Tag Archives: Russia

Campaign Video Teaches Lessons in Empathy for War Torn Families

If you made a compilation video of one second of every day for a year, what would it look like? A campaign video to raise awareness of the political strife in Syria wanted to show you what it would look like for a child stuck in the middle of a war zone. It follows a little girl from blowing the candles out on her birthday cake to exactly one year later. She goes to school. She reads books. She hangs out with her parents. Then small things start to change and rapidly her one one second a day shows her being scared, being shuffled from place to place, her neighborhood being bombed, refugee camps and hospitals.

The tagline of the video is “Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening somewhere.” It’s an eerie message as the world watches the current situation unfolding between Ukraine and Russia. Will those children lead similar lives to the girl in this video? How many candles will they blow out on their next birthday cake? It is naive to think that any singular one of us can have an effect on those less fortunate than us or that we have the power to save all of those stuck in tumultuous political climates. We can’t save them, but what we can do – and are encouraged to do with videos like this – is look at ourselves and bring more empathy into our every day lives. When all of us start looking at our actions as having ripple effects then we create a more compassionate global community.

The world doesn’t change with one person but we can start making a small difference with one intent at a time. Thanks to this video I intend to live with more empathy. What can you do to make the world a more compassionate place?

Olympic Quotes to Inspire You to Go for the Gold

What’s your favorite Olympic sport? Are you a figure skating or louge person? Maybe you prefer summer for the gymnastics or swimming? Whatever your sport may be the Olympics will be inescapable soon. Even if you aren’t a sports fan there is something inspiring about watching these athletes who dedicate their lives in pursuit of this single dream – of holding a gold medallion above their heads for all the world to see. They spend countless hours in gyms, on ice rinks, on snowboards or skis, giving their entire lives to get on to that podium. That is some serious dedication. What if we were all like that with our goals? Maybe we can be, and you can use these Olympic themed quotes to get you there.

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What is your favorite motivational quote? Share it in the comments below! 

Russian Anti-Gay Laws Cause Olympic Controversy

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 11.51.56 AMControversy has erupted in the past week over statements made by Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko regarding the LGBT community and the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics. Recent anti-gay laws set in place within Russia this June have made life as a member or ally of the LGBT community very difficult.

Individuals are not allowed to discuss what Mutko calls “non-traditional sexual orientations” in front of children. They are also prohibited from creating and presenting “propaganda” in public (ex. a rainbow flag) on behalf of the community. The exact details of what activities violate this law appear to be kind of wishy-washy, which means it’s difficult to know what kinds of activities are actually illegal. Regardless, offenders may be placed in jail, charged fines, or even deported.

A few days ago, disagreements began to run rampant as Mutko issued a statement that the laws will continue to be upheld throughout the Winter 2014 Olympics, which contradicted the previous statements made by the International Olympic Committee. With this law in place, competing athletes and spectators would be put at risk. Mutko stated, in an interview with R-Sport:

No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable.

Somewhat soon after, in what seems like a response to the uproar that followed these statements, Russian officials reversed them, saying that they plan to do the “politically correct” thing.

What do you think about the situation?

Deepak Chopra: Is India Having a Crisis of Soul?

திருவண்ணாமலை (Thiruvannamalai)

By Deepak Chopra, M.D. & Jim Clifton, CEO Gallup Organization

When they think of India, many people still have the shining image of it as a rising economy, one of the four most promising in the world, in fact. As one of the BRIC countries, along with Russia, Brazil and China, India’s rise from a long history of poverty raised hope for the rest of the developing world. So it was startling when Fareed Zakaria recently asked on CNN, “Is India the broken BRIC?” In the same vein, Jim O’Neill, the most important global economist at Goldman Sachs, and the man who coined the term BRIC, considers India the biggest economic disappointment with its 5 percent fall in growth since 2010.

What makes the disappointment worse is that since the early 90s, as Western media and business people were jetting back and forth between India and China sizing up these two growing economic giants, business magazine covers, famous economists and top CEOs at conferences were saying, “India is the one to watch, not China.”

