Graveyards as symbol of ethnic conflict

graveyard symbol ethnic conflict

Graveyards have a role of their own in ethnic diverse regions. Remembering the dead in dignity is important, and almost symbolic when it comes to ethnic conflicts.
I have written about the bad state of the Greek-Cypriot graveyards in Northern Cyprus in 2011 and that drew the attention of M. Thorsten Kruse who works at the Institut für Interdisziplinäre Zypern-Studien at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. We exchanged information about the status of cemetaries in Cyprus. It is moving to see that M. Thorsten Kruse, a person with scientific ambitions has taken this heritage on as a subject.
Recently M. Thorsten Kruse has published his findings in his article “Zwischen Politik und Religion – Der Umgang mit den griechischen und muslimischen Grabstätten Zyperns nach der gewaltsamen Teilung der Insel 1974 [Between Politics and Religion – The handling of the Greek and Muslim Cemeteries in Cyprus after the Division of the Island in 1974]” in which he used photographs I made in Northern Cyprus. The article is publiced in this book: A. Berner, J.-M. Henke, A. Lichtenberger, B. Morstadt, A. Riedel (Hg.), Das Mittelmeer und der Tod – Mediterrane Mobilität und Sepulkralkultur, 2016. Please find the book at the publishing house. If you like to contact M. Thorsten Kruse directly, do so as he is willing to answer your questions!
One of the themes in his article is the fact that in the North of Cyprus (the Turkish side), the Greek graveyards may have been destroyed deliberately as they are all in a devastating state. The situation for Turkish cemetaries in the South of Cyprus (the Greek side) is different, he says. This raises questions about why this is the case and M. Thorsten Kruse comes – roughly – to conclusions as I formulated in a blog about the difference in approach of history and heritage between Greeks and Turks. The Turkish Cypriots were making up for a future in the North without the Greek Cypriots, leaving everything in the South behind with little care for Greek Cypriot heritage in the North while the Greek Cypriots were making up for a future where Turkish Cypriots will return and things will go back to the situation as it was before. This fundamental difference would lead to destruction of Greek graveyards in the North but maintenance of Turkish graveyards in the South.
I have to say here that the historic context as approached in this study mainly considers 1974 (when the Turks landed in Cyprus and took hold of the Northern part) as the turning point, while Turkish Cypriots would place that date much earlier (1963). There was destruction of Turkish Cypriot heritage in 1963. It is clear circumstances in Cyprus are very difficult to pursue a scientific study for his subject. Any choice made is not just a scientific choice but also a choice that might be seen as a cultural or political move, the expression of an opinion, a way to choose sides. This makes the job of M. Thorsten Kruse very challenging; however it is a necessary and important job. If you have ideas or funds to realize continuation, do not hesitate to contact him.graveyard symbol ethnic conflict

 

Kedi: movie about cats or humans?

kedi

The camera in the movie Kedi (Turkish for ‘cat’) follows many cats that walk in the streets of Istanbul/Turkey from the point of view these cats have of the city. This offers a great insight in their experiences. Overall in this movie, the camerawork is very special. Istanbul as a city and the inhabitants of Istanbul – especially the cat-loving inhabitants – are shown with warmth and beauty. Just the camerawork in itself makes the movie Kedi worth a visit.
But there is more to say. The core story shows us how cats conquer the people’s hearts. The cats choose who can love and feed them. And the people warmly respond to that wish. It is wonderful to see the different characters of the cats: from a clever thief to the psychopath of the neighbourhood, from the curious cat in the bag of organic tea at the market to the gentleman who never enters the place where he gets his food, but who simply scratches the window outside whenever he is hungry. The humans adapt to the cats; not the opposite. For cat lovers, watching Kedi is heaven!
And there is more to it. For those who love psychology and/or philosophy, Kedi has a lot to offer. People explain their relationships with the cats and come up with surprising remarks about what the cats mean for them: from finding money with the help of a cat to experiencing therapy by helping the cats. And what about these comments on the world:
– ‘cats absorb your redundant energy, just like earth does’
and:
– ‘cats know about God, dogs don’t. Dogs think that humans are God but cats know that humans are an instrument in the hand of God to feed them’.
Just two examples, there are many more.
One last thing I liked a lot and that made me think is a remark made about freedom. I have written about cats in Istanbul in 2012. The perspective that humans should not take cats inside to keep them there because in doing so, they will make cats forget how to be a cat, is new for me. This movie Kedi clearly shows what is meant with this perspective. Freedom is everything, even when it comes with disadvantages.
Maybe you don’t agree. Well, all I can say is: go see it yourself. There’s a lot more in Kedi then I can show here and you will not regret. Enjoy!

