Dear Friends, this is NOT Germany!

This is a little off-topic – but I feel a strong urge to post something like this right now. About 80% of Mappalicious´ visitors are not from Germany; I get lots of traffic from North-America, the UK, Australia, but also other European countries such as Finland or the Netherlands.

Now, I don´t know how often you follow foreign politics, but if you have a look at what´s going on in Germany right now, you may find articles like this one from the Guardian:

Article_Guardian

What this is all about: there´s an organization that call themselves PEGIDA, an acronym that roughly translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident”. Right now, this group is able to mobilize some 15.000 people to demonstrate in Dresden (former East-Germany) every Monday against immigrants, against the “mainstream media” (which they call liars and things a lot worse), and other issues which are too many and too obscure to mention.

Their main argument is that Europe, and especially Germany, will be overrun by Muslims in the near future (what they call “foreign infiltration”). That is especially absurd as the percentage of Muslim inhabitants of Dresden currently is at roughly 0.4-0.5% – which is about one tenth compared to the 5% of the general population in Germany. And by the way, that number is going to rise to ca. 7% by 2050. Whoa, now this is what I call infiltration…

The founders of PEGIDA are a bunch of convicted criminals and/or covert or blatant Neo-Nazis, and most of the people walking beside them are die-hard bozos and hillbillies, and what in the U.S. would probably be called rednecks, and people who´s eyebrows meet firmly in the middle. And then, beside those, there are some pensioners and unemployed people who feel “left behind” – people who are in dire need of a scapegoat for the (alleged) misery in their lives.

These people make me (and probably around 98% of the German population) want to puke my guts out. 25 years ago, at that same place, the people of the former German Democratic Republic were protesting against the reigning Communist regime, they risked their freedom and their lives to get rid of Erich Honnecker and his band of crooks. Their rallying cry back then was “Wir sind das Volk!” (We are the people!”). It was a cry for equality, humans rights, and freedom!

Now, those PEGIDA shitheads are misusing that very same slogan, in a sort of deformation, when they roister through the streets of beautiful Dresden to rant and rave against everything that is somehow foreign, alien, and exceeds the capacity of their shriveled brains.

PEGIDA, you´re not “the people”. You are a pitiful, gruesome shadow of the past.

Dear friends all over the world – please remember: This is not Germany, and these guys are not “the Germans”. I´ve just had a look at my wedding photo from 3,5 years ago. Our maid of honor is originally from Italy, and the bridesmaid is from Syria. My very first girl-friend was from Vietnam, and among my best German buddies are people from Poland, Tunisia, and India. They´ve been working, and living and loving here, for ages! That, my friends, is Germany!

And “dear” PEGIDA! You are not “the people”. You are a sordid, gruesome shadow of the past. There is no future for you – for it will be bright and colorful. Two days to go until you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. May you remember that his message was one of kindness and compassion, not ostracism.

Merry Christmas!

 

Not what you see (Savatage)

No life’s so short it can’t turn around
You can’t spend your life living underground
For from above you don’t hear a sound
And I’m out here, waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am
But I know that it’s all that you see

No life’s so short that it never learns
No flame so small that it never burns
No page so sure that it never turns
And I’m out here, waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am
But I know that it’s all that you see

Can you live your life in a day, putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say as the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show – in a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go on this same piece of ground

(simultaneously)

Can you live your life in a day I’ve been waiting
Putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say I don’t understand what you want me to be
As the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show It’s the dark you’re hating
In a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go It’s not who I am, but it is what you see
On this same piece of ground

I’ve been waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating
It’s not who I am, but it is what you see

Can you live your life in a day
Putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say
As the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show
In a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go
On this same piece of ground

Tell me would you really want to
See me leave this night without you
Would you ever look about you
Wondering where we might be
New York is so far away now
Tokyo, Berlin and Moscow
Only dreams from here but somehow
One day that world we will see

I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand…
…what I see.

I swear on tomorrow, if you take this chance
Our lives are this moment, the music – the dance
And here in this labyrinth of lost mysteries
I close my eyes on this night and you’re all that I see
You’re all that I see

2051: Positive Psychology, Optimism, and the Florentine Moment in Time…

Tempus fugit. The first half of the MAPP program 2013/14 is over. Actually, the second and final semester is well on its way already. New subjects, new lecturers, lots of new homework…

I guess this is a good time engage in a little retrospection – and to have a look at the future as well.

I still remember sitting in the classroom at Penn on the first day, listening to Martin Seligman´s deep and sonorous voice, where he lectured on the history of positive psychology. At some point, one of my MAPP classmates asked him about his vision for positive psychology. What should be its contribution to mankind in the future?

