WITNESSING MARTYRDOM

WALKING WITH THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS: 1968-1990
For me, following Jesus means to join the company of his followers. I cannot do it alone. I am not brave. I witnessed the martyrdom of those who followed Jesus as they fought for justice in Palestine and South Africa. But I am like the Roman centurion who watched Jesus die on the cross from a safe distance and said, “This man was innocent.”

The people I accompanied were following Jesus in varied ways. Some were agnostics, humanists, Christians, or Muslims. Regardless of different labels, they were moved by the same spirit. Like the centurion who might have been a pagan, they reached the same conclusion as Jesus’ followers. They gave themselves entirely to the cause of justice, love, and peace – salaam – shalom. When a theological college awarded me an honorary degree, I did not feel worthy. I accepted it to celebrate those followers of Jesus I had known and named them in my acceptance speech. I am a witness to those who paid the ultimate cost of discipleship.

People must wonder if I am a reckless adventurer seeking excitement by being involved in the struggles of Palestinians and South Africans. It was not like that. I took the job that came my way, and realized the price of the choices I had unwittingly made. Nevertheless, I wanted to run every time I came face-to-face with harsh reality, like Peter did.

We went to Africa because, after eleven years in my first pastoral charge, I wanted change. I applied for an overseas posting with the United Church of Canada. Norman McKenzie, the personnel officer of the Division on World Outreach, asked me, “Africa or Asia?” I said “Africa.” He asked, “Lesotho?” I had never heard of such a country, but I said, “Yes.” That’s how I stumbled into the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in 1968. Was I seeking an adventure? No.

Lesotho is a tiny land-locked mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa. The Paris Missionary Society of French Reformed Churches requested the United Church of Canada to recruit an English speaking person with a graduate degree in Theology. After a few months of orientation in Paris, we went to Lesotho where I met extraordinary colleagues and students. Some of their names you may recognize and others not, but each of them were equally committed to the struggle for justice.

Who were my colleagues and friends? Desmond Tutu was my colleague in Theology at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. John Osmers was the chaplain of the Student Christian Movement. Another colleague, Anthony Gann was already prohibited to enter South Africa. The university had many South African students who were activists in the Black Consciousness Movement created by Steve Biko. They came to avoid racially-segregated university education. One was Njabulo Ndebele, who later became President of the University of Cape Town. Another was Jama Mbeki, a brother of the second President of free South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Jama simply disappeared from the campus in 1971. To this day, nobody knows what happened to him.

Others died in the struggle. In 1976, Mapetla Mohapi was found dead in a prison cell in King Williams Town. He was probably killed while being tortured. Police were trying to find the names of overseas financial supporters of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), of which the World University Service (WUS), my later employer, was one. Mohapi was the treasurer of BCM. His wife, Nohle, wrote to me that it was the worst possible time for her. Their first child was just born and they just had a roof repaired. Griffith Mxenge, who was a lawyer for the BCM, was found shot dead on the street a few months after he and I had a meeting in Lesotho to discuss administrative matters. A year after Mohapi’s death, Steve Biko was beaten to death in the same prison. The whole world knows what happened to Steve Biko. But there was no real difference between those who lived or died. Following Jesus means one accepts the risk, the roll of the dice.

Two of my friends, both Anglican chaplains, John Osmers and Michael Lapsely, were nearly killed by parcel bombs. They lost a few limbs but survived. Abram Tiro was blown to bits in exile in Gaborone, Botswana, with a parcel bomb. The bombs were sent from Geneva, most likely by Craig Williamson who I had thought to be my good friend. He pretended to be a refugee. In 1980, Craig was exposed to be a spy for the South African Police. Sometimes following Jesus means you may run into Judas.

In January, 1971, I was detained at the Detention Centre in Johannesburg Airport while returning from a conference in Tanzania. Thereafter, I was expelled and prohibited further entry into the Republic of South Africa. At the time, I had no idea why it happened to me. I was not looking for trouble. I had not done or said anything subversive.

I stayed in Lesotho for five more years not being able to leave the land-locked country. Dentists were available only in South Africa. I had to ask someone to take my car into South Africa for service. To go outside of the country, I had to fly via a South African airport where I was required to be escorted by Canadian embassy staff. It became impossible to send my daughter to an English language secondary school outside of the country. We had to leave Southern Africa.

I took up a position in the World University Service (WUS) International Headquarters in Switzerland. It enabled me to continue working with the same people in Southern Africa. I administered funds to support the work of those who were engaged in the struggle for the freedom in South Africa. I always flew to Lesotho to meet with my partners from South Africa as I was not allowed in. And I came safely home while others stayed to pay a price.

While still in Lesotho, I asked the Canadian Embassy in South Africa to discover the reason for my detention and expulsion. It took several years. Initially, the Canadian Embassy in Cape Town dismissed my request for inquiry. This was how their letter began, “As a Canadian of non-European origin, etc., etc.” It sounded as though I did something wrong and Canada had two-tier citizenship. There was a strong protest from the United Church of Canada, spearheaded by Garth Legge, General Secretary of the World Outreach and my home Conference of British Columbia. Mitchell Sharp, the Minister for External Affairs, finally apologized and informed me that it seemed the South African authorities saw me as undesirable because of the kind of colleagues and friends I had. I didn’t choose them: they were there when I got there. Following Jesus can place you among the outcasts.

I have also met brave people in Palestine when I worked for the Canadian Council of Churches from 1979 to 1990. Part of my job was to represent Canadian churches that supported the Middle East Council of Churches. Also, for three months in 2003, I joined the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program of the World Council of Churches and lived in the West Bank village of Jayyous. One day, some farmers were prevented to go to their fields by a barricade and curfew, leading to a tense encounter between them and Israeli soldiers. Many young Israeli peace activists and my co-workers in the Accompaniment Program rushed to be with the farmers to provide them safe space. There was tear gas shot into the crowd. Where was I? I ran away to wash my eyes with a raw onion, an antidote for tear gas. I had to face the fact that I was not brave. Following Jesus teaches you humility.

I met many brave Christian Palestinians in Gaza Strip and West Bank, including Constantine Dabbagh, Doris Saleh, and Albert Nursy. They were the members of the Refugee Service Committee of the Council of Churches. Another was Emil Aghaby, a wealthy businessman who volunteered to administer the Middle East Council of Churches’ program in the refugee camps in Lebanon. He was later found shot dead on the road. They were all well-educated, middle-class Palestinians. By the 1980s, most middle-class Palestinian Christians had left for safer living conditions in other countries, and their numbers dropped from 26 to 5% of the total Palestinian population in the Holy Land. But my colleagues stayed behind to help those who could not migrate. Many traced their ancestry to the original Christians: the original followers of Jesus.

Saying “yes” to Lesotho changed my life. By chance, it set me on the road to South Africa and to Palestine. And on the road to Emmaus. The encounters on that path taught me many lessons. Those with whom I walked paid a heavy price. I am a witness for them.

Remember their names

HOW WE REMEMBER THEM

Statues of dead white people are falling down and some people say “You can not cancel history.” I agree. History must not be forgotten. Every historical figure should be remembered. But the question is who should be honoured. Some must not be forgotten but without honour. Hitler must never be forgotten but never honoured.

Problem is those guilty are remembered because they were white Europeans. The people who fell victims of inhuman acts were often forgotten because they were from other racial groups. John Newton was a slave ship captain for almost entire life but he is remembered lovingly just because of the hymn he wrote “Amazing Grace.” He wrote it later in his life after he became an abolitionist. However, does anyone remember his victims and recorded the names of those who were kidnapped and separated from family, chained and traded like animals, and during the storm thrown into the ocean as cargo in order to save the ship? Rendered nameless is the same as murdered but worse because they are not remembered.

I was once gullible enough to send more than $200 and spit as DNA sample requesting an information about my origin. After a month the result came back. I found that I was an East Asian and my ancestry came from somewhere North of Malay to the Northern Hokkaido island; West of Mongolia to the Eastern edge of Honshu Island of Japan, the area bigger than North America. Of course I knew that without paying 200 bucks. I guess they did not have data for a person who looked like me. Isn’t this called Systemic Racism?

We need a new system where every human is remembered by name. However we have a problem. We don’t have record. System had not thought to count everybody worth remembering, like thousands of children buried unmarked under the ground of former residential schools. They were priceless beloved children of parents and community. They all had names. I can not imagine the sleepless nights of agony waiting for them to come home, who never did.

Do you always lose something important when we move forward?

I am worried about the future of Newspaper. Are we not losing precious sector of our culture?

When you disembark plane or train, you are always asked to make sure you don’t leave anything important behind. However, every time you move forward in your life, you rarely think of what you leave behind could be important. Print media, for example, played a vital role in the advancement of civilization through renaissance, reformation, and democracy allowing ideas to flow freely and widely. Now print media are in existential crisis by the powerful tsunami of digital technology. What will we lose when we don’t have books, magazines, and newspapers?

Drawing attention to a similar challenge, Socrates told a story of the Egyptian King Thamus. He one day entertained the god of invention Theuth. He was known to have invented many things like algebra, number, calculation, astronomy, geometry, and writing, etc. The king thought about every invention carefully. He concluded that writing in particular was a bad idea. “When you acquire an ability to record spoken words in writing, you cease to exercise your ability to remember and become forgetful.” You don’t need the presence of persons anymore. Human becomes redundant. (“Techonopoly” by Neil Postman)

This is the story I love to tell often: An old man was sitting on the edge of an African mountain road, looking tired. You stop the car and offered him a ride. The old man declined and said, “I walked all day. I am sitting here for my spirit to catch up with me.”

What is it that we lose when we acquire the ability to record words in writing? When you can read words, there is no more need to sit around with family and friend to tell real and made-up stories, or catch up with your friends and spouses. The end of conversation means the end of community. End of cummunity means the end of humanity: “A person can only be a person with people.” (African oracle of Ubuntu)

We need to stop and sit from time to time to make sure we don’t leave anything precious behind as we are busily running trying to catch up with whoever and whatever is ahead of us. You have to make sure what’s new is better than what you leave behind. Is it more important to catch up with what’s on your phone than listen to your child? Your kid may be babbling nonsense but she is trying to tell you that she loves you.

WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW JESUS

1968 – 1980

For me, following Jesus means to join the company of his followers. I cannot do it alone. I am not brave. I am like the Roman centurion who watched Jesus died on the cross from a safe distance and said, “He was a good man.” I witnessed the martyrdom of those who followed Jesus. They fought for dignity of all people and for justice in Palestine and South Africa, like Jesus did for despised, poor, and sick. I can also be compared with John Mark, Barnabas’ nephew in the Gospel and the Acts of Apostles. Like him I walked with people who followed Jesus, but when I came face to face with the real test of strength of my faith, I got scared and ran away.

People I accompanied were all followers of Jesus but in varied ways. I don’t look at their labels: they were moved by the same spirit, like the Roman centurion who might have been a pagan but reach the same conclusion about Jesus as his followers did. Though they are labelled differently, they followed the same Jesus in spirit. They could have been atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhist, Christians, or Muslims. They believed in and gave themselves for the cause of justice, love, and peace – salaam – shalom. They were followers of Jesus just the same, just like Mahatma Gandhi and Dalai Lama.

When a theological college awarded me an honorary degree, I did not feel worthy. I accepted it to celebrate those followers of Jesus and named them in my acceptance speech. I am a witness to those who paid the ultimate cost of discipleship.

People must wonder if I am a reckless adventurer seeking excitement by being involved in the struggles of Palestinians and South Africans. It was not like that. I took the job that came my way, and paid the price of the choices I had unwittingly made. I wanted to run every time I came face to face with harsh reality.

We went to Africa because after 11 years in my first pastoral charge. I wanted change. I applied for overseas posting with the United Church of Canada. Norman McKenzie, the personnel officer of the Division on World Outreach, asked me, “Africa or Asia?” I said “Africa.” “Lesotho?” I had never heard of such a country, but I said, “Yes” to Lesotho. That’s how I stumbled into the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in 1968. Was I seeking adventures? No.

Lesotho is a tiny land-locked mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa. The Paris Missionary Society of French Reformed Churches (La societe des mission Evangelique de Paris) requested the United Church to recruit an English speaking person with a graduate degree in Theology. So I went to Lesotho after a few months of orientation in Paris. Once in Lesotho I met colleagues like Desmond Tutu and Anthony Gann, and students like Steve Biko, Njabulo Ndebele, Jama Mbeki, and Shelagh Sisulu.

In January, 1971, I was detained for three days at the Detention Centre in Johannesburg Airport as I was returning from a conference in Tanzania. Thereafter, I was expelled and prohibited further entry into the Republic of South Africa. At the time I had no idea why such a thing could happen to me.

I stayed in Lesotho for five more years without being able to leave that land-locked country which is the size of Belgium. Dentists were available only in South Africa. I had to ask someone to take the car into South Africa for service. To go outside of the country, I had to fly via a South African airport where I was required an escort of a Canadian embassy staff. After five years without being able to get out of the land-locked country, the “prohibited Immigrant” status made it impossible to send my daughter to an English language secondary school. We had to leave Southern Africa.

I was recruited to take a position in the World University Service (WUS) International Headquarters in Switzerland. Our daughter went to a French language secondary school: no problem for a Canadian. The WUS position attracted me because it enabled me to continue to work with the same people in Southern Africa. My work involved administering funds to support people and their work who were engaged in the struggle for the freedom and justice for all people in South Africa.

While still in Lesotho, I asked the Canadian Embassy in South Africa to discover the reason for my detention and expulsion. It took several years for them to find it. Initially, however, the First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Cape Town dismissed my request for inquiry. This was how his letter began, “As a Canadian of non-European origin, etc., etc.” It sounded as though I did something wrong and Canada had two-tier citizenship. There was a strong protest from the United Church of Canada, spearheaded by Garth Legge, General Secretary of the Division of World Outreach and my home Conference of British Columbia. Mitchell Sharp, then the Minister for External Affairs finally apologized and informed me that it seemed the South African authorities saw me as undesirable because of my association with the kind of colleagues and friends I had. I didn’t choose them: they were there when I got there.

Who were my colleagues and friends? Desmond Tutu was one of my teaching colleagues in the Department of Theology at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. John Osmers was the chaplain of the Student Christian Movement. Another colleague in Theology, an Anglican priest from Britain, Anthony Gann, also became prohibited to enter South Africa. The university had many South African students activists in the Black Consciousness Movement created by Steve Biko. They were there to avoid the racially segregated university education. Jama Mbeki was one. And Njabulo Ndebele was another, who later became President of the University of Cape Town. Jama was a brother of the second President of free South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Jama simply disappeared from the campus in 1971. To this day, nobody knows what happened to him.

I was not looking for trouble. I was there for work. I had not done or said anything subversive about South Africa. In 1976, Mapetla Mohapi was found dead hanging in a prison cell in King Williams Town, Eastern Cape Province. He was probably killed accidentally while being tortured. The police were apparently trying to find the names of the overseas financial supporters of the Black Consciousness Movement (BMC), of which WUS was one. He was the treasurer of BCM. His wife, Nohle, wrote to me that it was the worst possible time for her. Their first child was just born and they just had a roof repaired. A year after Mohapi’s death, Steve Biko was beaten to death in the same prison. Other staff were banned – house arrest. Griffith Mxenge, who was a lawyer for the BCM, was found shot dead on the street of King Williams Town a few months after he and I had a meeting in Lesotho to discuss administrative matters. I always flew to Lesotho to meet with my partners in South Africa since I was not allowed in. The whole world knows what happened to Steve Biko. But other martyrs remain mostly unknown.

Two of my friends, both chaplains and Anglican priests from New Zealand, John Osmers and Michael Lapsely, were nearly killed by parcel bombs. They lost a few limbs but survived. The bombs were sent from Geneva by Craig Williamson who I had thought to be my good friend. In 1980, Craig was exposed to be a spy for the South African Police. He had pretended to be a political refugee and came to Switzerland. Abram Tiro also was blown to bits in his exile home in Gaborone, Botswana, with a parcel bomb.

I have also met brave people in Palestine when I worked for the Canadian Council of Churches from 1979 to 1990. I was assigned to a job representing Canadian Churches that supported the Middle East Council of Churches. Also for three months in 2003, I was a member of Ecumenical Accompaniment Program of the World Council of Churches and lived in the West Bank in a village called Jayyous. One day, some farmers who were prevented to go to their fields by a separation barrier and curfew, there was a tense encounter between farmers and the Israel Defence Force soldiers. Many young Israeli peace activists and my co-workers in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program rushed to be with the farmers to provide them safe space. There was tear gas shot into the crowd. Where was I? I was running away washing my eyes with a raw onion, an antidote for tear gas. I had to come face the fact that I was not brave.

Emil Aghaby, who was the coordinator of the Refugee Program for Palestinians in Lebanon, was found shot dead on the road, a victim of mistaken identity. He was a wealthy businessman who volunteered time to administer the Middle East Council of Churches’ program in the refugee camps in Lebanon. I met many brave Christian Palestinians in Gaza Strip and West Bank. Constantine Dabbagh, Doris Saleh, Albert Nursy, to name a few. They were all middle class educated Palestinians. I met them as the members implementing the Refugee Service Program of the Middle East Council of Churches. When a majority of those middle class Palestinians Christians left the homeland for better and safer living in other parts of the world, they stayed behind to help their compatriots who had no resource to migrate. Palestinian Christians are better educated hence have better chance to migrate and re-establish their life in safer countries. Palestinian Christians used to constitute 26% of Palestinian population in the Holy Land. Remaining Christians are now less than 5% of Palestinians. The Holy Land has been empties out of native Christians. Many of them claim their ancestry to the original Christians.

They followed Jesus and paid the heavy price. I am a witness for them.

ELLUSIVE LABEL

ELUSIVE and LOADED

In Alberta, the term “socialism” is used to demonize or insult political opponents. I find the ways people use the word in Canada is often ridiculous. “NAZIS” stood for “National Socialism” in German. Labels like “socialism,” “terrorism,” and ”democracy”are so elusive that they can be meaningless.

Recently Mr. Maxim Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, a former Cabinet minister of the Harper Conservative government said on March 30th, 2021 at the zoom session of the Southern Alberta Council of Public Affairs, that the current Conservative Party of Canada had some “socialist” elements in the ranks. In the U.S., Republicans are trying to scare people suggesting that the Joe Biden administration is steering the USA towards radical socialism.

People who are blinded by ignorance and prejudice put Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians into one category and label them “terrorists.” I wonder if they know that the popular elected mayors of Calgary and Mayor of London England are Muslims? Do they know that the biggest numbers of Muslims are not Arabs but are Asians in India, Indonesia, and Pakistan? A CBC reporter, Neal MacDonald who used to report from conflicted regions of the world said that he would no longer mention the word “terrorism or terrorist.”

Two former Prime Ministers of Israel, Manahem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, were terrorists as far as the British government was concerned before 1947. Nelson Mandela had been called “terrorist” by most of the Western countries including Canada. He is a winner of Nobel Peace Prize. On the other hand, the mass shooters in America who kill dozens every year are almost all white male Americans, and are never called terrorists.

“Democratic” is another elusive adjective. The official name of the Communist Germany was “German Democratic Republic.” North Korea officially is “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” If you survey those countries which carry the label, many are nothing but democratic.

If you don’t know what it means, don’t mention it.

Aging ain’t for a sissy.

ART OF GROWING OLD

In Asian culture, old people are honoured and respected. So when I was ordained to be a minister, I tried to look older. The tenet still dictates my consciousness. I don’t want to be young again with all that struggle with self-confidence and frustration. Nevertheless, getting old is never easy.

The ultimate insult for a Japanese man’s ego is having to ask for a fork at a Japanese restaurant. The muscles of my hands atrophied and can not handle chopsticks any more. I drop things. Body parts are replaced by artificial ones one by one. At the bottom of the staircase, I don’t remember why I came to the basement. “Aging isn’t for a SISSY.” said late Stuart McLean. The most difficult is to be honest with one’s conditions without self-pity and whingeing. Someone who is trying to help you is not insulting you. You must recognize reality with dignity and accept help gracefully.

Once, at a board meeting of a not-for-profit organization, the discussion focussed on the status of one person’s membership on the board, who had become a liability. He seemed to have joined the organization only for power and social standing. The question was: “Why should he stay with us when nobody can work with him?” No one could think of a good reason to keep him. But one person pointed out, “But he’s got money.” The board kept him on.

When libido recedes and stomach shrinks, you find yourself more desperate to hang on to the only thing left, pride. Some men become more greedy: yes, mostly men. There is no more pathetic person than a shrivelling old man obsessed with wealth and power. I notice that the rich and powerful die about the same age as average people. What they crave don’t seem to add even a year to their lifespan. Death lets us know that pleasure, money and power are only for what Japanese call “ukiyo” – the fleeting world. You can not take them with you once you leave this world. Then I have to ask myself, “What for?”

It’s good that I do not make unwise decisions as often as before. It seems accumulated pieces of knowledge have been sifted through a mesh. Trivial and unimportant junk seems to have been deleted with a click. It’s time to sit and wait for the spirit to catch up with me.

ADDICTED TO INTERRNET

I saw a woman of certain age at a restaurant, who was obviously addicted to her phone. She looked at and clicked on the devise every few minutes. Her table was next to ours. I felt guilty lurking, but could not help it because her behaviour was so extraordinary. Her sister, I assumed she was judging from the resemblance, kept putting her hand on sister’s phone to restrain her. In the end, the woman put her phone on her laps and continued checking it while eating dinner. If that was not addiction, what else could it be called? I shuddered to think of her driving a car. However, one sees similar scenes everywhere nowadays.

I saw a recent statistics showing that the traffic fatality caused by distracted driving is six times that of driving while intoxicated. It is 16% of all road fatalities. Most are cases of speaking or texting on the phone while driving. The report says it is now the leading cause of death on the road. It is a very serious problem, more serious than that of death by opioid overdose. Why is it then the problem is not talked about more prominently?

I understand that addiction to internet causes damages to the same organ made by other types of addiction like alcohol, drugs, and gambling. I also understand that internet addiction is caused by not merely psychological but also biological change. It is a serious public health issue. Digital technology has now become integral part of our life. Society would not function without it. Then the question is; what can you do to avoid the damaging effect of internet addiction?

Speaking as a recovered dialled-up “Chat Room” addict (remember those days?), the solution is the same as that for any other addictions: Disciplined consumption. It can be harder than “cold turkey.” Besides, total abstention often does not work. It has been tried before with drugs. We can get addicted to all sorts of things, not only to alcohol and drugs. But you can keep consuming under a strict regime with right amount, frequency, and timing, without being totally destroyed. We can avoid destructive result of addiction to devises by setting time, duration, and frequency. It takes will-power. Once it becomes a habit, it is easier. This is what we do with alcohol, food, and recreation; disciplined consumption. All can be good for you in moderation.

WE DON’T HAVE FREEDOM TO HARM OTHERS

Many people hate wearing masks. They say: requiring masks and not allowing to gather for worship is an attack on the fundamental right to freedom. But we must remember that we wear masks primarily to prevent spreading deadly virus to other people, because we don ’t know if we are carrying virus or not. We are not free to endanger people’s lives: like driving through a red light, texting while driving, and indiscriminately shooting a gun.

Maybe some people like pubescent boys don’t want to be told. When WW II ended in 1945, many silly little rules were cancelled in Japan. I was an incorrigible grade seven 12 year old. “Free at last!” I decided to let my hair grow. During the war, all school boys had to keep their hair very short like an US Marine. I was summoned to the principal’s office. I got tired of cutting hair so often. My hair would not harm anybody except making me look like a weirdo, I said. They didn’t know what to do with me, but they knew they couldn’t force me to cut hair: I kept my hair.

Freedom is our fundamental right for sure. It’s the hallmark of liberal democracy. Freedom gives birth to creativity. However it is a particular dilemma for America where it’s sacred and a gun is the symbol. America is proudly a land of liberty. The Second Amendment gives the right to bear arms against arbitrary measures.

That’s why there are more creative people in America; but it is the most violent society. Americans have won the largest number of Nobel Prize in all fields. But it’s where the largest number of people killed by the guns held by fellow Americans: the second largest number of deaths after traffic accidents.

I treasure my freedom. I am keeping the same spirit of a 12 year old long hair wiredo. But I want to live a long life too.

Power of Art

ART CHANGES THE WORLD

I am not a Liberal Party supporter; never voted for them. But I dislike the way some people call Justin Trudeau a “former drama teacher” to mock him. Drama, as in many forms of art, is important for the quality of life. It forces us to advance our skills in thinking. Also it teaches us to communicate better. It also helps us to look into our life in depth. When you call someone a drama teacher as an insult, you are only exposing your lack of wisdom.

Powerful politicians of all colours are often excellent artists: Winston Churchill was an artist as a painter, an orator, and a writer that made him a powerful politician and the leader of free world. He saved civilization from fascism. If you make fun of Ronald Reagan calling him a “former movie actor,” you have overlooked his awesome skill in communication. He helped to bring about a profound change to the world which we now call “neo-liberalism.” Politics is the theatre that changes the world.

Charlie Chaplin was a philosopher and a social critic, not at all just a funny man on the silver screen. His social criticism was so cutting and effective that the mighty American establishment was mightily threatened and had to kicked him out of the country, and kept him out for decades. In the end Chaplin won. He received “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the “Academy.”

I often attend drama and music performances at the university. I notice every time the students active in performing arts excel also in academic disciplines. Ability to memorize one whole book to perform in a drama alone proves their mental capacity.

Millions of years ago, our ancestors made art on the wall of the cave. Art is what makes us human, because it makes us imagine and think. Art nurtures creativity and productivity. Belittle it at your peril.

GOOD IN MODERATION

Addiction

I saw a woman of certain age at a restaurant, who was obviously addicted to her phone. She looked at and clicked on the devise every few minutes. Her table was next to ours. I felt guilty lurking, but could not help it because her behaviour was so extraordinary. Her sister, I assumed she was judging from the resemblance, kept putting her hand on sister’s phone to restrain her. In the end, the woman put her phone on her laps and continued checking it while eating dinner. If that was not addiction, what else could it be called? I shuddered to think of her driving a car. However, one sees similar scenes everywhere nowadays.

I saw a recent statistics showing that the traffic fatality caused by distracted driving is six times that of driving while intoxicated. It is 16% of all road fatalities. Most are cases of speaking or texting on the phone while driving. The report says it is now the leading cause of death on the road. It is a very serious problem, more serious than that of death by opioid overdose. Why is it then the problem is not talked about more prominently?

I understand that addiction to internet causes damages to the same organ made by other types of addiction like alcohol, drugs, and gambling. I also understand that internet addiction is caused by not merely psychological but also biological change. It is a serious public health issue. Digital technology has now become integral part of our life. Society would not function without it. Then the question is; what can you do to avoid the damaging effect of internet addiction?

Speaking as a recovered dialled-up “Chat Room” addict (remember those days?), the solution is the same as that for any other addictions: Disciplined consumption. It can be harder than “cold turkey.” Besides, total abstention often does not work. It has been tried before with drugs. We can get addicted to all sorts of things, not only to alcohol and drugs. But you can keep consuming under a strict regime with right amount, frequency, and timing, without being totally destroyed. We can avoid destructive result of addiction to devises by setting time, duration, and frequency. It takes will-power. Once it becomes a habit, it is easier. This is what we do with alcohol, food, and recreation; disciplined consumption. All can be good for you in moderation.