Tales of Zen wisdom – The gift of insults

By Paulo Coelho

Near Tokyo lived a great Samurai warrior, now old, who decided to teach Zen Buddhism to young people. In spite of his age, the legend was that he could defeat any adversary.

One afternoon, a warrior – known for his complete lack of scruples – arrived there. He was famous for using techniques of provocation: he waited until his adversary made the first move and, being gifted with an enviable intelligence in order to repair any mistakes made, he counterattacked with fulminating speed.

The young and impatient warrior had never lost a fight. Hearing of the Samurai’s reputation, he had come to defeat him, and increase his fame.

All the students were against the idea, but the old man accepted the challenge.

All gathered on the town square, and the young man started insulting the old master. He threw a few rocks in his direction, spat in his face, shouted every insult under the sun – he even insulted his ancestors. For hours, he did everything to provoke him, but the old man remained impassive. At the end of the afternoon, by now feeling exhausted and humiliated, the impetuous warrior left.

Disappointed by the fact that the master had received so many insults and provocations, the students asked:

– How could you bear such indignity? Why didn’t you use your sword, even knowing you might lose the fight, instead of displaying your cowardice in front of us all?

– If someone comes to you with a gift, and you do not accept it, who does the gift belong to? – asked the Samurai.

– He who tried to deliver it – replied one of his disciples.

– The same goes for envy, anger and insults – said the master. – When they are not accepted, they continue to belong to the one who carried them.

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My Keynote Message for the Meeting on [email protected] Crossroads – a future without violent radicalization

Dear readers,
Below you may find a text that I wrote recently for the Unesco about the radicalization of Youth.

When I was invited by the Director-General of UNESCO (…) I felt a great deal of responsibility and, I will not hide it, grief.

(…)

Even before sitting at my desk to write this text, sad images started to crowd my mind. I could see an army of children, bare foot, walking down a dusty path that would lead them to their certain death. I could see some of them actually smiling, holding carelessly their light AK-47s, and heading towards war.

(…)

I keep on seeing these images and the feeling of powerlessness grips me. What can one do against a rising number of children soldiers? Of children slaves?

(…)

To read the integrality of this discourse : please go here

CIA lawyer told military in 2002 that illegal torture was ‘vaguely’ defined

I’ve stumbled upon this article by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane in the International Herald Tribune.

When U.S. military officers at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, struggled in the autumn of 2002 to find ways to get terrorism suspects to talk, they turned to the one agency that had spent several months experimenting with the limits of physical and psychological pressure: the Central Intelligence Agency.

They took the top lawyer for the CIA Counterterrorist Center to Guantánamo, where he explained that the definition of illegal torture was “written vaguely.”

“It is basically subject to perception,” said the lawyer, Jonathan Fredman, according to meeting minutes that were made public Tuesday at a Senate hearing. “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

The minutes of the October 2002 meeting give an extraordinary glimpse of the confusion among government lawyers about both the legal limits and the effectiveness of interrogation methods. They also reveal for the first time the close collaboration between the CIA and the Defense Department on harsh interrogation methods.

The meeting at Guantánamo showed how CIA lawyers believed they had found a legal loophole permitting the agency to use “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods overseas as long as they did not amount to torture.

In “rare instances, aggressive techniques have proven very helpful,” Fredman said, according to the minutes.

At the meeting, lawyers talked openly about the “need to curb the harsher operations” during visits from observers with the International Committee of the Red Cross and about moving some prisoners to keep them out of sight at those times.

And Fredman warned his military counterparts never to videotape aggressive interrogations because they will “look ugly.”

The hearing was the first in a series of sessions planned by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has spent the last two years investigating the origins of the harsh methods that found their way to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Much of the hearing focused on how interrogation techniques used by the Pentagon to train military personnel to withstand the rigors of captivity had been reverse engineered for use against detainees in U.S. custody. The techniques, based on the treatment that American prisoners might expect from Cold War enemies, were used both by the CIA at its secret overseas jails for suspected high-level members of Al Qaeda and at Guantánamo and other military detention centers.

