‘TIS THE SEASON TO FIND FAITH

2011 has been a hard year.

Hard politically, economically, socially, environmentally.

This past year has tested our limits in addressing challenges, finding unique solutions to problems beyond fiction.

Most importantly, this past year has tested faith – faith in systems, structures and sensibilities.

And yet through it all, the world has continued to move forward, sparking confidence and belief in possibility even when rationalizing lack of probability.

Step by step, second by second, the world moves forward.

Because it has to.

Regardless of our ages, our ideologies, our beliefs, our battles past, and our war wounds, We need to believe in the possibility of moving forward.

It is like a child’s belief in Santa…

With big big eyes, an open heart and a look of that shows just how much faith is held within that child’s little body, a child approaches Santa knowing he is the one person who can be trusted, whispered to in strictest confidence, to listen to their greatest wishes, and make things right.

As beautifully captured by Jack Sanderson in the recently released documentary “Becoming Santa”, it’s all about the remarkable force of faith.

It is this force that turned 2011 into a year of making history through possibility, and will continue to keep us forward focused in 2012.

To believe is hard, but it is essential. And it is an immense blessing.

Besides, who says there’s no such thing as Santa Claus?

Happy 2012.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

GLOBAL BONDING THROUGH REGIONAL CRISIS


As 2011 counts down to its final weeks, the spirit and momentum of events of the first days of the new year continue to hold the Arab world, and world at large, in its grip. ‘Arab Spring‘, a flowing stream of revolution and reform that has been spreading across North Africa and the Middle East throughout 2011, has proven to have profound ripple effects across the globe.

2011 has been a year of global reawakening, reshaping and reconnecting. No longer are events in one part of the world simply short-term news headlines, pushed aside with short-term memory. Now, with each new story, a new question of “what does this mean here, for me?” emerges.

Interestingly, with the region’s social, political and economic structures breaking apart, a bonding has been occurring. Collective conscience has transcended borders, cultures, religions and political ideologies. One by one, as nationals have courageously stood forward to create essential change in their countries, they have found the people of the world standing beside them.

Just days ago at WTM 2011, one of the world’s largest coming together to global tourism leaders, policy makers, captains of industry, media and members of government, a special UNWTO seminar was held to put a spotlight on “The Future of Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa”. The MENA region, heavily dependent on the tourism industry for employment, earnings, investment, trade and unity, felt the heaviest rain showers of the Arab Spring. With global travellers uncertain of the safety and stability of regional tourism destinations experiencing political overthrow, visitation to leading regional destinations Egypt and Tunisia plummeted (offering, interestingly, destinations such as Greece, Turkey and the GCC states a surprise injection of travellers re-routing their plans). As the Arab Spring moved through the MENA region’s summer and autumn seasons, tourist confidence strengthened, strengthening visitor arrivals. Still, as winter approaches, the year’s stats will show a deep chill, with leading regional destinations Egypt and Tunisia expecting year on year declines of 25% – 30%.

Acutely aware of the need to rebuild regional tourism, urgently and collectively, the UNWTO brought together a panel of regional champions of tourism from both the public and private sector, including HE Mr Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, Minister of Tourism of EGYPT and HE Mr Mehdi Houas, Minister of Tourism of TUNISIA, JORDAN’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, HE Nayef Al Fayez, and senior leadership of Jumeirah Group Dubai, Etihad Airways and Thomas Cook.

While each voice conveyed a different story of the effects of regional uprisings, one thing was clear: together they are united in a shared commitment to see the region’s tourism sector emerge stronger, safer, and more competitive on the global travel stage than ever before.

Traditional rival destinations have become bonded by crisis. Learnings are being shared, partnerships are being forged, issues are being collectively lobbied, and opportunities are being unlocked. Together, spirit is being restored, confidence rebuilt and possibility turned to probability. Recovery is underway.

To see, and feel, this firmness of spirit is not just inspiring, it is empowering. And it is a reminder of the gift that crisis can offer.

As shared by Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, emerging from crisis “is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning how to dance in the rain.”

How remarkable it is to pause while dancing to see who is dancing alongside, sharing their umbrella.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

iLOSS

At one single moment on October 05th, 2011, the overwhelming power of connectivity our lives today came to life.
Why?
Because someone’s life had come to an end. Steve Jobs.

