The Serpent’s Egg

The disappearance and subsequent murder of 3 Israeli teenagers on 12 June sparked a huge search operation in Palestinian towns and cities across the West Bank and resulted in the deaths of several people, including two Palestinian teenagers one only 15 years old.

During the search more than 300 Palestinians were arrested in an operation the Israelis ironically called ‘Brother’s Keepers’. Aren’t all followers of the Abrahamic religions brothers & sisters?
It’s a terrible thing that happened to the three Jewish teenagers, but it is also equally a terrible thing that happened to the Palestinian teenagers. It is an equally terrible thing that Jews and Arab Muslims are stuck in their bitter intransigence some 6 decades and more since the founding of the Jewish state.

Israel must also accept responsibility for the deaths of the three Jewish teenagers for they are just as guilty as the Palestinian men who carried out this terrible cowardly act. Both sides are caught up in a bitter cycle of violent hatred of one another despite PM Netanyahu’s attempt to take the high moral ground while speaking at the funeral of the murdered teenagers.
The West’s covering of the story has been biased in favor of the Jewish state and the continued plight of the Palestinians is by and large ignored by the Western media. Ordinary Palestinian men, women and children continued to be stereotyped as terrorists when in fact they suffer under an Israeli occupation in addition to being collectively punished because of the madness of fanatical organizations like Hamas.

Yet equally fanatical are the hard line Israelis who are determined to displace and remove all Palestinians from occupied Palestine and reclaim the land as a modern day Judea for all Jews.

A little over 600 miles away as Iraq fragments and falls apart another fanatical hard-line Islamist group has established a Caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq, calling upon all Muslims to migrate there and establish their homeland. Is there no end to this madness? Sadly not-our fragile little blue planet lost in the universe, seems to slide nearer to the precipice of oblivion with each passing day.

The tit for tat killings and murders by both Palestinians and Israelis brings shame upon the goodness inherent in religions which have evolved since antiquity to help us to seek a better life- one characterized through meaning based on an ethical and moral vision to counter the hopelessness propagated through the distorted vision of a few mad mullahs, corrupt priests and rabid Rabbis who have usurped the goodness inherent in a religious world-view. The battle between Israel, Palestine and between the mad men of all religions is a quarrel
“That will bear no color for the things they are,
Fashion it thus: that what they are, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think them as a serpent’s egg,
Which, hatch’d, would as their kind grow mischievous,
And kill them in the shell” (adapted from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act 2, scene 1, 28–34 )

Thailand’s Game of Thrones

I remember being introduced to the ideas of Machiavelli in my political science class at university-the assignment title was “Is Machiavelli a teacher of evil?” The question was framed around the 16th century hatred of the man by the clergy and was somewhat biased in its understanding of this great political thinker and reformer. Ironically it was Pope Leo X who gave Machiavelli the job of reforming the failed state of Florence-which he did successfully, but he did fall foul of the Medici after their restoration and was imprisoned and tortured before retiring from public life. Some would argue he was ‘hoisted with his own petar’ so-to-speak-given his treatise on how to rule in his (in) famous work ‘The Prince’.
Machiavelli’s political theories are evident everywhere today in the modern nation state-regardless of the flavour of the system-democracy, absolute monarchies, communist dictatorships, military rule etc. It was often said that the late Margaret Thatcher knew her Machiavelli very well.
They are also resurrected regularly in popular culture and are found in characters like Tony Soprano, Francis Urquhart in House of Cards but more so in the engaging and riveting fictional, historically theme based political drama, Game of Thrones, which explores the Machiavellian issues of social hierarchy, religion, loyalty, corruption, civil war, crime, and punishment – all current themes of the 21st century political landscape.

What advice would the great Florentine political thinker offer a divided state in the early years of the 21st century? Perhaps he might suggest that “all courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” It remains to be seen whether his advice will be followed in Thailand.

References (accessed 22/5/2014) (accessed 23/5/2014)
Machiavelli, N, The Prince, Oxford University Press, reprint, 2008.

Double Standard: noun, a situation in which two people, groups, etc., are treated very differently from each other in a way that is unfair to one of them

The West’s hypocrisy on Crimea and the Ukraine is so blatantly apparent it’s embarrassing. The United States of America in particular has adopted a revisionist position in its readings of the history of the region. Unsuccessful presidential candidate John McCain’s rants continue to be embarrassing-even to himself.

