About minterdial

President and founder of The Myndset Company, Minter Dial is an international professional speaker & consultant on Branding and Digital Strategy, working with top brands such as Samsung, Orange, Kering (Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Puma...), L'Oreal and Remy Cointreau around the globe. Prior to the Myndset, Minter led a 16-year international career with the L'Oréal Group – including 9 different assignments in France, England, USA and Canada. Among his assignments at L'Oreal, Minter was MD worldwide of Redken. He ran the Professional Division for the Canadian subsidiary and in his final position at L'Oreal was a member of the Executive Committee worldwide, in charge of Business Development, eBusiness and Education. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He is author of Futureproof (Pearson Sep 2017) and The Last Ring Home (Myndset Nov 2016), a book and award-winning documentary film.

Sexual Harassment: How To Evaluate And When To Pardon? Is Grace Ever Possible?

With all the mounting accusations of sexual misconduct by men in power, I have had several conversations in different countries — with men and women — that have made me pause. To date, there have been at least 40 well-known men singled out for their transgressions. In light of these headline stories, the three questions I have are:

  • When and how does one (or not) pardon an ethical failure?
  • Are ethics ever universal?
  • How and why do ethics differ from one country to another?

How to gauge the accusations?

To the extent someone commits an act that isn’t illegal, but is ethically questionable, the justice system will not be the arbiter of a punishment or reprieve. How then should society operate? How should one’s friends and family behave? In my opinion, one ought to start by qualifying the different acts. To start, one must evaluate the level of transgression and not to put all acts in the same basket. The range goes from sexism to sexual harassment to sexual aggression/assault up to predatory behavior. None is acceptable, but the scale is important (as any regular corporate training will establish). Secondly, one needs to establish the context, which includes looking at the time/era and cultural environment. Thirdly, for the less serious acts (sexist/sexual harassment), was it one-off or repetitive?

When to pardon an ethical failure?


恕 incorporates the pictogram of a heart at the bottom, and a woman and a mouth at the top. The heart portion has the most significance, as it is suggested that it is the heart’s nature to forgive. In Asian culture, as with most other cultures, forgiveness is an act of benevolence and altruism.

So, if a friend of yours has done something bad, should one: chastise, unfriend and/or delete from the phone book? Or should one try to walk in their shoes and forgive? When and how to decide to pardon someone? It is vastly different if an individual did one single bad action many decades ago when society’s mores were different, but he never repeated; versus someone who repeatedly continued to offend until he was found out. Some more religiously minded people might wish to forgive in all cases. Others carrying around some guilt might feel that they have no right to judge. Others again might feel so self-righteous as to assume the authority to judge all. The concept of forgiveness may be universal, but is it obligatory? In my mind, no one is totally clean. There’s an inherent pretentiousness even to suggest that anyone is holier-than-thou. To sin quite possibly is human. To be imperfect certainly is. Then again, when should there be a line in the ground over which one should know better by oneself, without the instruction of religion, law or friends?

You are as strong as your network

In the cases of these front page-grabbing pull-downs (Kalanick, McClure, Weinstein, Spacey, Rose…), there are two phenomena that made me upset. The fact that their ethical mishaps endured over years is inexcusable, literally. I cannot find it in me to pardon any of them, ever, even if they appear to be legitimately contrite. They unscrupulously took advantage of their position. The time for contrition was after the first offense. The acts were grotesque. The sense of entitlement repulsive. And the sanction should be unequivocally heavy. But, there is a second issue at hand: what about the people who knew (and I don’t mean the victims). I’ve often said that I am as strong as my network. Another way of saying it: your network is a reflection of yourself. When the misbehavior is sustained over years, friends and colleagues obviously were aware. It is my belief that their circle of friends ought to be ashamed, if not shamed. In the case of Charlie Rose, a long-time executive producer, Yvette Vega, admitted “I should have stood up for [the victims who came to me]… I failed. It is crushing. I deeply regret not helping them.” [Washington Post] Many individuals will be wringing their hands now…

For people in power, where the temptations might be great, [tweet_dis]the key is to have a network able to give tough love, and if necessary call you out and make you adjust. #ethics [/tweet_dis]

I am sure that the number of cases coming out will only continue as victims feel emboldened. Certainly, there will be some cases that may be questionable, but the movement is now in full stride. For many men of power out there, I am sure they are cowering with, hopefully, no small amount of guilt. They know they did wrong. I have several men in mind. I bet you do, too.