In Dutch cinemas from 24 August 2017
More info and a trailer at http://www.cinemadelicatessen.nl/film/kedi/

 

Travels with Herodotus

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski is an amazing book that was given to me as a second hand book by a friend already years ago. It ended up at a pile and stayed there for years. However since I travel a lot for my work in the Middle East these days, I am reading book by book through that pile while waiting at airports or flying in airplanes.
Travels with Herodotus is one of those books that I should have read earlier and that I couldn’t let go once I started reading. It is not a new book (published in Dutch in 2005 already) but who cares, nor is Herodotus who lived in the 5th century BC.
Kapuscinki proves that Herodotus has not lost any of his actuality in 2500 years for 2 main reasons:

1. He is the first known author to check and double check his stories, indicating for his readers how (im)probable the history he offers would be; that is tremendously interesting. His way of operating is amazing, checking stories in the 5th century BC cost him years but that didn’t stop him at all. He must have felt that he was not just writing for his contemporaries but for the entire humanity. So as readers in the 21st century we can follow pretty accurately the games of power of the ancient world.

2. Herodotus shows with facts the extreme cruelty of the rulers of his time – and of their advisers, family and the like. They make you think of some 20th century dictators; indeed not mankind has changed but the possibilities individuals get to apply their cruelty in daily reality. Herodotus describes the cities of Athens and Sparta as cities with a democracy where power was limited or should we say: diffuse, divided; no one was able to rule through fear and cruelty to the extent that it was found among Persians, Assyrians, Parths and many other people where the power was in the hands of one person or family. Somehow it is the system that allows humans to be cruel – or stops them. In the light of today’s debate about the value of democracy, these are intriguing thoughts.
The division of power leads to endless discussions, even on the battle field where the Greek leaders fight although the Persians are near. It is fun to read for those who have experience with democracy; nothing changed in the ‘way it is done’. And the surprise is that small Greek states without apparent unity win the war over well organized Persians who outnumber them and do not loose time in discussions about strategy. The book proves that it would have changed the course of history in Europe, had the Persians won the war. It is an encouragement to proceed on the way of checks and balances in the institution and execution of power!

Travels with Herodotus is not just about Herodotus, it is also about the author Ryszard Kapuscinski himself. He interwaves his personal story as travel journalist with Herodotus’ book Histories in an interesting and also meaningful way. I think Kapuscinski saw this book as his personal life story. On his first foreign trip that he undertook while he had always lived in closed communist Poland, Herodotus’ book accompanied him and did so on many other journeys that followed. It was not just a source of inspiration but also a method and a continuous challenge for reflection. Kapuscinski shares a lifetime outcome of that with his readers; this book has a depth that is rarely seen. It is a gift for humanity: buy it, in a second hand bookshop if no longer available, who cares.

Travels with Herodotus is a must-read for anybody who is interested in:
– (the development of) democracy versus dictatorship
– Asian and European ancient history
– travel journalism, both content/stories and methodology
– philosophy, politics, culture and anthropology.

