built on the liberal ideas of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Though these ideals matured in the West, their inherent rationality and utility made them universal ideals. They are seen as ideals for both global and national politics. So while each nation-state may have its own unique history and culture, it is not those but these global ideas which serve as the basis for even their domestic politics.

While the evolution of this global system was incomplete, the idea of civilisation states has challenged it in the last few decades. Civilisation is an ill-defined concept. But one can distill a definition from the traits of great civilisations such as Rome, Egypt, and China. They were all large, complex and long-duration societies with unique social, economic and political institutions that produced significant scholarly and material outputs to benefit humanity at large.

There is a desire to buck democratic accountability.

Many states today claim to be successors to a historical civilisation and aim to reclaim its lost greatness. Such states invoke not current global political norms but their own imagined or real civilisational history in crafting their domestic political norms. They also oppose global political norms that may police their domestic politics and interaction with other states. The number of such states is still small but they include key ones. They include the three largest states population-wise (Trump’s US, China and Modi’s India) and other large ones like Pakistan, Russia, and even Brazil. They include six of the world’s eight nuclear states and a wannabe one, Iran. And the idea is spreading.

But in no state has civilisational reawakening produced novel ideas that improve over western liberal democracy. In fact, a closer look reveals that this move represents a desire to buck global democratic accountability and achieve a majoritarian dominance domestically, e.g., of whites in the US and Jews in Israel. Unsurprisingly, the movement is usually led by populist demagogues who appeal to crude emotions and not refined ideals.

Nor do they present novel ideas that could lay the foundations of truly unique civilisations. Samuel Huntington had identified nine current civilisations in his ‘clash of civilisation’ theory, i.e. Western, Christian Orthodox, Islamic, Chinese, India, African, Buddhist, Latin, and Japanese. Most of them fall short of the definition by not possessing unique social, political or economic institutions and/or not producing significant scholarly and material outputs that benefits humanity.

In some of these societies, there isn’t even much civilisational rhetoric. In India and Pakistan, the religion-civilisational rhetoric is vacuous. The political and economic institutions in all these societies derive from Wes­tern ones without reaching their quality. Only the Chinese political system is unique and, to date, successful but its economic system is not uniquely different from Western capitalism. Nor does it challenge Western civilisation. The Soviet system was unique in both ways and aimed to end Western civilisation, but it failed.

While I reject the clash of civilisation theory, I also reject Fukuyama’s opposing theory about the ‘end of history’ and the triumph of Western liberal democracy and capitalism. While liberal democracy is good, capitalism is not. Unluckily, all these new ideas oppose the strong point of Western civilisation, i.e. liberal democracy, but not its weak suit, i.e. capitalism. But while the challenge to capitalism is not emerging at the state level, it is emerging at the civil society level. Such social forces provide the hope for an alternative civilisation that combines social plurality and economic and political egalitarianism.

Between Wuhan and Chennai

The Chinese are inscrutable in the nuanced practice of diplomacy, and utterly ferocious when their core interests are challenged, a potent blend of Marx and Confucius. The Dalai Lama, Taiwan, the Spratly Islands are non-negotiable and evidently Ladakh too. They plan decades in advance and are mostly brilliant in anticipating the rival’s responses.

The Chinese plan for the worst that could come their way in pursuit of critical objectives. Mao Zedong famously said that China would lose a huge chunk of its population if nuked by either of the two superpowers it was playing off against each other, but the survivors would go to the mountains and have many more babies. He was being naïve, of course, as nuclear scientists would warn today, but that’s what he and his country believed then, and perhaps still do.

The Chinese can send a message in a subtle way, but can be absolutely rude if needed. That’s what they did with Nehru who they had begun to see as a collaborator with their imperialist bête noires, precisely choosing to strike at a time when the world was riveted to the Cuban missile crisis. There was no time for the Soviets or the Americans to respond to the short but bloody incursion.

In a subtler reproach, Mao invited Nikita Khrushchev to Beijing after being insulted in Moscow. His Soviet hosts had apparently made him wait inordinately for an audience with their leader. Khrushchev now desperately needed to meet Mao over fears of China courting the Americans, so he came calling. But he couldn’t swim or was bad at it, and Mao was the Great Helmsman, remember, who had crossed the Yangtze River in a legendary show of physical strength, and, as some fans believe, of spiritual prowess too. Mao invited the visitor to meet him in his swimming pool. In the book On China, Henry Kissinger describes with a chuckle the story of Khrushchev wearing protective armbands to stay afloat while struggling to keep pace with Mao at the deep end of the pool.

During a trip to Beijing with then Indian prime minister Narasimha Rao in 1993, I asked the local minders on the way from the airport if the buntings with Chinese inscriptions and colourful flags were set up to welcome the Indian leader? They replied with an emphatic no. The placards on display were to cheer the country’s bid to stage the 2000 Olympics. The event went to Sydney albeit under disputed circumstances. When their turn finally came in 2008, the Chinese built the fabulous Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium with iron ore bought from Bellary in India in a deal that erupted into corruption charges against Indian politicians, chiefly of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

On that particular visit, Rao and his counterpart Li Peng signed a landmark agreement for maintaining “peace and tranquillity” on their Himalayan borders, a suspiciously Chinese turn of phrase. Li was a celebrated premier at home but reviled abroad for his tough actions in the Tiananmen Square deaths of protesting civilians.

Mani Dixit was foreign secretary travelling with Rao. After his late night media durbar in Beijing, he told me what at first seemed like a funny story. Along with the peace agreement the two had signed, the Chinese had requisitioned 24 Indian buffaloes. It turned out to be a critical input into their Olympic planning. With little or no dairy culture, the Chinese were preparing 15 years before the event to offer milk, yoghurt and butter to international sportspersons and foreign spectators. The buffaloes were part of their early experiment and planning.

It is not quite clear why Chennai was chosen as a venue for the informal summit between Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi on Saturday. Varanasi and Udaipur were ruled out for some inexplicable reason and the air in Delhi was too polluted.

True, Chennai was part of an old India-China trade connection. But the Chinese fishing nets and the martial art of Kerala — kalaripayattu, replete with features of ‘crouching tiger, hidden dragon’ callisthenics — offer equal if not greater evidence of an old connection. However, Kerala is ruled by Marxists, anathema to Modi. Yet, the mandatory serving of warm water with meals is a uniquely Kerala tradition that is shared by the Chinese but not elsewhere in India, barring perhaps the north-east.

The fact that Modi was filmed picking up rubbish from the beach at the temple town of Mahabalipuram spoke also of the lack of preparation in detail that usually goes with high-level visits. Be that as it may, the ‘Wuhan Spirit’ assumed the avatar of ‘Chennai Connect’. Wuhan was where Mao performed the famous swimming feat, and it was where Xi won his communist epaulets as a formidable leader.

Another thought. Chennai faces the waterways that trouble India with an increased traffic of Chinese warships. But it also hugs the waters where Nixon sent the Seventh Fleet to threaten India in 1971. Why is one memory tardier than the other?

It is difficult to hazard a guess about the discussions. There was no joint statement, only individual summaries of the event from both. The best practice by astute journalists under the circumstances is to compare the notes — be they official or ascribed to unnamed sources — between as many sides as there are in a conversation. References to improved trade, and their emerging power status in Asia were common. Abiding with UN principles and international rule of law could be interpreted both ways — reference to Kashmir as well as the South China Sea.

India said Xi briefed Modi about Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing but denied Kashmir was raised or discussed. Imran was mentioned and not Kashmir? We will need to read tea leaves, an early Chinese export to India, to figure that out. Or perhaps wait, in Confucian contemplation for the truth to fall from heaven.

Bojo Brexit Travails Not Over

Against all odds and despite all the rude remarks about EU leaders, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, has struck a “deal” on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, well in time before the October 31 deadline. It looked highly unlikely just three months ago when Johnson became prime minister in July and promised to exit by October 31, deal or no deal or die in the ditch in the process.

Johnson hasn’t had much luck with the British House of Commons since he became prime minister and suffered serial defeats. He managed to antagonise the Opposition and even his own party when he expelled 21 MPs who had voted against him. As such, he had inherited a party with no majority and the expulsions and other departures reduced his numbers in Parliament. He prorogued Parliament three weeks ahead of schedule which was appealed against in the courts. The Supreme Court declared it illegal and ordered Parliament to be resumed.

His prorogation united the Opposition. In order to forestall a possible departure on October 31 without a deal, Parliament passed an act asking him to come back with a signed deal by October 19, the day after a summit meeting of the European Union, and the last day for getting an agreement signed by the EU and the UK before the October 31.

If he had failed, then in that case, he had to ask for an extension of the departure date. Just seven days ago it looked likely that Johnson will not succeed in getting a deal signed by October 19. But, he also threatened not to obey Parliament and ask for an extension in the departure date till January 31, 2020.

The principal obstacle to the deal was the “Irish Backstop”. Northern Ireland is a devolved part of the UK which shares the island territory with the Republic of Ireland, from which it was partitioned a century ago. The republic is a member of the EU. If the UK was to exit the EU Customs Union, then any goods lorry going from Northern Ireland to the Republic would need to be inspected and would have to pay a tariff.

However, in 1998, a treaty was signed by the UK and the Republic, with the USA being the broker, declaring that the border between the north and the south would be free. Thus the departure of the UK from the EU would be impossible as customs inspection and a free border would be incompatible.

Theresa May had got a deal in which it was promised that the entire UK would stay in the customs union even after Brexit until the EU and the UK had negotiated a free trade treaty. This deal was rejected by the House of Commons four times. Northern Ireland rejected the option of being separately treated from the rest of UK for the purpose of the customs union.

Theresa May was asked to resign by her party and Boris Johnson was elected leader by the Conservative Party. He promised to exit by October 31 — deal or no deal. It looked like he preferred a no deal which would have brought all trade between the UK and the EU, especially between North Ireland and the Republic to a halt and cause severe damage to all economies.

In a meeting with the Irish Taoiseach (the prime minister) Leo Varadkar, Johnson made a breakthrough. It was proposed that Northern Ireland would remain in the single market (enforcing common standards of health and safety and environment in production of goods traded) which would avoid health inspection. As to customs union, Johnson proposed inspections not at any spot but electronically and at random locations. This was not enough, but provided ground for further negotiations. October 16 and 17 being the summit dates for the EU, day and night negotiations followed over the last weekend and well into this week.

The objections were formidable. Northern Ireland insisted on coming out with the rest of the UK from the EU. The compromise is that in law, all UK will exit together. But a free economic zone would be declared for Northern Ireland which will admit goods from mainland UK. These goods will be taxed if they go south to the Republic but not if they stay north. To ease the burden, all goods will be taxed as they cross the Irish sea but those staying within the north would be granted a rebate.

To ease trade between the north and south Ireland, as before, it is agreed that the rules of the common market would apply. But, to make it more effective, the UK has promised to obey common market regulations when it negotiates a free trade treaty with the EU. Thus, the border between the EU and the UK is in the Irish Sea which was originally rejected by Northern Ireland. Now, that has been agreed on. Northern Ireland will, de jure, leave with Great Britain but, de facto, be a free economic zone permitting trade across the customs union.

Johnson’s troubles are not over yet. He has to bring the deal to the House of Commons which will meet on a Saturday for the first time in 40 years. He will have to persuade Parliament to support it. With reduced numbers, he has to take back his expelled colleagues, keep the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs supporting the deal and win over about 20 more votes from the Opposition benches. MPs who want Brexit but with a deal may vote with Boris.

It has been a tense few days and the coming days will be even more so. I put the probability of success no more than 65 per cent. Johnson would be hailed as a great prime minister if he delivers a Brexit with a deal by October 31. If he wins, he will call for an election which he will win handsomely.

If he loses the vote, there may be a second referendum putting his deal to a vote or he may face a no-confidence vote. If he loses that vote, an interim government would take over, get an extension, and start negotiations all over again

Saturday Special: Technology to Make You a Better Meditator

I was trying technological progress. When I focus on my breath, on the methodical inhale and exhale, and the movement of my stomach, the storm sounds calm down. Occasionally, when I’m feeling very calm, I even hear birds.

After my 10-minute meditation session is over, the Muse brain-sensing headband (I’m using the most updated model, the Muse 2) delivers a report to my phone, detailing my meditation experience with a series of graphs and data points. According to the report, I was calm for 17% of that first session, equaling a grand total of one minute and 44 seconds. I spent about six minutes in a neutral state and nearly two minutes in an active state, and I “recovered” (meaning that I went from active to neutral, or active to calm) a whopping 39 times during the 10-minute session.

I think it could be useful to beginners as “training wheels” to get the hang of meditation.

Muse’s new meditation headband is just one device in a collection of new solutions that measure the effectiveness of your meditation sessions with data. As the mindfulness industry grows (it was reported to be worth $134 million in 2018, according to a report from Fact.MR, with projected 7% year-over-year growth), entrepreneurs are trying to find new ways to capitalize on the public’s increased interest in the ancient practice. Technology seems like the perfect way to get people hooked.

But there are still a lot of questions about these devices, as they’re fairly new to the market and many don’t have solid research behind them. First, do the devices actually “work?” Meaning: Do they really teach you to meditate? Second, do you actually need a device to get at meditation’s overarching benefits? Finally, and perhaps most controversially, do technological devices like these sully the generations-old tradition of meditation in an irreparable way, or do they help introduce more people to a practice that could benefit them long-term?

A new focus on mindfulness

Mindfulness is a decades-old practice based on ancient Buddhist and Hindu traditions; it often includes yoga and meditation, among other things, and it typically involves bringing your attention to the present moment over and over again. During the past few decades, scientific research about mindfulness meditation has taken off. Research, much of it funded by the NIH, shows that even short, 10-minute mindfulness meditation sessions can help people control and manage their pain, especially chronic pain; lower blood pressure; improve anxiety and depression symptoms; and assist with smoking cessation, among other things.

As more people learn about and embrace the benefits of meditation, brick-and-mortar studios and meditation apps are popping up everywhere. At the time of this writing, there were over 1,000 meditation-related apps available on iTunes and a 2018 study from the CDC found that more than 14% of American adults had meditated in the past year. (That number is a big increase from 2012, when only 4% of adults reported engaging in any kind of meditation practice.)

Harvard Medical School professor and Massachusetts General Hospital researcher Sara Lazar has been studying meditation’s positive effects for decades, and she believes the practice is becoming more widespread largely because it’s an effective balm for stress. Studies confirm that stress levels are increasing: In a 2018 APA study, 39% of Americans reported being more anxious than they were in 2017. American teenagers are also showing a steady rise in mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes, according to a 2019 study. (For example, rates of major depressive episodes in American teens increased by over 50% between 2009 and 2017.) Meditation is known to improve anxiety and depressive symptoms, especially for people who develop regular meditation practices.

All of these factors have led some experts to say that meditation will soon be one of the three pillars of wellness in western society: diet, exercise, and meditation.

Where technology comes in

It can be hard to get used to sitting still when you’re a beginner. Without instruction, the basic directions of meditation (which often involve “sitting with yourself” and “coming back to your breath”) can feel confusing. Muse co-founder Ariel Garten says that when she was running a private psychotherapy practice, her big secret was that even though she recommended meditation to her clients, she couldn’t do it herself.

“I thought I sucked at it,” she says. “My brain bounced around a lot.”

Many entrepreneurs, Garten included, believe that this basic problem can be solved with technology. Founded in 2007, Muse (developed by scientists who formed a company known as InteraXon) was one of the first user-friendly, consumer-focused EEG technologies to hit the market. Garten says the idea for the headband originally came out of Steven Mann’s wearable computing lab at MIT, where they were using brain-sensing computers to do simple tasks with their minds.

“We recognized that while we were teaching people to control the world outside with their minds, like turning on the lights, we were also teaching them how to meditate,” she says. “And it’s perhaps more valuable, even, to be able to control the world inside of you. We could give them real-time feedback and a window into their own minds. This made the intangible mind tangible.”

There are several other devices on the market with similar aims: One is the France-based myBrain Technologies, which developed a solution called melomind that offers biofeedback through EEG sensors. According to Sophie Squillaci, the company’s Marketing Manager, their target audience is people who want to train their brains to calm down and activate on command, rather than just learning to meditate.

WAVE, a music-based meditation service, was released several months ago to the tune of a nearly $6 million investment. The program allows users to meditate along to music by sitting on a yoga bolster (which you purchase and use at home) that vibrates in time with curated playlists, some of which also contain guided meditation sessions from popular teachers. Spire Health offers remote respiratory monitoring, claiming to track your breath and, by proxy, your stress levels. And Thync’s bioelectronic therapies track your brain activity during daily routines, when you’re at work or at home, to help you “achieve calm or increase your energy levels,” according to a 2015 press release.

To use the Muse 2 headband, you slip on the device over your ears and match the sensors to key points behind your ears and on your forehead. The Muse 2 offers several meditation methods: mind, heart, breath, and body. Garten says the “mind” track is the most popular; as experienced when I used this setting, the device translates the sound of your mind into the sound of weather. “You quiet the storm when you bring your mind back.”

Muse relies on EEG technology to track your brain activity. “It’s the same tech you see in a hospital or a lab,” Garten explains, “but instead of sensors being goo-ed onto your head with wires, it’s a slim device with a dry sensor.” According to Garten, the Muse headband reads your EEG, or the electrical sum total of activity in your head. “What we have is an algorithm that looks at whether you’re in focused attention or if your mind is wandering.”

She says that the Muse headband tracks a “unique and complex combination of various brainwaves” to define three states: active (when your attention is fluctuating and your mind is wandering), neutral (which is your natural resting state — not focused, but not fluctuating), and calm (when you have a deep, restful focus on your breath). The latest model offers a built-in pulse oximeter to measure your heartbeat, an accelerometer to track movement, and a gyroscope to check in on your breath. Whenever your mind is wandering and you notice, then try to bring your attention back to your breath, you get rewarded with a “recovery” stamp on your final report. (for example, it’ll say “10 recoveries!” when it lists your accomplishments). This “recovery” is one of the hallmarks of Buddhist mindfulness meditation and appears, based on research, to be one of the aspects that helps people have a beneficial meditative experience.

Does Muse accurately measure your brain activity? Preliminary studies say yes: One, published in 2017 with the less-updated Muse 1, found that the device’s at-home, basic EEG sensors track sleep states with 87% accuracy, just like EEGs you’d find in a hospital or lab setting. Another, published in 2016, showed that Muse accurately allowed scientists to track participants’ enjoyment based on frontal theta activity. A 2018 report published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics classified Muse as “recommended for exploratory use and supportive data, [with] more validation data and experience needed.” (Most sleep monitors and gait monitors also received this designation.)

But on the flip side, some scientists feel that Muse’s usefulness is “extremely limited in non-laboratory conditions.” Meaning, the EEG sensors in these devices appear to work just about as well as the ones you’d find in labs, but human error outside the lab may make the devices less effective overall when people are using them at home, without supervision.

How effective is the current technology?

The research around these devices and their impact on one’s meditation experience is still quite thin. One study, conducted at the Catholic University of Milan, asked people to wear the Muse headband daily for four weeks. They found that users who practiced meditation with the headband on showed reduced stress and improved emotion regulation compared to their normal state. Garten says the device is also being used in clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic — for example, to help calm down breast cancer patients while they’re waiting to undergo procedures.

The technology appears to be well-suited for teaching beginning meditators how to stay focused. Jon Krop, the owner of a meditation-training company for corporate entities called Mindfulness for Lawyersand an experienced meditator himself, says he has tried Muse in the past, simply out of curiosity.

“I think it could be useful to beginners as ‘training wheels’ to get the hang of meditation,” he says. “Beginners will tend to spend a lot of time during their meditation sessions in oblivious mind wandering, having gotten distracted and basically forgotten what they’re doing. Muse will cut that off before too long by giving them external feedback that they’ve become distracted.”

Krop notes that after a while, however, people should “work their way out” of needing this kind of help; eventually, you’ll want to be able to refocus your attention on your own, without a headset.

These devices also seem to have promise outside of meditation, in labs. The Muse’s EEG sensors, specifically, can look at brain function and activity at home, making it easier for people to participate in clinical neuroscience studies on a daily basis. The company is currently working with researchers at the University of Toronto on a project that measures improvements in attention, with scientists at McMaster University to look at brain data related to aging, and with the Rotman Research Institute to look at how we can improve the speed of learning.

Ethical dilemmas

Despite generally positive research, members of the meditation community give the devices mixed reviews. One of the biggest debates goes beyond the actual technology: Whether or not the commercialization of meditation — which some people have titled “McMindfulness” — corrupts a decades-old practice that doesn’t need to be messed with.

In a 2015 piece for The Guardian, well-known meditation teacher and practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn writes: “As critics are correct to point out, a real understanding of the subtlety of mindfulness is required if it is to be taught effectively: it can never be a quick fix. Some have expressed concerns that a sort of superficial ‘McMindfulness’ is taking over which ignores the ethical foundations of the meditative practices and traditions from which mindfulness has emerged, and divorces it from its profoundly transformative potential.”

In traditional Buddhist meditation practices, there is no way to “do it right” because the meditation process isn’t something you judge. Of course, the point of meditation is to sit with your feelings and bring your attention back to your breath — but Buddhist monks definitely didn’t receive “badges” for completing 10 days of meditation in a row. What’s more, meditation practices are traditionally offered for free, which presents an interesting market tension.

For Krop, this popularizing of an ancient practice isn’t too much of a concern, though. He thinks more meditation is always better, no matter the form.

“A rising tide lifts all ships,” he says. “More ‘lightweight’ meditation practice should also lead to more deep meditation practice. If deep, transformative meditation practice one day becomes mainstream, which is what I want, it will only be because more casual meditation practice became mainstream first. So I’m grateful for the apps, the studios, and all the rest.”

The question remains: Do people need these devices to meditate well? The answer, according to most researchers, is still a resounding no. After all, most existing studies on the benefits of meditation focus on in-person meditation sessions with teachers or listening to guided sessions via an app or audio clip.

“People like toys,” Harvard’s Sara Lazar says. “There’s always the question of ‘Am I doing it right?’ and these devices can tell you. I have mixed feelings about that but I think [tech-inspired meditation is] the next big area for commercialization.”

Read These Great Books to Get Ahead in Life

When you read non-fiction penned by smart people who’ve learned important lessons you can accelerate your own path to wisdom and success.

The habit of reading books is like a workout for the mind. Researchers have found that it engages all the major areas of the brain and builds proficiency in the language, the ability to pay attention, cognition and creativity. Not only that, when you read non-fiction penned by smart people who’ve learned important lessons you can accelerate your own path to wisdom and success. Here are the titles more than a dozen highly successful individuals recommend.

A Simple Plan by Scott Smith

This is the one book I always recommend and have for many years. The characters in the book are perfectly normal people, the type you meet every day in your personal and business life, acting in perfectly normal ways. But then the opportunity to reap a tremendous amount of money by just breaking a few laws that will hurt nobody appears, and the novel becomes a darker tome on human nature as everything spirals out of control. What will otherwise law-abiding honest people actually do to get very, very rich? The point of Smith’s book is you may think you know the answer–but perhaps you don’t.

The Technology of Being Human byDr. Bikram Lamba

This collection of essays is designed to enable human beings think for themselves, rather than be confined to stereotypes being good or bad. It is an exhortation to make readers think as alive, pulsating, rational and logical human beings; as individuals having their own peculiar characteristics, rather than think as a part of the herd. The human beings are suggested ways and appropriate means to start coming out of the rut that is created by irrational thoughts and beliefs. The centuries-old concepts have no validity and need to either discarded or adapted to make individuals representative of what are really destined to be. The book also has some essays that are in fact a step-by-step guide. The purpose is to ensure that once you start the process of mental regeneration in a disciplined and definitive manner, then it is possible and probable for you to emerge as a being whose personality is not circumscribed, but is in full bloom.