A military psychologist who studies the effect of those techniques on U.S. forces told the Senate panel how concerned he was upon learning in 2002 that one of the techniques, waterboarding, was being considered for use against terrorism suspects.

“I responded by asking, ‘Wouldn’t that be illegal?”‘ said the psychologist, Jerald Ogrisseg.

The military never used waterboarding, which simulates the experience of drowning, but the CIA used it on three prisoners with the approval of the Justice Department.

Three weeks after the meeting, Mark Fallon, deputy commander of the Criminal Investigation Task Force at Guantánamo, wrote an e-mail message expressing shock at the language of Fredman and others in the meeting minutes.

Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

You are known as a writer with great influence on public. If you were the one who direct humanitarian activities, to which sphere of activity you would orientate humanitarianism : Sting is trying to rescue the tropical rain forest, Bono lectures to leaders of the strongest states, Sharon Stone collect financial resources for humanitarian purposes, Gilberto Gil is a Minister of Culture. Have you ever thought or wished to politically engaged?

I think that it is everyone’s responsibility to be involved in one�s community. I’ve always been very skeptical about people that say: “I want to save the world, help others!” This is because to save the “world” is a Sisyphus project : too abstract to actually be put into practice. What is possible – and the most difficult task – is to first look at oneself and try to identify what’s wrong. Before searching for the other, one has to find oneself.
I took forty years to find myself � to accept my dream: to become a writer. Only when I started to walk down the path of my personal legend was I able to honestly turn myself towards others: before that there were too many walls inside my soul.
I looked around me and said: “I can’t change the world, I can’t change my country, I can’t change my city, I can’t even change my neighborhood! what I can change is my street.” That’s when I went to a favela ” in Rio favelas are in the center of the city � and met a group of people that were taking care of children. Since then I’ve been cooperating with them and now we take care of 430 children.

EU votes to unify rules on detention of migrants

Today, I found this article in the IHT by Caroline Brothers. I wanted to share with you this pathetic news.

European Union lawmakers voted Wednesday to allow countries in the bloc to hold undocumented migrants in detention centers for up to 18 months and ban them from EU territory for five years.

Approved in this medieval French border city, which is home to a significant population of North Africans and Turks, the legislation establishes common rules for expelling foreigners who are detained on EU territory without permission to be there.

Described by critics like Amnesty International as “severely flawed” and an erosion of human rights standards, but by supporters as a balanced approach, the so-called return directive passed in the European Parliament by a vote of 369 to 197, with 106 deputies abstaining.

(…)

Cimade released a statement Wednesday saying that it deplored the passage of what civil liberties groups have called “the directive of shame,” and said it was studying the possibility of contesting it before the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights.

(…)

The vote came a day after António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said that the world was dealing with “a complex mix of global challenges” that could threaten even more forced displacements than the 37.4 million people last year.

To read the whole article, please go here.

Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

How is changing your relation to the world? Are you becoming optimistic or pessimistic? Why?

Injustice exists and I can’t pretend to have an answer for that. I’m not a guru and I can’t explain why bad things happen to honest people. It’s also true that evil is much more visible than good. See how easy it is to destroy and how laborious it is to build. Nevertheless I think that we are all responsible if the world is the way it is. That’s why instead of looking for the guilty, we should look at our attitudes and ourselves. We cannot set out to change the world but we can try to change ourselves. If we are capable of that: of mending our ways, of being generous to life, then we will be able to see that good is everywhere. There’s a wide range of heroes that work in silence and that try to enhance the state of the world.

Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

All your books have an obvious mystical feature. Do you think that your success all over the world is due to that?

They don’t, and Eleven Minutes is an example of that. My books deal with human conflicts, and although the spiritual quest is one of this conflicts, it is not the only one.

Quote of the Day

By Paulo Coelho

The Warrior of Light knows that there are occasional pauses in the struggle.
(Manual of the Warrior of Light)

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A man lying on the ground

By Paulo Coelho

On 1st July, at 13:05 hrs., there was a man aged about fifty lying on the promenade in Copacabana. I passed him with a glance and went on my way towards a stall where I always drink fresh coconut water.