Cultural and/or universal ethics

Business_ethicsIn the wake of these headline cases, the subject often came up in conversations in my trips overseas. On my recent trip to Russia, a couple of comments caught my attention. “The #metoo movement hasn’t a hope in Russia” and “In Russia, women know the game and have learned to extract value.” In other words, Russians operate in a more blatant macho environment. Can it be that a culture — including its women (and the victims of sexual harassment) — has a justifiably different set of values? Who’s to declare/establish what’s right? When you look at religion, many have a similar set of instructions as the Christian Ten Commandments, including not to kill. Yet, so many wars have been waged under the auspices of religion. It seems that no country, culture, religion or court of law holds a universally acceptable code of ethics, if only because none is able to act the part. Between the numerous priests who have been found guilty of paedophilia, a leading Republican candidate for the Senate Roy Moore or a Democratic senator Al Franken who “stands” for women’s rights (April 2017) only to be called out for sexual harassment aggression (Nov 2017), or the forthright and self-avowed sexual prowess of Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill (Washington Post), we have seen that none can claim to be totally upstanding. All the above cases are American. The way this will play in other countries where sexual mores are different will be interesting to follow. For example, there are European countries like Germany, France, Sweden and Italy that look at nudity, sex and adultery with a different eye; not to mention Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa. Bottom line, it is hard to believe that there can be universal ethics considering the vast array of ethical standards currently in place. But does that then put into question the notion of universal human rights?

Pardon me?

The questions that I pose at the outset of this post about when/how to pardon an individual for his transgressions is one that society needs to address without recourse to religion or the law. As a society, it’s hard to step out and affirm an ‘unpopular’ accusation. We’re programmed, for the most part, not to ruffle feathers, especially when the feathers belong to a prominent person. Yet, each of us carries our ethics at a personal level. If it feels wrong, one should recognize the feeling before doing it. If you see someone close to you acting incorrectly, one should have the courage to call him out for it at the first available moment. Personally, I have absolutely no time for individuals who have been bad for a sustained period of time, no matter their level of repentance. It is particularly grating to see individuals come crawling for forgiveness after they have been called out. But, those yet undetected and cowering have no evident incentive to come clean unless someone else breaks the news.

Ongoing ethical issues

As a German woman friend of mine said, being a young man in society these days has just become more complicated. How will flirting and courting be influenced? 

Will men and women find a suitable path that accepts our more reasonable human foibles?

In any event, we would do well to shore up our ethical backbone as we’re about to enter into a whole new sphere of tricky topics brought around via the slew of new technologies that will create new ethical conundrums. I believe this spotlight on sexual harassment and aggressions will put a new focus on the ethical backbone of current and future business leaders. As I maintain, how you are as a human being — not just as a smart leader — must be taken into consideration in the professional sphere, for example when Boards are considering their CEO.

Your thoughts and reactions?

Listen, I have nothing to tell you…

I was 30 minutes late for meeting the other day and when I got there, my rendez-vous was visibly annoyed. To my great relief, after fumbling through a few poor communication-related excuses, he seemed to get over it and we sat down promptly. He then launched into a barrage of questions. Time flew by. As we had had only one hour booked, at the end of the conversation, he got up, and said, “It was great seeing you. Good luck with everything. Talk soon.”

At this point, looking up at him from my chair, I wanted to ask him a question. And how was he? What was new on his side? What was interesting in his space? How was his family…? He shrugged and muttered something like, “Another time…”

The funny thing is, I felt like I was missing out. Maybe he had more interesting things to tell me that I had had for him?

If Elected, What Emmanuel Macron Might Learn From Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

If Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump are very different in personality, background and politics, I do believe that there are some important similarities between the two men. Let me be absolutely clear, Macron is no Trump. Trump is a genuine populist and maverick. Macron is a highly manufactured independent. However, Macron has managed to get to where he has with a few principles that, I believe, are very similar to Trump’s. And, if elected, Macron would do well to learn from Trump’s first 100 days.

Brand Trump and Brand Macron – birds of a feather?

Macron TrumpI know it sounds a bit provocative, but Trump and Macron do share several common points. At a superficial level, coming into the election, neither Macron nor Trump had ever previously held elected office. Moreover, neither really belonged to a party. Trump only became begrudgingly the Republican candidate. Macron, who split from the Socialist party, for his part will naturally morph his En Marche “movement” into a new political party. But, more importantly, both Trump and Macron absolutely embody their ‘movement.’ There is no feasible replacement. They have both succeeded thus far by creating the cult of the individual. Brand Trump and Brand EM (En Marche = Emmanuel Macron) embody their base. Yet, just as great brands are all about trust, both Trump and Macron [will] have their work cut out in moving from “BIG” words to significant action to create a trusting clientele (in the form of the voting public).

