culture

Purim Disqus

Posted on Updated on

It will soon be Purim; a Jewish Festival of enjoyment and celebration. I wrote about this very same festival last year around the time I celebrated with friends in North Manchester, great fun. But what is Purim? What is the story?

Purim is the story of Esther and how she saved the Israelite people of Persia:

There once lived a King by the name of Achashverosh, who ruled over Persia in the third century, BCE.

The story begins with a grand feast that the King was throwing at his palace. Irreconcilable differences propelled the King to divorce and seek a new queen. In search of a new queen, the King commanded his men to travel throughout the kingdom in search of the loveliest of maidens so that he could view them and choose the most beautiful to be his wife and the new Queen.

Around this time there lived a gorgeous woman named Esther. She lived in a small province with her uncle Mordechai. She knew that being the Queen of Persia would be good for her people, so she prepared herself to be brought before the King.

Once the King saw Esther he stopped looking and she became the new Queen of Persia.

One day while passing by the palace gates, Mordechai overheard two guards plotting a revolution with the intent to kill King Achashverosh. Mordechai informed Esther, and the militants were captured and executed. Mordechai saved the King’s life.

The King had an advisor named Haman. This advisor was power hungry and conniving. Haman disliked the Israelites, especially Mordechai. When Haman would travel throughout the towns, he expected the people to bow down to him, as he was second in command to the King. Mordechai refused to bow.

In order to gain favor with the King and rid himself of Mordechai and his people, Haman devised a plan to kill them all. Haman used his sharp tongue and twisted the thoughts of Achashverosh, alleging that Mordechai’s people would cause a problem for the King and that the King should lend his seal to a petition to have them destroyed. The King authorized the genocide and letters were written and sent to all the provinces of Persia bearing the King’s seal.

Haman drew lots to pick the date upon which the genocide would begin. The thirteenth of Adar (the month of Pisces) was the selected day for the mass extermination of the people. Remember this date.

When Mordechai caught word of this, he tore his clothes in mourning, dressed in a sackcloth and cried before the King’s gate.

When Esther was told about her uncle’s behavior she sent him new clothes, but he refused them. He sent her a message telling her to go to the King and plead for the lives of her people.

The law in Persia at that time was strict; no one was to approach the King unless they were summoned. To disobey was punishable by death. Esther sent word back to her uncle that the townspeople should fast for three days, she would do the same, and after the three days she would approach the King.

After three days, Esther went to the King who was so pleased to see her that he held out his scepter and asked her if he could grant her a request. Esther asked the King and Haman to join her in her quarters for a banquet that she would prepare on the following day.

As Haman left the Palace that evening he saw Mordechai. So full with hatred was he for Mordechai, that he resolved the next morning he would ask the King’s permission to hang Mordechai in a public spectacle on gallows fifty feet high.

That same night the King could not sleep and he asked to hear the daily chronicles, which recorded the events of the palace. There the King learned that Mordechai informed the King about a scheme to overthrow the kingdom and kill the King. Mordechai had saved the King’s life, but had not been rewarded for his loyalty.

When Haman arrived in the morning, the King asked Haman’s advice as to the appropriate manner to honor a person that has found great favor with the King. Haman, assuming that it was he who was to be honored, said that the man should be allowed to wear the King’s crown, the King’s clothes and should be led through town on the King’s horse, proclaiming that this man is favored by the King.

King Achashverosh accepted the idea and told Haman to give this honor to Mordechai. Enraged, Haman followed the King’s orders. That night was the banquet that Queen Esther had prepared for the King and Haman. The King was so pleased with her, that again he asked Esther if he could grant her a request. This time Queen Esther asked her husband to save her life, the life of her people, and her uncle, Mordechai, who the king had honored that day. The King was horrified that the life of his queen and his devoted Mordechai were threatened and demanded to know who was responsible for this. Esther replied that it was Haman.

Haman fell to his knees before the King and pleaded for his life, but the King ordered that Haman be hung on the very gallows that he had intended for Mordechai. Mordechai was then made the new advisor to the King.

