Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tolerance in 2015. Montreal and the Federal Elections

The last Canadian federal elections (#elxn42) has brought the issue of Canadian multiculturalism to the fore front again. Some parties used negative media to portray a Muslim tiny minority as a threat to the general public. This sign (#Niqab) has been used as a weapon by the Conservative Party of canada (#CPC), and was also used as a mercy pill for #NDP during the elections (#elxn42). The party that was defending the freedoms of all Canadians lost a major electoral share because it preferred to advance the constitutional freedoms above all political agendas. 

Why Tolerance is rare those days?
North American cosmopolitan cities are the melting pot of the world. They attract immigrants from all countries and all cultures. The multiculturalism of this continent comes with struggles for both majority populations as well as visible minorities, especially when not treated with #tolerance and understanding where cultural differences and traditions are concerned. Montreal has been a hot bed for intolerance during the past few years. Although, the city is still one of the best multicultural hubs to live and enjoy life within its folds.

Tolerance is very important in a multicultural society such as ours in Montreal or in North America in general. New immigrants (or older immigrants even the whites who came few centuries earlier) enter this society and have been surprised by the difficulty to integrate in this highly mosaic culture that is so unique and different from any other human culture on earth. This task alone is stressful and leaves immigrants feeling homesick and lost in this foreign panoramic puzzle. I envy the aboriginals for their patience with all those waves of new comers since the 16th century.

What makes it even harder is the negative attitude of some who treat every new comer as an outsider with certain level of disrespect sometimes just because of their cultural differences.

However, the society in general is still tolerant and favor multiculturalism. In that, people do still accept the cultural differences and welcome their integration instead of opposing them. For example, some visible minorities dress differently than the average Montrealer. A tolerant view would help a person to accept these differences and even motivate her/him to learn more about this new other culture. On the other hand, an intolerant view would come from a person who gawked at the differences in clothing, even poking fun or performing an equally humiliating gesture toward the immigrant, new comer, aboriginal person or even another (so called) "de souche". 

By accepting the differences of others, our country thrive and prosper. Canadians punished Harper's game with the Niqab. It truly reflects the entrenched values of Canadians who accept each other and are willing to work together to save the country. The Niqab dillema will not solve an economical crisis. It can hide the impact of bad politics and can advance hatred.
The "so called" land of the free was developed way in the snowy North as an outlet for people to escape when faced with religious or cultural persecution in their native lands. Montrealers, Canadians and North Americans in general, have embraced these differences and built their society on such tolerant values. Without such values, Canada will not be the Canada we know today. Accepting people regardless of their ethnic background is crucial because it is an inalienable right given to each of us as citizens. Each culture gives something to this unique society, which makes it better as it becomes more diverse.
On the other hand, new immigrants and new comers who enjoy the constitutional rights of being free to live the way they like need to do their part as well. The world is moving towards a more conservative point of view in which the terrifying feeling of terrorism is restricting tolerance level. In addition, the harsh economical cycles are pushing people to their nerves. One needs to give, contribute, integrate and support in order to protect the collective well being of the society and to advance the remaining tolerance and acceptance levels within the society.

There is a common cliché that says "variety is the spice of life". We have a spicy city (too spicy in some corners where the Curry did already overcome the smell of Poutine). We are living at the end of the boomers era. All the respect for those who have built this society and brought it to the current level that we enjoy.
We are different but have all the same common goal. Live, enjoy and let others live.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Friendship in the Social Networks Era

We used to leave our houses to meet our friends or sneak out to some taboo areas to enjoy some quick abuse. Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp....) have re-defined the meaning of the word "friend." Instead of interacting with the other people in the neighborhood, users can now converse with people on the other side of the world. Facebook has closed off many of the barriers that used to prevent communication and awareness of the world around us. Many young people log on to Facebook daily, connecting with their friends, sharing updates and photographs. While Facebook may be a great sharing tool, it is no substitute for real-world human interaction. 

We used to have much less connexions with much more connections. Our humane interactions are some of the basic human needs. We need to be a part of a group and to connect with others is a real human physiological need. Studies have shown that babies that don't receive adequate skin to skin contact in their first few weeks of life suffer more illnesses than those that are held and cuddled. The need to feel accepted is real and instinctive.

