Off Topic: Adventure, Science and Exploration

12548867_1648365185427760_1586753579480375397_n

 

What does it mean to explore? What does it mean to adventure? Walking an off the beaten track road you begin to realize: The Search is what you would naturally undertake when you are not sunk in the everydayness of your life. To be aware of the possibility of the Search is to be on to something. Not to be on to something is to be in despair.

The Search is existential. Exploration, science and adventure is how we search not just for answers but for better questions; It’s how we rage against the darkness, how we battle against ignorance, make inwards against dogma.

Exploration is how we map the world; Science is how we come to understand it; Adventure is how we come alive. These are our tools against meaninglessness.

Adventure, science and exploration, put men on the Moon, built marvelous jetliners, inversed us in virtual realities and help us make sense of the world; Their consequences being technological marvels, extend our imaginative capacities and help us overcome all of our limits.

As the poet Yates wrote “The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharp” and growing sharper they have! Through the scientific process we have expanded our minds and we’ve built instruments such as microscopes and telescopes that pierce the Micro and the Marco engorging our perspective and doing so blasting new tunnels in our minds. We satiate our curiosity by getting outside ourselves, beside ourselves, creating cognitive appendages, taking us to spaces and places beyond the mind, the world and wonder.

Adventure is about expanding our minds; the outer journey IS the inner journey. We seek to expand the boundaries of our humanness, the repository of our knowledge to become more than what we are. Although the Space Age has been seeking all along, but it wasn’t so much the expansion of physical space as it was the expansion of the mind.

When we dream of Space, we dream of transcending, we dream of what we might become.

*** Thoughts triggered by the life-long inspiration of science and travel provided by a pilot born in 1932: My grandfather and the first Mexican astronaut, Rodolfo Neri Vela.***

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Digitalization of Employee Performance Management

Giving pperformance-evaluationeople the recognition experiences they really want

How many of you remember the date you first used a computer mouse or purchased your first laptop? Or perhaps when you felt kind of “Trekky” as you accessed an electronic device through onscreen touch?

These technology events blur in our memories because they’ve happened so quickly and blend seamlessly into our lives.

In the past, technology often created boundaries between techy-minded people and those of us who were not. Today, we expect HR technology tools to be easy-to-use and to help make our jobs and lives better. And as Jason Gots says, we want technology to “amplify the best of human nature.”

With my current employer, the field of employee recognition, we strive to help people get recognition right where they work. The use of technology with recognition programs provides tools for managers to practice giving recognition more efficiently to many people, even when they might only see a few of their staff in any given day or week.

Unfortunately, many recognition and reward programs end up transacting things or “stuff” to people, versus truly celebrating and humanly acknowledging them. Software and hardware diminishes our ability to properly express appreciation unless we humanize the technology in the first place.

Start with the employee recognition experience

Way back in a 1997 Macworld Expo, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said, “One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”

Recognition will always be a felt phenomenon – a relational experience between one person and another, or even several people toward a team. It’s a chance to express heartfelt acknowledgment for a person’s contributions.

How can we better humanize technology used with employee recognition programs? If we start with the recognition experience employees want and then work our way back to the technology…

People know when they have been authentically recognized when they experience positive emotions because of the recognition received. Here are a few typical experiences associated with genuine and meaningful recognition:

  1. Face-to-face: Nothing replicates the most meaningful type of recognition, such as that which is given in-person from one individual to another.
  2. Public vs. private:A majority of people like public recognition. But remember, there will always be a percentage of people who cringe from being in the spotlight.
  3. Relationship strength: Recognition is most appreciated from people they already have a positive relationship with, and who they work with most.
  4. Timeliness: Receiving acknowledgment for making a difference needs to be received as soon as possible after the accomplishment.
  5. Clear wording: Expressing appreciation must honor and respect the individual using positive and specific wording, rather than trite generalities.