However, the order of genocide could not simply be revoked, so the King ordered that the Israelites be informed and armed to fight in their own defense. Due to their awareness of the kabbalistic tools of unity, the 72 Names of God, and their understanding of the cosmic cycles of the kabbalistic calendar, the Israelites of Persia triumphed over the Persian Army. They awakened the power of miracles available in the month of Adar/Pisces. And moreover, they were able to alter their destiny.

(Story c/o livingwisdom/kabbalah.com)

purim

So what does this story tell us? what does it teach?

The story of Purim is a story that teaches that we must overcome one of our greatest enemies; doubt.

Esther could not affect the destiny of her people until she affected the cause of their impending calamity. By saying her people should fast for 72 hours and give succor to one-another she helped her people come together, to overcome the desire for self alone and awaken the energy of unity through the experience of sharing. The king armed them, they fought and overcame their impending doom.

For Jews the time of Purim is a time of celebration. If you go to a Jewish area wherever you find yourself, in whatever country you are you will almost certainly find a community in festive mood. Parties, cake, drink, face-painting for children and general merriment – a time of joy.

Doubt is an enemy of achievement an enemy of aspiration. Doubt of others is bad, but Doubt of yourself is worse. Be sure of yourself, know who and where you are in your life. Know who and where you would like to be in your life. Do not doubt yourself and go and achieve.

These are the lessons from Esther.

Dieudonne; A Sinister Clown

Posted on Updated on

SINISTER CLOWN

I have been following with interest and repulsion in equal measure the Dieudonne saga in France, partly because I’m obsessed with France and partly because of my innate fear of all things fascist/right-wing/nazi and following the very public goal celebration in the UK by Nicolas Anelka recently.

Dieudonne shows have been cancelled in some parts of France but not without a public outcry from some sections of the society that this is an attack on freedom of speech or freedom of expression. But I find myself thinking as one who will willingly defend the right of freedom of speech even when I fundamentally disagree with the sentiments being expressed, that actually even a bad clown can make a mistake and may even break the laws of the land. Wearing a red nose or pretending to give humor never prevented anyone from committing a crime. If a thief steels a motorcycle he has committed a crime even when he does in an amusing way.

However, Dieudonne, the sinister clown seeks to further his obnoxious views through so called humor. By going on a tour, publishing dates and venues he is being provocative and foolish. The French have not prevented his freedom of expression but have prevented public discord and a potential for civil conflict. Dieudonne is not a victim, he has not suffered a crime against humanity, he has had his talentless show which trades on scandal and abuse brought to a close in the name of public safety.

Dieudonne only speaks to those who cling onto the unintelligible thought of anti-Semites, to them his act, if indeed that is what it is, is a source of humor. He therefore only speaks to a small but nonetheless nuisance minority of people. To this day there are conferences and a vast number of books which speak of the Nazi Holocaust, a permanent stain on modern society. To think that this could be a subject for humor frankly beggars belief.

The notion that the law can impose limits on public behavior to me is something which should and must be challenged frequently. But the exploitation of crimes against humanity for the humor of a very few is not an area I would recommend to anybody as a place to challenge accepted decencies. His act is a cynical insult for his own reward. His act is one of many which seeks to raise the infamous beast of anti-Semitic thought from the ashes of hate.

It is quite amazing to me to notice that resistance of Dieudonne and his like comes from all sides, both left and right leaning thought. Of course Dieudonne argues that he provides a refuge in humor from the Zionist, he may well do this but I ask what is Zionism in 2014?

Certainly 100 years ago when the thought was to make a Jewish state the idea was simple; to provide a state that all Jews from around the world could come to where safety was guaranteed. I recognize the visionary genius of Theodor Herzl without question. However, Zionism in 2014 may look as if it is all about the West Bank and Gaza but really is this so? I think Zionism today is the same as it ever was, especially when you consider the threats from Iran, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Hesbollah, Hammas…

If only Dieudonne could see the threats from without the ‘Zionist’ state maybe then he wouldn’t be such a sinister clown about it all.

To add to the anti-Semitic attacks which are frequent the need for humor at the expense of the dead is an insult. To do this at the expense of Holocaust dead is a crime!

Are they worth it?

