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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Category >> global warming
file under: Saudi Arabiaglobal warmingenvironmenteconomic developmentcommon sense 28 Jun 2008 12:37 PM
Global Warming: The Beginning of the End, or perhaps a New Beginning? Posted by Nissim Dahan
There is as we speak, a growing awareness about Global Warming, and a growing controversy about the dangers it poses, and the possible solutions which could address those dangers. Some believe that Global Warming is the end of life as we know it, and others dismiss it as environmental quackery. To my mind, however, there is enough scientific evidence of the threat of Global Warming, such that the risk of not doing anything about it, is far greater than the risk of doing something, and later finding out that is wasn't really necessary to do so. In other words, the risk posed by Global Warming is so great, that it is worth doing something about it, even if we're not exactly sure that the problem really exists.

 

I don't want to bother you with all the scientific data. Al Gore and his colleagues can certainly do a better job of that. That being said, I watched a show on TV a couple of days ago on the National Geographic channel. The scientists there pointed out that the polar ice caps used to be the size of the U.S. until recently, and are now about 2/3 of the size they once were. If they continue to melt at present rates, they could disappear by the year 2050, which is right around the corner, and the sea level could rise by as much as 20 feet, which would flood approximately 60% of humanity.

 

Global Warming is not just an environmental issue. It is an issue with ideological dimensions. It is a problem that brings into sharp focus what is important in life, and what we, as a species, will choose as our collective destiny. Yes, we are now charged with the onerous task of choosing our own destiny.

 

Some 150 years ago, relatively a bleep in the history of man, we decided, as part and parcel of the Industrial Revolution, to run our economies on fossil fuels. Could that decision have been a wrong turn taken by man as he made his way through the annals of history; a mistaken direction? And is it time now to retrace our steps and to find the right path once again? And is it just possible that Global Warming will force us, once and for all, to decide what is important in life, and to organize ourselves around principles which make more sense, which will bring more justice, and which will sustain us on this good earth?

 

If it is indeed true, as is quickly becoming apparent, that Global Warming, if left unchecked, will bring us storms and floods on the scale of those described in the story of  Noah, then we have no choice but to rethink our priorities, to use our God-given Common Sense, and to reorganize ourselves ideologically, economically, and environmentally, in a more sensible and sustainable manner.

 

Strange as it may seem, Global Warming, the ultimate threat to our existence as a species, can also be the impetus for the kind of change that can better assure our long term survival.  If we take the threat seriously, we will conform our behavior to the dictates of Common Sense, as opposed to the lure of greed, and reorganize ourselves consistent with a Vision of Hope, thus averting the abyss, and building a new future for ourselves, one based on justice and sustainability.

 

Common Sense suggests that in a world of limited resources, that the need for a sustainable environment trumps short-sighted economic policies which leave vast economic disparities, ideological extremisms, and environmental wastelands, in their wake. Common sense suggests that we in the industrialized world owe it to future generations to move toward green technology and renewable energy, and that we do so by creating good paying jobs around the world, which are aimed at producing green products which will protect and sustain the environment.

 

Such jobs will help to mitigate economic disparities, will help to neutralize ideological extremism, will help to clean up and sustain the earth, and will inspire people with a sense of hope by showing them a way out of the clutches of extreme poverty. Investment in green technology jobs by the Western world, and even by the Arab world, will have the added benefit of conferring to the investor countries, and their people, a sense of spiritual awakening, and restoring in them a sense of purpose and hope.

 

All this may seem like just talk, but talk which is persuasive can lead to action. As an example of where we need to go; the Japanese car company, Honda, just came up with a car, "Clarity," which runs on a hydrogen fuel cell, with zero carbon emissions, just water vapor. And as you may know, Japan is investing heavily in developing industrial zones in the West Bank. Let me ask you this: Why can't a plant to build this car be built in the West Bank? Why can't Palestinian, Israeli, and Japanese business people collaborate, for a change, to make this happen? Why can't Palestinian workers be hired and trained to produce a product that can help to protect the earth? Why can't Saudi financing be used to finance the project as a way of converting oil profits to green profits, and as a way of neutralizing extremism?

