Decolonization’s Dilemma in Questions of National Identity

In a strange reversal of what was thought to be a process leading to new national self-determination and stability, Israel faces a modern dilemma: to be democratic or Jewish.

The modern era endowed countries with two rights, supposedly unassailable, that turned out to exist in tension. The right of national self-determination envisioned states as unified collectives; one nation for one people. And the right of democracy prescribed equal participation for all, including in defining the nation’s character.

Idealistic world leaders who set out those rights a century ago imagined countries that would be internally homogeneous and static. But reality has proved messier. Borders do not perfectly align with populations. People move. Identities shift or evolve. What then?


How Social Psychology Devoured its Own: Amy Cuddy, the TED talk “Power Pose” former HBS professor


A 2017 NYT Magazine article by Susan Dominus notes below the rise of a field: social psychology–and how one of its most visible experts, Amy Cuddy, whose TED talk with more than 43 million viewers–became a victim of a reform movement launched from within (P-hacking).

The field is of interest to diplomacy as it relates to the group-level, touching on such mainstays as groupthink, persuasion/influence, and more. (The larger story of Cuddy, is also interesting–and her main idea, that you body language can influence others, although now under scrutiny, is still interesting and useful, as well.


One of the seminal social-psychology studies, at the turn of the 20th century, asked a question that at the time was a novel one: How does the presence of other people change an individual’s behavior? Norman Triplett, a psychologist at Indiana University, found that when he asked children to execute a simple task (winding line on a fishing rod), they performed better in the company of other children than they did when alone in a room. Over the following decades, a new discipline grew up within psychology to further interrogate group dynamics: how social groups react in certain circumstances, how the many can affect the one.

The questions grew even more profound, using experiments to tease out universal susceptibilities, raising the possibility that behavior was more easily swayed by outside forces than personality researchers previously believed. The field reached a moment of unusual visibility in the mid-20th century, as practitioners, many of them Jewish refugees or first-generation immigrants from Europe, explored, post-World War II, the way group pressures or authority figures could influence human behavior. In one simple study on conformity in 1951, the social psychologist Solomon Asch found that people would agree that one drawn line matched the length of another — even if it clearly did not — if others around them all agreed that it did. In subsequent years, researchers like Stanley Milgram (who tested how people weighed their consciences against the demands of authority) and Philip Zimbardo (who observed the effect of power on students assigned as either prison guards or prisoners) rejected the traditional confines of the lab for more theatrical displays of human nature. “They felt the urgency of history,” says Rebecca Lemov, a professor of the history of science at Harvard. “They really wanted to make people look.”

Since the late 1960s, the field’s psychologists have tried to elevate the scientific rigor of their work, introducing controls and carefully designed experiments like the ones found in medicine. Increasingly complex ideas about the workings of the unconscious yielded research with the charm of mesmerists’ shows, revealing unlikely forces that seem to guide our behavior: that simply having people wash their hands could change their sense of culpability; that people’s evaluations of risk could easily be rendered irrational; that once people have made a decision, they curiously give more weight to information in its favor. Humans, the research often suggested, were reliably mercurial, highly suggestible, profoundly irrational, tricksters better at fooling ourselves than anyone else.

Already relatively accessible to the public, the field became even more influential with the rise of behavioral economics in the 1980s and 1990s, as visionaries like Richard Thaler, (who won the Nobel Prize in economics this month) found applications for counterintuitive social-psychology insights that could be used to guide policy. In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best-selling “Tipping Point,” applied irresistible storytelling to the science, sending countless journalists to investigate similar terrain and inspiring social psychologists to write books of their own. In 2006, Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, published the best seller “Stumbling on Happiness” — a book that tried to explain why we plan so poorly for our own future. That same year, TED started airing its first videos, offering a new stage for social psychologists with compelling findings, ideally surprising ones. The field was experiencing a visibility unknown since the midcentury; business schools, eager for social psychologists’ insights into leadership and decision-making, started pursuing social psychologists, with better pay and more funding than psychology graduate schools could offer.

via When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy – The New York Times

Who is Laszlo Szombatfalvy and Why Does He Want to Build a New UN?


What kinds of ideas could replace the UN? In a major competition sponsored by the Global Challenges Foundation, the Sweden-based group, a number of  thought leaders give it a try. This year, $5M was awarded for the selected ideas.