Posted on Updated on

Publicité pour Twitter et Facebook sur la vers...
Publicité pour Twitter et Facebook sur la version hébreu de Wikipédia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Youth (yoof) culture in the UK to a large extent is informed in attitudes by Hip-Hop Culture, or certainly the gift-wrapped version we see on MTV, Virgin Music… Critics may be easily prompted to dismiss this version of ‘yoof culture’ as the ramblings of uneducated and lazy youth. But I point to the growing levels of violence practiced against the youth by older and wiser (?) generations and by youth on youth or gang violence mostly in our urban centres.

The State terror that drove Aaron Schwartz to commit suicide; the domestic violence that killed Kasandra Perkins; the communal violence that killed Trayvon Martin and fatally wounded Malala Yousufzai; have all become commonplace. Not UK violence but for sure the violence that we meet every evening on the 6 pm news broadcast. The message is clear, people of youth are violent! Its a crisis!

Education can and often does address the underlying causes of violence but is not the sole key to addressing this crisis.Teachers must help reclaim the public by affirming with youth that life is worth living. Pedagogy must wrestle with the fact that the worth of youth largely swings between being targeted as (new) consumers and being seen as a disposable population fit only for the prison.

Renewed societal values are absolutely central to the improvement in youth experience; by showing how racism, sexism, and economical exploitation shape the outcomes and therefore the values of the youth, teachers have an opportunity to use the past experience of youth to improve the possible future experience of youth. Some Feminists building on critical views of the traditional nuclear family have illuminated the complex ways that power and violence function in the nuclear family and heterosexual relationships. Yet the buck stops there – the family is to blame?

I think not, well not entirely anyway. We lack the language and values necessary to address the states of terror that have escalated into youth-on-youth violence.

As we move into a more technologically-integrated society (Facebook, Twitter, Google+…), the pressing question is how to elevate the experience and contribution of the youth through these social networking platforms. The first task in answering this question is to challenge the notion that the youth are aloof and normalized to the violence in their midst. If we look closely at these social media hangouts, we find that youth are driven by two goals: the need to share information, and the need to be content creators.

Our next task, then, is to engage them in transforming their ingenuity and passion to share and create content that revises the modern world. Obvious blueprints have been offered. The revolutionary maneuvers of youth in North Africa have been realized through Twitter as a cabal for strategy. The Occupy movement illustrated how we can create webs of inclusion in a leaderless movement, and introduced the public speaking platform known as mic check. These ideas engender a generational attitude encapsulating a way of being. Of social awareness on a grander scale.

This isn’t however, the Marxist dream of a classless society. The economic, social and educational carnage youth face in the streets makes us culpable for failing to create effective institutions that integrate youth into society. If the future belongs to the youth, we must engage them by transforming the ideas of identity management on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram into community management by asking them to help share and create ideals we can live by.

“Look at the weak and cry, pray one day you’ll be strong
Fighting for your rights, even when you’re wrong
And hope that at least one of you sing about me when I’m gone
I am worth it?”
— Kenderick Lamar

Success through Recognition

Posted on Updated on

A vital component of success is recognizing it when it hits you, its very much part of (good, sorry great) leadership.  By recognizing a persons success you are effectively saying they have achieved, they have arrived.  You are giving the person something emotional in nature and reinforcing that bond between you the employer and them the employee.

You could, if you had the will and time formalize the recognition process by giving rewards, even if they’re only a badge to say best performer… but this too is part of the process of making those emotional bonds stronger.  The best rewards are financial but I’d always urge these to be totally results related, measurable by all.

Image

Rewarded, emotionally attached staff who are trained and motivated to do whats right, whats required will give exceptional service.

Exceptional service = return customers! (and we all want them)

But….

Don’t be afraid to do the daring things.  You might find that the culture needs to be redefined, engagement encouraged, people (your people) reignited, the brand reinforced.  This may mean that taking a brutal approach to ensuring the right people are on-board is one of the options you take.  If you do go down this route (I have) you’ll wind-up with groups of people:

Players – those people on-board, know what they’re doing, need no further motivation

Wannabe’s – those who need more training

Potentials – could go either way

Assassins – saboteurs

Find a way of getting rid of the assassins, things will be better once they’ve gone. The potentials, they need telling improve or you go the same way!

Get on top of succession planning.