President Obama, an increasingly impotent world statesman and leader, unable to rely on the euphoria of his two elections and the premature conferring of his Nobel Peace Prize struggles to assert any kind of world leadership in the midst of a contagion of global crises. Rather, like David Cameron in the United Kingdom, he chooses to bluster his way through the seemingly insignificant event in Crimea. It’s insignificant because the people of Crimea have spoken-in a very democratic way-about the direction they wish to see their region develop.

This is in comparison to the unparalleled death and destruction both Cameron, Obama, and the West allow to continue in Syria; a tragedy unknown to the world since the Rwandan genocide, Srebrenica, and the atrocities committed during the rule of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany.

Where‘s your Red Line now Mr. President?

Germany is perhaps behaving very cautiously toward developments in Crimea for obvious reasons although Chancellor Merkel claims she’s been deceived by Putin-all sound familiar?

What are we learning from all of this? Despite the delusion of globalisations for all, and its accrued benefits for the wealthy one percent, the concept of cultural integration is naïve, as understood in post-modernity and in an era of greater technological developments.The world is still a place inhabited by tribal hatreds and internecine rivalries unparalleled since the beginning of time. These will reappear in different guises for generations to come.

The Lord Khrushchev Giveth & The Lord Putin Taketh Away

Reprinted from
Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia’s Crimea away to Ukraine in only 15 minutes (, 2009)

USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia’s Crimea away to Ukraine in only 15 minutes
The Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union passed the decree to hand over the Crimean region from the structure of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) to the Ukrainian SSR within the Soviet Union. Then-Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, virtually gave Crimea away to Ukraine.
The delivery of the region from the Russian SSR to the Ukrainian SSR was just a formality during the years of the “indestructible” Soviet Union. Ukraine received such a gift on the occasion of the 300th anniversary since its unification with Russia. It could never occur to anyone back in those days that the USSR would collapse, and that Ukraine would no longer be a part of it.
Historians have a very simple explanation to Nikita Khrushchev’s generosity. He came to power after the death of Joseph Stalin, unmasked his cult and condemned repressions. However, Khrushchev was involved in a number of repression-related affairs before. He was conducting a struggle against “people’s enemies” when he served as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party from 1938 to 1947 to win the support of the Ukrainian leadership. That is why he gave the resort peninsula on the Black Sea coast to the republic.
Khrushchev informed his comrades of the decision to deliver Crimea to Ukraine incidentally, on the way to lunch. “Yes, comrades, there is an opinion to deliver Crimea to Ukraine,” he said casually. No one dared to express any protests, because a word of the first face of the Communist Party was law.

The Supreme Council of Russia ruled in 1992 that the Crimean region had been delivered to Ukraine illegitimately.
References (2009, February 19). History & Traditions. Retrieved from

World War 1, Historical Revisionism & the Distortion of the Horrors of War

The 28th of July, 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1. I was born 35 years after the end of WW1 and 8 years after the end of WW2, so both major world conflicts, along with the Korean War and the Vietnam War have figured significantly in my education and personal history. My father, a WW2 veteran, suffered from a number of illnesses associated with returning serviceman today- depression and post traumatic stress disorder-but was not diagnosed in 1945, or thereafter, as these were not accepted as medical conditions developed as a consequence of war for WW 2 veterans at that time. My cousin, an officer in the Vietnam War, also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and eventually took his own life many years after that conflict-despite being happily married with a number of children and grand children.