 

Why? Why? Why? If it makes sense, and if it is now time to make sense of our lives,  then why don't we at least just give it a try?

file under: Saudi Arabiapeacenational defensemoneymoderate majorityhuman rightsglobal warmingfrom hate to hopeeconomic development 5 May 2008 9:12 PM
ISRAEL@60: A Light Unto The Nations? Posted by Nissim Dahan
Sixty years have passed since the founding of the State of Israel, and it is fitting, therefore, to look back and to assess. Since her founding, the expectation was that the Jewish State would become "A Light Unto the Nations," in keeping with biblical prophesies to that effect. Has this hope been realized, or has Israel failed to measure up to the hopes of its founders?

 

In many respects, the light of Israel has shined brightly for the world to behold. Due in large part to the boundless courage of her defenders, she came into being out of the ashes of the Holocaust, and in spite of a concerted and protracted effort to destroy her. She nurtured and sustained a vibrant democracy even in the face of persistent and existential threats to her security. She prospered economically using very few natural resources, save the natural resourcefulness of her citizenry. She successfully absorbed disproportionately high numbers of refugees with open and loving arms. She has pioneered untold advances in science and technology, while holding fast to a love of art and culture. In these, and many other ways, Israel's accomplishments can be considered A Light Unto The Nations.

 

And yet, Israel's history remains a mixed bag of good and bad, as is the case with almost all nations on earth. Each accomplishment is offset by a detriment of sorts. True, she has met the security challenges forcefully, but at the expense of occupying and subduing a neighboring population which feels hopeless and dispossessed. True, she has prospered economically, but at the expense of an increasingly wider gap between the haves and the have-nots. True, she maintains a vibrant democracy, but at the expense of a contentious vying for power between secular and religious Jews, and between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority within its borders.

 

At every turn, each success is countered by an equally significant threat, either from within, or from without. It is as if the path to Israel's perfection is lined with a multitude of impediments, like a ship passing in the night through treacherous waters teeming with hidden mines and explosives. In this regard, Israel's light does not always shine as a beacon of hope, but as the light of a lighthouse, pointing to unseen dangers, and lighting the way toward a safe passage.

 

The threats to Israel, as she turns 60, are the threats we all face in this increasingly globalized world: How do we usher in an age of peace in the face of ideological extremism which is hell bent on war? How do we defend our way of life, when extremist elements are aligning to take that life away? How do we empower the dispossessed with a Vision of Hope for the future, when that vision seems to be slipping away? How do we close the gap between the wealthy few, and the impoverished many? How do we prosper economically while protecting the health and sanctity of our environment? How do we defend ourselves militarily without dashing the hopes and aspirations of the innocent? How do we advance scientifically and technologically without losing sight of the values and emotions which make us human?

 

The answer to these and other questions rests in the promise that Israel offers as she forges ahead toward the next 60 years. And the answer she comes up with can shine a light for others to follow. And what would that answer look like? It's not all that complicated: Israel will use her technology, her knowledge, her drive, and her inclination toward business, to partner with Arab entrepreneurs, to solicit Saudi investment, to hire and train Arab workers, to produce green technology products, to clean the earth, and to safeguard our place upon it. The answer is staring us in the face, if we care to look; Good- paying jobs, aimed at green technology products, with the ultimate goals of: revitalizing the stagnant economies of the Middle East, conditioning people for peace, neutralizing the effects of extremist ideology, protecting the environment, and giving the impoverished and the dispossessed a helping hand out of the clutches of extreme poverty and hopelessness. All this can be done, believe it or not, while enabling all concerned to turn a healthy profit.

