An open letter to Emma Watson regarding her U.N. speech

Dear Emma,

You are a classy lady and I have nothing but respect for you. Despite becoming a movie star at a very young age, you’ve avoided child star stereotypes, graduated from Brown University, and even got certified to teach yoga and meditation.

So, it is not my intent to discredit you in any way, I just want to express my views about your speech as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Hopefully, some constructive public discourse will come out of it.

In that speech you declared yourself to be a feminist, because you believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Nothing to object here. Overall, you gave a good speech, and I’m all for giving rural African girls access to secondary education.

But asking why feminism has become such an uncomfortable word, and then not exploring this question any further, is not very helpful.

In my view, there are two problems with modern-day feminism, at least in the Western world.

The first is a misuse of the term gender equality, which should mean solely that a discrimination on account of sex is prohibited. Men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, but that does not mean that the social outcome should always be exactly the same for both sexes. Some feminists would disagree strongly, because they believe all gender roles are socially imposed. They do not consider a possibility that some differences between men and women are innate. What a typical girl wants or desires may be different from what a typical guy does, not only because of the culture, but because she was born with different drives as well. Recognizing the fact that men and women are not identical has some implications on what a public policy should be. As Steven Pinker puts it in a chapter on gender:

“Eliminating discrimination against women is important, but believing that women and men are born with indistinguishable minds is not. Freedom of choice is important, but ensuring that women make up exactly 50 percent of all professions is not.”

The second problem with feminism is that it perpetuates “us vs. them” mentality in women who become strongly identified with it. This may or may not be the case for the majority of self-proclaimed feminists, but there are extremists who definitely have this mentality. How does this happen?

Feminism aims for equal rights and opportunities, but it also presupposes that it’s women who are being systematically oppressed by the patriarchy. While this assumption is historically correct, and still pretty much the case in a large part of the world, it’s becoming increasingly counterproductive to think in those terms. A feminist’s identity is defined in part by belonging to a group that is being oppressed, and on a deep subconscious level, people want their identity to be validated at all times. When evidence of actual oppression of women becomes scarce, a confirmation bias will kick in, and the mind will manufacture false evidence of oppression in order to confirm this view of the world. Thus, the less gender inequality that there is in a society, the crazier the movement will become to justify its existence.

I think that this movement cannot reach its end goal intact. It will either have to transform itself into something that’s impartial (gender egalitarianism), or it will become ever more counterproductive and possibly disintegrate.

The above is my personal opinion and I don’t claim to have any expertise in this field. You could easily dismiss it as a psychobabble.

However, Emma, you said it yourself that your research has shown you that feminism has become an unpopular word. I think that it is essential that you investigate this further and find out why. Maybe you will be able to reject my writing with an alternative explanation. If so, I will be honoured to lose an argument to an Ivy League graduate – I won’t feel humiliated to be defeated by a woman.

Ultimately, though, we can both agree that the idea of having equal rights and opportunities for men and women is the most important thing here. Your speech clearly was a step in that direction. So, I wish you plenty of success working as a Goodwill Ambassador, and may the Force be with you.

Oh shit, wrong movie.

Matej (Matt) P.

Twitter: @TheChangingWays
Youtube: TheChangingWays

References and further reading:

  • Emma Watson to United Nations: I’m a feminist: http://youtu.be/c9SUAcNlVQ4
  • Steven Pinker, 2002. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Chapter 18: Gender)

Creative Commons License
“An open letter to Emma Watson regarding her U.N. speech” by TCW is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Shareconomy (Documentary)

A few days ago I stumbled upon an important project in the making: a feature documentary film about the sharing economy movement, titled “Shareconomy”. Two key people working on this film are co-directors-producers Greg Westhoff and Jillian Suleski.

This film will follow the rise of the sharing economy movement, the legal and regulatory issues and battles bubbling up across the United States and the world, as well as very personal stories of transformation through sharing. The film will feature thought leaders, CEOs, economists, legislators, sociologists, anthropologists, lawyers, sharing economy entrepreneurs, and more. They will scrutinize both the benefits and the drawbacks of the sharing economy.

The sharing economy (also called the peer-to-peer or collaborative economy) has a lot of potential to reduce resource consumption and thus hopefully represents a step towards a sustainable society.

Here you can watch a sample reel of already produced footage:

The film crew is currently more than 10 months into the production phase and have already conducted more than 50 interviews. Last month they have launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo in order to secure enough funds to continue with the production.