Humanizing the technology

Let’s consider the above recognition experiences and how humanizing the current technology might unfold:

  1. Face-to-face: Ironically, a majority of recognition platforms use only text-based messaging in the form of streaming newsfeeds on social recognition programs, sending personalized online eCards, or sending printed certificates to people. With the advent of short-form video sharing like Vine, or streaming video apps technology will emerge to provide personal connection to scale, with a visual and auditory acknowledgement beyond the written word.
  2. Public vs. private: Many current online recognition and reward programs allow givers and receivers of recognition messages, badges, awards and rewards, to identify how widespread the recognition is shared. Givers and receivers can choose whether they want the recognition to be visible company-wide, across a department or team, if the recipient wants it just between the giver and themselves, or not shared at all.
  3. Relationship strength: Most companies identify the need for peer-to-peer recognition programs where there is greatest positive relationship strength. However, a method is needed to integrate employee engagement results to flag managers and supervisors who may not be regarded well by employees. Then they can improve their positive communication skills first, before any recognition will be perceived as valuable, sincere and authentic.
  4. Timeliness: So far, timeliness of recognition is still dependent on human observation skills and reports of achievements, contributions or effort made, before any recognition is given. As HR information systems and systems monitoring key performance indicators are aligned, imagine technology informing a manager of significant goals reached or productivity measures achieved by an employee, without seeing it personally, and those metrics triggering the need to give well-deserved recognition in a timely way.
  5. Clear wording:  Technology can be designed to give a recognition authenticity measure, a guide if you will, as to whether your recognition message is specific enough, and telling the sender how “human” and real the recognition sounds. This can be like Grammarly and other apps that check your content for proper grammar, punctuation and style, and even enhance your vocabulary. We all need a helping hand with how to say things the right way.

Technology for recognition programs should be some of the most humanly designed systems in order for employees to feel they receive the most meaningful and effective recognition.

Ben Shneiderman, a professor at the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park, suggests any “user-interface design” should be made to “…encourage trust, empathy and responsibility, while protecting privacy. That’s the next big thing.”

Trust, empathy and responsibility are a few perfect attributes to integrate into humanizing all future employee recognition programs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

HR Reporting: If you change nothing, nothing will change

imagesIn the last week I was a witness to something special. A large number of European HR Managers from multiple organizations and sectors stood up for their need of effective reporting and use of data.

We all agree. In the very near future, there will be a wider use of predictive analytics and better HR strategic decisions supported by reporting. We know it exists, and it is there to help. We think about the benefits: using HR data to help drive business decisions regarding talent within your organization by the use of analytics and reports.

As I started my career in AIESEC, I had to deal with numbers regularly, manage a talent product pipeline across a large number of markets, and as I was involved with customers, I learned the use the information I had to demonstrate ROI; So I have always been amazed at the lack of data that is used in HR outside of Recruiting and headcount reports.

If you talk to IT professionals, they will tell you all about their organization’s reporting strategies. They understand the tools, data and outcomes. But, if you talk to HR and payroll professionals, they tell you that HR doesn’t have a strategy. HR is different, they say. Demands for HR reports tend to be more ad hoc or more reliant upon real-time data (rather than warehoused data that is used in many reporting strategies).

Reporting strategies are unique from organization to organization, and HR reporting is no different. There are specific business-based needs, demands and limitations that drive the strategy.

And yet there are fears; What will our unions say? What is the impact on the privacy of our employees? How can we ensure data is used fairly and will not be used in a negative way? Who should be able to access it? Who should be able to keep it? Being able to get the data and see the data is one thing. Having the ability to use data to help development, design and build HR strategies is completely different.

Maybe there is a fear within HR, real or not, that because talent management deals with “people,” using such “big data” will somehow minimize the person or people behind the number – a fear that HR can’t develop real HR strategy with executives outside of HR because “those leaders” only see numbers and dollars sign. What HR is missing is the ability to construct a conversation to help leaders hear the HR story by using the numbers behind the people.

The Circle… If You Change Nothing, Nothing will Change

Many organizations fail to see the HR value proposition. This doesn’t happen because HR teams are not having good ideas or their concepts would not bring great value to the organization but simply because the HR managers fail to build a business case as they do not have enough “clear data” to support their request or perhaps because they are not speaking in their native Finance or Operation tongues otherwise known as the language of ROI, Cost Savings and increase productivity.

