Activism, Changeology, Equality, Freedom, Human dignity, Justice, Leadership, Motivation, Personal meaning, Stories from life, The world around us

Being remembered brings Hope!

Sorry for the delay in getting this post out. As those of you who have been following me know I am in the country of Timor Lest now and the internet here is a bit dodgy :-).


Today I met a superstar. He drove into the parking lot in his blue mini Moke (like a dune buggy). It had shiny chrome role bars that matched the color of his greying hair. His handshake was firm and his smile winning as he, in a warm baritone voice greeted me with a friendly, “Bom Dia”. And while he seemed like an ordinary citizen, short of stature and slight of build, José Ramos-Horta was something considerably more.

Timor Leste had been a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years. When it received its independence in 1975 young José had played an important role in the independence movement. One might have expected then that, when after a few months Indonesia invaded and annexed Timor Leste, young Ramos-Horta would be called to also play a role in the in the new independence movement. Instead he was sent away by the country’s leaders, called upon to serve as Ambassador for the Timorese to the world. It was a difficult time for the young man. His task was a lonely and seemingly hopeless one.

Only after nearly twenty-five years of exile he was able to return home to a free country. On his return he was amazed at all the people who recognized him and wanted to shake his hand as a hero. Believing that it should be the ones who had stayed behind and fought battles on the homeland who should be welcomed in such a way, now middle aged José asked why he had been greeted so. The answer came, “Because you gave us Hope! When we thought the world had forgotten us we would hear your voice on the radio pleading our cause and we knew that we could hold out a little bit longer. Thank you!”

For his efforts in the peace process that ended the war with Indonesia and gained Timor Leste its independence, José Ramos-Horta was awarded, together with the Catholic Bishop of Timor Leste, the Nobel Peace prize. He went on to serve his country as Prime Minister and President. And since his ”retirement” from public service in his homeland he has served as a UN Special Representative to Guinea Bissau and more recently on a committee to evaluate the UN Peacekeeping force.

From the parking lot I led him to the hall where he would be speaking. I don’t remember all that he said, but his main message was – When everything seems impossible. When you feel as though your courage and strength will fail. Remember, there is still is Hope. Never give up Hope!”


Cultural diversity, Equality, Human dignity, Human Rights, Justice, Leadership, Personal Development, Perspective

Two man-mindedness

Yesterday I suggested that cultivating the classical virtues of Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude and Justice might go a long way toward promoting peaceful co-existence between people. Today I’d like to promote another classical virtue; Ren. While yesterday’s virtues can be traced back to ancient Greek and Rome, today’s comes from China.
The Chinese character, Ren looks like this in Mandarin – 仁. The character represents a human being with two strokes indicating two people; you and me. The concept has to do with a person trying to see things from her own perspective and simultaneously from another’s perspective; two man-mindedness. In modern day language, empathy. But two man-mindedness goes a step further than empathy; feeling another’s pain or emotions. It also entails being fully in tune with one’s own emotions at the same time.
The Confucian philosopher, PC Chang introduced this concept to the United Nations Human Rights committee tasked with the job of writing a document that would delineate the normative structure of Human Rights; what would become the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He proposed that the idea of two man-mindedness was a Confucian way of looking at the underlying principle of all Human Rights, namely Human Dignity.
So, along with the classical cardinal virtues from yesterday, I propose that cultivating, Ren, or two man-mindedness could be a useful tool for helping us all to get along better :-).

Activism, Changeology, Cultural diversity, Equality, Freedom, Freedom of Religion or Belief, Human dignity, Human Rights, Justice, Leadership, Minority Rights, Personal meaning, Stories from life

A tribute to India’s greatest leader

He came from humble means, but went on to become a giant of a man, inspiring millions, especially those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. He studied abroad earning several advanced degrees. He was a lawyer and the main author of the Indian constitution. Think you know who he is?

His name, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. While Mohandas Gandhi (a contemporary of Ambedkar)is the Indian most non-Indians admire, it is Ambedkar the 100+ millions of Dalits, or untouchables, of India recognize as India’s greatest hero, towering far above Gandhi.

In recognition of his greatness I’d like to share with you some of Ambedkar’s quotes.

  • Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.
  • I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.
  • I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.
  • Equality may be a fiction but nonetheless one must accept it as a governing principle.
  • In India, ‘Bhakti’ or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship plays a part in politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other of the world. ‘Bhakti’ in religion may be a road to salvation of the soul. But in politics, ‘Bhakti’ or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.
  • Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence.
  • Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.
  • A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society.
  • Life should be great rather than long.
  • Political tyranny is nothing compared to the social tyranny and a reformer who defies society is a more courageous man than a politician who defies Government.
  • For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights.
  • The relationship between husband and wife should be one of closest friends.