How did so many brilliant prognosticators miss so badly? As economists ponder what went wrong, the Gallup data gives telltale clues on the human side. Economics comes down to millions of individual workers and what they experience at work. The worker’s story from India is discouraging. A staggering 33 percent of employees are what Gallup scientists refer to as “actively disengaged,” meaning not only are they miserable at work, but they walk the halls and petition their colleagues to be as miserable and discontented as they are. On the positive end of the spectrum, a tiny 9 percent of Indian employees are engaged. These are the people who build new products and services, generate new ideas, create new customers and ultimately spur an economy to create more and more good jobs.

The workplace tends to be symptomatic of society as a whole, and here the picture is just as gloomy. India’s state of mind is severely troubled right now. Gallup’s World Poll, currently in its eighth year in the field, finds more Indians than ever are “suffering” — 31 percent — while fewer are “thriving,” just 10 percent. This is among the worst in the world.

When any society reaches a low point of well-being with a sizable number of people suffering, it is in trouble. When the quotient of suffering sharply rises (as it did in Libya before the Arab Spring and is happening today in Egypt), social turmoil often results. The street rioting over sexual harassment of women in India — an endemic problem that the government and judicial system turned a blind eye to for decades — is another warning sign.

What will happen next? Officially, India is being upbeat about its economic projections, with a forecast of growth between 6 and 7 percent for 2013 after falling below 7 percent for the past two years and generally under-performing since 2008, according to a recent story in the New York Times. In the Gallup data, 36 percent of the Indian population rated economic conditions as “good” or “excellent” in 2012, as compared to nearly half (46 percent) who thought so in 2008.

Of course, we are rooting for India’s economic uptick, but the human side needs deeper examination. In many ways India is facing a crisis of the soul. When only one person out of 10 is thriving, and around that number feel engaged at the workplace, it indicates that the vast majority are not reaching a desirable level of fulfillment — far from it.

A nation’s soul is the sum total of all interactions between all people in that society. Every moment lasts a few seconds and is positive, negative, or neutral. In those moments, people may make very tiny decisions that, as they accumulate, can profoundly change their day and even the rest of their lives. An old adage says, “Miss a bus, and you change the rest of your life.” In our world of unprecedented interconnectedness, that axiom may need updating: “Miss a bus and you change the rest of the world.” With India’s vast population, there are trillions of interactions per year. If they swing too far to the negative, the society’s soul is suffering a malaise.

Analysts point to large-scale problems, such as the widespread corruption that persists in Indian government, local and national, and the failure of reform parties to gain a strong political footing. But we think the story of moment-to-moment experience counts the most. What if every interaction with a bureaucrat brings expectations of obstacles, red tape or a bribe? What if every woman walking out alone expects catcalls, whistles and physical intrusions from men on the street? What if domestic violence and rape go hugely under-reported and when reported lead to minimal consequences for the perpetrator?

India needs to come to terms with its soul sickness, and slowly, haltingly, it seems to be. Most Indians are lodged in the slot of low expectations. The Gallup data shows a surprising complacency, because despite the alarmingly low level of well-being, around 60 percent of Indians between 2006 and 2011 said that they were satisfied with their standard of living. The bubble seems to have burst since then, however, with that figure dipping below 50 percent in 2012.

There is something important here that India’s leaders — and all global leaders — must consider: A nation’s soul precedes its human development. Organic human development will not occur in India if the majority of everyday experiences are negative. Even so, India’s resilience and optimism — along with its resignation in the face of problems going back for generations — gives hope that the country will look to its soul. A great culture can only persist by doing so. We are pained to deliver gloomy news, but our deepest feeling is that the most spiritual nation on earth, and its largest democracy, can find a path to reform, with the well-being of its people held out as a primary goal.

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Related Articles:

Deepak Chopra: Your Brain is the Universe

Why the Universe Is Our Home – It’s Not a Coincidence

Deepak Chopra: Why Did Mother Nature Do This To Us?

photo by: VinothChandar

Dear Russia: Please Don’t Imprison Feminist Punk-Rock Mothers

What do old conservative politicians fear most? Apparently, brightly colored, feminist punk rockers in tights.

That’s why three women from a Russian, feminist punk collective were arrested in March for performing a ‘punk prayer’ against the re-election of Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.

