Sustaining Paris

Greetings from Paris, where I’m spending a few days to have a few meetings and mainly, to attend a conference dedicated to sustainable investment and corporate social responsibility. Ha.. some people are thinking “those are buzzwords!”… you might be right, which is part of why I came down to see for myself.

Oui! Travelling down here by hitching a ride with friends and co-workers, I’m once again exposed to the huge elephant in the room for Europe (among the other elephants): automobiles. Everywhere I look, from the Netherlands through Belgium, and into France.. it is so painfully obvious that this part of the world is living beyond its means… it cannot sustain this many cars, and yet people keep right on driving. Some of the best train systems in the world, and they keep driving. Traffic jams everywhere, and yet they keep driving.

They love to point to the United States and say, “Americans and their cars.. ha!”… but when one looks around Central Europe.. especially this region… it is the pot calling the kettle black. And symbolic carbon trading, token political speeches, or pointing a finger and holding a nose towards the US… that isn’t going to solve what has become a cultural problem.. the culture of the car.

Of course I will try and bring this topic up as part of a few podcasts I intend to record from the conference. Many attendees are so-called experts, which might be interesting to talk to but as a podcaster, I’m as interested in the regular conference go-er working to make companies act responsibly as I am to speak with some CSI rockstars.

As an added bonus, I happen to have arrived in Paris during the largest labor struggle in a decade, *film at 11.

*=old American TV expression.

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bm233 DNA and Immigration in France

The French government, under the guidance of its new president, passed a bill to require the use of DNA testing in certain immigration cases. Is this the will of the French people and what are the implications if more of these types of policies are put into effect?

My guests:
John Mason, Prof. of Political Science at William Paterson University (NJ)
Jessica Reed, blogger; OpenDemocracy.net

We discuss:
– The state of the state
– Who supports Sarkozy?
– His policies and his background
– Where the French public falls in all this
– Eastern Europe
– Africa and former colonies
– Labor and birth rates
– How do fight back against xenophobia

 

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Tradition

If you should browse the current.com website, which belongs to the people behind currenttv (American cable channel founded by Al Gore), you’ll find a growing amount of content from yours truely. And as I posted a link to an article about the new French requirement that immigrants who wish their family members to join them in France must take a DNA test to prove they are really family, I received some interesting comments, and I say that not because several people agreed with me.

In discussing this topic on that website and amongst friends here in Amsterdam, one common concern that people bring up to defend the policy sounds something like this: “Using DNA will ensure that immigrants aren’t lying about who is family.”

I realize many people agree with this, on the surface it is a simple request, that people not lie. But when I hear this comment, my mind travels to the past.. to who I am and how I got to be where I am.. or better yet.. how I got to be at all. Or beyond me, what about all the people all over the world, who are the children of immigrants or the grandchildren of immigrants… what if they had had DNA testing?
The idea that people would not have been able to lie in any aspect of the immigration process would have basically changed the entire face of the western world, destination for many immigrants over the past 300 years. The midwest of the United States, with its huge Scandinavian population… imagine they had not been able to lie about who is who’s cousin or daughter.

I realize, there are immigration laws, there is a process, and it isn’t going away. I also realize that no matter the rules, if humans want to go somewhere, they will find a way, they will break or bend the rules, because it is a question of survival.

When it comes right down to it, history teaches us that there is a long and glorious tradition of lying for the sake of moving your family.. your hopes.. your dreams. It is a tradition that deserves our respect… it should be honored.. not disrespected with DNA tests that few migrants could ever afford anyway.

There are of course, numerous other criticisms of this policy that governments should take note of. But for right now, in this particular post, I just wanted to show my respect by defending the rights of immigrants.. of humans.. to not be DNA tested because they want to try and make a new life.. a better life.

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Belgian Waffling

After my most recent trip to Brussels, I found myself extremely frustrated with articles I had read in the newspapers, conversations with my family and friends.. all revolving around what really does look like a country on the verge of breaking up.

It almost sounds like a relationship doesn’t it? Yes this old married couple called Belgium, more specifically Wallons and Flemish, seem to have reached a tipping point and will soon divorce. And like so many marriages gone wrong, the craziest part will be to negotiate who gets what and how.

But nevermind the analogy, Belgium is in a terrible funk that people in different parts of the world can probably never understand and even I, a frequent visitor to the country and someone who reads every bit I can on the topic, am still baffled.

Naturally a discussion of history is in order, to understand what happened in the past that resulted in the things we see today. Who took what from whom, who killed whom, and who deserves what, somehow, as a result. Like any European region there are plenty of wars, cultural differences, economic booms and busts, and yes … even a dash of colonialism.

But I’m not going to try to summarize the history right now.

For now all I have to say and I hope the world will take notice soon, is that there is a lovely country called Belgium, where people live a very admirable quality of life and have come a long way in terms of achievements as a nation. (look at their dominance of tennis!) But these same people are whispering about each other indoors. Their political parties spread untruths and revise history for the sole purpose of drawing on people’s anger and poor judgment. Everyone is convinced they’re being used, duped, or mistreated in some way. They fail to understand people who have been their neighbors and fellow citizens for many generations.

For all the achievements of the Flemish and all the achievements of the Wallons, in my eyes, the inability to stay together as a country or simply to view your neighbors as equals tells me that neither culture is as courageous or creative as I thought.

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