Remembering Nelson Mandela and India’s Rocket Man Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam


December 6, 2017

Remembering Nelson Mandela and India’s Rocket Man Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam–Both were embodiment of Moral Leadership, which is sadly lacking in the world today. –Din Merican

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5 Principles for Moral Leadership

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-paul-rollert/benjamin-franklin-ethics_b_2544857.html

Accomplished leaders are like master craftsmen: their first principles are best practices, the felt wisdom of experience and reflection.

Take Benjamin Franklin. In his Autobiography, he describes 13 precepts for self-improvement he coined as a young man. They include Resolution (“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve”), Industry, (“Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions”), and Order (“Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time”).

Image result for benjamin franklin on moral leadership
Image result for benjamin franklin on moral leadership

When the penniless printer from Philadelphia became one of the leading men in America, his admirers understood the enormous benefit his example could provide. “[Y]ou yourself framed a plan by which you became considerable,” observed one, who implored Franklin to share it in hopes of “aiding all happiness, both public and domestic.”

For inspiration, I assign Franklin’s Autobiography to students in my business ethics class at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Then I challenge them to derive principles of their own with an eye toward strong moral leadership. With their permission, I wanted to share five favorites from my fall class.

1. Put a Face on It

Unlike Franklin’s experience, many of our work relationships will involve people we will never meet. Dan, an IT professional, makes the obvious but often overlooked point that it is “easy to engage in unethical or immoral behavior when you don’t have to see the person whom you are affecting.” Accordingly, he always tries to put a face with a name, finding photos of the people he interacts with on LinkedIn or other online directories. “Associating a face with the interactions reminds me that my actions affect a real person,” he says, “not just some faceless name in an email address line.”

2. Manage by Listening Rather Than Telling

Unusually precocious, Franklin knew the awkward status of being junior in age but senior in position. Drawing on her own experience working for an industrial supplier, Lindsay observes that a promising associate is often placed in a leadership role “before she may be ready,” with the result that she finds herself “fighting an uphill battle to do well and gain the respect of those around her with more tenure and experience.” Accordingly, Lindsay contends that one must establish a professional dynamic of mutual respect. “I am only successful if the people I manage have my back and respect me,” she says. “I am nothing if I do not respect and support the work that they do day in and day out.

3. Be Flexible, Not Dogmatic

Franklin’s rejection of a rigid approach to problem solving spoke to Drew, a corporate trust analyst. “Businesses leaders need to be flexible and not dogmatic about their beliefs and intellectual frameworks,” he says. Reflecting on Alan Greenspan’s leadership in the years before the financial crisis, he faults the former Fed Chair not for failing to anticipate the crisis, but for believing that such an event could never occur. “Greenspan relied too heavily on frameworks,” he says, “and not enough on doing everything in his power to rationally understand what was going on and make adjustments to his policies as needed.” For Drew, strict adherence to dogma not only binds a leader’s hands, it can blind him to problems his framework won’t admit.

4. Follow Published Rules of Conduct

Franklin wrote his precepts in a memorandum book he carried with him wherever he went. The aim was to remind him of the behavior he aspired to — and to shame him whenever he failed to live up to it. An executive at a Fortune 50 company, Megan observes that, while the “Code of Conduct” is a mainstay of the modern office, “many people disregard these published rules.” Such a tendency not only undermines the rules, when managers flout them, it reinforces a spirit of lawlessness. A fish rots from the head down. If rules are important enough to be written down, they are important enough to be followed — by everyone.

5. Respect the Bottom Line, but Don’t Worship It

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“[A]fter getting the first hundred Pound,” Franklin observed in the Autobiography, “it is more easy to get the second.” Yet, as Patrick, a student with experience working in renewable energy, observes, the additional gain can sometimes come at too high a cost. “I don’t believe that the pursuit of profit on its face is immoral,” he says, but “I do believe that a relentless focus on profit often leads to immoral behavior.” The same may be said for any single-minded focus that excludes all other goods. For leaders, a sense of perspective and an ability to step back are essential to balancing moral integrity with corporate mission. At the same time, Patrick notes, the emergence of companies that have double or triple bottom lines of profit, social impact, and sustainability “indicates that certain businesses either share this principle or have very slick PR teams.”

Benjamin Franklin wasn’t above a little “slick PR” — how else to explain a book where one presents himself as a paragon of self-improvement? — but he believed that the appearance of integrity would inevitably be undone without the reality in support of it. The principles described above are no doubt demanding, but so is any standard of leadership worth the trouble of writing down.

John Paul Rollert teaches business ethics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Thanks, Zainah Anwar, for Your 2017 Toast to living honestly


December 5, 2017

Thanks, Zainah Anwar, for Your  2017 Toast to living honestly

by Zainah Anwar@www.thestar.com.my

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So to all those reading this column, do not allow regrets to paralyse your life. There is still time to make the choices you need to make to live the life you want, and not what others expect of you. So, here’s to a new year of living honestly.–Zainah Anwar

AS 2017 comes to a close and we head into yet another new year, I want to share this discussion I heard on radio on the subject of regret. It was based on a book by an Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, on The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

The pain of those regrets were so huge that she said she knew she did not want to end up like that. It made so much sense and I thought what a good way to start the new year with a new resolve to live life with courage and to make conscious choices to make it worth living.

According to Ware, the most common regret of the dying is their lack of courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.

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This was the most painful regret because as they looked back, they realised that their lives were shaped and defined by others, and their dreams were unfulfilled because of the choices they had made, or not made. And the older you are, the more your regrets centre on the choices not made.

You regret because this was something that was within your control, but you made those choices to make others happy, instead of you happy.

Some years ago, I heard a radio interview with a gay rights activist who was pressured for years by his father to give up being gay (as if that was a choice) and to get married and have children.

One day, in yet another fight with his father, he said: “How many people must be unhappy in order for you to be happy?”

I thought that was a profound statement. Indeed, it was that statement that finally made his father see the light and accepted his son’s sexual identity. I admired him for his courage and honesty to be persistent and frank with his father and to make that difficult decision to be true to himself.

The second most common regret is, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. I guess few people die wishing they had worked harder.

It seems this regret afflicted mostly men who missed out on their children’s youth and the companionship of their wives. They regretted that they had not honoured other aspects of their lives, like care giving and being there for their loved ones.

It’s good to know that many younger men these days make the time to care for their children and actually find joy in that.

Some friends even have regular “date nights” with their husbands, making sure that just the two of them go out for dinner to talk – to catch up with each other’s thoughts and feelings and ideas and plans.

The third most common regret is one that I thought only afflicted emotionally repressed Asians. But it seems everyone wishes they had the courage to voice their feelings. I bet many more women expressed this regret than men as women often suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others.

These regrets are mostly over relationships. They regret for not speaking up in their own defence and not treating themselves with the kindness they deserve. They regret for not telling their children, partners, friends how much they loved them. They regret staying in, or leaving, or not pursuing relationships.

Such regrets can do damage to body and mind. At best, you feel like punching yourself for not having the courage to speak out against a hurt, an injustice; at worst people develop illnesses and suffer chronic stress because of bitterness and resentment bottled up for months, years or lifetimes.

Whenever I am angry or upset, I will always ask myself if this person or this incident is worth my time and my emotion getting livid over

Most of the time they are not; and if they are, I will set a time limit to my negative feelings. Usually not more than three days. Then life must go on. Either get the feeling out of your system, or get that toxic person out of your life. Although, I must admit that for those with spouses, this is easier said than done.

An activist friend who works with single mothers said she regretted crying for three years over the breakdown of her marriage. In hindsight, the man was worth just three days of tears. And she should have gotten on with her new life much earlier.

The fourth most common regret is, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Families naturally go into grief in the presence of loved ones dying. But Ware said that person actually wants to live as fully as they can. They want joy brought to the bed, they want to hear laughter, and birds singing.

They want to know what’s going on outside. They don’t want to stop living until the body stops breathing. Old friends tell stories of a past their adult children are not a part of and this brings joy to the dying.

But there are friends who don’t know what to say to a dying person, except look on with grief that the person’s life is coming to an end.

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I remember my father who passed away two months short of his 100th birthday expressing indignation when his surau friends came to visit and sat there in silence and sorrow.

When they left, he turned to me and said, “Do they think I am dying?” He still wanted to live and to know what’s going on in the outside world.

The fifth regret, says Ware, is a surprising one: “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice, that life is a choice; and they did not exercise the choices they could have made.

Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content, that things were all right, when deep within, they longed to laugh heartily and loudly and feel a lightness of being.

We feel the biggest regrets over things that are within our control. That is why it is such a negative emotion.

So to all those reading this column, do not allow regrets to paralyse your life. There is still time to make the choices you need to make to live the life you want, and not what others expect of you. So, here’s to a new year of living honestly.

Why Socrates couldn’t hack it in today’s public schools


November 27,2017

Why Socrates couldn’t hack it in today’s public schools

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-socrates-couldnt-hack-it-in-todays-public-schools/2017/11/24/6a549974-c98a-11e7-8321-481fd63f174d_story.html?utm_term=.3762afd97241

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David R. Kahn retired in June from Sandy Springs Friends School in Sandy Springs.

Retired at last, after 36 years teaching at a private school just north of Washington, I’d like to offer some advice from “Mr. Chips.”

In June, when I taught Plato’s “Dialogues” to my last students in my last class, I told them that what Socrates said some 2,500 years ago is just as relevant today. Some of the definitions might have shifted a bit — what Socrates meant by “piety” is not quite what we mean today — but what lies behind the word choices is every bit as important.

Then it occurred to me that the old boy is probably better off dead.

What would happen, I wondered, if we hired Socrates to teach in a modern high school? He probably would get in trouble with the counselors for beating up on the students’ self-esteem — never giving them an answer, just pointing out where their arguments failed.

“If Euthyphro never experiences success, how can he ever come to understand piety? You need to ease up there, Soc.”

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Socrates did not run a student-centered classroom. It’s clear that Socrates was capable of dealing with only one type of learner. The learning specialists would be all over him for that.

When Phaedo asked about the nature of the afterlife, weren’t Socrates’ “questions” a bit . . . constrictive? Had Phaedo been allowed to write a poem, create a mobile, or cut out and paste up the front page of an imaginary newspaper that one might read when one gets . . . wherever . . . Socrates could have appealed to Phaedo’s “multiple intelligences ” and Phaedo could have “experienced success.”

Crito found it difficult to accept Socrates’ definition of justice. It’s a strict one, all right. No problem, says today’s academic adviser: Drop the class. You don’t want it lowering your grade-point average, and you don’t need the dialogue to graduate.

Charmides and Socrates discussed the meaning of self-control. That’s easy, says the school nurse: There is no such thing. Everything is biologically determined. Charmides can’t be held responsible for most of what he does. As soon as we get his medications figured out, maybe then. The counselor agrees. As does the learning specialist.

Timaeus would have been glad to write his three-page paper on the nature of the physical world, due today, but he had another paper due for his creative writing class and he hadn’t felt inspired. And he has a test tomorrow. Plus, those pesky college essays are hanging over his head, so his parents have called him in sick today. He will be in this afternoon for the soccer game, though.

Meno has his college essays done, has no tests or papers coming soon, and is ready and eager to talk about the nature of virtue. But he has a field trip, so he’ll be gone all day. But it’s Tuesday, a “B day,” so Socrates’ class doesn’t meet anyhow. Maybe tomorrow?

No — tomorrow Meno and all of the sophomores are meeting all day with the group from Spartans Are People Too! They’ll break up into small groups, form some affinity groups, paste some Post-it notes on the walls and publish their ideas online. Maybe we could ask Meno to come in after the game?

Nah. He’ll be tired. After all, he’s the goalie. The poor guy. All those balls coming at his head.

The Work You Do, the Person You Are–Self Esteem


October 30, 2017

The Work You Do, the Person You Are

The pleasure of being necessary to my parents was profound. I was not like the children in folktales: burdensome mouths to feed.

By Toni Morrison

http://www.newyorker.com

Illustration by Christoph Niemann

All I had to do for the two dollars was clean her house for a few hours after school. It was a beautiful house, too, with a plastic-covered sofa and chairs, wall-to-wall blue-and-white carpeting, a white enamel stove, a washing machine and a dryer—things that were common in Her neighborhood, absent in mine. In the middle of the war, She had butter, sugar, steaks, and seam-up-the-back stockings.

I knew how to scrub floors on my knees and how to wash clothes in our zinc tub, but I had never seen a Hoover vacuum cleaner or an iron that wasn’t heated by fire.

Part of my pride in working for jer was earning money I could squander: on movies, candy, paddleballs, jacks, ice-cream cones. But a larger part of my pride was based on the fact that I gave half my wages to my mother, which meant that some of my earnings were used for real things—an insurance-policy payment or what was owed to the milkman or the iceman. The pleasure of being necessary to my parents was profound. I was not like the children in folktales: burdensome mouths to feed, nuisances to be corrected, problems so severe that they were abandoned to the forest. I had a status that doing routine chores in my house did not provide—and it earned me a slow smile, an approving nod from an adult. Confirmations that I was adultlike, not childlike.

In those days, the forties, children were not just loved or liked; they were needed. They could earn money; they could care for children younger than themselves; they could work the farm, take care of the herd, run errands, and much more. I suspect that children aren’t needed in that way now. They are loved, doted on, protected, and helped. Fine, and yet . . .

