March/April
2016, Issue 183











Felix F Bopp, Founder & Chairman
Content


Culture, (self) exclusion, extremism and terrorism


The Future Now Show with Steve Hill, Elena Milova and Katie Aquino

The Middle East and North Africa: A 30-minute whirlwind tour

The Food Porn Superstars of South Korea: Mukbang

News about the Future: Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2016 / European Economic Forecast

A new report from Ireland explains how technologies will transform food and agriculture between now and 2035 by Patrick Crehan

Futurist Portrait: Chris Riddell

Agenda


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.yCulture, (self) exclusion, extremism and terrorism




By Huib Wursten, Senior Partner, itim International

The danger of adaptive preference


Summary:
This article explores the background of terrorist acts by Non-Western immigrants in Western societies. Based on a cultural analyses definitions are given for the terms "Western
" and "non Western". Reasons for possible (self) exclusion are explored. The thinking behind extremism and the conditions for the step to terrorism are described. Emphasis is given to research on empathy and the way empathy can be switched off.
A few suggestions are given for policies to diminish tendencies to extremism and the next step terrorism.


After the Charlie Hebdo assassinations in January 2015 a dear colleague of mine wrote a blog with the heading: "Seeking cross-cultural specialists urgently"…
He explained by saying: "Are we not supposed to be the ones being able to explain each other's point of view? Each other's mindset? Dear colleagues & peers, don't you feel we have a role to play? What do you suggest we do?"

I responded by saying that murder ends all empathy.

Still, the recent killing of more than 100 people in Paris, followed by more threats by ISIS are puzzling and create a challenge for professionals in the field of culture, which is defined here as the way values are affecting behavior.

To mention a few of these puzzles:

Why is it that some of the young people from the immigrant communities in Western societies are attracted by the Barbarians organized in ISIS and decide to join them in Syria and Iraq? Why are they not choosing to conform to the values of their new host countries, in spite of the welfare system and the high levels of education? Even in welcoming countries like Sweden, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, this is happening. It is visible that this behavior is creating tensions between the dominant majority culture and these minority cultures. This is especially true if the young people concerned are coming from Islamic cultures. Recent examples are the before-mentioned "Charlie Hebdo" murders, the killings in Paris, the killing of Jewish people in Belgium, the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands and the problems around the Mohammad cartoons in Denmark. In Norway tensions are developing around the group of people calling themselves " Prophet's Umma" and "Islam Net", an online-based youth organization with an ultraconservative Salafist ideology.

A second question is about how the step is made from having extremist ideas, to terrorism. It is one thing to have strong ideas as an adolescent; it is another to step over the threshold and start killing people.

It is of course "stretching" to claim that culture can explain everything.
Yet, in this paper an attempt is made to analyze some of the components of the complex issue of extremism and terrorism, with the help of confirmed dimensions of culture. Also some sociological and psychological arguments will be used.

Value differences between "Western" and "non-Western" cultures
Frequently the discussion in the media is about "non Western" immigrants living in Western countries. These are terms that are used loosely. So let's define what we mean by Western and non-Western.

What exactly are "Western Cultures"?

It is not easy to pinpoint what we mean by this term. Is Bulgaria part of the Western culture? And Greece?

In general the term Western culture is described to picture cultures with a specific mindset. These are societies with a full- fledged democracy, including human rights in the "rule of law" and guaranteed freedoms like freedom of speech and religion.

Can we define a specific cultural factor explaining the mindsets of the countries that adhere to these values? We need some verifiable research data to discuss this because too much in the sometimes-aggressive discussions is related to anecdotic and emotional storytelling.

Geert Hofstede (1) offers a framework that may be quite useful for this analysis. He is the leading scholar in the field of culture research. Hofstede found and explained explicit value differences on the most fundamental level among nation-states. These value differences affect our preferences about how to deal with the world around us, and with each other. They are found on the level of the nation-state (2) and the differences are not disappearing because of globalization.

This is relevant because some "globalists" believe that the world is turning into a global village, with common values and where differences only exist on an individual level.

Hofstede's research findings have been exposed to a lot of attempts by people trying to dispute the findings. However, repeats of the research and meta analyses of the findings have shown again and again that they are valid. The latest repeat of the research, in 2015, found that in spite of some global trends, the relative distances among the cultures of nation-states are
not disappearing.(3)


Cultural dimensions as a tool of analysis
Some highly profiled scholars are using culture as a means of explaining what's going on. An influential book written by Samuel Huntington predicts a
"Clash of Civilizations"(4). Religion is the dominant cultural issue, in his opinion, and increasingly there will be a power struggle between religions but especially between Christianity and Islam. The problem with his approach is that, if this would be true, it is difficult to explain that, in reality in the Middle East, Sunnites are fighting Shiites and visa- versa; and both are fighting Kurds.

Indeed, the better explanation is found on the level of cultural dimensions. It is the cultural dimension "collectivism" that is explaining why this fighting is happening. Collectivism is defined as "loyalty to your "in-group" (clan, religious faction, region, ethnic group), and in return expecting help and support from this in-group. Collectivist people put the interests of their in-group first, and there are rules and values that are valid for dealing with your in-group. But these rules and values are not automatically applicable for outsiders.

What we call non-Western immigrants originate from "Collectivist" cultures.

The mindset of Western cultures is shaped by the opposite end of this (sliding) scale: Individualism. This is the value system taking the individual as the starting point: equal rights and equal obligations for everybody, regardless of religion, color, gender or sexual preference. In short, this value system leads to a strong belief in "Human Rights" for everyone.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is only whole-heartedly supported in individualistic cultures. This is the key issue of what is referred to as the "Western Culture".

It is important to understand that this focus on human rights addresses a basic problem concerning moral behavior for individualistic cultures. Under the influence of "post modernism", the dominant groups in these countries defend the idea that there are no valid methodologies to decide whether one value system is better or truer than another. It is all relative and depends on where you are coming from in your reasoning: revelations in holy books, the teachings of enlightened people, trying to find explanations in human nature etc. That, however, could lead to absolute relativism and bring society to the brink of anarchy.

The solution for individualist cultures is to adopt "Human Rights" as the point of reference. Every individual has equal rights and obligations regardless of race, gender, place of birth , sexual preference etc. This is reflected in the "narrow" definition of the rule of law in western countries.

Rule of law
In German, this is known as: Rechtsstaat; in French, as Etat de Droit.
In practice, two interpretations of "the rule of law" can be identified. They are (a) a broad definition (no democracy and/or human rights implied) and (b) a narrow definition.


A. Broad (or formal) definition

The rules should be such that they can enable the control of behaviour of Government and of citizens. The content and form of control are not an issue.

All over the world there are countries that can be identified who can claim they have the rule of law in this sense. Attributes of the narrow definition are:

  • the rules should be clear
  • no retroactive actions
  • not too many changes
  • consistency
  • independent judges
  • fair trials

B. Narrow definition
These are the countries where the rule of law also encompasses:

  • a chosen parliament
  • a democratic system
  • human rights are recognized and respected

As we explained above, this is the system that is found especially in individualistic countries. In short, in what we call "Western countries"

This creates a potential problem for immigrants from non-Western cultures, especially if they are Islamic. The Islamic world explained their position on human rights in the so called: "Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI)" In a nutshell it says that it guarantees many of the same rights as the UDHR , while at the same time making exceptions for the inequalities inherent in the Shari'ah like gender, sexual preference, political rights, and separation of state and religion (5).


What do we mean by non-Western immigrants?
Earlier in this paper we tried to define the term Western culture.
It's equally important to define what we mean by non-Western when we talk about immigrants.