1/ Pragmatism versus a Programme

Andrew_JacksonAs has now been widely covered, Donald Trump is very much in the mold of Andrew Jackson. His politics are being called Jacksonian. He is not an ideologue, but an unabashed pragmatist, which is a common trait for businesspeople. As cited in the right wing National Review, “Not since Richard Nixon have we had a president… less committed, or beholden, to a fixed ideological program.” He’s a pragmatist, believing that he knows how to call the best shot as the situation arises. As such, we’ve seen Trump change course and policy frequently in these first 100 days according to what he believes is best at time of decision making. In large part, this is because he has also found out the realities of what it is to be president of the US.

“I’m like a smart person.” – Donald Trump
[Fox News]*

Macron, for his part, is also labelled as a pragmatist. In an RFI interview, Jean Arthuis, founder of the Centrist Alliance, said that “He is pragmatic, for the free markets, pedagogical and an experimenter” (« Emmanuel Macron est pragmatique, libéral, pédagogue, expérimentateur »). Macron himself said in an RTL interview: “We don’t care about the programme. What counts is the vision.”

It is the left-leaning LeMonde that published the explicit article entitled, “Emmanuel Macron, the man without a programme” (“Emmanuel Macron, l’homme sans programme“). As was noted in that LeMonde article, Macron has pinned his hopes on “winning the centre by betting more on trust [in him] than on his programme” (“L’ancien ministre espère l’emporter au centre en pariant davantage sur la « confiance » que sur des propositions.”) In 1995, Macron himself said to the Journal de Dimanche: “It’s a mistake to believe that a programme is at the heart of an electoral campaign.” In the same interview, he refers to politics as “mystical” and “magical.” Further, he published an article in which he wrote, that “Neither speech nor action can be part of a [political] programme that we’d propose for an election or to which we might hold ourselves in the course of a five-year term.”  (« Le discours comme l’action politique ne peuvent plus s’inscrire dans un programme qu’on proposerait au vote et qu’on appliquerait durant les cinq années du mandat (2). » Of course, both Macron and pre-elected Trump had some stump ideas. However, both would wish to rely on a “make it” as it happens approach and not be held to a list of policies.

The UNINTENDED consequence of a lack of a programme :

Circles of Allies

For Trump, the consequence of having a “pragmatic” approach has been that no one in his own team knows where he stands. For anyone to do a job while reporting into someone, it’s highly destabilising not to know what your boss believes or wants. Moreover, in an attempt to coalesce legislative support, it is difficult for other democratically elected politicians to galvanise support in their own constituency around a leader without a programme. As much as presidents get elected based on their personality and brand image, ongoing voting at the legislative level will tend to be about specific initiatives that are transcribed as being beneficial on a personal and/or local level. In this regard, messaging — or “narrative” as the media savvy people call it — becomes very important. In order for the president’s administration to get through to the outer layers, having a programme and a “party line” serves an important purpose. But if that message is in constant flux, no amount of “spin” will clear things up.

2/ Changing of the guard

Both Trump and Macron share a second common pitch: they say they are the men who will bring in a changing of the guard compared to the old institutional, familiar faces in government. As Trump put it, he wants to “drain the swamp” by removing the cronies. Macron, similarly positions himself as anti-establishment and has pledged to have a government filled with new faces. The types and profiles with whom they surround themselves is/will be, of course, very different. For example, as opposed to Trump, Macron has stated that he wants 50% of his candidates for the legislatives to be women, which de facto means new faces considering that, today, only 15% of those elected in France are women. For Macron, who went to the elitist ENA school, worked for Rothschild and then was Economy Minister for two years in Hollande’s oh-so-institutional government, it is a quantum leap of faith to believe he will be able to do without the rearguard old guard that was responsible for getting him to where he is. Macron is a not a self-made man.


As Trump has experienced, Macron could hit a serious roadblock with such a spring cleaning in that, ultimately, the experience of those cronies is exactly what helps push through (or quash) initiatives. Beyond the elected officials, there are the civil servants and it takes experience and the forging of relationships to know how to move through such labyrinthian networks. When you don’t have them onside, the going can get tough. If Trump finds the bureaucracy too much in the US, Macron’s task will be even more daunting since slightly more than 56% of French GDP goes toward government spending (vs 36% in the US). (Source)

For Trump, in his first 100 days, he has had to backtrack on a number of “bold” initiatives. The installed base of power — including people within his own party — has brought its might to bear. George Ajjan, a Republican strategist, was cited in the Guardian: “[Trump’s] transition team draws heavily on the GOP beltway establishment, which should not surprise anyone, because even Trump needs people who know how to move papers from one desk to another if he’s to ‘Make America Great Again.’ One other thing that Trump does, which I applaud, is to call on people outside of the immediate ring of advisors. “He frequently turns to outside friends and former business colleagues for advice and positive reinforcement.” [Source Reuters] It’s only too easy to get closed off in an ivory tower.