Leadership in Digital Age by Dr. Bikram Lamba

This collection of essays by Dr.Lamba is an in-depth analysis of the changing more of leadership and takes into consideration the socio-economic, cultural and inter-cultural parameters. The changing paradigm present a new slant and then there are ways and means of developing the requisite qualities of a leader in the changed times. A multi-faced leadership with vision is helped to develop.

The Darkside of the Lightchasers by Debbie Ford

The book is based around the premise of us as individuals diving into ourselves to face and listen to our shadows, meaning those different aspects of ourselves that make us uncomfortable and in turn are aspects in other people that make us uncomfortable. It was life-changing for me personally. Through facing and exploring our shadows, we not only open up understanding about our own lives, we open up understanding of the people and world that surrounds us. In the book she says, ‘When we come face-to-face with our dark side our first instinct is to turn away, and our second is to bargain with it to leave us alone. Ironically, it’s these hidden aspects we’ve rejected that need the most attention.’ I first read this book when going through my recovery from anorexia nervosa, but have recently reread it due to everything going on in our nation today. I feel everyone in the U.S. should read this book together at this time to work on ourselves, each other and our communities.

 Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda

This book gives a fascinating peek into the work behind creating the device that has gone on to define the 2010s. It was an extremely important read for me as a startup founder to see how one of the world’s most innovative companies sets goals and delivers a great user experience when there is no preset benchmark. For example, how did they describe or know what a ‘good enough’ keyboardless keyboard experience was when they didn’t have anything that predates it to compare it to? I found this to be a thought-provoking read

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

In this parable of a VC-backed Silicon Valley tech company, [the author] lays out a model for diagnosing and combating organizational dysfunction. The storytelling style employed allows the reader to draw strong parallels to real life career moments and apply the concepts to one’s day-to-day. I found the material instrumental in how I think about my executive team and how we imprint the organization as a whole with a strong operating philosophy.

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Kaley Klemp and Diana Chapman

Conscious leaders are present and intentional, emotionally intelligent, and genuinely open to alternative interpretations of challenges; they take personal accountability for company outcomes and embrace each challenge as a learning opportunity. In contrast, unconscious leaders lack personal accountability, cling to old models or past experiences, and see themselves as victims of their circumstances. These 15 commitments have inspired our team to think openly and creatively as we continue to grow rapidly, and have really helped me to set a tone of flexibility, agility, and curiosity throughout our organization.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

The ‘Flywheel Effect’ concept within [this book] was one of the biggest influences while starting my company. Collins asks the reader to picture a 5,000-pound, 30-foot wide wheel. The task is to roll the flywheel on its axle as fast and for as long as possible. It takes a lot of effort to roll the wheel even an inch. But as you push, the wheel continues to move, until it has built enough momentum to complete a full rotation. The lesson is this: a good-to-great transformation doesn’t happen overnight, or with a single action. For Kissflow, gaining our first 100 customers was like a team moving the flywheel one inch at a time. You have to keep pushing it in an incremental effort to move the wheel faster.

 The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

This book answered a lot of questions about my thoughts, the past and my worries about the future. I found it to be quite enlightening and spiritual at the same time with many aha moments. Being a self-critiquing, type A personality type who drives myself to be the best at what it is I do, this book explains why the past is the past and the future is the future and there is nothing I can do about either other than take a new perspective on what my thoughts and worries really mean. This book really drives home the fact that worrying about the future or agonizing over the past is just wasted time and causes distraction from what you can achieve now.

Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

When working with employees and customers, it’s important to have patience and an open mind because you work with a wide range of personalities, backgrounds and traditions. [The author’s] experience and take on the world has really helped me see the world differently. I immediately became aware of how little I understand about the people and the world around me. As a result, I have more compassion for myself and others and I am less quick to judge and jump to conclusions. These traits have helped me professionally when communicating with partners and growing [my company] globally with customers all around the world.

Outsizing by Steve Coughran

Strategy is always easy to talk about but can be much more difficult to execute in practice. [This book] offers a great perspective on how to drive strategic thinking, strategic planning, and most importantly strategic actions across all areas of a business, from startups to established organizations… [It’s] a great playbook for any growth-focused team in an evolving industry.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

No book makes imagining the future more fun, alarming, delightful, and wonderful all at the same time. This collection of short stories is really a collection of thought experiments played out in narrative form: ‘What would happen, if in the near future…’ Not only is this sci-fi at its best, but it inspires us to give thought to where we are headed as a civilization, giving us permission to both imagine what is next and be proactive in designing new products, spaces and experiences. In addition to being a go-to, Chiang’s eponymous short story inspired the film ‘Arrival’ which is also one of my favorites in the genre

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

My journey into a healthy lifestyle came from the 80s aerobics movement. When studying to become a certified instructor, I became grounded in how proper exercise and eating fueled a healthy body and lifestyle. I would say mindfulness was a different story. I began to learn mindfulness from reading and studying the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi in grad school for their non-violent approach to social change that was deeply grounded in Buddhist teachings. The Tao of Pooh was the book that opened up a gateway to other writings about mindfulness, and I return to it as a reminder to stay present, happy and calm.

Lone Soldier by Alex Gordon

This soon-to-be published book by Alex Gordon, details the experience of a ‘lone soldier,’ which is a term given men and women from all over the world who voluntarily choose to join the Israeli army. For me, Alex’s story exemplifies selflessness and how the act of giving can actually be receiving. After experiencing the profound loss of his mother when he was a teenager, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, first to darkness and then on to find that serving others can bring purpose and fulfillment. His journey as a troubled teen from the streets of Manhattan to the role of an elite Israeli paratrooper in the mountains of Lebanon is an inspiring celebration of love for family, heritage and self-worth. [This book] reminds me that even through the day-to-day hustle of the world it’s important to give back to not only our loved ones but also to humankind, as with servitude comes great self-joy.

Legacy by James Kerr

The book is about how the most successful sports team in the world, the All Blacks, can teach us how to be better business leaders. The book gave an insight on tactics and psychology that could be used in a business environment to improve performance. A typical takeaway from the book, for example, is about embracing expectation, rather than being intimidated by it. By embracing expectation, you learn to thrive under the challenge, to aim higher, and to avoid crumbling under pressure and delivering a mediocre outcome. Business is a game just like Rugby, and it is all about winning and beating your competition.

Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More and Live Bolder by Reshma Saujani

I recently read this book after watching Reshma Saujani’s TED Talk. It has inspired me to change how I approach various daily interactions in my life, from tough contract negotiations to family conversations. It’s a great reminder that ‘perfect is boring’ and that in order to grow, you must take risks and learn from your failures. I get a little less perfect and a little braver every day.

The Peregrine by J.A. Baker

On the surface it’s a field study on falcons, but almost immediately the author immerses you in the lives and environment of his subject matter. You feel every little detail and appreciate the smallest nuance. I read it as a reminder that everyone I interact with — customers, family members, people I pass on the street — are all the leading characters in their own books, with stories that are full of detail, nuance, happiness, tragedy, complexity and everything else, and certainly worth taking the time to appreciate.

Pitch Anything by Orin Klaff

This is an exceptionally daring look at owning the frame in any meeting. What I love about this book, is that Orin teaches and prepares the person walking into the room with the exact behavior that will get a yes every time. And what he has tested and proven over and over is that when you learn how to pitch anything, the CEOs, Netflix executives and bosses end up pitching you, because the delivery of what you have to offer becomes irresistible.

Gandhi for Today & Tomorrow

His vision of a liberal, non-violent society can save humanity from ecological and other disasters. I need Gandhi today for three reasons. First and foremost, I need him for self-development. The most important lesson that I have learned from him is how he was eternally vigilant about himself and went on correcting and developing his inner self. Ignorance and intellectual arrogance have made many reject him and as a result, invite disaster in their personal lives. Honesty and integrity are at stake in personal and public life. The Western libertarian thesis promised that the virtue of civil society, if left to its own devices, would include good character, honesty, duty, self-sacrifice, honour, service, self-discipline, toleration, respect, justice, civility, fortitude, courage, integrity, diligence, patriotism, consideration for others, thrift and reverence. Unfortunately, gluttony, pride, selfishness, and greed have become prominent. It has permitted permissive behaviour and left the aberrant behaviour to be corrected by systemic checks loaded with ever new technologies.

Gandhi, too, was a strong votary of individual liberty. But he differed from Mill and Spencer. His concept of liberty for vyakti (individual) arose from the individual’s responsibility for self-regulation. He practised and subscribed to 11 vows. Satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence), brahmacharya (self-control), aparigraha (non-possession), asteya (non-stealing), abhaya (fearlessness), asvaad (palate), shareer shram (bread-labour) were eight vows for self-regulation, and swadeshi (local), sprushya bhavna (removal of untouchability)and sarva dharma sama bhava (tolerance or equal respect for all religions) were for bringing back rural, decentralised economy and bringing harmony among castes and religion. This has to be woven in education and practice.

The second reason I need Gandhi is to work toward peace among warring sections of humanity. Samashti or humanity as a whole is at war. Caste, race and religion are a political façade and a socio-cultural menace. Gandhi had sensed this in South Africa and came up with ahimsa or love force. It was not only a strategic alliance of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsis, but of all castes and creeds that lived in South Africa and suffered the humiliation and violation of human rights. He earnestly wanted humanity to live together in peace and harmony. He was “Gandhibhai” for all and he was fearless in facing any brute force. After his return to India in 1915, he could touch the hearts of all and identified himself with all. He carried them and led them to swaraj, although conceding that it would only be political freedom, to begin with. His message reached the world’s humanity and people saw new hope amidst two world wars. As India reached political freedom, he was betrayed by leaders and not by people, and hunger for power and hatred speared him. He was down but not out. He walked alone in Noakhali to wipe tears and apply the love force which he had expressed in Hind Swaraj quoting Tulsidas: Of religion, pity, or love, is the root, as egotism of the body/Therefore, we should not abandon pity, so long as we are alive.

Gandhi’s faith in daya or love force was so deep and he practised it with such passion that during the communal riots before and after Independence, then Governor-General Lord Mountbatten famously said, “In Punjab, we have 55,000 soldiers, and large-scale rioting on our hands. In Bengal, our forces consist of one man, and there is no rioting.”

Unfortunately, it is not only hatred that is back with a vengeance, it is deeply tempered by control over natural resources and concentration of economic power among communities and nation states. In our own country, newly defined nationalism has become hyper and is threatening to tear apart the finely woven socio-cultural fabric of the country. It is not incidental that after struggling for more than 60 years, the UN declared in 2007 Gandhi’s birthday as the day of non-violence. Humanity has to embrace all those who have been hurt intentionally or unintentionally and heal the injury with love.

The third reason I need Gandhi today is that his vision of non-violent society will save humanity from ecological disaster that seems to be looming large. Our relation with prakruti (nature) has to significantly alter. Humanity in general has been optimistic and so it should be. But, business as usual approach can, and has, landed the humanity in deep crisis. In recent times, however, many of the crises are manmade. Gandhi had sensed it and voiced in 1909 in Hind Swaraj: “Let us first consider what state of things is described by the word ‘civilisation’. Its true test lies in the fact that people living in it make bodily welfare the object of life.”

He questioned whether big houses, many clothes, big cars, fancy food, globe destructing war material and luxuriant indulgence and leisure, was modern civilisation. In the 1930s, he wrote that if India wanted to ape the British standard of living then, it would require resources equivalent of three earths. How prophetic! The market is not innocently responding to price signals. It is manipulating tastes and preferences in favour of a particular self-indulgent life style and converting them into demand

Gandhi talked about local first and global later. Swadeshi is promoting a decentralised economy that is mainly rural. Gandhi does not deny the relevance and use of technology for survival. But he called for political, social and individual behaviour to become self-aware and to substantially change.

Gandhi offered to India and the world a wise and compassionate vision of harmony between vyakti, samashti and prakruti.

Germany Takes on More Responsibilities in NATO

American President Donald Trump has long criticized Germany’s contributions to NATO for being insufficient. However, the two countries have found a compromise whereby Germany will take on more responsibility. The deal will increasingly place Europe’s security in Germany’s hands.

In a series of steps, Germany, is taking control of NATO’s European branch.

America still expects Germany to increase its own military budget, and soon Germany will provide as much to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s community budget as the United States does. In the meantime, Germany will accept more responsibility for the alliance’s management.

On October 3, on the sidelines of celebrations for the Day of German Unification in Kiel, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that a reform on how to better distribute costs of the alliance has been agreed on.

The German Press Agency reported that staring in 2020 the Federal Republic will contribute as much money as the U.S to the alliance community cost. The U.S. share will drop from the current 22.1 percent to 15.9 percent while the German share will grow from 14.8 percent to 15.9 percent.

Contributions to the community costs are used to finance the alliance headquarters in Brussels and other military headquarters, among other things.

But while the U.S. saves costs, it also leaves security alliance increasingly in the hands of a former enemy.

Germany is by far Europe’s strongest economy, and it has the largest military budget. Germany is also assuming more control of NATO’s European forces in other ways. A new naval headquarters in the Baltic allows Germany to lead European navies in a possible confrontation with Russia. Germany is also establishing a NATO command center that focuses on rapid troop movement across Europe. As Deutsche Welle noted, the new headquarters “will not be integrated into the current NATO command structure.” Instead, it will be established under German sovereignty.

Since the beginning of 2019, German forces took the lead of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which includes thousands of soldiers ready to deploy within days. In 2018, Germany was at the heart of nato’s largest military exercise since the Cold War. We can expect Germany to take even more responsibility.

The Bundeswehr currently has 24 training facilities that are open to soldiers from other European Union member states. German soldiers are visiting 55 training facilities of other armies across Europe, from Albania to Spain, Spiegel Online reported in December 2017.

The training facilities lay the groundwork for larger-scale cooperation that has already begun under German leadership. Various European battalions and brigades are merging multinational troops under German command. The New York Times wrote on February 20:

In a former Cold War base, German and Dutch soldiers, serving together in one tank battalion, stood to attention one recent morning and shouted their battle cry in both languages.

“We fight—,” their commander bellowed.

“—for Germany!” the battalion replied in unison.

“We fight—,” the commander shouted.

“—for the Netherlands!” his soldiers yelled back.

They are not shouting “for Europe.” Not yet.

Germany holds similar exercises with France, Czechia and Romania. (Read more about this development in “German Army Continues to Swallow Its Neighbors.”) In 2016, the German newspaper Die Welt noted: “The Bundeswehr Is a Laboratory for an EU Army.”

But as Germany uses the NATO security umbrella to build a European army, nato’s original purpose is forgotten.

NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Hastings Ismay, described NATO’s goals as, “Keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Part of the reason NATO was founded in 1949 was to prevent Germany from remilitarizing and starting another major war.

Contrary to this original pledge, many countries in Europe today rely on Germany for security. Germany’s arms industry, its military schools and leadership are in high demand.

This is not a new trend provoked by President Trump. Germany’s second defense minister after World War II, Franz Josef Strauss, wrote in his book The Grand Design: A European Solution to German Reunification that he opposed NATO’s structure as “an American protective alliance for free European countries”; he wanted it transformed into “an American-European Alliance of Equals.” In other words, he wanted Europe to be able to defend itself and cooperate with America on equal terms.

At the time, Strauss’s plea was rejected. But today, Germany is leading a European military alliance increasingly independent from the U.S.

Many no longer see it necessary to prevent Germany from rising and dominating militarily. Decades have passed since World War II, and history seems forgotten. Even many who do remember history see a totally changed Germany that imposes no threat to humanity.

Weekend Special: Why science keeps overturning what we thought we knew

Meat is unhealthy, meat is okay: Why science keeps overturning what we thought we knew. For years, health experts have been saying that to decrease the risk of heart attacks and cancer, it’s wise to cut back on red meat, and especially processed red meat, like bacon.

A couple of weeks back, that conventional wisdom was upended. Five systematic reviews, published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the unhealthful effects of regular meat consumption are negligible. (There remains a strong environmental, and ethical, case for reducing meat consumption — that’s just not what these reviews looked at.)

But while the new red meat decree might feel jarring, it’s not actually a bad thing for nutrition — or even science generally. In fact, this is how science is supposed to work.

The real story behind the meat news is that a widespread understanding about nutrition was changed by better science and stronger methodology. And it’s not just nutrition science that’s experiencing this kind of reckoning.

Other influential research in psychology has also been toppled by more refined scientific methods lately — that’s what the “replication crisis” is all about. It’s a big deal, and a pattern worth looking at if we want to understand why the things we thought we knew keep turning out to be wrong.

Why nutrition science is getting better

A growing chorus of critics has been pointing out that the bedrock of nutrition science — large, observational studies — are often hopelessly limited in their ability to give us clear answers about which foods are beneficial for health.

For example, with case-control studies — a type of observational research — researchers start with an endpoint (for example, people who already have cancer). For each person with a disease (a case), they find a match (a control) — or someone who doesn’t have the disease. They then look backward in time and try to determine if any patterns of exposure (in this case, eating meat) differed in those with cancer compared to those who don’t have cancer.

But since meat eaters differ so fundamentally from those who don’t eat meat, as we’ve explained, the reasons the two groups have varying health outcomes could have nothing to do with eating meat. Researchers try to control for “confounding factors,” the unmeasured variables that may lead to one person getting cancer, and another staying healthy. But they can’t capture all of them.

So these relatively weak study designs are not meant to be a source for definitive statements about how a single food or nutrient increased or decreased the risk of a disease by a specific percentage.

Why have so many of these studies been done? Because they can give nutrition researchers a sense of what they might study in a more rigorous (and expensive) randomized trial. One observational study can’t tell you much. But if many of the best quality observational studies (such as cohort studies) find a large effect on a disease in the data, they’re probably pointing to something real.

Yet guidelines in the past haven’t taken a nuanced approach to evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of different types of nutrition studies.

Instead, they’ve relied on a broad range of research, including animal evidence and case-control studies. Just four years ago, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancerannounced that people should cut back on processed meats if they wanted to avoid certain types of cancer. The American Heart Association and the US government’s dietary guidelines panel, meanwhile, have been beating the drum about a plant-rich diet for years.

The new meat studies attempted to hold nutrition research to a higher standard. The 14 researchers behind the papers sorted through the noise of observational studies — picking out only the strongest among them (i.e. the large cohort studies), while also relying on higher quality evidence from randomized controlled trials to draw their conclusions. The authors were making a deliberate effort to ensure nutrition advice is based on only the best-available research, with conclusions that are more reliable.

The result isn’t perfect. One can argue that nutrition science is so flawed, perhaps we shouldn’t be making guidelines at all. Or that people need guidance about what to eat, and reviews like the meat studies at least show the holes in our knowledge, what studies we need to make even stronger guidelines.

Nutrition science crusaders haven’t just been picking on weak observational studies. They’ve also been challenging some of the most respected randomized trials in nutrition by looking back at trial data using sophisticated statistical tests to pick out flaws.

The PREDIMED study was one target. Conducted in Spain, it tracked more than 7,400 people at high risk of cardiovascular disease. And the researchers stopped the trial early, after they found the Mediterranean diet, when supplemented with lots of olive oil or nuts, could cut a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease byathird. A recent review of the data showed the trial was poorly run, and PREDIMED’s conclusions have since been called into question.

Ideas in social science are being overturned and debated, too

That nutrition science is updating old findings with new evidence does not mean the science is fatally flawed. Science moves along incrementally. It’s a long, grinding process involving false starts, dead ends, and studies that in hindsight may turn out to be poorly executed. If anything, the meat studies remind us the science is getting better.

A similar trend can be seen in social science, where researchers have been reevaluating classic textbook findings with more rigorous methodology, and discovering many are flawed.

The “replication crisis” in psychology started around 2010, when a paper using completely accepted experimental methods was published purporting to find evidence that people were capable of perceiving the future, which is impossible. This prompted a reckoning: Common practices like drawing on small samples of college students were found to be insufficient to find true experimental effects.

Scientists thought if you could find an effect in a small number of people, that effect must be robust. But often, significant results from small samples turn out to be statistical flukes.

The crisis intensified in 2015 when a group of psychologists, which included Nosek, published a report in Science with evidence of an overarching problem: When 270 psychologists tried to replicate 100 experiments published in top journals, only around 40 percent of the studies held up. The remainder either failed or yielded inconclusive data. The replications that did work showed weaker effects than the original papers. (The “crisis” has also inspired investigations revealing outright scientific malpractice, and not just methodological errors.)

  • There are so many textbook psychology findings that have either not been replicated, or are currently in the midst of a serious reevaluation. Like:
  • Social priming: People who read “old”-sounding words (like “nursing home”) were more likely to walk slowly — showing how our brains can be subtly “primed” with thoughts and actions.
  • The facial feedback hypothesis: Merely activating muscles around the mouth caused people to become happier — demonstrating how our bodies tell our brains what emotions to feel.
  • Stereotype threat: Minorities and maligned social groups didn’t perform as well on tests due to anxieties about becoming a stereotype themselves.
  • Ego depletion: the idea that willpower is a finite mental resource
  • The “marshmallow test,” a series of studies from the early ’90s that suggested the ability to delay gratification at a young age is correlated with success later in life. New research finds that if the original marshmallow test authors had a larger sample size, and greater research controls, their results would not have been the showstoppers they were in the ’90s.
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment: Recent investigations into the experiment’s archive greatly undermine the experiment’s conclusion — that bad behavior is the result of environments. It turns out many people involved in the experiment were coached into being cruel while working in a simulated prison, and the prisoners acted out, in part, because they simply wanted to leave the experiment.

Again, these reevaluations aren’t evidence that science is doomed. They can be seen as a sign of progress (and like everything in science, even the severity of the replication crisis is hotly debated.) It’s also not the case that we should doubt every single scientific finding that’s out there in the public. Certainly, scientists have put in the painstaking work to prove that climate change is caused by humans. This conclusion is certainly not the result of a single study: It’s the result of thousands of good studies.

A part of this reckoning is recognizing that evidence can be strong or weak. And not all published findings should be treated as equal. In a lot of ways, human beings are a lot harder to study than other natural phenomena.

In science, too often, the first demonstration of an idea becomes the lasting one — in both pop culture and academia. But this isn’t how science is supposed to work at all.

So next time you read about some kernel of conventional wisdom being questioned, know there’s a reason: It’s probably part of the quest to make science better. 

Use technology end currency wars?

The terrible experience of the 1930s should remind us that trade and currency wars go together like a horse and carriage. Now that US President Donald Trump’s administration is fully implementing his protectionist “America First” agenda, it is only a matter of time before a currency conflict erupts.

There has not been a full-scale currency war in quite some time, though the world came close after the 2008 financial crisis when then-Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega used the term to describe America’s extraordinarily low-interest rates. Following the United States, Japan and Europe seemed to adopt similar strategies of export promotion, and a depreciated exchange rate became an unheralded but central feature of economic recovery in advanced economies.

Similarly, after 2012, the euro crisis started to look more manageable only after the euro began depreciating against the dollar. And as many economists in the United Kingdom had already pointed out, a flexible exchange rate had given the UK, in contrast to the eurozone countries, a uniquely effective tool for managing the shocks of the period.

At any rate, the post-crisis currency concerns soon faded, owing largely to the major central banks’ simultaneous pursuit of quantitative easing (QE), which just so happened to affect exchange rates. The first potential currency war of the twenty-first century gave way to an indecisive and fragile truce. But if any major economy were to adopt protectionism to gain an advantage over others, the currency question would come back to the fore.

After all, in the hands of policymakers so inclined, national currencies are an obvious economic weapon. That is why the 44 countries that participated in the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference agreed on a framework to ensure stable exchange rates. The US held the dominant negotiating position, and it was committed to establishing an open international order free of tariffs and trade wars. For every other country, there was no real choice but to settle on an exchange rate that would allow it to maintain a roughly balanced external account.