One thing is clear: in all cases we talk about collectivist cultures. But, in general, we don't discuss the integration of Japanese, Korean or Chinese, Brazilian or Argentinean immigrants coming to the US, Canada, Sweden, Germany or The Netherlands. Mostly the integration is a smooth process.
So we have to formulate a little more concretely and specifically what we mean by non-Western.

This label is especially applicable for immigrants from poor countries, who frequently arrive in the host countries without much education and as a result have difficulty in avoiding the poverty trap. The children from these families, as a result, have a disadvantage if they go to school. They lack some of the necessary skills to adapt to a learning environment. Research shows that lack of language skills is the most important factor here, not only to explain problems in school, but also creating problems in the labor market. We will analyze the disadvantage of immigrants coming from poor countries with a low level of education a little bit more.

Immigration from less developed countries.
We observed already that the level of education of non-western immigrant groups from poor countries is significantly lower compared to that of
developed countries.(6)

The OECD (7) has published figures about the average years in education in all member states.

To illustrate the difference, here are some figures from some of the poor non- western countries

Average income per capita (in $) Education Mean Years of schooling.

Norway 61,875 9.1 years
Netherlands 42,944 8.9 years
Belgium 39,694 8.1 years
Germany 39,668 8.8 years
France 35,714 8.1 years
Turkey 16,758 6.5 years
Morocco 6,419 4.6 years
Pakistan 4,22 3.7 years

Immigrants with less years of education, are at a severe disadvantage in the labor market compared to their native peers. Children from these families also have a disadvantage when entering the school system

In trying to overcome the hurdles for newcomers, the common approach has been emphasizing the need for inclusion, giving the newcomers the feeling that they are welcome, and that there is interest in their background; and also that their otherness is accepted in terms of religion and the rituals that are related.

The importance of education
It is a common conviction that education is a very important means to make sure that children can integrate and participate in society.

However, the socio- economical disadvantaged position of the immigrant families means that they frequently must live in poor city areas, with schools where teachers struggle to teach a majority of children coming from also disadvantaged families. The problem is that the teachers are mostly good-willing, but the facilities to give extra attention to children are not always there.

This might lead to unwanted situations.
In a July 2015 interview in de Volkskrant, a Dutch quality newspaper, the director of such a school, admitted that "Schools in poor areas fail". He explained: It is in the interest of society to give these children extra attention: "Look at the attacks on Charlie Hebdo this year. If we want to prevent that these things will happen in the Netherlands, we have to offer children in these areas perspective. That can be done with good education." Good education implies also creating the feeling among newcomers that they are welcome, and that they get the respect everybody deserves.

In other words: education is a necessary step for social inclusion and social cohesion

Social inclusion, social exclusion and social cohesion and the role of education
A few definitions: (8)
A socially inclusive society is defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met, so that they can live in dignity.

Social exclusion is the process of being shut out from the social, economic, political and cultural systems that contribute to the integration of a person into the
community (9)

Social cohesion is a related concept that parallels that of social integration in many respects. A socially cohesive society is one where all groups have a sense of belonging, participation, inclusion, recognition and legitimacy. Such societies are not necessarily demographically homogenous. Rather, by respecting diversity, they harness the potential residing in their societal diversity (in terms of ideas, opinions, skills, etc.). Therefore, they are less prone to slip into destructive patterns of tension and conflict when different interests collide.

If things go well schools play an important role in creating social inclusion and social cohesion.

Because this is not always happening we will explore some of the difficulties, making use of empirical research done in host countries like the USA, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands
A insightful article in the American Sociological Review in 2008 (9) sums up the findings of the writers:

"The first important statement is that the educational level of immigrants is not the same in all "host" countries. Encouragement by traditional immigration countries (USA, New Zealand and Australia) of selecting highly skilled migrants makes a real difference. Immigrants in such countries are on average better educated and more skilled than comparable migrants in countries without such selection policies. A result is that in these traditional immigration countries, non- immigrants hold a more favorable view towards immigrants' contribution to the economy. With the immigrants' long-term viability in mind, legislators have passed national and state policy measures to reform the educational response to the needs of immigrant children.

Second: compared with adult immigrants from more economically developed countries, adult immigrants from developing countries, on average, have less human capital and more trouble both using their origin human capital and acquiring new human capital in their host countries.

Third: Highly selected immigrants also exert more pressure on their children to reach high levels of educational attainment and they provide their children with more human capital to do so.

Fourth: assimilation can take place into different segments of society, all of which provide different cultural identities for assimilation. Only immigrant children who assimilate into the communities that have positive evaluations of the returns on schooling, have a chance at upward mobility

Fifth: discrimination, geographic concentration of immigrant populations, and economic vulnerability mark the path toward assimilation into the lower strata of society.

Sixth: the extent of social distance between natives and immigrant groups depends on the extent to which immigrants are similar to natives in terms of cultural, physical, and socio-economic traits

Seventh: adults from immigrant communities with more socioeconomic capital relative to the native population are less likely to be regarded with prejudice by natives"

Education and performance

In all the OECD countries there have been clear improvements in primary schooling outcomes over recent years for young students with non-Western immigrant backgrounds. On average though they only perform around the level of the least advantaged native students. Accordingly, at age 12 students with non-Western immigrant background are overrepresented among those pursuing vocational studies.


Esteem and respect in primary education

Less advantaged socio-economic background and not speaking the native language at home are major educational challenges for immigrant students.
Integration into the primary school system is, as a result, complicated.
Research shows that, as a result of the lower cognitive and language skills, non-Western minority children may be less accepted and embraced by their peers in the classroom during the early years of elementary school. This lower social status and level of belonging appears to have a strong influence on problem behavior among non-Western minority children. According to teachers and members of the peer group, migrant children show more aggressive and anti social behavior and are more
subject to bullying.(10)

Several reports have shown moreover that that non-Western youth from minorities face great hindrance later integrating in society, mainly due to their substantially longer period of unemployment, after establishing proper qualifications.

This indicates that non-Western minority youth may not only experience a lower social status during elementary school, but also during adolescence.

Their increased sensitivity for social exclusion and desire for a sense of belonging may make them more likely to affiliate with non-mainstream groups, e.g. same-ethnicity peer groups that share an identity based on their societal position.

Adaptive strategy development.

A Norwegian scholar, Jon Elstar, explains a mechanism for better understanding this identity formation. This is the adaptation of ambitions to maintain self respect (11). As an example: the fox from the fable of Aesop.

"Driven by hunger, a fox tries to reap some nice grapes hanging high on the vine but the grapes are out of reach, although he leaped as high as he could. Disappointed, he goes away. To accommodate his self respect in a positive way, the fox says 'Oh, the grapes aren't even ripe anyhow. I don't need any sour grapes.'"

On the positive side one could argue this is a healthy pragmatic solution to impossible challenges. On the negative side it is creating an easy alibi to position negative choices in a positive way.

This adaptive strategy can take different shapes. What the shapes have in common is that it makes the minority groups less vulnerable to the esteem of the majority culture. The esteem issue is neutralized and even turned around by claiming: our criteria are superior to yours. This attitude satisfies the need for "respect", a frequently used word in this context.

The respect they claim is the result of saying that they are not interested in the esteem ranking of the dominant culture. They have a different, not-related ranking for esteem. This is called "Not acting white" in the USA, among Afro Americans with a low socio-economic background. They create identity by claiming not to be interested in academic subjects, schooling, a career, reading, etc., because those are considered to be the criteria of the mainstream group, the Caucasians.

Two adaptive strategies are most common:

1. Conforming to the ranking of respect by the street culture, that is: muscles, tattoos, times in prison, possession of weapons.

