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Review: Future Quest: Building an Awesome World Future (Satis Shroff)

Sedlmayer, Albert, Future Quest 2012 Aurora House, Sydney, Australia

ISBN 978 0987304032, 488 pages, Paperback

futurequest:building an awesome world future now

Can you write about world peace and how to change the world? There have been politicians who’ve had a vision or a dream of a change in the society and set about achieving their goals. The author Albert Sedlmayer mentions that his Dad was a natural problem solver. ‘Genetic predisposition,eh?’ you might ask.

 

He was his mentor and intrigued him with how he’d study a problem, walk away; then come back with a solution and a broad grin.He passed that ability to his son. In the Forward Martin van Kalmthout, a prof from Netherlands, mentions the importance of the human factor involved in decision-making at different levels, and their interrelationship. The author supports the assumption that all endeavours to promote world peace should start at the psychological level. Depending on the integrity of the person or persons involved.

 

In the case of the Crimean crisis, Putin is an ex-KGB man and the President of Russia. President Obama cuts a better figure with his academic credentials. World change can be achieved on an individul scale, when the individual is ready to change within, says Sedlmayer. World change is individual change. That brings us to the state.

 

What is a state law? A decision made by a group of people who have the same thought is turned into a law in print. It’s the human factor that links many The written world rules over citizens throughout the world. All this preceded by the thoughts of individuals who wanted to form a decision. It’s the human factor that links many disciplines and lines of thought together.

 

This book gives practical tips to help the reader avoid being bogged down with theoretical discussions. A valuable book, a book worth its money, for those who are concerned with decision-making about the future of mankind. The author has a deep, empathic insight which has enabled him to write Future Quest, a book that provides supportive arguments that a great, sustainable world-future is achievable through the implementation ofthink-alike mentors as multiplicators. Sedlmayer has a good idea, so why not help spread it?

 

Sedlmayer also says: if people avoid you, why, you’ve overdone it. He mentions that ethical philosophy should be compulsory in the curriculums of schoolkids or you should teach your child yourself, after the principle: what you do is more important than what you say. If you’ve made a mistake? Apologise. That’s exactly what Dale Carnegie also says in his book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ The church has been preaching this but some bishops remain adamant, for instance van Teberts in Bavaria. Are you involved in a confrontation? Be diplomatic and humble. Whether this will really help as in the case of the Crimean conflict is another matter. But a policy of deescalation does get better results than sabre-rattling.

 

Sedlmayer urges you to become a mentor by keeping good company and being a role-model (Vorbildfunktion) and says what you do is do is important, especially when you have young people looking up to you. That’s general psychology and common sense, you might retort. Dale Carnegie devotes a chaptergeyou

on ‘give a dog a good name’ and treat ex-jailbirds as humans, with respect and they’ll take up the challenge and behave well. Likewise mentors should admit their mistakes for they are humans and thus fallible. Much like Carnegie, he says self-disclosure is a gesture of good will and confidence. It works wonders and disarms the other person and leads to a good, hearts relationships and cooperations in life with other human beings.

 

In a chapter on Orientation he writes about the dream, just what is reality anyway? He defines the task at hand and talks about thinking in circles, cycles and spirals. The entire book has a navy architecht’s stategic approach. He designs the structure and shows the steps to attain it. Then he moves to Man, the individual and the threats to his existence, coexistence, talks about the sanctity and value of friendship, values, consolidating your values and not your valuables, emotions, perceptions and core identity. Sedlmayer moves on to cultures, countries, collectives, and arrives at groups, and speaks of colonisation in today’s context. War and peace, national identity, protection—all play a big role. He explains the three R’s: reading, writing, arithmetic and adds responsibility to it. And hoovers around mentorship, devoting a section to humanity. As you can see, a many faceted opus magnum.

 

I remember that a NY socialite and novelist of Indian descent named Bharati Mukerjee, who has on an academic visit to Freiburg (Germany) asked me, ‘How does it feel to be a writer and poet in Germany? How do you get along with the Teutons?’ In Albert Sedlmayer’s case it was difficult as the son of a pair of World War II survivors who had to endure ‘defeated foe-taunts’ as German immigrants in Down Under at the hand of the Aussies. He describes it as a brutal era as a kid and vainly expresses his hope that somebody’d fix it someday. But as he grew up in Adelaide, he realised that conflicts were an everyday issue throughout the world; it developed into a life-long questioning interest on how they could be resolved. As a man with experience in counseling, he sat down to write this book to ‘fix the brutality’ in this world, as he puts it. He quotes Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist, aptly: ‘Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world, it is the only thing that ever has.’