The prize, he said, is not aimed at finding whole solutions to global threats such as climate change, wars and poverty, but rather “a model or mechanism that could provide the solutions”.

via Want to solve global crises? $5 million prize seeks fresh ideas | Reuters

One interesting submission from Cristián Gimenez Corte, an international lawyer from Argentina who has worked at International Narcotics Control Board, UN Office of Drugs and Crime, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (all in Vienna) and the UN Office of Legal affairs (NY). In “Shake It Up: The Case for Reforming the United Nations (A Real Global Governance Model) suggests:

  • Create a new executive body that has the authority to make decisions on global governance.
  • Change the financial structure away from national contributions toward an international tax on financial transcactions and the use of global public goods.
  • Reform career paths toward a structured approach–similar to how other ministries of foreign affairs operate as well as lose its privileged legal status so as to be subject to national courts.

He has a number of fresh ideas that, admittedly, would be difficult to implement in the current political environment–but offer some good, clear thinking. For example, picking a super-statesman as the next Secretary General, rather than a manager from within the ranks as some past leaders have been–would require a great deal of political will and doesn’t seem possible. But his report–as well as others both broaden the discussion and tread on a wide range of difficult paths that should be considered.

Other notable submissions with some great ideas include the following:

How would you fix the UN? One thought: “Bringing in new partners”–an idea that Samarasinghe suggests, citing UNICEF and ILO as good examples–is the kind of innovative thinking that is needed.

Booklist | A Critique of Human Rights

The idea of human rights is assumed to be universal. Not so fast, says a Yale prof. Samuel Moyn offers a sharp critique of human rights with a particular interest in economic inequality:

…[I]n “Not Enough,” he ex­am­ines how they have been an­swered by in­ternational lawyers, po­lit­i­cal philoso­phers and hu­man-rights ac­tivists since the end of World War II. He con­cludes that, while the hu­man rights move­ment has not de­lib­er­ately sup­ported the growth of ma­te­r­ial in­equal­ity dur­ing this pe­riod, it has also not done enough to com­bat it: “un­wit­tingly, the cur­rent hu­man rights move­ment ap­pears to be help­ing Croe­sus live out his plan,” Mr. Moyn writes. In gen­eral terms, Mr. Moyn’s book cov­ers much the same ground as his 2010 study, “The Last Utopia,” which also treated the mod­ern his­tory of hu­man rights. In­deed, Mr. Moyn de­scribes his new vol­ume as a “re­write” of the ear­lier one: “What can make the study of his­tory ex­cit­ing is that its in­fin­ity of sources and our change in per­spec­tive can al­low two books on the same topic by the same per­son to bear al­most no re­sem­blance to each other.” De­spite this dis­claimer, there is a ba­sic con­sis­tency in Mr. Moyn’s po­si­tion: In both books he writes as a critic of hu­man rights from the left.

Via WSJ, “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There,”

Teaching Children the Basics of Diplomacy

Wouldn’t it be great if children could see different sides of a standoff and resolve their own disagreements?  Emily de Schweinitz Taylor wrote an interesting book that does just that.


Rather than assume our children will learn collaborative problem-solving, perspective taking, and empathy in a vacuum, as parent mediators, we take an active stance in teaching our children how to work out their more intense, recurring conflicts with each other. Over time, our children gain the ability to collaboratively problem solve without our oversight. In short, our input of direct communications training during our children’s younger years will help us raise a generation of mediators prepared to handle the conflicts our children will naturally encounter throughout their lives.

via Raising Mediators – Home


Powerful Public Speaking

We can always give a better speech.

Speaking is a performance, according to Michael Port of Heroic Public Speaking. Take a look at a these useful insights from an actor-turned-speaking guru, starting with one tip on how to structure your talk.

6. Organize with frameworks.

A clear structure helps you remember what to say, and helps the audience understand what you say. Choose one of these five frameworks for your next talk:

  • Numerical. This framework is easy to use, and flexible. Stephen Covey organized his presentation according to his bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When he had 60 minutes, he could cover all habits. When he had only 20, he might cover three points.

  • Chronological. Your step-by-step process should go in a particular order, to make it easy to follow.

  • Problem and solution. Audience members want you to solve their problems. For example, you might point out that many people are nervous about speaking in front of groups. Then share how to overcome that same fear of public speaking.

  • Compare and contrast. If you have two different concepts, use them both. Jim Collins structured his presentation, “Good to Great” by comparing and contrasting the pros and cons.

  • Modular: This framework works particularly well in full-day workshops and events. In his live event, Port might divide the day into three modules: performer’s mindset, principles and public speaking master class.

    via Entrepreneur