2. Affiliation to (sometimes extreme) religious groups.

In "de Volkskrant" a Dutch newspaper (12) a conclusion was summarized from research into the behavior of radicalized young people in the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands. The research was trying to explain: "how does a teenager turn into a skinhead, a left radical, an animal rights extremist or a Muslim fundamentalist. The answer they found was: "It's not so much that difficult family ties or bad socio economic circumstances are explaining this, but rather it's about a derailed search for your own identity."

This new identity is attractive because it satisfies the need for respect; and they get extra attention right away, because they are seen by many mainstream people as threatening.

This creates a real challenge for the dominant culture, because:

a. Religious statements are difficult to refute, because the dominant culture members derive their own identity from democratic values like freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

b. These majority cultures themselves are mostly "post modern" in their own development i.e. they believe that there are no criteria for disclaiming the truth or validity of religious statements and assumptions.

c. In their own value system, they accept the separation of state and religion. They believe in the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" This means that they believe in rights and obligations of individuals, regardless of color, race , gender, sexual preference or ethnicity and do not accept religious dogmas as the sole indicator for values and norms.

Religion, collectivism and identity
As stated before, religion as such is not the cause for the worldwide conflicts in, for instance, the Middle East. The Islam and the Christian belief systems are both Abrahamic, monotheistic religions sharing a whole range of personalities in their holy books. The conflicts are really about in-group loyalty and behavior versus out-groups. In collectivist cultures people are supposed to be loyal to- and in harmony with- the thinking and the interest of their own in- group (tribe, ethnic group, region, clan, religious group) and in return the in-group will take care of them. What you do to outsiders is different. In this way it can be explained that Sunnites are killing Shiites and vice-versa.

The different in-groups have a long memory about wrongdoing from rival groups.

While facilitating workshops for people of the peace-keeping forces in the former Yugoslavia, I heard the following "joke":

A Croat says to a Serb: "Why are you killing our children and raping our women?" Says the Serb: "but you people did the same to us. You killed our children and raped our women!" "But that was 80 years ago," the Croat says. "Might be, but I only heard about it yesterday," was the response.


The step from extremism to terrorism

1. Morality and empathy
Frans de Waal, a Dutch ethologist,(13) found in his research that even primates like Chimpanzees, Bonobo and even Elephants are able to show empathy, defined as: "the ability to understand and to share the feelings of others."

So it is safe to say that, in general, humans everywhere share this ability. This is important because this is enabling us to enjoy music, books, paintings and dance, from areas that are very remote from where we live and where we were raised.

Recent psychological research found "mirror neurons" in our brains, resonating if something is happening to others. Scientists have shown that the same brain regions light up when you watch such things happening to someone else as when you experience them or imagine them happening to you.

Why is it then that, sometimes, terrible things are done to others? The obvious examples are the holocaust and, more recently, the beheadings carried out by the Islamic State.

The sad thing is that recent research has shown that our empathy is dampened or constrained when it comes to people of different races, nationalities or creeds.

A body of recent research shows that empathy is a choice that we make; about whether to extend ourselves to others. The "limits" to our empathy are merely apparent, and can change, sometimes drastically, depending on what we want to feel.

Emile Bruneau, a cognitive neuroscientist, looked into the question:
"Why is empathizing across groups so much more difficult?" (14)

Bruneau remarks that the lighting up of mirror neurons is not empathy "It's what you do with that information that determines whether it's empathy or not. A psychopath might demonstrate the same neural flashes in response to the same painful images, but experience glee instead of distress."

Elements that influence that choice have been studied. Some of the most interesting conclusions are that the choice to empathize with others is negatively influenced by the perception of the role you have and the influence of the esteem for experts.

Bruneau summarizes some empirical findings that can create in his words an "empathy gap" The way the mind mutes the empathy signal and stops the ability to put yourself in the position of the "enemy"

- Outsider position
identification with people whom we perceive as outsiders is difficult. This is especially true when those outsiders form an entire community. It is one thing to see the photo of a dead refugee child on the beach. It's another thing to empathize with all Libyans to try to escape the miserable conditions inside their home country. Joseph Stalin already said: "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

- Group identity
How much of our ability to empathize is influenced by identification with the group we want to belong to. This is by all means a very relevant issue. Even looking at the infamous fights between soccer fans from rival teams. In my home country, the Netherlands, people were killed in organized fights between supporters of teams from Rotterdam and Amsterdam about100 km apart.

Bruneau cites an experience as a volunteer at a summer camp for Catholic and Protestant boys in Belfast. In an effort to build friendships between the two groups 250 children between the ages of 6 and 14 to be bunk together for three weeks, At first he thought things were going pretty well. Some Protestant boys built what seemed like genuine friendships with some Catholic boys. But on the last day of the program a fight broke out between two participants that quickly devolved into a full-scale, 250-child brawl: Catholics against Protestants

An analyses showed that it correlated with was the strength of a person's group identity

"The more an individual's team affiliation resonated for them, the less empathy they were likely to express for members of the rival team," he says. "Even in this contrived setting, something as inconsequential as a computer game was enough to generate a measurable gap."

This finding creates an serious problem for policy makers. It seems so self-evident to bring people together to build trust and empathy.. Bruneau says:

" But it turns out a lot of those common-sense approaches can be way off-base.' It seems that: "Increasing empathy might be great at improving pro-social behavior among individuals, but if a program succeeded in boosting an individual's empathy for his or her own group, (..) it might actually increase hostility toward the enemy".

- Relevance of a group or individual.
Stronger activity of the mirror neurons might correlate with how relevant a certain group is to us and not what we feel for them. In a 2012 study, Bruneau showed that Arabs and Israelis showed equal amounts of neural activity when they read articles about their own group's suffering as when they read about the other group's suffering. But when they read about the suffering of South Americans - a group with whom they were not in direct conflict the brain activity was muted. As far as the brain is concerned, he says, the opposite of love might not be hate, but indifference.

- Following orders of a superior or expert

The Stanley Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures showed the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure instructing them to perform acts conflicting with their
personal conscience. (15)

- The context of our perceived role
- The Stanford prison experiment (SPE) was a study of psychological effects of subjects playing a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted at Stanford University on August 14-20, 1971, by a team of researchers led by professor Philip Zimbardo. The guards and prisoners adapted to their roles more than Zimbardo expected, stepping beyond predicted boundaries, leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited "genuine sadistic tendencies", while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized; five of them had to be removed from the experiment early. The conclusion of the experiment favors "situational" attribution of behavior rather than "dispositional" attribution (a result caused by internal characteristics). In other words, it seemed that the situation, rather than their individual personalities, caused the
participants' behavior. (16)

From extremism to terrorism
To explain large scale violence three factors are important:
1. a long-going grudge where one of the parties feels humiliated by the other; and

2. "de-individualization" or depersonalization. The other side has no individual face but needs to be seen as collectively guilty for the humiliation. This is happening in some Muslim communities. More and more there is talking, writings and preaching about the Muslim humiliation by the Christians, going back to the time of the Crusades. The ISIS fighters refer to the Western World as the "Crusaders", and in this way they create an enemy without individual faces. In this way they develop a pretext for terrorism.

3. Dehumanization
This is the denial of "humanness" to other people. (18) In general it can take three "faces":

- animalistic dehumanization: comparing certain human beings to non-human animals. "Police are pigs" It is used to prevent one from showing compassion towards stigmatized groups.

-mechanistic dehumanization, in which human attributes are removed, and the person is perceived to be unfeeling, cold, passive, rigid, and lacking individuality.

-creating "the enemy" a person can be dehumanized is by perceiving the other person as being the enemy. "The enemy is constructed to exemplify manipulation and is described as being opportunistic, evil, immoral, and motivated by greed. The enemy is shown to take advantage of the weak, which in turn justifies any action taken against the enemy"

"Dehumanization may be carried out by a social institution such as a state, school, family or religious group. State-organized dehumanization has historically been directed against perceived political, racial, ethnic, national, or religious minority groups Dehumanization can lead to exclusion, violence, and support for violence against others. Likewise, making statements such as "terrorists are just scum", is also an act of dehumanization."