 

Albert Sedmayer was born in war-ravaged Germany in 1946 and went to Australia with his family when he was six.

 

This non-fiction book reads like a first-person narrative on the future of mankind and shows the way with practical tips that help you when you’re dissatisfied with theoretical arguments in the fields of psychology, philosophy, business, law, finance, management, politics and democracy, all linked together by the human factor. The book has an impressive bibliography with 342 books and papers on diverse themes that culminate in his postulation that peaceful, sustainable humanity is possible. He shows you how you can participate in attaining the goals set in FutureQuest wherever and whoever you are ‘without compromising your identity or your religious or ideological convictions (sic).’

 

The author quotes Sir Francis Bacon’s ‘Knowledge is power’ (Wissen ist Macht) and emphasises the importance of communication, explaining it in terms of electricity. If communication is weak, power can’t flow between person to person and nation to nation. On the chapter on Communication he cites Martin Luther King, Jr:

 

‘People don’t get along because they fear each other,

People fear each other because they don’t know each other,

They don’t know each other because they have not properly

communicated with each other.’

 

The chapter on Information Technology explains how easy and cheap the internet has become and even India’s farmers can negotiate a fair price through the use of mobile phones by enabling direct links with the consumers.

 

The fact that the author spent life-periods immersed in the diverse cultures and attitudes of different countries has led him to attain a high level of intercultural competence, and the ability to solve complex and difficult problems. He has a good insight towards humanity, and is of the opinion that a great, sustainable world future is available. He has used information-age-power in writing FutureQuest after years of soul and data searching.

 

With wars and military conflicts, communal hatred erupting around the globe, and the climate change discussions, Sedlmayer’s book is like a lighthouse in a stormy sea warning the ships to keep off the treacherous cliffs. His idea is to start tentatively a Goodwill Register within the Un framework, akin to the UN Global Compact, with the possibility of adding new registered, charitable, non-prophet and non-profit organisation, possibly with the blessing of the UNO. All members ‘will periodically be peer-audited to maintain membership, an attempt to keep out the black sheep. What the author offers is a ‘cheaper and easy to administer’ version of the UN Global Compact. Savvy membership?

 

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(The author in Berlin’s War Memorials..)

 

SVETLANA GEIER: The Woman Who Understood Dostoyevsky (Satis Shroff)

 

Svetlana Michailowna Iwanowa was born in 1923 in Kiew. She came to Germany in 1943 with her mother and was awarded an Alexander von Humbolt scholarship. She did German studies and Comparative Language Sciences at the University of Freiburg.

 

Svetlana married a violinist Christmut Geier and gave birth to two children. She did her first literary translation in 1953, a tale written by Leonid Andrejew. She gave lectures at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg to acquire a regular income and gained a reputation as the legendary translator of all the great works of Fydor Dostoyevsky.

 

The Russian writer liked reading all of Walter Scott and even recommended the father of a girl on August 18, 1880 to allow his daughter to read all of Dickens without any exception. Dostoyevsky also recommended that the girl should read Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev and Goncharov.

 

Back to Svetlana Geier, the octogenarian lady who lived in Freiburg, and who internalised the great works of Dostoyevsky and who had a special way with the language so that the essence of what was written by the great Russian writer was not lost in translation from Russian into German. She had the ability to delve into Dostoyevsky’s innermost thoughts and question the relationship between the means and end in matters pertaining to the writer’s works and Russia in those days where freedom was a crucial issue.

 

‘Who am I?’ is the central urge of all the characters in the writings of Dostoyevsky. Much like the great Russian writer’s protagonists, we have to ask ourselves: who was this woman, how was her life and her works? For people who are interested in knowing more about Svetlana Geier, there’s a 94-minute German-Swiss documentary DVD written and directed by Vadim Jendreyko released in 2004. You can read Dostoyevsky (hardback) in German translation by Svetlana Geier published by Amman Verlag (Zürich). The paperback version has been published by S.Fischer Verlag (Frankfurt am Main).