As an Historian and teacher of history I take a keen interest in how the history of war is written, remembered and the kinds of narratives, social discourse and debates which emerge overtime around and on these major conflicts. Recently the BBC online new service published in its magazine an article by Dan Snow titled ‘Lions and donkeys: 10 big myths about World War 1 debunked’ (Snow, 2014). In it Snow argues that most of what we know today about World War 1 is wrong-quite an extraordinary assertion to make, and I’d go further and say it is an erroneous claim too given the diverse amount of informative historical literature available about the Great War. He argues that no other war in human history has “attracted more controversy and myth” (Snow, 2014) than World War 1. The basis for these contentions is unclear, nonetheless this doesn’t stop Snow from proclaiming that by studying and examining WW1 as a separate conflict we are “blinding ourselves to the reality of not just WW1, but war in general” (Snow, 2014). To support this unorthodox and historical revisionist view, he offers a comparative analysis with the 14 year Taiping rebellion in China from 1850-1864 in which 20-30 million people were known to have died. He casually ignores the morality and ethics associated with war to argue that the casualties of any conflict are only relative to the historical period they are fought in, and infers that we shouldn’t be overly concerned about the number of deaths in WW1. Moreover he downplays the number of dead from the conflict by arguing that given the ratio of men from the UK who enlisted and those who died, the UK got off lightly with as little as “ 11.5% killed” (Snow, 2014).
His account of trench warfare is heavily romanticized too and suffers from the same kind of historical revisionism as his previous claims. He is untruthful when it comes to describing the conditions in the trenches and mentions how “cold and wet” they could be, but fails to explain anything about the freezing weather, rats, lice, shell shock, unsanitary conditions, regular illnesses and the overall effects on the morale of the troops and the psychological stress of the individual soldiers. Moreover, a majority of the trenches were little more than ditches and dug out made hastily during a war-there were no architectural ‘trench designers’ as his account would lead us to believe. Trenches only provided a measure of protection. Even the more ‘sophisticated’ dug outs were subject to regular flooding, and mud slides, and many soldiers became trapped in mud and some died through drowning. His claim that “during moments of crisis, such as big offensives, the British could occasionally spend up to seven days on the front line, but were far more often rotated out after just a day or two” is simply wrong and a distortion of the historical truth. One soldier recounts the horror of it all:
“It was 9 a.m. and the so-called trench was full of corpses and all sorts of equipment. We stood and sat on bodies as if they were stones or logs of wood. Nobody worried if one had its head stuck through or torn off, or a third had gory bones sticking out through its torn coat. And outside the trench one could see them lying in every kind of position. There was one quite young little chap, a Frenchman, sitting in a shell-hole, with his rifle on his arm and his head bent forward, but he was holding his hands as if to protect himself, in front of his chest in which there was a deep bayonet wound. And so they lay, in all their different positions, mostly Frenchman, with their heads battered in by blows from mallets and even spades, and all around rifles, equipment of all kinds and any number of kepis. The 154th had fought like furies in their attack, to revenge themselves for the shellfire.” (Trueman, 2013). Soldiers were often deployed for up to two weeks and longer in the trenches during WW1. His assertion that the upper-class military did their fair share may work for the rank below Lt. Col, but not many above this rank suffered a similar fate to their underlings. (Daniels, 2013)
But, his most offensive interpretation of the Great War is his mis-interpretation and deliberate omission of the facts about the role the ANZACS played at Gallipoli. It is an historical fact that both the UK and France lost more men at Gallipoli than the ANZACS; however he fails to mention how the ANZACS were ambushed by the Turks after landing two miles north of the original planned landing, because Churchill and his Generals in charge of the campaign failed to take into account the changing tides and a command in disarray. (Atkinson, 2012) They mismanaged the campaign through environmental and geographical ignorance. The ANZACS faced steep almost unnavigable terrain and an encamped Turkish army simply gunned them down. The ANZACS went like lambs to the slaughter.
Snow’s glorification of the technology of war is as equally as disturbing as his re-writing of the conflict. His claim about an overabundance of weaponry when juxtaposed to Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth” is a chilling reminder of the horrors and travesties which occurs when technologies are used to kill and maim rather than to heal and grow:

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
–Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds. (Owen, 1917)

Snow goes on to assert that “in a narrow military sense” the allies won the war, denying any aspect of the moral culpability which comes with waging war. But the most perfidious account of his rewriting of the history of The Great War is his declaration that “most soldiers enjoyed WW1” (Snow, 2014). This is simply wrong and projects an almost deluded romantic view of war at the front, through claiming that “for the British there was meat everyday -a rare luxury back home-cigarettes, tea and rum…and much greater sexual freedom than in peace time Britain” (Snow, 2014). These assertions run counter to all the historical evidence available to any historian with a sense of integrity about their craft. In addition they run counter to the first hand experience of the many fallen soldiers who served in ‘The War to end all Wars:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. (Owen, 1917)


Atkinson, N. (2012, December 20). 25th April 1915 The Gallipoli Campaign. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from New Zealand History Online:
Daniels, P. (2013). Trenches in World War 1. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from About. Com 20th Century History:
Owen, W. (1917). Modern History Sourcebook: World War 1 Poetry. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from Modern History Sourcebook:
Snow, D. (2014). Lions and Donkeys: 10 Big Myths about World War One debunked. BBC news online Magazine,
Trueman, C. (2013). Life in the Trenches. Retrieved January 23, 2014, from History Learning Site:

The Pope, Politics and the Seductive Power of the Free Market

In an opinion piece written for The Nation, a Thailand broadsheet newspaper, Bloomberg columnist Ramesh Ponnuru argued that Pope Francis misunderstands the power of the free market. He goes further and lambasts the Pope for commenting on politics, economics and other problematic social issues which are the negative side effects of free market capitalism, claiming that the Pope is misguided when it comes to offering a point of view on the social ills of the free market era and the general decline in democratic freedoms throughout the developed world. He goes so far as to say that the Pope’s thoughts and comments are “frustratingly vague, imprecise or poorly considered” (Ponnuru, December 21st 2013). Clearly he hasn’t read the full text of the Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium.
Ponnuru isn’t the only ‘free marketeer’ to criticize the Pope for his forthright comments on the growing inequalities in an age of unbridled wealth and riches throughout the world. In the November 2013 issue of the right wing Australian Magazine Quadrant, Mervyn Brendle argued that “there are moments when the new Pontiff can sound very much like a spokesman for the Occupy movement, but his philosophy and goals are likely to go beyond the mere propagation of slogans” (Brendle, 2013). Brendle goes on to further discredit the man by arguing that prior to being elected Pope, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a conflicted fascist/ leftist leaning Jesuit radical; and likened him to the leader of “a secret order characterized by obedience, intellectual rigor and ascetic discipline—the Jesuit virtues—but whose intellectual influences were a mish-mash of Lenin, the mystic Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade and the sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary to China, Matteo Ricci” (Brendle, 2013).
For those who hold advanced capitalism as their overarching secular pseudo-theological view of the universe a Pope with a social conscience can be very disturbing and very threatening (China bans religion for this very fundamental reason-to avoid anyone expressing or using their social conscience to challenge or disagree with the mantra that ‘socialist greed is good’).
Yet it is the right time to have a leading world Statesman comment on the malignant cancer of greed which attacks the body politic of humanity today. Barrack Obama attempted this but has been held captive by his own country’s inert and ineffective political dialectic, and has made little progress since the massive economic depression triggered through the greed and dishonesty of the financial practices of banks, traders and investors in 2008. And other Western political leaders have long forgotten about the concept and usefulness of having a social conscience; they never utter more than a word or two about the plight of the poor, dispossessed and alienated in their countries and in other Nation States throughout the world.
The new Pope is right to condemn greed and excess. He is right to comment that the death of a homeless man is completely disregarded while a 2% downturn on the stock market makes headlines. He is right to argue in Evangelii Gaudium that “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded (Bergoglio, 2013). He says that we have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading”; and that “we have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (Ex. 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.” He goes on to explain how “ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision… In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response, which is outside the categories of the marketplace.” (Bergoglio, 2013).
Pope Francis has reminded the world in Evangelii Gaudium that the old aristocratic version of Christianity inherited from the Byzantium era, and upheld in all of its corrupt splendour by his predecessors, lacks relevance in 21st century Christendom, and that living the Gospel virtues, as taught by Jesus will bring us into conflict with a rampant advanced capitalistic, free market with little regard for those with no ready cash on hand. The Pope challenges us all to think more deeply about our priorities and about what is right and wrong in the world and take a stand. I for one am glad of this timely reminder of how to live a more relevant and virtuous life.

Bergoglio, J. (. (2013). APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION EVANGELII GAUDIUM. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Brendle, M. (2013, November 6th). Pope Francis, Liberation and Integralism. Quadrant, pp. 12-18.
Ponnuru, R. (December 21st 2013). Pope Francis Misunderstands the Power of the Free Market. Bangkok: The Nation.