The other side: How to explain terrorism from the side of members of the endogenous population towards immigrants

Globalization versus the need for emotional security

Terrorism can also happen as an outcome of emotional unease because of the visible consequences of immigration. Culture can be compared with an onion with different layers. Values are of course invisible. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are part of the values of Western countries with the restricted rule of law, giving minority groups the same rights. The expression of these rights, for instance head-scarf's and places worship like Mosques is however highly visible. This can be experienced by people from receiving countries as de-rooting and loss of identity. If people have been used throughout their lives to the symbols, heroes and rituals of their own culture, it creates also emotional safety. Emotional safety is one of the basic layers of the Maslow pyramid. Only if this need is fulfilled individuals can be open for other experiences.

Rapid changes are frequently making people feel unsafe. Unsafe feelings might lead to "cramped" reactions. Leading to de-humanization of newcomers. Right wing groups are using this by calling male newcomers dangerous "testosterone bombs" and "rapists". Consequence can be that all the above mentioned reasons for terrorism might occur. Violent reactions acts like the Breivik killings in Norway and the attacks on refugee camps in Sweden and German are examples.

But there is another element that is creating confusion and emotional stress. It is about misunderstandings about the deepest layer of culture "values"

Some highly profiled politicians, writers and philosophers are convinced that globalization is changing national values and that it is old-fashioned to believe that country values are stable and create deeply rooted diverse mindsets. This idea is refuted by the before -mentioned recent repeat of Hofstede's research published in June 2015 by Beugelsdijk et al. They showed that, in spite of global developments, the Hofstede findings are still consistent over time and valid. This means that "national values" should be taken seriously into account, when talking about the consequences of immigration.

The Hofstede findings are defined by comparing the values of nation-states. For some "globalists" this is an old-fashioned idea and even unacceptable.. Even stronger, some of them are saying that referring to culture is tantamount to apartheid on a global scale. And apartheid is racism and fascism in one encompassing word.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger used the train compartment as a metaphor for the nation-state. Some people are already sitting in the compartment. Then the door opens and others are entering {stepping in}. The ones who were already there feel annoyed by the newcomers. They are disturbing the peace and are taking available room. You know, of course, that your feelings are "not right." They have just as much right for a chair as you have.
Martin Sommer, a Dutch journalist, says: "the nation-state as something you purchase a ticket for and nothing else?
No history, no shared destiny, no obligations? I don't think so. " (18)

He adds:
"Using the train compartment metaphor it is clear that some globalists are seeing this as the European identity. That is to say: no identity. The European identity is about human rights, across borders, post colonial, post Auschwitz. That's why Europe cannot have real borders; because borders mean exclusion".

As a result, a polarization is growing between the emotions of people on the "grass roots" level in the different nation-states in Europe, and the "rational" opinions of the globalists who believe that it is "stupid" to be afraid.

It is clear that one can see uneasiness in the discussion about refugees and immigrants. It is politically incorrect to say that national values are different and can lead to frictions.

This amounts to an ideological confrontation of values.

Mass immigration and consequences
The recent influx of immigrants into European countries demands another discussion about the consequences for nation-states with an established welfare system based on solidarity among the members of those nation-states.

In general, the majority of the different receiving countries are moderately positive about the need to do something for people who lost everything and fled from the war in their own countries. Still, every day on news media it can be seen that some individuals and groups are violently against getting these refugees to stay in camps in their neighborhood.

Already now it can be seen that some people are scaremongering, de- individualizing and dehumanizing immigrant groups. Words like "testosterone bombs" and "rapists" are used for young men, to make people afraid.

The media have a special role to play here, to explain reality and give facts.
This should not take the shape of a naïve and overly positive approach. It should be clear that there are some real worries for the citizens of the receiving countries. For instance: the problems of housing and priorities for waiting lists. Also legitimate questions are raised about the financial consequences of all this.

To avoid "Babylonic" discussions leading to unwanted polarization, it is necessary to separate two kinds of arguments:

- The ethical arguments. The discussion about the need to help refugees escaping from dangerous areas and needing shelter to protect their families. In this argumentation it is about "Putting our own people first, versus treating refugees like you would want to be treated yourself." What do we mean by "fair and just"?

- A consequential analyses
What are the consequences of accepting thousands of refugees? Different perspectives should be discussed in an open way: what are the consequences for them? And for us? What are the consequences for the taxpayers? For the labor force? For the social security system? For education? For security?

The two discussions will amount to an ideological and political confrontation. On one hand we have the focus on equality, giving everybody the same rights. On the other hand is the fact that the social security systems are based on solidarity. This solidarity is developed and sustained by people living and working within the borders of the nation state. That took a long time to develop. It should be evident that this solidarity implies frontiers.

The Dutch former finance minister Wouter Bos says:
"This is not only theory. Big migration can cause a problem for the solidarity in the welfare state.Most of us will not support diminishing the level of solidarity in our type of society. But this is, according to economists, the consequence we will face, if we don't take measures against the
flow of refugees."(18)

Ideas to take into consideration:

1. An active policy is required to aim for the social inclusion of immigrants
Elements of such a policy must be:
-Recognize the cultural uniqueness of the different cultural groups involved;
- Value the importance of the different layers of culture for the identity of the
cultural groups and pay explicit attention to it: beliefs, symbols, heroes,
rituals, languages, accents, and social conduct;
-Value cooperation and bridge-building with community leaders and other
organizations working within the community;
-Value word-of-mouth and interpersonal communication to spread your message.

2. Be aware of the possibilities and limits of integration. People cannot take off their opinions and values like you take off your clothes. Policy implementers should be pro-active in observing and coaching if beliefs and convictions collide, such as the separation of state and religion; or equal treatment of men and women; and the tolerance for different sexual preferences.

3. We have to be acutely aware of the difference between values and norms. Whereas values may be different, but the norms must be common to all; and they are anchored in the constitution and in the law. This makes clear what behavior is accepted and what behavior is forbidden and not sanctioned.

4. We have to develop, quite quickly, some clear examples and case studies concerning seemingly contradictory elements of our societies, such as freedom of speech versus insult and hate speech. We must clarify aspects such as on one hand tolerance and on the other hand social conduct like shaking hands between men and women, and rituals like standing up in a courtroom when the judge is entering the room; between on one hand accepting religious prescriptions like having a long beard for men, and on the other hand observing explicit safety measures in a prison; between on one hand wearing cloth that covers one's face and on the other hand the need to be able to identify a person.

5. We have to pay much more attention to the needs of non-Western children at the moment they enter the school system. Extra attention, manpower and money are required to prevent (self) exclusion.

6. We have to pay close attention to the collectivist side of the non-Western immigrants and to the potential conflict between ethnical and religious factions like Shiites and Sunnites. These conflicts are sometimes imported.

7. We have to be aware that many immigrant groups are not feeling solidarity to each other.

8. Research by Putnam found that in multi-ethnic city quarters trust in each other is frequently very low. Recent research in a culture like the Dutch is questioning that. So may be a cultural factor has an impact here.

9. Speaking the language is a necessity for communication. Efforts should be increased to enable immigrants to take language lessons. Sanctions should be considered if people drop out.

10. Work is a powerful tool for inclusion. Policies should forcefully fight discrimination in the labor market.

11. Active policies should be in place to prevent de-individualization and de-humanization. Everywhere, but most especially in schools, it should not be allowed that whole ethnic or religious groups are referred to in negative language. Teachers should be trained to be able to stop this and ask the students to look at the dangerous potential consequences.