 

With God's help, Israel will continue to shine her light unto the nations. Every once in a while her light will shine with pride; the pride born of success. But more often than not, Israel will have no choice but to face the same challenges that all nations now face in this, the 21st century. And in that struggle, she will continue to shine her light, to point to the dangers which lie ahead, and to point to solutions which are effective, equitable, and just. In this manner, Israel will truly fulfill her destiny to shine as A Light Unto The Nations.

file under: transitionglobal warmingfrom hate to hopeeconomic developmentcharitable investment 24 Apr 2008 5:15 PM
What If Being Good Were Made Profitable? Posted by Nissim Dahan
The political philosopher, Machiavelli, concluded that "fear" was the best tool a leader could use to keep his subjects under control. And there is no doubt that fear has worked well over the centuries to keep people in line. But could it be that in today's globalized world a new organizing principle may be emerging?

 

Take China, for example. I don't doubt that the leaders there would like nothing more than to crack a few more heads in Tibet. They are tempted to use fear to quell the dissention there. Why, because they rule over a huge number of people, situated in a varied array of political, religious, economic, and social subgroups. If Tibetan dissention were allowed to bear fruit; what other repercussions would likely ensue? And for the Chinese leadership, the loss of order would pose an existential threat.

 

And yet, with all the incentive to use the Machiavellian notion of fear, China realizes that there is a limit to what she can do in this regard, given the context of the new economic and diplomatic realities she finds herself in. The Olympics are coming up, and too many cracked heads would not be exactly in keeping with the Olympic spirit of international friendship and fair play. And there are also all those trading partners to think of. A massive crack down would not bode well for good business relations.

 

The conundrum in which China finds herself is indicative of a new organizing principle at the heart of international affairs-and that is the principle of maximizing profits. Of course, the inclination to maximize profits has always been around, but in a globalized economy, in which market share and profitability are everything, profit is becoming an ideological imperative.

 

Now some of you may think that the quest for profits is perhaps a shallow endeavor, not worthy of much consideration, and not indicative of the more noble aspects of the human condition. But I, for one, think that the hunger for profits could be used to energize a rational approach to solving some of the most intractable problems and existential threats we face.

 

Ask yourself this: What are the most serious problems we face? I would point to three in particular: Ideological Extremism, the threat to the Environment, and widespread Poverty. Could the need to maximize profits in a global economy help to bring solutions to these global problems? I think it's possible that the answer is, yes.

 

In a global economy, the major players are in constant search of new markets for their goods and services, and for a ready supply of natural resources, like oil. Look at China trying to open up new markets wherever she can. Is it possible that the competitive nature of a global economy may be conducive to healing some of the world's ills?

 

Let's say for example that you want to tackle the problem of ideological extremism. Well, you could easily conclude that creating good paying jobs in third world countries will help to neutralize extremism. Good paying jobs will not necessarily sway the extremists themselves, but they will make it more difficult for the extremists to sell their ideological wares. The vast majority of people will be less susceptible to extremist ideology once they are able to hold on to good paying jobs and provide for their families. So in this example, the search for profits becomes a search for new markets, which in turn means the creation of good paying jobs. The need to protect profits coincides with the need to quell extremism, which widespread employment will help to do.

 

Let's say that you want to protect the environment. So ask yourself this: How can we make environmental protection profitable? Well, a barrel of oil is now selling close to $120. The profit margin there may now be great enough to allow green technology to compete profitably. So, as part of the ubiquitous search for profits, you create jobs, which produce green technology products, which help to clean the earth up, and quite possibly reverse the course of Global Warming. You see, it's not that we want to be good by cleaning up the earth. God forbid. It's more that we clean up the earth because we can turn a profit. But if the earth ends up cleaner, then who cares what the motivations were?

 

Let's say that you want to eliminate extreme poverty; along with the hunger, disease, and homelessness that necessarily come with it. You could ask for charitable donations, but don't hold your breath. History shows that people are not as charitable as they ought to be. So ask yourself this: How do we make it profitable to end poverty? Once again, look to the profit motive of wealthy nations and corporations, and play to their ambitions.