Whereas it may seem like a great idea to bring in new blood, the reality is that the establishment has its purpose. More pertinently, the civil servants know how to block initiatives, especially ones that attempt to remove the ‘institutional’ benefits of the elite block in power. Macron will need to find a fine balance of old and new in his mix, pulling from both the left and right. And, caveat emptor, if Macron goes too far right, in an effort to unwrap the ‘social’ blanket that protects the masses, the raucous crowds will undoubtedly manifest themselves in the streets.

3/ The president to everyone?

As do all newly elected presidents, both Trump and Macron have claimed that they are/will be the president for all its country’s citizens. For the large part, we all know this is hubris. For Macron and Trump, the challenge of getting unity is diametrically opposed. Macron must find a path, torn between two sides. Trump is a right wing populist, far removed from the left. And, yet, they both want to rally the entire country.

broken chain macron trumpTrump has said that he is there to represent all Americans: “This will prove to be a great time in the lives of ALL Americans. We will unite and we will win, win, win!” Macron’s slogan is “France must be an opportunity for all.” Here is where both will face the same problem. It is hard to reconcile the “break-from-the-past” route, eliminating the “institutional” power-brokers to create real change without pissing off a lot of people along the way. If Macron wants to succeed in renovating France (assuming he actually wins on May 7), he will first need to win legislative support, which will be anything other than obvious. Then, even if he were to gain legislative support, it is not to say that he will be able to push through an aggressive agenda. Just like Trump, whose majority in Congress is outright, Macron may find that the locally elected politicians will not agree (sufficiently) with his ongoing pragmatism.


While Macron’s policies and “vision” are different from Trump’s, connected to his more socialist background and the French context, the lessons from Trump’s first 100 days suggest that Macron should quickly address how to get a strong and supportive team behind him. As his movement “En Marche” suggests, Macron will need to create significant and concrete momentum early on in his presidency in order to assuage the naysayers. Trump’s bluster and rapid-fire presidential executive orders fell foul of the system (including the judicial check). For Macron, he will need to find a way to get actions through and implemented quickly while there is positive shine on his star. In my opinion, having a solid and clear programme will be part of that. Knowing how to work with the establishment and the installed civil servants will be also part of that. Otherwise, unexpected events will inevitably occur that will blow the agenda off course, bringing disappointment if not dismay, and an almost predictable mid-term blowback in the next round of legislative elections.

The answer is blowing in the wind….

As obvious as Macron is the better choice for France (vs Le Pen), it is yet hard to see how he will be able to shepherd real change in France given his deep links to François Hollande. Will the winds blow favourably or will the storm clouds drown out the clamour for change?

There will be three key dates to watch out for:

  1. Rendez-vous on May 7 at 8pm CEST to see if Macron is crowned president
  2. The June 11-18 legislative elections will be pivotal. Will Macron get a decisive majority or have to live in cohabitation?
  3. How many new policies will be enacted by October 2017 (i.e. in the first 100 days with the legislative backing)?

If Macron wins on May 7, his real 5-year mission could be to prove that his system — and the ‘establishment’ — is worthy enough to avoid a Le Pen victory at the next turnstyle in 2022.

* http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2016/12/11/exclusive-donald-trump-on-cabinet-picks-transition-process.html]

How To Make A Poster Image That Works? A Look At The 11 French Presidential Election Candidates

Round 1 of the French presidential elections was historic in one regard, in that it saw two non-mainstream candidates — Macron and Le Pen — get through to the final round (May 7). In other regards, however, it just felt like yet another French election campaign and result. And, I wonder if we will not end up with another five years much of the same, regardless. With my marketing eye, I tried to figure out how the marketing messages might have helped or hindered in this first round.

French presidential elections — a question of personality

Above all else, one has to agree that the French presidential elections — with 11 candidates presented at the first round — are all about individual personalities, much more so than the political parties or even their programmes. In a strictly controlled environment where all 11 candidates are supposed to get exactly the same amount of media coverage, it’s inevitably hard for the electorate to really separate out who says what. So, I wanted to take a look at the marketing work done through the candidates’ posters that were constantly displayed together in batches of 11. See here a short description of each of the candidates.

Marketing via the poster

Just by looking at them, is there one that attracts your eye most? Typically, I’d have to believe it’s the bright red Poitou. But is there anything else that strikes you about these 11 (put in the order 1 to 11 that was prescribed by the official draw)? There was one thing that really struck me.

poster french presidential election candidates

Yes, I looked at those who chose to look left or right or straight on and who was consistent in that regard. I also looked at the de rigueur blue tie (or none). But, the big thing for me was that, of the 11, only 3 offered a proper smile. The other 8 have a neutral or stern look. Not exactly winners of the charisma awards. Of course, the Presidency is a serious position to be vying for, but it’s as if the requisite grumpy passport photo (an obligation in France) was used. Only Mélenchon decided to show us that he needs his glasses!