Being from Rio, I’ve passed hundreds (thousands?) of men, women and children lying on the ground. As someone who travels, I’ve seen the same scene in practically all the countries I’ve been to – from wealthy Sweden to dire Romania. I’ve seen people lying in the street in all seasons of the year: in the biting winter of Madrid, New York or Paris, where they huddle around the warm air floating up from the subway stations. In the relentless sun of Lebanon, among buildings destroyed by years of war. People lying on the ground – drunks, homeless, tired – are not a novelty for anyone.

I drank my coconut water. I was in a hurry to get back for an interview with Juan Arias, from the Spanish newspaper El Paí­s. On the way, I saw the man was still there, in the sunshine – and everyone who passed acted in exactly the same way as I had: they looked, and walked on.

The fact is – not that I was aware of this – my soul was tired of seeing the same scene, over and over again. When I passed that man again, something great force made me kneel down and try to help him up.

He didn’t react. I turned his head, and there was blood near his temple. Now what? Was it a serious wound? I cleaned his face with my shirt: it didn’t look serious.

Just then, the man started mumbling something which sounded like: “tell them to stop beating me.” Well, at least he was alive; now all I had to do was get him out of the sun and call the police.

I stopped the first man passing and asked him to help me drag him to the shade between the promenade and the beach. He was wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase and parcels, but he put them down and came to help me – his soul must also have been tired of seeing that scene.

Having got the man into the shade, I walked towards my building, knowing there was a police post on the way, where I could get help. But before getting there, I passed two policemen.

– A man has been hurt over there opposite number such-and-such, I said. I put him on the sand. You should send for an ambulance.

The policemen said they’d make arrangements. Right, now I’d done my duty. A good scout, “Be Prepared”. Do a good turn daily! The problem was in the hands of others now, they were responsible. And the Spanish journalist would be arriving at my place in a few minutes.

I hadn’t gone ten places when a foreign man stopped me. He spoke in broken Portuguese:

– I had already told the police about the man on the sidewalk. They said that as long as he wasn’t a thief, it was none of their business.

I didn’t let the man finish. I walked back to the policemen, certain that they knew who I was, someone who wrote in the newspapers and appeared on television. I returned with the false impression that success can, at times, help to resolve many things.

– Do you belong to some official authority? – one of them asked, noticing that I’d asked for help more urgently this time.

They had no idea who I was.

– No. But let’s solve this problem right now.

I was badly dressed, my shirt stained with the man’s blood, my shorts were made from an old pair of jeans I had torn up, and I was sweating. I was an ordinary, anonymous man, without any authority beyond that of having grown tired of seeing people lying on the ground, for dozens of years, without ever having done a single thing about it.

And that changed everything. There’s a moment when you go beyond any mental block or fear. A moment when your eyes look different, and people know you’re being serious. The policemen went with me and called an ambulance.

On the way home, I reflected on the three lessons from my walk. a] everyone can stop an action when it is pure romanticism. b] there’s always someone there to say: “now you’ve started, go all the way.” And, finally: c] everyone is an authority, when he is quite convinced of what he is doing.

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The weapon of rape

Today, while browsing the IHT I came upon this editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof

World leaders fight terrorism all the time, with summit meetings and sound bites and security initiatives. But they have studiously ignored one of the most common and brutal varieties of terrorism in the world today.

This is a kind of terrorism that disproportionately targets children. It involves not WMD but simply AK-47s, machetes and pointed sticks. It is mass rape – and it will be elevated, belatedly, to a spot on the international agenda this week.

“Rape in war has been going on since time immemorial,” said Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador who was the UN’s envoy for AIDS in Africa. “But it has taken a new twist as commanders have used it as a strategy of war.”

There are two reasons for this. First, mass rape is very effective militarily. From the viewpoint of a militia, getting into a firefight is risky, so it’s preferable to terrorize civilians sympathetic to a rival group and drive them away, depriving the rivals of support.