Without any boundaries – time zones, languages, media – word spread. And for some, tears were shed.
Our world had lost one of its greatest minds, a man who, as aptly stated by President Barack Obama: “was brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.”

For the first time in decades, the stopping of one heart caused heartache across a global community billions strong. Regardless of age, culture, location, qualification, corporation or socialisation, voices were expressing sadness at the passing of a man being described as an icon, a visionary, a modern day Edison, Bell, da Vinci.

He was a man who was able to do absolutely anything he put his mind and energies to. But he was not able to stay alive.

As the days and hours have slowly passed since his passing, one of the remarkable truisms that Steve Jobs has revealed, yet again, just what the people of the world need. He was a master at this, and even in his absence, he continues to do so.

With all of the technology we have in our loves – the iPods, iPads, iPhones, iTunes, iChat, iLife and of course the world of Mac – all of the things that keep us tech-connected to one another, what people the world over have needed at this time of sorrow has been pure, unwired, unedited and unashamed, un-grown up connection of emotion.

Through his work, be it Apple, Pixar or any of the other ventures that shaped his passion and profession, Steve Jobs did what few other great creators have been able to do. Technical expertise he had, in abundance, as have other great inventors. But within Apple’s clever codes and creative genius was the ability to not only unlock the mind of the user…but the heart, allowing the inner child to play, freely, openly, and proudly.

Only one other globally celebrated, grown-up creators has ever been able to do that: Walt Disney.

And like the late master of animation, Steve Jobs remained focused on one ever-important truth: “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

The awe-inspiring technology will continue to be created, the legacy of Apple’s founder and father will live on. But the inner child in Apple users – young and old, big and small, tech-savvy and simply appreciative of the basics, will, sadly, remain hurting.

The place, and face, of inspiration has gone to the clouds.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

GETTING THROUGH

For anyone who has ever suffered the loss of a loved one, the days building up to the day of remembrance are days building up to a crescendo of heartache. Breathing becomes heavier, thoughts slower, memories sharper. September 11th, 2011, ten years after those frozen moments in time that reshaped the world forever, is just a few days away. One never ‘gets over it’ – at best one hopes to get through it, dragging one’s heart close behind, looking forward at the future with new eyes.

9-11. So much must never be forgotten.

SEEING, AND FEELING, OUR CHANGING WORLD



Over the past week, the world has been gripped by events in Libya. Following months of battle and determination, on both the parts of the defiant
regime of Colonel Gadhafi and the rebels, the battle reached a dramatic climax: Tripoli began to fall to the rebels. The night’s sky, previously lit for months by gunfire from armed and ambitious battle, turned to a showering of gunfire sparks in celebration of the rebel’s breakthrough into Colonel Gadhafi’s compound, itself a symbol of the leader’s fortress of control over the people of Libya. While total take-over continues, the cracks are widening, weakening the foundations once embedded by Moammar Gadhafi.

During the moments of initial triumph, the images were remarkable, the soundbytes intense, and the coverage clear in the sense of euphoria easily digestible by the minds of the millions watching on-line and on-air all over the world. Though the former leader of this oil-rich, liberty-poor nation remains in hiding, the US$ 1.4million bounty put forward by a Libyan businessman is hoped to fuel the search and capture of Libya’s falling leader. Time will tell.

As the story unfolded, it was impossible for global audiences not to feel a sense of ‘deja vu‘. Once again, audiences were given a front seat in the making of history. The Arab Spring, now stretching wider and deeper into the North Africa and Middle East region, brought the story of our changing world to us wherever in the world we were. The expectation is of similar stories and soundbytes occurring elsewhere in the region as the spirit and determination of revolution spreads. Our minds are ready – we see it, we understand it, we move onto the next story.

Sadly, as familiarity increases, feeling decreases.

And then something happens that reawakens our senses, squeezing our hearts and minds in with a clench of panic and concern. RIXOS Hotel.

While Tripoli was falling to the rebels, and the people of Libya were taking to the streets to celebrate the toppling of their heavy-handed, decades-long leader, 30 international news journalists were taking cover inside the Rixos Hotel. Being held against their will and under constant fear for their safety, news gatherers suddenly became the news story. For five horrific days, Gadhafi loyalist gunmen aggressively prevented news teams from leaving the hotel, leaving those being held in a constant state of fear.

Watching the story unfold, even for audiences, images turned into feelings of intense fear and concern – this was reality TV in a whole, new, frightening new light. The characters were not strangers. These captives were people who millions of people welcome into their homes, offices and social spaces every day, easily recognisable and immediately feared for. These people, these familiar news faces, were now ‘insiders’ in the line of fire. These moments of crisis were real.

Adding a remarkable realness to the unfolding situation, was social media. Twitter in particular – became a source of not only communication of events within the hotel, but also a monitor of the strained nerves and hearts of those being held captive. CNN’s Matthew Chance @mchancecnn, a seasoned international journalist who has represented CNN across the globe, held onto a thread of connection with the outside world through his periodic tweets. Information updates rapidly turned to emotional expression of the nightmare unfolding. Reading his short messages, a rawness of danger seeped through his words, turning learning what was happening into feeling what was inescapable. And it felt horrific. Here is Matthew’s BACKSTORY of those days of dread: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/08/24/bs.chance.freed.roxis.cnn?hpt=hp_c2

Thankfully, the journalists and their crews were released on August 24th. While they have been freed, the darkness of those days will always hold a part of their minds captive.

To the outside world, these brave individuals unlocked not just the inside story, but a part of all of our watching the world minds and hearts, ensuring that news is never simply watched. It must also be felt.

As our world changes, so too is how we watch the world. When making sense of it all, our eyes and ears serve us most when acting as a channel to not just our minds, but our hearts. Our ability to understand the world starts with seeing. It is exponentially magnified, and appreciated, with feeling.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011



THE MATTER OF OPINION

The newswires of the world have been electric over the past week as News of the World readies to publish its last paper on July 10th/2011, ending the life of one of the UK’s best known tabloids that took its first breath in 1843. Over 200 staff members, all who will be unemployed on Monday morning, are hard at work in the newsroom clicking out stories and soundbytes for the last time, tears running down the faces of some of the staff members as they soak up all that has happened to their newspaper – why they have become the news…and why their story is coming to such a tragic end.

The events leading up to this media headline have raised a number of critical issues. The spark was set within the newspaper environment. How could a tabloid cross such a line in search of a scoop? Yes, NotW had built a reputation for dirty tricks to get the dirt. But this?

Soon the fire spread to ‘the media’ at large. Public opinion turned to openly damning ‘the media’. Opinion increased in aggression and accusation.

What has been interesting to see is how open public opinion about private information became. Sweeping statements about ‘the media’ put all journalists across all media types and all media brands into the same dustbin. What happened at NotW has been deemed a just action for ‘the media’ acting so irresponsibly.

This matter is not about newspapers. It is not about ‘the media’. It is about ethics – the ethics held by each and every individual with a story to tell or an opinion to express. It is about each and every one of us. Within the professional media world are there people willing to cross the line? Absolutely. But there are others who also stand firmly in respect for the line, proud of their ability to know where the line is…and that they refuse to put a foot wrong. It is individual. It always is.

In today’s day and age, where for some citizen journalism has gained as must weight as official news gathering, we have become ‘the media’. The information, suspicions, opinions, hunches and stories we have are able to be spread across the world in a matter of seconds. All it takes is the click of a SEND key. Suddenly, instantly, widely and often with fire and fury, the story is out there. True or false. Just or unjust. Private or public.

As a result, the old adage where there’s smoke there’s fire no longer holds true. Now where there’s smoke there may just be smoke. But the impact can start a fire. The fire, spreading through opinion, can cause significant damage to reputations, relationships, lives and legacies. Without enough information, or invitation, public opinion fuels the fire.

Is the
case against DSK credible? Will it last?
Is the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene for love?
Will it last?
Is Southern Sudan going to make it as an independent nation? Will it last?

We are so busy commenting outwards, creating community of commentary and criticism, that we lose sight of our individual responsibility of having an opinion in the first place. To create opinions is natural – we take in, process and restructure information based on our world view and our inner code. It is natural. What is unnatural is how our e-connected world inspires us to share that opinion to the world – our ‘friends’, ‘followers’ and other members of our e-audiences.