Since then, the threat of a trade war has always implied the return of the currency debate. In today’s escalating conflict, it was inevitable that Trump would eventually focus on other countries’ monetary policies. He has long accused China of undervaluing its currency (even when it has been doing precisely the opposite). And in response to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s recent announcement of a new round of QE, Trump tweeted, “They have been getting away with this for years, along with China and others.”

As in the 1930s, currency warfare is attractive to those who view geopolitics as a zero-sum game. Trump’s attacks on the ECB are partly about trade, but they are also meant to drive a wedge between EU member states. As critics of the European monetary regime have long complained, Germany enjoys a lower external exchange rate with the euro than it would have had with the Deutschmark. And in Trump’s view, Germany maintains a mercantilist policy to favor its own exporters, although the US-led Bretton Woods order was designed precisely to prevent mercantilism and its attendant competitive devaluations.

Still, in the view of John Maynard Keynes, one of the architects of Bretton Woods, the postwar arrangement should have gone much further, by including institutional checks to penalize countries with large surpluses or deficits. Penalizing trade imbalances would have gone hand in hand with his plan for a new global monetary system, which would have been based on a universal synthetic currency called “bancor” (a French compound word for bank-created gold).

As Draghi pointed out in the speech that attracted Trump’s ire, the euro was originally framed as a mechanism for eliminating competitive devaluations. Ever since Keynes, efforts to revive the idea of a non-national general currency – such as that by the economist Robert A. Mundell in the 1960s – had been constant and futile.

But now, new technology has brought the possibility of a global currency within reach. Just last month, Facebook unveiled its plans for a digital coin, Libra, which will be pegged to a basket of government-issued currencies. According to Facebook, the initiative is designed to reach the world’s poorest people, including many of the 1.7 billion without a bank account.

A broad user base is essential to ensure that Libra serves primarily as a means of exchange, not as a tool of financial speculation. That makes it the antithesis of first-generation blockchain currencies such as Bitcoin, which is subject to artificial scarcity maintained through the process of “mining.” To be sure, the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Facebook’s Libra announcement has been discouraging. And yet, were an alternative currency based on multiple assets broadly adopted, it would not be as destabilizing as its critics claim.

With a truly universal currency, users would both buy and sell goods and services, including labor, which means that wages would have to be set in a non-national currency. The new dispensation would make the existence of multiple currencies in one territory look like a throwback to the pre-modern world when gold and silver coins fluctuated in value against each other. And that might not be a bad outcome.

The fluctuation in the value of gold and silver, it is worth remembering, allowed for greater wage flexibility, and thus less unemployment. And the wider the use of a global currency (or multiple global currencies), the less viable a currency war becomes. Technology is reviving the twentieth-century dream of a global monetary system free of the disruptions caused by economic nationalism. The key to realizing it is to sever the link – as the euro has begun to do – between money and the nation-state.

Evaluating Xi’s 100-year promise

Every prime minister of India since Rajiv Gandhi has tried to bridge the trust deficit between India and China first created by the 1962 war. No one has had to do this more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the era of not just 24×7 television but instant social media coverage. Diplomatic engagement of this sort in these times has perforce to be a spectacle. If the Howdy Modi “walkaround” with United States President Donald Trump was one kind of spectacle, the “talkathon” at Mahabalipuram with Chinese President Xi Jinping was of another kind. However, it would be mistaken and churlish to view these events as mere spectacles. Prime Minister Modi has mastered the art of in-your-face diplomatic engagement not just in the world of new and instant media, but one that is increasingly characterised by a multipolar balance of power.

The 1962 war was caused in part by differences over delineating the border between two newly created republics. It was also occasioned by Jawaharlal Nehru’s hubris and Mao Zedong’s desire to show India its place. Resolving the border issue is key to bridging the trust deficit. However, over the years, two other issues have come up — China’s relations with Pakistan and the large deficit in bilateral trade.

Responding to India’s closer relations with the US, at a time when US-China relations have deteriorated, China has developed its own risk-mitigation strategy by strengthening its partnership with Pakistan. While India does not appreciate the China-Pakistan nexus, it also recognises the fact that China is not the only country that uses Pakistan to keep India off balance. All major powers have done so, and continue to do so.

If India can warm up to a Trump who is willing to chat up Imran Khan and flirt with the Taliban, why should it get all shirty with a Xi who does the same? Pakistan offers itself willingly to the highest bidder. No one will help India remove Pakistan from its equation with the world if India itself will not do enough to achieve that objective.

A second factor that added to the trust deficit has been the trade deficit. While India supported China’s membership of the World Trade Organisation, it feels China used the multilateral trade regime to acquire access to the Indian market without providing equal access to China’s. This is only partly correct. India’s inability to export more to China is part of an overall lack of global competitiveness that requires solutions at home. However, by erecting non-tariff barriers in products where India has a competitive edge, China has contributed to a view in India that it seeks to “de-industrialise” India. In contributing to this view, China has politicised an essentially economic issue. The new high-level bilateral economic and trade dialogue agreed to at Mahabalipuram should help bridge this deficit.

India’s priority in seeking good relations with China is no different from her interest in seeking good relations with other global powers — to secure a global and regional environment conducive to India’s own economic development.

When Chinese interlocutors have sought my explanation for closer US-India relations I have always insisted that India seeks the same level of engagement with the US that China already has — given the US’s more developed business-to-business and people-to-people relations with China.

Despite the trade war, the US still buys more from China than from India. Better US-India government-to-government relations are a more recent phenomenon triggered by China’s rise, the challenge of jihadi extremism and the prosperity of Indian Americans in the US. It remains to be seen how invested the US would be in India’s long-term rise. 

Over the past decade, India has slowly come to terms with the widening power differential with China and is building defences to deal with it. The best defence remains a stronger, more productive and competitive economy built on the foundations of a better educated and skilled people. While India does its homework, stable and predictable relations with China would help. Through the Wuhan and Mahabalipuram conversations, and others that will follow, India seeks precisely this objective.

Many Indian analysts object to China’s unhelpful role in India’s desire to seek membership of the United Nations Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

But China is not the only major power that likes to keep the door to exclusive clubs closed to aspiring members. As for India’s membership of NSG and the nuclear deal, US support was entirely due to President George W Bush Jr who over-ruled naysayers within his own administration and the US Congress to favour India.

If Modi can turn Xi into a friend, like Manmohan Singh turned Bush around, China too may change its stance. Which is why the new informal format for the Modi-Xi dialogue is important. It is President Bush who wiped out decades of distrust between India and the US.

Can Xi do that for India-China relations? Trust between nations must begin at the very top.

By speaking of a “hundred year plan” for cementing relations between two ancient civilisations, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made two points. First, he situated the current phase within the long history of our civilisational engagement. Second, he made the important point that it would take time for a more balanced relationship to get established between China and India given the extant power differential caused by China’s spectacular rise since the beginning of this century.

The next decade is, therefore, crucial for India. It has to regain economic momentum and strengthen its own human and strategic capabilities as a modern, knowledge-based nation. China’s power flows precisely from these attributes.

The Modi-Xi engagement must be viewed as part of a multi-polar engagement with all major powers — including the US, European Union, Russia and Japan — aimed at enabling India’s resurgence. Given Xi’s 100-year perspective, both countries have to learn to live with year-to-year bumps while journeying together towards a new Asian Century.

Dragon landed in EU

ohnny Johnny? Yes, Daddy. Want some sugar? Yes, Daddy. Well, Johnny sure was a gullible kid as he did not see this carb induced catastrophe coming his way. “You know nothing, Johnny! “, smirked Daddy.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) in 2013; popularly also referred to as: ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) – now a six-year-old pullulating project. It spread like wildfire and marked a fervour of dialogue and deliberation across the globe. This $1 trillion investment programme has congregated a consensus of more than 65 countries that account collectively for over 30 per cent of global GDP, 62 per cent of the population and 75 per cent of known energy reserves. Bifurcated into- Silk Road Economic Belt and New Maritime Silk Road; President Xi’s vision through the State’s eyes apropos of infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade and financial integration. Gluten is easier to digest, I reckon!

The largesse of the project is seen from Xi’an to Duisburg and Quanzhou to Port Piraeus. High-end highways, Railroads, Gas pipeline and Telecommunication towers as alluring as a Lotus with Chinese texts printed all over is hard to miss. But what really makes my mind ponder and my soul quizzy is the presence of Military Port in Gwadar, Pakistan and Naval Base in Djibouti under the pretext of a tangible economic trade. Moreover, the insolvent nations like Sri Lanka, Venezuela and Pakistan are easy preys of the ‘Sugar-Daddy-Diplomacy’; emancipated only to be shackled right in the foot!

Much like the Lannisters credo; China strikes when the iron is hot and the Italian anti-establishment coalition government with a melting economy was a bull’s eye. Now that the dragon has entered the heart of Europe, there is a discordant redundancy in other EU nations and the US, Russia and India; needless to say.

Not concurring with Italy’s Lone Wolf stunt, French President Emmanuel Macron urged China; “respect the unity of the European Union and the values it carries in the world.” That is some solemn swear!

Words like ‘Superpower’ or ‘Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm’; bring a sense of disparity in the characteristics of the characters, while only the free folks or the commoners get crushed under the wheel.

Whether China’s BRI is a quintessential paradigm of unified earth in the future or it really is about ‘The Throne’ after all is a big question. But, one thing is for sure; winter is here and Elephants are really not gonna help win the war against the dead, Cersei!

Ethics for a transforming world

The world is today facing three big challenges.

The first is the threat of climate change; an unintended consequence of the rapid advances in technology and faster economic growth. Alarm bells have been raised as the evidence of inexorable warming of the planet points to the possibility of the destruction of earth and its systems that nurture human existence if we continue the way we live now. This basically means that businesses, governments, and cities need to rapidly decarbonize. Also, the trend of increasing consumerism and the obsession for endless growth without factoring in consequences needs a close hard look.

The second big challenge is the one being raised by today’s rapidly digitising world. Intelligent machines are now taking decisions for us and are only getting stronger in their ability. The benefits of Artificial Intelligence(AI) are many – rapid diagnosis of problems and solutions, ability to analyze large amounts of data to reduce wastage and optimize outcomes. But at the same time, AI is only as good as the people who design it and human bias can be greatly exacerbated and scaled with AI systems. This is only one of the issues, there are several others – such as how much control will we allow machines to have on us? How do we manage data and privacy issues? And more.

The third issue is that we are living within interconnected systems. Earth is a system that functions in a particular way. Similarly, the financial markets, social media platforms, and global supply chains are all systems. And sometimes several of these systems could be interconnected in ways that are not apparent till much later. For instance, excessive social media usage is linked increasingly to poor mental health and impacts human wellbeing; and, financial systems are needing to factor in the risks of climate change. Now that all these big issues such as climate change and digital threats are occurring within these interconnected systems, a huge shift is emergent. This, therefore, implies that structural shifts are taking place which businesses, governments and civil society need to tackle together.

The world needs to look at tackling the big changes by explaining the basics of ethical leadership and the methods needed for transformative thinking. There are three orientations required for anyone aspiring to make the world better: Systems thinking, Ethics of citizenship, and, Deep listening.

The golden rule of human civilization, taught by all religions, is to do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Modern economic principles on the other hand run counter to this, where they teach, profit above everything else. Going so far as to say that human beings must pursue their self-interests and that it is ‘rational’ to do so. The belief is that if everyone looks after himself then some ‘invisible hand’ will ensure that everyone will be better off. So, it is good to be selfish.

This is the fundamental paradigm that must change. The governance of companies and countries needs a new model of ethical reasoning. Ethics is all about doing the right thing. But, right and wrong, is also a matter of opinion and time. For instance, in a rapidly warming world petrol is bad as it releases carbon, but many years ago, petrol was good. It transformed the largely agrarian world into a manufacturing powerhouse with many benefits such as higher incomes, advances in transportation, access to education and improvements in health and longevity. Humans are driven by higher-order needs, beliefs, and ambition. ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my role in the world which I am a part of?’ are existential questions that often arise in human minds. Human beings live, along with other humans and species, within a complex world composed of many natural and social systems. While other animals seem satisfied to ‘live and die and never question why’, such profound questions arise only in human minds. Every human is a story, and, an interesting one. And the big questions we need to be asking are, “Will we allow algorithms to write our stories? And Will we allow climate change to destroy them?

We are losing our abilities to listen deeply to others, especially to people not like us. Social media algorithms herd us into communities of people like us whom we follow and like. Therefore we are not listening to other points of view, and cannot fully comprehend the whole system of which we are all only small parts, and in which we have to live together. Thus our collective human story is at risk of collapsing, with divisions within societies, and with rapid environmental degradation.

Prancing tiger, coiled dragon at Mamallapuram

Mamallapuram celebrates the well-earned sobriquet Mamallan, meaning Great Wrestler, of the Seventh Century Pallava king Narasimhavarman 1. So, it might seem appropriate as a venue for leaders of Asia’s biggest two powers to grapple with their mutual problems. However, in modern diplomacy, national leaders scarcely address, when they meet at the summit level, issues on which their subordinates have already not performed the requisite wrestling to thrash out agreement. No concrete outcome was expected from Mamallapuram, besides continuation of the multifaceted Indo-Chinese dialogue at the highest level.

So it was no surprise that Kashmir, or rather, the Chinese assistance to Pakistan’s attempt to rake up the matter at every global forum possible, was not even discussed. The decision to set up a mechanism, led by the Chinese vice-president and India’s finance minister, to address the huge imbalance in favour of China in bilateral trade might seem like a concrete step. But trade was one of the things that had been raised at previous formal and informal summits between India and China without any concrete outcome that would raise India’s exports to China as a proportion of its imports from that country. The simple reality is that large swathes of Indian business make too much money from gaming the banks or other parts of the system to seriously focus on doing efficient business, while the Chinese manufacturing juggernaut has been playing a major role in keeping inflation supine in industrial output at the global level. India would like to complain that it is deliberate denial of market access that keeps Indian exports to China low, but the fact remains that there are very few areas in which India has a genuine edge over China in manufacturing. So, correcting the bilateral trade imbalance would take time, the time it takes for Indian business to focus on doing efficient business, instead of milking the banking system, government incentives and import protection.

Nor does the bilateral deficit matter much, except in emotive terms. What matters for the economy is the overall current account deficit, not even the overall trade deficit. China’s imports of commodities from Africa and South America create new purchasing power in these regions, and a part of it is used to purchase additional Indian produce, boosting India’s global exports, not just of goods but also of services, including information technology services. This makes China’s global trade beneficial for us. India needs to keep its current account deficit within manageable limits, that is all. And India has been doing it quite well, except in the few years when Pranab Mukherjee, as finance minister, kept India’s fiscal deficit exceptionally high.

The Mamallapuram summit does not end at Mamallapuram, however. Xi Jinping has travelled to Kathmandu from Chennai. There, he is expected to kick off the process of entangling one of India’s closest neighbours into the Chinese dragon’s ever-lengthening coils, with a new trans-Himalayan railway that would connect Kathmandu to Lhasa, in Tibet, and has the potential to bring a flood of Chinese goods into Nepal and, thereon, into India across India’s open land border with Nepal. That connectivity would also reduce Nepal’s dependence on India and give sections of Nepal’s anti-India elites new airs of autonomy and assertion. Indian diplomacy will have to become more sophisticated in India’s neighbourhood, abandoning smug reliance on size and the nostrum that landlocked geography is destiny.

Another immediate test of Chinese conduct that has a major bearing on India is how it behaves at the meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) when it carries out a review, tomorrow onwards, of Pakistan’s progress in complying with 40 action points to avoid being blacklisted as a country that helps in money laundering and terror funding. FATF’s Asia-Pacific Group has found that Pakistan has made satisfactory progress only on 10 out of the 40 points of action, and that out of 11 substantive measures, the country has made progress on just one. Beijing would be loath to let down its premier client state and is expected to help Pakistan avoid being put on the black list.

On the border, on which India and China has been holding talks, ever since Rajiv Gandhi visited China in 1988 and agreed to settle the border through negotiations, instead of through war, the progress is best described as Ho-Hum. That is fine, and need not deter either friendly relations between India and China or flourishing bilateral trade. India can safely make concessions in the west while securing its interests in the east on Arunanchal Pradesh. India has no strategic stakes in Aksai Chin, whereas for China, that place is key in relation to Xin Jiang: an all-season road from Tibet to Xin Jiang runs through it. But Aksai Chin forms a part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and includes the Trans-Karakoram tract ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963, totally illegally from India’s perspective. Settling India’s border with China involves settling India’s dispute with Pakistan over what that country considers to be its existential core. That would take time, and India and Beijing have to go ahead on other fronts without waiting for settling the border.

Summits between India and China will continue like this. What counts is India finding the political courage to fix structural problems that hold up our economic growth. That is a tough job. Putting on a veshti, shirt and a male chunni like a well-dressed Tamil gentleman is relatively easy and could win over some Tamil appreciation as well. That, of course, is politics.

Philosopher Of The Future

September 26 marked the 130th birth anniversary of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. More than 40 years after his death, the influence of Heidegger’s work on different fields of thought is overwhelming. He is not only the most influential philosopher of modernity but also its most controversial thinker. His best-known work, Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), although notoriously difficult and complex, is generally considered to be the most important philosophical work of the 20th century. Heidegger is hailed today by many as a groundbreaking thinker whose work in ontology and metaphysics determined the course of 20th century philosophy and exerted a seminal influence on the development of contemporary thought including theology, architectural theory, psychology, literary criticism, cognitive science and political theory.

Heidegger has attracted the most attention worldwide in the past 30 years. Part of this has also to do with the controversy around his politics and his Nazi connections in the 1930s, when he was the rector of the University of Freiburg. Heidegger’s post-war silence about the Holocaust and his evasive interview with Der Spiegel in 1966, published posthumously, added to what is known today as the “Heidegger Affair”. But it was Victor Farias’s Heidegger and Nazism that unleashed a series of articles, special issues of journals and books on Heidegger. Many of Heidegger’s critics tried to establish a link between the ontological foundations of Being and Time and Heidegger’s membership of the Nazi party.

All this criticism came down to one notorious phrase by Heidegger where he equated the phenomenon of concentration camp with the practice of mechanised agriculture and the nuclear threat. According to Heidegger, “Agriculture is today a motorised food industry, in essence the same as the manufacture of corpses in gas chambers and extermination camps, the same as the blockade and starvation of countries, the same as the manufacture of atomic bombs.” What is shocking in Heidegger’s observation is his fundamental incapacity for moral discernment. As George Steiner writes, “Like so many other intellectuals, Heidegger was manifestly caught up in the brutal, festive inebriation which swept across Germany after some 15 years of national humiliation and despair.

As we know from the Spiegel interview, he was preparing a peculiarly mendacious posthumous apologia for his own role in the 19302 and 40s. But the thinker of being found nothing to say of the Holocaust and the death-camps”. Heidegger’s silence on Auschwitz was the sign of a terrible truth which was never articulated by him in his phenomenology of the existential. As pointed out by many philosophers, including Paul Ricoeur and Emmanuel Levinas, Heidegger’s ontology overlooks or ignores the ethical relation between dasein (the state of being) and the other. We can also point to Hannah Arendt’s analysis of Heidegger as a fundamentally un-political philosopher, one whose post-rectorial career was marked by total withdrawal from the public space.

Many of us might not consider Heidegger as an ethical person, but his philosophy continues to have the spiritual power of helping us raise questions about the destiny of humanity and the world. Some interpreters still regard him as a prophet who can show us a way out of modernity’s dilemmas.

Generations to come might not spend more time than our contemporaries to savour the full body of Heidegger’s writings, but they will certainly continue to relate to his mode of thinking through other fields of knowledge. This could even be easier when the missionary period of Heidegger studies is over. Heidegger offered us a way of thinking about fundamental human concerns that makes it difficult to pigeonhole him. To understand how thoughts come to us is, as Heidegger says, is to learn to think of every other instance of living. Thus we can say, with Heidegger, that the only thing essential to thinking is thinking. If there is some truth to this claim, then the philosophy of Heidegger will belong to our future.Though controversial, Martin Heidegger offers clues to understanding modernity.

Breaking down the 10 need-to-know emerging technologies

To keep up with the rapid innovation and disruption happening across all industries and stay ahead of their competition, CIOs and technology leaders should assess and effectively leverage emerging technologies for their net-new values.

The world of emerging tech by nature is fast-moving and ever-changing, and consequently, it’s difficult to get a handle on the state of the various markets, not to mention leveraging them in driving business innovation. Forrester’s emerging tech spotlights have previously identified and characterized the various emerging technologies that are worth your time.

These are three key takeaways:

  • Don’t assume your business can’t be enhanced by the technologies covered. From healthcare to manufacturing and construction to higher education, adopters of emerging technologies are finding new and innovative ways to enhance what their companies can do. Don’t immediately write off using emerging technologies in your organization because you’re unsure of how they can fit.
  • Open source is accelerating, but some technologies are far more proprietary than others. From providing a larger, more engaged development base to enabling deployment flexibility, open-source is ever-growing in popularity, and for good reason. Today, it’s far more prevalent in some technologies than others, and vendors are increasingly embracing this trend. Open-source technologies that are currently explicitly proprietary will not only drive innovation but likely adoption, as well.
  • Breadth and strength of services is defining the next wave of cloud competition, and vendors know it. While infrastructure-as-a-service is still a growth market, a status quo has already arisen, one that is unlikely to change rapidly. As such, vendors have realized that next-generation services are their next avenue for net-new competition and are now being fiercely pursued by every vendor covered. This change is rapidly shifting the established market dynamics of the cloud, further contributing to the multi-cloud reality.

The breakdown of the various solutions/services offered by the major cloud providers (Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, Microsoft Azure, Oracle, and Salesforce) for the following 10 technologies:

  • Computer vision refers to a family of tools and technologies used to analyze images and video to understand the objects and features of objects contained in said images.
  • Deep learning is a rapidly evolving machine-learning technique to build, train, and test neural networks that can build probabilistic models to predict outcomes or help identify patterns in data.
  • Natural language generation refers to a family of technologies that work together based on a set of rules, templates, and machine learning to generate language in an emergent, real-time fashion — from conversations to reports.
  • Distributed ledger technology, often referred to as blockchain, is a software architecture supporting collaborative processes around a trusted data set that is shared and distributed, using consensus algorithms to maintain data integrity.
  • Edge computing is a family of technologies that distribute application data and services to where they can best optimize outcomes in networks of connected assets.
  • Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies are helping merge the digital and physical worlds around us, either through an overlay, the ability to introduce digital elements into your surrounding environment, or the creation of virtual worlds.
  • Additive manufacturing, sometimes known as 3D printing, is an industrial process that allows for the digital design and physical production of components or items with 3D printers.
  • Digital twins allow the creation of digital models marrying physical and digital data to provide a better understanding of an object’s performance or to provide a better end-user experience.
  • Serverless computing is a form of server architecture designed to further abstract development, compute, and run resources from servers — an evolution beyond virtualization — further removing the need for the infrastructure management and maintenance of servers and instances.
  • Quantum computing is an emerging computing paradigm and very much still in the R&D stage — we’ve yet to see the creation of a true quantum computer, but the technology is one that promises to rapidly increase computing power and efficiency.

Memory of Pak’s Last Murder of Democracy

Twenty years ( Just three days back) ago democracy was derailedin Pakistan and the awe of military rule holds sway even today.For Pakistanis who had lived a large part of their lives under the shadow of military rule, it was a feeling of déjà vu when, on October 12, 1999, the generals once again seized power, ousting an elected civilian government. The coup was yet another episode in the seemingly never-ending Pakistani soap opera, marked by alternating ineffectual rule by an elected government and authoritarian rule by a self-appointed leader from the army.