HR departments seem to have a lack of tools to gather such data, which normally reside across 4-5 different systems. As a result they may try to find other reporting departments to assist in pulling data for them. Again, however, due to speaking different languages than other departments, the reports, charts or raw data may not fully meet their needs or paint the full picture needed to support their initiatives. A change is necessary, so how can an organization break the cycle?

Understand your initiative and the impact it has on the organization

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • How are you going to solve it?
  • What is it needed?
  • What is the benefit?

Be Proactive and Learn the Business Language

  • ROI, Cost Saving, Increase Productivity, Business Requirement Gathering and other company specific resources are going to be key when planning for the next meeting with the business.
  • Think of the larger organizational impact of the program or initiative related to the workforce (i.e. how does this impact our company’s revenue and sales)?

Ask for help

  • As an HR professional, you have relationships across the organization. Leverage those relationships by asking your peers, those who you see are successful getting funding for their projects, what’s their secret.
  • Use this guidance to gather data to support your project and understand what answers you can provide to truly demonstrate the value of your initiative and organizational impact.

As HR professionals move forward into the new world of “big data” and analytics, it is important for us to remember there are people behind the numbers, and HR will always be about the people.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Social Media Centers of Excellence

Everyone knows how to use social media, right? Hell, even grandma is on Facebook these days! And if you are my Facebook friend you know I post the hell of a lot right? Not many complaint, but in case you wonder, here are some answers (finally!).

If everyone uses social media, It would seem then, that every recruiter should have no problem when it comes to social recruiting. After all: if recruiters are using social media on the daily in their personal lives, they should be adept enough to use it in their professional lives, too.

This line of thinking seems sound, but social recruiting isn’t that simple. There’s a big difference between how we use social media in our personal lives and how we use it to attract talent and build employer brands.

As consumers interacting with social media, most [we are not thinking about the ROI for each post; we’re posting to keep our social networks updated, for vanity, for career progression, to chronicle our lives, and for a myriad of other reasons, but for talent marketers, it’s a different story.

How Social Media Stacks the Deck Against Employers

It’s pretty easy to be a consumer on social media — but it’s very hard to be a recruiter,.

On platforms like Facebook, users are inundated by the sheer volume of posts from their friends, the groups they join, and the pages they follow. Users simply cannot see everything that ends up in their feeds — there’s just too much.

That is, Facebook — and other social media platforms — have set up their systems so that people are far more likely to see posts from their friends than they are to see posts from employers trying to build their brands. Not only does prioritizing friends’ posts keep users happy — it also leads to increased profit for social media platforms.

As businesses get less free access to views, they will pay for this access. For Facebook, as an example, the decrease in organic reach — how often employers’ posts are seen in users’ feeds — is inversely proportional to Facebook’s stock price. Look at this slide from Universum:

Universum1

In other words: Facebook and other social media platforms have no interest in making it easy for employers to reach prospective talent. The harder it is for employers to brand themselves on social, the more money flows into social media platforms’ wallets.

Social recruiting differs from quotidian social media use in another important way, too: recruiters and employers on social are dealing with  a more educated and highly skeptical audience.

Now that literal millions of businesses are on Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like, consumers and potential candidates have grown more aware of these business — and more able to spot their content and tune it out.

Employers work hard to create content that feels natural — marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing. But social media users pick on small differences between organic, user-generated content and branded content — and when they do, they scroll right past the branded content.

“The massive success of social has created incredibly savvy consumers,” says Universum. “Creating compelling content for talent is harder than it has ever been.”

What to Do When Social Recruiting Becomes a Massive Challenge

Frankly speaking, social recruiting is hard work. Building an employer brand on social media requires more than just a team of recruiters with Facebook accounts; it requires investment, metrics, and training.

Universum found that “most organizations are under-investing in social recruiting and social employer branding” — though not for lack of trying.

Social marketing for HR is still incredibly new for most. Many employers are in the midst of figuring out where the social budget comes from. The challenge is not interest; what escapes most currently is creating new budgetary ‘social buckets’ of investment to fund these new social ideas.

