Emotional Revolution

Empathy (‘in feeling’)

empathy: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
from Greek empatheia (from em- ‘in’ + pathos ‘feeling’)

This is an ability I didn’t understand until very recently. Then, thanks to someone who was very close to me and who had an amazing empathy, everything came to me, first as a blow and then a gradual, increasing understanding. In our rationalising world is not an ability easy to develop, though I believe it’s becoming a very important one to go through our lives. In this blog, I talked before about empathy here. I said

This sums up what empathy is: I am here with you, I give you hope, and accompany in your feeling.

At first, when we don’t know how to feel it, we may be afraid of our empathy, for it makes us vulnerable to the bad feelings of others, and we naturally avoid feeling bad. But empathy is not ‘feeling bad with another’, it is just ‘feeling with another’. Yes, feeling with her the sorrow when someone she loved died or her pain when she is sick, but also feeling with her the joy of making love, or when she passes a difficult exam. Empathy is part of a life attitude of openness necessary to get both the ugly and the beauty of our world, if we close ourselves to the former, we close ourselves to the latter. The best two TED talks I’ve seen so far show us amazingly what I mean: “The power of vulnerability” and “I should have a daughter…“.

There are also two very recommendable videos from TED and RSA talking about empathy from two different perspectives, the girl in you and our civilisation.

Emotional Revolution

Walking through life with hands wide open…

“And yes, it means catching all of those miseries and hurt, but it also means that when beautiful, amazing things fall out of the sky, I am ready to catch them.”

Emotional Revolution

The power of vulnerability

Network World

Japan’s synapse

At 7.50 today I flew from Barcelona to London. Before going to the airport I read an article on Huffington Post about the possible economic impact of Japan’s “verge of apocalypse” (words of the EU commissioner) on the world economy.

The full impact of the disaster, and the extent to which it could harm economies globally, cannot yet be assessed, experts say. In economic terms, the tragedy might not have much effect on other countries, as companies compensate for devastated facilities, say economists. But even once the crisis subsides and Japan begins to rebuild, that country’s economy could face major challenges.

The world’s third biggest economy gets a big chunk of its territory wiped out, one of the country’s nuclear plants explodes and starts releasing considerable amounts of very dangerous radiation reaching even Tokio, many of its main manufacturers have stopped production, thousands of people flee the capital and foreigners the country, all in a matter of days. In the meantime, the Arab world (where the biggest reserves of oil are) is exploding in revolution against its authoritarian rulers, food prices soar, and we’re approaching the peak oil is seems to come much sooner than expected.

The question is not anymore whether the Japanese disaster has an impact on the outside, for there is no “outside” anymore. There is no Japan and the rest of the world. We live in a densely connected world.

(1) Japan earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown (only one of these would have been enough…) has slowed down considerably its production and consumption of manufactured goods. This is meant to affect importers and exporters alike (nearly everyone).

The affected companies produce key components for computers, televisions, camcorders, DVD players and iPads. Now, the high-tech industry, which experts have seen as a key source of economic growth, contends with the prospect of a shortage.

“There will be individual companies in the U.S. that are not going to be able to get their supplies for anywhere from weeks to months,” Alexander, the Georgetown economist, said. “There certainly will be suppliers who are either out of business or have lost their capabilities for the moment.”

(2) Japan’s food industry and agriculture, affected by the destruction of the tsunami and its effects on infrastructure, will also reduce production considerably. Japan will, therefore, need to import much more food very soon. Nuclear contamination will also affect the food chain affecting even further food production in the country, making unsuitable for human consumption vegetables, meat and fish coming from the affected area.

A country of 127 million people suddenly increasing their food imports will have a great impact on food prices, pushing them even higher. This will produce further instability in poor countries.

(3) The nuclear disaster doesn’t only concern the Fukushima plant. It’s having an impact on Japan’s reliance on nuclear plants as source of energy. Japan is highly dependent on this source (around 30% of the country’s electricity today, and before March 11 it was increasing rapidly). Japan needs to import some 80 percent of its energy requirements. Now it will need to import even more.

In addition, many countries using nuclear energy are seriously questioning their past policies of encouragement of the nuclear option, chiefly among them Germany.

With no realistic replacement to keep the energy demands of our current economic system, we’ll need to increase our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. Oil prices will increase even further in a very short period. Political instability and new political regimes, less amiable to cheap oil policies to satisfy Western/capitalist demands, in the region with greater oil reserves will put even further pressure. On top of that, we’re approaching rapidly the infamous peak oil.

These are only a few quick notes on the “impact” of the recent terrible events in Japan. We cannot say that one or another event or phenomena has an effect or the other outside the world’s web of increasingly more dense and intense connections. In a networked world, everything is connected.

Emotional Revolution

Emotions are the foundation of reason

‎”Emotions are at the center of our thinking…emotions are not separate from reason, but they are the foundation of reason, because they tell us what to value. And so reading and educating your emotions is one of the central activtities of wisdom.”

Network World

Not just the Mosque anymore…Facebook is connecting, too

Until very recently, dictators in the Arab world could repressed non-Islamic political discourse. With the establishment of repressive states in these countries, Islamism became gradually the only political discourse with space to oppose the state: the mosque. Secular ideologies, socialism, communism, nationalism and liberalism were crushed by the violent repressive apparatus of the state. But political messages attached to religion couldn’t be suppressed. Any attempt to do that would have meant an attack on the basic values of the society the state avowed to defend – an Islamic society.

Among the urban population, a powerful socialisation process emerged through the social institutions attached to the religious dimension of Islam. The mosque was not only a place of prayer, the madrassas and the Islamic universities did not only educate, and the Islamic societies’ social services did not merely take care of men, women and children, they were all powerful spaces of transmission of myths and symbols, and were the basic means of production and circulation of the Islamist political and social discourse, the only alternative to the repressive state. The Mosque was the only connection space allowed.

I define connection space as a space, be it virtual or physical, where people, knowledge, ideas and projects can be connected. In the Arab world, in the absence of more secular spaces, the mosque was a connection space that allowed individuals to express socially their opinion with relative freedom – within the boundaries of Islamic religion. It allowed sharing of knowledge, and the collaboration of different projects for taking action (economic, social, political…). It was the primal space for people with socio-political concerns to establish, keep and extend their social network. This was before the Internet disrupted existing social structures and dynamics.

I remembered with very fond feelings the times I went to Egypt to study Arabic in 2002 and 2003. There I was amazed to see how people were hooked to their mobile phones. In Egypt, as in many places in the Mediterranean, extensive and intensive communication and, within the limits of the technology available in those times, social interaction are an essential part of people’s everyday culture. Going from Assouan to Cairo by train, we had to sit next to a guy who didn’t stop talking loudly on his mobile phone for the 6-7 hours of the trip! Now, the social internet has revolutionised the way people communicate and interact. It has opened new public spaces unreachable to state repression, unless paying a high economic cost. The entry of Facebook in people’s lives has changed from where and how they get and share ideas and projects of life.

In his book The Wealth of Networks Yochai Benchler discusses the difference between societies where stories are controlled by unelected or elected few and those societies where anybody can tell stories. We use stories to transmit values, find guidance from and transmit experiences. In the Arab world, the Mosque was the primal story-telling space, now it’s Facebook. Beyond its tool dimension, that is the “use of” the social Internet (twitter, facebook…), we need to think about the constitutional dimension of the social Internet that is how it is transforming values, ideas and behaviours by facilitating the sharing of “stories” without gatekeepers outside other traditional and controlled public spaces e.g. the Mosque. How the social internet is opening a new public connection space for a new revolution to emerge.