Useful links:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jun/30/featuresreviews.guardianreview6
http://www.geschiedenis.nl/nieuws/artikel/912/reizen-met-herodotos (in Dutch)

Hôtel Saint-Georges: I understood…


There is a very good bookshop just outside the kashba of Tunis where I found a pearl of Algerian-French literature: Hôtel Saint-Georges by Rachid Boudjedra. There were hundreds of books in that store so what made me choose this one? (by the way maybe they were all very good). Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t let go. It is very easy to understand the many different characters, the reader will love them all and wants to read their perspective on the life they live. This desire is largely rewarded by the author.
Also the book gave me new insights about Algerian family relations, for example I didn’t know that it is the role of the uncle from mothers side to be tender and show love (while the uncle from fathers side only gives ‘the name’). Boudjedra pictures Algerian family dynamics in such a way that you as a reader can feel like a family member. It also gives more insights in how the cultural notion of ‘collectivism’ works. Usually when people in the West discuss collectivism that exists in countries like the Maghreb, as opposed to individualism, they think a person can not be an individual due to the family relations. Boudjedra shows that within these collectivist families, family members have strong individual lifes and characteristics. The problem as pictured in this book is rather the impossibility within a collectivist structure to discuss what goes wrong and to ‘correct’ actions of individual family members, even heavy ones that really damage others. It is intriguing to read how the FLN (an army structure to oppose the colonial regime) is used to kill a family member who had an incestuous relationship rather than confronting him and seek justice in the system. The secret remains, the punishment is sought in different ways.
A very important aspect of this book is Boudjedra’s choice to see actual, cruel developments as an element of history: Algerian history since the independence in 1962, French history of colonialism 1830-1962 but also ancient history, medieval history. The 90+ year old family patriarch, Sidi Mohammed, who traveled a lot and speaks many languages, gives his conclusions of a lifetime: ‘J’ai compris aussi que la barbarie est le véritable patrimoine commun de l’Humanité. J’avais fini par comprendre que le propre de l’homme, c’est la cruauté’. (‘I have understood that barbarity is the real common heritage of humanity. I have finally understood that the characteristic of mankind is cruelty‘). From this point of view, it is not an optimistic book.
And there is something else to say about this approach. In the French literature of the Maghreb, some authors long for the colonial period of the French who introduced many good things that the countries still profit from today. Faced with the actual problems of incompetence and corruption on the one side and violence and radical Islam on the other side, authors like Boualem Sansal (le Serment des Barbares) give up hope for Arab leadership and think that the French offered more. Boudjedra shows how cruel the French regime has been in Algeria; even though that did not improve after the Algerian independence, that does not mean that he feels nostalgia for the French colonial times in Algeria, on the contrary: he is rather inclined to conclude that cruelty and barbarity is part of human history, in whatever shape or nationality.
Even though it is not a happy book, it is a very beautiful book in language, in themes, in richness – it is a book that gives you a lot of food for thought. Highly recommended!

I could not find a translation of this book. Also the links I recommend are in French only:
http://www.babelmed.net/
http://www.djazairess.com/fr/infosoir/61703

http://www.lorientlitteraire.com/

 

 