Universum2

Adding up complexity, particularly Germany, current employees are highly resistant to being spoken about as a part of the story of an organization (pictures, posts, quotes, you name it). This is highly paradoxical given that they use social media as anyone else. Behind it I found, more than the quintessential discussion on privacy and data protection, former colleagues of mine seemed afraid of what their loved ones could find out about what they do at work (they misbehave at work?) but that is another story. In any case, this attitude leaves recruiters with very little genuine content to work with (I at some point during my employment in that company in Germany accepted to have travelled in time on my way to work and to commute every day to 1997).

Similarly, Universum also found that relatively few organizations are actually measuring social media effectiveness, given how new social talent marketing is to most employers, it’s not surprising that most are not measuring effectiveness. But, tracking social metrics is incredibly important — But what should we be tracking?

“What’s most important to measure is conversions – the talent that applies to jobs via social channels,” Universum says. “This is the ultimate measure of success, as this can be linked to other, more traditional metrics like time-to-hire, cost-per-hire, and tenure.”

Employers that are just starting out in the social game should focus mainly on tracking engagement. Engagement goes beyond ‘likes’ and considers the other, more meaningful interactions with talent, like comments and shares. It’s these metrics that will show that your audience is curated, as well as engaged.

Universum’s study recommends that, in order to improve their social recruiting and branding efforts, employers should think about creating “Social Media Centers of Excellence,” which are explained as such:

“Typically, this is a charter group with one or more members from HR, marketing, corporate relations, and public relations. Sometimes, external agencies are also invited … to share best practices and ideas. This center crystallizes the common [social media] goals for the group, which brings clarity to activities, and also highlights each divisions’ unique needs. These needs are heard by all participants, which unearths new ideas and builds empathy for campaign plans and decisions.”

Through a social media center of excellence, an employer can define its voice and tone on social, and it can create a collaborative, interdepartmental approach to social media strategies. To succeed in this era of savvy consumers and unfriendly social media platforms, employers may have no other choice but to invest in such centers.

And this answers the question: Why does Maria post so much? But that is just partly, in reality I read a lot and just as anyone else I share what I find interesting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Education: Not a Revolution, but a change that might just work

In the last six months I submerged myself deeply in the ups and downs of technology innovation around education and learning and shifted my career to focus to just that. Yes ladies and gentlemen, no more hiring and I’m going to come right out and say it: few areas have been as hopeful and as disappointing as innovation in education.

Education is the most important function in our society today, yet it remains one of the least understood, despite incredible levels of investment from venture capitalists and governments.

We may have an empirical idea and some hunches, but we still lack any fundamental insights.

That’s truly disappointing. With the rise of the internet, it seemed like education was to experience a complete revolution. Today, though, you would be excused for not seeing much of a difference between the way we learn and how we did so twenty years ago. One thesis to understand why this has happened is simply that we have ignored the more human aspects of education, replacing it instead with a “give ’em tablets and they will learn” mentality.

After talking to many people from multiple sectors and backgrounds that are currently running projects and try to make breakthroughs in the area, I think the next wave of education innovation won’t come from dumping technology on the problem. Instead, it will come from deeply engaging with people and empowering them to make learning all their own.

These past months, I talked to two individuals on opposite sides of improving education. Petroula Karagianni, from the University of Athens with whom I have discussed the opportunities and challenges of bringing an entrepreneurial mentality into the structures of classic higher education; And André Lung co-founder of AbilityLoft, an ondemand online education startup, coming at the problem from the other direction, rethinking online education in the aftermath of the MOOC explosion.

One could theorize that online education has kind of overstepped its current effectiveness, and everyone is saying what is possible by painting this picture, but systems haven’t reached that point yet as they are not providing the end user with content custommized to their individual needs and current practices to drive user adoption are laying behind.

Education in general has been designed from the point of view of those instituations that administer it (not drivers of innovation). By shifting the focus of the solution’s design to that of the learner, significant change can happen in the way online education is deployed. Learners would become customers and true loyalty could be achieved,

Together, these two trailblazers and many others like them are starting to form the next wave of education innovation – and potentially transform our societies in the process.

More Transformation

One interesting change in mentality coming from this new wave is a more mature view about what to do with the infrastructure of learning we already have. While the end of universities has been proposed by people like Peter Thiel, the reality is that the combination of status and endowments will ensure that many universities will survive and even thrive in the online age.

One interesting change coming to universities is simply that the timeframe of degree programs won’t be as fixed as they are today. As I spoke over the months with my mother, a pioneer of online education in Latin America we walked through multiple initiatives she has experienced, particularly one belonging to a large retailer in Mexico that has already engaged with many students in just its first few months of operation, being the students, the full time employees of the retailing giant. There has been enormous interest and demand and they have seen a strong community form with students leveraging each other.

Speaking methodically through the changes coming to education, everyone believes that large research universities won’t change much in the near future from new online education initiatives. The four year degree as we know it symbolically is going to change very little over the next ten years.

Instead, those involved in this field, like Petroula,  see a larger cultural shift to the same sort of continuous education that the AbilityLoft will be trying to instill in its learners. We know that skills are changing faster and faster, so teaching people how to learn new skills is really important, as much as it is to help people find the training they needs at the level adequate to their present knowledge. That skills-based approach is also what startups can do to help the current system. No one is trying to replace the position of prestigious universities. It is going to take a long time to see someone like OneMonth on a resume; it took long enough to see insitutions like Open University on them, which is why they are targeting more the skills.

One mistake that some see is in the extensive focus on students over teachers. While the language of education innovation often emphasizes students, empowering teachers may be as important or even more so for rethinking the way we learn. “We need to change the role of teachers. What kind of people do we consider teachers? How do we elevate teachers in society?”

Finding The Next Era

Today, it seems clear that the fusion of online and offline learning is going to be at the core of improving education. Humans are social creatures, and placing them in front of a laptop and hoping that they are just going to soak up the knowledge is often asking too much.

At the same time though, we need to be shifting our culture about what the ideal form of education might be. Academic knowledge needs to be complemented with practical learning, a mix that can be customized to each student’s needs. We are trying to build this technology that highlights the best content and trying to shift, in the students’ eyes and everyone’s eyes, what is the role of education in their life.

Whether through experiential learning with startups or skills-based learning through an online ondemand service, this next generation of education may be less disruptive and sexy than its immediate predecessor – but it also might just work.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dinner Party Recipe

Ingredients

1 eager young hostess who wants to show her friends she finally owns furniture by having a dinner party

1 half of a couple who is always running late

1 couple who are constantly breaking up and getting back together

1 single friend

Directions

In a small kitchen, mix half of the guests who have arrived on time despite the fact that no one is sure whether “7:30” means “arrive at 7:30” or “arrive an hour late”, like it did in university.

Let stand for one hour, until guests are very hungry and slightly irritable.

Slowly incorporate the remainder of the guests, pausing after the addition of each one for the same grating conversation about how easy or hard it was to find the host’s apartment and how close actually it is to Cologne and what a central up and coming neighborhood this is.

Gently, fold the host’s single friend into a discussion about people whom everyone in attendance used to work with and whom he has never met.

At this point, the on again, off again couple should be stewing, having revealed themselves to be off again through a tense disagreement about which one is responsible for their lateness. Separate the couple and set aside to chill.

Meanwhile, allow the single guest to marinate in the insecurity of what is going to happens here and what could be the host’s intent with the invitation.

When all the guests have arrived, whisk the conversation about the neighborhood into a frothy lament of gentrification. Skim over the fact that the party’s attendees all live in condos in neighborhoods that were considered sketchy ten years ago but are now full of organic produce shops.

Add wine.

Heap a large quantity of praise on the host’s cooking even if no one knew she could cook at all. When she worries aloud that the chicken isn’t fully cooked or is getting dry, vigorously massage her ego by reassuring Her that it is. (You may have to repeat this step more times than you think is necessary because as any human being she actually likes being complimented from time to time and this is a good reason to do so.)

Let the guy whose girlfriend is still running late mince his words while pontificating on a relatively esoteric current-events issue. Listen until it becomes clear that he made it through only one relevant “long read” on his lunch hour. Grill him until he is unable to clarify his point and is rendered speechless.