The colour spectrum

In terms of aligning their message with the French tricolour flag, there were two bona fide leftists in red (Trotskyist, anti-capitalist). Three chose a plain white background, but the majority (six) took to the “reassuring” blue background, including the firebrand candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was backed by the Communist Party. Both Le Pen and Dupont-Aignan (Stand Up France) used a left-to-right graduated blue background, moving toward a somber/stormy right. Mélenchon decided to use a cloudy graduated background (bottom-to-top).

poster french presidential election candidates 2

With five of the 11 candidates having presented themselves in the 2012 elections, you would have thought these might have improved with experience. But, in reality, most of these candidates know from the beginning that theirs is a lost cause, just a way to pollute and/or dilute the airwaves for the main candidates. The bottom seven candidates (including the “major” Socialist Party) pulled in a grand total of 15.1% of the first round vote.

Slogans – How effective?

Following the ‘prescribed’ order above in the first image, and maintaining the punctuation, the eleven candidates squared off in an attempt to own a space in a crowded field. Five decided to keep the word France in their slogan. Two of the slogans (The time has come and A historic choice) astonishingly say absolutely nothing. Five of the slogans convey energy or strength. The far left targeted the business/financial world.

poster french presidential election candidates 3

Overall, I was left to feel perplexed by the communication choices and messages. How does one make head or tail or the choices? Clearly the centrist Macron managed to capture the middle road in all aspects. His slogan was an all inclusive: France must be a chance/opportunity for all. It was also the longest.

Running Down The Middle – Please Everyone?

Noting that his movement was called En Marche (aka Move Ahead), Emmanuel Macron who obviously embodies it all, will have a titanesque challenge to rally the country (much less the legislative body) behind him, bridge the hefty cleavages and manage real change without breaking rank with both the right and left that surround him and without whose support he will go nowhere. Is it possible to run down the middle, attempting to placate everyone and yet get something accomplished? Let’s just, first, make sure he gets past the next hurdle on May 7. Then rendez vous in 2022.

Your reactions and predictions?

Fighting the tension between privacy and freedom of speech

Having just spent a week at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin Texas, I heard a number of recurrent themes throughout many of the panels and sessions I attended. Two of the themes struck me as most paradoxical:

  • the right to privacy
  • defense of the freedom of speech (First Amendment)

Managing both ends of the spectrum

Somehow, we must fight for both, knowing that the freedom of speech may invade somebody’s privacy. The stories of Kim Dotcom (the founder of MegaUpload) and Gawker (the news media that revealed the Hulk Hogan sex tapes) are two cases in point. Both were the subject of premieres at SXSW (see below).

freedom of speech sxsw

In the case of Kim Dotcom, he set up a site (Mega Upload) to facilitate online piracy. He was first charged with copyright infringement (and a number of other charges); but in the quest to undo his empire, the NZ authorities (implicitly backed by the US) illegally tapped into his private life. And then wanted to quash him.

Kim Dotcom, Caught in a Web

The absurdities of this “fight” include the flip flop one makes about Kim Dotcom the Pirate, to Kim Dotcom the Crusader (for rights to privacy and freedom of speech…). He goes from villain to victim after the NZ government authorises a military-style operation to arrest him.

The film, Kim Dotcom, will be coming out on Amazon Film as of April 26.

Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press

In this film, the parallel with the Kim Dotcom film were evident: the use of excessive means to close down an “unwanted” element. The nominal topic in this documentary is the privacy of a public figure (Hulk Hogan). The real topic: the use of money by moguls to close down media and the freedom of speech. The funniest moment in the film, however, was the notion that an individual can — in a court of law — seamlessly speak about himself as a character (Hulk Hogan) when he is being interviewed, in order to deflect from his real-life identity (Terry Bollea). And what if Hulk (the character) were to commit a crime (in real life)? I’m sure his response would be: “Whoops, it was just my character Hulk Hogan doing that, not me Bollea!”

The film Nobody Speak will be coming out on Netflix soon enough! Watch this space.

America First, Me Too – Where’s Europe?

Unless you have been living in a cave, you will have noticed that many countries have responded to Donald Trump’s America First pronouncement with a rather tongue-in-cheek Me Second video. It all began with this one from The Netherlands, by the Dutch comedy show called Sunday with Lubach (Zondag met Lubach).

First, one has to laud the speedy reaction of the Dutch team. This was put up 3 days after the inauguration (Jan 20). At time of posting, it has had over 22 million views (in less than 3 weeks). Kudos!