I believe that this topic warrants a thorough examination, so I donated a small amount of money to their crowdfunding effort myself, and I invite you to do the same (or at least share this post with your friends).

Indiegogo page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shareconomy

Official site: http://www.shareconomythemovie.com

Dragon Dreaming – a talk with John Croft

Last week, I had an opportunity to meet John Croft, a co-founder of Dragon Dreaming.

Dragon Dreaming is a project management system that offers methods for the realization of creative, collaborative and sustainable projects and organizations, built upon three principles:

  • personal growth – commitment to your own healing and empowerment
  • community building – strengthening the communities of which you are a part
  • service to the Earth – enhancing the well-being and flourishing of all life
    (www.dragondreaming.org)

The Dragon Dreaming process consists of four steps:

Four stages of Dragon Dreaming

During the press conference/interview I was able to ask John Croft a few questions and below is the transcript of his answers to a couple of them:

~

Me: What is the essence of Dragon Dreaming? I know that it has four phases. How does it compare with other systems?

John Croft: Most of the systems of project management that you read [about], they start with building a vision for the future of the project – they start by building a vision, a mission, and then goals, and then objectives, and then a strategy, and then activities, and then tactics, and then evaluation. Those sorts of management theories tend to be very linear and incredibly left brain. What we found, with Dragon Dreaming, is that they only deal with half of the person. They deal with the planning and the doing stages of projects, but when you look at the origin of projects – all projects start in a dream.

It’s a dream that begins the motivation. And conventional management theories don’t talk about dreaming. Hardly at all. They don’t recognize the contradictory… The nature of dreaming is not a linear, logical, rational process. It is completely nonlinear, non-rational, non-logical. But, it’s a source of creativity, it’s a source of innovation, it’s a source of change, that it all comes out of a dream.

And then they think that once they’ve created the project and the project is done, that’s the finish. And they forget that 25% of every project needs to be celebration. By ignoring celebration, the projects – the conventional projects you see: they’re projects of control, they’re projects of bureaucracies trying to force people into doing things that the people don’t want to do.

We need to build celebration into every stage of the process, and if there is one thing that Dragon Dreaming does, it attaches a new importance to the process of celebration. And so, what we find is that as we get in touch with celebration, with dreaming, we’re not just working with the left hemisphere of our brain, we are working with our whole brain. We’re working with the whole of a person, and the more we can liberate the wholeness that is in source of all of us, the more we can liberate the dreams, and the ceremonies, and the celebrations and the stories that are associated with who you are as a person, the more you liberate the creativity that lies at the heart of every individual. And given the problems that we’re facing in the world today – in terms of financial crisis, in terms of climate change, in terms of global warming, in terms of peak oil, in terms of the extinction of species – we need to liberate the creativity on a scale that has never before been attempted on the planet. Only by liberating the creativity that lies at the heart of every single person – man, woman and child – will we be able to generate sufficient enthusiasm and joy and playfulness that we need to create a sort of future that works for everyone on the planet. And by “everyone”, I’m not just talking about human beings, I’m talking about more than human world that we’re embedding – the world of the living planet itself.

John Croft

John Croft during an interview in “KUD France Prešeren”, Ljubljana, Slovenia. (June 4th, 2014).

 

Me: What would be successful examples of dreaming and celebration?

John Croft: Wow. We say, every project ever done in the world starts as the dream of one person. One of the things I said this morning, I said him, is that 90% of projects get stuck in the dreaming stage. And the reason why is people don’t share their dreams. What happens is people learn that dreams don’t come true. Because in the conventional [inaudible] world dreams do not come true. And so, what happens is people lose their dreaming. And you can see it in people’s faces. If you look at the quiet desperation in people in peak hour traffic in the city – just look at their faces, you see people who’ve lost their dream. And they’re just existing from day to day. So, the first step to do, is to recover your dreaming.

And with celebration, is that it’s celebration where people come to see that they are recognized for their contribution, they are recognized for the changes that they have made. And they are deeply honored and deeply celebrated as a result. You may know the movie Avatar. There’s a scene in the movie Avatar when the Na’vi alien woman turns to the human avatar and she says: I see you. It’s the process of truly being seen, which is the source of unconditional love. When you are deeply seen for who you are, that’s the source of the unconditional loving, in action, on which Dragon Dreaming is based.