Image result for Toni Morrison Toni Morrison receives Presidential Medal of Freedom. Toni Morrison, the renowned author and the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Princeton University, was named by President Barack Obama a 2012 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Little by little, I got better at cleaning her house—good enough to be given more to do, much more. I was ordered to carry bookcases upstairs and, once, to move a piano from one side of a room to the other. I fell carrying the bookcases. And after pushing the piano my arms and legs hurt so badly. I wanted to refuse, or at least to complain, but I was afraid she would fire me, and I would lose the freedom the dollar gave me, as well as the standing I had at home—although both were slowly being eroded. She began to offer me her clothes, for a price. Impressed by these worn things, which looked simply gorgeous to a little girl who had only two dresses to wear to school, I bought a few. Until my mother asked me if I really wanted to work for castoffs. So I learned to say “No, thank you” to a faded sweater offered for a quarter of a week’s pay.

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“Make a difference about something other than yourselves.”– Toni Morrison– https://www.brainyquote.com

Still, I had trouble summoning the courage to discuss or object to the increasing demands she made. And I knew that if I told my mother how unhappy I was she would tell me to quit. Then one day, alone in the kitchen with my father, I let drop a few whines about the job. I gave him details, examples of what troubled me, yet although he listened intently, I saw no sympathy in his eyes. No “Oh, you poor little thing.” Perhaps he understood that what I wanted was a solution to the job, not an escape from it. In any case, he put down his cup of coffee and said, “Listen. You don’t live there. You live here. With your people. Go to work. Get your money. And come on home.”

That was what he said. This was what I heard:

  1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.

  2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.

  3. Your real life is with us, your family.

  4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.

I have worked for all sorts of people since then, geniuses and morons, quick-witted and dull, bighearted and narrow. I’ve had many kinds of jobs, but since that conversation with my father I have never considered the level of labor to be the measure of myself, and I have never placed the security of a job above the value of home. ♦

Listen to Noam Chomsky


October 25, 2017

Listen to Noam Chomsky–The Public Intellectual of My Generation

Noam Chomsky first involved himself in active political protest against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in 1962, speaking on the subject at small gatherings in churches and homes.[82] However, it was not until 1967 that he publicly entered the debate on United States foreign policy.[83] In February he published a widely read essay in The New York Review of Books entitled “The Responsibility of Intellectuals“, in which he criticized the country’s involvement in the conflict; the essay was based on an earlier talk that he had given to Harvard’s Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.[84] He expanded on his argument to produce his first political book, American Power and the New Mandarins, which was published in 1969 and soon established him at the forefront of American dissent.[85] His other political books of the time included At War with Asia (1971), The Backroom Boys (1973), For Reasons of State (1973), and Peace in the Middle East? (1975), published by Pantheon Books.[86] Coming to be associated with the American New Left movement,[87] he nevertheless thought little of prominent New Left intellectuals Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, and preferred the company of activists to intellectuals.[88] Although The New York Review of Books did publish contributions from Chomsky and other leftists from 1967 to 1973, when an editorial change put a stop to it,[89] he was virtually ignored by the rest of the mainstream press throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.[90]

Along with his writings, Chomsky also became actively involved in left-wing activism. Refusing to pay half his taxes, he publicly supported students who refused the draft, and was arrested for being part of an anti-war teach-in outside the Pentagon.[91] During this time, Chomsky, along with Mitchell Goodman, Denise Levertov, William Sloane Coffin, and Dwight Macdonald, also founded the anti-war collective RESIST.[92] Although he questioned the objectives of the 1968 student protests,[93] he gave many lectures to student activist groups; furthermore, he and his colleague Louis Kampf began running undergraduate courses on politics at MIT, independently of the conservative-dominated political science department.[94] During this period, MIT’s various departments were researching helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam and, as Chomsky says, “a good deal of [nuclear] missile guidance technology was developed right on the MIT campus”.[95] As Chomsky elaborates, “[MIT was] about 90% Pentagon funded at that time. And I personally was right in the middle of it. I was in a military lab … the Research Laboratory for Electronics.”[96] By 1969, student activists were actively campaigning “to stop the war research” at MIT.[97] Chomsky was sympathetic to the students but he also thought it best to keep such research on campus and he proposed that it should be restricted to what he called “systems of a purely defensive and deterrent character”.[98] During this period, MIT had six of its anti-war student activists sentenced to prison terms. Chomsky says MIT’s students suffered things that “should not have happened”, though he has also described MIT as “the freest and the most honest and has the best relations between faculty and students than at any other … [with] quite a good record on civil liberties”.[99] In 1970 he visited the Vietnamese city of Hanoi to give a lecture at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology; on this trip he also toured Laos to visit the refugee camps created by the war, and in 1973 he was among those leading a committee to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the War Resisters League.[100]

President Richard Nixon placed Chomsky on his ‘Enemies List’. As a result of his anti-war activism, Chomsky was ultimately arrested on multiple occasions, and U.S. President Richard Nixon included him on the master version of his Enemies List.[101] He was aware of the potential repercussions of his civil disobedience, and his wife began studying for her own Ph.D. in linguistics in order to support the family in the event of Chomsky’s imprisonment or loss of employment.[102] However, MIT – despite being under some pressure to do so – refused to fire him due to his influential standing in the field of linguistics.[103] His work in this area continued to gain international recognition; in 1967 he received honorary doctorates from both the University of London and the University of Chicago .[104] In 1970, Loyola University and Swarthmore College also awarded him honorary D.H.L.’s, as did Bard College in 1971, Delhi University in 1972, and the University of Massachusetts in 1973.[105]

In 1971 Chomsky gave the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lectures at the University of Cambridge, which were published as Problems of Knowledge and Freedom later that year. He also delivered the Whidden Lectures at McMaster University, the Huizinga Lecture at Leiden University in the Netherlands, the Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia University, and the Kant Lectures at Stanford University.[106] In 1971 he partook in a televised debate with French philosopher Michel Foucault on Dutch television, entitled Human Nature: Justice versus Power.[107] Although largely agreeing with Foucault’s ideas, he was critical of post-modernism and French philosophy generally, believing that post-modern leftist philosophers used obfuscating language which did little to aid the cause of the working-classes[108] and lambasting France as having “a highly parochial and remarkably illiterate culture”.[109] Chomsky also continued to publish prolifically in linguistics, publishing Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar (1972),[103] an enlarged edition of Language and Mind (1972),[110] and Reflections on Language (1975).[110] In 1974 he became a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.[106]

 

 

 

NY Times Book Review: Three Inquiries into Religion


October 21, 2017

Three Inquiries Into Religion

by James Ryerson@www.nytimes.com

Three exciting books on Religion by a Philosopher, a Man of Science and a Theologian

 

Contemporary debate about religion seems to be going nowhere. Atheists persist with their arguments, many plausible and some unanswerable, but these make no impact on religious believers. Defenders of religion find atheists equally unwilling to cede ground. The Meaning of Belief offers a way out of this stalemate.

An atheist himself, Tim Crane writes that there is a fundamental flaw with most atheists’ basic approach: religion is not what they think it is. Atheists tend to treat religion as a kind of primitive cosmology, as the sort of explanation of the universe that science offers. They conclude that religious believers are irrational, superstitious, and bigoted. But this view of religion is almost entirely inaccurate. Crane offers an alternative account based on two ideas. The first is the idea of a religious impulse: the sense people have of something transcending the world of ordinary experience, even if it cannot be explicitly articulated. The second is the idea of identification: the fact that religion involves belonging to a specific social group and participating in practices that reinforce the bonds of belonging. Once these ideas are properly understood, the inadequacy of atheists’ conventional conception of religion emerges.

The Meaning of Belief does not assess the truth or falsehood of religion. Rather, it looks at the meaning of religious belief and offers a way of understanding it that both makes sense of current debate and also suggests what more intellectually responsible and practically effective attitudes atheists might take to the phenomenon of religion.

 

Image result for Religion :What It is,How it works, and why it matters by Richard Dawkins

Religion: What It is, How It works, and Why It Matters (Princeton University)–Richard Dawkins

Image result for john f. haught The New Cosmic Story

John F. Haught: The  New Cosmic Story: Inside Our Awakening Universe (Yale University)

John Haught is a distinguished theologian who has spent his long career thinking through connections between our outer world revealed by science and the inner experiential world of religion, and has a seasoned grasp of the literature in both realms. Not just a philosophical argument, beautifully precise prose guides the reader through the veil separating the physical-and-objective from the subjective-and-spiritual. He points out that only recently have we determined that the cosmos is not “fixed” but rather is a still evolving (awakening) narrative in which the evolutionary emergence of life and mind are major milestones. He draws attention to the unseen explosion in recent millennia of subjectively experienced, interior life, of which religion is the major expression (as well as literature, media, etc.)

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Theologian John F. Haught

The main theme of the book is to redirect our seeking from the past into the future: we are submerged within an unfolding cosmic drama in which the unifying principles of meaning, goodness, beauty, and truth, what Haught summarizes as rightness, all lie in the “horizon” up ahead of us. Haught’s is a spiral argument in which the general project is plainly manifest from the very beginning, and then, as you proceed through each chapter, your understanding effortlessly deepens; old concepts come alive, as faith is welded to patience and prayer to anticipation.