Chosen Futures
  • Passports, Identity, Security

    July 22, 2010

    The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team is missing the 2010 FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England.  They wanted to be there, they were prepared to be there, but an international disagreement about sovereignty and security kept them in North America.  No one wanted that result, but everyone had principles to defend.  Everyone stuck to their principles, and in the unintended consequences of their principles, everyone lost out.

    The Iroquois Nationals team travels on passports issued by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which includes members who live in Canada as well as members who live within the United States.  If the team had arrived at the Championships, they would have needed to present these passports from the country the team represents.  The last time the team travelled overseas for a competition was in 2002, when the Championships were held in Australia.  At the time, their passports were accepted by all the nations involved. 

    But international agreements have changed since 2002.  The Haudenosaunee passports don’t meet new security standards, such as holograms and microchips, which are intended to prevent identity fraud.  Team members would be eligible for passports from Canada or the United States, but they consider that travelling on such documents would be a denial of their preferred identity as Iroquois.  (Go to for the Haudenosaunee position on travel rights.)

    For their part, British officials said that they would not issue visas unless the governments of Canada and the United States provided letters guaranteeing that the players would be permitted to re-enter these countries after the games.  The US State Department did issue such a letter, carefully specifying that it was a one-time document prompted by special circumstances, but the Canadian government did not issue a similar letter and the United Kingdom did not issue visas.  So the Haudenosaunee did not travel overseas and they have not been part of the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships.

    "It really is a shame, as we feel like we're losing a connection with the sport's heritage," says Neil Goulding, spokesman for the Federation of International Lacrosse.  "The Iroquois had been due to open the tournament with an ancient blessing ceremony, where sacred tobacco is burnt and prayers are chanted.  Now the games are just going to start with a few words from Manchester’s Lord Mayor."  [from, July 15, 2010]

    The Iroquois have been playing lacrosse longer than anyone except maybe the Hurons, and their tradition of democracy is one of the oldest in the world.  There was minimal risk of team members being stranded in England had they travelled on the tribal passports.  The Haudenosaunee are even well along in the process of developing new passports which will conform to the new international standards, so that they can assert their sovereign identity in ways compatible with modern security technology.  If all parties had made it possible for them to travel to the Championships this year, the issues of identity and security would have ended up as forgotten footnotes to the larger matter of becoming a world society which honors and protects everyone. 


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  • World Cup Success

    July 13, 2010

    Whomever you favored in the World Cup, we can all agree that Spain won the 2010 championship.  We agree because there is a single set of rules followed by every national team and by every player who participates in FIFA competition.  A formal sport is defined by its rules, so participating in the sport involves accepting existing definitions of success which determine eligibility, scoring, and winning.  Part of what we humans enjoy about formal games and sports, from tag to chess to World Cup football, is that shared definitions of success allow us to focus on building the skills needed to perform excellently within the rules and to enjoy exercising or observing those skills in action.

    World Cup success is defined by FIFA, and FIFA agreements also cover how that definition is arrived at.  The process is elegantly circular, a closed system in which everyone agrees to the rules currently in force.  Other kinds of success are much less easily defined.  Most of our lives are spent in open systems which function under such names as “business” or “education” or “life.”  In these arenas, how we define success makes a big difference in the skills we develop, the people we associate with, and where we look for support, feedback, or applause.  In these open systems, there is no FIFA to set the rules, so it is important that we choose whose criteria for success we follow.  Those who are most successful choose their own criteria.

    Most of us start with borrowed definitions of success.  We borrow from our parents and teachers, from the media, from the culture at large, or from subcultures such as religion, nationality, ethnicity.  These borrowed definitions may make great training wheels, allowing us to try things out and to see how the definitions work for us personally.  But borrowed success definitions run the risk of creating artificially closed systems, which are usually inelegant, inefficient, and constricting.   They get in the way of true success.  Genuine success arises in the open systems which constitute human life, including the group lives of a business, a family, or a community as well as each individual life.  We discover our own definitions of success by experimenting, by improvising, by observing what works for us, and by acting to create more of what works for us.  If we are wise, we keep experimenting and improvising, so that our definitions continue to be effective and enjoyable as times change and as we change.  A particular national football team cannot choose its own definition of World Cup success; it has to abide by FIFA’s definition and develop excellence within that framework.  Individuals and businesses are far better off, become much more worthy of the term “successful,” by creating and choosing their own definitions of success, which focus on and develop their own innate excellence to accomplish goals they set for themselves.


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