Diversiteit in Marokko en Tunesië

diversiteit inclusie marokko tunesie  Mijn ontdekkingstocht naar diversiteit & inclusie in Arabische landen gaat verder. Na de start in Jordanië (Jordanië blog 2 en Jordanië blog 1) ging ik aan de slag in Tunesië en Marokko met buitengewoon spannend verlopen trainingen. Niet alleen wisselt steeds de context, zowel nationaal als qua type bedrijven, ook is het bekijken van de wereld door de bril van diversiteit & inclusie een volkomen nieuw gegeven in die landen. Ik betreed dan ook met enige schroom de zaal waar de training plaats vindt. Gaat het programma voldoende passen in hun eigen context? Wat vinden ze ervan dat een Nederlander deze training komt geven? Hoe zal het ditmaal gaan met de taal? Want trainingen geven in het Engels en Frans betekent niet alleen voor mij werken in een tweede taal, ook de deelnemers hebben meestal een andere taal als moedertaal.
Het duurt gelukkig nog geen uur voordat we al helemaal aan elkaar gewend zijn. De inclusiviteit van de bedrijfsculturen die ik heb ervaren, helpt daar enorm bij. Diezelfde inclusiviteit leidt tot bovengemiddeld goede samenwerking als teamopdrachten moeten worden uitgevoerd. In Tunesië maakte ik bovendien discussies mee zoals ik ze zelden hoor bij trainingen in Nederland of Duitsland: de deelnemers waren heel open in het delen van ervaringen en vlogen elkaar hier en daar flink in de haren over de vraag hoe inclusief de organisatie nou werkelijk was > op een inclusieve manier, zonder elkaar te beoordelen of zuur te worden, wat in Noordwest-Europa bij al teveel openheid in bedrijven nog weleens het risico is. Ik was diep onder de indruk en, ook niet onbelangrijk, wat hebben we gelachen. Toen ik de documentaire Danny in Arabistan – Tunesië zag – een aanrader! – herkende ik datzelfde beeld.
diversiteit inclusie marokkoIn Marokko werd ik daarbij nog verrast door de grote persoonlijke warmte van de deelnemers. Hard werken ging er gemakkelijk samen met positieve emotionaliteit, Een deelneemster gaf me na afloop haar prachtige oorbellen mee, als aandenken namens de hele groep.
Wat is het ontzettend leuk om zo samen aan diversiteit & inclusie te werken.

Portrait du décolonisé


In 2004, 1 year before the terrible riots in the French banlieues and 7 years before the Arab spring occurred, the Jewist-Arab-French-Tunisian writer Albert Memmi writes a stunning picture about decolonized countries and the decolonized citizens, both local and emigrated, in his book Portrait du décolonisé.
Memmi describes on a factual basis the disastrous situation of many decolonized countries: the poverty, the corruption, the oppression and how these factors interlink and prevent the decolonized countries to develop and prosper. It is a sad picture that, however, can be recognized by many who worked and traveled in decolonized regions.
In 2004, the Portrait du décolonisé was not well received in France. It was criticized because Memmi wonders why the 100.000’s of deaths in several African conflicts get a lot less attention than the 3000 deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was accused of ‘Zionistic’ views, which would de-qualify the other 96% of his book – it must have shocked a free-thinking intellectual like Memmi who is pleading so warmly for universal values for all to live in freedom and prosperity. And the book was criticized because his portrait of the 2nd generation emigrants is one-sidedly unfavourable. He describes the migrants children that feel lost and end up in (self)destructive ideas and behaviours. It is true that the successful youth, committed to a prosperous society for all, is absent in his book – though very much existent in reality. Nevertheless what he describes has predicted many of the problems we face today in extreme forms.
His book was not translated into other languages – as far as I know – although his earlier book Portrait du colonisé was recognized by many and translated in 20 languages. Portrait du décolonisé could have supported many who wonder what happened, in the 2005 riots in the Paris banlieus, in the 2011 Arab spring, in this decade of (self)destructive terrorism.
I was speechless and breathless when I read his book, and sorry not to have discovered it earlier. Not only is it written in the beautifull, rich and touching French that Memmi masters more than hardly any other writer. He also answers many questions that arose after 2011, but he wrote this already in 2004. His language is never politically correct; he talks in clear words on every single page about the facts as he sees them. However he is never rude, never insulting people like others do who want to breach the politically correct discourse. He proves himself (again) an intellectual who dares to stand up for values and ideas, regardless the consequences.
It is difficult to understand why the world overlooked this precious contribution in a era where the need for insight in the ex-colonial world is predominant. Does this world only read the works that are either extreme or un-controversial? Does this world reject views that are confrontational just by their factional description? If you read in French, read this book. The language is superbe and it will both inform and surprise you – even if you are already knowledgeable in this matter.

