Opinion: Spending More Time In Each Destination And Less Sightseeing

I was out with a group of friends at a pub chatting the other night when the conversation turned to traveling.  I mentioned a few things that impressed me about Japan and a girl who I had just met and had also been to Japan quizzed me, “Did you climb Mt. Fuji, did you see a sumo wrestling match, did you go to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market at 4AM?”  I hadn’t done any of that stuff, and it didn’t occur to me, as I was more interested in meeting some local friends and talking to them and meeting their friends, over shochu drinks and sashimi dinners in the cozy Tokyo neighborhoods of Shimo-kitizawa and Kagurazaka.  But her comment made me think about how we all view traveling with a different purpose.  She then went on to mention, “I’ve been to thirty-three countries.”  I have been on quite a few interesting trips, but I have never actually counted the number of countries I’ve been to, nor do I really care to. I’ll be honest, I do roll my eyes at people that name-drop and country-drop like that.  In the past two years, I have spent two months in India, one-month in Tokyo and a bit more than a year in Athens.  That’s just three countries!  The “I have been to 33-countries person” could have just taken a three-week Euro-rail trip hitting up Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Czech and then over to  Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.  That’s almost ten countries, but what does that even mean? I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with this trip (and I...

Strategies for modern social movements: orchestrating and swarming

One of the most enlightening and refreshing academic speakers I have recently heard is Charles Heckscher, professor of labor relations and organizational behavior, from Rutgers University.  He gave a lecture at the LSE about how contemporary social movements are operating today and the misconceptions about social change and modern forms of solidarity. In outlining his theory, Heckscher repeatedly used a few key words: swarm and orchestrators.  Today’s key players in social movements are not necessarily the front-line demonstrator, petition-signing activists of previous generations.  Neither do today’s activists specifically exhibit a lot of direct power.  What they do have is influence and connections.  They are effective at pulling together disparate groups of people that may not have collaborated together otherwise. Their infrastructure is not to build hierarchies and control social activism in a federation-style from the top-down.  Today’s strategic orchestrator-coordinators have their pulse on the psyche-of-the-street and are able to maneuver the undercurrents of participants’ energy to potentially develop into swarm activity.  This is similar to the natural phenomenon seen in fish colonies or flocks of birds and a swarm, in a different context, is a strategic tactic that the US Army also uses in today’s security threats. Heckscher goes on to outline the three key factors that are necessary for this orchestrating and swarming to take place: (1) purpose (2) platform (3) process. The first thing a group needs to develop is a purpose- an image of a desired shared future.  This is an active, continuous on-going dialogue that the participants join in on because they identify with it. Before continuing to the next point and in order to put...