 

Svetlana was an active mediator between Russian and German literature, and she translated Dostoyevsky’s five big novels big novels which she fondly called ‘the five elephants’, which were the milestones in her literary career.

 

Among the most famous works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment has a stellar position and the author was a contemporary of Charles Dickens. Crime and Punishment was first published in 1866 in a periodical named Russkii Vestnik. Other titles are: Notes from the Underground, The Idiot, The Devils and The Brothers Karamazov. In Crime and Punishment

an ex-student Raskolinikov  lives in poverty and chaos and eventually kills an elderly woman, a pawnbroker, and her sister. He believes that he has devised the perfect crime. A wonderful psychological novel about Raskolnikov’s psyche. Dostoyevsky shows how a person is formed by his mind and his thoughts.

 

For Svetlana Geier, her world became Dostoyevsky and she started translating his works at the age of 65. She was fascinated by the fast rhythm of Crime and Punishment and the author’s message to the reader. An act of aggression can be swift but life trudges on gradually. According to Svetlana, the correct German translation of Crime and Punishment should have been ‘Verbrechen und Strafe’ and not Schuld und Sühne. The English translation of the title is thus appropriate because the Russian words ‘presluplenije’ and ‘nakasanije’ mean exactly the same as in the English title.

 

A language has to be spoken and is not confined to a piece of paper, according to Svetlana in a Spiegel-interview carried out by Claudia Voigt. That’s why she always dictated her translations, because all thoughts have their origin in the recesses of the mind. In Creative Writing, we also say: read your poems and texts aloud. When you hear the spoken word you know whether there’s rhythm, style and beauty in the text you’ve brought to paper or recorder.

 

Dostoyevsky had used the word ‘suddenly’ (Russian: wdrug) very often in his Russian texts. The word suddenly suggests a turn of event, something’s happening and this is an action and device which moves the story forward.

 

The translation work of Svetlana Geier shows a great sensitive knowledge of language and her respect for the author is immense and she took pains to capture and translate the right spirit of the author’s work and the quintessence of author. She was also conscious of the fact that every translation remains an attempt to reach the absolute, which in turn is slippery as mercury. In this context, I think about Michael Hutt’s translation of Nepalese literature, as well as my experience with two other German translators in Freiburg. When you’re translating you can’t get into the psyche of the writer, what moved him or her at that moment in time and life. We can’t experience the circumstances the writers lived in. We can only imagine it and the question is: is your imagination precise? Dostoyevsky for instance possessed little money and often had no candles for work at night and sat hungry. And yet what he wrote was world literature about his country, politics, economy, characters and their innermost thoughts. Time also influences the choice of words that an author uses and even the language changes with the passage of time.

 

‘When you translate, you have to keep your nose high,’ was her teacher’s admonition to her when Svetlana was at school. You don’t translate from left to right, like the flow of the language, but the way you’ve read the sentence. It has to reach your heart. When she reads a  Dostoyevsky  text a day comes when she hears the melody of the text. To translate the works of the Russian literary giant, she studied his manuscripts and travelled to the original places described in the novels in order to understand the Geography and learn to see through the eyes of the author. Goethe also held the same view and said if you want to understand a poet’s verse, you have to visit his country. She was a painstaking translator of words, sentences, books, even searching for what lay beyond the written words.

 

Although she lived in Green City Freiburg and had seven grandchildren and 10 great-grand children, cooked for them and loved them, she had what we call a Russian soul (russische Seele) and the legendary Russian spirit. Her life was overshadowed by Europe’s fickle history and her fate was extraordinary. She worked as a translator during the occupation of Ukraine, and in 1943 she and her mother were interned in a work-camp in Dortmund (Germany). Later she studied, raised a family and began to translate Russian literature into German. She lectured for 40 years in different universities. Svetlana passed away last year.