Quotes found at – and

Activism, Equality, Freedom, Human dignity, Justice, Minority Rights, Stories from life, Uncategorized

Beware of GoNGOs!

Today I attended two workshops. The workshops were for NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations working in the ASEAN region to promote Human Rights and good governance.

Unfortunately, along with the NGOs, there were GoNGOs also attending the workshops. A GoNGO is a Government Organized, Non-Governmental Organization. Sounds like a paradox doesn’t it? But they do exist! A government that has a poor record in the area of Human Rights sometimes creates an NGO, or infiltrates, an existing one in order to gain access to information about real them and their activities. They look like NGOs and, to some extent, talk like NGOs, but inside they are deceivers intent on harming those working for good. For example, the GoNGOs I met today took close up pictures and videos of participants from the countries where the NGOs work and operate. One even went so far as to take a picture of the registration from with names and email addresses of the participants.

This information will then be passed on to government officials back in the home country so that they can monitor the activities of the NGOs. In a number of cases individuals from NGOs have returned home to waiting security police for interrogation and sometimes imprisonment and torture. In the last few days I’ve met people several people who have suffered this fate.

Looks are certainly deceiving. So I say, “Beware of GoNGOs!

Activism, Changeology, Equality, Freedom of Religion or Belief, Human dignity, Human Rights, Justice, Minority Rights, Personal meaning, Women's rights

What matters most to you?

Today I met a woman who was in prison, off and on, for more than 23 years and now lives in exile. In order to avoid arrest, another woman traveled for 15 days just to be able to take part in the conference I am attending. The trip would normally have taken no more than 15 hours. Many of the participants have been in prison and/or tortured.

The reason for all of this? Because they belong to, and peacefully practice, religions that are not sanctioned by the government of the countries in which they live. The government cracks down on unsanctioned religious activity deeming it “a danger to the security of the state.”

When talking to these people I had the impression that they didn’t look at what they had been through as hardship, but rather as an unfortunate consequence of choosing to remain in their faith. Each and every one expressed gratitude and joy at being able to participate in the conference. They took comfort from being able to share their experiences and hear of similar experiences from others. There is a sense of shared burdens, which become half burdens, and shared joys, which become twice the joy.

The aim of the conference is to share knowledge and build connections between people; activists and adherents of religious communities (including those who have no belief whatsoever) from all the ASEAN countries. For more on the conference click here:

Equality, Freedom, Freedom of Religion or Belief, Grief and loss, Human dignity, Human Rights, Justice, Minority Rights, The world around us

A jet-lagged post

I arrived in Dili this afternoon after more than 24 hours travelling. I wrote yesterday’s in the airport in Singapore (no I didn’t mean Dehli, if you don’t know where it is, look it up :-)). Right now I am very tired and frankly not sure J can write anything very intelligent, Therefore, I’m going to take a short-cut.

To give you something to ponder on today I’ll refer you to my friend, Aykan Erdemir’s recent article on how the recent coup attempt on Erdogan may strengthen Erdogan.

Check it out here:

Let me know what you think :-).

Equality, Human dignity, Motivation, Personal Development, Personal meaning

Cultivation 2 – A FAT lifestyle

In keeping with the posts of the last two days I’d like to explore further the concept of Happiness and how to cultivate it.


Like yesterday’s post, and the day before, I postulate that Happiness is best found in pursuit….. in pursuit of something other than Happiness. Yesterday I wrote about cultivating Thankfulness. Today I’d like to make a pitch for cultivating Compassion.

Today I read (or rather listened to) a book that really resonated with me; A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s vision for Our World, by Daniel Goleman. Compassion, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet points out, is not about some sort of touchy feely, mamby pamby kind of feeling. Rather it is muscular and robust. And it entails three elements. I have chosen the acronym, FAT to help remember these three ingredients.

  • F = Fairness – Treating people equally.
  • A = Accountability – Taking responsibility for our mistakes.
  • T = Transparency – Dealing with others openly and honestly.

So, if I want more Happiness in my life I can try to act more Compassionately, and I will act more Compassionately when I cultivate a FAT lifestyle :-).


Stay tuned for more on Happiness. Today the Dalai Lama, tomorrow, Aristotle.