No bogart esa cigarillo mi amigo pasarlo a mí

The legalization of marijuana in Uruguay and some states within the United States of America raises some important ethical and medical issues. One of the most basic question from within a bio-ethical framework is why would any governmental body or agency legalize a drug which causes harm to our physical, psychological and cognitive wellbeing when we already have alcohol for that purpose? One of the most bandied around arguments for the legislation of marijuana is that it will undermine the illegal drug trade as well as limit the drug trafficking trade carried out by major drug cartels. Given the psychological make-up of the individuals in the criminal cartels it will only be a matter of time before they finance their trade through other illicit activities anyway, so it’s hardly a compelling argument.
I think we need to focus more on the effects of marijuana on the human body, mind and spirit to seek a better understanding of why legalizing the drug is a mistake. But first let’s take a retrospective look into Aztec culture and how it dealt with illicit drug usage-perhaps there’s a lesson here for Mexico’s drug cartels and the States and Countries who propose to legalize marijuana?
The Aztecs as a people were fully acquainted with alcohol and its deleterious effects both on the persons who consumed it and on their communities in general. Their Emperor clearly warned his people against drinking alcohol
“That drink which is called octli, is the root and the origin of all evil and of all perdition; for octli and drunkenness are the cause of all the discords and of all the dissension, of all revolt and of all troubles in cities and in realms. It is like the whirlwind that destroys and tears down everything. It is like a malignant storm that brings all evil with it. Before adultery, rape, debauching of girls, incest, theft, crime, cursing and bearing false witness, murmuring, calumny, riots, and brawling, there is always drunkenness. All those things are caused by octli and by drunkenness.” (Fresno County Hispanic Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, 2012)
The penalties for drunkenness were severe, especially for young people as they were the future of the community and culture, and often punishments resulted in their death. Now, I’m not advocating such a harsh response for drug usage in the 21st century but simply pointing out that an awareness of the loss of control over the mind, body and spirit to a chemical substance caused deep concern within one ancient cultural community so much that its sanctions against alcohol use and abuse were severe, and perhaps disproportionate if viewed from a revisionist perspective today.
Marijuana on the other hand is a drug which has been around from antiquity and there hasn’t been the same harsh historical sanctions on its use. Archeological records of hemp goes back to 8000 BC, it was used for medical purposes in China around 2700 BC, it had a religious use in India around 2000 BC and was used by the Arabs in 1000 AD. The West learned of its bio-chemical activity in the 1800s and in 1937 the United States government introduced a marijuana tax act. In the mid 1990s marijuana was legalized for medical use in California and Arizona (Julien, 2001, p. 203).
However what we do know today about marijuana usage and its powerful pharmacological habit forming effects is sufficient to questions the ethics and standards governments are setting in legalizing the drug. The key chemical substance in marijuana which disturbs the fine tuning of the human body, mind and spirit is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical disturbs the natural rhythms in the central nervous system and distorts one’s sensory stimulation and ability to perceive reality in real time and space. In other words it creates a kind of fictitious, distorted augmented reality as it travels around disrupting the body’s subtle finely tuned neuro- circuitry. It is distributed throughout the various organs of the body too and easily penetrates the blood-brain barrier. It is also known to breach the placenta barrier in pregnant women and new born babies are known to suffer withdrawal symptoms of THC. It is claimed by bio-chemists that users experience a number of physical and psychological experiences while under the influence of the drug, including acute depressive reactions, panic attacks, paranoia, and a loss of mental control (Julien, 2001, p. 204). It’s hard to understand why anyone would want to put themselves through such a nightmare scenario and why any government would support them in doing so.
One of the most alarming effects of the drug is on the cognitive, learning and memory functions of our brain, and it is claimed that irreversible damage may occur with heavy use of the drug over an extended period of time. In terms of the affective domains and one’s ability to function on a daily basis the evidence suggests that poor routines in daily life including apathy and a lack of motivation are the short term effects of the drug (Julien, 2001, p. 211).
The myth which grew out of the 1960s that marijuana is a harmless drug that promotes and nurtures peace filled and loving feelings is simply not true. I have lived and worked in Papua New Guinea and knew of the ‘Rascal Gangs’ who got high on marijuana and then robbed, raped and pillaged their way through local and expatriate communities. Marijuana usage may leave one open to future problems too, as is evidenced in the use of the drug amongst adolescents throughout the world where preoccupation with its acquisition and compulsive use of the drug see them drop out of school and college, engage in petty crime while lacking the requisite skills to become free, independent and civil members of their communities and societies.
From a medical perspective marijuana has been known to help cancer and HIV sufferers through stimulating appetite, reducing vomiting and nausea following cancer treatment, and there’s further research being undertaken to look at small doses of the drug acting on the peripheral cannabinoid receptors in the heart to help those vulnerable to heart attacks (Julien, 2001, p. 213). But to date there seems to be no validity in the claims that marijuana usage supports immunosuppression as a causative agent in disease control-this is simply a myth.
The legalization of marijuana without regulation is a mistake and can only send its users and the societies whom introduce it as a drug of choice down the slippery slope to further substance abuse, co-dependence and chaos.
Fresno County Hispanic Commission on Alcohol & Drug Abuse. (2012, January 1). The Aztecs and Alcohol. Retrieved from Fresno County Hispanic Commission:
Julien, R. (2001). A Primer of Drug Action. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

