Friday, December 12, 2008

My friend pointed me to the following poem written by Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

His poem is well-known, frequently quoted, and is a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy, as it often begins with specific and targeted fear and hatred which soon escalates out of control.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Would you and I have the courage to speak out ? Or would you be afraid to be labelled as anti-establishment?

P.S. An observation from someone: The only way to deal with a murdering dictator is to dictate his murder.

A German’s point of view on Islam

This post is reproduced from

A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

‘Very few people were true Nazis ‘he said,’ but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories. ’

We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.

It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard quantifiable fact is that the ‘peaceful majority’, the ‘silent majority’, is cowed and extraneous.

Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts: the fanatics who threaten our way of life.
Emanuel Tanay, M. D.

Dr. Emanuel Tanay, MD Wayne State University Ann Arbor, Michigan A clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical School, Dr. Emanuel Tanay MD is a well-known forensic psychiatrist who has been an expert witness in many famous cases, such as the trials of Jack Ruby, Ted Bundy, Sam Sheppard, and Robert Garwood. He is licensed to practice in Ohio and Georgia, as well as Michigan.
Dr. Tanay has served as an officer or committee member of many professional organizations, such as the Michigan Psychiatric Society, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and others. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and of the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry and a distinguished fellow of the APA and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFC).
A Holocaust survivor himself, he coauthored a book about the survivors of the Holocaust and was asked by the German government to consult on just compensation for the Holocaust survivors. Dr. Tanay has served on several journal editorial boards, authored many publications, and presented countless times on forensic medicine. His efforts have also produced many awards and commendations from groups such as the Michigan State Medical Society, APA, the Detroit Institute of Technology, and AAFC, among others.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I read with concern the warning that doctors here raised of a sharp rise in the number of young people addicted to the Internet, with the most severe cases needing hospitalisation to wean them off the Web. (Straits Time 5th December 2008). Two issues come to my mind. Firstly, the effect of the usage of the internet has on the rest of us, and secondly what can parents do to prevent their children from being addicted without banning them from total use of the internet. These two issues are interrelated and both require similar solution.

Thomas Friedman (2002), in his “Global Village Idiocy” article published in The New York Times in May 2002, observed astutely that:
“Thanks to the Internet and satellite TV, the world is being wired together technologically, but not socially, politically or culturally. We are now seeing and hearing one another faster and better, but with no corresponding improvement in our ability to learn from, or understand, one another.”

He concluded that ''In some ways, global satellite TV and Internet access have actually made the world a less understanding, less tolerant place.''
Cyber bullying, cyber quarrel and flaming have become part and parcel of the internet user life. The development of broadband allows for faster internet access to information and data from all multiple sources. With so much information being available, it is necessary to develop skills to evaluate what is found on the internet. Reader must be aware that not everything that is printed on the internet are true. Caveat Lector: “Let the reader beware”

Without face to face interaction, the quality of engagement over the internet through Facebook and other social network system has reduced a human being to an avatar no more then a couple of megapixel on the computer screen, a string of texts which do not represent the whole human being. Personality does and can change when one is in cyber space. How then can one trust the cyber space person?

Friedman proposed that this process can only be reversed with education, exchanges, diplomacy and human interaction. I agreed with him and I believe that this process can best be counteracted through the development of human relationships within the context of the family first and society later.

In the same article in the Straits Time, the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (Aims) suggested that the Government and industry bear the cost of Internet filters - such as the Family Access Network provided by telcos - which help parents monitor and control children's Net habits.

This solution alone is not enough as it gives parents the misguided believe that
with the provision of Internet filters their children will be inoculated from being an addict to the internet. Having an internet filter is just an additional gadget or gizmos that cannot be replaced by the warmth of a human touch.
How do we balance the need to prepare our children for the globalized world where the skills to live in cyber space is as important as surviving in the real world?
When we shared that we have three desktops and five laptops in our household and two broadband, teenagers usually assumed that our six children are luckly to have us as parents. That is until they realized that we do not allow any of our children to play any on line games, X Box or game box. One Christmas, when a kind uncle brought an X box for our children we gave it away to an unlucky child. Our children do not know the existence of Maple story or the Penguin Arcade. We believe in the principle that what they do not know they do not miss.
Are we too harsh as parents? I do not think so because like many good responsible parents we do not use the internet as a baby sitter or a proxy parent.

We believe strongly in the power of independent learning and believe that if we teach our children how to critically judge information from the internet, it can be a powerful educational tool.

The children have developed the habit to search for information on the internet when they do not understand or want to learn a new concept. One night, when we entered a discussion about the role of Admiral Zheng He in South East Asia, we were surprise and glad that out nine year old could go to You-Tube to learn more about him. Of course we have to teach our children that not all information found in the internet are true.