It has been 20 years since October 12, 1999, when Pakistan witnessed its last formal military coup. With many, including those in government, still enamoured of the achievements of military rule, it is worth looking back at how well the last coup-makers delivered on the promises they made when they took over.

The October 12 coup — or what the generals liked to describe as a ‘counter coup’ — marked the reappearance on the political stage of the military, which has controlled power, directly or indirectly, for much of Pakistan’s history. The military regime led by General Pervez Musharraf was the fourth such regime in Pakistan’s history. Two of the previous three had lasted for more than a decade and General Musharraf’s junta also didn’t have any desire to cede power.

Although initially given three years to ‘set things right’ by a pliant Supreme Court stripped of dissenting judges, the end of the regime only came about nine years later, after a popular movement forced it to cede power back to the civilians.

At a time when many of those who were part of Gen Musharraf’s regime find themselves back in positions of power, when the military is widely perceived to be calling the shots on a number of matters outside their domain and there are, once again, calls for quick-fix solutions to long-standing problems, it is worth looking at the record of the military’s direct involvement in running the state.

How much of the agenda set by General Musharraf upon taking power in 1999 was actually realised? What became of the seven priority goals identified by the last great reformer with near-absolute powers?

Pakistan’s short flirtation with democracy since the death of Gen Ziaul Haq had been a story of unfulfilled dreams and deception. The transition from military rule to democracy in 1988 remained a delusion. During 11 years of de jure democracy, power alternated between two young leaders of the post-Partition generation. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif came to power twice but failed to complete full terms in office as they were ousted unceremoniously halfway through their term each time.

Long periods of military rule had stunted democratic institutions and prevented the development of a democratic culture. The ineptitude of the political leadership, their disregard for democratic institutions and their lust for absolute power also contributed to the weakening of the very basis of liberal democracy. But more than anything, the powerful military continued to cast its shadow over the political scene, as the country struggled for stability.

The circumstances in which the October 12 coup occurred might have been different from earlier military takeovers, but the objectives were largely the same. On the surface, however, it was a military takeover with a difference. General Musharraf appeared like a ‘benevolent dictator’, allowing both a free press and political freedom, though limited. He did not impose martial law and called himself the ‘Chief Executive.’ Most Pakistanis, disillusioned with the ineptitude of successive civilian leaders, also welcomed the return of military rule, though warily.

An admirer of the father of the modern secular state of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Gen Musharraf presented himself as a reformist, promising to take Pakistan on a liberal course. The general appeared more in the mould of Pakistan’s first military ruler, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, than the last before him, General Ziaul Haq.

The liberal profile of his cabinet, comprising Western-educated professionals, had also raised hopes for better governance and a clean administration. The liberal image was also necessary to win the support of the international community, wary of the spread of Islamic extremism in the region. Yet the eventual outcome was not very different from the previous military rules.

The military regime led by General Pervez Musharraf was the fourth such regime in Pakistan’s history. Two of the previous three had lasted for more than a decade and General Musharraf’s junta also didn’t have any desire to cede power.

THE AGENDA

General Musharraf set a long policy agenda for himself. He received widespread approbation when, in his first major policy speech five days after the coup, he announced his seven-point agenda.

“My dear countrymen,” he stated on national television on October 17, 1999, “our aims and objectives shall be:

·        “Rebuild national confidence and morale.

·        “Strengthen the federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion.

·        “Revive the economy and restore investor confidence.

·        “Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice.

·        “Depoliticise state institutions.

·        “Devolution of power to the grass-roots level.

·        “Ensure swift and across the board accountability.”

He also promised eradication of Islamic extremism and sectarianism. In subsequent statements, he pledged to undo General Zia’s radical legacy by transforming Pakistan into a moderate Muslim state.

But General Musharraf’s policies were full of paradoxes. Those solemn pledges raised questions as to how the military, which itself had been a major cause of many of the crises for the Pakistani state, could midwife a healthy economy and a well-governed polity. In fact, in many ways, Musharraf’s first policy speech was not very different from those of previous military rulers — promising to fix everything that had gone wrong with the country under civilian rule.

It may be true that Musharraf had stepped into a situation that had not been faced by past military rulers. For example, worsening ethnic and sectarian violence had caused a breakdown of law and order. Years of financial mismanagement had pushed the country to the brink of bankruptcy. Multiple sanctions imposed by the United States had also affected the economy which depended on foreign aid.

Musharraf’s support for the US-led ‘war on terror’, his tactical cooperation with certain militant groups and his refusal to embed a culture of democracy and accountability widened the fault lines that had long plagued the country.

THE ECONOMY

The revival of the economy thus became the top priority set by the military junta. New US sanctions after the coup had, in fact, increased problems for the military regime. It may be recalled that US President Bill Clinton had given a rather stern lecture to Pakistan when he came to Islamabad for a few hours, after a few days in India. Pakistan had also been suspended from the Commonwealth in the wake of the coup. Fortuitously, the situation changed completely after 9/11 when Pakistan entered into a new alliance with the US for the so-called ‘war on terror’. That also brought Pakistan back to the centre stage of regional geopolitics.

Although the military government did not negotiate any economic aid package in return for its cooperation, the economic aid and concessions from the US and other Western countries to Pakistan increased considerably. These included a $1 billion loan write-off, $600 million in budgetary support and debt rescheduling. Such a rescheduling had taken place many times in the past, but the scale of concession allowed in the post-9/11 period was extraordinary. The $12.5 billion debt rescheduling was not only far larger than any in the past, but the terms of the agreement were also much more favourable.

Basically, the entire bilateral debt of the ‘war on terror’ consortium countries was rescheduled for a far greater period than in the past. The lifting of sanctions and direct economic support from the US also helped ease Pakistan’s financial difficulties. For Pakistan, it was almost a return to the 1980s, when massive Western aid had poured into the country following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan was repaid handsomely as a consequence of its role as the frontline state in the US war on terror. The World Bank, the IMF and numerous other donors were back to help out Pakistan. Even USAID, which had pulled out almost a decade ago after the US had enforced nuclear-related sanctions in 1990, returned to Pakistan.

All those factors led to a turnaround for the Pakistani economy, which had been in dire straits before Pakistan returned to the US embrace. A measure of “economic stability” was indeed ensured and investors were encouraged. Not surprisingly, the economy under Musharraf saw impressive growth, although later reckoning by economists attributed it primarily to consumptive patterns rather than production. More importantly, the general’s promise to bring structural and institutional reform in the economy, through “increasing domestic savings”, “pragmatic tax reforms”, “turning around state enterprises towards profitability”, “boosting agriculture and reviving industry” and “strict austerity measures”, remained unfulfilled.

Tellingly, we still hear the same prescriptions to this day, evidence that none of this was achieved under Gen Musharraf.

ACCOUNTABILITY

With the economy out of critical care, Musharraf turned his focus on other points on his agenda. As in previous military regimes, accountability became a buzzword for the new military regime too. Similar to the refrain we currently hear, he promised to get back “looted money”. Just one month after the coup, Musharraf set up the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate and prosecute officials involved in corruption.

Under its charter, NAB was supposed to be an autonomous body. But it was largely staffed by serving and retired military officials. The heads of NAB under Musharraf were all serving generals. The paramilitary Rangers, military personnel and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) supported it. In this situation, its independence and autonomy remained questionable. “The process of accountability is being directed especially towards those guilty of plundering and looting the national wealth and tax evaders,” Gen Musharraf had declared in his October 17 speech. “It is also directed towards loan defaulters and those who have had their loans re-scheduled or condoned. The process of accountability will be transparent for the public to see.” Soon it became apparent, however, that the so-called anti-corruption drive was effectively a tool for the military to control politicians.

The NAB ordinance granted the anti-graft body sweeping powers of investigation and arrest. It denied detainees due process of law. People arrested under the accountability ordinance could be detained for up to 90 days without charge. The ordinance also prohibited courts from granting bail and gave the NAB chairman sole power to decide if and when to release detainees — a provision that clearly contravened the principle of the separation of powers.

The ordinance also established special accountability courts that were required to conduct trials within 30 days of charges being filed and automatically barred those convicted under the ordinance from holding public office for 21 years. NAB also shifted the burden of proof at trial to the defendant. These draconian laws were conveniently used against the political opposition. By policy, serving judges and senior officials of the armed forces remained outside NAB’s jurisdiction.

Familiarly, national and international human rights groups often accused NAB of only going after those who either opposed the government or refrained from cooperating with it. NAB was also blamed for safeguarding political, instead of national, interests. In its October 2002 report on Pakistan’s transition to democracy, the International Crisis Group (ICG) described the Musharraf government’s accountability process as being “marred” by NAB’s selective “targeting of the government’s civilian opposition.”

Furthermore, the accountability courts were blamed for being used to debar politicians from participating in the October 2002 polls. The threat of investigation by NAB was also used to pressure politicians into joining pro-government parties and electoral alliances. Some NAB cases were withdrawn after the accused agreed to join the government. For example, the corruption cases against Aftab Sherpao and Faisal Saleh Hayat, two prominent Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders, were withdrawn when they changed their loyalties and joined the coalition government led by the then prime minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali after the 2002 elections. Both were given key cabinet positions.

Among those disqualified from holding public office were six former chief ministers, one former senator, 20 former members of the provincial assemblies, seven former members of the National Assembly and two former prime ministers. So Musharraf’s anti-corruption drive, which was one of the key seven points on his agenda, simply became a handy tool to tame political leaders and cobble together support for the regime.

One step forward and one step back became a characteristic of Musharraf’s approach while dealing with the issue of religious extremism and militancy.

DEVOLUTION, STRENGTHENING FEDERATION

The devolution of power to the grass-roots level was another point that was actively pursued by Gen Musharraf’s government. Soon after seizing power, Musharraf formed the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) for the development of the local government system and to generate fundamental thought on promoting good governance through the reconstruction of state institutions. It was an ambitious project, headed by a retired general, to change the administrative structure at the local level.

Musharraf’s Local Government Ordinance (LGO) 2001 was quite ambitious in scope. In an effort to devolve power, local government elections were held on a non-party basis. District and sub-district governments were installed in 101 districts, including four cities. Under the new local government system, a nazim/mayor headed elected councils and administrations.

The new system not only gave constitutional cover to local governments, it reserved a significant proportion of local government seats for women (33 percent). It also proposed the direct involvement of citizens in the process of social service delivery, through the creation of citizen community boards which worked with local governments to implement community development projects.

The new system provided substantial autonomy for elected local officials and, most notably, placed an elected official as overall head of district administration, management and deve­­lopment, replacing a century-old system enforced under British colonial rule that had subordinated elected politicians to bureaucrats. Two rounds of local government elections were held under the LGO 2001 (in 2001 and in 2005).

General Musharraf’s reforms, seemingly aimed at establishing a genuine local democracy, ended up further strengthening centralised state power, however. Devolution from the centre directly to the local levels negated the normal concept of decentralisation since provinces were completely bypassed. The federal system was further weakened because power was not devolved from provinces to the lower levels. Like in previous military regimes, the local governments were primarily instituted to create a pliant political elite in order to legitimise military rule. Instead of removing the friction between the federating units and “restoring national cohesion”, as promised, the new system widened the gap between the centre and the provinces. The conflict only intensified after the 2002 elections.

One major reason for the failure of the local government system was the manner in which the devolution plan had been devised and implemented in the absence of elected officials, and against the strong opposition of the major political parties. Instead of empowering people, the system virtually became a tool for political re-engineering. The elected governments that followed Musharraf’s military regime abolished the NRB and wound up his local government system, indicating the lade of buy-in from them.

DEPOLITISING INSTITUTIONS

Musharraf’s seven-point agenda had also promised to depoliticise state institutions and the bureaucracy. Instead, eight years of Musharraf’s rule, in fact, militarised state institutions, with the security agencies acquiring greater space than they ever had before. At one point the army was even pressed into reading electricity meters. Political engineering further weakened institutions. Like other military rulers before him, Musharraf also tried to establish a hybrid political system with the help of a ‘king’s party’. The military created a pliant faction, splitting the Pakistan Muslim League led by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Known as PML(Quaid), the party became the civilian front of the military regime. But this too mostly disintegrated the moment military rule was replaced.

In an effort to legitimise military rule, Gen Musharraf co-opted politicians, further corrupting the political culture. He strengthened the system of patronage that he had pledged to eliminate. Following in the footsteps of other authoritarian regimes, he also tried to curtail the independence of the judiciary. Eventually, it was this confrontation with the judiciary that finally cost him his power.

The militarisation of state institutions carries long-term implications for the country and the political process. At the end of the day, it prevents any serious effort to bring any structural reform that can help the country shed its economic dependence. For example, the impressive economic growth witnessed during the eight-year military rule was largely driven by the flow of foreign aid as a payoff for Pakistan’s support for the US ‘war on terror’, which evaporated the moment international circumstances changed.

To this day, the term ‘NRO’ (National Reconciliation Ordinance, which Musharraf promulgated) is used as a slur.

RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

The inconsistencies of Gen Musharraf’s position were further revealed in his dealing with religious extremism and militancy. His actions against militant and Islamic extremist groups were mostly cosmetic and mainly done under foreign pressure. Despite ostensible bans, extremist and militant groups continued to operate with impunity. One step forward and one step back became a characteristic of Musharraf’s approach while dealing with the issue of religious extremism and militancy. In 2002, under external pressure, Musharraf outlawed five main militant and sectarian groups, but the administration looked on the other side when they resurfaced under new banners. The military government’s defensive attitude further emboldened religious extremists. The country continues to face the repercussions of this strategy to this day.

Musharraf’s support for the US-led ‘war on terror’, his tactical cooperation with certain militant groups and his refusal to embed a culture of democracy and accountability widened the fault lines that had long plagued the country.

NATIONAL CONFIDENCE

There is no doubt about the fact that, during the initial period, Musharraf did stabilise the political and economic situation, restoring public confidence in the government. The military government comprising technocrats looked more efficient and capable of providing better governance. But, alas, this perception was short-lived. It started changing as soon as Gen Musharraf tried to legitimise his military rule by relying on patronage. The same old faces, who he had once accused of corruption and ineptitude, were co-opted. Eventually, the backlash to this became evident in the popular movement against Gen Musharraf. To this day, the term ‘NRO’ (National Reconciliation Ordinance, which Musharraf promulgated) is used as a slur.

LAW AND JUSTICE

While law and order did show some signs of improvement, the military badly failed in delivering on its promise to improve the system of justice. In fact, the regime curtailed the independence of the judiciary. Soon after seizing power Gem Musharraf removed the chief justice and some other senior judges who refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). The process was again attempted, with disastrous consequences for the regime, in 2007. Meanwhile, the backlog of cases in the courts continued to pile up as before while citizens continued to fear abuse from the police. None of that changed.

When assessing democratic governments, we often look back at broken campaign promises and aims and agendas that were never met. While not a campaign speech, on October 17, 1999, Gen Musharraf sat in front of a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Pakistani flag, and made many similarly tall claims that never materialised. His promises to strengthen institutions, establish rule of law, bring structural reforms in the economy, cleanse the country of corruption and devolve power to the grassroots level, remained unfulfilled. In fact, the political engineering, carried out with the help of the intelligence agencies, further weakened the political process in the country, which could ostensibly address these issues, and the perpetuation of the system of patronage only further strengthened dynastic politics.

Those yearning for greater powers to effect quick-fix reforms would be well advised to ponder what not-so-distant history teaches us.

Tackle These Food Myths

Today’s food system produces millions of tiny miracles every day. Never before has food been so plentiful, hunger been so limited and choice been so broad.

While many worry about how our planet will feed the growing human population, at the current rate of consumption, the world’s food supply will be capable of doing just that until 2040.

But stop to consider the undesirable outcomes from historical and current practices in the food system. An estimated 820 million people are still under-nourished while almost 2 billion adults are overweight or obese, creating a range of health problems governments and citizens can ill afford.

There is over-exploitation of land and water resources, excessive carbon emissions and an extensive loss of biodiversity. Increasing food prices and low self-sufficiency continue to threaten food security, especially for low-income countries. And imbalanced development of different communities involved in the food system reinforces global inequality. Without action, these outcomes will only get worse.

We work with a diverse set of stakeholders ranging from large entities such as growers, traders, consumer goods companies and food retailers to smallholder farmer communities and enabling agents in emerging and frontier markets. Through this experience, we have identified a number of myths in the current food system:

Myth 1: there is not enough food to currently feed everyone on Earth.

Reality: while hunger is a way of life in many countries, reducing the surplus of calories in over-consuming countries can eliminate undernourishment and feed an additional 760 million people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Myth 2: we’re going to run out of resources to produce food for the future.

Reality: different foods have very different resource footprints; only if we don’t optimize usage will we run out of resources.

Myth 3: eating healthily costs more.

Reality: in most developed countries, reducing food consumption to guidelines on calorie intake would allow for healthy eating within current spending levels.

Myth 4: environmental health and nutritional health are at odds with each other.

Reality: taking the US as an example, several foods such as grains, starches, beans, nuts and seeds can improve both environmental and nutritional health. Also, if Americans ate a diet in line with government guidelines, they would, by some estimates, use roughly 50% less land and emit about 50% less greenhouse gases from agriculture than they currently do. Consider that red meat, dairy and pork produce over 70% of agriculture’s greenhouse gases while contributing just over 10% of calories.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

The food system needs a critical transformation based not on the myths but on the realities of the situation.

For example, while we have until 2040 before running out of total calories to feed the growing human population, that window is shrinking when we account for the fact that the human body needs a combination of calorie types such as protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Consider protein production levels. They are dropping to the point that production per-capita will fall below the recommended daily intake by 2034.

Compounding the situation, the decline in protein supply coincides with a boom in demand fuelled by increasing disposable income. What makes it even more concerning, is that those sinking production levels may be further reduced by the effects of climate change, aging farmer population, and crop concentration risk.

Globally, the average age of a farmer is 60 years old, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, and by some reports, about two-thirds of the world’s food supply comes from just four crops. 

The need for women’s fairer participation in the military, as in the workforce

The Montane Spine Race, coursing 268 miles along the central hilly spine of England tests, not just physical fitness, but mental toughness as well. The 126 participants in 2019 were both men and women and the winner of the winter race, Jasmin Paris, beat her male competitor by a full 15 hours, and the course record by 12 hours. Shelli Gordon, the second female, was 17th. Last year, Carol Morgan came 8th, and the year before that she clocked 6th.

In the Moab 240, another well-known endurance event, last year the top woman was 9th and there were 4 women in the top 20 in a field of 111 finishers, mostly males. The year before, in 2017, the winner was a woman, Courtney Dauwalter. Recall, till 1972 women were not even allowed to officially compete in the Boston Marathon.

Science does not yet have clear answers, but there does seem to be something about the inherent ability of women to resist fatigue. Endurance events require both mental fortitude and physical fitness and women have been making a surprise showing in races and distance swimming activity.

You do not have to look at exotic sports to understand the basic point about the inherent toughness of women. Look at any nearby worksite and you will see female workers doing exactly the same work as the males – using the spade and shovel, hoisting bricks and so on. Sometimes they are nursing a child. When you are indigent you tend to worry less about gender roles and more about where your next meal comes from.

In the farm or the factory, women often do the same jobs as men, but without being given either credit or the salary for it, even as they shoulder the “double burden” of being the caregiver of their family.

Women make up 48% of the Indian population, but only 65% of them are literate as compared to 82% men. Female labour force participation in India is not only among the lowest in the world, at around 27%, but has actually declined in the last two decades even as the country registered impressive economic growth.

Remarkably, some of the biggest resistance to female participation in the workforce comes in better-educated families. A 2018 Icrier study by Surbhi Ghai says that at the bottom of this conundrum is “patriarchy” – a collection of attitudes that insist that women’s roles are secondary to those of men – which the study quantified in an index.

Women, in turn, are battering against those attitudes, sometimes frontally, such as when they insist on not only joining the military but insisting that they should serve in the combat arms. Participation in such arms is a new metric of the status of women in society. Across the world, the barriers have fallen and in most developed countries, their role has become crucial to the combat capabilities of their forces.

The status of women in the Indian military is spotty. IAF has begun inducting them as fighter pilots, but the navy does not allow them seagoing roles. As for the army, they are permitted in non-combat arms only. Last year Army chief Bipin Rawat made all the classically patriarchal arguments to argue that women cannot be given combat roles, the most obvious and facetious ones being that they would find it difficult to exercise authority over soldiers with a rural background and may claim maternal leave.

Women’s participation in the military, as in the workforce, is not a vanity project to display your progressive credentials. At its heart lies the need for their training and skills, and numbers, in one case to maintain a combat capability and in the other to lubricate a growing economy. It most certainly requires a sharp understanding of what patriarchy is all about and the ways in which society can, and should, remove the social and cultural disabilities that have hobbled women through the age

France: The Citadel Of Free Speech Becoming Its Mausoleum

The country that gave the concept of Liberty, Equality & Freedom is changing beyond recognition. Freedom of speech is a sine qua non of these ideas, and in France, these concepts of freedom of speech are being eroded.

On September 28, a “Convention of the Right” took place in Paris, organized by Marion Marechal, a former member of the French parliament and now director of France’s Institute of Social, Economic and Political Sciences. The purpose of the convention was to unite France’s right-wing political factions. In a keynote speech, the journalist Éric Zemmour harshly criticized Islam and the Islamization of France. He described the country’s “no-go zones” (Zones Urbaines Sensibles; Sensitive Urban Zones) as “foreign enclaves” in French territory and depicted, as a process of “colonization”, the growing presence in France of Muslims who do not integrate.

Zemmour quoted the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal, who said that the no-go zones are “small Islamic Republics in the making”. Zemmour said that a few decades ago, the French could talk freely about Islam but that today it is impossible, and he denounced the use of the “hazy concept of Islamophobia to make it impossible to criticize Islam, to reestablish the notion of blasphemy to the benefit of the Muslim religion alone…”

“All our problems are worsened by Islam. It is double jeopardy…. Will young French people be willing to live as a minority on the land of their ancestors? If so, they deserve to be colonized. If not, they will have to fight … [T]he old words of the Republic, secularism, integration, republican order, no longer mean anything … Everything has been overturned, perverted, emptied of meaning.”

Zemmour’s speech was broadcast live on LCI television. Journalists on other channels immediately accused LCI of contributing to “hate propaganda”. Some said that LCI should lose its broadcasting license. One journalist, Memona Hinterman-Affegee, a former member of France’s High Council of Audiovisual Media (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel), the body that regulates electronic media in France, wrote in the newspaper Le Monde:

“LCI uses a frequency which is part of the public domain and thus belongs to the entire nation … LCI has failed in its mission and lost control of its program, and must be sanctioned in an exemplary manner”.

The journalists of Le Figaro, the newspaper employing Zemmour, wrote a press release demanding his immediate dismissal. Calls heard on most radio and television stations for a total boycott of Zemmour stressed that he had been condemned several times for “Islamophobic racism”.

Alexis Brézet, the managing editor of Le Figaro, said that he expressed his “disapproval” to Zemmour and reminded him of the need for “strict compliance with the law”, but did not fire him. SOS Racisme, a left-wing movement created in 1984 to fight racism, launched a campaign to boycott companies publishing advertisements in Le Figaro and said that its aim was to coerce the management of the newspaper to fire Zemmour. The mainstream RTL radio station that employed Zemmour decided to terminate him immediately, saying that his presence on the air was “incompatible” with the spirit of living together “that characterizes the station”.

A journalist working for RTL and LCI, Jean-Michel Aphatie, said that Zemmour was a “repeat offender” who should not be able to speak anywhere and compared him to the anti-Semitic Holocaust denier Dieudonné Mbala Mbala:

“Dieudonné is not allowed to speak in France. He must hide. That is fine, since he wants to spread hatred. Éric Zemmour should be treated the same way.”