 

 

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Article published in Dreisamtaeler and written by Giesela Heinzler-Ries

Dozent, Dichter und MGV-Sänger von Kappel

Green City Freiburg  Honours Satis Shroff

At an official ceremony in Freiburg’s Exhibition Hall Ulrich von Kirchbach, the mayor in charge of Culture and Integration honoured the life work of Satis Shroff. In his laudatio, von Kirchbach presented an Urkunde from the City of Freiburg as a special acknowledgement for Satis Shroff’s commitment and prolonged support and assistance to refugees and foreign students, and as a member of the managing committee of the Männergesangverein (men’s choir) ‘Liederkranz’ Freiburg-Kappel.

Satis Shroff was awarded the DAAD Prize in 1998.

Culture can give you insight into the living world of refugees, it can help remove boundaries and open new horizons, thereby enhancing the development of creativity in humans. Accordingly, Satis Shroff said in his thank-you-message: “I’d advise migrants to join a German association (verein), for that’s the place to meet the Germans and interact positively with them. I’m a member of the MGV Kappel, where we sing old and new German and English songs. After the singing we invariably go to one of the two taverns in Kappel to joke, laugh and talk about what moves us. There’s respect, tolerance, compassion among the singers and a good feeling of togetherness within the community. Whether it’s religious or seasonal events, funerals or initiation-rites, the men’s choir is always there, taking part in all walks of life. In this way, we get to know our strengths and weaknesses and help each other with sound advice and action. As we say in Germany: I really feel ‘Sauwohl in Kappel,’ which means I feel great. I can’t imagine a better integration in the German mainstream.”

In the past, and even now and then, Satis Shroff has cared for refugee children from Bosnia, Madedonia and Kosovo-Albania and did pedagogic work with them. Many children were able to make the necessary grades and others were sent to their home-countries as soon as the krieg ceased in their country of origin. He remembers cases of refugee-families who were woken up from their sleep in the wee hours of the morning by the police and whisked away to Frankfurt, put in a plane and escorted to their countries. This is the other side of the world-wide refugee problem.

“One day, a tall and burly, unshaven Albanian man came to the social office and took us as prisoners. He had a big plastic bag with a canister of petrol and a gun in his hand and said, “If you don’t do what I say I’ll blow you all up.” We were terrified. He was a father who’s daughter had been taken away by the social department because he’d been maltreating her. Whew! That was a traumatic experience. I thought my life was going to end there,” said Satis Shroff.

As a contact person and counsellor for the DAAD and the Alexander von Humboldt Stipendium he worked in cooperation with the Academic Foreign Office in Freiburg and cared for students and scientists from Nepal, India and the United Kingdom and he still maintains good contacts with these academicians.

Satis Shroff speaks English, German, Nepali, Hindi and Urdu and has also worked as a translator with the Amtsgericht on a honorary basis. He has assisted the migrants where he could and he says: “Migrants are helpless in a foreign country and there are cultural, social and language barriers. They a confronted with a strange administrative system and unusual laws and jurisprudence. All this makes the migrant raise his or her hands in despair.”

He was officially requested by the town of Ilmenau to translate Goethe’s famous poem: ‘Wandrers Nachtlied. He has also translated Nepali literature into Nepali. His German book of poems ‘Im Schatten des Himalaya’ has been printed by  www.lulu.com/satisle. He has also written two Nepali language books for German development workers of GTZ, Goethe Institute, DAAD and the members of the Carl Duisberg Society.

Before he came to Germany for further studies, he worked as a Features Editor with the Rising Nepal, where he wrote editorials and a science column, and commentaries for Radio Nepal on themes pertaining to the country’s development, wildlife and culture.

Satis Shroff is a lecturer, poet, journalist and a passionate singer. ‘I simply love singing Nepali, Hindi, English and German songs,’ he says. He’s a prolific writer and a contributing writer on www.americanchronicle.com/authors/view/1207

and on www.blogs.boloji.com/satisshroff and satisshroff.tigblogs.org to name a few.

He likes to describe himself a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future in social engagements in the French sense of the word, and in writing and teaching medical subjects and English and German literature.

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Dear Readers,

The King has been ousted in Nepal, as you know, but the Royal Family still enjoys benefits from the government and I thought Prakash Bom’s article in The American Chronicle worth reading to have an idea of what other Nepalese think about the new government comprising the pro-China Maoists and pro-India Nepalese Congress Party and other political hues that dominate the polit-scene in this Himalayan republic. Viel Spaß beim lesen.

