Ten years in Europe, What's next? 

Chantilly, France

Sometime in the first half of 1998 I flew to Paris on assignment for Chrysler Corporation. Although I've returned to the U.S. many times over the years, it was never to reside there. Since 1998 I have been living in Europe, partly in France and partly in Germany.

Having long ago got over culture shock of living in Europe, I feel as comfortable living here, perhaps more so, than I did living in the U.S.

Although I enjoyed living in Germany, I feel most comfortable in France due to my longer experience here and the level of my French in comparison to my German. Although I feel very comfortable interacting with the French, and I'm sympathetic to their world view and share many of their values, I don't feel myself to be French. In fact, I rather enjoy my status as an outsider.

I might even call it a priviledge to be an outsider. I enjoy not having to measure myself against my peers in the society. I feel a real sense of liberty to be who I am.

And I feel a sense of accomplishment at having arrived where I am after having made a real effort.

Being somewhat detached from one's surroundings also allows one the freedom to be more philisophical about the events going around oneself, and to understand them within the context of a bigger picture. It's a picture that includes the consideration of history as an aid to understanding the present.

Having acheived a certain amount of success in my life, is it time to think about doing something different, of going after a new challenge?

My experience up until now has been mostly related to information systems in heavy industry, notably the automobile industry. During my years as an IT specialist I have acquired project management skills which have allowed me to approach problems in a certain way, by breaking them down into manageable parts and by identifying the dependencies between these parts. And from this analysis, putting together a plan with a defined objective and a defined time plan. I've come to believe that any problem can be solved this way, and that no problem, once analyzed in this way, is insurmountable. I have a bias towards simplicity and believe that all problems can be simplified and understood by those with little expertise. In my current job I'm applying these methods to the areas of IT infrastructure, product design/development, and manufacturing.

At the moment there are a number of notable events taking place which have received a lot of attention in the media.

1) The phenomena of Global Warming
2) The shortage of oil supplies
3) The banking and stock market crisis
4) The specter of global recession.
5) The U.S. presidential election

I guess the one reflection that these events inspire in me, is the fact that it has only been possible to support the present number of people on the planet through the industrialization and mass distribution of the food supply. And this industrialization has been possible due to the abundance of fossil fuel, which we all know is a limited resource which will run out at some point in time. If the planet were to somehow loose these industrial processes, there would be great suffering and catastrophe beyond the ability of the industrialized nations to manage it.

All of this on top of the fact that significant populations continue to be subjected to war and famine.

At one time in my life I thought I might like to make a career in some kind of humanitarian endeavor, perhaps conflict resolution. I guess I abandonned this along the way, perhaps due to a frustration with the (by definition) highly political nature of humanitarian endeavors. Politics has never been a strong point of mine, although I have learned with time some tricks of the trade. Obviously communication skills are key, one needs the ability to appeal to reason and to convince decision makers, sometimes to flatter and manipulate. Gestures and actions are, of course, important also, such as investments in time, attention and the giving of gifts.

Have I acquired the maturity to be able to think once again about involving myself in some kind of humanitarian endeavor? I guess that's the bottom line of this somewhat rambling entry. And if I have, what could I expect or hope to achieve and is there an opportunity?
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