Caricatures were published depicting Zemmour in a Waffen SS uniform. Another journalist, Dominique Jamet, apparently not seeing any problem comparing a Jew to a Nazi, said that Zemmour reminded him of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. On the internet, death threats against Zemmour multiplied. Some posted the times Zemmour takes the subway, what stations, and suggested that someone push him under a train.

The French government officially filed a complaint against Zemmour for “public insults” and “public provocation to discrimination, hatred or violence”. The investigation was handed over to the police. Someone in France accused of “public provocation to discrimination, hatred or violence” can face a sentence of one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($50,000).

Whoever reads the text of Zemmour’s speech on September 28 can see that the speech does not incite discrimination, hatred or violence, and does not make a single racist statement: Islam is not a race, it is a religion.

Zemmour’s speech describes a situation already discussed by various writers. Zemmour is not the first to say that the no-go zones are dangerous areas the police can no longer enter, or that they are under the control of radical imams and Muslim gangs who assault and drive out non-Muslims. Zemmour is not the only writer to describe the consequences of the mass-immigration of Muslims who do not integrate into French society. The pollster Jerome Fourquet, in his recent book, The French Archipelago, points out that France today is a country where Muslims and non-Muslims live in separate societies “hostile to each other”. Fourquet also emphasizes that a growing number of Muslims living in France say they want to live according sharia law and place sharia law above French law. Fourquet notes that 26% of French Muslims born in France want to obey only Sharia; for French Muslims born abroad, the figure rises to 46%. Zemmour merely added that what was happening is a “colonization”.

Zemmour had been hauled into court many times in the recent past and has had to pay heavy fines. On September 19, he was fined 3,000 euros ($3,300) for “incitement to racial hatred” and “incitement to discrimination”, for having said in 2015 that “in countless French suburbs where many young girls are veiled, a struggle to Islamize territories is taking place”.

In a society where freedom of speech exists, it would be possible to discuss the use of these statements, but in France today, freedom of speech has been almost completely destroyed.

Writers other than Zemmour have been hauled into court and totally excluded from all media, simply for describing reality. In 2017, the great historian Georges Bensoussan published a book, A Submissive France, as alarming as what Zemmour said a few days ago. Bensoussan, in an interview, quoted an Algerian sociologist, Smaïn Laacher, who had said that “in Arab families, children suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk”. Laacher was never indicted. Bensoussan, however, had to go to criminal court. Although he was acquitted, he was fired by the Paris Holocaust Memorial, which until then had employed him.

In 2011, another author, Renaud Camus, published a book, The Great Replacement. In it, he talked about the decline of Western culture in France and its gradual replacement by Islamic culture. He also noted the growing presence in France of a Muslim population that refuses to integrate, and added that demographic studies show a birth rate higher in Muslim families than in non-Muslim ones.

Immediately, commentators in the media accused Camus of “anti-Muslim racism” and called him a “conspiracy theorist”. His demographic studies were omitted. He had never mentioned either race or ethnicity, yet was nonetheless described as a defender of “white supremacism” and instantly excluded from radio and television. He can no longer publish anything in a French newspaper or magazine. In fact, he has no publisher at all anymore; he has to self-publish. In debates in France, he is referred to as a “racist extremist,” and credited with saying things he never said. He is then denied the possibility of answering.

The difference between Eric Zemmour and Georges Bensoussan or Renaud Camus is that Zemmour had published books that became best sellers before he talked explicitly about the Islamization of France.

Those who have destroyed the careers of other writers for stating unfashionable facts have been doing their best to condemn Zemmour to the same fate. So far, they have not succeeded, so they have now decided to launch a major offensive against him. What they clearly want his personal destruction.

Zemmour is not only risking a professional ban; like many other writers being silenced by an intolerant “lynch mob”, he is risking his life.

Almost no one shows any interest in defending him, just as no one defended Georges Bensoussan or Renaud Camus. Defending someone accused of being a “racist” implies the risk of being accused of being a “racist” too. Intellectual terror now reigns in France.

A few days ago, the writer and philosopher Alain Finkielkraut said that suggesting that “Islamophobia is the equivalent of yesterday’s anti-Semitism” is scandalous. He said that “Muslims do not risk extermination” and that no one should “deny that today’s anti-Semitism is Arab Muslim anti-Semitism.” He added that France is moving from a “muzzled press to a muzzling press that destroys free speech”.

France, wrote Ghislain Benhessa, a professor at the University of Strasbourg, is no longer a democratic country and gradually become something very different:

“Our democratic model which was based on the free expression of opinions and the confrontation of ideas is giving way to something else … Relentless moral condemnations infect the debates and dissenting opinions are constantly deemed ‘nauseating’, ‘dangerous’, ‘deviant’ or ‘retrograde’, and therefore the elements of language repeated ad nauseam by official communicators will soon be the last words deemed acceptable. Lawsuits, charges of indignity and proclamations of openness are about to give birth to the evil twin of openness: a closed society.”

On October 3, five days after Zemmour’s speech, four police employees were murdered in Paris police headquarters by a man who had converted to Islam. The murderer, Mickaël Harpon, had gone every week to a mosque where an imam, who lives in a no-go zone ten miles north of Paris, made radical remarks. Harpon had been working at police headquarters for 16 years. He had recently shared on social networks a video showing an imam calling for jihad, and saying that “the most important thing for a Muslim is to die as a Muslim”.

Harpon’s colleagues said that he had been delighted by the 2015 jihadist attacks in France in 2015, and said they had reported “signs of radicalization” to no avail. The government’s first reaction had been to say that the murderer was “mentally disturbed” and that the attack had no connection with Islam. French Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner simply stated that there had been “administrative dysfunctions,” and acknowledged that the killer had access to files classified “secret”.

A month before that, on September 2, an Afghan man who had the status in France of a political refugee, slit the throat of a young man and injured several other people in a street in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon. He announced that the fault of those he killed or injured was that they did “not read the Koran”. The police immediately stated that he was mentally ill and that his attack had nothing to do with Islam.

Soon in France, no one will dare to say that any attack openly inspired by Islam has any connection with Islam.

Today, there are more than 600 no-go zones in France. Every year, hundreds of thousands immigrants coming mainly from Muslim countries, settle in France and add to the country’s Muslim population. Most of those who preceded them have not integrated.

Since January 2012, more than 260 people in France have been murdered in terrorist attacks, and more than a thousand wounded. The numbers may increase in the coming months. The authorities will still call the attackers “mentally ill”.

The Fabulous Fifties

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment,.
The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
The older lady said that she was right our generation didn’t have the “green thing” in its day. The older lady went on toexplain: Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day. Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.
But, too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then. We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.
Back then we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.
Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.
In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.
When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.
We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.”
We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off… Especially from a tattooed, multiple pierced smartass who can’t make change without the cash register telling them how much.

Neurodiversity is Next Talent Opportunity for the Digital Workplace

We all carry with us a wealth of life experience, a kind of book of stories, which we consult to make sense of the world. Our identity (gender, race, age, origin), neurological differences, our studies, and our experiences influence the content of that book directly and, therefore, the way we reason.

Neurodiversity is the word term that describes those neurological differences. The books of neurodiverse people contain unique information that makes them see the world from a different perspective. It is manifested in conditions such as autism, ADHD or dyslexia.

In the digital workplace and specifically in the tech industry, we need to solve complex problems, constantly innovate and think creatively to face our next cybersecurity or artificial intelligence (AI) challenge. We need more people who reason differently because this is the way to come up with new ideas and overcome biases. Neurodiverse colleagues provide a unique set of skills. Unfortunately, as was the case with my conversation with Alex, the emphasis is usually on their challenges. It’s time to change this; let’s talk about the unique contributions they can make.

The competitive advantage of neurodiversity

Looking into it from a general perspective, neurodiverse people are gifted in some skills that are essential in the digital age, for example:

  • Autistic brains are said to be highly creative with exceptional concentration, logic, imagination and visual thought. They also tend to be systematic, meticulous and detailed. Besides, they share unique insights and perspectives in problem-solving.
  • ADHD people also have great imagination and score higher on creativity tests than non-ADHD people. ADHD people can hyperfocus, which means that while they generally have an attention deficit, they do have a high focus on their area of interest. For example, it takes them less effort to play videogames.
  • Dyslexic people have demonstrated the ability to think outside the box: 84% of dyslexic people are above average in reasoning, understanding patterns, evaluating possibilities and making decisions. Their competencies are invaluable when it comes to viewing aspects from a broader perspective and assessing situations from multiple views.

These conditions also bring an added value to the digital workplace. While most of us are easily distracted by constant digital interruptions (emails, instant messages, notifications), neurodiverse brains are better at maintaining focus on a task. They are also, in general, more keen on holding on routine tasks, which can also be very valuable in our environment where we tend to jump from one assignment to the next too quickly. Those traits make those people with such brains a very productive workforce.

I have talked with such people about their capabilities and how those unique gifts are not only invisible, but often obscured by a misperception by other colleagues who expect another kind of interaction via email. This could result in a loss of productivity and capabilities. How can organizations attract and retain this untapped talent instead?

Empowering neurodiversity in the digital workplace

A recent study of neurodiversity in the workforce gives us guidance on how to support these workers:

1. A flexible workplace so that each person can play to their strengths. Neurodiverse people have special needs that have to be addressed to boost their productivity. Autistic employees may need specific equipment, such as headphones to reduce auditory overstimulation. ADHD people may also require minor adjustments to their work environment in terms of having quiet places to work and flexibility in their work schedules. Standard good practices, such as a written agenda and minutes for meetings, would also support them.

2. Train managers to recognize, facilitate and support strengths to achieve greater organizational and individual productivity. Plan unconscious bias and awareness campaigns for colleagues to help them understand how to work better together. For example, better awareness around dyslexia would help staff understand how to improve email communication with colleagues.

3. Reconsider the interview process. Ambiguous and too broad questions are a disadvantage for neurodiverse talent and can discard great employees. It is much more appropriate to give them a task to perform. Not all the roles may be optimal for people on the neurodiverse spectrum, but in our digital age, with new careers in data and in IT, there are more and more opportunities where their skills are needed.

4. Other ways to empower these workers is through advocacy and policy. It is a good idea to set up employee groups. Role models, like Richard Branson, who is open about his dyslexia, are needed. This way, neurodiverse people may be more comfortable sharing their perspectives and feel confident that the organization will not look down on them.

While these approaches are similar to other diversity programmes, they are still not as common as, for example, gender initiatives. Fortunately, some of the big IT corporations are taking the lead in attracting neurodiverse talent: Microsoft has been the first company to sign a global pledge to help people with dyslexia and has an autism hiring programme; SAP also has an Autism at Work programme. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that more and more companies are looking for people on the autism spectrum to grow their AI talent pool. We are just at the beginning of the neurodiversity revolution.

Organizations in the digital age have a talent challenge, and neurodiversity provides a new perspective and an untapped set of skills. With more cognitive diversity in our lives and workplaces, we want organizations to successfully face new challenges and become more creative and competitive.

A Buffer Called Saudi Arabia

Two unconnected “developments” and one “fact” lead me to suggest India should deepen its economic linkages with Saudi Arabia through interlocking cross country investments. The first development is the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas infrastructure. The second is the muscular, albeit irresponsible, anti-Indian diatribe by the Pakistani leadership. They have introduced the nuclear option in their language. The “fact” is the location of a substantial part of our petroleum assets on or offshore our Western coastline. In my view, when seen through a common lens, these three matters reveal a heightened security risk scenario for India but also offer a non-military option for mitigating the consequential outcome. Saudi Arabian investments in India’s petroleum infrastructure and vice versa lie at the core of this option .

Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas infrastructure have been attacked repeatedly over the past several months. On May 12, four oil tankers, two of which belonged to Saudi Arabia were damaged by limpet mines. On May 14, the East-West oil pipeline that runs for 1,200 km across the Arabian peninsula was bombed. On August 17, its supergiant Shaybah oil field was sabotaged. And on September 14, unmanned drones destroyed the Abqaiq oil processing facilities and the giant Khurais oil field. This latter attack took out 5.7 mbd or 60 percent of Saudi Arabia’s production of 9.8mbd. It was the largest disruption of oil supplies ever.

The Abqaiq attack compelled India to contemplate drawing on its strategic reserves and also look for alternative supplies. Fortunately, the supply shortfall was made up quickly and prices that had shot up by 12 percent in the immediate aftermath returned to pre-attack levels within days. India did not suffer greatly from this disruption.

The attack also compelled India to ask questions related to Middle East geopolitics. Is the status quo sustainable? How might the US react? Would they limit their response to the non-violent options of sanctions and cyber attacks? Or would they support a (covert or overt) retaliatory attack on Iranian assets? (The Kharg island facilities would be a proportionate target). India has admitted it has no clear answers to these questions. In fact, it appears, no one does. US President Donald Trump is talking of “maximum pressure” but he has refrained from a military response. Iran has said “no war, no negotiation” but it has signalled that it may be amenable to the resumption of talks.

The attack has also compelled reflection on the state of the security of India’s oil and gas infrastructure. The Saudi assets were ringed by sophisticated US Patriot anti-missile defence systems. Yet, 17 facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais were hit by 25 low flying cruise missiles. What does this say about the sanctity of defence systems against the forces of weaponised artificial intelligence. How vulnerable are our oil and gas assets on the western coast? Specifically, the Mumbai High oil and gas fields, the Jamnagar refinery complex and the LNG regassification terminals in Dahej, Hazira, Dabhol and Cochin. What, if any, are the steps that India should take to tighten security safeguards, given the heightened anti-India rhetoric by Pakistan. And, perhaps most important, what should it do to lengthen the odds of an attack against such facilities?

It is in the context of this last question that I suggest that India should encourage cross country investments with Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan is heavily in debt to Saudi Arabia and it depends hugely on the kingdom’s largesse to avoid economic collapse. Saudi Arabia has consequently considerable leverage over Pakistan and the latter in turn cannot afford to ignore Saudi economic interests when wargaming an offensive strategy against India. Were the Saudis invested in India oil and gas assets, it might deter Pakistan from bringing these assets into their strategic calculus.

In this regard, there are already two initiatives on the anvil. If even one of them is successful, Saudi Arabia would acquire a material stake in this sector. One is the 40 billion dollar joint venture refinery project in Ratnagiri. The partners are Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Indian Oil. This project is currently stalled because of land acquisition and environmental clearance. And as matters stand, it could be years before it sees the light of day. All parties, however, remain committed. The second is the investment by Saudi Aramco in Reliance Industries. Mukesh Ambani has announced that Reliance and Aramco are in discussion about the acquisition of a 20 percent stake by Aramco in these businesses. The commercial logic for Aramco is compelling. It would secure a captive outlet for 5,00,000 barrels of crude oil a day and a foothold in India’s downstream market. For India (as distinct from Reliance), the strategic logic is comparably compelling. It would give Aramco a material stake in the petroleum sector.

There is a third initiative, albeit in the opposite direction that should also be considered. This relates to Saudi Aramco’s planned offering thorough an international public offer (IPO) of up to 5 percent of its shares to the public. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) is driving this initiative. Its success is a matter of great personal importance to him especially since the financing of his economic plan is centred around the revenues raised through the IPO. The IPO may get delayed because of the attacks and the escalating tensions in the region, but when it is finally announced, India should look at it through a financial and strategic lens. The purchase of even a small stake would please MBS and deepen his commitment to prevent Pakistani adventurism.

No one should assume that such cross country investments will provide an iron-clad guarantee. There can be no such assurance. Pakistan’s behaviour is now so influenced by political emotions, domestic pressures, and jingoistic fervour that there is little room for rational logic and dialogue. But as any student of history will know, it does not take much for irresponsible rhetoric to translate into violence. India should consequently pursue any and all ideas that lengthen the odds of such an outcome. A “Saudi buffer” is one such idea.

Sunday Special: Would Impeachment of President Trump Spark Civil War?

Attempts to remove United States President Donald Trump from office are tearing America apart. The president is closer than ever to being impeached, and prominent figures are openly discussing the possibility of “civil war.” On September 24, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced that she was initiating a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump. She accused the president of violating the Constitution, betraying his oath of office, and endangering national security by enlisting a foreign power to tarnish the reputation of a rival.
This impeachment inquiry is set to become contentious.
The impeachment call was prompted after a whistleblower accused President Trump of pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden’s past work for a Ukrainian energy company. Hunter Biden is the son of democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. In 2018, Joe Biden bragged that when he was vice president he threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loans from Ukraine if it did not agree to fire the prosecutor investigating his son’s business dealings.
The New York Times alleges that this whistleblower is a Central Intelligence Agency officer still working for the U.S. government.
In a bid to clear his name, President Trump released the official transcript of his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president. It showed that the whistleblower’s accusations were gross exaggerations.
The transcript reveals that Mr. Trump did not threaten the Ukrainian president. He asked him to investigate the people who were involved in the 2016 election meddling case. “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” said Trump. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine …. I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people, and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you said yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine.”
Later, Mr. Trump stated, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that [Joe] Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that; so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it …. It sounds horrible to me.”
Attorney General William Barr has been traveling the world meeting with foreign intelligence officials about the Obama administration’s illegal surveillance of the Trump presidential campaign in 2016. It seems Democratic Party officials are desperate to avoid being exposed, and so are trying to prove that President Trump also illegally partnered with a foreign government to investigate an American citizen.
More information will undoubtedly come to light in the weeks ahead, but the political scene in America is deeply divided. Democrats will accuse Congressional Republicans of obstructing justice if President Trump is not impeached and Republicans will accuse Congressional Democrats of a coup d’état if he is removed from office.
Responding to a question about evangelical Christians’ response to impeachment moves, Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Dallas, told Fox & Friends on September 29 that it could plunge the nation into civil war.
“Look, I don’t pretend to speak for all evangelicals, but this week, I have been traveling the country and I’ve literally spoken to thousands and thousands of evangelical Christians,” he said. “I have never seen them more angry over any issue than this attempt to illegitimately remove this president from office, overturn the 2016 election, and negate the votes of millions of evangelicals in the process. And they know that the only impeachable offense President Trump has committed was beating Hillary Clinton in 2016. That’s the unpardonable sin for which the Democrats will never forgive him. And I do want to make this prediction this morning: If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a civil war-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal.”
President Trump tweeted Jeffress’s warning on September 29. Even before the current impeachment inquiry, a poll from Rasmussen Reports found that 31 percent of probable U.S. voters surveyed thought “it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years.”
Currently, 225 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives support the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. Since it only takes 218 members of the House of Representatives to impeach a president, Mr. Trump could realistically be impeached by the end of the year if Democrats stand united. He would not have to leave office, however, unless 67 Senators formally convict him of a crime (which is highly unlikely since Republican have 53 seats in the 100-seat Senate).
If Mr. Trump is impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate, he may become the first impeached president in U.S. history to run for (and potentially win) reelection.
Whatever the case, the 2020 U.S. presidential election is set to be extremely divisive. While millions of Americans may now be waking up to the threat this sprawling network of “deep state” departments presents to the nation, their populist revolution does not address the root causes behind the crisis.
If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a civil war-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal.
Corruption and bitter division in America today are leading to a conflict so devastating that the entire country will be laid desolate and its cities will burn with fire.

What Greek philosopher Epicurus teaches us about living in the modern world

Stoicism and Epicurean ideals have been reduced to attitudes about comfort and pleasure.

‘The pursuit of Happiness’ is a famous phrase in a famous document, the United States Declaration of Independence (1776). But few know that its author was inspired by an ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus. Thomas Jefferson considered himself an Epicurean. He probably found the phrase in John Locke, who, like Thomas Hobbes, David Hume and Adam Smith, had also been influenced by Epicurus.

Nowadays, educated English-speaking urbanites might call you an epicure if you complain to a waiter about over-salted soup, and stoical if you don’t. In the popular mind, an epicure fine-tunes pleasure, consuming beautifully, while a stoic lives a life of virtue, pleasure sublimated for good. But this doesn’t do justice to Epicurus, who came closest of all the ancient philosophers to understanding the challenges of modern secular life.

Epicureanism competed with Stoicism to dominate Greek and Roman culture. Born in 341 BCE, only six years after Plato’s death, Epicurus came of age at a good time to achieve influence. He was 18 when Alexander the Great died at the tail end of classical Greece – identified through its collection of independent city-states – and the emergence of the dynastic rule that spread across the Persian Empire. Zeno, who founded Stoicism in Cyprus and later taught it in Athens, lived during the same period. Later, the Roman Stoic Seneca both critiqued Epicurus and quoted him favourably.

Today, these two great contesting philosophies of ancient times have been reduced to attitudes about comfort and pleasure – will you send back the soup or not? That very misunderstanding tells me that Epicurean ideas won, hands down, though bowdlerised, without the full logic of the philosophy. Epicureans were concerned with how people felt. The Stoics focused on a hierarchy of value. If the Stoics had won, stoical would now mean noble and an epicure would be trivial.

Epicureans did focus on seeking pleasure – but they did so much more. They talked as much about reducing pain – and even more about being rational. They were interested in intelligent living, an idea that has evolved in our day to mean knowledgeable consumption. But equating knowing what will make you happiest with knowing the best wine means Epicurus is misunderstood.

The rationality he wedded to democracy relied on science. We now know Epicurus mainly through a poem, De rerum natura, or ‘On the Nature of Things’, a 7,400 line exposition by the Roman philosopher Lucretius, who lived c250 years after Epicurus. The poem was circulated only among a small number of people of letters until it was said to be rediscovered in the 15th century, when it radically challenged Christianity.

Its principles read as astonishingly modern, down to the physics. In six books, Lucretius states that everything is made of invisible particles, space and time are infinite, nature is an endless experiment, human society began as a battle to survive, there is no afterlife, religions are cruel delusions, and the universe has no clear purpose. The world is material – with a smidgen of free will. How should we live? Rationally, by dropping illusion. False ideas largely make us unhappy. If we minimise the pain they cause, we maximise our pleasure.

Secular moderns are so Epicurean that we might not hear this thunderclap. He didn’t stress perfectionism or fine discriminations in pleasure – sending back the soup. He understood what the Buddhists call samsara, the suffering of endless craving. Pleasures are poisoned when we require that they do not end. So, for example, it is natural to enjoy sex, but sex will make you unhappy if you hope to possess your lover for all time.

Epicurus also seems uncannily modern in his attitude to parenting. Children are likely to bring at least as much pain as pleasure, he noted, so you might want to skip it. Modern couples who choose to be ‘child-free’ fit within the largely Epicurean culture we have today. Does it make sense to tell people to pursue their happiness and then expect them to take on decades of responsibility for other humans? Well, maybe, if you seek meaning. Our idea of meaning is something like the virtue embraced by the Stoics, who claimed it would bring you happiness.

Both the Stoics and the Epicureans understood that some good things are better than others. Thus you necessarily run into choices, and the need to forgo one good to protect or gain another. When you make those choices wisely, you’ll be happier. But the Stoics think you’ll be acting in line with a grand plan by a just grand designer, and the Epicureans don’t.

As secular moderns, we pursue short-term happiness and achieve deeper pleasure in work well done. We seek the esteem of peers. It all makes sense in the light of science, which has documented that happiness for most of us arises from social ties – not the perfect rose garden or a closet of haute couture. Epicurus would not only appreciate the science, but was a big fan of friendship.

The Stoics and Epicureans diverge when it comes to politics. Epicurus thought politics brought only frustration. The Stoics believed that you should engage in politics as virtuously as you can. Here in the US where I live, half the country refrains from voting in non-presidential years, which seems Epicurean at heart.

Yet Epicurus was a democrat. In a garden on the outskirts of Athens, he set up a school scandalously open to women and slaves – a practice that his contemporaries saw as proof of his depravity. When Jefferson advocated education for American slaves, he might have had Epicurus in mind.

