The unfair weather knell of democratic politics

Water rain - The Myndset Brand StrategyWe are in changing times (once again) and I must say that the picture reminds me of the grey and rainy may day (ie. help!) we are having in London (au Secours #RadioLondres), on this Monday, May 7, 2012.

As of today, we now have:

  • Hollande in France, voted in by 51.7%
  • Samaris of the New Democracy party in Greece with 18.9% vote, introducing  a very new form of democracy
  • Putin of United Russia with 64% of the vote as the returning President in Russia, ushering back in an echo of Russian democracy
  • …not to mention the weekend’s local/regional elections in the UK, Germany and Italy, where the incumbents were regularly whipped or wiped out of office.

A major year for elections

These elections alone have been rather momentous.  And, ahead, there are many more parliamentary and presidential elections to which to look forward including Egypt in end of May, India (in July) and USA (in November)… [You can view the entire list of elections in the world in this Wikipedia entry.]

It was a busy week of voting for me, too.  I voted in the mayoral election in London as well as the Presidential election in France (via “procuration”).  I will also cast my vote in the US elections.

For what purpose?

But, with all these elections, it leads me to pose two questions:

  1. how much do people expect the world to change thanks to politicians?
  2. how much productivity is negatively impacted in a country during the year of elections?
On the first point, I have long been a proponent of the Ayn Rand determinist school of thought, so I would much rather take matters into my own hands, whenever possible.  If you are in business, then I think there is no better state of mind.  I am more likely to believe that democratically elected politicians can negatively impact business, rather than positively.
On the second question, if voters spent their time on constructive debate and pundits (and the media) provided more reasoned and well-researched arguments, perhaps an election would be grounds for real debate and progress.  But, between media airwaves that are spent on unsightly negative political (and personal) attacks, flaring emotions in bar rooms and pubs and vapid political debates, there seems to be too much wasted breath (and time) during political campaigns.

The political cycle

The problem with democratically elected officials is that, by definition, they must over promise to get elected.  Yet, with clockwork predictability, unexpected events occur and plans are derailed.  By mid term, the electorate systematically becomes impatient and sanctions their elected leader, making the last half of the term a lame duck.  The arc of democracy consists of high expectations and dashed hopes.  Would that we all got down to the business of taking responsibility for ourselves rather than waiting for Godot.

Thinking Blogger Awards Meets Blog Day 2007

It’s August 31st, BLOGDAY. Time to discover some new blogs. First, I would be remiss not to recognize Sarah at St Bloggie de Riviere for putting me up for a Thinking Blogger Award (see rules below)* and whose blog is a regular favorite of mine. Having been tagged, and in a kind of mashup with the BlogDay 2007, I am happy to nominate my five winners for blogs with content. I would also like to point out that exactly a week ago, it was Blog’s 8th birthday, courtesy of Blog Herald.

In no particular order:

1/ Opinionated Marketers – a joint effort of three marketers, John Whiteside, Maureen Rogers and Sean Branagan with plenty of wit and steady, interesting content. [Secondary plug for Maureen Roger’s own site: Pink Slip – Book in the making].

2/ Eric Blot – a French entrepreneur, covering a wide range of topics: business, politics, sports and food (of course, he’s French, alors ici on parle français).

3/ Tigerhawk – aside from being another “Atlas Shrugged” fan, Tigerhawk (nom de plume) is an outstanding spot for interesting viewpoints on current events and life in general. Been blogging for 4 years, so lots of material. Despite the Princeton link (I’m a Yalie), always enjoy popping by.

4/ Go Web 2.0 – By Orli Yakuel, this is my most enjoyable and complete source of information on new applications of web 2.0 Wit accompanies a wide-ranging coverage of new applications. Not to forget the comprehensive directory at

5/ Vilhelm Konnander’s weblog – Given my keen interest in Russia, I have found Konnander’s commentary rich in analysis and facts on the area. A Swedish expert on Russian politics (and security), Konnander covers events in Eastern Europe & Central Asia, and regularly sweeps up opinions in the blogosphere on those areas. I recommend his commentary on the Sochi Olympics story.

*Rules for the Thinking Blogger Award:
The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote. 

Ayn Rand and Malcolm Gladwell link (Blink!)

I have long extolled the philosophical writings of Ayn Rand. In the States, in certain circles, her name and writings are typically well known. In Paris, other than my wife (who is a big fan, too), I have yet to find a French person who knows her. Atlas Shrugged (La Révolte d’Atlas) and The Fountainhead (La Source Vive) have been seminal books in my life. Finding an Any Rand in French bookstores is already a major challenge. [Pour mes amis français: Amazon lien pour La Source Vive, mais La Révolte d’Atlas n’est pas disponible sur Amazon! Un forum intéressant entretemps]. Another book I enjoyed, along with the intimate million people was Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Well, just recently I ran(d) into an article (critique) demonstrating the link between Blink and Ayn Rand’s objectivism, citing in particular “The Romantic Manifesto.” And for you Rand fans, here’s a glimpse of a fan club site (altho member signup needed) The Atlastphere.

Odd things adults say – Part 2 of 3

In a continuation of the favorite things kids say, this one is for the odd things adults say. The challenge with this is the cultural context. So, with my Western prejudice, I will limit my thoughts to the Anglo-Franco-American that I am.

