Saturday, January 5th, 2013

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CAMBODIA: New Year 2013: Opportunities for another 365 days to make a difference

Buddha says, “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” Suu Kyi told Burmese in their struggle for rights and justice, “Don’t just sit there. Do something!”

Buddha teaches mankind to do all good, avoid all evil, and purify the mind. He provides mankind with an eight-fold path to follow. Gandhi exclaimed, “Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well,” as he applied Buddha’s teaching to himself: “I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal . . . I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”

Whereas Buddha preaches, “Pay no attention to the faults of others . . . Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone,” and, “It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one’s own faults . . . one conceals one’s own faults as a cunning gambler conceals his dice”, Gandhi explains: “I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.”

January 03, 2013

An article by Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

CAMBODIA: New Year 2013: Opportunities for another 365 days to make a difference

Happy New Year 2013!
The New Year brings each of us a new beginning. What has happened in the past year is behind us; neither the good nor the bad can be erased. Instead, we confront 365 days of opportunity to demonstrate that we have learned from the successes and challenges of the year — of the years — through which we have come.

The past is a guide to the present, the present a springboard toward the future. We learn from the past to improve today. Men and women are capable of change. Those who study human behavior suggest ways to accelerate change in how we manage our day to day interactions and long term decision making.

Since humans are creatures of habit, we are likely to think and behave the same way as we have done in the past. We reproduce the old because it takes no effort to repeat what we have always done. Much of our behavior is on autopilot. Remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Some Cambodian readers told me that they believe it to be a “safe bet” that their compatriots’ thinking and behavior in the next 365 days are likely to be the same as last year’s. A Khmer septuagenarian, a former instructor at the Khmer Military Academy, lamented that this very way of thinking is outmoded and unchanged from the patterns of behavior of earlier generations of Cambodians. It was he who sent me the poem, O Khmer oeuy Khmer, chous ach knong srae, which was the focus of my article in February 2012. The poem is about an ignoramus who does private business in the rice field and cleans himself with an ivy leaf. . . His ignorance is one aspect of the poem. The other aspect is Einstein’s definition of insanity. The septuagenarian wrote, it is “same old, same old for generations.” I am optimistic, however, that each of us has the capacity to change how we analyze and respond to people and events around us.

New Year, “new soul”? 

As Cambodians write to me, it is not unusual for them to blame the country’s political status quo on the absence of a Khmer Mahatma Gandhi or Aung San Suu Kyi. Were there such a person, they say, everything would be different. Does the alleged absence of such a leader justify the lack of effective progress in the Khmer struggle against Cambodia’s “kleptocracy”? It’s worth noting that both Gandhi and Suu Kyi embrace the philosophy and teaching of Gautama Buddha, the same principles in which nearly all Cambodians profess to believe, and that permeate Khmer society.
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