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!

Forget about the rules. Be human.

forget about rules, be human in Amsterdam  Amsterdam keeps surprising me. I spent an interesting evening in a famous entrepreneurial location in Amsterdam Centre. When leaving, we had to wait for our coats at the wardrobe downstairs. In this club, coats are personally handed to all visitors. In front of us was a line of ‘foreign’ people. They appeared to be refugees who had been invited this evening by entrepreneurs who were willing to help them integrate and find a job. A great initiative.
The guy in the cloakroom was happy to help us Dutch entrepreneurs to put on our coats. ‘You can’t do that to them you know’, he said. To explain the ‘them’, he pointed to the refugees that stood in front of the location, talking a while in front of the entrance before they left like all people in Amsterdam do. He said some Syrians that were more ‘integrated’ than the newcomers in front of the door, warned him that his help to put on the coats would not be appreciated; ‘please do not try it, you will get trouble’. ‘You know’, he said, ‘they feel they submit to you when you help them with their coat. And you cannot touch the women. It would feel like you own them. So I just give their coats to them and that’s it’. ‘Well, you can help me’, one of the female entrepreneurs said I think to console him and it worked, he smiled and helped her to put on her coat.
Amsterdam is a modern, diverse and tolerant city. However there are moments that I think we are just retarded – this was one of these moments. Almost all my life I have been going out, working, discussing, learning, experiencing with people from the Middle East. How come I never had any problems with coats, handing coats, helping people into coats? Who invented a scheme where refugees ‘feel they submit’ in such cases? Not the refugees themselves, I am sure about that. Also I do not think anybody has bad intentions here. This is what happens when people are confronted with difference: they try to find rules how to behave or not behave. People want to do good and try to be on the safe side. The tragic is that they miss the point: the contact is in personal involvement and not in cultural rules.
The generally present inclination to follow rules is what I call ‘retarded’. I feel embarrassed when I meet with that in an entrepreneurial place in Amsterdam Centre. The good thing is: we talk about it. We talk about almost anything in Amsterdam. No borders to what we want to express. But also, when it comes to diversity: way to go… We need to have more confidence in our personal approach than in the supposed rules of intercultural contact. Forget about the rules. Be human. The refugees will love it…

 

Dheepan: an outstanding movie about refugees

dheepan movie Dheepan is somehow a ‘neutral’ movie about refugees as it concerns refugees from Sri Lanka; I worked with many of them in the ’90ties but today we concentrate on other regions as every reader knows. Technically this choice in the movie creates a healthy distance to emotions in actuality. And practically, it makes no difference. Refugees run for a reason, most often a quite serious one. And yes, they are surrounded by luck-seekers, criminals who have other reasons to flee and economic migrants. Making the difference between one and the other is an ideal but in practice not very easy. However the movie is not about asylum policies and dilemmas, it is about how people flee and become a refugee and how they experience the country in which they arrive.
In this movie, the Sri Lanka refugees find a house and a job in the banlieue of Paris, in one of the worst banlieues – I think the movie maker even wanted to point out that the refugees run from a war to end up in another one. It is as much a complaint against the ‘drugs in banlieue’ situation as about the refugee situation. Specifically, the total lack of law enforcement (no police or authorities at all) surprises the public.
I think the movie is brilliant in the way it depicts the refugees. I recognized every emotion, both in daily life and in the history of violence and resistence that refugees from war and conflict areas bring with them – not as a choice but as a fact. My experience with that is both friendship and work and I found the movie Dheepan shiveringly realistic and very strong in the way of showing the emotional side.
As a former French teacher, I regretted that the refugees end up in England – to their satisfaction – and not somewhere else in France, a country I love. This is, of course, a biased view 🙂 Anyway the movie ends well, which in a world of problems is nice and more encouraging to go and watch the movie than the opposite.
What surprised me is that nowadays every discussion and debate in the Netherlands is about refugees but we were only 8 spectators: 8! in a large cinema. Sometimes I wonder how much indepth knowledge people want about reality – I see loads of over-emotional people and few people able to handle the complexity that comes with refugee issues. Let’s face reality even when it is not simple. Go watch the Dheepan movie, warmly recommended!

Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice

banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice is a great documentary about two guys, or maybe an entire village in Laos in a period of starting tourism. The place is still ‘all natural’ and the first tourists arriving, mainly backpackers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, are startled by the purity of the place. The village develops in many aspects and the two guys that are particularly followed in this documentary try to improve their life by offering touristic services. The road they go is so interesting!
The tourists themselves are also quite interesting, some of their conversations are recorded. They have their opinions about life in the village and how it develops and it does not seem to match a lot with the culture and desires of the villagers themselves. Although very sympathic, there was also a note of arrogance in their song.
From the point of view ‘image taking’ the documentary has quite some ‘vague’ moments, maybe nice as a hobby for the filmer but for spectators not always attractive I thought. Fortunately, many good and sharp moments offer enough compensation 😉 So go see this documentary now because usually this kind of movies do not stay long in the cinemas. More info: https://www.facebook.com/laosdocumentary

Amsterdam-Tel Aviv twinning at CIDI: pffff….

IMAG0205 I got an invitation to a meeting at CIDI about Amsterdam-Tel Aviv as potentially twinning cities, quite a heavy debate at this moment in Amsterdam because the leftist parties in our city council have turned against it out of fear to introduce the problems of that region to Amsterdam. A matter of overconfidence in the city council’s powers, by the way, because the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision…
The main reason for me to go to the meeting was that CIDI invited Eytan Schwartz, the senior political advisor to the mayor for this issue, and Mickey Gitzin, member of the left-liberal Meretz party in the Tel Aviv city council. So this was an opportunity to get direct information from people involved, an opportunity not to be missed.
Arriving at the CIDI was the first painful moment. I pass the Anne Frank House and the Hollandse Schouwburg several times a week, and here I saw the same thing: the police protection unit that is now, in Amsterdam 2015, permanently there (see the picture above). A reality that does not become normal in our city that is so free in general…
Moreover I had to pass a guard, a special fence, a double door at the entrance and then I was in… and nobody seemed to bother. I expected some kind of reception but there was none. So as a new person I decided to direct towards the coffee corner just to give myself an attitude and I was not disappointed there, like in many places the women do the hospitality, they were very nice and made me feel more at ease.
The meeting did not disappoint me in the sense that the guests were brilliant. They explained very clearly what Tel Aviv is like, how they work, what they want to achieve (a great city for their citizens, not creating peace for the whole world but building a better day-to-day life which contains also ‘boring’ aspects like the sewing system). They showed that Tel Aviv is a vibrant and tolerant city that could exchange in many aspects with Amsterdam to the benefit of both cities. Their aim is not to do diplomacy but to come to practical solutions that work.
Also they impressed me with their explanation of how they deal with the complexity of the region they live in: they got very, very critical questions from the public at the CIDI meeting and they were capable to explain their private moral standards, dilemmas, decisions in a way that is rare to hear. I learned more from them in an hour than I learned in the whole last week and maybe even month. I love to learn so they made my day. I could have learned more, though…
The meeting did disappoint me when it comes to the point ‘public’. There were some people in the public who already seemed to know what they thought and approached the guests from Tel Aviv with questions that were not meant to get information but to make them ‘accountable’ for all Israeli politics. This was not just tiresome, it was also offensive and I felt embarrassed at several occasions. Two things they said surprised me in particular. 1. that Tel Aviv would have a right wing majority of 51%; a factual statement that anybody who prepares meetings would have looked up in advance but apparently that guy didn’t mind to do the preparation effort – so the guests explained, 31 seats in the Tel Aviv city council, 2 for Likud, 3 for religious parties, 5 seats in total, not exactly the alleged 51%. And 2. blaming Tel Aviv, a city of 450.000 inhabitants, for being inadequate in dealing with 60.000 refugees, while at this very moment the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, is showing a hard attitude in European negotiations to invite just a few thousand refugees from the Mediterranean – some self reflection is useful at times!
What impressed me also emotionally is the remark of Eytan Schwarz about how he works on good things for citizens and ideals and many positive steps to make this world a better place and then is often confronted with negative emotions about Israel that are projected on him as a person; his self awareness and also his strength of vulnerability to say this in public. Wow. And the remark of Mickey Gitzin, short and to the point among all these prejudices of life in the Middle East commented on (my wording, not his) from Amsterdam sofas: talk less, listen more. So true. And it would have made this meeting so much more interesting because the guests had a lot to tell but not everybody was ready to hear, to listen, they just wanted to make their point about their opinion about Israel versus Palestine, and about perceived immorality of Israelians, even the guys in front of their nose, no dialogue nothing, very strange.
Thanks Cidi for organising. It was only 2 hours but I was dead tired after this meeting – not their fault and I learned a lot and also got inspired. But I also worry because of what I saw.
As I said above, the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision, the meeting made that very clear… So the best the city council can do is to make sure that we will not loose the dialogue and to organise that we will meet as humans: not to discuss the big issues of world peace as long as we are not the UN-president, but to make the daily life of our citizens better with practical projects and solutions found across borders.

