Friday, December 10, 2010

Iceland & Nigeria

In the past few months, CNN (the news network I no longer actively seek out, having switched recently to the Guardian) created a segment called Connect The World, in which two countries who were supposedly very different in the "collective consciousness" were paired together. It was up to the readers to find connections between them. This appealed to me because I am a fan of the would-be incongruous, the ostensibly ill-fitting, the tenuously associated. I went through a phase where I listened to every mash-up I could find. I made mash-ups my personal philosophy to life - find two things (ideas, people, whatever) that seemed to contradict each other, or at least create a lot of friction when placed in the same sentence or conceptual framework, and watch people react. I like the sense of discomfort, of re-adjustment, that this kind of unusual combination-making inspires.

It so happened that today I saw two thought-provoking stories which draw on postmodern themes, on Ted.com. One was by Hala Tomasdottir of Iceland, and the other was by Chimamanda Achibie of Nigeria. I recommend you find these speeches on Ted and let them take you on a journey.

Let's start with Chimamanda. She was determined to bypass the tendency to focus on one dominant narrative so popular in our society (e.g. African men are all violent, Mexicans are all trying to gain access to work in America), and to actively seek out a multiplicity of stories, so as to create a complex reality. It's a simple concept, but a powerful one - if you are ever stuck with just one story about a nation or its people, find another one. Search high and low, if you must, for that underrepresented perspective of the multifacetedness of a nation.

Hala also sought to bring a new perspective to light - the way in which female presences in the workforce are the lifeblood of diversity in groups. Without harnessing the full potential for diversity, a male-dominated team makes decisions which are weak and limited. If they allowed women to naturally play a big a role in their companies as they do in life in general, the benefits to both women and men would be enormous. My favourite part of her speech was her denouncement of the hysteria to recreate the old system (the one which got us into the present mess) instead of creating a brand new one. She quotes Einstein to establish how insane our society is, and how feminine power can help balance not just the workplace but everything it affects and is affected by.

Continued in Part 2...

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