I imagine Epicurus would see far more consumption than necessary in my own American life and too little self-discipline. Above all, he wanted us to take responsibility for our choices. Here he is in his Letter to Menoeceus:

For it is not drinking bouts and continuous partying and enjoying boys and women, or consuming fish and the other dainties of an extravagant table, which produce the pleasant life, but sober calculation which searches out the reasons for every choice and avoidance and drives out the opinions which are the source of the greatest turmoil for men’s souls.

Do you see the ‘pursuit of happiness’ as a tough research project and kick yourself when you’re glum? You’re Epicurean. We think of the Stoics as tougher, but they provided the comfort of faith. Accept your fate, they said. Epicurus said: It’s a mess. Be smarter than the rest of them. How modern can you get?

Vanilla in the neighbourhood

As Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu headed to the Comoros and other destinations in Africa this week, Delhi might want to add another geography for its diplomatic lexicon — the Vanilla Islands. As India devotes greater attention to the Indian Ocean, many places that have long fallen off Delhi’s political radar are coming into view. The Comoros and the Vanilla Islands, as a collective, are bound to draw ever more interest from Delhi in the years ahead.

A group of exotic island states in the South Western Indian Ocean — The Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Seychelles — joined hands a few years ago to promote tourism to their corner in the Indian Ocean. That many of them grow vanilla — which gives us the popular ice cream flavour — was a good enough reason for calling themselves after it.

Naidu, of course, will have a lot more than vanilla on his mind. As the first senior figure from the Indian leadership to visit the Comoros, Naidu would receive a warm welcome in the island nation. Comoros has been more than eager to step up its engagement with India. Delhi is finally showing up; and there is much to do.

As part of the growing interaction with the island states, Modi met leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on the margins of the UNGA last month. Together they account for more than 40 members. Their large numbers and impact on the voting patterns in the UN and other multilateral forums had always made island states of interest to major powers. Today, a number of other factors lend them additional significance.

Immediate vulnerability to rising sea levels has made island states the most active champions of urgent global action to mitigate climate change. Island states have also taken the lead in developing the concept of “blue economy” focused on sustainable use and development of ocean resources. Modi’s activism on countering climate change and promoting blue economy have made the island states special partners for India.

Many of the island states are also beginning to see themselves as more than specks of land in the vast blue sea. Some of them are calling themselves large “Ocean States”. Rightly so. Thanks to the provisions of the Law of the Sea, the ocean states are entitled to large exclusive economic zones (EEZ). One of the Vanilla Islands, Seychelles for example, has a land area of approximately 455 sq km spread over 115 islands and a population of barely 100,000. But its EEZ is close to 1.3 million sq km.

Naidu would want to build on the multiple lines of connection with the Comoros. The island nation is a founding member of the International Solar Alliance launched by Modi in 2018. It is a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association that Delhi has sought to revive in recent years. The Comoros is also a member of the Arab League that India always had strong ties with and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that India has begun to reach out in recent years. As Delhi appreciates the renewed geopolitical significance of the Comoros, along with the other Vanilla Islands, the vice-president is expected to lay the foundation for sustained strategic cooperation with the Comoros.

In the colonial era, the Vanilla Islands were very much the object of rivalry among the European powers. With all the sea lines of communication between Europe and the Indian Ocean came round Africa and went through the Mozambique channel, the Vanilla islands became attractive way stations.

The Comoros was of special importance as it sits at the northern end of the Mozambique channel and provided a strong base from which to control the channel. France gained the upper hand among the European powers in the Vanilla Islands in the 18th century. The construction of the Suez Canal linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea in the mid 19th century obviated the need for European shipping to go round Africa. This, in turn, reduced the strategic significance of the Vanilla islands.

As African resources become important for Asian powers like China, Japan and India, the SLOCS from Africa’s east coast and the Vanilla islands that straddle them have once again become important. As they appreciate their renewed salience, the islands are looking to develop partnerships with the major powers. As elsewhere in the region, India can contribute significantly to the security and prosperity of the Comoros.

Although India has had strong ties with one of the Vanilla Islands, Mauritius, Delhi has long seen it through the prism of the Indian diaspora. It is only recently that Delhi has begun to pay attention to the strategic dimensions of the relationship with Mauritius. During PM Modi’s first term, the Foreign Office set up a separate Indian Ocean Division with a focus on the island states. It clubbed Maldives and Sri Lanka with Mauritius and Seychelles, but left out the other Vanilla Islands.

To be effective in the south western Indian Ocean, however, Delhi must begin to treat the Vanilla Islands as a single strategic space. It can build on its traditional presence in Mauritius to launch substantive economic and defence cooperation with the littoral. Naidu’s visit to Comoros this week and President Ramnath Kovind’s travel to Madagascar last year are first steps in what could be an exciting Indian journey to the Vanilla Islands.

Turkey Invades Syria: Conflict with Kurds won’t help end the Syrian crisis

In another explosive situation in Syria, Turkish military and allied Syrian rebels have launched a military operation in north-eastern Syria against Kurdish forces there. Ankara’s purported aim is to create a ‘safe zone’ – 32km deep and 480km long on the Syrian side of the border – so that it can relocate up to 2 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey. But this is most likely a cover to flush Kurdish troops out of the area.

As the Turkish defence forces intensify their attacks on Kurdish fighters in Syria, hand wringing has begun among former US security personnel. Their anguish at US abandoning the Kurds has found an outlet in numerous media platforms. It reflects poorly on US media that rarely does one comes journalists who point out that this outcome was a foregone conclusion. If journalists don’t fare well, the many US generals who complain about US President Donald Trump’s decision are no better. After almost three decades of close involvement in West Asian affairs, US experts seem clueless.

Let’s put the current issue in perspective. Turkey is a NATO member and a US ally. For around three decades, this US ally has been battling a Kurdish separatist movement. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K), the separatist group in Turkey, is regarded as a terrorist group by US. Across the border in Syria, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (Y.P.G), the ally abandoned by US, has a close connection to P.K.K. The US, therefore, has as allies two implacable foes. What could the possible outcome be in this situation?

 Turkey views the Kurdish YPG militia in north-eastern Syria as a direct threat and brands them as terrorists associated with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

But the YPG aligned with the US was instrumental in defeating the Islamic State terrorists in Syria. However, on Sunday US President Donald Trump suddenly announced that he was pulling back American troops from Syria, most of whom were supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. This came after a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which was practically a green signal to Ankara to go ahead with its military offensive.

So we are looking at another round of strife in Syria. Plus, if the Kurds are forced to defend themselves against the invading Turkish forces, they will be pulled away from guarding detention centres in the region that house around 12,000 suspected Islamic State terrorists. And if the latter break free in the chaos, it could potentially lead to the resurgence of the Islamic State in Syria. Therefore, it needs to be asked who is Turkey helping here. Its actions certainly won’t help eliminate the last remnants of the Islamic State terrorists in the region. It hasn’t sought any permission from the Syrian government in launching its operation and therefore is in clear violation of international rules. Turkey today is an invading force in Syria and is impinging on Syrian territorial integrity and sovereignty.

To be honest, Turkey was never really bothered by Islamic State terrorists. A few years ago there were even reports that Turkey was buying oil from Daesh. On the other hand, Erdogan’s anti-Kurd politics has worked for him. Therefore, attacking the Syrian Kurds shores up his status as a ‘nationalist’ and provides good distraction from domestic issues likes infirmities in the Turkish economy. Besides, if he can create an area of Turkish influence inside Syria then that would fit well with his grand vision of resurrecting the glory of the Ottoman Empire.

But the Kurds aren’t going to cut and run, and will definitely put up a fight. This is certain to heap more death and destruction on Syria, a country which has already seen much devastation due to the eight-year-long civil war. It’s all very well for Trump to say that regional actors should figure out how to handle the situation. But given what has happened to Syria over much of this decade, the international community must prevent more bloodshed and destruction in that country. Pressure must be brought to bear on Turkey to halt its military offensive and pull back its troops from Syria.

Saturday Special: Is Pornography Harmless?

People are looking at lots of pornography. A recent ranking puts four pornography sites among the top 25 websites in the entire world. The most popular pornography website has more than 3 billion visits per month, more than Instagram, Amazon or Netflix. And the other top sites (like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Bing, Yahoo, Netflix) are also serving enormous amounts of “semi-pornographic” images and videos. Even news sites (including some “conservative” ones) often feature celebrity news on the front page as an excuse to feature sexualized images. A large percentage of advertisements also feature images of partially unclothed women.

Sexually explicit content is so common that some high schools now teach students how to view it in a “healthy” way.

The New York Times reported last year that some students as young as 15 in Massachusetts high schools have been taking “Porn Literacy” classes (“What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn,” Feb. 7, 2018). For two hours a week, over a five-week period, about two dozen students took part in the class, which is “neither anti-porn nor pro-porn,” according to the Boston Public Health Commission. The Times said the class “aims to make them savvier, more critical consumers of porn by examining how gender, sexuality, aggression, consent, race, queer sex, relationship and body images are portrayed … in porn.”

This passes for “education” today. So many young people now view sexual photos and videos so often that some teachers believe they should help students view it more “responsibly.” The thought is: Pornography may have its dangers, but if state education boards are involved, children can be taught to consume it in a “healthy” way.

The Porn Literacy course “is grounded in the reality that most adolescents do see porn,” the Times wrote, and it “takes the approach that teaching them to analyze its messages is far more effective than simply wishing our children could live in a porn-free world.”

Does this defeatist approach, which legitimizes child sexual activity, sound familiar?

In the 1990s, some educators said that so many children in high school (and younger) were having sexual intercourse that schools should distribute birth control to teenagers. The reasoning was, everyone does it, so we will teach them to do it in a “safe” way.

Now we’ve moved on to teaching children how to view porn “responsibly.”

The Times wrote about how porn distributors make it incredibly easy for minors to access porn. “The mainstream websites aren’t verifying your age, and your phone allows you to watch porn away from the scrutinizing eyes of adults. If you still have parental-control filters, you probably have ways around them.”

Children are going to find a way to get to it one way or the other. Parents should accept reality! Incorporate it into high school curriculum. That is the reasoning.

This is unconditional surrender to satanic debauchery!

Parents are not teaching their children about love, marriage and sex. So we are beginning to leave that to pornography and Porn Literacy class.

The Times reported that sex educators have even “created a porn-education website for parents” (emphasis added throughout). One of the website’s primary creators is a feminist producer of pornography. She said, “We have given our children technology, so we need to teach them how to handle it.” She even suggested parents should give their children “healthy porn.” When asked if she took this approach with her own daughters, the feminist responded: “I would recommend good sites to my daughters at age 15, when I think they are mature enough. We are so curious to find out about sex. People have doubts and insecurities about themselves sexually. ‘Is it OK that I like that, or this?’ I think porn can be a good thing to have as an outlet. I’m not scared by explicit sex per se. I’m afraid of the bad values.”

She’s not worried about showing her 15-year-old explicit sex scenes. She’s just concerned about bad values. This reminds me of something Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind: “Intractable good and evil cause infinite distress—like war and sexual repression—which is almost instantly relieved when more flexible values are introduced. One need not feel bad about or uncomfortable with oneself when just a little value adjustment is necessary.”

Professor Bloom noted, why should we admit defeat or feel guilty and ashamed when all we need is a little value adjustment?

Calling Evil Good

In the September 2017 issue of Wired magazine, Sarah Fallon wondered how she should bring up her two sons in a porn-culture. She interviewed author Peggy Orenstein, who is currently “working on a book about boys, masculinity, sex, love—and yes, porn,” Fallon wrote.

Orenstein told Fallon, “The first thing I recognized when I started working on the new book was that the question to ask boys is not whether or if they watch porn. The question is, when was the first time they saw it?”

Their conversation bounced between the pros and cons of pornography and eventually ended with this comment from Orenstein: “The biggest surprise for me as a parent has been how hard we now have to work to protect our kids’ imaginations from predatory, addictive websites that want to sell things to them—or sell them to advertisers. So you have to lay the groundwork, to have conversations about what’s real and what’s not. Talk about how, when you see a movie, there’s violence, but that violence is totally unrealistic. Porn is really only the extreme end of an issue. We know these things are fake, that’s not the way the two people really interact. Kids have to be able to contextualize, to deconstruct it. Just like they need to do with other forms of media.

“The best advice the so-called authorities can offer parents is to accept that your children will see pornography. Just make sure they understand it is the extreme and is not real life. It’s just like watching any action movie. There may even be some benefits from it, too.”

“The best advice” is to “accept that your children will see pornography”! Just make sure they understand it and guide them to its “benefits.”

There are zero benefits and huge consequences for boys and young men who consume addictive pornographic filth that reduces women to objects, weakens the will of men, robs them of true masculinity, destroys marriages and families, and gives children a twisted and perverted view of purposes for marriage and sex.

Who is even sounding the alarm anymore about the great damage caused by pornography? When the Atlantic’s Matt Kessler wrote about pornography in December 2017, he was alarmed by the negative impact of streaming billions of porn videos. Not the direct destructive effects on millions of minds, but the indirect destructive effects on the environment.

Pornography is the most popular content on the Internet and the Atlantic’s main concern is about its impact on carbon footprints and climate change!

No one seems to care about how this avalanche of filth is destroying our marriages and our children! An appalling 36 percent of Americans now believe that pornography is moral. We think we can redefine the traditional family and biblical morality and avoid the dreadful consequences of sin. But there is cause and effect. And the effects of our sinful living are there for everyone with eyes to see.

Human nature desperately wants to be good, which is why we are making so many “value adjustments” in the last days. The secular history offers a thunderous warning for our day. Historian Edward Gibbon said that the root cause for the collapse of the Roman Empire was their loss of civic virtue and individual morality. Gibbon believed the laws of morality were as constant as the laws of mathematics and physics. Most people believe that our societies are too sophisticated, modern and enlightened to collapse under the weight of and immorality.

But we would do well to heed the warnings of the past. It is often said, if we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately, the only thing we seem to learn from history is that we never seem to learn from it. We are fast going the way of Rome and Sodom.

Singapore’s Innovative Water Management Plan

Every day after his morning run, Adam Reutens-Tan washes under a half-full camping shower hooked on the ceiling of his bathroom. The modified shower, which uses just four litres of water, is one of several ways the Reutens-Tans family conserve water as part of a countrywide push to cut Singapore’s daily consumption by 8% by 2030.

The nation currently uses 141 litres per person each day – about enough for two typical eight-minute U.S. showers, according to Harvard University statistics.

Singapore, a steamy, low-lying island city-state, is the fifth most likely country in the world to face extremely high water stress by 2040, according to the U.S.-based World Resources Institute. And it is hardly alone.

U.N. data shows 2 billion people – a quarter of the world’s population – now use water much faster than the planet can replenish natural sources, such as groundwater.

Singapore gets about half of its water from neighbouring Malaysia, according to local water experts, importing supplies from the Johor River under deals dating back to 1927.

But the current import agreement is due to expire in 2061 – and the price Singapore pays for Malaysian water has been a source of friction between the neighbours for years.

Singapore buys river water from Malaysia for 3 sen – less than a tenth of a U.S. cent – per 1,000 gallons, then treats it and sells some of it back to Malaysia’s Johor state at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

Malaysia’s prime minister has called the price Singapore pays to import Malaysian water “ridiculous”.

Earlier this year, leaders from both countries agreed to consider arbitration to end months of political squabbling over the water deal.

Such stresses over water are increasingly common in Asia, where almost half of the population lives in the basins of just 10 rivers – and four of those are expected to dry significantly in the next 50 years, according to think tank China Water Risk.

Singapore ranks fifth among the top 33 countries likely to face extremely high water stress by 2040.

From water supply disputes between countries along the Mekong River to groundwater threats in India and growing scarcity in megacities such as Jakarta and Manila, water is becoming a bigger point of political contention in the region.

“We keep talking about how important (water) is but it is probably an area where the least cooperation is happening,” said Dechen Tsering, Asia-Pacific director at UN Environment.

Find more, use less

Faced with uncertainty about long-term water imports, and with more irregular rainfall linked to climate change, Singapore is now working to supply much of the water it needs at home.

It is doing that through a combination of stringent conservation, re-use and innovative technology.

Since 2006, the Southeast Asian nation – one of the region’s wealthiest – has committed almost half a billion dollars to improving water technologies.

The government has committed $670 million over 15 years to foster water innovation. It also runs ongoing public awareness campaigns on the need to conserve water. They urge people not to use a hose to wash the car, not to leave the tap running when washing dishes, not to keep the shower on while soaping up.

Reutens-Tan and his family have taken the messages to heart. “When we lived in Australia, the house we lived in was really old and the water temperature wasn’t constant,” said the 42-year old, who lives with his wife and two young children in a block of flats in Hougang district. So I got a camp shower and started to use it during the winter and summer – and realised how much water it saves.”

The family limits showers to five minutes, uses a spray bottle instead of a bucket to mop floors, opts for one-pot meals to cut washing up, and uses just one mug of water each when brushing teeth. Their utility bills show they use less than half the Singaporean average.

Singapore’s per person water use has fallen to 141 litres in 2018, with the aim of reaching 130 litres by 2030. “We (Singapore) are nowhere near water independence and heavily reliant on Malaysia,” said Reutens-Tan, whose family attended a water conservation boot camp last month. “It is crucial to be water independent,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “No one should have to rely on someone else for a basic need.”

The ‘Four Taps’

That is essentially Singapore’s aim, as the country pushes forward one of the world’s most ambitious efforts to cut water demand and improve supply.

Singapore currently uses about 1.95 billion litres per day – enough to fill 782 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to national water agency PUB.

Water demand in Singapore is about 430 million gallons per day – enough to fill about 782 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just under half the water goes to households.

But during the next four decades, overall water demand is expected to almost double as the population grows. Since independence over half a century ago, Singapore has recognised the importance of diversifying its water sources.

Today it has a national master-plan focusing on four “national taps”: catching rainfall in reservoirs, recycling water, desalinating water, and imports. Work to shore up supplies began decades ago with a clampdown on littering and a cleanup of rivers and canals, in a nation that once joked the blind could “see” rivers by their smell.

Singapore is home to 200 water companies and more than 25 water research centres. Singapore also invested heavily in underground drainage systems and dams. The tiny country now has 17 reservoirs that collect the rain that falls on two-thirds of its land area.

It is testing smart water meters that use wireless technology and immediately detect excessive usage or leaks. And it invested in five wastewater recycling plants that now provide 40% of Singapore’s water needs – a figure the city-state hopes will rise to 55% by 2060.

Evermore cities worldwide recycle wastewater but whether every drop can be reused depends on the attitude of users, said Cecilia Tortajada, senior research fellow at the Institute of Water Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Singapore currently has 17 reservoirs, five water recycling plants and three desalination plants. While industries may be happy to use recycled water, not everyone is as happy to drink it. To further shore up supplies, Singapore also turns seawater into drinking water.

It opened its first desalination plant in 2005, and now has three, with two more due by 2020. The plants working today can provide up to 30% of Singapore’s water demand, PUB said. Desalination requires lots of energy – one reason it is not more widely used around the world.

But new technologies and greater use of renewable energy mean PUB thinks it can halve its desalination power needs and make sure more of the energy is clean.

Water Independence

Today, the possibility that Singapore could become totally self sufficient and give up imports is no longer unthinkable, said King Wang Poon, director of the Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at Singapore University of Technology and Design.

After independence, Singapore in 1972 drew up and unprecedented national water master-plan. “When we started, we didn’t think it would be possible to do 100%,” he said. “But given that solar (power) is more viable for better desalination, I think there’s a good chance by 2061 we would be 100%,” he said.

The biggest barrier may actually be the low cost of water from Malaysia, said Gabriel Eckstein, president of the International Water Resources Association. “My understanding is that Singapore could already achieve (independence) today,” he said. “It doesn’t make economic sense to become fully self-sufficient at the moment.”

Singapore’s increasingly successful push for water security is, however, unlikely to be repeated in other Asian cities any time soon, said Tortajada of the Institute for Water Policy.

Singapore relies on neighbour Malaysia for half of its water needs, importing fresh supplies from Johor state under an agreement due to expire in 2061. Lack of cash, pollution, corruption and inefficiency all stand in the way, she and other water experts said.

Singapore’s focus on innovation and its flexibility, she said, are key to its progress. “There is a lot of (water) policy innovation in Singapore, which is something you don’t normally see,” she said. And despite its rigourous system of planning, she said Singapore was “not afraid to change the plan. If something doesn’t work, they adapt and modify it.”

By 2060, population growth and economic development could almost double Singapore’s total water demand. In Singapore, Poon added, “water policy has become the thing that all other policies had to bend to”.

Aiming lower

Back at his apartment, Reutens-Tan said Singapore’s initiatives to conserve water were good first steps but PUB, the national water agency, must be more aggressive to hit its conservation targets. To cut daily usage to its aim of 130 litres per person, water experts say Singapore will need to impose even stricter restrictions and higher prices on its nearly 6 million residents.

Reuters-Tan doesn’t think Malaysia would ever turn off the tap – cultural and economic links between the two countries make it unlikely, he said – but he does see climate change and future droughts in the Johor River as a big threat. Malaysia “could, on a whim, decide to just say that they need it for themselves and they wouldn’t be wrong in putting their people first”, he said

To Build a More Inclusive Global Governance India & China Need to Adopt Realistic & Pragmatic Attitudes

As Chinese President Xi Jinping and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi seek to reinforce Sino-Indian ties as they wander among the ancient structures of Mamallapuram. Despite all show of bonhomie, recent events are a reminder that it will take more than a fresh lick of paint to cover cracks in the relationship between the two countries.

Since the Doklam standoff in 2017, the sustained engagement between Xi and Modi has brought Beijing and Delhi closer. More work remains if both sides are to overcome the bilateral “trust deficit” that hampers deeper cooperation. If they can do this, in the long-term, China and India have the potential to help revive global governance and forge a new framework for Asian in hat India’s relationship with China is passing through a difficult moment is not hard to see, even amidst the usual hype that surrounds meetings between leaders of the two countries. The rhetoric about India and China changing the world has always masked the persistent structural problems that hobbled their ties. If managing the relationship with China has become the biggest test for Indian foreign policy, the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping is a good occasion to reflect on the trends in Delhi’s diplomacy towards Beijing.

First is the danger of putting form above substance and betting that the higher the level of engagement, the more significant the results. The novelty of the “informal summit” that dazzled everyone when Modi traveled to Wuhan to spend two days in a relaxed setting with Xi last year has worn off. Like so many other mechanisms before it, the informal summit, too, is proving to be inadequate to cope with the range of structural tensions that have enveloped the bilateral relationship — from Kashmir to trade and multilateral challenges.

Since they sought to normalise relations more than three decades ago, when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi traveled to Beijing, the two sides have experimented with different mechanisms to address the basic differences. They started with a dialogue at the level of foreign secretaries in 1988, elevated it to empowered special representatives in 2003, and most recently, the informal summits. None of these have been able to resolve the boundary dispute, trade deficit and China’s growing support to Pakistan in Islamabad’s contestation with Delhi.

Second, the lack of enough contact at the highest levels is no longer a problem. In the 20th century it was but rare when leaders of India or China traveled to the other country. In the 21st century, the Indian Prime Minister runs often into the PM or President of China and has talks on the margins of such regional and international settings as the East Asia Summit (EAS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the Russia-India-China Forum, BRICS and the G-20. Frequency of talks has not improved the ability to resolve the problems facing the relationship.

Third, the current difficulties between India and China are not due to lack of mutual understanding. The problem is the widening gap in the comprehensive national power of the two Asian giants. China’s aggregate GDP, now at about $14 trillion, is nearly five times larger than that of India, hovering at $2.8 trillion. China’s annual defence spending at $250 billion is four times larger than that of India. More than the size of the spending, China has outpaced India in the much needed modernisation of its armed forces and higher defence organisation.