We allow them full access to the programs of the computers from which they discovered how to handle word document, how to paint cyber picture and make presentation using PowerPoint.

However the cultivation and development of family relationships goes hand in hand with the preparation of our children for the internet world. Family rituals like prayer before meals, waking up at 5.45 am to go for Sunday Morning Mass, having fun or serious conversation after dinner and night prayer help established good family relationship so that we the parents can guide our children through this minefield called the internet.

Other daily rituals include going to the park everyday to jump on the swing, build sand castle and of course fighting and making up with friends in the park.

We also ensure that the love for reading is cultivated early as we believe that a high literacy rate is an essential skills for our children to manage the nuances and tone of the language that are used in the internet. This is the first step in training our children to have a healthy level of skepticism, ever questioning the comments, opinions and information that are flooding the internet.

We cannot live without the internet. Sometime the only way I get to speak to my older children is through msn. But with the establishment of good family relationships between parents and children and among siblings, our children do not see the need to spend an unreasonable amount of time in the internet to fill the void of an empty lonely life. After all any form of addiction is normally an indication of an unfulfilled life.

But what about children who already shows sign of being addicted to the internet or other computer gadget to the extent that they do not want to interact with family and friends?

Parents will have to be the one to take the first step to help their children. In the area of discipline, we always remember this verse from the New Testament “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.” (Hebrews 12:11)
Some parents provides these computer gadgets for their children out of a sense of guilt for not spending time with their children or because they want to be popular with their children. Others just want some peace and quite and so these computers gadgets have become the virtual baby soothers.

The first step is to have the courage to recognize that there is a problem and there is a need to wean the children off excessive use of the internet and computer gadgets.

Since internet addiction is a bad habit that is formed over time, parents can help children establish good habit to replace the bad habit. Parents may have to try out more than one replacement habit for the bad habit to find something that work but if we persist the negative behaviour can be replaced with a more positive one. For examples, children can go swimming with the parents every weekend. This is a very effective method as no child would be silly enough to bring their game boy into the swimming pool.

Another method is to limit where and when the child is allowed to use the internet and play computer games. Limit the time spend to a max of one or two hours a day and in a less comfortable place. Knowing that there is a time when they are allowed to play computer games makes it easier to control or reduced the craving. This strategy may be unlikely to help kick the addiction but it is often a helpful start.

Ultimately we parents are responsible for our children, We cannot blame the society, their friends or even the internet when they become addicted to the internet. We could not even hide under the excuse of having to work and so could not find the time for our children. As parents we have to be responsible and teach our children about discipline for the reward is great.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A mother heard whispering and small talk that her son was creating trouble. Yet in her heart she knew that that he was focused and determined to do what he has decided never mind how his mother feel.

Sometime she wished that he would not do the thing he did as she did not want to see her child suffer.Soemtime the action he took pierced her heart like a sword.

Yet, she never once told him to stop. She just keep it all in her heart.

One day, she heard that he intended to go to the city. She knew that he was walking towards his death.

Should she stop him like all mothers should or should she just wait?

In the end she watched from the side, as she saw her beloved son tortured, hurt and finally died. Throughout the time he was dying she stood by him never once said "I told you so".

In the end, his dead body was placed in her arm. All she could do was to prepare his body for burial.

If you were Mary would you have said yes to give birth to a son who is determined to do his Father's Will?

Monday, December 1, 2008

What can an ancient man who lived in Greece more then 2300 years ago teach us today about teaching and learning ?

Socrates was one of the greatest philosophers in the world. He worked as a sculptor and was a soldier when he was 40. When an oracle declared that he was the wisest man in the world, he devoted the rest of his life as a speaker and teacher.

But what kind of a teacher was he? Unlike many teachers today, he was famous for saying that “I only know that I know nothing.” He believed that he, as well as his students, were ignorant and through a series of questioning, the students will be educated. His belief is that he cannot teach anybody anything. He can only make them think. He did not believe in providing answers for his students but engaged them in the discovery of truth.

Man, according to Socrates, was born good, but ignorance makes his actions bad. Therefore the only true virtue is knowledge. Through the process of argument and definitions of ethical ideas he believed that we could get on the right path. "Know thyself", he said. Hence his most famous quotation: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

Personally as an educator for over two decades, my favorite quotation is this : Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. To me this quotation reminds me that the responsibility for being educated lies with the students. As educators, we can only create the environment where students can learnt and discover truth.

Finally I lave you with the following observation which Socrates made about the youth in Athens.
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

It looks like this ancient man can still be relevant for us today.

The Ess

Thursday, November 27, 2008

APERA Slides

These are the set of slides that I have used for the paper I presented on 27th November at the Apera Conference. Feel free to give comments and lets continue to have a Socrates Dialgoue.

If you like to invite me to give a more detail presentation and workshop on how to do Socratic questioning do email me at To be effective I need between one and half to two hours.