12. Immigrants frequently ask: "you tell me that we have to adapt to the new culture, but explain to me then what that actually means." Most often the answer is very superficial, because most people have difficulties to describe the key elements of their own culture. What they see around them is perceived as "normal". As the saying goes "Fish are the last ones to define water." It is in this sense that Queen Maxima was describing the Dutch culture as: "you get one cookie with your cup of tea." What is needed is a better understanding of the basic dimensions of culture and what that means for all the different mindsets involved. This will benefit both the immigrants and ourselves, as we become more aware of our respective identities and seek a form of living together that is mutually respectful and beneficial.


Notes
1- Geert Hofstede: Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations, 2nd Edition. 596 pages. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 2001, hardcover, ISBN 0-8039-7323-3; 2003, paperback, ISBN 0-8039-7324-1.
2. Nation-state: Nation: people sharing a certain territory and having a shared national consciousness who in principle accept the authority, legitimacy and power of their political administration (= state)
3- Beugelsdijk, S., Maseland, R. and van Hoorn, A. (2015), Are Scores on Hofstede's Dimensions of National Culture Stable over Time? A Cohort Analysis. Global Strategy Journal, 5: 223-240. doi: 10.1002/gsj.1098
4.-The Clash of Civilizations? Essay Summer 1993 Issue United StatesPolitics & Society By Samuel P. Huntington
5. Article 24 of the declaration states: "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia." Article 19 also says: "There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Sharia."
6- The Educational Performance of Children of Immigrants in Sixteen OECD Countries. J. Donkers and M de Heus- Dossier Migrantengezin - Invloed van migratie, Nederlands Jeugdinstituut.html
7--OECD (2014),
Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators,
OECD Publishing.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2014-en
ISBN 978-92-64-21132-2 (print)
ISBN 978-92-64-21505-4 (PDF
8- see Wikipedia and Social Inclusion: Profiles". SocialInclusion.gov.au. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 11 March 2011
9- Immigrant Children's Educational Achievement in Western Countries: Origin, Destination, and Community Effects on Mathematical Performance Mark Levels, Jaap Dronkers, Gerbert Kraaykamp . Radboud University, Nijmegen, European University Institute, San Domenico di Fiesole. American Sociological Review, 2008, vol.73 (October: 835-853)
10-Psychosocial and Educational Adjustment of Ethnic Minority Elementary School Children in the Netherlands.
Author(s): Ftitache, B.Link location: http://hdl.handle.net/1871/52607 Year: 2015-04-20
11- The Cement of Society: A Study of Social Order by Jon Elster
311 ges, $49.50 (hardcover), $16.95 (paperback) published by Cambridge University Press
- Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences by Jon Elster 184 pages, $10.95 (paperback) published by Cambridge University Press
- Solomonic Judgments: Studies in the Limitations of Rationality by Jon Elster 232 pages, $37.50 hardcover), $13.95 (paperback) published by Cambridge University Press
12-De Volkskrant 13-10-2015
13- Frans de Waal, Ted talk
14- as cited in: The Brain's Empathy Gap. Can mapping neural pathways help us make friends with our enemies? By JENEEN INTERLANDI MARCH 19, 2015 New York Times
15-Milgram first described this in 1963 in an article published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology . Later he analyzed it in depth in his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View
16- Haney, C., Banks, W. C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1973). "Study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison", Naval Research Reviews, 9, 1-17. Washington, DC: Office of Naval Research.
17-Psychwiki.com/Dehumanization
18-Martin Sommer. Volkskrant 15-08-2015
19-Dom interview over belangrijk thema
Wouter Bos in De Volkskrant 15/10/15




.The Future Now Show with Steve Hill, Elena Miloval and
.Katie Aquino




Every month we roam through current events, discoveries, and challenges - sparking discussion about the connection between today and the futures we're making - and what we need, from strategy to vision - to make the best ones.

The Future Now Show
www.clubofamsterdam.com/TheFutureNowShow.htm


April 2016

Aging


featuring
Steve Hill, Major Mouse Testing Project,UK
Elena Milova
, Major Mouse Testing Project,Russia
Katie Aquino, aka “Miss Metaverse”, Futurista™, USA
Paul Holister, Editor, Summary Text

Vanquishing ageing is obviously an eternal hot topic but only in recent years has it been demonstrated that interventions can have a significant impact. But what is the chemical basis for all this and what chemicals might offer the most precise intervention? Our understanding is at an early stage. Some ideas are coalescing, such as clearing out defunct cells that refuse to die (senolytics), but in general we need much more data. The Major Mouse Testing Program has been set up to accelerate things by, essentially, using a lot of mice. The program is also unusual in that it uses crowd funding, not a traditional way of supporting scientific research but intriguing. And surely this is a topic that will appeal to the crowds.




The Future Now Show
features





.The Middle East and North Africa: A 30-minute whirlwind tour



By
James M. Dorsey, Senior Fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University

Lecture at the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, 3 March 2016

No free lunches

What the dramatic and bloody developments in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate is that there are no free lunches. These developments are the product of short sighted policies of on the one hand major players in the international community – the United States, the former Soviet Union and currently Russia as well as Europe and China – and on the other hand of primarily dictatorial regimes or a minority of democratically elected governments like Israel who see merit in exploiting opportunity that allows them to avoid healing festering wounds.

The popular revolts that swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 toppling leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, sparked the civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, Saudi military interventions in Bahrain and Yemen, and the rise of jihadism with today the Islamic States at its epicentre, were a response to decades of autocratic, arbitrary rule that failed to produce in national, economic and social terms. That autocratic rule benefitted from the support of the international community. The West saw autocracy as a guarantee for stability while countries like the Soviet Union at the time, Russia today and China never really adhered to values of democratic change.

Many have commented that the revolts demonstrated that the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite Arab and Muslim claims to the contrary was not at the core of problems in the Middle East and North Africa. They point to the fact that the conflict did not figure prominently in the events of 2011 and has not been key to developments since. That is true. The fallacy is that the conflict never was at the core of regional issues. Israel-Palestine figures less prominently in the developments because it no longer can serve autocrats as a lightning rod that distracts from the real domestic and regional issues. It did however serve to aggravate problems. The lightning rod backfired. Arab military and political incompetence coupled with divisions among Palestinians and Israeli intransigence ultimately served to undermine the legitimacy of autocrats who failed to perform on what a vast majority in the Middle East and North Africa saw as an issue of national importance and pride and fundamental justice.

All of this summarily explains why the Middle East and North Africa is in transition. It positions the events of recent years as a rejection of corrupt and failed autocratic rule. What it doesn’t explain is why the transition has taken such a violent turn and produced brutal and ruthless forces that range from the Islamic State to the regimes of Bashar al Assad in Syria and the Al Sauds in Saudi Arabia that are willing to pursue their goals and remain in power at whatever human, social, economic and political cost.

Middle Eastern and North African exceptionalism

The uprisings of 2011 caught government officials, journalists and analysts across the globe by surprise. They were until then enamoured by what became known as Arab exceptionalism, the apparent ability of Arab autocrats to buck the global trend towards democracy. Arab leaders appeared to be immune to popular aspirations and able to maintain their grip on power with no credible forces able to challenge them. That myth was shattered in 2011.

That is not to say that Arab exceptionalism is a fallacy. It isn’t. However, what it represents is something very different from what officials and pundits thought it meant. The nature of Arab exceptionalism becomes evident in the exploration of the answer to the question why political transition was relatively successful in Southeast Asia with the popular revolts in the Philippines and Indonesia and military-led political change in Myanmar and why it is so messy and bloody in the Middle East and North Africa.