Social Networks, however, can present a false sense of security when it comes to real connection. While it is great to chat online and share articles and stories, humans need real contact. There is no substitute for an in-person visit or a phone call. The small blue screens are giving us false hope of being in touch. Yet, once this phone battery is drained out, we loose all this luxury of being in touch with "close" screen friends.

The key is to enjoy social media without sacrificing quality time with friends and family. Your sisters and brothers will soon grow older and have lives away from home. Spend all the time you can with them now. Your babies will also grow away with their own phones. Our wives, our husbands need us as well.

If social media consumes all of your time, you are missing out on the real quality interaction with family that you need to be fulfilled. Take time to shut off the computer and go outside and enjoy the weather. Call a friend and arrange a time to meet for lunch and talk. Sit down to dinner with Mom and Dad without texting and messaging under the table. You will be surprised at how much more fulfilling your life is when you seek out real human interaction. 

When you have your own family. Ensure that your phone is far away from the dining table. Make sure that kids do not need to text you to ask you for a quick meeting at home. It is tempting to keep the eyes focused on the small screen. However, it is much harder on the little eyes to look around and find noone there for them except their mom's and dad's locked phone. 

Our Whatsapp and Facebook are great tools to keep in touch but they can never substitute the love and warmth of family and friends.

Enjoy a social media-free day every once in a while and get to know the people around you better. By pulling the plug on social media, you will be tapping into a rich world of human connection that will last you throughout life.

The Importance of interfaith Dialogue in North America

The United States of America was formed as a nation to be different from the predominantly European countries from which its founders came. One principle of the United States was to not have a state creed per se, but rather a plurality of creeds and freedom to choose whatever creed one chooses. Thanks to the freedom of creed in America, there are a number of creeds and philosophical practices throughout the U.S. There is solid interfaith dialogue in many bigger cities and metropolitan areas, but some areas can use better interrelations. Even for the areas with better inter faith relations, there is always room for improvement.

First, a breakdown of the creeds in America. Christianity, or Christian denominations, are the most prevalent faith in each and every state. (For example, in the South, Baptism is most popular; the Catholic church on the coasts; and Mormonism in Utah and surrounding regions). Things start to get more interesting when talking about the second most popular creed. Per the Washington Post, Islam is America's largest non-Christian-- or overall, second largest-- creed with it being the second biggest faith in 20 states. Judaism is the second largest creed in 15 states. Buddhism is the largest non-Christian creed in 13, primarily western, states.

West of Canada was built similarly. Quebec is an exception because it was an extension of the European Church state then it becomes a striking example of the French secularist state that rejected all aspects of religions (Except some). Yet, Quebec kept moving steadily towards a military secularist system in which the state started dictating what people can think of or believe in during the past few years. Although the majority of USA and Canada citizens are Christian in some form, other religious groups are growing. For example, in 2011, it was estimated that the amount of Muslims in the United States would double by 2030 (similar Canadian statistics are present).

It is ideal to have Muslims who attend mosques and members of these burgeoning faiths integrate in a predominantly Christian society. Many Christians would be surprised to see how much Islam has in common with traditional Christianity. Imagine having a nation built on inter faith principles. How natural and humane will that be?

Probably the best way to promote inter-faith is by simply being open-minded and discussing creeds without imposing it upon others. Don't fear sharing your own beliefs, and why you feel as you do. Meanwhile, while you can give your own interpretation of the writings of your domination, do not force them upon others. Everyone will understand a religious text differently, hence the many different sects within any given creed.

Christianity, on the one hand, has a much richer set of interpretations that are somehow distant from the original text. Islam is a great example of a creed that has a limited set of interpretations that are all based on the original preserved text (verbatim). A lot of efforts has been done in USA and Canada to offer the original text of Islam without much interpretations. After all, people need to know the original text that Allah (GOD) has revealed without the human understanding of the sacred text.

Remember that just like different creeds or sects have their own interpretations of scripture, so do specific individuals. Be aware of different methods in which you can apply inter-faith dialogue; a popular one is called SR, or scriptural reasoning.