Regards,

Satis

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  In support of the protest of Citizens\’ Movement for Peace and Democracy (CMDP) against the government decision allowing former king Gyanendra Shah to stay at Nagarjun palace and permit his mother and grandmother to live inside Narayanhiti palace.

People and people´s representatives of Constituent Assembly must join the protest of Civil Society of Nepal against the privileges – security, shelters, staffs and vehicles that the government has provided to ex-king family with out the consensus of Constituent Assembly is illegitimate and is disgraceful to people´s aspiration for democracy. Such a government must be dissolved and formation of a new government must undo such decision with the consensus of people´s representatives of Constituent Assembly.

Let us all join the protest of CMDP of Civil Society of Nepal to correct the old habit of the government authorities who fail to have second thought for not to make such decisions without the consensus of the elected representatives of people even at this point where Constituent Assembly has abolished the monarchy and established federal democratic republic.

Nepali Diaspora from around the globe give their voice in pressuring government change their old habit to respect the people´s representative for the competitive electoral democratic practice in every political decision making processes.

**********************************************
Set No Double Standard in Keeping Ex-Royals of Nepal in the Archives

Published on American Chronicle
http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/64746
Prakash Bom
June 12, 2008
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Basically, what Nepali contemporary political leaderships have to understand that the democratic culture can only flourish with the justice and justice is neither equivalent to the retaliatory game of tit-for-tat nor comparable to the South Asian religious tradition of love and compassion. Under the secular democratic body of law there are no exceptions because there is none above the law including elements of supernatural – gods and ghosts of our traditional Hindu-ethnic society no matter how far they have been sanctified by the tradition. If the foundation stone of this body has been laid by the successful elections of Constituent Assembly and the declaration of secular federal democratic republic then it is irresponsible to keep ex-royals in the archives against the declaration and people´s aspiration for democracy.

We do not know whether people have forgiven those royalists who had committed atrocities against the peaceful agitations of April Uprising but the political leaderships have with the greater impunity and disgraceful double standards. Every royalist has been able to escape the justice and even many of them have been re-instated to their respective state duties. What people can expect from all this at least some moral responsibility on the part of the political parties and their leaderships and cadres for not to set double standard with their commitments to democracy. For example, Constituent Assembly has abolished the feudal institution of monarchy and declared Nepal federal democratic republic with the greater majority. This simply means that no members of ex-royal can reside in the state-owned properties of the federal democratic republic Nepal. Ex-royals no longer should receive any privilege because they are none but citizens as rest of us who should live on their own earning and in their own property.

How ridiculous, for instance, that Constituent Assembly has sent the directives for ex-king to vacant the Narayanhiti palace through the government but the government cabinet has decided to grant the shelter for ex-king´s family without the consensus of the Constituent Assembly. Constitutionally, the current Interim government is illegitimate and its decision without the consensus of people´s representatives in Constituent Assembly is against the mandate of people. It is people´s Constituent Assembly which can only grant or deny the shelter for the ex-king family. Therefore, the government decisions that are executed without the vote of the Constituent Assembly are not legitimate. The representatives of the Constituent Assembly must stand for their electoral rights to veto government decisions. If not, the government will keep conflicting with the democratic provisions of Constituent Assembly.

It is time for the representatives of Constituent Assembly to step up their voice with the people and Civil Society in protest of keeping any ex-royal member off the vicinity of Narayanhiti palace on the basis of abolition of the monarchy and declaration of federal democratic republic. This is one of the historically symbolic factors of declaration that as per the people´s aspiration Narayanhiti palace must be vacant for keeping it open for people to visit as the museum of their struggle for democracy. The museum must be set with the portraits of revolutions and revolutionaries since the time of Sukra Raj Shastri, Dharma Bhakta, Ganga Lal, Dashrath Chanda to the People´s Movement – April Pursing. Therefore it is ought to be a symbol of people´s glory for democracy where we should not keep any ex-royal residing in the vicinity of people´s museum who will eventually infringe into it. If the interim government respects people´s mandate then it should immediately seek Constituent Assembly´s consensus to correct its decisions on ex-royals´ privileges – shelters and securities.

Ex-royals have ethical responsibility for their dignity since they have accepted people´s verdict. Therefore with no question for their security and shelter they should simply vacant the state-owned people´s properties. It is disgraceful that ex-king has been begging with the interim government, which has no authority to grant even temporary shelter and security without the consensus of people´s representatives of Constituent Assembly. It is with the verdict of the Constituent Assembly the institution of feudal monarchy has been abolished and it is thus only with the consensus of Constituent Assembly any further decision on ex-royals can be taken. This is the protocol that the executive body of the government must not breach. If the cabinet cannot maintain its executions with the protocol of legislation then the executive branch of government dominantly becomes authoritarian.

The ex-king Gyanendra Shah is considered to be the only richest individual in the nation based on his business investments excluding his properties that he has inherited from his father and after the massacre of late king Birendra´s entire family. Therefore, he should be able to hire his own security personnel and live in his own property. This is indeed his avariciously a cheap attempt to still thinking to depend on state-owned properties unless he find himself and his family insecure with the political reason. If not he should daringly seek independence and respect the protocol of people´s verdict.

People´s aspiration for a new democratic Nepal is fundamentally to bring an end to the government practice of double standard that breeds injustice from all kind of exceptions – socio-political, economic, religion and tradition. Justice in democracy does not mean necessarily retaliation because retaliation cannot establish justice in democracy. In order to establish justice or rule of law the society has to entirely respect the protocol of legislation or in simple language play by the rule. This means if Constituent Assembly has abolished the institution of monarchy with the establishment of people´s electoral-mechanism then it is only with the consensus of Constituent Assembly the interim government can take further decision on ex-royals. Otherwise the interim government will illegitimately set double standard conflicting with the legislative protocol that nation´s legislation has established.

This has been by default the tradition of political leaderships, ruling elites and the law experts of Nepal basically inherited from the feudal-gene of our society. Unless the gene that resides in us does not realize to play by the rule, particularly in the politics and the government, Nepali society will fail to think rationally to see how important these sequences of protocol are in establishing the rule of law. International communalities will have to put up with the tradition of impunity again for a long period of time in the socio-political and economic lives of Nepali people unless political leaderships are very serious about themselves for changing their political behavior radically. People and nation will be better off with the democracy if only political leaderships can reason and see the consequences of setting up double standard in politics, which inevitably breeds impunity. They all now world renowned proverb – ´look before you leap´ only if they can see it where they stand for holding on to themselves from rushing to make decision.

More articles: http://www.americanchronicle.com/viewByAuthor?authorID=2864

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LONGING FOR LANGEOOG (Satis Shroff)

 

Thomas, a burly, bearded botanist turned IT-specialist in Basle, and I decided to make a Herrnnachmittag out of a sunny day, despite the clouds in the vast horizon of the North Sea Isle of Langeoog, where we were spending our holidays with our near and dear ones. There we were, two croonies spending the afternoon, after an extended walk along the shore’s shrubby dunes on our way to the traditional East Friesian tea-house.

 

In the isle of Langeoog they call the houses ‘Hus,’ so you have a Teehus (tea-house) a Spöölhus (a house where kidddies can play). Since we were both avid tea-drinkers, we decided to go the “Ostfriesische Teestube am Hafen,” and I must say I found it delightful. They even had self-baked cakes for diabetics, not that we had insulin problems, but I do remember that my diabetic Creative Writing Professor Bruce Dobler would order a sandwich, weigh it on his portable Waage meticulously. Every gram seemed to count. It was like a ritual after his Creative Writing lectures at the University of Freiburg and we went to an Irish pub called O’ Dwyers, behind the university library for a swig of Guinness stout, as we talked about literature, poets and writers.

 

The tea was excellent and the butter cakes delicious. Through the white painted windows we could see the blue North Sea and the boats. Trawlers were approaching the harbour bringing in their haul. Our table had a glass case filled with Darjeeling tea leaves.

 

Thomas asked if it was the First Flush or the Second? I told him that it was certainly the First Flush because the ‘two leaves and a bud’ were distinctly visible. After the excellent Fresian tea we went for a walk along the dyke to the harbour. To our left was the Watt, which had been laid artificially, and which had become a habitat for all sorts of birds among them naturally a numerous sea-gulls.