This power imbalance translates into an unpleasant fact on the diplomatic front. That China is under no pressure to please India. Or, more precisely, it can afford to displease India — whether it is the question of blocking India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or opposing India’s Kashmir move and taking it to the UNSC. That did not change at Wuhan nor will it alter in a big way at Chennai.

Fourth, is the persistent belief in Delhi that current tensions in US-China relations might encourage Beijing to make nice to India. That expectation has turned out to be wrong. The deepening crisis in US-China relations has made little difference to Beijing’s approach to Delhi. The movement has apparently been in the opposite direction

For China, the foremost strategic priority today is to cut a deal with the US. If Xi Jinping can’t fix the problem with President Donald Trump in the next year, he would hope that Trump will be defeated in the elections at the end of 2020 and his potential Democrat successor would be a lot easier to deal with in 2021. That the Chinese priority is the US should not be surprising given the scale and intensity of the stakes involved in Beijing’s ties with Washington.

Delhi’s overestimation of its leverage with Beijing in the triangular relationship with Washington has unfortunately meant India often chose to voluntarily limit its partnership with the US and its allies. That has not led to any strategic appreciation in Beijing of Delhi’s restraint or the need for neutrality in the disputes between India and Pakistan. Viewed strictly in terms of power hierarchy, China’s strategy does look logical — to keep India in play without giving up on any of its positions of concern for India.

Fifth is the long-standing presumption in Delhi that cooperation with China on global issues will create the conditions for ameliorating bilateral contentions. This turned out to be wrong on three counts. India’s support to China on global issues has not led to Beijing’s reciprocation on multilateral issues, such as Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism, of interest to India, nor has it made it easier to resolve bilateral disputes. Worse still, grand-standing on global issues with Beijing may have made India oblivious to China’s rapid regional advance in the Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean.

Finally, if there is one thing that distinguishes Modi’s diplomacy from that of his predecessors, it is the appreciation of power and its centrality in international relations. When he took charge as PM, Modi seemed confident about his ability to arrive at some kind of understanding with the Chinese leadership. His expansive engagement with the Chinese during his tenure as the chief minister of Gujarat had warmed him to China.

Xi and Modi’s move to cultivate closer ties over the past two years has come amidst a turbulent global context. President Donald Trump’s unpredictable “America First” politics has presented challenges for policymakers in Beijing and Delhi, undermining the liberal order that has benefitted both countries. However, the Sino-Indian rapprochement is much more than temporary expediency. It is also a recognition that we live in an increasingly multipolar century, one in which no country can dictate global rules or solve its challenges alone.

Asia will be central to this story. Next year, Asian economies will become larger than the rest of the world combined in PPP terms, for the first time since the 19th century. Not only is Asia growing richer, as it becomes more integrated, it is also coalescing as a constructive force for global governance. While a lack of leadership or consensus hampers badly-needed reform of global institutions, Asia has become the locus for new multilateral initiatives. This is evident in new trade pacts like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as well as new institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In the last five years, much water has flowed under the bridge and has probably convinced Modi of the difficulty of persuading Xi to demonstrate any significant flexibility towards India. Delhi’s new realism makes it possible to approach the challenge of China without sentimentalism or unrealistic expectations. It should also help prepare India to wrestle intelligently with a China that is in a higher weight class.

Recognising the power imbalance with Beijing should liberate Delhi from the prolonged illusions about strategic parity with China and false hopes about building a new global order with it. That, in turn, should help focus India’s effort at Chennai on small and pragmatic steps to narrow differences with China on bilateral issues — especially the boundary dispute, trade deficit and the development of regional infrastructure. Thinking small might offer a long overdue corrective to India’s diplomatic tradition of putting the China relationship in a grandiose framework.

China and India are destined to play pivotal roles in the “Asian century.” Both share interests in promoting a fairer, more inclusive form of globalisation. Together, they constitute 35 per cent of the world’s population and their economies constitute 45 per cent of global growth. Jointly, China and India have the critical mass to galvanise reform of institutions such as the WTO, IMF and UN so that developing countries get more say. A robust Sino-Indian relationship would also be an anchor for regional stability, paving the way for a more integrated, prosperous Asian community.

Recent events in disputed regions reflect the challenges in fulfilling this collective promise. In particular, unresolved border issues and regional politics have left lingering suspicions between the two countries. Turning this trust deficit into a “cooperation dividend” means forging a new paradigm for Sino-Indian relations — one that ringfences thorny issues of contention while cultivating mutual benefits. In particular, there is great scope for deeper cooperation in areas such as economy, connectivity, culture, and environmental protection.

Economically, China and India have huge complementarities given their strengths in manufacturing and services, respectively. IT is another promising area for collaboration — China is a leading investor in AI and quantum communications, while India is a world-leader in software outsourcing and IT consulting. These synergies could be unlocked through deeper cooperation in trade and investment. To this end, China and India should redouble efforts to complete the RCEP. This free trade agreement would not only boost economic ties between China and India; it would also be a gamechanger for integration in Asia.

Connectivity cooperation between China and India would further catalyse this integration process, helping to cut transport costs and spur trade. Delhi retains reservations about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, if carried out in an open, consultative manner, connectivity initiatives by China and India should be seen as complementary, not competing. To enhance trust and facilitate genuine participation by all stakeholders, China should take concrete steps to multilateralise the BRI. The AIIB, of which India is the largest recipient to date, offers a useful model. For example, establishing a BRI International Cooperation Committee would enable active involvement by all countries, including India, if and when it is willing.

Alongside the movement of goods and capital, flows of people are a vital component of Asia’s integration. Inter-Asian tourism and talent flows are booming. However, cultural ties between China and India remain thinner than might be expected. Just a tiny fraction of the millions of Chinese and Indian tourists and students going abroad is between the two countries. More can be done to build friendships between Chinese and Indians, such as improving visa processes and creating programs for talent and academic exchange.

The last area to highlight — arguably the most important for long-term cooperation — is environmental protection. As the most populous countries on earth, joint efforts between China and India will be crucial to tackle environmental challenges like climate change. The destinies of China and India are inextricably linked through a shared atmosphere, water resources, and the Himalayan ecology. Both countries face ecological crises. But together, they can provide new impetus for environmental governance, promoting solutions that balance sustainability and development.

The Xi-Modi summit will no doubt be peppered with references to ancient ties between China and India’s great civilisations. But the two leaders should focus firmly on the future if they are to lay the foundations for a lasting bilateral relationship. Over the coming century, cooperation between China and India can play a crucial role in reviving multilateralism and building a more united Asia. The obstacles which must be overcome to achieve this are truly Himalayan. Yet, the potential gains are even greater.

Weekend Special: Changing Perspective-Conflict Can Be Extremely Effective For Your Workplace

It sounds like an oxymoron, but psychologist and business strategist Liane Davey insists there is such a thing as healthy conflict at work. Fighting at work doesn’t have to be destructive or end in someone going home with a figurative black eye. Instead, office tensions can be a starting point for respectful dialogue, problem-solving and behavioral change that helps teams move closer toward their goals.

I always have to tell people that tension and conflict isn’t the antithesis of teamwork. It’s for the purpose of turning office squabbles into productive sessions.You have conflict in the office because organizations create conflict. We have to make trade-offs between different priorities or when we have to allocate workload or decide who gets a promotion, so there is conflict there. The question is whether it’s above board and healthy and in a way you can get through it, or whether it’s passive-aggressive and kind of burning like a root fire. It’s there. The question is, are you dealing with it effectively?

The conflict at work can be looked at three levels. At the organization level, it’s a good fight if it helps you get through it and get to an outcome that’s good for the business. At the level of the team, it’s a good fight if it strengthens trust among the team members, instead of eroding it. And then personally, it’s a good fight if, at the end of the day, you go home and look yourself in the mirror, and you’re proud of yourself. Those things make a good fight.

Infact, there are components of being involved in a healthy conflict at work that can carry over to your personal life? You see those car commercials wherein fine print it says, “Don’t try this at home.” I would rather say, “Try This at Home.” These things all work really, really well.

I was helping a bunch of insurance executives with how to have a better fight with each other, and one of them needed a lot of help. At the end, he said, “I guess that’s why I’m divorced.” We kind of laughed uncomfortably because the answer is, “Yes, it probably is.” We see some organizations that put teams together to get healthy tension and to make the business decisions better. But we see others trying to put teams together to keep things harmonious because they’re over-enamored with this idea of harmony and engagement.

I would say people are being more deliberate about setting up the teams. The thing I’m worried about are the ones who are setting up the teams to create a bunch of bobbleheads that all kind of go along with one another. That’s dangerous. The textbooks that are now selling are based on this false sense that our workplaces can be uniformly happy. If you go to one of those airport bookstores and look at all the book titles, you see that the most common word in the titles is “happiness.”

We’re beyond our concerns about the yes-man, and we’re into this time where suddenly ‘conflict’ is a dirty word. That’s a big concern for a lot of businesses. I always have to tell people that tension and conflict isn’t the antithesis of teamwork. It’s the purpose of it.

Of course, if you have unhealthy conflict, it’s going to really stifle innovation because people are going to stay in their silos where it’s safe, right? I’m not going to expose my ideas and myself to criticism. You lose a lot of innovation. The other thing you lose is if people begin to fear conflict and think it’s an unhealthy thing, they don’t spot the risks in your plans or assumptions in your plans.

You can find your organization starts to build up some concerns and risks because you aren’t good at conflict. So yes, if you’ve had unhealthy conflict, you put yourself at significant risk because then people just avoid all conflict, and you lose the good with the bad.

One reason we end up with issues in the workplace is that we are conflict-averse. As humans, we’re biologically wired to try to get along with the people in our ‘in’ group, so you didn’t get voted out of the cave and eaten by the saber-toothed tiger. That made a lot of sense. We’re already born slightly conflict-averse.

But then we’re socialized by the grandma who says, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” And we’re told by our teachers to mind our own business. There are just all these messages that come through all the time that make us conflict-averse and don’t help us to understand that conflict is a natural part of healthy relationships.

If you think of the #MeToo movement and things like that, conflict is also a really important defense against unhealthy relationships. If you don’t know how to advocate, if you don’t realize that some things are worth fighting for, then you put everybody at risk.

 There are some tricks to speaking truth to power. One would be to make sure you tie your point to something that matters for the business, so it’s not just that I’m cranky and don’t like this. It’s, “Here’s what we’re trying to achieve this quarter and here’s how I’m not going to be able to achieve that for our customers or for the expense line if it continues this way.” Tying it more to the business performance is key with a boss.

Another thing that’s key with a boss is to use language that’s more questioning and more open. Don’t go in making definitive statements and standing in your power poses when you’re talking with your boss. Instead, you want to say, “What if” or “Would it be possible if?” Use questions so that there’s room for you to pivot if the boss reacts poorly.

Tension and conflict isn’t the antithesis of teamwork. It’s the purpose of it. You want to make sure you’re listening to the pressures on your boss and what they’re trying to communicate with you, that you’re really validating and showing them that you’re hearing them, that you get it. Those sorts of things are important in any conflict. It just has a little twist of being a little bit more strategic when you’re speaking truth to power.

Essentially, if you’re in a fight with your boss, it’s because you’re not meeting her needs at some level. She’s feeling a ton of pressure to deliver the results or whatever, and something in it makes her feel like you’re not hearing her, you’re not delivering for her, you’re not reliable, you’re not capable. That’s what creates a conflict with your boss. It’s still very human. It’s still your boss feeling vulnerable because of your performance.

The problem in the most workplace conflict is that we go on and on fighting about the facts, and conflict in the workplace is never about facts. If it was just about facts, we’d be problem-solving. It’s about our emotions, but more importantly, it’s about what we value and how we experience things, what matters to us.

If you can realize your boss is human, as vulnerable as you, as worried as you, then you’d realize that how you have a conflict with your boss needs to take into account how they’re experiencing the situation just as much as what the right answer is.

You can work through many more of them than you think. We try and back away or postpone a lot of those things because we fear that things are going to get too emotional. I would say our fear of [displaying] emotions in the workplace is too high.

Again, go back to this idea that we’re actually humans in the workplace, so emotions are going to happen. If you fear you’re going to get upset or angry or those sorts of things, you may want to take a break for a few minutes. But even if a few tears start to roll down your face, what you can do is say, “Look, you can see how important this is to me.”

Frame it as, “This is because I’m all in. This is because I’m engaged.” Or even if I start pounding the table and getting angry, it’s a chance to say, “I get carried away with this because it matters so much to me, because I’m so invested.”

Even if there are emotions that come to the fore, it’s better to work through them and get to the other side. If, on the other hand, tears start to well in your eyes and you leave the room, then you have that awkward, horrible moment where you have to come back later and be like, “Sorry.” Better to just say in the moment, “Yep, I’m emotional because this matters and I’m all in.” Even this risk that we’ll get emotional is not a reason to avoid a conflict.

One might ask: What about a situation where you would have two people with very different priorities in the workplace and a level of conflict because of that? My response would be that if we go back to this idea that conflict and tension are a feature, not a bug, I would say that’s a good thing. If you’re sitting at that table and you can see that [two colleagues are] pulling on either ends of a rope, it’s a great situation where you can stop minding your own business and actually say, “Hey, what I’m hearing here is you’re coming at this from the sales perspective, which is, ‘Let’s get as much out the door in this month as we possibly can.’”

[To the other person, you say,] “‘You’re coming at it from the supply chain perspective, and you’re worried about making sure we don’t have to leave a bunch of stuff in the warehouse.’ Those things both seem really valid. What are our options for getting the right amount of stuff out the door without backlogging stuff in the inventory?”

“Conflict is a natural part of healthy relationships.”

If you’re somebody watching those kinds of tensions, what’s happening is the two people stuck in that tug-of-war are interpreting it as friction between them as people. Like, “You’re a jerk! What do you mean you won’t let me hit my sales numbers?” If you can frame it in a way that says, “Look, both of these things are true and both are important. How are we going to solve for this?”

Instead of a tug-of-war dynamic, you create this triangle where there’s a little bit more space to say, “Oh, this isn’t a fight. These are two tensions. The sales and operations tensions will be there until the end of time, and it better be there. It’s good for our businesses.”

You can do a lot of good when there’s a fight on your team that’s seeming a bit like those old Miller Lite ads, where you’re fighting about whether it ‘tastes great’ or it’s ‘less filling.’ You just say, ‘Hang on, guys. It can be both at the same time. What do we do with that?’

 New people get that free pass for a while to ask those awesome, naive questions, which aren’t always quite so naïve and can be really helpful. Because when you come in as a new person, you have that moment where you can be curious, where you don’t know, where you don’t know the baggage, you haven’t been in on the gossip yet.

I would encourage people who are new to stick to great questions, as opposed to making statements. Nobody likes that guy who talks about his past job and tells you all the time about how it was so much better. As a new person, you’re going to use questions to draw people’s attention to different spots.

As the person who is on-boarding a new person, help them understand some of those dynamics, what I call the hidden organization chart. ‘This is what it says on the chart, but here’s who you really need to know. Here are some of the stakeholders. Here are the folks who seem scary, but they’re not. Go make friends with them. Here are the people that don’t seem scary, but they are. Here’s how to get on the right side of them.’ Those kinds of things can be really helpful to the new person to navigate some of those things.

We are in this very unpleasant time where we’re not actually having conflict, we’re staying in our own echo chambers, telling ourselves how smart we are and how right we are, but we’re not engaging with others. There’s no connection, no line of communication between different camps. If that’s what’s going on in your Facebook feed, if that’s what’s happening when you’re tailgating, it just becomes natural that that carries over to the office. We’re pulling apart and just staying with the people who think as we do, and that’s an incredibly negative thing.

“Conflict in the workplace is never about facts. If it was just about facts, we’d be problem-solving. It’s about our emotions.”

The Actual Working of a Smart Factory

Inside a seafood processing facility in Norway, machines, not humans, evaluate the quality of salmon, weigh and grade the fish, and distribute it to the production units. Soon, machines will also calculate the quantity of ice required for transportation of the fish to its destination.

A thousand miles away, at another manufacturing plant in Germany, machines produce millions of Programmable Logic Controls (PLCs) that automate machinery – from ships, automobiles, and farm equipment to entire production centres around the world. The output of customized products manufactured at the plant is 99.99885% defect-free.

In the two examples of the “smart factory” ecosystem described above, the physical infrastructure is powered by information and communications technologies, which draw insights from the data in the landscape.

Automation is powered by insights, which enable the executing of business processes and deliver programmed output with minimal human intervention. Such a cyber-physical environment, founded on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is the very basis of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is bringing “intelligence” to manufacturing.

Lean production

Industry 4.0 transforms how factories operate by creating a conducive environment for Just-In-Time (JIT) practices for production, order management, and shipment. It not only interconnects disparate sub-systems of a shop floor, but also establishes digital links between the assembly line or processing unit, and the product design office, logistics services, supply chain, and stakeholders.

A connected plant manufactures high-quality products in shorter production cycles and addresses customer demand for product variety, as well as minimizing waste across operations. The interplay of sensors, data, and analytics is the catalyst for this revolution.

Sensors

Connected factories track the location of labour, materials, machines, and moveable assets in real time. IIoT digitizes the production environment by integrating the Manufacturing Execution System and Enterprise Resource Planning system with embedded devices and process instruments for real-time communication.

For instance, smart tags can be embedded to transform a spare parts bin at a production facility into an autonomous bin, which digitally records location and content, and communicates when it needs to be replenished.

Self-driving vehicles, geofencing systems for transportation and materials handling, hazard monitoring solutions for industrial safety and security, and remote quality control tools to manage air, water, and product quality depend on sensors and communication technology to function optimally. The network of connected components, sensors, and controllers provide large volumes of useful data in a variety of forms and formats.

Data

Seamless data flow between machines and enterprise systems unify the entire manufacturing process. Big data tools consume data residing anywhere – sometimes even in the environment outside the manufacturing facility – and in structured, unstructured, and semi-structured formats, to provide visibility into the production environment.

It facilitates the enhancement of dynamic manufacturing operations. Smart equipment and Industry 4.0 technology empower manufacturers to defy economies of scale and assemble customized products or handle small-sized production runs, profitably.

Flexible operations and real-time data from human, system-to-system and human communication protocols improve quality and reliability through timely interventions before and during manufacturing.

IIoT leverages data to drive self-organizing production lines. In the case of the autonomous bin, when sensors trigger a replenishment request, data in the order management system responds to the requirement. Synchronization of production schedules and supply chain activities based on real-time data from IoT devices enable just-in-time arrival of materials in the bin.

Cloud computing enables smart factories to generate, process, and store large data sets cost-effectively. The scalable and secure cloud architecture meets requirements of connected ecosystems. However, raw data offers limited benefits. Sophisticated analytical models are needed to monetize big data and predict requirements.

Analytics

The value of IoT transcends automated measuring, sensing, and control of operations. Advanced analytical tools and cognitive models intelligently apply big data to create a responsive and self-healing environment for the factory of tomorrow. Predictive analytical tools harness intelligence from the customer, supplier, equipment, and production data, which can then be acted upon.

Predictive analytics minimizes downtime for retooling equipment and asset maintenance. Simulation prevents failure of new products. Significantly, analytics helps OEMs grow revenue from after-sales services by accurately forecasting the lifespan and maintenance requirements of finished products.

Automated maintenance, ordering, receiving, assembly, shipping, and after-sales services ensure agility, while analytics drives self-optimization. Going back to the example of the autonomous bin, while sensor information and automated order data management enable JIT inventory strategy, analytical frameworks can identify areas for further efficiency and cost reduction – through rearrangement of the sequence in the production line, re-configuring the product that uses the part, or replacement with a more economical component.

Industry 4.0 helps the manufacturing ecosystem to autonomously sense the context, adapt to constraints, and react/organize preemptive action to achieve business goals. The industrial application of the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics will lead to fact-based decision-making that will, in turn, be executed as a matter of routine by automatons.

Even with this digital monitoring of physical processes through sensor-based technologies, people will still drive the future of manufacturing. People, freed from routine by technology, will find ways to direct their new-found productivity into tasks that can only be executed with human imagination and intelligence – like the creation of useful new products that must be manufactured to solve the problems of our times.

Millennials’ Involvement in Government & Burning Man

What do Burning Man, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, and entrepreneurship have in common? They are a few examples of how millennials are pushing innovation and getting involved in government. Around 30% of the world’s population is under the age of 30, yet young people don’t really have a voice in government leadership. Stereotypically, they aren’t supposed to care about government or even have a positive view of it at all, and therefore aren’t represented.

As someone born between the years of 1980-2000, I’m a millennial myself. I have begun to notice this exciting movement among my demographic; we are making changes, and forming new systems and expectations of government.

New forms of government

Burning Man is an event that only exists for two weeks each year. It occupies barren desert in Nevada where there are absolutely no structures or people, then grows to a population of over 75,000.

Burning Man is a great example of young people successfully participating in society and the government of a city. The “Burner” community has thrived, and the gathering has exploded in popularity.

While Burning Man began almost 20 years ago, most of the explosive growth has occurred within the last 10 years and among those aged 33-34 (Reno Gazette Journal). Attendees are strongly encouraged to become familiar with Burning Man’s 10 Principles, which include “radical self-reliance”, “communal effort”, and “leave no trace”. These principles are obviously important in a desert with no resources such as water and electricity, but Burners don’t just follow these recommendations for sheer survival. They also use them as a guide to create a more fulfilling experience of belonging, purpose and self-discovery at the event, as well as in what they call the “default”, or day-to-day, world.

Larry Harvey, cofounder of Burning Man, has a theory about why the event is a success: “…[Burners’] abilities and gifts should and must be shared with others, and merge with the world— and the world will answer to that.” And the world has answered. There were over 50 official local Burn events around the world that further extend the commitment of Burning Man’s 10 principles. Why you should go to burning man

Burning Man is a week-long festival, begun in the late 1980s on Baker Beach in San Francisco. It now takes place in the Nevada desert, not far from Pyramid Lake. The event has evolved around the “Ten Principles” laid out by its co-founder, the late Larry Harvey. Everyone should go to Burning Man—at least once. Participating in an 80,000 person pop-up community, in a harsh and challenging desert environment, where there is nothing to buy and nothing can be left behind, brings out the best and weirdest in people. And best and weirdest are both worth sharing.

The 10 Principles:

Radical Inclusion; Gifting (without expectation of return); Decommodification; Radical Self-reliance; Radical Self-expression; Communal Effort; Civic Responsibility; Leaving No Trace; Participation; and Immediacy of Experience.

Organizing your Burning Man experience is part of the journey. The costumes you wear, the tent or RV you inhabit, the group that you camp with, all define that experience. How well you share those efforts, and how well you work individually and as a team, determine the level of comfort and fun you will have.

It is important for all of us to expand out of our comfort zone in peaceful, interactive ways. Burning Man pushes all of our buttons in this regard. It attracts the weirdest of people, in both the good weird way and the too-weird-to-be-believed way. It surrounds the participant with the wildest art, music, and outfits imaginable. Whatever your interests, you can explore them on the alkaline playa upon which the annual event is staged.

If you’re into athleticism, riding your bike on the playa for hours, amidst the hundreds of art installations, may be the wildest bike ride you have ever taken. If it’s music you love, finding three different dance stages in full swing at sunrise on the desert—with 1,000 people at each one—will change your expectations of what it means to go out dancing. And there is even more music, in tents and on stages everywhere, from bluegrass to EDM, jazz to the Grateful Dead.

If you seek sex, drugs, and surprising relationships, you will find them, too. Your experience at Burning Man will be defined by what you choose to do with your time on the desert floor and what you want to come away with.

But why should you go? Because if you do you, will push yourself to prepare for and experience something completely new, and be changed by it. You cannot go “Wow!” every few minutes, around the clock, for days on end, without coming away with “Why not?” And more of “why not” is what our world needs now. We need tolerance, openness, creativity, and acceptance of the wide variety of people and ideas that circulate today, seeded with inspiration to create the innovations needed for tomorrow.

Think about it. Think of radical inclusion: welcoming strangers into your life, without prerequisites. Think of gifting unconditionally—not just to your family, but to everyone with who you come into contact. Think of stripping your life of nonstop commercial influences, relying on your inner resources, expressing your creativity uninhibitedly (though with respect for the rights of others). Think of cooperating and producing within a community that depends on everyone’s full participation. Consider what it means to truly leave no trace of waste wherever you go, leaving your living space as it was when you found it. And think about how it would feel to overcome the barriers between us right now, rather than waiting for some future that may never come.

Everyone should go to Burning Man at least once—and share what they learn there, unconditionally.

Organization within government

On a local level, the US cities of Houston, Grand Rapids, Philadelphia and Omaha have been early movers in the creation of millennial boards and commissions. This means more young people are aware of these volunteer roles they can fill in their town in order to learn, understand and inform their city councils, mayors, and other departments. Some boards and commissions also work to promote other open positions within the city, making sure to not only to think of diversity in terms of gender and race, but in terms of age, experience and perspective. This builds a more accurate and up-to-date demographic representation in government that creates a new pipeline of people ready to lead.

Communication

Companies like Betches Sup (“You Heard It Here Second”) and The Skimm (“Makes it Easier To Live Smarter”) both focus on sharing political news created and shared in a way that’s easier to digest, oftentimes making it more entertaining and relatable. They deliver customized messages that are delivered and produced by millennials, which is important in capturing and keeping the attention of young people.

For example, Skimm founders have shared a beer with Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the issues that resound with Skimm fans: “NAFTA, the gender pay gap, climate change, President Trump and socks.”

Entrepreneurship

Technology has also proven to be this generation’s way to change government. Millennial founders and CEOs of companies like Uber, Facebook and scooter sharing company Bird have pushed the boundaries of government through innovation. The City of San Francisco is currently having to shape city laws around Bird scooters and their safety. The United States Congress had to work to understand how Facebook operates and its massive influence. The European Union needed to decide how to officially classify Uber (as a taxi service or a digital company) in order to start creating and applying laws. Various levels of authority around the world are creating new policies in response to disruptive young entrepreneurs.

Running, winning, inspiring

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, a 29-year-old from New York City, recently unseated 56-year-old 10-term politician and incumbent Joe Crowley, making her the youngest person to serve in the United States Congress. Vogue magazine wrote: “If Trump is the last gasp of baby boomers, Ocasio-Cortez is the first emphatic cry of the millennial.” Ocasio-Cortez has inspired a new wave of young people to believe that they too can run for office, and possibly win.

Ocasio-Cortes doesn’t just rely on the standard news and policy sites to share her work in government. She actively posts to a combined viewership of millions of followers, largely from the millennial demographic, via Instagram, Twitter and more. She produces a steady stream of video and picture “stories” to share her journey each day. It’s an eye-opening experience to have witnessed her progress from humble beginnings on the campaign trail to the floor of Congress. Ocasio-Cortes will continue to be a major influence to younger generations who value relevant, instantaneous and authentic exchanges on the internet.

Big picture

Government is something that eventually adapts with the times. I look forward to discovering news ways millennials can engage and impact government.

Modi-Xi Mammallapuram Summit: Transforming India-China relations?

Even as the mindscapes of many strategic analysts are deciphering the just-concluded, top-class diplomatic blitzkrieg of PM Modi at “Howdy Modi” with Trump in tow and “the full Jaishankar” in the US, the countdown to another high voltage, high stakes diplomatic encounter has already begun. The world will now be witnessing a grand, media spectacle- the second “informal” summit between Modi and China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping on October 11-12 in Mammallapuram, near Chennai, also a site symbolizing their civilizational, historic linkages. Similar to the first summit held in Wuhan, China on April 27-28 last year, this summit too will be enmeshed with deep, long personal conversations between the two without any pre-scripted agenda and outcomes.

That these two leaders are meeting again in this format-an original, innovative contribution to global diplomatic practice by the two- signals most importantly that both see this informal summitry based purely on personal chemistry as the best diplomatic track to “manage” the bilateral relationship. In Indian eyes, both leaders saw Wuhan as an “opportunity for direct, free and candid exchange of views offered by the Informal Summit and agreed on the utility of holding more such dialogues in the future” as “the forward-looking dialogue raised the level of strategic communication about the perspective, priorities and vision that guide their respective policy choices domestically, regionally and globally.”

Before looking at the transformational possibilities of the Mammallapuram Summit, one must understand the nature of the beast, viz., summit diplomacy- the diplomacy at the highest levels between the heads of states or governments. David Reynolds, the foremost scholar of summitry, calls it essentially “a human drama,” that has the power to shape history, and is predicated on the “great man” philosophy guiding diplomatic summiteers who believe that better personal relations might yield more, better diplomatic benefits. It was Winston Churchill who first coined the term “summit” in 1950 in Edinburgh in the context of the unfolding Cold War wherein summits were an exception, not the rule.

International summitry has had its recent history of spectacular successes and cataclysmic failures revealing its transformative power in the conduct of inter-state relations. One can easily recall the Reagan-Gorbachev summits from 1985 onwards that moved superpower rivalry beyond detente and brought a peaceful end to the Cold war. On the other hand, a dip into diplomatic history also shows how the John F. Kennedy-Khruschev summit in Vienna in 1961 precipitated the Cuban missile crisis and pushed the US into the Vietnam quagmire. In recent times, Donald Trump has brought his own trademark “disruptive” style to both bilateral and multilateral summitry.

The upcoming Modi-Jinping Summit aims to cement the gains of “strategic communication” that flowed from the “reset” pressed at the Wuhan Summit held then in the backdrop of the highly volatile 73-day Doklam standoff in 2017. The PMO statement released immediately after the Summit and detailed accounts by Gautam Bambawale, India’s ambassador to China at the time in many media platforms are the most authoritative pointers of the deliberations at Wuhan. The Wuhan summit constituted “strategic communication” at the highest levels with around 10 hours of conversations between the two leaders on three broad themes: domestic developments and direction of each country; how each country viewed the world and recent global and international developments; and the state of the India-China bilateral relationship. Emerging from the Doklam standoff, both “issued strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication in order to build trust and mutual understanding and enhance predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs.” The Summit led to the much talked about Wuhan spirit embodying the consensus that top leaders have “reset” the direction of the relationship. Another substantive outcome too was the China-India plus model, a forward movement on the BRI that India has objected to since its inception on grounds of violating its sovereignty pointing to CPEC. In fact, alluding to Wuhan Summit creating “a new equilibrium”, Jaishankar has been repeatedly stating that both leaders did markedly agree to “prevent their differences from turning into disputes.” The period following Wuhan saw a better, faster communication that prevented border skirmishes and scores of regular, cordial bilateral meetings of Modi and Jinping at the sidelines of many multilateral events.

The road to the Mammallapuram Summit, however, has already entered choppy waters after the Indian decision to abrogate Article 370 related to Jammu and Kashmir. Besides terming this Indian action as undermining its sovereignty, China went ahead to solidly backing the Pakistani assertions on Kashmir and helping it hold informal consultations in the UN Security Council and mentioning Kashmir in its UN General Assembly address. In fact, this came immediately after Jaishankar’s visit to Beijing in August explaining the Indian decision as entirely an internal matter with “no implication for the external boundaries of India or the LAC with China.” This has now been followed by the very recent Chinese objections to India’s ongoing Him-Vijay military exercises in Arunachal Pradesh. These ruffled weathers have been amply reflected in the lack of official announcement of the Summit itself and the itinerary details in addition to the fact that Jinping will be in India for less than 24 hours unlike the much longer Wuhan Summit.

These differences, however, are symptomatic of the competing, alternative visions of global order each side is aiming to build and strengthen. India is batting for a political and security order in Asia which is multipolar and democratic that is reflected in its support for an open and free Indo-Pacific in total opposition to a unipolar Asia that China desires and sees it as its own manifest destiny. At the same time though, India and China are on the same page in building a global economic order that is more open, pluralist, multipolar and participative.

As the Summit approaches near, Modi is bringing to the table a much new, bolder and empowered version of himself in his dealings with China. The much larger majority in this year’s general elections has added to his appeal as an international interlocutor of credibility and consequence. The public bonhomie between Modi and Trump witnessed by the world at the Houston rally and the bilateral meeting later last month in the US has further strengthened Indian hand in its dealings with other powers including China. India also did away with Chinese apprehensions of Quad and joined the upgraded Foreign Ministers level meeting held in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

China, on the other hand, is coming to the Summit with a relatively “weak” position now. Besides many serious concerns about a domestic economic slowdown, it is in the midst of a full-fledged trade war with the US triggered by President Trump’s America First. This is in addition to the growing consensus in Washington and other alliance capitals that China is a “revisionist” power challenging its hegemony in the Indo-Pacific and beyond and must be resisted comprehensively. Adding to these are the powerful visuals around the globe of the public protests in Hong Kong challenging the grip of the Communist party leadership on the island city. Jinping’s pet dream BRI is also increasingly under review by many participant countries coupled with many other powers like the EU joining hands in rolling out their own alternatives to the BRI.

In this strategic state wherein India and China find themselves, Modi should renew his diplomatic focus and efforts at the Summit at four levels. First, he should seek “early harvest” of the ongoing boundary talks between the Special Representatives coupled with continued “peace and tranquillity” at the LAC as envisioned in the 1993 and 1996 agreements and the Wuhan talks. Secondly, India needs to suggest ways and means to prevent Pakistan from intruding in its relationship with China by sensitizing it to shared concerns of terrorism and its negative consequences for their own bilateral terrain. Thirdly, both need to identify roadmaps to bring in complementarities into play in their bilateral trade to address the burgeoning trade deficit favouring China. Finally, the importance of people to people contacts cannot be emphasised more in creating a better, informed understanding of each other. There are now around 20000 Indian students studying in China which is a positive trend that must be built upon.

Despite being besieged by a host of current irritants and fundamental, strategic divergences, India and China both should see the Mammallapuram Summit as a historic, transformative diplomatic opportunity to move beyond the management of their relationship to “actively reshaping” their civilzational future. As Churchill said on February 14, 1950 on the immense power of summitry, “it is not easy to see how things could be worsened by a parley at the summit.”

Workplace Need Not Be A Darkplace

Last year, an email sent by an employee to her colleagues went viral in social media. She just wrote she needed a break to focus on her mental health. The reason it went viral was her CEO’s reply: “I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this… You are an example to us all.”

But such a response is all too often the exception. More frequently, depression and stress are ignored or stigmatised, not treated as the real illnesses – threats to physical and psychological health and productivity – that they are.

Mental health problems and associated costs are a worldwide issue. But a 2017 WHO report finds that 18% of global depression cases emanate from India. About 57 million people! A 2016 survey of 200,000 professionals in India found that 46% reported suffering extreme stress as a consequence of their work. An Assocham study shows 43% of private sector employees in India are afflicted with mental health issues at work. Adjusted for population size, India ranks first in the incidence of mental disorders, and low- and middle-income countries tend to have the highest incidence.

The cost burden of mental problems is enormous. Depression shows many comorbidities with other diseases, and research indicates that depression leads to other health problems including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A systematic review of studies of work-related stress estimated costs to be as high as $1 trillion per year, with the majority of the expense coming from lost productivity, not direct health costs. We believe that learning and talking about mental health issues at work is a necessary first step to improving mental health in the workplace, and by extension, curbing the enormous costs they create.

Typical symptoms of depression amongst working professionals include mood-swings, anxiety, agitation and apathy; insomnia; difficulty in waking up in the morning; lethargy and drowsiness, lack of interest in daily affairs; over-eating, or conversely, loss of appetite, unexplained aches and pains in the body; and increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco.

As clinical depression has risen by around 50% in the last eight years, there has been an increase in other ailments including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disorders.  Major depression increases absenteeism, ‘presenteeism’ (reduced productivity) and has direct medical costs.

Employers should build cultures of physical and mental health in their workplaces through management practices that promote wellbeing. In order to get to a place where managers and employees understand the implications of mental health at work, enterprises should stop treating it as something distinct (and less important) than other forms of illness. They should provide comprehensive mental health coverage as part of their medical benefits, all while working to reduce the stigma.

Yet, in India, till a few months ago, mental illness has always been in the list of exclusions of health insurance policies. The Indian Mental Healthcare Act came into effect only in 2017, which prompted Irda to mandate insurers to offer this as part of the normal health policy in 2018. In contrast, the US had passed a mental health parity law mandating equal medical coverage for mental and physical illness way back in 2008, but big differences in coverage and access remain. One study found that behavioural care was between “4-6 times more likely to be out-of-network than medical or surgical care”, and insurers paid primary care providers 20% more for the same types of care than they paid addiction or mental health specialists.

An important first step is reducing the stigma associated with admitting any sort of mental distress. One board member said that he would vote out a CEO if he admitted to mental illness. An article about depression in the technology industry noted that admitting to depression could harm company perception and would put funding at risk. A second step entails recognising mental problems as “real” diseases like cancer or heart disease. Neuroimaging studies show changes in the physiology of the brain diagnosed with depression.

Ultimately, the best way companies can eliminate the stigma around mental health at work is to just start talking about it. EY, for example, launched a programme called We Care with the goal of educating employees about mental health issues and encouraging them to seek help. The programme is also centred on support for colleagues who may be struggling with it. Many companies are proactively tying up with an external partner to offer Employee Assistance Programmes. Some organisations are training managers regularly to spot symptoms and offer assistance early. And once the lines of communication are open, HR departments can (and should) consider offering benefits that provide more accessible mental healthcare.

Indian organisations can lead on this front by encouraging employees to get trained regularly, giving them frequent breaks, having stress buster sessions, urging them to break large assignments into smaller ones, and ensuring proper work-life balance. That’s probably easier said than done!

Mental illness is enormously costly, yet research advances make the effective treatment of disorders such as anxiety and depression much more possible. Recent research in psychology identified six specific neuro-imaged forms of depression. When treatment was matched to the specific manifestation of the disease – precision medicine applied to mental health – the effectiveness of treatment was substantially enhanced.

For reasons both economic and humane, employers should work to destigmatise mental disorders, increase insurance coverage of treatments and ensure that care uses the best, most recent available evidence. Employers should eliminate the stigma around discussing mental health at work

India’s Extraordinary Growth & Future is a Lesson for Global Leaders

If the 19th century can be characterized by the rise of industrialization and the 20th century by the expansion of the market economy and globalization, the defining characteristics of the 21st century are dramatic and pervasive transformations and a shift from unipolarity towards multipolarity.

Triggered by disruptive technological change, the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has led to fundamental changes in the nature and structure of the economy. With significant redistribution of the level, location and composition of output, our organizations are more global and interconnected than ever. A hastening erosion of trust in extant political frameworks and institutions is driving human societies to be more isolated and divergent. Concurrently, the ecological challenges and climate crisis have never been more existential. In a nutshell, in a fragile world order, the need for a cohesive leadership arrangement to drive positive change is conspicuous in its absence.

At the same time as these grave geopolitical and ecological struggles, escalating trade tensions and policy uncertainty have led to a slowdown in investments and business confidence. With global GDP growth in 2019 downgraded to 3.2% with only a modest recovery projected for the next few years and credibility in the existing multilateral rules-based trade system waning, the prospects are worrisome. In fact, with the increasingly strong probability of global growth falling short by at least 1 percentage point from projections, the magnitude of the decline is comparable to the agonizing global recession of the early 2000s.

By contrast, the economic outlook for South Asia continues to be strong. In the past half-century, emerging and developing economies have significantly enhanced their contribution to global output from around 15% to well above 50%. Underpinned by strong domestic demand, private consumption and investment, a growth projection of 7% suggests South Asia’s resilience and strength to not only weather the global slowdown but also to contribute to propelling global growth forward.

Especially noteworthy is the economic outlook of the region’s largest economy, India. With its GDP growth projected to again increase by 7.5% in the next few years, India continues to be one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies. India’s has been a dramatic rise, deserving of the global attention that it has commanded. The stage is set for India to realize its vision of becoming a $10-trillion economy in the next decade-and-a-half and to assist in appeasing the woes besetting the world economy.

Steered by decisive leadership, India is rising to the occasion through a significantly enlarged global profile. India’s commitment to renewable energy through voluntary and ambitious renewable power capacity targets, a lead role in the Paris Climate Agreement negotiations and the International Solar Alliance shows its aspirations of becoming a leader in environment security and climate change mitigation.

India has also expanded its global stature in space exploration through widely celebrated breakthroughs such as its recent lunar mission and its distinction of becoming the fourth country worldwide to shoot down a low-orbit satellite with a missile. India, too, is more involved in global humanitarian efforts and development initiatives, including infrastructure development in Afghanistan, the International North-South Transport Corridor, the Ashgabat Agreement, the Chabahar port and the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway. The Indian Prime Minister has articulated his strong vision for an India-Africa cooperative interest and India’s deepened participation in coalitions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum and the BRICS group demonstrate its growing global influence and appetite for enhanced visibility on a range of global initiatives and multilateral fora.

With half of its population of working age, India has a unique demographic advantage. Climbing to 52nd spot in this year’s Global Innovation Index, India is one of the few countries to have consecutively improved its rank for nine years. Its distinctive demographic advantage, technical prowess and knack for innovation, fused with the leap-frogging opportunities of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, can consolidate its position as a dominant force in global economic, political and strategic affairs.

Simultaneously aware that the quest for becoming a great power must begin at home, India has undertaken groundbreaking structural reforms mirroring its growth ambitions and development priorities. Initiatives aimed at revamping India’s restrictive business regulations have already borne fruit. India’s 65-place leap in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings demonstrates an improved business climate and expounded investor confidence.

In the past decade, India has witnessed a mushrooming of start-ups, innovating across domains such as digital payments, online retail, education and software. The number of Indian unicorns has also risen every year. Furthermore, in the biggest liberalization to occur in single-brand retail in the past decade, the government has recently permitted retailers to sell goods online to Indian consumers before opening brick-and-mortar stores, significantly expanding the domestic market for global players. In addition, the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax has removed tax barriers across states and unified various central and state tax laws, creating a single common market.

Committed to ensuring that its economic achievements correspond with inclusive development, India has also made big strides in social progress. The expansion of the biometric identification system under the Unique Identification Authority of India has streamlined the delivery of government services and made resource disbursement through welfare programmes more efficient. Devising such a database of more than a billion people is no mean feat. In addition, through the financial inclusion programme Jan Dhan Yojana, it has provided bank accounts for 300 million hitherto unbanked people, creating new opportunities for them to access credit and state subsidies and bringing them into the formal economy.

Initiatives such as the Ayushman Bharat for universal health coverage in India, the world’s largest LED programme to improve energy efficiency, a sweeping rural electrification drive and a strong push towards broad-based energy access and security through the Ujjwala and Saubhagya schemes, among others, show India’s ability to devise and implement a reform agenda that balances global aspirations with critical development imperatives at home.

Looking ahead, India must continue on its journey toward holistic structural reforms that are conducive to boosting the sustainability and resilience of its economy, while also ensuring that the progress reaches a broad base. It is important that India arms itself with modern infrastructure, social services and the connectivity becoming of a developed economy. It must simultaneously create jobs, wealth and value to accommodate the aspirations of a young and upwardly mobile population and to help it eradicate poverty. Policy solutions inspired by a vision of a regenerative, inclusive and sustainable economy will ensure that the milestone of a $10-trillion economy coincides with a stronger India at the global, national and grassroots level, with ameliorated living outcomes for all.

Achieving that scale of change in a country with more than 1.3 billion people who speak dozens of different languages and dialects and have different customs and cultural practices is monumental. But with its geographic and demographic size and extensive diversity, India has a unique opportunity to shape global agendas. It can establish itself as a role model and inspiration for the world through its response to these opportunities, with a resounding impact on our collective future. India can tap its own sphere of influence and emerge as a global leader by providing the world with replicable and scalable models for solutions to critical global challenges.

Pakistan Gained & Lost For Joining War on Terror

Politicians make statements without realizing the implications of such statements. Pakistan Prime Minister is no exception. He makes statements for his domestic consumption, rather than for veracity.  Imran Khan, during his September visit to America, said: “Pakistan, by joining the US after 9/11, committed one of the biggest blunders. 70,000 Pakistanis died in this. Some economists say we lost $150 billion, some say $200 billion. On top of it, we were blamed by the US for not winning in Afghanistan.” He was replying to former US Secretary of Defence James Mattis’s statement that Pakistan was the most dangerous country in the world. Khan said, “They (the insurgent groups) were indoctrinated into fighting foreign occupation [by the Soviet Union] as jihad. But now when the US arrived in Afghanistan, it was supposed to be terrorism”. One may ask: Could Pakistan have stayed out of US-led global campaign after 9/11?

After the Soviet invasion, America thought it could end the rule of the Communist Party in the USSR by cornering the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Muslim “warriors” arrived from all over the Islamic world, funded by the US and Saudi Arabia jointly. And Pakistan was dishing out hospitality and raking in “assistance” for its wobbly economy then.

Prime Minister Khan said he was opposed to Pakistan joining the international war in Afghanistan “from day one”. Yet for General Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan, the Soviets were from “the other side” — against America and its allies, including Pakistan. For him, the Soviet invasion meant entry of India next door as part of its “encirclement” strategy. Pakistan had tasted its last defeat at the hands of India in 1971.

Pakistan was bothered by the Moscow-supported Kabul government that leaned on India to complete the “strategic nutcracker” that would make Pakistan forget Kashmir. The Durand Line was challenged and propaganda unleashed to indoctrinate “unhappy” Pakistani elements in Balochistan and the Tribal Areas. The warriors arriving in Pakistan carried an Islamic consensus of jihad against the “godless” Soviet Union. There was no way an “Islamic” Pakistan could avoid joining the American war against the Soviet Union.

On September 11 2001, the “Islamic warriors”, headed by Osama bin Laden, thought they could also liberate the world from American hegemony that raised Israel above the entire Islamic world through wars the Arabs kept losing. The plot to attack New York was conceived in Karachi by al Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Muhammad; and the 19 warriors chosen were made to meet bin Laden for which they had to travel through Pakistan. But al Qaeda was not only foreign warriors in the long run; a majority of them were finally Afghans and Pakhtuns, many trained by the ISI’s Colonel Imam inside Afghanistan. He was killed by Pakistani Taliban in 2010.

Pakistan could not have wanted it but it was the “host” country where the “warriors” serving America had made their headquarters. Pakistan should have stayed out of what happened after 9/11. But could it really?

UN Security Council resolution 1373, that made it possible to attack the Taliban government in Kabul, was adopted on September 28, 2001 by the Security Council under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. General Musharraf knew what a Chapter 7 resolution meant; it was not like the Security Council resolution on Kashmir that was merely “advisory” because it was under Chapter 6. Had Imran Khan been in power, he couldn’t have defied it. However, there was another “unavoidable” reason.

For an Islamic, worry-beads-in-hand, Imran Khan, the Islamisation of Pakistan would have been irresistible. Pakistan’s jihad was inspired by the founder of al Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam (d. 1989), who also established the Islamic University of Islamabad and brought the concept of “terrorist” jihad into the heart of the Pakistani state.

Sectarianism also came with jihad. Shia leader Allama Ariful Hussaini was murdered in August 1988. Within a fortnight of Hussaini’s murder, President Zia died in an air crash in Bahawalpur amid rumours of Shia involvement in his assassination. The NWFP governor, General Fazle Haq, whom the Shia accused of complicity in the murder of Allama Hussaini, was ambushed and killed in 1991.

Sectarianism affected relations with Iran. In 1998, Pakistan’s anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba, riding together with Taliban, killed eight Iranian “diplomats” inside the Iranian consulate. That brought Iran and India closer; and once again India was threatening Pakistan on the western border.