The answer in my mind lies in four factors – the military, civil society, management of religious and ethnic conflict, and the role of regional powers. In a whirlwind, what this means is that Southeast Asia had militaries, at least parts of which saw change as serving their interest. No Arab military with the exception of Tunisia took that view. Despite repression, Southeast Asia was able to develop some degree of robust civil society, the Middle East and North Africa by and large hasn’t. Southeast Asia has seen its share of ethnic and religious conflict but has often been able to negotiate an end to those disputes. The Lebanese civil war being the exception, the Middle East and North Africa has seen such conflicts as a zero sum game. And finally Southeast Asia is lucky not to have a Saudi Arabia, a counterrevolutionary forced with the temporary wherewithal to stymie change at whatever cost.

A decade of defiance and dissent

All of this means that there is increasingly little space to push for change. Regimes respond with violence to demands of change. Don’t’ forget that revolts like those in Libya, Bahrain and Syria started as peaceful mass anti-government protests that were confronted brutally. Libya sparked foreign intervention to prevent a bloodbath, Saudi Arabia and the Bahraini regime turned Bahrain into sectarian strife and the regime of Bashar al Assad is willing to fight a horrendous civil war to retain power.

All of this takes place in a decade of defiance and dissent. Across the globe, people have lost confidence in the system and their leaders. Donald Trump is an expression of that. The last time this happened was in the 1960s. The difference between then and now is that then there were all kinds of worldviews on offer: anti-authoritarianism. Anarchism, socialism, communism and in the Middle East and North Africa, Arab nationalism and Arab socialism. Today, the only thing on offer are radical interpretations of Islam.

Human rights activist and former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki asked in a recent Wall Street Journal interview why Tunisia had educated people with jobs joining IS. His answer was: “It’s not the matter of tackling socioeconomic roots. You have to go deeper and understand that these guys have a dream—and we don’t. We had a dream—our dream was called the Arab Spring. And our dream is now turning into a nightmare. But the young people need a dream, and the only dream available to them now is the caliphate.”

What this means is that identifying the root causes of political violence demands self-inspection on the part of governments and societies across the globe. It is those governments and societies that are both part of the problem and part of the solution. It is those governments and societies that are at the root of loss of confidence.

Further troubling the waters is the rise of a public and private anti-terrorism industry that sees human rights as second to ensuring security and safety; has a vested interest in couching the problem in terms of law enforcement and counter-terrorism rather than notions of alienation, marginalization, socio-economic disenfranchisement, youth aspirations and rights; is abetted by autocratic Middle Eastern and North African regimes that define any form of dissent as terrorism; and is supported by a public opinion that buys into support of autocrats and some degree of curtailing of rights as a trade-off for security.

Tackling root causes

Analysts and policymakers have identified a range of causes for the breakdown of the traditional order in the Middle East and North Africa, ranging from a desire for greater freedom and social justice to the fragility of post-colonial regional states as a result of autocratic failure to engage in nation rather than regime building that gave rise to ethnic, tribal and sectarian strife, to inherent flaws in colonial border arrangements at the time of the demise of the Ottoman Empire such as the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Treaty of Sevres. All of those notions contain kernels of truth but they have contributed to it becoming common place to pay lip service to the need to tackle root causes of the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa as well as of political violence, and that can mean almost anything.

Translating the need to tackle root causes into policy is proving difficult, primarily because it is based on a truth that has far-reaching consequences for every member of the international community no matter how close or far they are from IS’s current borders. It involves governments putting their money where their mouth is and changing long-standing, ingrained policies at home that marginalize, exclude, stereotype and stigmatize significant segments of society; emphasize security at the expense of freedoms that encourage healthy debate; and in more autocratic states that are abetted by the West, Russia and China reduce citizens to obedient subjects through harsh repression and adaptations of religious belief to suit the interests of rulers.

The result is a vicious circle: government policies often clash with the state or regime’s professed values. As a result, dividing lines sharpen as already marginalized, disenfranchised or discriminated segments of society see the contradiction between policies and values as hypocritical and re-confirmation of the basis of their discontent. Western nations, for example, in the fall of 2015, deferred to Saudi Arabia’s objections to an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) into human rights violations by all sides during the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen in which thousands of civilians were killed. Media reports documented, a day prior to the Western cave-in, a British pledge to support Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s foremost violators of basic human rights and purveyors of sectarianism, in the Council. The kingdom, at the same time, objected to references to gay rights in the United Nations’ newly formulated Sustainable Development Goals.

Inclusiveness is the answer

Creating a policy framework that is conducive to an environment in the Middle East and North Africa that would favour pluralism and respect of human rights and counter the appeal of jihadism and emerging sectarian-based nationalism is not simply a question of encouraging and supporting voices in the region, first and foremost those of youth, or of revisiting assumptions of Western foreign policies and definitions of national security. It involves fostering inclusive national identities that are capable of accommodating ethnic, sectarian and tribal sub-identities as legitimate and fully accepted sub-identities in Middle Eastern and North Africa, as well as in Western countries, and changing domestic policies towards minorities, refugees and migrants.

In the case of the international community’s effort to defeat IS, inclusiveness means, for example, that victory has to be secured as much in Raqqa and Mosul, IS’s Syrian and Iraqi capitals, as in the dismal banlieues, run-down, primarily minority-populated, suburbs of French cities that furnish the group with its largest contingent of European foreign fighters; in the popular neighbourhoods in Tunisia that account for the single largest group of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq; in Riyadh, seat of a government whose citizens account for the second largest number of foreign fighters and whose well-funded, decades-long effort to propagate a puritan, intolerant, interpretation of Islam has been a far more important feeding ground for jihadist thinking than the writings of militant Islamist thinkers like Sayyid Qutb; and in Western capitals with Washington in the lead who view retrograde, repressive regimes like those of Saudi Arabia and Egypt as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Focussing on root causes that are at the core of both the crisis and deteriorating, if not total disrespect of, human rights, means broadening scholarly and policy debate to concentrate not only on what amounts to applying Band-Aids that fail to halt the festering of open wounds but also to question assumptions made by the various schools of thought on how to solve the problem. The facts on the ground have already convincingly contradicted the notion that Western support of autocracy and military interventions primarily through air campaigns despite paying lip service to ideals of democracy and human rights could counter common enemies like IS. It has so far produced only limited results. Respect for human rights has, in many Middle Eastern and North African nations, significantly deteriorated since the 2011 popular revolts while IS is largely standing its ground more than a year into a US-led air campaign, a Russian bombing operation that began in the fall of 2015, and ground campaigns by the Iraqi government and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The group continues to advocate a regime that celebrates its rejection of pluralism and human rights and metes out relatively transparent yet brutal justice, and it poses a fundamental threat to the existence of post-colonial nation states as the world knew them, first and foremost Syria and Iraq, but ultimately also others like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Libya.

Defeat is not the solution

Yet, even a convincing defeat of IS would not solve the problem or promote notions of pluralism and respect of human rights. Al Qaeda was degraded, to use the language of the Obama administration. In the process, it weakened a jihadist force that, despite having no appreciation for concepts of pluralism and human rights, increasingly advocated a gradual approach to the establishment of its harsh interpretation of Islamic law in a bid to ensure public support. Instead of reducing the threat of political violence, the largely military effort to defeat Al Qaeda produced ever more virulent forms of jihadism as embodied by IS. It may be hard to imagine anything more brutal than IS, but it is a fair assumption that defeating IS without tackling root causes would only lead to something that is even more violent and more vicious.

Nonetheless, defining repressive, autocratic rule and IS as the greatest threat to regional stability and security and the furthering of more liberal notions is problematic. In the case of IS, that definition elevates jihadism – the violent establishment of Pan-Islamic rule based on narrow interpretations of Islamic law and scripture -- to the status of a root cause rather than a symptom and expression of a greater and more complex problem. It is an approach that focuses on the immediate nature of the threat and ways to neutralize it rather than on what sparked it. It also neglects the fact that the ideological debate in the Muslim world is to a large extent dominated by schools of thought that do not advocate more open, liberal and pluralistic interpretations of Islam.