Second, mass rape attracts less international scrutiny than piles of bodies do, because the issue is indelicate and the victims are usually too ashamed to speak up.

In Sudan, the government has turned Darfur into a rape camp. The first person to alert me to this was Zahra Abdelkarim, who had been kidnapped, gang-raped, mutilated – slashed with a sword on her leg – and then left naked and bleeding to wander back to her Zaghawa tribe. In effect, she had become a message to her people: Flee, or else.

Since then, this practice of “marking” the Darfur rape victims has become widespread: typically, the women are scarred or branded, or occasionally have their ears cut off. This is often done by police officers or soldiers, in uniform, as part of a coordinated government policy.

When the governments of South Africa, China, Libya and Indonesia support Sudan’s positions in Darfur, do they really mean to adopt a pro-rape foreign policy?

The rape capital of the world is eastern Congo, where in some areas three-quarters of women have been raped. Sometimes the rapes are conducted with pointed sticks that leave the victims incontinent from internal injuries. A former UN force commander there, Patrick Cammaert, says it is “more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier.”

The international community’s response so far? Approximately: “Not our problem.”

To read the rest of the article, please go here.

Italy defends move to patrol streets with soldiers

Today, I found in Digg, this interesting article by Reuters.

“The Italian government has defended its decision to use soldiers to patrol cities in an effort to curb crime, rejecting criticism that it will “militarise” the streets.

(…)

The government announced on Friday that up to 2,500 soldiers, some of whom have served in Afghanistan and Kosovo, would be made available for a trial period of six months to bolster the police in difficult urban areas.

Silvio Berlusconi’s new conservative government won an April election on a law-and-order ticket, and crime and public safety have stayed on top of the political agenda since Mr Berlusconi took office.

The government’s decision was attacked by the centre-left opposition, with Roberta Pinotti, defence spokesman for the Democratic party, expressing “firm opposition to the militarisation of the streets”.

(…)

To read the rest of the article, please go here

US quits Human Rights Council?

Today in Digg, I came upon this article by Carole Vann and Juan Gasparini for the Human Rights Tribune :

There was widespread consternation on Friday at the Palais des Nations in Geneva when the US mission gave up his observer status – a step backwards for human rights around the world, says Human Rights Watch.

The news that the US has completely withdrawn from the Human Rights Council spread like wildfire Friday afternoon (June 6) through the corridors of the Palais des Nations in Geneva. There was general consternation amongst diplomats and NGOS. Reached by phone, the American mission in Geneva neither confirmed nor denied the report. Although unofficial, the news comes at a time of long opposition by the Bush administration to the reforms which created the Human Rights Council in June 2006. Washington announced from the beginning that the US would not be an active member but its observer status would mean that it could intervene during the sessions. To date even this has rarely happened.

(…)

To read the rest of the article please go here.

Who is right?

Today while reading the IHT, I found this very interesting article by Elaine Sciolino and Eric Schmitt for the NYT:

A bitter personal struggle between two powerful figures in the world of terrorism has broken out, forcing their followers to choose sides. This battle is not being fought in the rugged no man’s land on the Pakistani-Afghan border. It is a contest reverberating inside the Beltway between two of America’s leading theorists on terrorism and how to fight it, two men who hold opposing views on the very nature of the threat.

On one side is Bruce Hoffman, a cerebral 53-year-old Georgetown University historian and author of the highly respected 1998 book “Inside Terrorism.” He argues that Al Qaeda is alive, well, resurgent and more dangerous than it has been in several years. In his corner, he said, is a battalion of mainstream academics and a National Intelligence Estimate issued last summer warning that Al Qaeda had reconstituted in Pakistan.

On the other side is Marc Sageman, an iconoclastic 55-year-old Polish-born psychiatrist, sociologist, former CIA case officer and scholar-in-residence with the New York Police Department. His new book, “Leaderless Jihad,” argues that the main threat no longer comes from the organization called Al Qaeda, but from the bottom up – from radicalized individuals and groups who meet and plot in their neighborhoods and on the Internet. In his camp, he said, are agents and analysts in highly classified positions at the CIA and FBI.