  • How are you doing? (that platitudinous greeting, asked with no interest in listening to the answer — I’d prefer ‘How are you being?’)
  • Do you have the time? (As if anyone had any time to spare. When you hear this question from a stranger in the street, don’t you find that you spend a moment trying to determine whether it’s a ploy to ask for money or a legitimate question…)
  • I don’t have the time to… (whatever the person doesn’t have time to do, it is merely a reflection of the person’s choice to be doing something else, like raising kids, procrastinating — part of my Aynrandian ways)
  • How many times do you kiss? (Part of my randy ways? In fact, you don’t ever hear this said before you meet someone… but it might help clear up the confusion when you travel in Europe — when is it 1, 2, 3 or 4 pecks on the cheek(s), or one quickie on the lips like in Russia?)
  • To be honest… (as if the rest of the time, we are not being honest?)
  • Between these four walls… (it seems that there are more frequently than not windows lining one side of the room when someone mentions this ‘secret’)
  • I’d love to be a fly on the wall (about the only time people appreciate flies)
  • That bloody red light… [check Brit accent] (swearing at a red light that clearly doesn’t take an insult personally)

And I’d love to hear some more from you. Bring it on!

My (truly) favorite books

Have you ever been recommended a book where the person starts with, “Boy do I have a book for you, you’ll love it…”? Without even buying or reading the book, I often stop to think what impression the person has of me that would make them recommend it. After reading the recommended book, the statement [about yourself] becomes obviously clearer, if not always accurate. In an effort for better accuracy in your recommendations, I thought it would be appropriate to start with books I have devoured and loved.

And, on this note, I have long maintained my TOP TEN favorite book list. The usual suspects litter the list and, I now confide, my original list was far too “classic” (Anna Karenina, Tale of Two Cities, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe…). I am now feeling some kind of literary maturity and have been garnering a new definition of what are my favorite books–and why. Moreover, any such list should be organic and dynamic, allowing for introspection, if not extrospection.

For a start, there doesn’t have to be ten. There are as many as I can justify. So here goes:

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell 2004. A thriller, if largely through a mountain of syntax, Cloud Atlas is innovative writing combined with a gripping storyline and a vital social message.
Time’s Arrow, by Martin Amis 1991. An exercise in patience well rewarded for this uncanny short novel on a very sensitive subject; with clever underlying messages devolved via the reversal of time, discourse and plot.
First Love, by Ivan Turgenev 1860. Maybe I like this novella more because of a nostalgia (of the time I read the book) than excellence of the book itself, but First Love is captivating prose, even in translation, and has a twist at the end that challenges our initial perceptions.
Dr Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak 1958. A better book than film, even if I love the film, too. This book is one reason why I like to write myself, and certainly contributed to the reason why I wanted to learn Russian.
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand 1943. Aged poorly in terms of writing, but seminal in terms of my own life philosophy. Howard Roark is a model.

The World According to Garp, by John Irving 1978. Best of Irving. Sense of humor, sense of humanity, sense of hope.
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce 1916. Magical lyrical prose. His best work.
Damage, by Josephine Hart 1991. Not well known, but wicked and painfully insightful, written in 1st person for greater guilt. One quote to stir your interest from the protagonist (if not pure agonist):

“Former GP now MP, I thought I was enjoying middle age. But nothing in a life anaesthetized by success, wealth and contentment has prepared me for my encounter with Ann Barton. Femme fatale, innocent catalyst for disaster or instrument of pure evil, she wrenches me into hyper-consciousness with a lethal dose of my own, hitherto hidden, frenziedly addictive medicine.”

What books would you recommend now?

Getting Strung Along… String Theory II

I heard a segment out of a Robin Sharma podcast that struck a chord, as they say. It was about a poem, written in sanskrit, that goes like this:

“Spring has past, summer has gone and winter is here. And The song that I meant to sing has remained unsung. I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument.” And it makes me consider, once again, that we are all, in substance, strings.

Some of you know that I have been pondering what it would be like to create a new religion … from scratch. So, I must admit that I haven’t yet pushed it to the end result, but I do like the concept of creating and building a “religion;” that is, in an environment that allows the freedom to do so. In the end of the day, in line with my personality, I don’t really want to create a religion per se as that’s not part of my gestalt. It is more like I want to create a new philosophy. A philosophy that sets out to answer some unexplainable questions and, possibly, helps guide us in our daily challenge to understand life. And, in this mind of a marketer, it is not unlike the concept of creating a brand . However, I am fundamentally interested in the process as much as the end product.

The Action Plan is as follows:

  • Some groundwork: know your competition. analyze all existing and past religions (to be sure to create a new territory).
  • Formulate thesis
  • Develop comprehensive writings
  • Qualify to anyone reading this that you are not entirely nuts.
  • Consider roll out plan
  • Find accolytes
  • Develop franchise concept
  • Sit back and retire

From the instant I came across the String Theory, I became a profound, if laic, believer. The String Theory — and the light it sheds on who we are [or could be] — goes along with Ayn Rand’s determinism as two pieces of the puzzle that have brought much enlightenment in my life. I’ll need to develop this philosohpy which, perhaps sadly, may only represent an updating of the masterful “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra. Nonetheless, when I get some spare time, I would like to develop further this philosophy, that I shall baptise for the moment as stringism theory. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the issue remains as to what religious instruction we might want to give to our children. As atheists, we (my wife and I) don’t subscribe even to the need of a religion. Nonetheless, religion represents an integral part of history and is an essential part of our culture. As an atheist, how does one pass along a substitute to religion? What strings do you think need to be pulled to provide a spiritual education? I look forward to your comments.

Ayn Rand fan club

Probably not many of us still around who love Ayn Rand, but I believe that her philosophies (determinism, objectivism…) remain appropriate and valid; even if the writing style has aged. The Fountainhead is a delightful novel and Howard Roark’s discipline and relationship with time is still applicable to today’s manic life. Atlas Shrugged is a good read for any of you thinking that your politicians are full of double speak… or even for those of you working in large organizations!

For the serious, you can try: