25/02/2014

Switzerland, Ukraine and the Limits of Binary Thinking

 

Many years ago my then wife and I were told by our friendly local doctor that she was half-pregnant, much to our bewilderment. Ever since the Enlightenment, western thinking has been dominated by binary reasoning: yes or no, 0 and 1, inside and outside, are fundamental paradigms. We are all familiar with Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” and C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures”. While binary thinking may be extremely helpful in certain areas – computer programming and establishing borders are prime examples – its obvious clarity may have limitations that can have negative consequences. Recent examples in Switzerland and Ukraine highlight the disadvantages.

Lire la suite

18/02/2014

Did Social Media Help the UDC Referendum?

There is certainly much to be said about the recent Swiss vote on “immigration de masses”. Certainly much will be said in the future since the exact nature of the operationalization of the positive vote on the referendum is still very unclear. What can be said at this moment, however, is that a majority of Swiss voters felt that there were too many non-Swiss in the country. Whether it was because of housing difficulties, unemployment, lack of security or a perceived loss of national identity, 50.3% of the voters wanted more restrictions on foreigners

Lire la suite

13/02/2014

Sochi, Sports and Politics

 

Sports fans around the world are riveted on the Olympic Games in Sochi. Dario Cologna’s narrow victory in the men’s 30km skiathlon was a wonderful example of how an athletic event can be transcendent. Dominique Gisin’s winning smile after the downhill was worth its weight in gold. But sports fans are not the only people focused on the Games. Economists are analyzing how $53 billion was spent in preparing the venues and how athletics has morphed into big business/entertainment; diplomats are watching how Vladimir Putin’s pharaonic investment will affect his standing domestically and internationally. What used to be mere athletic contests have turned into a global spectacle with all the ramifications that implies.

Lire la suite

07/02/2014

Super Super Bowl ?

 

Every year millions of Americans and fans around the world watch the Super Bowl, the finale of the U.S. football season. The numbers keep growing – for this year’s game XLVIII, there were over 100 million viewers and the most expensive rates for TV commercials ever. At earlier games, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, etc. have performed at halftime. Commentators not only microscopically analyze the actual play, but ratings are given for the best and worst commercials during the game as well as announcers’ performances. Super Sunday has become a de facto American national holiday, although for many women it only means preparing endless bowls of guacamole and chips and serving beer. (Eight million pounds of the green stuff are consumed during the game with 14,500 tons of chips.)

Lire la suite