Taxi Teheran

taxi teheran  How to make a movie that is only playing in a taxi and does not bore any minute? Taxi Teheran is a succesfull try-out of that concept although not by free choice alone. Jafar Panahi, maker of the movie and also its main character has a history of struggling with censure and oppression in his country Iran. He is not allowed to make movies during 20 years and this movie, Taxi Teheran, was made secretly and smuggled out of the country.
The movie is very funny with many surprising moments, and it has a groundtune of sadness underneath. As such, it is very Iranian: Iranians usually are well developed, social, bright and full of life, they know how to make the best out of difficult circumstances. But that does not mean that they do not feel the difficult circumstances, especially the oppression.
In Taxi Teheran we see a wonderful mix of people entering and leaving Jafar Panahi’s taxi. Even the concept ‘taxi’ in Teheran is different from other countries and that in itself creates unexpected situations. Taxi Teheran shows a lot of interesting interaction between a variety of inhabitants of Teheran. And it gives some great insights in the well developed double face of Iran, in survival and creativity against the odds.

Adana archaeological museum: closed???

adana archeological museum   The Adana archaeological museum is one of the ten oldest museums in Turkey – opened already in 1924, the official government website mentions: www.adanamuze.gov.tr. You don’t need to speak Turkish to understand the unique pieces to be seen in this museum: “Neolitik, Kalkolitik, Bronz, Proto-Hitit, Hitit, Yunan, Roma, Bizans, Selçuk ve Osmanlı devirlerine ait eserlerinin yanı sıra, az miktarda Asur, Fenike ve Ermeni eseri….” But you can find some English information here: Adana_Archaeology_Museum and here, including beautiful pictures: adanaarchaelogical. Unfortunately that is all you will see as they closed this museum completely. I was in Adana for a trademission with our ambassador and I decided to book a later return ticket the next day, because I really wanted to see this museum. I found myself in front of a locked fence. ‘I will talk myself into it’, I thought. In Turkey, most things are possible if you are kind and you speak Turkish. But the guard at the fence was different: there was no way to see even a glimpse of the beauty in this museum. ‘There were not enough visitors’, he explained and ‘it is my responsibility, I cannot do it’.
In the meantime, I am reading the book Toprak from Buket Uzuner. I bought it at the airport in Istanbul, it was in the Top 10 of Turkish books. In that book a teacher says about the Hitite city of Çorum (page 31, sorry for failures in translation, my fault): “Children, if the Hitites had lived in a western country, I guarantee you, the world’s most important archeologists and historians would work there, all the world’s tourists would stream into the city. If the people of Çorum would become master of their local history, Çorum would already have developed as an international star with trade and book fair, food and tourism festivals on world level. Be sure children that if you want it, the Hitite heritage will attract as much attention as the Egyptian pyramids, an important jewel! (…)”
Need I say more. Heritage, a matter of neglect or a matter of joy and wealth.
Let’s keep hope that one day the museum will open again. It is not difficult to find, if you see this spectacular new Sabancι mosque, go around the corner and you have arrived.
sabanci mosque

 

 

Turist and the myth of heroism

Turist is aturist great movie with many layers and enough humour not to make this too serious a movie. The maker of this movie, Ruben Östlund, has thought a lot about the psychology and behaviour of survival in sudden extreme circumstances like disasters. Statistically, he says in an interview in Het Parool (Amsterdam newspaper) 18/2, most men run away and do not save the women and children. Still, we stay with the myth of heroism in extreme circumstances. It interests Östlund why we do that and we can see that in this brilliant movie Turist. The difference between the myth of heroism we believe in and the confrontation with reality is a fundamental theme in the movie: how to face, how to deal with that reality?
We follow a Swedish model family on their ski holidays in France. Confronted with an avalanche, the father of the family runs away leaving his wife and two children behind. Lots of stories arise from that split second. You won’t be bored. The pictures in Turist are very beautiful. You won’t be disappointed there either. Also, you will learn why to never fly your drone inside the house.

Jewish museum Warsaw context

jewish museum warsaw context  Like most tourists I walked in the streets of Warsaw-Center and visited shops like a souvenirshop and a antiquitiesshop. Well, that was quite a surprise.
In the souvenirshop it was possible to buy magnets with symbols of Poland, like one finds magnets with canalhouses, tulips and wooden shoes in Amsterdam. One magnet was a yellow ‘Jewish’ star that mentioned ‘ghetto Warsaw’. I couldn’t believe my eyes, stood there thinking for some time considering whether I should buy it as proof.
jewish star warsaw  But I did not want to buy and thus encourage such souvenirs so I ended making a secret (and not well succeeded) photograph. I am sure that this yellow star would not be sold in the Netherlands but maybe this had a different meaning for the Polish people. I asked in the Jewish museum, showing the pictures but they reacted in a very neutral way, telling that they couldn’t read that it said ‘ghetto Warsaw’ which was true of course 🙂
In the antiquitiesshop it was possible to find all kind of symbols and pamphlets from the last century: communist and anti-communist posters, lots of stuff. I even found a poster in Dutch mentioning ‘Indonesië moet bevrijd worden’ showing an Indonesian guy in chains resisting against a Japanese soldier. As said it was in Dutch and not in Indonesian, this is a real historic thing as Indonesia was freed from the Japanese but then subject to a colonial war with the Netherlands, this poster maybe symbolized that already. The shop also offered Nazi objects. The picture on top and the one below were made secretly in this shop. Maybe it was not necessary to make them secretly, I didn’t know; as a Dutch person I had the feeling that it was a risk to take those pictures but maybe it wasn’t in the Polish context.  nazi stuff warsaw
All together this tourist street gave me many reflections about the context of the new and beautiful Jewish museum in Warsaw, Poland.

Jewish museum Warsaw dilemmas

jewish museum warsaw dilemmas Creating a completely new museum comes with lots of opportunities (that the Museum for the history of Jews in Poland discovered well) and also with dilemma’s. From my visit to this museum I remember two of them.
1. How do you present your history when it has got possibly unfavourable elements? Especially in the light of a history where others have tried many times to present your people as bad people and that this had fatal consequences. The first image of the Jews in Poland happens to be one that connects them to trade of slaves. It was by the way for the first time for me that I learned that the word ‘slave’ is actually connected to the Slavic people, that they were the slaves of the Middle Ages.
jewish museum warsaw6  The image shows Jews trading slaves and a bishop protesting against it; not because he was against slavery as such but because he was against the trade of Christians as slaves. Slavic people were already Christians by that time. Jews are recognizable with a 2-pointed hat. Could this image make actual prejudices increase? Is a scientific approach ‘this is the very first image and thus reality’ the correct one or should the museum be more careful and avoid a possibly bad image? The museum chose to show the 12nd century reality…
2. During war, the Polish were the only people to have an organizational structure to help Jews and this shows their heroic side. Opinions differ on the scale of effectiveness of the organisation. jewish museum warsaw7  How small or large should that part of Polish resistance take in the presentation of the 2nd world war part of the museum? You can imagine the discussions…
Most probably there were many more decisions to take that were a dilemma. What I like about this museum is that the makers are not afraid of decision making and also not of discussing the decisions made afterwards.They are transparent and they are accountable; a great sign of modernity that one can only appreciate!

Jewish museum Warsaw beauty

jewish museum warsaw beauty  28 October 2014 Warsaw could open the doors of the brandnew Museum of the History of Polish Jews and for certain, that museum is a beauty. First of all it is a beauty from the point of view architecture: jewish museum warsaw beauty
The size of the museum is enormous which offers opportunities for spectacular projects like: telling the story of the Jews coming to Poland 1000 years ago with moving images on glass walls; rebuilding an old wooden synagogue with all its special paintings; and redesigning a street in a Warsaw Jewish neighbourhood in the 19th/20th century with all its cultural and political activities, see these 3 pictures for an impression.
jewish museum warsaw beauty  jewish museum warsaw beauty jewish museum warsaw beauty
Apart from the special projects you can find interactive expositions for all centuries (I loved the medieval ones), and learn a lot about Polish history in general, too. The way the partition of Poland among other countries in the 18th/19th century was symbolised by a big and empty throne, overlooked by foreign rulers is impressive. Of course many people like to have their picture taken at the throne so it is never empty for a long time. The museum allows this kind of jokes and activities which is very nice.
This is a museum that deserves your time, wandering from one room to another through 10 centuries of history. It is different from other museums: it is an impression, not an explanation. It is an atmosphere and a way to live the lifes the Jews in Poland lived since the Middle Ages. If you visit Warsaw, remember to go there!

Make the world a better place (3)

make the world a better place (3)  make the world a better place (3)  Some cities are good at special Chrismas lightning, soms are less good. Amsterdam for example is not so good, not very creative in Christmas street lightning, but they also have the Amsterdam Light Festival (which is not the ordinary street lightning but specific enlightened art objects) and that is rather spectacular. Warsaw in Poland has very good designers for Christmas lights; look at the beautiful pictures. It gives class and style to the city and makes it a real joy to walk around:
  make the world a better place (3)  make the world a better place (3)Make the world a better place (3)
What amused me in Warsaw is that they also have this:
make the world a better place (3)     make the world a better place (3) Some wouldn’t call it class or style but the Polish citizens probably do. At least Warsaw is not afraid to combine these styles in the same street. And the children are happy with it!