Tag Archives: Portugal

Trend-Setter: Thilo Sarrazin?

“Coolhunting for the World’s Thought Leaders” is an actual academic paper by actual academics (Peter Gloor at MIT; Karin Frick and Detlef Guertler at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Switzerland). Its purpose: To create “a novel ‘Thought Leader Map’ [that] shows the select group of people with real influence who are setting the trends in the market.

from “Are These The Most Influential And Trend-Setting Thought Leaders?”

Today, inbetween the identification of operational risks and internal controls (my daily job nowadays), I came across this article about the biggest ‘thinkfluencers’ of 2012.

For my surprise, one of the trend setters happened to be this guy named Thilo Sarrazin, described as someone who wrote a “bestselling book arguing that genetically inferior Kurds and Turks were dumbing down Germany”.

I was surprised not because of the apparent popularity of such arguments in Europe but instead because of the lack of refinement, the rawness, of his discursive practice.

Sarrazin, a trend setter in 2012, is a good old-fashioned, no non-sense, straight shooter racist, using classic xenophobic language in public in ways that few germans have since the Holocaust.

That explains, in big part, his success: he’s breaking the taboo and trying to capitalize from being a frontrunner.

And that’s about it, mostly because his arguments are total shit.

Sarrazin defends two main stands of view: he’s “anti-euro” (“Europe Doesn’t Need the Euro”) and “anti-immigrant” (“Germany Does Itsfelf In”). His book “Germany Abolishes Itsfelf” sold over 1.3 million copies, proving that unconvincing books can convince quite a few readers (here in Portugal such books tend to be read by people who have yet to meet an immigrant).

He’s anti-euro because the southern economies of the euro zone are not ready and have culture and mentality issues that lead to lack of discipline. Because corruption, mismanagement, and indolence are endemic to southern European culture and Germany is being “black-mailed” to bail them out because it perpetrated the Holocaust.

Sarrazin defines himself as a man of numbers; but also as a man of poor sensibility. He believes that human life follows strict rules such as “hereditary factors”. Muslims and southern Europeans are hopeless because there are relevant genetic differences among ethnic groups working against them.

Some, like him, still (choose to) believe that some born smart and some born stupid. Traditionally, those belonging to the elite tend to think they born superior as a mean to justify their priviledges.

I don’t know if intelligence (or economic performance, for that matter) is hereditary.

I think one may have all the potential in the world but he’ll need the right conditions to make it grow. Inteligence (another arguable concept by itself) can be a difference maker in a world in which we all share equal opportunities; but it plays a minor role when we compare individuals in different contexts.

The real magic happens when people have the creativity and the ability to transcend the rules and prove reductionist theorists like Thilo Sarrazin wrong.

Let’s hope to get inspired by more open-minded, forward-thinking  trend-setters in the future. Let’s get inspired by those who approximate people, instead of separating them; by those who work to find solutions, not to agravate the problems (normally promoting their own personal agenda).

As for us Europeans, an isolated Germany serves no one.

The right call for Mr. Papandreou? As Portuguese, I believe so.

The question is: did he really have any other option? In need of wide national support and with Greece diving on social convulsions this is an obvious call. The markets don’t like, the European leaders don’t like (and feel betrayed; Merkel just needs a motive to kick Greece out of the eurozone so extra caution is needed), the opposition don’t like and want elections (?).  Despite the obvious danger of reproval and its implications, here are 3 reasons why I believe Mr Papandreou’s call for referendum on next aid package can turn to be a smart move:

1. Effectiveness: increasingly centralized decisions with increased delegation of power from national populations to their central governments and European entities make such plans hard to implement, to relate with, to adopt and ultimately to produce the expected results. People feel the austerity to be exogenously imposed, to come from outside without regard for their real problems and challenges and for their daily reality. It smells like imperialism. Remember the 99%? People want to have the power to decide, people want to have the final voice. A more participative model is essencial in order to regain people’s confidence and ,far more importantly, people’s faith. An underrated feature of more inclusive models is responsability: once you’re part of the decision, you’re responsible for the results. If Greek politicians and the international community work together to convince the population about the necessity and the beneficial effects of the new aid plan they gain more than markets’ confidence: they win people over;

2. Fairness: moreover, centralized decisions tend to forget and do not take into account certain segments of population and the interests of all the involved parts (all the population affected by the austerity measures); in this sense, democracy turns out to be a matter of political justice instead of political (and economic) desirability. Central governments are not able to defend (or even to understand or collect information about) everyone’s interests. Since just part of the society is (directly or indirectly) represented in the negotiations, democracy stands out as the more effective way to achieve social justice;

3. Security: this is consequence of the two above; prevalent and still increasing social convulsions (they began in 2008, do you remember?) make Greece an awful place to make politics. Security is the greatest responsability of the State as well as the greatest necessity; you need to provide your citizens (and their belongings) with security and you need security to provide you with power and autonomy. Even investors, although apparently not really concerned about the two other reasons above (erroneously), understand this; if anarchy takes power they can lose both their money and their property (assuming they have some). Therefore, since security is the most essential good you can provide to your citizens, to your creditors and to yourself, calling a referendum is an obvious move before calling extra austerity measures. The reasons why I believe it should help are above.

And I’m personal about it.