Some valuable links about Portrait du décolonisé:

http://arrow.dit.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=jofis

http://regardscroises.blog.tdg.ch/archive/2011/02/13/portrait-du-decolonise-albert-memmi-a-lire-de-toute-urgence.html

http://journal.alternatives.ca/spip.php?article1945

 

Bardo Museum – Musée de Bardo Tunis: wowowow!

baptism mosaic

If you think many mosaics, think more. If you imagine an endless view of mosaics, double or triple what you imagine and that is what the Bardo Museum in Tunis offers you. I knew the collection of mosaics this museum contains is thrilling but I could not have guessed the amount and the size of the beauty: wow, just wowowow.
‘Are you really going to the Bardo Museum?’, people asked me in surprise. A terrible terrorist attack took place on this museum just two years ago. But of course that means that it is now the best protected monument of the country, Tunisia. Do not hesitate, just go. Nowhere else in the world you will find this abundance of mosaic beauty and such an oversight of mosaic art in different periods and denominations: Roman, Christian, Jewish, Byzantine or just ‘Carthago’.
mosaic bardo museum  mosaic lake bizerte - lac de bizerte
However, that is not all. They have fantastisch Punic pieces (statues, masks, steles), nice jewelry of the Vandals – proving vandalism has beautiful sides! There is some Roman and pottery stuff that I found less interesting; at least it is less unique. But the great Ottoman hall of the Bardo Museum leaves you in surprise, wondering why you find that more beautiful and refined than the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
ottoman period bardo museum  ottoman ceiling bardo museum
The rest of the museum is more or less non-existent: the coffee sign leeds to a completely deserted part of the museum where coffee nor any other consumption could be found. The museum shop that could imo be thriving, is a disappointment. The toilets are clean however, kept so by a most gentle attendant. Overall, the museum personnel is really helpful: they want you to enjoy your stay and do everything to make sure you will see what you came for. Only because of their kindness I found the Punic room that I was desperate to see after the mosaics. The logic of the museum plan is not clear for all but the personnel compensates largely for that: a big thanks to their involvement and enthusiasm!
More info at the site of the Bardo Museum in English or the Musée de Bardo in French.

 

Unique coins in Money Museum Tunis

money museum tunis‘Well, they have coins’, Tunesians told me when I asked them what the Money Museum (Musée de la Monnaie) is like. Their tune was not very respectful, in their eyes it did not seem worth a visit. I wanted to see the museum anyway, especially as it is not mentioned in tourist guides and these can be the most interesting visits like the Museum of the History of Cypriot coinage, another hidden pearl. I was certainly not disappointed.
This museum is found within the Tunesian Central Bank and depicts the history of coinage in the area: that means it starts already in the time of Carthago, 4th century BC. Most interesting for me were the coins from the era of the califates like the Ommayyads, Fatimides, Aghlabides and Abbasides: it was like a new world opening for me. musee monnaie tunisAlready in the first century of islamic era, coins were made with Qu’ran inscriptions and this museum shows a good quantity of them (a lot in gold, part of the attractiveness of course).
Another thing I learned is that coins can be shiite or sunni. First I thought I misunderstood but the proof was in front of my eyes.

shiite coins

shiite coins

sunni coins

sunni coins

I seriously studied these coins but I am afraid my expertise is too limited to understand the subtile differences.
There is, overall, a very good explanation that goes with these coins but not in English: in Arabic and in French. For the coins of the early centuries I must say it was difficult to relate the information given to the coins as exposed. This suddenly improved when the period of antiquities was left behind. From then on, all is clear, although sometimes quite detailed. For experts, this is the absolute place to be.
The museum also shows some interesting notes that tell us which heroes of the past are valuated enough to be on the national banknotes. I saw f.ex. Ibn Rachik, Hannibal, Ibn Khaldoun.
It has many square coins: square coins musee monnaie tunisAnd it presents plenty of memorial coins, and coins of special sites where I found Amsterdam among them.
coins about sites musee monnaie tunislibrary musee de la monnaie tunisLast but not least: the library they have offers books in 5 or 6 languages, not just about coinage but also about history and art of the region. It is an excellent collection for those who want to study and it seems to be an undiscovered place: you can sit there in complete tranquillity, surrounded by friendly workers who are happy to welcome anyone interested in their cultural heritage.
The Money Museum (Musée de la Monnaie) of Tunis: worth a visit!

Diversiteit in Jordanië: business as usual (2)

diversiteit in jordanië

 

Onlangs gaf ik voor de tweede maal een training diversiteit in Jordanië, ditmaal bij een telecom bedrijf. Na de eerste training formuleerde ik een aantal hypotheses, zie de blog: Diversiteit in Jordanië (1) en die houden stand ook na deze nieuwe ervaring:
1. ‘de cultuur in Jordanië is conflictmijdend, mensen leren van jongsaf aan reacties in te schatten en confrontaties te vermijden en ontwikkelen daarom bijzondere antennes’: ja ja en ja. Zoiets is heel aangenaam in de dagelijkse omgangsvormen, zeker weten dat het ook NL-ers zou verrijken en verblijden! Mits het natuurlijk van twee kanten komt. Ook bespaart het tijd, niet alles hoeft expliciet uitgesproken te worden. Keerzijde is dat als iemand dan een keer iets uitspreekt, er een lang gesprek nodig is want de kwaliteit die in het NL poldermodel uitstekend ontwikkeld is – elkaar ergens halverwege tegemoet komen – is minder ontwikkeld.
2. ‘het zakenleven in Amman wordt niet, zoals te doen gebruikelijk in Nederland en Duitsland, geplaagd door schuldgevoel’. Blijft overeind. Jordaniërs zijn  praktisch, hoe werkt diversiteit & inclusie en hoe moet het werken of hoe willen we dat het werkt en wat gaan we daaraan doen. Zo’n houding is bevrijdend als je principiële en laten we wel wezen, soms oeverloze discussies gewend bent. Gewoon het gewenste resultaat bepalen en daarvoor gaan, heerlijk!
3. ‘de waardering voor objectieve kennis is groot, er is minder ‘mening’ en meer waardering voor bevindingen uit wetenschap’, was mijn hypothese. Daaraan voeg ik nu toe: en aan ervaringen van elders, om daarvan te leren. En aan kennis over wat de wereldwijde transitie naar een nieuwe economie en governance van ons vraagt. Het lijkt wel of Nederland te maken heeft met de ‘wet van de remmende voorsprong: Nederland loopt voor en lijkt het dus beter te weten, is arroganter. Jordanië loopt evident niet voor en is zeer ambitieus om wel degelijk onderscheidend te zijn in het veld van diversity & inclusion. Heel interessant om mee te maken.
ammanDat Nederland of ‘het Westen’ iets kan leren van het Midden-Oosten staat voor mij inmiddels wel vast. De komende maanden onderzoek ik dit verder, al (samen)werkend in de praktijk, op weg naar vertaling voor westerse organisaties. En net als in de vorige blog, nodig ik graag  mensen met ervaring in die regio uit te reageren ter bevestiging, nuancering of ontkenning van mijn conclusies of aanvulling daarvan. Wordt vervolgd!