 

For example, in a global economy it is important to keep the wheels of economic activity turning. Poverty is an obstacle to profits because poor people, with nothing to lose, can easily succumb to extremist thinking. Therefore, in our never ending search for profits, we will need to open up new markets for our goods and services, and we will need access to natural resources. And we can't let poor people get in the way. Therefore, in order to create new markets, we will create new jobs, for people to be able to buy our goods, and at the same time, with their stomachs full, they will be less susceptible to extremist thinking, so as to allow the profits to keep rolling in.

 

The idea here is not all that complicated. If it is indeed true that the new organizing principle of the global economy is profitability, then it makes sense to put all this ambition to good use. It may well be possible to structure the global economy in such a way, that the need to improve the bottom line will coincide with the need to solve some of the big global problems which lie at our doorstep. As such, we will become good not due to our innate sense of goodness, but because being good will be our ticket to being profitable.

file under: Saudi Arabiapeacemoneyglobal warmingfrom hate to hopeeconomic development 14 Apr 2008 7:48 PM
A Recipe for Peace Pie Posted by Nissim Dahan
Ingredients:
  • 1 Nanotechnology Research Department at an Israeli University
  • 1 state of the art Green Technology Product
  • 1 Industrial Zone in the Palestinian West Bank
  • 1 mid-size Factory Building
  • Several Palestinian and Israeli Entrepreneurs (preferably of the male and female variety)
  • 200 Palestinian workers (preferably of the "peace-loving" variety)
  • Several Saudi Investors
  • 1 Marketing Firm with hunger in its belly
  • 1 Public Relations Firm with the guts to think big
  • Several Media Outlets (with time on their hands for some good news, for a change)

 

Baking Directions:

  1. Start by convincing the powers that be at a reputable university in Israel, to use the green technology research of the Department of Nanotechnology, to develop a product that can be used to promote peace and generate profits.
  2. Persuade the university to cooperate in launching and marketing a state of the art green technology product which can help to clean up the environment in some significant and noteworthy manner.
  3. Pick a favorable industrial zone in the West Bank, one that is currently being developed as we speak (preferably one where relative calm prevails).
  4. Persuade a group of Israeli and Palestinian Entrepreneurs to work together, for a change, to produce and market a green product. Remind them that the University gets its cut.
  5. Good luck with this one: Try to convince several open-minded Saudis that it is in their best interest to finance the project. Here are a few arguments you can use: Saudi oil could run out one of these days; so why not diversify your investments with Green Technology, which the world is hungry for? It will be good PR for The Kingdom to show that oil profits are being used to create green profits. Good paying jobs will help neutralize extremism which is good for business. The hold of ideological extremists on the public's imagination will weaken as people begin to imagine a better life for themselves. You never know when extremism will turn around and bite you in the ass (Remember, Bin Laden is not exactly a friend of the family). Blah, blah, blah, etc.
  6. Once everything is in place, hire and train some 200 Palestinian workers to produce the green product that will help clean up the world. Pay them well. Give them the respect they deserve. And remind them on a daily basis the teachings on non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. (Make sure to take out plenty of liability insurance just in case.)
  7. Hire an excellent marketing firm to promote the sale of the product.
  8. Hire an excellent PR firm to show to the world that peace is possible, and that it starts with good paying jobs.
  9. Rally the people on the street, and the leaders behind closed doors, to advocate on behalf of peace through good paying jobs.
  10. Use the media attention and public interest to raise more money: for more projects, for more jobs, for more profits, and for more protection of the environment.