I don’t know how much you follow feminist punk rock bands, but this one is worth putting on your radar. They’re called Pussy Riot, and they’re causing a storm right now in Russia and around the world. The group is known for staging impromptu political performances in colorful dresses and tights. Oh, and they cover their heads with neon balaclavas. They are quite the spectacle.

The women were arrested on charges of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred, according to Al Jazeera News.

Pussy Riot performed their stunt two weeks before Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in March’s election, when five women dressed in brightly coloured miniskirts and balaclavas took over a pulpit of the Christ the Saviour, Moscow’s main cathedral for less than a minute.

They high-kicked and danced while singing a song pleading “Virgin Mary, drive Putin away!”

Their trial got under way on Monday, and seven years imprisonment are what’s at stake. The women at first denied their connection to Pussy Riot, in keeping with the band’s emphasis on anonymity. They then began a hunger strike and are now pleading not guilty, in the defense that they did not intend any harm.

The group may be rowdy, but they are artists first and foremost, and censorship of this sort is unacceptable. Many around the world, including Madonna, Pete Townshend, and Sting, have called for the women’s release.  More pressing, though, than the need for freedom of expression is the fact that two of the women are mothers of young children. They’ve been held already for five months, with seven years looming over their heads. All for staging a creative and extremely brief protest in a church.

My opinion, for what it’s worth: Artists should not be arrested for expressing strong political beliefs in creative and harmless ways. Young mothers should not be imprisoned and kept from their children for expressing said beliefs.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section!

 

Will Russia join the World?

 On his visit to Moscow, President Obama carried more than an olive branch.  He urged Russia to join the global community, which may be more important even than healing the mess that George Bush made of Russian-American relations.  From the perspective of the former Soviet Union, there have been a lot of betrayed promises in the past ten years, and Obama needed to attend to that. His theme of a fresh start was welcome news.

 Yet something more basic hangs in the balance. Russia is struggling to find its collective consciousness.  Aspects of the past linger in many unhealthy ways.  The loss of empire stings, and Obama had to be careful to make the Russians feel like equal partners. In reality, they aren’t, except in the deadly sense of possessing an enormous nuclear stockpile. They have a population of only 140 million people (less than Pakistan), that is quickly aging. Because of a drastically low birth rate, the country could dwindle to 100 million over the next twenty years, with a huge portion of the elderly.
 
The average Russian male has a life expectancy of 60, with alcohol being a major factor in early death. There is substandard medical care, with almost no attention to prevention and wellness. On the economic front, the Russians have failed to develop a safe, reliable system of capital. Without oil and gas, they would have almost no viable economy.
 
One can see why their sense of identity is struggling, trapped between the security of the old repressive system and the fragility of a newly fledged democracy.  Many Russians are satisfied with an autocrat like Vladimir Putin, who seizes whole industries at will and outlaws freedom of the press.  On the other hand, the isolation of the Soviet years was stifling, as evidenced by the mass migration of minority groups, particularly, Russian Jews, as soon as the borders to the West were opened.
 
Officially, the agenda for dealing with Russia centers on nuclear disarmament, mutual defense interests, fighting terrorism, and the like. But the real issue is intangible. Will Russia become secure enough to join the world?  Old habits die hard, and in Russia’s case a return to militant nationalism and isolation would be disastrous. For decades Russia has played the role of the outsider and dissenter, the country that prides itself on blocking international progress and fomenting tension.
 
The good news is that President Obama struck exactly the right notes for calming Russian anxiety and hostility. He agreed to negotiate on almost every sore point; he showed respect for a once-equal antagonist; he pointed the way to global initiatives.  Very quickly the Russians responded with various concessions, both real and symbolic. For once, the U.S. is motivating Russia toward positive change.  They are unlikely to embrace freedom, democracy, and capitalism along American models, but with any luck, the new Russian consciousness will benefit the world at large for the first time.
 

 

The Taliban within.

 Almost every day we come across some news or another about the atrocities of the Talibans in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Most of us have been viewing this issue as some incomprehensible disease in a remote and perennially troubled part of the world. The truth is, as we have all come to learn through the proliferating power of media and the internet that it is not so much a remote part of the world anymore.

The world has become such a global village that needless to say, no matter where we are, we cannot but feel the ripple effect in some shape or form of whatever goes on outside our countries’ borders.