Jews removing Christians from Middle East

RamallahRamallah is a lively and kind city. During a short trip through the city, at least five people said spontaneaously ‘welcome’ to me. Isn’t that nice? I love tourists in Amsterdam (except when they walk on the biking paths) but I never tell them ‘welcome’; maybe that is a good thing to learn from the Palestinians here! It makes life more beautiful…
Ramallah2Ramallah is also a contradictory town where you can buy the biography of Hillary Clinton at several places as well as Mein Kampf from Hitler, both in Arabic. I met with some police officers who were nice and accepted to have their photograph taken; another spontaneous move I guess, in this region where officials usually say no.
The kindness and politeness of this city’s inhabitants is in strange contrast with the attitude as soon as ‘politics’ enter the arena. Faces become rigid, attitudes harshen, voices turn loud. The people of Ramallah and the Westbank suffer real hardship because of the Israeli occupation. They tell you heartbreaking stories about it, and you don’t want anybody to live that, themselves or with their children.
Somehow, Isreali’s or Jews are to blame for everything here. Most of all I was surprised about the story of a Christian Palestinian who said there is a Jewish plan to remove all the Christians from the Middle East – not just the Westbank – so that the Jews can have all the land and the Americans can claim that Christ was born in the US (in New Jersey for example) and not in the Middle East. When the Americans chased Saddam out of Iraq, they looted the musea of Iraq and sent all the stolen antiquities to Israel so that the real archaeological history could be wiped out. I always thought the Americans didn’t have a clear plan in case they’d win in Iraq and they just forgot to protect the musea but here they are themselves deliberately looting the musea, following a deliberate plan they have together with ‘the Jews’.
My Christian Palestinian continued by telling that the Jews left Egypt and they also left Babylon 7000 years ago and now they want this land, Palestine, for themselves. Wasn’t leaving Babylon closer to 2700 years than 7000 years ago? I am just guessing but 7000 seems way too long ago. ‘Yes’, my Christian Palestine friend says, ‘of course 2700 years ago, that is the same, they left Babylon’. I do not think that that is the same in the ligth of the discussion we are having but my view is ignored.
He thinks the Jews are behind the removal of the Christians from Iran, Iraq, Palestina, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Libanon and maybe more countries. It is evident that during the last 40 years Christians have been fleeing the Middle East and I have been quite involved in that but this is really the first time in my life that I hear someone tell that this stems from a Jewish plan. How this would serve the Jewish case is not clearly explained. What matters is that ‘they want this country from the sea untill the river since the 19th century’. The Jews crucified Jesus and now try to remove the Christians from Middle East countries. The Americans work with them because that will help them to turn Jesus into an American born citizen.
A nice conversation just turned into a conspiracy theory that divides us into two worlds… I do not know what to answer. I just remain speechless.

Diversiteit in Jordanië: business as usual?