Prisoner 46664: The Last Great Statesman

The death of Nelson Mandela leaves a more obvious vacuum in the international and humane leadership of the world today-perhaps it’s safe to say given recent history in South Africa, since he stepped down as President of the Republic, there’s been no-one with an equal amount of moral and political character to replace him. But, we live in hope for others to emerge like him.
I visited Robben Island several years ago-and spent some time in the tiny cell (7 foot by 8 foot) in which Mandela had been held captive for nearly two decades. It was bare except for a pot and mat. It was here he was able to confront his demons and make peace with himself I thought. It was here that the seeds of forgiveness and reconciliation were first nurtured and grown, so when he was eventually released he was capable of leading his country down the path of peace and forgiveness rather than civil war. He proved beyond any doubt that the pen is far mightier than the sword. Mandela, along with Ghandi and Martin Luther King all stand like giant Colossi before humanity and our world leaders showing and demonstrating to us the moral and ethical way to live and be governed-but all too often we turn our backs seeking a quick hit or fix to our problems.
One of the most powerful stories shared in Nelson Mandela’s autobiography “Long Road to Freedom” is the recount of a prison officer on Robben Island. He describes this basic human experience of interaction with him in detail in recalling the sadistic and brutal Commander’s behaviour toward him at the prison where he had been held for 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment:
Badenhorst had perhaps been the most callous and barbaric
Commanding officer we had had on Robben Island. But that
day in the office, he had revealed to me that there was another side
that had been obscured but that still existed. It was a useful
reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded,
have a core of decency, and if their hearts are touched, they
are capable of changing. Ultimately, Badenhorst was not evil;
his inhumanity had been foisted upon him by an inhuman system.
He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish
behavior. (Mandela,1994, p.549)

This is not a new idea and tends to reflect ancient wisdom from all cultures, which encourage love; tolerance, compassion and the rubric of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. And it was this reflective wisdom which turned Mandela, by his own admission into a forgiving, honourable and just human being able to lead his country out of the darkness of racism, brutality and oppression into the light of democracy and optimism for the future. Let’s hope and pray other countries will follow such an enlightened example of political and moral leadership

Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994 (MacDonald Purnell Publishers)

History through the Looking Glass: JFK Saint or Sinner?

As The United States of America and many of its allies acknowledge, honour and remember the late president John F Kennedy through observing the 50th anniversary of his assassination the question ‘What if JFK had lived’ has been raised. ‘What if’ questions from an historical perspective are well worth asking because they require an analysis of the past from a number of different perspectives. For example, what if Japan hadn’t bombed Pearl Harbour? Would the United States have maintained its policy of isolation? Where and when would have the nuclear bomb been tested in the theatre of war? (It would have only been a matter of time). Some of the most fascinating historical ‘what if’ questions are in regards to Adolf Hitler. What if Hitler hadn’t survived the numerous attempts to assassinate him? What if the Soviet armies hadn’t been able to repel Hitler’s Wehrmacht? Would Stalin have shaped up to be a more humane leader?
While ideological movements like National Socialism require the inspiration and momentum of charismatic leaders, once they are well established they develop a momentum all of their own. Hitler established a hierarchy which allowed him to be above the brutality and ruthlessness of his own political party and its various divisions, and while giving tacit, often silent agreement to its actions he was adept and astute at avoiding full accountability. Sir Ian Kershaw makes this point well in arguing that Hitler had plenty of people to carry out ‘The Final Solution, and that Himmler and Heydrich were at the end of the day its main architects. (Rees, 2013) For every Hitler that is assassinated or hadn’t existed others were sure to arise-as events since WWll have shown us. The world is never spared its suffering at the hands of madmen.
Good men throughout history are perhaps more difficult to locate. Shakespeare reminds us so “The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with the bones” (Shakespeare, 1999). John Fitzgerald Kennedy was considered an extraordinary man for his time. A WWll veteran, who unlike many of his successors saw action in the theatre of war, went on to become the 35th president of the United States. He is most remembered for navigating his country through the perilous difficulties of the Cold War with the USSR, the Civil Rights movement, The Bay of Pigs Invasion, The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space race, and the Apollo space exploration program. Like all people who hold political office he was subject to public scrutiny of his private life and it was well known at the time that J Edgar Hoover –his arch nemesis kept a detailed file of JFK’s private life. In the 50 years since he died there’s been a lot of research and study into Kennedy’s private life and attempts by some to discredit him as a weak moral leader. But despite these attempts at sullying his reputation, John F Kennedy remains one of the few contradictions to Shakespeare’s view that the good men do is lost on their death, because a lot of the good JFK began lives on to this present day. In particulars it was his hope for a better future which resonates with millions today when his named is invoked. In reality John F Kennedy is neither saint nor sinner-he is a dead man who continues to inspire hope in a secular world seemingly desperate for something positive to grasp and hold on too. There’s no doubt that if the US congress instituted the processes of beatification and canonisation JFK would be on top of their list.
Rees, L. (2013, November 23). Hitler and the Holocaust. Retrieved from WW2
Shakespeare, W. (1999). Julius Caesar, Act 3, Sc. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Why fight and argue over the Name of God? There are plenty to choose from!