 9/11 was that severe shock that changed the perspective of our isolated, insulated world. No longer is America immune to dealing with the repercussions of its often biased foreign policy.

We all know that the then Mujahideen were America’s preferred soldiers in the war against Russia in the late 1970’s. Osama bin Laden was once the CIA’s ‘blue-eyed boy,’ well that relationship has turned awry as we know, and now the force that is the Taliban are making their presence felt. And in some ways the persisten Taliban problem and 9/11 is America’s own karma.

 But this is not just America’s or the West’s problem, the issue of the Taliban is being felt viscerally within that region itself. The Taliban do NOT enjoy public favor or opinion in Pakistan. The region, Swat, which they have come to dominate by flexing their barbaric muscle under the umbrella of an utterly emasculated government, shows a 70-90% dislike of this group.

 These so-called ‘defenders of faith’ or ‘holy warriors’ have done more to harm the faith than anything else. The Taliban are the Billboard that loudly advertises the conflict within society today. In some ways it is the have-nots that have lashed out so demonically at the other, more relatively privileged part of society.

 The young boys that join these Jihadi’s or Holy Warriors are ill-educated, they come from downtrodden and desolate circumstances, and have no hope of employment and livelihood in their country.  Pakistan is a third world country, with meager resources and an enervated economic infrastructure. In such an environment wealth from ill-gotten means creates a stark demarcation in the society, within the classes. While a handful enjoy the benefits of the ‘good life’ there is an ever increasing number of disenfranchised souls on the same land. Hence the ever increasing power of the Taliban in numbers.

It is a known fact that when people are able to provide for their families and send their children to schools and not have to worry about the next meal, they are fully immersed in the business of living. And not the business of destroying or killing, as we see in the case of these young men.

Emptiness and hopelessness has created a void in these people to the point where this gnawing hunger can only be satisfied with something violent and all-encompassing. Religion then, becomes the perfect filler. When living does not comprise of the usual, ordinary definition of going to work and being able to feed the children, then only a hard-line purpose makes existence meaningful and helps ease the often accompanying worthlessness that goes with being unemployed.

But now of course, we are at a point where the cancer has metastasized greatly. The feeble Pakistani police tries to control this issue, but inevitably gets ruthlessly punished by these self-entitled vigilantes. The Obama Administration carried out drone attacks, which resulted in more civilians getting killed than perpetrators. We can design many strategies to ‘wipe’ these people out, but as we have seen, despite the Afghanistan war that started eight years ago, they only seem to only have grown in might and number.

 So, what is the answer? Perhaps we need a different approach. While boots on the ground might help control and localize the problem presently, a deeper, grass root level reform needs to occur.

At the end of the day, we are all humans. And at the core of our existence we are all concerned with survival. An overhaul of the entire system, beginning from the level of creating primary and secondary school system is what is desperately needed in a country like Pakistan. This followed by opportunities to work with dignity would be a starting point with lasting effects.

For this of course one needs a government one can trust to funnel resources towards the building of basic infrastructure. To that end,  Pakistan suffers the rule of a ‘default’ government, for lack of a better term. President Zardari has become a leader more out of default than valid political credentials. Although now that he is in that position, he can at least try to dispel grievances by seizing this opportunity to prove his worth by categorically focusing on the problems within. However, all that remains to be seen and public opinion is not particularly optimistic at this point.

Conclusively, at any given time, what goes on in the world is a mirror image of the collective consciousness of the people. The economic downfall, the pervasive political break down in so many parts of the world today, is a reflection of where we have brought ourselves thus far. The Taliban too, are a reflection of our own mental dichotomies and double standards with regard to our policies, our lip service and our actions. And for lasting change, perhaps the thing to do is to begin instilling the concept of responsibility and accountability in our own schemata and applying it to our own lives first, before hoping to see it outside in the world at large.  

Russia – Georgia Confrontation | Global Implications

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Dear Friends, it would be useful to have your considered input
in regard to the global implications of the Russia-Georgia
confrontation…

… we are deeply concerned about the escalating conflict and we pray for the well being of the innocent victims.

To reflect further on this, please respond on "ATCA Open" within IntentBlog, Facebook or LinkedIn.

We welcome your thoughts, observations and views. Thank you.

With love and warm wishes to you and family

DK with family

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