(…)

To read the rest of the article, please go here.

To Digg the news, please go here.

Book traces Paulo Coelho’s rise from rebel to bestseller

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – During the course of his life, Paulo Coelho spent time in a mental institution, wrote several popular songs and became one of world’s best-selling authors with novels like “The Alchemist”.

But according to biographer Fernando Morais, that doesn’t begin to tell the story of the author’s life.

“O Mago” (“The Wizard”), a new biography of Coelho, reveals the wild, sometimes dark, past of the Brazilian writer, Morais said.

“It has everything. Violence, sex, religion, rock and roll, Satanism. And it ends with redemption, because his dream of being a famous writer comes true,” Morais said at a news conference in Sao Paulo.

(..)

“Paulo had so many crazy experiences you almost can’t believe it,” Morais said. “I felt like Indiana Jones when I opened that chest.”

(..)

To read the rest of the article , please go here.

To Digg the story, please go here.

There’s blame to go around in U.S. obesity epidemic

Today I submitted in Digg the following article that I read in the IHT by Richard Bernstein

“One of the smaller mysteries of life in New York is what was going on in the mind of the designer who created the narrow, plastic molded seats that we have on many of our subway lines – seats that seem to represent an ideal conception of a svelte public when the reality is that many of us are overweight or obese.

That subway seat that doesn’t fit is surely one of the lesser consequences of the increase in the collective girth, alarming statistics on which were reported last week by the Centers for Disease Control, the government agency headquartered in Atlanta that monitors public health.

(…)

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says that many lifestyle changes, like the move from high-activity farms to more sedentary suburbs, happened before the 1970s, when Americans were thinner. Meanwhile, the exercise and wellness craze and the fads of jogging, bicycling and working out with a personal trainer came along fairly recently, and ought, it would seem, to have counteracted the tendency to be overweight.

(…)

Three years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest studied the advertising on Nickelodeon, perhaps the most-watched of the children’s television channels. “We found 88 percent of food ads on Nickelodeon were for foods that were high in fats, salt or sugar, or were low in nutrients,” Wootan said.

The group did a similar study of marketing by Kellogg during Saturday morning children’s shows. The finding: “98 percent of the products advertised were of poor nutritional value,” Wootan said.

To be a child these days is to be bombarded nonstop by multifarious, wickedly clever and ubiquitous messages promoting unhealthy food, a campaign in which a whole host of supposedly wholesome, child-friendly companies are implicated, from the food companies themselves to Disney, which allows its characters to tell kids, in effect: Ignore your parents when those uncomprehending sticks-in-the-mud say “no.”

(…)

To read the rest of the article , please go here.

To Digg the story, please go here.

Reflections of the Warrior of the Light – The right renouncement

By Paulo Coelho

“In any activity, it is important to know what to expect, the means of obtaining the objective, and our capability for the proposed task.

“Only he who, thus equipped, feels no desire for the results of the conquest, and remains absorbed in the combat, can truly say he has renounced the fruit.

“One can renounce the fruit, but that renouncement does not mean indifference to the result.”

The warrior of the light listens respectfully to Ghandi’s strategy. And is not distracted by people who, incapable of achieving any result, are forever preaching renouncement.

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Post-War New World Map, 1942

Today in Digg, I found an interesting world map based in Roosevelt’s message to the 77th Congress on the state of the Union made on the 31st of march 1942. As you will see this map quarantines Germany, Japan and Italy – known as the countries of the Axis – and we see future enemies – US and URSS – together in this battle. I thought this was an interesting piece to share here with you : a look from the past towards the future.

World at 1942

Here’s an excerpt from the caption of this map:
“Outline of Post-War New World map as the USA, with the cooperation of the Democracies of Latin America, the British Commonwealth of Nations and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, assumes World Leadership for the establishment of a New World Moral Order for permanent Peace, Freedom, Justice, Security and World Reconstruction.”

To see the bigger map, click here.