Build strong teams, especially the one around you.  You need a small handful of potential contenders to be your replacement.  Make sure that team members buy-in to the brand, to what you’re trying to achieve, to what you’re saying.  Internal appointments to management are very important, but leave space for external hires as well.  You are going to need fresh and new ideas; not always possible from within.

Make absolutely sure that who-ever you appoint they understand and appreciate the culture; no short-cuts on this one.

Fulfillment doesn’t come for Free

Posted on Updated on

One of the greatest, most important principles we can learn is that fulfillment does not come for free. Having our accomplishments handed to us on a platter might feel good for a moment or so, but it’s the work involved in earning it that will create a lasting appreciation and fulfillment.

Image

The harder we work for something, the happier it can make us. Hopefully, this gives us a different way of looking at the obstacles in our lives.

Gen X, Y & Z + more

Posted on Updated on

5 generations in the workplace, Generation Z (born 1996 on-wards) are in the workplace and the room for cross-generational conflict is here.  Younger workers feeling deprived of career opportunities by job blockers. Older workers aghast at the irreverence of youth.

ARRRRRRRRRRR!

Retirement age removed, pension crisis in full swing, surge (massive if you’re Spanish and Greek) in youth unemployment.  The storm is upon us.

The emerging sectors of digital, green and creative offer fantastic opportunities but a greater likelyhood of Gen X, Y and Z coming together each with a different set of skills and reference points.  The challenge; getting each to educate the other in their relative strengths.

Image

The time to be honest is now.  The new realities are that growth and satisfaction come from diverse development experiences along with a range of different career opportunities.  Reverse mentoring (cross-generational educational engagement) projects offer a way of getting the old and the young to just talk to one another.  By engaging across the generations people are freed to have flexible thinking.

By exploring what’s right for individuals and addressing the tensions of generational differences trust can be encouraged to grow.  Experiences and outcomes will be all the more richer, individual priorities appreciated, flexibility fostered and social environments more fluid.

So 5-Gen workplaces, what to do?  Well best advice is definitely don’t lose your head when faced with difficulties.  Honesty is the key, and keep to the task.  Job organisation and design will have to appreciate the different generations and make the best of them.  Rewards too, some younger workers will almost certainly be better rewarded than older workers; again honesty is key, reference the task.

Communication, the biggest single failure in any business, but there is a gap in what is being openly discussed and what should be openly discussed.  Close the gap!

A spectrum of ages in a workplace is a positive advantage.  It allows for a diverse range of skills, points of view, learning opportunities.  By leveraging this diversity the business will benefit.

Each generation will typically have its own communication style, values and feedback modes.  Everyone needs to recognize this and come to terms with it.  Communication styles will have to be flexed to meet the varying demands of communications across the generations.

Job blocking?  Its a fallacy to think that young people are being job blocked and careers stifled by older workers.  By working together opportunities will be created.

Measure Inclusion

Posted on Updated on

If you measure diversity then you’re part way there.  Measuring inclusion is difficult by any standard so here are some ideas:

Meet with other organisations – networking by another name & you could allow bench-marking.  Please don’t hide from the data it will give you a start to the story.

Spot Checks (especially by the managers) – this will widen the number of people looking at diversity and the effects (positive or otherwise).  You could even try building inclusion into the performance management process for the managers themselves.

Performance – keep a close eye on who’s getting promoted, who gets a good performance review, who’s getting a pay rise.  But also keep an eye on the reasons and map them too.

New Start, New Leave – why are they leaving, what are they saying, are they even being asked? Is there a way to ask them?  Who’s starting and what do they bring in the way of qualities and qualifications?

What do you already know? – absenteeism, sickness, lateness, shift splits, pay scale, pre-existing skills…

Survey – ask your employees to comment.  Use a combination of open and closed questions and map the results.  You could then try a focus group with the results to see if anything comes out that might have been missed or under or over played.

Image

Inclusion is a massive opportunity to effect positively culture change and organisational development.  Leaders who recognize this are likely to be the ones who create an environment where everyone is at their best.  The risk however, is diversity and inclusion is not measured or managed and diverse teams have a habit of fracturing. Managers must be sophisticated in their approach and management style to make sure this doesn’t happen.