Let me ask you this: Do you think this pie will be any good? Do you have any idea where some of these ingredients may be? Do you think it's time to start baking instead of just talking? Are you willing to try the first bite?

file under: vision of hopetransitionSaudi Arabiapeacemoneyglobal warmingfrom hate to hopeeconomic development 5 Feb 2008 9:01 PM
The Hamsa and the Businessman Posted by Nissim Dahan
Most of you probably know what a Hamsa is. Right? For those who don't; it is a good luck symbol, in the shape of a hand, which has been around as part of Arab and Jewish cultures for centuries. Most Hamsas feature an "eye" to protect from the "evil eye." And in recent times, a great many feature a "dove" to symbolize peace.

 

What would you say is the evil that we need protection from in this day and age? For what it's worth, today's evil is the evil of ideological extremism. And I'm not just talking about extremist religious fundamentalism. I'm talking about all kinds of ideological extremes, including the belief that we should keep our economies running on fossil fuels, even at the expense of cooking ourselves to death.

 

As some of you know, I am a strong believer in Selling a Vision of Hope, as the antidote to some of the insanity we see swirling around us. As you look at the five fingers of the hand of the Hamsa, think of the five aspects of Selling a Vision of Hope:

 

1. The thumb is for Ideology: Instead of believing what you want to believe, start believing in what makes sense. Use an Ideology of Common Sense to speak to one another with Common Sense and with a sense of personal dignity.

 

2. The index finger is for Investment: Use public and private funds to create an International Fund for Economic Development in the Middle East under the banner: "We stand ready to invest in you, if you are ready to invest in yourselves." Invest in projects which inspire a sense of hope, which create jobs, and which protect the environment."

 

3. The middle finger is for Hope: Use an Ideology of Common Sense along with some well placed Investment Dollars to Sell a Vision of Hope-a Vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom-on the Arab street, in the Muslim world, and in the world as a whole.

 

4. The ring finger is for Public Diplomacy: Once you sell a Vision of Hope, you sustain the Hope by launching a series of Public Diplomacy Programs which are specifically designed to prop a Vision of Hope up, and to carry it forward, such as: a Media Campaign, a program to Empower Women, a Student Exchange, a Cultural Exchange, an expanded version of the Peace Corps, and a series of International Conferences.

 

5. The pinky is for the willingness to Fight: When necessary, and it will be necessary, fight, and fight hard, against the forces of extremism, wherever they may be found, but position the fight within a Vision of Hope. Raise the fight on the ground to a higher moral plain by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. People will fight harder once they know what the hell they're fighting for. For example, we are not fighting a "war against terror." We are fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There's a big difference.

 

That's pretty much it. Now let me ask you this: If you want to give some substance to Selling a Vision of Hope, what kind of project would you recommend? I need your advice. What kind of project would say to the world that a Vision of Hope could be made real if people choose to make it so?

 

Here's one idea. See what you think. We get a consortium of Arab and Israeli businesspeople to build a factory on the West Bank. They get funding from Saudi Arabia, believe it or not. They hire and train local Palestinian workers to produce a product which is especially suited to protect the environment. For example, they could produce a long lasting battery to power cars. You pull into a gas station and switch out your battery, instead of filling up on gas. The research for this product comes from a leading university in Israel, or elsewhere, which specializes in green technology. The project is successful, and attracts more money, for more projects, for more jobs, and for more eco-friendly products.

 

Why would the Saudis fund such a project, you may well ask, especially since it promotes green technology? Here are a few possible reasons: The Saudis could use some good PR for a change. They would be using oil profits to protect the earth, and to stabilize the region with good paying jobs. What a concept! They would diversify their investments, and made good money, by getting in on the ground floor of technology that the entire world wants. Good jobs would help neutralize some of the ideological rhetoric, as in the case of China, and India. As people begin to make a living, and begin to imagine a better life, the allure of extremism will diminish. Business has a way of creating its own ideological imperative. Eventually, this effort could pave the way for substantive peace, not just BS, which would bless the House of Saud with a good measure of peace of mind. Everybody wins, even the earth, except maybe the extremists.

 

So what do you think? Any chance of making something happen along these lines? Are we overlooking anything? Are we on to something, or just spinning our wheels? A penny for you thoughts.

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