diversiteit jordanie - business as usual Toen ik via een Duitse opdrachtgever de vraag kreeg of ik in een bouwbedrijf in Amman – de hoofdstad van Jordanië – een diversiteitstraining wilde geven, zei ik meteen ja maar was ik ook wel verbaasd en een beetje onzeker. Ten eerste had ik een dergelijke vraag niet verwacht vanuit de bouwsector in Jordanië (ziedaar, uw diversiteitsexpert is niet vrij van vooroordelen). Ten tweede was ik nog nooit in Jordanië geweest. Diversiteit is bij uitstek een contextafhankelijk onderwerp en als je uitgaat van diversiteit als businesscase, wat ik doe, moet je terdege weten waar de businesskansen liggen voordat je iets zinvols kunt bijdragen. Maar ja, zo’n kans krijg je niet elke dag en ik ben altijd al een fan van het Midden-Oosten geweest… Zo toog ik enkele weken later, na een visum te hebben gehaald bij de Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordania in Den Haag en bovendien alles bestudeerd te hebben wat er over het Hashemite Kingdom te bestuderen valt, naar Amman. Na enkele dagen doorgebracht te hebben met ingenieurs, architecten en HR-functionarissen kom ik tot een paar conclusies die ik graag nader zou willen testen:
1. de cultuur in Jordanië is conflictmijdend, mensen leren van jongsaf aan reacties in te schatten en confrontaties te vermijden. Mensen hebben daarom antennes ontwikkeld om te voelen hoe dingen liggen zonder dat ze verbaal worden uitgesproken. Als trainer viel me op dat de deelnemers vaak aan een half woord (of aan mijn gezichtsuitdrukking) genoeg hadden; waar Nederlanders of Duitsers behoefte hebben aan explicitering, kunnen ze in bedrijven in Jordanië ook zonder (ik zeg dus niet: heel Jordanië, het gaat over de zakelijke omgangsvormen).
2. het zakenleven in Amman wordt niet, zoals te doen gebruikelijk in Nederland en Duitsland, geplaagd door schuldgevoel. Waar in een diversiteitstraining gewezen wordt op patronen van uitsluiting, of het nu gaat om gender, cultuur of religie, kunnen deelnemers er vrijelijk om lachen en zich onbevangen afvragen: waarom doen we dat eigenlijk zo?
3. de waardering voor objectieve kennis is groot. Diversiteitstrainingen worden met name in Nederland geplaagd door mensen die ‘een mening’ hebben. In Duitsland is er meer waardering voor bevindingen uit onderzoek en wetenschap en in Amman is dit ruim aanwezig: er is ronduit honger naar kennis. Wetenschappelijke resultaten vinden een open oor en ambitie voor toepassing.
Mijn ervaring met de Duitse opdrachtgever en het Jordaanse bedrijf was zo goed dat ik in juli terug ga voor een vergelijkbare training bij een telecom bedrijf in Amman. Ik ben benieuwd of mijn conclusies (hypotheses) stand houden of gewijzigd worden – hierover zal ik zeker een nieuwe blog schrijven. In het dagelijks leven horen wij meestal negatieve berichten uit het Midden-Oosten. Toch zijn daar bedrijven die al sinds jaar en dag succesvol met diversiteit omgaan, want het Midden-Oosten = diversiteit. Zonder die kerncompetentie kun je daar geen bedrijf runnen. Ik vermoed dat het Westen daarvan kan leren en heb de ambitie daarover meer te ontdekken en dit te vertalen naar de westerse context en behoeften. De komende maanden ga ik ook naar Israel en Tunesië en mogelijk nog andere landen. Ondertussen ben ik benieuwd naar reacties van mensen met ervaring in die regio ter bevestiging, nuancering of ontkenning van mijn conclusies of aanvulling daarvan. Neem gerust contact op en wordt vervolgd!

Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child…

chalcolithic childToday I was very moved when I saw the estimated 6500 year old remains of a buried child in the archaeological museum of Amman, at the Citadel. The museum shows many artefacts, neutrally placed on glass or wooden shelves. However, this child got special care: it was placed on a soft, warm cushion. Is there a better way for a museum to show that they care? is there a finer way for Jordanians to express their culture of respect? Culture is not a matter of big flags and statues, although I admit they can be part of it. Culture is often recognized from little, tiny details in daily life, such as the care for a child that has died not just centuries but thousands and thousands of years ago. This museum shows that even after so much time, it is possible to surround a child with love. Wow Jordan… It really touched my heart!
archaeological museum ammanThe museum has some spectacular pieces that in Western museums would be presented with lots of pooha. However here in Amman they are shown in a very modest way. This is a pity because if you do not know, you might overlook the uniqueness of the findings. I spoke very enthusiasticly to a Jordanian woman about the museum and the artefacts I saw there and she thought deeply and said in surprise: ‘I was there but I must have missed that, I do not remember at all’. So if you go pay a visit to the archaeological museum at the Citadel of Amman, do your homework beforehand and you will enjoy your visit tremendously because nowhere in the world you can find older statues than here: really! And while you’re there, don’t forget to pay your respects to the chalcolithic child that most probably had loving parents and is now taken care of by loving Jordanians.

The sign in front of the child says: ‘The burial of infants in jars was a common custom in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine. The jar was generally placed under the living room floor, possibly to keep the child within the family circle‘. (Ghassul, Chalcolithic).
Chalcolithic means: 5500-3500 BC.