But does that mean we should be expressing our opinion? Is the subject at hand really any of our business? What good can come from it, aside from the elevation of ego for expressing an opinion about everything sexy and sensationalist? And if the people at the heart of the story were present, would we be so quick to hit the SEND button?

The issue sparked by NotW was not a debate about the right to information vs. the right to privacy. It was about right and wrong. Simple.

Hopefully, hopefully, NotW will stand as not just an example, but as a mirror, reminding us all to stop and look closely at the consequences of our opinions. Our connected world was created to bring us closer together. How we use it defines whether we achieve that idealistic goal, or we actually end up pushing each other apart.

Whether ‘the media’ or the individual, now is the opportunity to pause, and before hitting the SEND button, hitting REFRESH.

But that is just my opinion.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

THE MATTER OF OPINION

The newswires of the world have been electric over the past week as News of the World readies to publish its last paper on July 10th/2011, ending the life of one of the UK’s best known tabloids that took its first breath in 1843. Over 200 staff members, all who will be unemployed on Monday morning, are hard at work in the newsroom clicking out stories and soundbytes for the last time, tears running down the faces of some of the staff members as they soak up all that has happened to their newspaper – why they have become the news…and why their story is coming to such a tragic end.

Newspaper
media
Ethics

‘the media’ / responsible media – we are the media
Citizen journalism
Smoke, no fire
Right to info vs right to privacy
Right and wrong

All have opinion
All have responsibility

Refresh button

Is the case against DSK credible? Will it last?
Is the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene for love? Will it last?
Is Southern Sudan going to make it as an independent nation? Will it last?

CHANGING TIMES


One of the most valuable currencies in today’s day and age is CONFIDENCE.

The ability to generate within oneself a firm sense of belief, fueled by absolute clarity and conviction, creates a powerful force of nature. Confidence. With confidence leaders of nations and businesses have been able to transform the fates of their people, be they nationals, employees, shareholders, investors, whatever the case may be. Particularly in these times of immense economic, social and ideological challenge.

Confidence is not found within all people, or within all situations. For alchemy to occur, the generation of confidence demands courage, it demands a clear view of the future, it demands unwavering effort.

For onlookers, it is both intriguing and inspiring. And it can provoke a silent smile of ‘bravo!’. That is, when such confident, sometimes incomprehensible acts, are fully understood.

On a recent episode of Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, one of CNN’s finest programmes exploring our geo-politically changing times, Fareed put the spotlight on a nation that is making a dramatic move in literally changing the times. The issue: SAMOA, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific, has taken the brave decision to change its position on the International Date Line, moving from being GMT-11 to GMT+11. One single step, one day lost (December 30th, 2011 to facilitate the shift), a massive gain for the nation.

http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/bestoftv/2011/06/26/gps.samoa.shorter.2011.cnn.html

When news first broke of Samoa’s desire to change its timezone, the idea spread around the world as an amusing ‘because I can’ move. Little thought or credit was given to exactly why such a change, like the nation’s switch earlier in 2009 from driving on the right of the road to driving on the left, was occurring.

To look beyond the WHAT and deeper into the WHY reveals some remarkable, and remarkably confident, insight. It is all about the future – making a confident move to move the nation confidently forward in the future. From this perspective it all makes perfect sense, especially economically. A shift in time zone enables the tiny nation to make a big step forward in terms of leverage of regional commerce. Especially trade into and out of Samoa.

What is fascinating about the story of Samoa and its change in time zone, beyond the economic rationale, is the lovely example it gives of the level playing field that exists for a world on the move.

Regardless of size, stature and securities, a nation with a confident view of the future can dramatically change its position as an economy and society by taking even small steps in shaping its way of working with the world. One of the great things about the case of Samoa is how under-the-radar the nation, and region, has moved forward.

Confidence need not be noisy. Quiet, focused confidence can be far more impactful, and competitively potent, than high profile self-promotion.

Indeed, these are changing times. Small is gaining strength, quiet is making noise, subtle changes are having immense impact. Amusing is in fact astute. Confidence is as powerful as cash. And time is proving priceless.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011

CHANGING TIMES

SAMOA

FAREED ZAKARIA “WHAT IN THE WORLD”

DEC 30 NOT ON CALENDAR FOR 2011

LOSS OF A DAY, GAIN OF A FUTURE
– SWITCH SIDE OF ROAD – AUSTRALIA CARS
– TIMES FOR TRADE

IMPORTANCE OF QUIET PROGRESS
– SUBTLE, UNDETECTED
– COMPETITORS EXPEND ENERGY ELSEWHERE

TAKING A STAND: MOBILISING CONVICTION









Cairo. On a day in the last days of May, along the banks of the Nile as it winds peacefully through New Egypt, blossoms of Arab Spring are scattered in clear sight. Billboards, roadside signs, flags, all stand tall declaring this a nation of, for, and with its people. A distinct feeling of Spring is in the air. While millions of weaving cars sputter out gusts of gray exhaust in one of the world’s most populated and polluted cities, still one can sense a freshness.

The presence of Spring blossoms has occurred, however, as a result of the rains. Storms and showers have made the blossoms come to life. Evidence of the uprising – burnt out buildings, broken sidewalks, spray-painted messages on shop exteriors, central squares and locations still feeling haunted by dramatic events leading up to 25.01.11 – appear like bolts of lightning on the otherwise visually calm landscape.

Today they are symbols of possibility, of responsibility, of unity and of youth-lead democracy. One man. One thought. And soon it was one million. A desire to own the future, a better future, gave birth to a movement that soon created an uprising beyond expectation and imagination. And beyond reversal.

Today, scattered about the streets of Cairo, their presence, while painful in ways, inspires. Because these are the proof of the power of conviction. These are the symbols of what it means to take a stand.

The concept of ‘taking a stand’ is not new. The presence of its sentiment being turned into world-shaping action, however, seems to have taken on a new life. With increasing frequency, issues are increasing in voice, mobilizing millions to have an impact. The power of an individual to take a stand as been unleashed to unprecedented levels as a result of our now e-connected world. Soon, communities (be they connected through social networks, coffee tables or otherwise) have become movements. These movements have become uprisings. In many cases, as recently seen in Egypt, these uprisings have become forces which have had the power to change the shape of the world around us, philosophically, politically, and otherwise.

Still, for all of its momentum, the greatest power of taking a stand comes from one individual seeking to break a silence of a perceived ‘wrong’. The fire of conviction, the courage to say something, creates attention which not only builds awareness – it gives others the courage to stand up alongside, creating increased awareness and infectious inspiration, to the point that it simply undeniable, unavoidable, and unstoppable.

Why courage? Because more often than not the issues which inspire people to take a stand are those that make others uncomfortable. They are risky. Standing up may risk one’s safety, image, acceptability or position. And this may be at individual or collective level.

One recent example of a corporation displaying courage in taking a stand is CNN. Launched in early 2011, the CNN Freedom Project http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/17/more-about-the-cnn-freedom-project/ By building awareness around the breadth and depth of the issue of modern-day slavery, worldwide, CNN seeks to inspire courage in audiences around the world to take a stand against an issue which has, for years, been growing undetected or denied, as a tumor in societies across the world.

To do this, for a corporation to take a stand at such a massive scale, is a reflection of the strength of conviction of the network. That, in its own way, is inspirational.

And as seen through the number of corporations, politicians, celebrities, and viewers CNN has been able to encourage to come forward and openly, visibly and proudly participate in the campaign, where there is conviction and courage, there is unstoppable movement.

Still, it comes down to the power of one. As recently emphasized by Richard Quest in an interview with Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson Companies around how her group of global travel companies is doing its part to ensure that the tourism industry does not tolerate child labour and child prostitution, it is not just up to travel companies – it is also up to the traveler to take a stand and alert the authorities of any such offenses observed. That is how we ensure that the tourism sector is truly ‘equitable’.

Will such overt examination of such a taboo issue create discomfort? Yes.

Does it require courage? Yes.

But by doing so, by taking a stand, CNN, and others in the global travel industry and other spheres of economic, social and political activity, are now taking a step forward in shaping a world we can feel proud of being apart of, and excited about exploring further.

Back in the here and now, as the deep, soothing sound of the calling to mosque blankets over the sound of Cairo traffic, its unifying tones transcend Egyptian networks and telecoms, creating a connection between where Egypt has come from…and where it is going, across all neighbourhoods, all generations, all aspirations.

One sound, one thought, reaching out and moving millions.



Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2011