~

Following the interview, John Croft gave a public presentation about the basic principles of Dragon Dreaming. During his lecture he emphasized once again about the importance of celebration, the fourth stage in this system. He said that in order to avoid “burnout”, it is absolutely necessary that we refuel ourselves with celebration regularly. One of the key insights that Dragon Dreaming offers, is that “if it is not playful, it is not sustainable”.

If you want to lean more about Dragon Dreaming, go to www.dragondreaming.org.

The expanding circle / The spiral of history

A.D. 1524

“Fuck Switzerland. Long life to the free cantons! Long life to our home: Canton of Fribourg.”

A.D. 2014

“Fuck the EU. Long life to the free European countries! Long life to our home: Switzerland.”

A.D. 2492

“Fuck the world. Long life to the free continents! Long life to our home: European Union.”

~

The above text was inspired by a comment on a video titled The European Union (anthem). Numerous nationalists have left their comments there, agitating against European integration.

TogetherUnited in diversity

I think that European integration is a good thing, as long as the principle of subsidiarity is taken into account. (The principle of subsidiarity states that a matter should be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized authority that is capable of addressing that matter in an effective way). If this principle remains the basis of European integration, I wouldn’t mind if European Union becomes a federal state one day.

See examples of how the principle of subsidiarity is applied in Switzerland, which is also a federal state: (jump to 5m 40s mark)

Liberal vs. conservative activism

As I have said in this post, I believe that the future of activism depends on bringing various groups together, finding common ground, and making a few compromises along the way.

So, I have been thinking then about finding the common ground between liberal and conservative activists. And to be able to find a common ground I had to first define what separates these two groups. Below is my best guess about the essence of liberal/left-wing and conservative/right-wing activism:

Left-wing activism: Government is the solution. We need better regulations and put in charge the right people to implement them.

Right-wing activism: Government is the problem. We need less regulations because only powerful people have enough means to jump through their hoops, which creates a system rigged against the little guy.

Add to this political corruption and you get even more unfair system, in which people with enough influence and resources can get preferential regulation and treatment from the government.

Anacharsis, a philosopher from the 6th century BC, said something very similar:

“Written laws are like spiders’ webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.”

Left-wing activists want to make spider web stronger, so that bigger flies could also be caught. Conversely, right-wing activists want to make spider web weaker and thus level the playing field.

The above are primarily observations about the outlook on the economic issues; many right-wingers have a different view on government regulation concerning moral and social issues. For example, they may be in favor of free market, but simultaneously support a state ban on marijuana. (Libertarians, though, are more or less consistently against any government regulation).

~

I can somewhat understand right-wing position, because I believe that having a bad regulation is usually worse than having no regulation at all. However, I still think that a good regulation can in fact be the best option most of the time.

scaleConsider this analogy: if you want to weight two objects it is helpful to have an accurate scale. However, it is incredibly unhelpful if your scale is rigged. Indeed, you would be better off if you had no scale at all – that way you wouldn’t get false figures and you could still weight the objects by hand and roughly tell which is heavier.

So, the catch with government regulation is that it is incredibly difficult to foresee if a particular regulation will have a positive effect or not, and even small details can make a huge difference in the end. As they say, the devil is in the detail.

Since the effects of regulating certain activities are so unpredictable, we have to be prepared to constantly evaluate all regulations and adjust them through trial-and-error. And in some cases we may find that the best option is indeed to have no regulations in that particular field. In other cases we may be able to find a good one. Therefore I subscribe to neither the left-wing nor to right-wing way; I believe that the best option is to decide on a case by case basis.

The success or failure of a particular regulation depends on the nature of incentives and disincentives that are introduced to society with this regulation. And in some cases, or to some extent, the natural incentives of a free market may prove to be better than anything government could come up with.

~

I don’t know if this can be a common ground for liberals and conservatives – the notion that we generally can’t make a priori assumptions on whether a government regulation will be good or bad. The details of any regulation and its implementation will determine whether it will turn out to be a good or a bad one, but we can hardly predict an outcome, if at all. It is therefore desirable to enact disparate solutions in different jurisdictions, observe the results, and adjust as needed.

Honestly, I doubt that this will convince many people, but I had to express my beliefs. I still hope that some other, more practical common ground between liberal and conservative activism will be found. Personally, I’m out of ideas – the split between them seems insurmountable. However, if you have any helpful suggestions, please leave a comment below.