America First, Me Too

Inspired by the Dutch initiative, there have been many copy cat videos coming from (in alphabetical order) Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iran (two versions with the second one making the distinction between Iraq and Iran), Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira Island, Moldova, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Having swept through them all, it’s worth nothing that virtually all of these videos have a minimum of 500,000 views each. A good publicity stint, if nothing else. However, they certainly also do speak to the level of outrage.

There’s even been a more fanciful video made by the ever-welcoming Mars planet.

Where’s Russia?

In one the major ironies, I don’t see a China Second or Russia Second video. Why? Censorship? Or perhaps because they both believe they are first? No doubt, everyone seems to be pulling the sheet cover over themselves.

Where’s Europe?

But, there is something else that struck me about the list (of copy cats) above. Over half of the countries come from Europe. But no one represents Europe. When I wrote about Brexit in the past, I mentioned that the project of Europe is in dire trouble because there is no united vision of Europe. The affiliations are at best national (and regrettably tending toward increasing nationalism). If Europe were strong, we’d have an America First, Europe Second video, no?

It would have to go along the lines:

Here is a quick introduction to Europe. Europe is great. We love history. We love diversity. We love building walls, both physical and imagined….

Sadly, the constituent countries of Europe are so embroiled in their own problems, that no one is taking care of Europe. Any takers out there to do the Europe Second video?

Being Cyrano (Dans La Peau de Cyrano) – A Review

Last night, I attended the world premiere of the English version of a new play, “Being Cyrano.” Originally written in French, the play is entitled “Dans La Peau de Cyrano.” The play is a one-man show, starring Nicolas Devort, who plays 5 very different roles, including the ‘lead,’ Colin, who is a boy entering a new school with a rather daunting challenge.

being cyrano dans la peau de cyrano

What I liked most about this play is that it shows the power of the arts to help in our development. The Maths & Drama teacher at the school decides to put on the play Cyrano de Bergerac and, with parallel stories between actors and characters, plays out how acting and music can be most therapeutic. But the therapy isn’t just for Colin (or Cyrano). It’s for us all. Nicolas Devort spins through the different personalities with a wonderful and distinct set of accents, ticks and manners. The marvel of Nicolas is that he is able to deliver the play in both French and English. An extraordinarily tough act that anyone who is bilingual will understand perfectly.

If you get a chance, check it out. It’s 1h15 in length. Well worth the visit en famille. Here’s the trailer with subtitles en français.

dlpdc-v05 from Marc Kawam on Vimeo.

The show is in Brussels on Tuesday next week (in French). Book here. Then the show moves to Casablanca on the 14th Jan! The show will be coming out in English officially in March 2017. Contact the team directly to find out about dates.

Heroes of the Second World War – Discover Rishi Sharma’s Amazing Project #WWII

Interview with Rishi Sharma

Since mid-October, I have essentially been on tour, launching my new documentary film and book, The Last Ring Home. In case you had not come across it yet, here is the trailer:

I am now back in the saddle and working on the next chapter of the story, including hopefully getting the film on national public television in the US. In the interim, I wanted to bring to you another story that needs to be told. It’s the story of a 19-year-old who is on a magnificent mission.

Rishi Sharma Heroes of WWIIBelow you will find my podcast interview with Rishi Sharma. His ambition is noble and entirely consistent with my own. His mission and project will undoubtedly make a meaningful mark in our world: to capture the stories of the remaining combat heroes of WWII before they all pass.

Below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. I hope you will be equally inspired by Rishi’s commitment and purpose.

To connect with Rishi Sharma:



PS if you’d like to know more about my own film, please head over to TheLastRingHome. I’ll be doing a couple of screenings in Paris over the Christmas holidays (see here for details).

Brexited… Now What Should Europe Do?

Brexit Europe VisionAfter the surprising BREXIT vote by the people of the United Kingdom last Thursday, we have since certainly all been involved in heated debates regarding this topic. Amongst my Parisian friends, the conversation kept coming back to the English. And like in the “Journal du Dimanche”, the first two pages of a dedicated BREXIT segment were entirely focused on the UK — and had more of a punitive tone.

The reactions on the continent have revolved around: the British are going to suffer; they are crazy; they do not understand the consequences; they are racist … But, I think, in these expressions, Europeans are mistaken in their conclusion. It would be better not to act as a jilted lover.

I personally feel more European than French (naturalised citizen). And, I think that Europe has a unique opportunity in this moment and must act resolutely.

Another friend opined that she was scared of what it meant. Here, I want to say that we need to move from fear into action.

In this context, I felt the urge to pen my point of view.