The ‘Keepers of the Keys to the Eternal Kingdom”  have never agreed on who holds the right key to fit the door of eternity, and throughout  millennia  of religious and spiritual belief we’ve come to accept and acknowledge that this is the way it’s always going to be. Nonetheless, the capacity for religions to fight among themselves, and disagree and argue about their particular claim to the Deity in the face of immense human suffering leaves me bewildered. For example, in terms of invoking the Name of God for a cause, there’s nothing more chilling today than hearing fighters in Syria scream ‘Allah Akbar” as they send missiles, bullets, grenades and chemical weapons into local neighbourhood killing innocent men, women and children in the name of religious orthodoxy.
It is an unfolding tragedy for humanity that different people of different faith and spiritual beliefs are never going to agree on many things and will never give ground on their respective claims to having private access to the Deity’s direct line in ‘Heaven’. Notwithstanding Prince Charles’s proclamation that when he ascends the throne of the United Kingdom he will be the defender of all faiths, such sentiments are just not shared by other commonwealth nations. He ought to take heed of this now and note that levels of disagreement have reached the heights of the absurd, as a Malaysian court rules that non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah to refer to their Deity.
Surely the concept of a universal Deity is bigger than all of the world’s religions combined? Furthermore whatever forms the Deity takes at any given time in history we can be quite sure IT isn’t too concerned about an argument based on nationalistic – religiosity and  linguistic reductionism about who can or cannot use the word Allah.  History throws up a plethora of terms for the Deity. For example the English noun God is used across cultures and countries to name the Deity and as far as I know no-one throughout the recent millennial of the Abrahamic religions has claimed copyright to it-at least not up until now.
The absurdity of this law is in its attempt to make a legal ruling based upon a meta-physical belief in a supreme being, without the physical evidence to support such an assertion in the first place. It is illogical. However if we are to accept this reductio ad absurdum then there’s very little to worry about because the great Deity literally has hundreds of names available for the non Muslim citizens of Malaysia and the world to choose from.

Firstly there are the 101 names of God:



Worthy of Worship
Yaz meaning worthy of being attuned; Praiseworthy
Lord of all
Lord of All
Without Beginning

Without Beginning

Without End
Without End
Root of Creation
Root of Creation
Endless Bliss
The End of All
Primal Cause
Ancient Cause
Exalted One
More Noble
Purest of the Pure
Most Open (Innocent)
Detached from All
Separate from All
In touch with all
Connected with All
Unreachable by anyone
Attainer of All
Who Can Reach All
Most Righteous
Most straightforward; Truest of All
Upholder of all

Who Holds Everyone

Beyond reason
Without Cause (Does not need a reason for existence)
Sovereign Reason
Reason for Being
Bountiful One
Creator of Progress
Ever Prolific
Creator of Growth
Reaching equally to all
Who Reaches Everyone Equally
Protector of the world
Protector of Creation
Never Changing
Not Different
Without Shape
Most Steadfast among the Steadfast
Most Determined
Lord Invisible
Most Invisible