Meanwhile, sprinkle each couple’s speech with “we” statements, adding a subtle flavor of competition to the melange.

Each guest should, at some point, look around and offer a lukewarm comment about how “grownup” it is to be having a dinner party.

Congratulate one another on the genius of “just hanging out with friends instead of going to a noisy expensive bar”, as though you personally invented the concept of home entertaining.

Garnish with more compliments about the chicken, which there is nowhere near enough of.

Next, embroil the guests in a “theoretical” discussion of the merits of non-monogamous relationships.

Adding more wine every few minutes, reduce to a simmering fight between the on again, off again couple about “what constitutes human nature.”

Before long, the couple’s words will begin to turn dark and brittle. Be sure not to crowd them, so that bystanders don’t get burned.

Lighten the mood by offering a new theory on how good looking men have become lazy and let the single guest share a terrible story of his dating life and how not every good looking man is lazy. Let everyone else steep in pity for this person, before deglazing.

Blend several imperceptibly different opinions on an issue that basically everyone in attendance agrees upon. By this point, wine will have loosened up the guests enough for one of them to say something stupid in an attempt to be provocative.

Expose her to the low flame of the other guests’ judgement until she could turn slightly pink if her race allowed it. Then let her blanch as she frantically defends her stupid position further, insisting that she is only “playing devil’s advocate.”

Bring the argument to a boil, then remove the devil’s advocate from the heat by letting her pretend she is too drunk.

The remaining mixture of guests should bubble into nervous laughter.

After several minutes of uncomfortable silence, you should begin hearing sighing, yawning, and per functionary offers to help with the dishes.

Once each couple has been sifted out of the appartment, they will cool off by affectionately bad mouthing the other guests on the way home.

Yields for the host to get herself in the train to Cologne, text some people to go to an expensive noisy bar, one large headache and the desire to abstain from socializing with “grown ups” for several weeks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Si existe, que nos salve de Peña Nieto – If he exists he should save us from Peña Nieto

Images of Mexico’s president and his family visiting the UK have circulated the internet, magazines and news throughout the week… “Here we see Angelica Rivera (low level celebrity from the 90’s soap operas, now married to the president) wearing similar clothes as the Windsors, visiting London in a golden chariot, having dinner in Buckingham Palace…” – That is a very different welcome than the Mexican people would give them, if I may say it, a very different one from which the Pena Nieto family deserves. Personally, I can only say that I am annoyed and even offended. The reactions of the First Family towards the Mexican society are some sort of a joke, as if they could hear nothing; actually as if they didn’t care. It’s clear to me that they have no worry. They sleep in their “White House” and move around guarded by a large number of security personnel wearing dresses worth ten thousand dollars… The needs of the “people”… they couldn’t care less. The Queen spoke of the “enduring friendship” between Mexico and the UK, Nick Clegg remarked that he hoped the visit would usher in a “new era of UK-Mexico relations which will bring our people even closer together”, and FCO Minister Hugo Swire tweeted that he found Peña Nieto’s speech “inspiring”. Even by the tawdry standards usually applied to British relations with Latin America, this takes some doing. Mexico is in the grip of an urgent human rights crisis with Amnesty International describing torture as “out of control” and accusing police and security services of having “blood in their hands”. More than 100 000 people have been killed and more than 22 000 have disappeared since Mexico launched a “war on drugs” in 2006. The most recent outrage in Mexico has been the disappearance and probable massacre of 43 students, which Peña Nieto insisted had nothing to do with the Mexican authorities – despite growing evidence of the contrary. I am aware that international diplomatic relations are necessary, but, is it necessary to take Paulina Peña (daughter) for the state visit to Buckingham Palace? Is it necessary for Sofia Castro (step daughter) to make a selfie wearing a Dolce & Gabanna worth 7 275 USD posing as Amal Clooney? Is all the publicity, show off and appearances necessary for a president that very honestly is doing a poor job? “And in the meantime in Mexico”… – letters show up in a frame in the same old school way of those 90s TV shows – In the meantime in Mexico… How can you forget about your missing son? How can someone ask you to learn to walk the streets in fear? How can someone ask you to live with 63 pesos while one kilo of tortillas costs 16 pesos? How can you get used to see corpses on top of corpses, piling up in your country? How can you get used to mass graves being found in which bodies cannot be identified? How can you tolerate for the responsible person of this absolute disaster to wonder around London in a golden chariot? How can you stomach to see them travelling the world problem free when all above are your daily concerns? No, it is not fair. And the whole thing is not a part of any national political agenda. I am very sure. The whole thing reminds me of Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI of France… As her servants informed her of her people being hungry; she answered – If they don’t have bread, they should eat cake – Point being that she was so far away from reality in Versailles she had no idea of what was happening to the people in Paris, and this is how I feel. I don’t think the Peña family should move out of their home and live like most Mexicans do, the only think that I ask for is for some sensibility and compassion for those that sponsor their lifestyle; to have some knowledge and understanding for the adversity they face and to stop being part of the poison that is killing Mexico. They shouldn’t complaint about the modest way people are voicing their need for change or defend themselves when they are the ones defending themselves with a large security detail, and the very least, they should stop saying to the national media that “the people” should mind their own business when they travel to Vegas (in the middle of the 43 missing students crisis) to have some fun and they owe “no one an explanation”. They do owe an explanation to the people that elected Enrique Peña into office and pay for their eccentricities. The kindest thing one could say about Peña Nieto with regards to the 43 missing students, the drug war, the murder of thousands, and the threats to journalists who try to expose these crimes, is that he has been totally incompetent, unforgivably slow to react, and has failed to adhere to even the most anodyne of his pre-election promises to approach the problems with narcotrafficking from a less militaristic standpoint. This failure means Mexico’s security services are still armed to the teeth, making it easier for them to commit exactly the sort of human rights violations condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights groups across the world. In light of these acts, David Cameron’s vague assurance that he would raise the “human rights issue” during Peña Nieto’s UK visit is laughable. The prime minister expresses horror when Isis militants behead captives to send a message to the west, and yet welcomes with open arms the president of a country in which innocent people are publicly beheaded by drug cartels in their hundreds, protected by a culture of silence and indifference. And yet, we should expect nothing less from the west’s attitude towards Latin America, which has been characterized by this kind of hypocrisy for centuries. Across the region, the US in particular has been unrestrained in its meddling with Latin American governments, frequently installing or befriending tyrants that submit to its will and then denouncing them as soon as they cease to be useful (sounds like something they have done in Africa and the Middle East right?). Similarly, US congress is preparing to issue sanctions against Venezuela for human rights violations committed by the security forces during protests last year; an incredible feat of double standards, given that even the harshest critics of Venezuela would agree that the human rights situation there is not even close to the crisis in Mexico, or for that matter, Colombia. Not that I want to give them any ideas. The US has enough power and inflicts enough pain to the Mexican people and economy as it is. Those who defend European and American policy in Latin America would probably invoke realpolitik; they might argue that the west’s hypocrisy is justifiable, given the need for nations to look out for their own interests. Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t be under any illusion about the consequences of those double standards. It’s not socialist leaders like Castro or Chavez who suffer the consequences from those actions; it’s the regions poorest and most vulnerable people – like those 43 Mexican students that do. For the Peña dynasty luck is not eternal and after a few days of a “dream” they will go back to Mexico, where Mexicans await them with open arms loaded of doubt and resentment. The results of this discontent are more and more visible. The People are often underestimated. This is a Nation thirsty and hungry for justice, disgusted of being laughed at, straight on their face. And if the Peñas were a bit more educated, they would know a bit more about history (which of course they don’t), they would realize that all large revolutions begin with social discontent and unequal wealth distribution. Many protesters now chant to “they take so much away from you that they take the fear away from you”. None is calling for a revolution now (I am not politically close to someone that would instigate or become active in one), but one has to speak up:  The Mexican people won’t tolerate this death and poverty circus forever. As Nemesio Garcia Naranjo said once: Pobre de México tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de Estados Unidos – and the only thing I am left to add is “pero si existe, que nos salve del reino de Peña”.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized