Sunday, June 17, 2012

There once were monsters

Our grandparents and great grandparents lived in an age when monsters roamed the earth in human form. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, Pol Pot, and their many cousins, saturated the earth with the blood of millions of their victims.

It is now much harder to become and remain an absolute tyrant. Certainly they exist and persist. But many minor contenders for this infamous title and status as super villain have failed recently.

For all their murderous depravity and egotistical hubris, Sadaam, Mubarak, Gaddaffi, Milosevic, were all small fry compared to their antecedents. Now all have vanished. Few mourn them. Their remaining compatriots are increasingly vulnerable and isolated. The North Korean and Iranian regimes, the military junta in Burma, as ugly as they are, are hardly in the league of their predecessors.

There are many social and historical reasons for this changed sense of what human society will tolerate. Changed technologies bring atrocities immediately to our attention, as recent vision of events in Syria attest. Larger populations and wider immigration flows have made national borders more porous, allowing ideas of democracy, justice, and a sense of common humanity to be transmitted more readily, defying the old closed-state apparatus of oppression that once kept peoples and ethnic communities under tight restraint.

I write this in response to the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech made by Aung San Suu Kyi in Norway recently. After 21 years of harassment, intimidation and house arrest, this remarkable woman has finally been able to receive her prize and speak freely to a world that cares deeply for her message. 

What is most remarkable is how gracious and calm she appears. Make no mistake, she has suffered greatly. Like Nelson Mandela she seems impossibly forgiving. I don't know what kept Mandela intact. Listening to Suu Kyi's speech, it is evident that what has sustained her are the ethical and moral truths of Theravadan Buddhist thought, or Dhamma

This great treasure and legacy of Burma, kept intact for two millennia, is richly sown throughout her speech. Dukkha - suffering, as drawn out via the Four Noble Truths. Metta - loving kindness to all beings. And extinguishment, or the cooling of the fires of greed and hatred, which she subtly hides behind a Burmese word, but which most know as Nibbana, or Nirodha, which is otherwise known as liberation or, dare we say it, enlightenment. This does not mean she is necessarily enlightened, but it does mean that whatever fires of despair and grief that may have plagued her have certainly been extinguished.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Courage in leadership

At a time when leaders seem to lack the power of conviction, or the humility of true wisdom, emotional courage teacher Ermanno Bergami calls for deep change among those who make claims of power.  
"This is a time of courageous leaders with brave attitudes and actions who embody the new organisational values of integrity, fairness, respect, honesty, empathy and mutual commitment. Leaders must develop and provide healthy products and services that meet the needs of the community while simultaneously addressing the challenges of reduced finance, climate change and the demand for transparency and fairness."

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is a social entrepreneur?

Ashoka envisions an Everyone A Changemaker™ world. A world that responds quickly and effectively to social challenges, and where each individual has the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and drive change.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Shift Movie

Here is a movie being made by a movement. A fascinating way to combine social entrepreneurship and old-fashioned film financing.
The Shift Movie

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Seeds of wisdom

Vandana Shiva appeared on Lateline last night. It made a change from the usual political discourse which seems increasingly narrow and self-serving, or the usual round of travelling American or British pundits. We live in a vast world of great diversity. Vandana Shiva represents the heart of this diversity. She is an advocate for the seed. Her life's work has been to speak to power on behalf of those who cannot otherwise get their voices heard. If you have ever put a seed in the ground and watched it grow, you will know that the elemental truth of this act is worth protecting.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Economy of small-scale brings big rewards

There is no chance for peace in the world until everyone has a little piece of it, or at least has the opportunity to borrow a little capital to make a little piece of it work. Kiva is a brilliant micro-financing scheme that turns dreams into reality and hopelessness into happiness.

"This video follows the path of a $25 loan from London, England to Preak Tamao village, Cambodia. Kiva is a website that allows Internet users like you or I to lend money to people that need it in developing countries, with the aim of empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty. This is my first video, and the one that got me interested in shooting more," says the creator of this video, Kieran Ball. The video was shot entirely on a Canon G9 point-and-shoot and a Flip camera and edited in Final Cut Pro.

Follow Kieran on Twitter: @kieranball
or, on his photo/videoblog:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What chance peace?

Before we feel good, all beings must be at peace. To know what this means and what it will take, The Fund For Peace may help provide some clear and useful information.