All in all
Most Complete
Worthy of our profound thanks
Worthy of Thanksgiving
All embracing Goodness
Completely Good Natured
Har-naik faraih
All embracing Holy light
Completely Good Noble Aura


Remover of affliction
Remover of Suffering
Beyond Affliction
Fulfiller of Holy Desires
Grantor of Wishes
Creator of Holy attributes
Creator of Noble Nature
Compassionate Judge
Generous with Justice
Merciful Giver
Grantor of Generosity
Bountiful Giver
Most Abundant Provider
Who Does Not Get Angry
Freest of the free
Independent; Without Worry
Deliverer from evil
Protector from Evil
Never Deceiving
Who Does Not Deceive
Never Deceived
Who Cannot Be Deceived
One without a second
Without Duality
Lord of desire
Lord of Wishes
Decreer of Sovereign Desire
Wish Is His Command
Aekh Tan
Soul Supreme
Without Body
Who Does Not Forget
Just Accountant
Keeper of Accounts
Knowing all things
Worthy of Knowing; All Knowing
Devoid of pain
Without Suffering
Most exalted one
Most High
Ever the same
Always the Same
Invisible Creator of the Universe
Creator of the Universe Invisibly
Creator of the Profoundly Spiritual
Creator of Much Invisible Creations
Hidden within the spirit
Hidden in Invisible Creation
Transmuter of Fire into Air
Who Changes Fire Into Air
Transmuter of Fire into dew
Who Changes Fire Into Water
Transmuter of Air into Fire
Who Changes Air Into Fire
Transmuter of Air into dew
Who Changes Air Into Water
Transmuter of Air into Earth
Who Changes Air Into Dust
Supreme Transmuter of Air into dust
Who Changes Air Into Wind
Supreme Transmuter of Fire into divine sparks
Who Changes Fire Into Jewels
Spreading Air everywhere
Who Creates Air In All Places
Creator of Lifegiving water
Creator of Much Water
Transmuter of Dust into Fire
Who Changes Dust Into Fire
Transmuter of Dust into Air
Who Changes Dust Into Air
Transmuter of Dust into water
Who Changes Dust Into Water
Master Craftsman
Creator of Creators
Rewarder of sincere desires
(Fulfiller of Wishes) *
Creator of all Humanity and its actions
(Creator of Mankind) *
Creator of all Human and Animal Life
(Creator of All Things) *
Creator of all the four elements
(Creator of 4 Elements) *
Creator of all the planets and all other worlds
(Creator of Stars) *
Never in doubt
Without Doubt
Eternally awake
Always Guarding & Progress Creator
Recorder of Man’s actions
Keeper of Limits
Lord of the Universe
Lord of Creation
Lord of Life and Wisdom
Wise Lord
Preserver of Creation
Most Capable of Preserving Originality of Creations
Renewer of Creation
Most Capable of Creating New Creations
Embracing All Creation
Who Can Reach All Creations
Giver of All Things
Who Can Provide Everything
Infinitely Patient
Lord of exisience
Lord of Existence
Forgiver of sins
Divine Creator
Creator of Justice
Rayed in glory
Full of Brightness
Haloed in Light
Full of Aura, Light
Lord of Justice
Giver of True Justice
Lord of Just Rewards
Lord of Good Works
Giver of Freedom for Progress
Awakener of Eternal Spring
Refresher of the Soul with Progress

(Wikipedia, 2013)

And, if that isn’t enough there are over 950 other names ascribed to the Deity too, so non-Muslims in Malaysia take your pick! But perhaps it is worthwhile to remember that it isn’t so much about the name, but more about those who claim adherence to any particular faith and how they practice it. To make a legal ruling on who can and cannot use Allah, God or Deity or any other name for that matter isn’t about religious faith or spirituality it’s about adhering to an inflexible ideology which just doesn’t understand that even the concept of a God is “beyond full comprehension by humans; has an endless number of virtues; takes on innumerable forms, but is formless; and can be called by an infinite number of names thus “Your Names are so many, and Your Forms are endless. No one can tell how many Glorious Virtues You have” Allah. (Wikipedia, 2013)


Wikipedia. (2013, August 19). Names of God. Retrieved from Wikipedia: