Archive for March, 2012

Just too much garbage (or is it garbage?)

Posted on: March 31st, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

Canadian Democracy; Comments on articles and editorials.

  • So much, regardless of how long or well written, is garbage.
  • Hundreds of comments, from experts to “assholes”, undifferentiated, unedited, unremarkable.
  • Some comments are obviously just copies of previous comments: ignorant, crude, demonstrating only that they “might” be able to read, but can only give a metaphorical finger.
  • How does a government actually get valid comments on their policies? (Assuming they might ever read comments.)
  • I don’t think they do. Unless there is some method to consolidate, organize, analyze, prioritize and summarize, who hears, let alone cares?
  • Years ago a recently elected Nova Scotia premier, initiated group discussions in communities all over the province.
  • I was honored to facilitate one of these groups.
  • Groups of 25 to 30, raised, discussed, and prioritized issues they felt were of importance to them, and to the province.
  • The results were presented to the Premier.
  • I was not involved in subsequent activities but I did like the process.
  • Acadia University, when developing their goals, encouraged all university stakeholders to contribute “sticky-note” comments, on the walls in Alumni Hall.
  • Representative government, benevolent aristocracy, business organizations, marketing departments, churches, universities – – – all seek to understand their “constituents” with the goal of meeting their needs.
  • The challenge: quality over quantity.
  • Who does the separation?
  • Who prioritizes the suggestions?
  • Some would say that this process at best dilutes the comments (and attendant emotions), and at worst, edits out anything that flies in the face of the “correct” answers from the “questioners” point of view.
  • But . . . that risk is worth taking.
  • Pretending that all comments (just because there are comments) are valid or useless because the number of comments is overwhelming stops communication.
  • Democracy only works if the citizens can be heard.
  • Devious (unethical) politicians and their “advisers” may assert they are listening, while avoiding the information because no one is willing to step forward and present the ideas.
  • Regardless of the “Canada” we hope will exist in the future, it is only by tapping into the intelligence of the Canadian people that directions can be set, followed, and goals achieved.
  • The bottom line is: Canada is not a country of extremes.
  • It is a country of peace, getting-along with our neighbors, quality of life, and continuous discussion and evaluation of the best way forward as a nation.
  • There is no place in Canada for dogma, of seeing political opponents as the “enemy”.
  • Listening to, hearing, understanding, and acting upon wishes of the population is, I think, a worthy objective.



Dissociating democracy and development in Gulf: Tom’s Comment

Posted on: March 10th, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

Dissociating democracy and development in Gulf

Mishaal Al Gergawi is an Emirati current affairs commentator.

Tom Pattillo’s response:

This article is insightful.

The relationship of democracy to development using the experiences of Kuwait and Dubai is an interesting starting point.

Two points I would like to bring up.

1) Dubai may have made a decision to reduce its reliance on oil by diversifying into financial and tourism related industry.

But make no doubt, when the effects of the international financial crisis hit Dubai, Dubai immediately called on the “oil” rich Abu Dhabi to bail them out. Play it any way you want, the UAE (and thus Dubai) is still very much an “oil” based success.

2) The UAE is a “rentier” state. Accepting that will allow the UAE to move forward with creative and effective Emiratization initiatives.

All the “complaints” or “comments” about Emirati employment; not joining the private sector, wanting only government jobs, women being more industrious than men as students, employees, and citizens (even the challenges of obesity and resulting diabetes epidemic) can be laid at the “denial” of the UAE being a rentier state.

Rather than being embarrassed by its oil riches, the UAE has the potential to create a “unique” state with the best of both a traditional Arab approach to leadership and a democratic evolution.

The worst thing for the UAE to do is allow those without understanding to make suggestions that subtly undermine the validity of the Arab/Emirati culture in order to line their pockets.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts.




Posted on: March 10th, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

Please allow me to step back for few “sentences”.

So many of the articles and editorials on “Emiratization” focus on public versus private employment, and the “quotas” either ignored, or achieved by paying Emirati nationals to do nothing.

The majority of comments about successful Emirati students and graduates come from “young people” between the ages of 18 and 23. These young people have little experience, and naturally hesitate to “criticize” the system that is employing them.

If reporters asked Emirati graduates from the HCT and Universities for each year since let’s say, the year 2000, about working as it is affected by the transition from the cultural expectations of their parents and grandparents to the expectations of a “western” oriented economy, I believe much greater valuable, and actionable, information would be gained.

As part of alumni programs at colleges and universities in Canada, graduates are surveyed (formally and informally) to determine the success of their certificate or degree. The goal is to both determine how the programs are working, and, of course, to prepare the way for alumni donations in the future.

Stepping back to the present, why not take a look at the reality of “what is” rather than “what should be”.

Change initiatives MUST be based on reality.

When change initiatives fail, regardless of how well meaning and professionally implemented, it is primarily because the “projects” are starting from a flawed understanding of the “situation.”

I can be cynical and suggest those charged with devising and implementing are more interested, as I like to say, in “managing the problem” rather than “solving the problem.”

I could also push these failures back to a fundamental refusal to accept the reality of the UAE cultural environment; Arab traditions, the influence of nomadic, tribal, rentier state, and, of course, the Muslim religious on current Emirati citizens of all ages.

But as is said, “choosing to ignore the facts does not make the fact go away.”

It is time to implement new “strategies and tactics” and to redefine what is meant by work, success, labour, parenting, and citizenship in the UAE.

To use the criteria of the “west” is both patently wrong for citizens of the UAE, but is also based on a system seen by many as not working particularly well in either the present or future.