Ultimately, inter-faith relations are imperative to have because they more concretely make you faithful, and they allow you to reconcile the differences between different creeds. You will likely find that the fundamental texts of your creed aren't that different from those of the other neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances or friends.

Many in this day and age will get married to a person of another creed. In fact, Fox News found in July 2010 through a representative sample of 2,500 individuals that 42% of marriages in the United States are of an inter faith variety. Interestingly enough, Jews are most likely to marry out of faith, while Mormons are least likely. Muslims are in between. Couples in inter-faith marriages are apparently less happy than those in same-faith marriages, which is evidenced by a higher divorce rate. Inter-faith marriages are much more common amongst older people, and many spouses will actually convert to their partner's creed over a period of time. Perhaps most promising in terms of inter faith relations, marrying a person of a different creed will cause you to feel more positively about that creed over time. Based on my personal experience, I have seen hundreds of Muslims in Montreal marrying to non Muslim ladies. I have witnessed marriages between Muslim ladies as well and non Muslim fellows but a small minority due to restrictions of marriage to non Muslims.

It should also be mentioned that inter-faith measures incorporate all philosophies, not just religions. So, if one has a spiritual or humanistic philosophy that doesn't traditionally fall into the definition of a religion, their beliefs should still be recognized and respected in interfaith dialogue. Examples of secular philosophies include practices such as humanism.

Inter-faith dialogue has been around for many centuries, but it still has plenty of room to grow. All religions have fanatics who believe that those of other faiths should be terminated (physically or socially) because they don't hold the same faith is evidence of such. Don't think that the problem of poor inter-faith relations is due to any one creed, however; all of us need to improve.

I have learned in Montreal that it is worth it to put the time and efforts to actually become familiar with other religious and philosophical texts, and seek to meet people who have a different value system or a different belief. Our minds and tolerance will grow exponentially.

Being open to learning and exchanging will add value to one's belief system and enhance our understanding of the purpose of life, what will come after life, how humans need to treat each other, where to seek knowledge, how to seek knowledge, and how to lead a civilized talk with our human fellows.

The more open you are, the better in terms of interfaith relations. After all, what's the worst thing that can happen from engaging in inter faith dialogue and research? You don't agree with what you're presented? The pros far outweigh the cons.

Be open and good luck!


Sales Productivity and Artificial Intelligence

I have been working with several Customer relationship management (CRM) packages since 2006. Salesforce is a leader now especially on the cloud. SugarCRM has been a promising platform as well.

The new Lightning experience from Salesforce is a real buzz. It has raised attention and brought many people to try this new platform. It should boost productivity. However, I do not think it will be a sales booster as well. Sales is not really about technology. Good sales people can use any kind of technology to sell. Increasing the odds of selling needs information, skills and talents.

The information will help take better decision of course in a shorter span of time. This is critical to close a deal. However, it takes much more than being productive and efficient to convince a big client to acquire a good or a service. Software can assist with all the logistics of selling. They can help make sales people more productive and spend less time looking for information or working on presentations.

Sales packages might be able to help if they get enough information from the Sales person on time. At the moment, data is flowing one way from the computerized application to the eyes of the sales person. If we can get data flowing the other way round during the meeting that will be amazingly a plus. 

I am still looking forward to seeing the tool that will truly boost the sales talents and change the average sales person into a successful effective account manager. I doubt tools and packages will do that. However, artificial intelligence might get us closer to that end.

I imagine the sales person of the future to get into a client's office with Google Glass or something similar, an iPad with a CRM package, and an earphone. The glass will help the sales person analyze the body-language of the client in order to pitch to close a deal just on time (Right when it clicks !). There is no software in the world that can understand the interactions with the clients at the moment. It needs more intelligence to acquire more info.

In that, the smart glass will acquire more information right during the meeting. Send them back to a smart engine that is fully equipped with business intelligence and tailored services. Then, the machine will start feeding the human agent with more custom information uniquely packaged for the client she is meeting.

Isn't a big step forward? Would this help sales people sell more, better, and in shorter span of time?