That is where one real challenge lies. It is a challenge first and foremost to Muslims, but also to an international community that would give more liberal Muslim voices significant credibility if it put its money where its mouth is. Support for self-serving regimes and their religious supporters, as in the case of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, reduces the international community’s choices to one between bad and worse, rather than to a palate of policy options that take a stab at rooting out the problem and its underlying causes.

A wake-up call

To be sure, change and progress towards the embrace of pluralism and universal human rights will have to originate from within Middle Eastern and North African nations. Saudi and UAE efforts to target political Islam as such that have also resonated in the West, were articulated by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair argued against “a deep desire to separate the political ideology represented by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood from the actions of extremists including acts of terrorism.” He acknowledged that it was “laudable” to distinguish “between those who violate the law and those we simply disagree with” but warned that “if we're not careful, they also blind us to the fact that the ideology itself is nonetheless dangerous and corrosive; and cannot and should not be treated as a conventional political debate between two opposing views of how society should be governed.”

On that basis, it is hard to see why Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s puritan interpretation of Islam that is the well-spring of much of contemporary jihadist thinking, does not top the list of ideologies that are “dangerous and corrosive.” Saudi Arabia, like the Islamic State, was born in a jihadist struggle that married Islamist warriors led by an 18th century jurist Mohammed Abdul Wahab, with the proto-kingdom’s ruling Al Saud clan.

The failure of the 2011 popular revolts and the autocratic counterrevolution that they provoked, the rise of IS, increased repression and the region’s deterioration of respect for basic freedoms constitutes a wake-up call for many in the Middle East and North Africa. It has fuelled a long-overdue debate among Arabs and Muslims about the kind of world they want to live in.

In an essay entitled ‘The Barbarians Within Our Gates,’ prominent Washington-based journalist Hisham Melhelm wrote: “The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism — the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition — than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago… The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays — all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic forms.... The jihadists of the Islamic State, in other words, did not emerge from nowhere. They climbed out of a rotting, empty hulk — what was left of a broken-down civilization.”

For his part, Turki al-Hamad, a liberal Saudi intellectual, questioned how Saudi religious leaders could confront the Islamic State’s extremist ideology given that they promote similar thinking at home and abroad. Al-Hamad argued that the Saudi clergy was incapable of confronting the extremism of groups like IS “not because of laxness or procrastination, but because they share the same ideology."

Neither Melhelm nor al-Hamad are Islamists. Yet, they reflect widespread soul-searching among Islamists and non-Islamists across the Arab world. Theirs is a debate that predates the rise of the Islamic State but has been pushed centre stage by jihadists, autocrats and misguided Western politicians alike. It is a debate that is at the core of tackling the root causes on which jihadist groups feed, and which in turn has become a primary alibi for autocrats to discount pluralism and greater freedoms. It is, however, also a debate that threatens to be squashed by a policy that focuses on military rather than political solutions and promotes status quo regimes whose autocracy chokes off opportunities for the venting of widespread discontent and anger, leaving violence and extremism as one of the few, if not the only, options to force change.

The solution is medium-term

As a result, the Obama administration’s alignment with the Middle East’s counter-revolutionary forces and targeting of groups other than IS, risks identifying the US with efforts by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to target political Islam as such. The three Arab nations have cracked down on non-violent groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE particularly has since called for an expansion of the campaign against the Islamic State to include all non-violent expressions of political Islam. The US alignment prevents it from adopting a policy that would seek to contain IS militarily while focusing on removing the grievances on which the group feeds. It is a policy that is destined, at best, to provide a Band-Aid for a festering wound.

Moreover, in a globalized world, events in the Middle East and North Africa, and among minority populations elsewhere with roots in the region, often mutually reinforce one another. By the same token, there are no quick solutions or short cuts. The key is the articulation of policies that over the medium term can help generate an environment more conducive to more liberal change rather than the continuous opting for knee-jerk reactions to events and facts on the ground as was evident in Tunisia’s response to a June 2015 attack on a tourist resort, Kuwait’s reaction to the bombing of a Shiite mosque at about the same time, and France’s answer to an almost simultaneous assault on its territory by a lone wolf.

Tunisia deployed 1,000 armed policemen to tourist sites even as tourists left the country en masse, and closed 80 mosques suspected of hosting radical clerics; a move that was likely to push militants further underground. Kuwait, which displayed a remarkable degree of inclusivity with Sunnis and Shias joining hands in their condemnation of the bombing of a Shiite mosque that left 27 people dead and more than 200 others wounded, looked at adoption of a stringent anti-terrorism law while France passed legislation that authorised sweeping surveillance. None of these measures address the sense of hopelessness and willingness to rebel that potentially pervades predominantly young Muslim in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and is reinforced by increased prejudice sparked by violence and brutality perpetrated by Muslim extremists.

As a result, Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC, the 2011 Arab revolts, the rise of IS and attacks in Paris, Ankara, Beirut, Tunisia and Kuwait, have served to undermine efforts at greater inclusiveness and assurance of equal rights and opportunity - such as Europe’s pursuit of multiculturalism - and sparked violent counterrevolutionary efforts by Arab autocrats. The result has been, in the Middle East and North Africa, fractured states and increased repression that seemingly places pluralism and respect of human rights in the realm of wishful thinking. Autocratic and Western responses to jihadist attacks and propaganda play into the militants’ hands by feeding an already existent sense of rejection among disenfranchised and marginalized youth as well as ethnic and religious minorities. All of that is fed by growing intolerance, suspicion of the other, stereotyping, and a feeling of not being welcome among minority groups, and it is strengthened by sectarian policies adopted by Middle Eastern and North African governments.

Ironically, US President George W. Bush concluded, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, that Al Qaeda was as much a product of US support for autocratic Arab regimes as it was the result of politically bankrupt Arab leaders. The acknowledgement amounted to an admission of failure of a US policy designed to maintain stability in a key geostrategic and volatile part of the world and led to Bush’s ill-fated initiative to promote democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.

Where to look?

One place to look for alternative approaches is Norway. In contrast to most reactions to political violence and expression of pro-jihadist sentiment, Norway’s response to right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s traumatic attacks in 2011 that killed 77 people stands as a model for how societies can and should uphold concepts of pluralism and human rights. Norway refrained from declaring war on terror, treated Breivik as a common criminal and refused to compromise on its democratic values. In doing so, Norway offered a successful example of refusing to stigmatise any one group in society by adopting inclusiveness rather than profiling and upholding the very values that autocrats and jihadists challenge.

The result of exclusively security-focussed approaches, coupled with the exploitation of economic opportunity by autocratic Middle Eastern and North African regimes and Western governments, is an increasingly insecure region in which the creation of pluralistic societies that honour human rights seems ever more distant. Said an Egyptian Islamist militant, whose non-violent anti-government activism is as much aimed at opposing the regime of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as it is designed to persuade increasingly frustrated youth that there are alternatives to nihilistic violence: “The strategy of brutality, repression and restricting freedom has failed to impose subservience. It hasn’t produced solutions. Governments need to give people space. They need to prove that they are capable of addressing the problems of a youth that has lost hope. We have nothing to lose if they don’t.” The Egyptian’s inclinations pointed towards peaceful protest in favour of a more liberal society, albeit bound by Islamic morality codes; his options, however, left him little choice but to drift towards jihadism.

What to do?