Without much hesitation, Marty told us about his moonshot goal for positive psychology. “By 2051, I want 51% of the world´s population to be flourishing (according to the PERMA outline)”. Now in 2051, Marty will be 109 years old. So there´s good chance he´s talking about his legacy here. Could this be possible? After all, we still seem to be very far away from that number. War, poverty, and hunger are still raging in many parts of the world. But the truth is:

Things are getting better day by day, year by year.

Now I am a die-hard optimist. So if you feel I am not to be trusted, you may trust some experts (and their stats…).

  • Over the last 40 years, people have managed to rise above hunger and poverty by the billions. And this trend is very likely to continue. If you would like to know more, please watch this fabulous TED talk by Hans Rosling.
  • The likelihood of dying via homicide has decreased dramatically over the last century. Yes, there still are wars – and there still is murder. But the truth is: on a global scale, life on earth has never been safer. And once again, the trend is likely to continue. If you would like to take a deep dive, please watch Steven Pinker´s TED talk on the decline of violence.
  • Overall, we have very good reasons to be (fundamentally) optimistic about the future of mankind. Again, if you´d like to know more, please watch this TED talk by Robert Wright on zero-sum-games, optimism, and human progress.

Positive Psychology wants to play its part in this overall development by teaching people the art and science of flourishing – how to lead a meaningful, positive, and accomplished life while being actively engaged in our closer and larger social networks.

Positive Psychology has first been embraced by coaches, psychotherapists, and physicians. It is now entering the workplace more and more. And the next important step will be:

How can we bring Positive Psychology into education, community management, and policy-making? How can we bring it to China and India – those countries that account for almost 40% of the global population?

Marty Seligman believes that we (at least the western/developed world) now are at a Florentine moment in time. During what came to be known as the Renaissance, the Italian city of Florence became very rich via trading, and therefore at the same time developed into a flourishing center for all kinds of arts and culture because of all that affluence. So where are we – today? In Marty´s words (taken from his book “Flourishing”):

The wealthy nations of the world – North-America, the European Union, Japan, and Australia – are at a Florentine moment: rich, at peace, enough food, health, and harmony. How will we invest our wealth? What will our renaissance be?

Time will tell. I´ve decided for myself that I want to be a part of that movement and upward trajectory. Not only does it feel better to be optimistic – it´s also rational. The alternative, being a (fundamental) pessimist, doesn’t make any sense to me (and I´ve got the data on my side…). What´s the use of being pessimistic? I am a young father – and I would love to have more children. How could I want to want this without believing there´s a good (or at least: better) future ahead, without believing this world fundamentally is a good place to live in?

Once again, time will tell. The picture beneath these lines was taken at a party at Marty Seligman´s house when he generously invited the 2013/14 MAPP students and faculty to have a Christmas celebration at his house on December 7, 2013.

MAPP 9 - Christmas Celebration

The next day, final day of the first MAPP semester, it was also Marty´s part to speak the closing words. Quite obviously very moved, he cited a passage from Kim Stanley Robinson´s book The Years of Rice and Salt:

“We will go out into the world and plant gardens and orchards to the horizons, we will build roads through the mountains and across the deserts, and terrace the mountains and irrigate the deserts until there will be garden everywhere, and plenty for all, and there will be no more empires or kingdoms, no more caliphs, sultans, emirs, khans, or zamindars, no more kings or queens or princes, no more quadis or mullahs or ulema, no more slavery and no more usury, no more property and no more taxes, no more rich and no more poor, no killing or maiming or torture or execution, no more jailers and no more prisoners, no more generals, soldiers, armies or navies, no more patriarchy, no more caste, no more hunger, no more suffering than what life brings us for being born and having to die, and then we will see for the first time what kind of creatures we really are.”

Time will tell, Marty. But I´m with you…

Positive Interventions: An Angel came down

Penn - SnowOne noble duty of positive psychology is to develop positive interventions, intentional exercises that help to build positive phenomena, such as positive mood, character strength, relationships, or meaning in life. I believe that a very simple positive intervention is to listen to right kind of music. So, since Christmas is only about two weeks away, I´m going to share with you my favorite Christmas song. It´s “An Angel came down” from the first album by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a side project of one of my favorite bands of all time, the mighty glorious Savatage.

For some reason, I can hardly listen to this song without being moved to tears – but usually, they are calm and serene tears. Enjoy…

 

P.S.
Winter greetings from Penn (picture)…