My advice to pro-Europeans: do not focus on the UK and the impact on them. Certainly, the reasons that motivated the vote are distressing; certainly, the UK may see the pound weakened and their economy struggle … but the real issue is:

 What to make of Europe?

brexit chinese-symbol-for-crisisAs the Chinese* would say: in any crisis, there is danger and opportunity. The requirement on the European side is not to draw up the best retribution possible against the Brits, but instead to focus its energies to find its own way and take care of itself. Angela Merkel rightly said: “Do not make fast conclusions about the British decision…”

Europe needs to understand – in a deeper way – why the Brexit vote happened. Sure, it was the 50+ year-old lesser educated English person who voted LEAVE in a bid to restore British sovereignty. But, in reality, the problem is that the British have not found enough reason to belong to Europe. Nicolas Sarkozy, for whatever he may be worth, is right in saying, “The British are gone: it’s their choice. We must now act fast and strong.” (JDD p6).

The risks

The three biggest risks BREXIT poses for Europe are:

  1. A wave of nationalism takes over Europe (e.g. France, Austria, the Netherlands…), driven by fear of immigration and a need to regain lost national pride. We should keep a beady eye on the presidential elections in France and Germany next year. And one should not forget the risk (and the need for a robust response by Europe and the US) of the resurgent near-despotic Russian nationalism.
  2. The European economy does not reboot, leaving an unhealthy level of unemployment, the younger generations in a precarious position and a stagnant intra-European movement of population. Note: the destabilizing effects of a non-harmonized tax system and uncoordinated state expenditures render the Euro currency totally flawed.
  3. That the people in European countries feel increasingly trapped in a Europe in which they do not recognize themselves; and, do not find a net benefit versus the apparent cost. So we’re bound to see other European countries embark on their own EXIT. We are already talking about similar votes in several countries. This all points to the fact that a strong anti-European sentiment existed well before the vote in the UK.

The stakes are high and the risks are real. But, it is important to stress that they existed before the BREXIT vote. In fact, these topics were fully discussed before; but, the 28 members at the table were nowhere near finding a solution, stuck in endemic bureaucracy and consensual decision-making. The problem is that nobody (in Brussels, in particular) has ever felt enough urgency. It’s like running a business with an over-populated Executive Committee. An ExCom of 28 27 people is just unmanageable.

The Opportunities

The opportunities for Europe – or even unintended consequences – are:

  1. To define the vision (aka its NORTH) of Europe, something that could be made easier without the presence and the nit-picky point of view of the English. Firstly, one would have to imagine a future in which Europe has a definite place in the world, and with which members can identify themselves. Secondly, we should agree on the de facto shared values. To date, neither the vision nor the common values are clear.

    brexit ideal europe

    The Ideal House by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, 1770

  2. To address how to mobilize the European economy from the inside – instead of focusing how to repulse or ensnare the new entrants (e.g. Google, Facebook and Alibaba); to encourage entrepreneurship and the free movement of people between countries; and to collaborate on strategic projects (not just Airbus). N.B. High taxation and bureaucracy are not favorable conditions for business.
  3. With a well-defined North, Brussels must be prepared and able to make tough decisions. For example: to clean Europe of members who do not play by the rules. Consensus – as a process – is not friendly with making difficult decisions.
  4. Not forgetting that if Europe acts appropriately, Scotland and Northern Ireland could decide to join the EU …

In the vision of the Europe of tomorrow, there is a need to identify one or more values that are held in common.* This must be an ideal and/or a behavioural trait that is shared de facto by the people living there. Europe needs to take decisive and joint action that demonstrates a clear ambition and that unites. One would need to streamline the decision-making in Brussels to become fleeter of foot. Will there ever be an alignment of tax policies and, even more complicated, over the role of the state (e.g., level of expenditures) within each country?


Although many repudiate the idea, Europe would perhaps need a real orchestral conductor. Is there an appetite on the part of citizens (and their governments) to give up more power and sovereignty to a meta-structure, with a European president? But, even imagining it were accepted, would there be a person up to the task? Angela Merkel would present the best (only?) option.

Many questions and concerns. But these issues should have been debated and resolved much earlier. Now, it’s time to take the bull by the horns.


Brexit or Breaks It

If, as a result of the UK’s decision, Europe undertakes radical changes that will ensure the future of Europe, BREXIT would have had a happy unexpected intention: Europe will have received the necessary kick in the butt to provoke the change. But, if Europe implodes, this would indicate that the UK had good reason to withdraw. Perhaps, the UK’s departure will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but, in my opinion, the proverbial camel was already heavily overloaded.

Either way, I maintain that Brexiting was the right decision, even if the reasoning that underpinned this vote were unfortunate.

As a first (small) act of the new Europe: At the time of Euro 2016, I would propose to create a European team for each sport (not just golf)!

Europe: Now’s the time for us to act together!

* Although the United States are far from exemplary on many points, there exists a common shared value – across the 50 states – a fundamental belief: every individual has the right to build his/her own future. This kind of shared value binds and transcends all the American people. May the EU find its own!


*My friend, Takuya san, pointed out that the ideogram I had originally posted was wrong (it meant “storm wind”). So, I have replaced it with the correct characters! Arigato Takuya san!

PS Here was the post I wrote before the Brexit vote.

Is There A Win-Win Case In The Brexit Vote?

brexit euro 2016Isn’t it ironic that the BREXIT vote is happening in the midst of Euro 2016? With good fortune (or planning?), there are no matches on Thursday 23rd. I am not particularly fond of football, but I feel like such tournaments are the best way to get out our atavistic nationalistic tendencies. May they remain there.

I have lived two-thirds of my life in Europe. I love Europe. I love Europe for its diversity of food and language; for its culture and history; for its proximity; for having the Alps and the Mediterranean; and much more. And, yet for Europe, I believe a BREXIT Leave vote will be best. Here’s why.

BREXIT – Business Angle: Short or Long-Term?

Taking the viewpoint of businesses in the Brexit debate, I have to state that there is little incentive for the UK to bust out of Europe. Businesses in general, and the stock market, in particular, do not like uncertainty. However, those vying to Remain based on financial matters, are doing so with no better assurances than those clamouring to leave. The difference is that the Remain camp is focusing on the negative shorter-term impact, while the other (Leave) camp is more concerned about the longer-term impact.

Brexit Euro 2016

Obviously, no one knows for sure what would happen if Brexit goes through, except to say that it will cause a distinct amount of chaos. We know that there will be a major impact with the mobilisation of resources to reorganise (adjusting the legal and constitutional framework, redefining European political and trade relationships…). Another major thorny issue: what to do with the 3 million EU nationals living, working and/or studying in the UK, or the 2 million UK nationals spread throughout the EU?

Remain = Status Quo

Yet, to remain is to accept the status quo. Things I personally appreciate about the EU include the ability to travel without having to change monies or get visas and/or my passport stamped every time I cross a border. As a French national, I have the opportunity to settle wherever I would wish in Europe. Last but not least: the general peace Europe has enjoyed, regardless of the gross misfortune of the radical Islamic terrorism.

The one thing of which we do have a better understanding is if Europe stays as is, i.e. the UK votes to remain. Pretty much everyone everywhere knows that Europe is sickly. Even in the Remain camp, there are many who agree. What does the future hold with Europe continuing with the status quo?

Europe is ill

Europe is suffering on many layers, not least of which is its economic health. The European economy is systemically handicapped. The list of illnesses range from the systemic to the temporary to the cultural. The list of problems includes (but not limited to):

  1. the lack of fiscal harmony
  2. the hideously bureaucratic (and consensual) decision-making process in Brussels
  3. the lack of a harmonised vision of Europe across the 28 member countries of the EU
  4. the legacy feelings of entitlement
  5. the continuing divisions within the countries (Catalonia in Spain, Flemish in Belgium, Scotland in Britain, and an enormous laundry list of other active separatist or autonomy movements in Europe courtesy of Wikipedia)
  6. the risk of further pollutive immigration from the IS ranks

A chief argument for the Remain camp is that it will be easier to change from within… But, change hasn’t exactly been easy to forge in the past (especially over the first sixteen years since the introduction of the Euro). The UK’s half-wedded status has perhaps not helped them or Europe in this regard. Why will remaining in the EU mean that change will come any faster or better considering the poor record? An EU without the UK may be freer to move in the right direction?

Vote for Radical Change?

My personal opinion underlying my position on the Brexit vote is that Europe needs to find a way to heal, and to do so quickly. I don’t believe gradual change will be good enough. With its highly consensual process, any change has been laborious to push through. Europe needs a real wake-up call to understand that staying as is will be like the proverbial frog in the (gradually) boiling pot. If a Brexit Leave vote will be painful for Europe, it will certainly be more painful for the UK, at least shorter term. But short of a Brexit, I do not see how or why Europe will take the necessary and hard decisions that need to happen to fix it. For this reason,

It won’t be pretty, but it would provide the best chance of forcing Europe’s hand to bring about necessary radical reform. Staying “within” will mean that any such change will come only with major compromises that bring Europe down to its lowest common denominator. Given the obvious stresses that the immigration issue will continue to provoke, much less the continuing slow slide of the European economies, facing off against much more competitive global players, Europe in its current incarnation seems destined to hit the wall.

I thus support Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.