Creating the kind of options that would give the Egyptian militant real choices is easier said than done and unlikely to produce immediate results. It would, among others, have to involve:

Recognition that the Middle East and North Africa are in the throes of a brutal process of change that is likely to play out over years. Attempting to halt the process is futile; nurturing it with policies that encourage non-violent, non-sectarian change - even if it means a redrawing of the region’s map and regime change - will ultimately far better serve the reestablishment of regional peace and security and the creation of an environment conducive to pluralism and respect of human rights;

Tying political, military and economic support to governments in the Middle East and North Africa to progress towards support of human rights and greater equality for minorities through the adoption of inclusive, non-sectarian, and non-repressive policies;

A halt to the global propagation of intolerant ideologies by some Middle Eastern governments and state-sponsored groups such as Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Wahhabism that contrasts starkly with that of Qatar, the world’s only other Wahhabi state;

Abolition of sectarianism in state rhetoric;

Recognition of minority rights;

Reform of brutal police and security forces that are widely feared and despised;

Granting of greater freedoms to ensure the existence of release valves for pent-up anger and frustration and the unfettered voicing of grievances;

A crackdown on corruption;

Reform of education systems that produce a mismatch between market demand and graduates’ skills.
Some of these policies are easier achievable than others. Some might seem like pie in the sky. Fact of the matter is, you’ve got to start somewhere. That somewhere realistically will involve policies and measures that are low hanging fruit against the backdrop of a push for a paradigm shift in the way we think about big picture things like the kind of societies we want to live in, the mismatch between what we profess to believe in and what we in fact do, the foreign policies we want to see adopted, and the framework in which we look at a range that starts with freedom of expression and peaceful dissent and ends with brutal, political violence.

Thank you



.The Food Porn Superstars of South Korea: Mukbang


In Korea, people can tune in on their laptops and cell phones any time, any day and watch people eat - and talk about eating. These "online eaters" are neither chefs nor restaurateurs, but the stars of the South Korean digital food phenomenon: Mukbang.

Charlet Duboc travels to Seoul to meet some full-time stars and fans of a phenomenon that is attracting millions of viewers within this East Asian republic and forging a new kind of online celebrity.






.News about the Future

Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2016
The Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI), developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Accenture, aims to provide an additional set of data to help leaders benchmark the current performance of national energy systems, and inform decision-making in the context of the changes under way in the global energy landscape.

European Economic Forecast
Winter 2016

European Economy Institutional Papers reports and communications from the European Commission to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament on the economy and economic developments.

The European economy remains supported by a number of positive fac
tors such as oil prices, euro’s exchange rate and financing costs which have
stimulated exports and private consumption. Investment, however, remains
hampered by economic and policy uncertainty and in some countries,
excessive debt. Now, as it enters its fourth year of recovery, the European
economy is facing headwinds and substantial risks from the slowdown in
emerging economies. Economic growth strong enough to reduce
unemployment substantially has so far failed to materialise and evidence of a reinvigor ation of investment, which is crucial for the sustainability of the
recovery, remains limited.



.A new report from Ireland explains how technologies will
.transform food and agriculture between now and 2035


by Patrick Crehan, Crehan, Kusano & Associates spr, Brussels
Director, Club of Amsterdam

Teagasc (pronounced CHA GOSK), the agency that provides research, training and advisory services to the agri-food industry in Ireland, has recently completed a technology foresight exercise entitled Teagasc Technology Foresight 2035.

The final report addresses one of the most significant challenges that the sector will face in the coming years. Namely how to achieve the high levels of growth needed to ensure security of food and nutrition, while reducing the impact of the sector on the environment and climate change.

Ultimately the ability of the sector to grow over the coming decades, providing high quality jobs and prosperity to those it employs, is increasingly constrained by its ability to reduce waste, green-house gas emissions and more generally its impact on climate and the environment. New technologies are needed that will enable the sector to grow while respecting the environment and help it meet its obligations in terms of climate change.

The report identifies new areas for future research that can help the sector achieve these goals. It outlines the immediate steps that Teagasc will take to establish the new activities needed to make it all happen.

In terms of technology, the report emphasises the role that a number of imminent technology revolutions could play as enablers of new systems for the management of production and processing, distribution, food service and consumption. In the case of consumption this means new value added personalised product and service concepts responding to consumer needs in terms of convenience, lifestyle, health and nutrition.

These technology revolutions are going on in at least three areas, the first being in genetics and molecular biology. The second is in information and communication technology. In this case key concepts include big-data, coming from sensors enabled by nanotechnologies embedded kin systems connected via the Internet of Farm Things. Key concepts include the Internet of Living Things that connects up not only machine san devices but animals and nature itself through sensors that not only continuously and cheaply monitor the health of animals, their behaviour in terms of consumption, production, readiness for breeding and detailed health status, they monitor the status health of the environment providing the objective auditable basis for provision of quantifiable ecological and environmental services. The third revolution is in the area of micro-biota. This refers to the many complex communities of micro-organisms that inhabit our skin, teeth and guts, the rumens of cows, the bacteria, fungi and microscopic worms that inhabit our soils, and those that inhabit the spaces in which we live and work. These are too complex and varied to study at the level of individual organisms, but they can now be studied collectively using techniques such as whole biome sequencing. As a result we are beginning to see the essential role they play in general physical and mental health, in the occurrence of allergies and food intolerances, their importance for digestion, their role in food conversion efficiency and green-house gas emissions of farm animals, their role in the nitrogen cycle of soils and in plant nutrition plants.

In addition to these three areas of applied technology, the report also describes new and interesting developments in the area of food processing, as well as new systems and services that will steadily integrate the agri-food sector into the circular bio-economy.

Altogether the report identifies 5 major areas for technology driven transformation of the sector. We will have a look at each of these in turn in future extensions of this article on the results of Teagasc Technology Foresight 2035.


Patrick Crehan
Note: The author worked with Teagasc on the development of this Foresight initiative. Nevertheless the views expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Teagasc.



.Futurist Portrait: Chris Riddell


Chris Riddell is an award-winning industry recognized inspirational keynote speaker on digital. He is a strategist and global emerging trend spotter for businesses and senior leaders in today’s highly disrupted world.


°What we wear has always been important to us as human beings, mainly because we are a very visual species: we all judge people on the way that they look, whether or not we are conscious of doing so. Whilst there is very little chance of this deep-seated behaviour changing any time in the near future, the world of designer clothing and retail fashion is nevertheless set to undergo a radical transformation in the next two to three years.

”The reality is there are more jobs now today in the world than ever before. Our population here in Australia continues to grow, just like everywhere else.

One of our biggest differentials here in Australia, is the high quality of life we have, but this comes with a cost. Literally. The cost of living here, in Australia, is some of the highest world over, so the question for us is – How do we maintain this position and lifestyle? We need to become more efficient, and to do this we need to innovate. We can see these stories of innovation all around us in our daily lives. You’d have walk around with your eyes shut to not notice them.

Technology, Robots, whatever you want to call it, they’re not coming. They’re already here. They have been for years. We are simply seeing them become normalised in varying forms, and this is where our fear is coming from. Automatic car washes, Vending Machines, ATM’s, Packing Machines in Factories, those automatic vacuum cleaner things, they’re all robots. Driverless cars are literally around the corner and are going to become mainstream very soon too. Notice how none of these robots look like aliens, have faces, or eyes or are planning to destroy us? They’re just machines, designed to perform a super valuable function and help us with everyday tasks.

Mass automation and robots absolutely allow us to drive efficiencies and help us in instrumenting business processes, to become smarter and unlock insights into our future. Robots have the unique ability to collect gazillions of pieces of data every single second, and use this to accurately predict both the future, and what to do about the present. They do this all with an incredible level of precision, and in a fraction of a millisecond. We humans can’t even dream of doing anything near to this. This makes these robots a fundamental part of shaping and evolving our future on planet earth in so many ways.”



Chris Riddell - 2016 Tech Trends



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