 

Behind us we could see the bunkers built during the Third Reich, td been constructed though the iron-door leading to it was closed. Where the tarmac had been constructed for the German Luftwaffe, was now a dense forest, but the impeccable landing area was still intact. Private twin-motored planes took-off and landed now and again.

 

On August 3, 1941 some 450 Soviet prisoners of war were brought to Langeoog. The island chronist and teacher Richard Windemuth described them this way: ‘ We were all excited to know whether they looked the way the magazines and weekly shows described them. What we saw were figures in rags and uncouth due to the imprisonment, a very depressing picture. According to the SS-guards the POWs had rebelled and didn’t want to board the ship at Bensersiel. They were scared that they’d be left to drown in the icy waters of the North Sea.

 

The POWs, according to an observer from Wangerooge, were put up in a barrack in the Garden Street (today it’s House Meedland). The youngest POW was 15 years old, and they had to work at the airport of Langeoog. 113 of them died due to the inhuman treatment meted out to them, and buried in mass-graves in the outskirts of the dune-graveyard. After the krieg the island community is said to have created a passable memorial.

 

On August 26, 1941 came the French prisoners of war to Langeoog. They were soldiers who’d tried to escape from the Lagers (prison-camps) in Germany’s mainland. The treatment was harder than usual in the Isle of Langegoog, but not comparable to the treatment of Soviet prisoners. The chronicler says: ‘ They got the same food, even tobacco and Schnaps (German alcohol) like the German guards.’ Not so the poor Soviets who were called ‘Ivan’ in those days.

 

It might be noted that the Führer (Hitler) in his big speech demanded from the German public to pray for the blessings of the Almighty for the German Waffen (soldiers) in the Eastern Front. The population statistics of 1939 show that 95 % of the Germans belonged to one or other of the Christian religious societies: evangelic and catholic.

 

Just before midnight on September 7, 1941 Langeoog was bombed again. To the south of the airport 200 incendiary bombs were counted. One of the exploding bombs destroyed the Meider’s Bridge at the harbour. A ship under construction received 15 splitters and the harbour building was completely destroyed.

 

At the dune-graveyard you could visit the grave of the famous chanson singer Lale Anderson, who’s haunting, melodious song ‘Lili Marleen’ woke longings in the hearts of the U-boat crews, Luftwaffe pilots and German destroyers and other battleships, away from their Heimat and the danger of being blown to pieces by the US, RAF and Allied airplanes, depth-charges and artillery and flak.

 

No one knows the secret of freedom, unless you are a prisoner,’ said Dietrich Bonhoffer in 1944 when he was imprisoned by the Nazis. He knew through his own suffering and experience what freedom meant, and he also knew what personal freedom one had to sacrifice to achieve freedom for all, for freedom is not only a word. Freedom means words and deeds, as is evident in the Tibetan issue where people around the world are reacting and agitating for the fundamental rights of a country called the Roof of the World.

 

Meanwhile, you could discern a hoot from an outwards bound ship or the red catamaran which commutes between Langeoog and Benzersiel, and the incessant cries of the sea-gulls vying with each other to get a morsel of fish from the trawlers that were coming to their home-harbour.

 

The 2500 inhabitants of Langeoog are facing a tough time battling against Nature. The sea, which is washing away the island is one factor, and the influx of people with a lot of capital from the mainland is the other factor. The dunes are very important for the islands and coasts just as the wind, water and sun. Like the Watt and salty meadows, the dunes and other habitats also underlie special dynamic changes and some flora and fauna need these changes. Strandhafer, Strandroggen and Stranddistel live here. Brandgeese and sea-gulls breed primarily in the dunes.

 

The dunes serve as a protection for endangered animals and also for the inhabitants of Langeoog because there’s no need to build dykes, where there’s a protective shield of dune-chains around the island and along the coast. The dunes are much higher than the dykes and a lot broader. Every year, the west-wind and west-waves bring thousands of tons of sand from the East Sea to the North Sea. The protection of the coast and nature conservation go hand in hand. And visitors to the isle are admonished to walk only along the prescribed paths to the benefit of humans and Mother Nature

 

Even I’d contemplated how wonderful it would be to build at least a holiday-houses at Langeoog. Instead we’ve decided to build one in the Black Forest right below a hill with pine trees, with an excellent view of the hills in the vicinity of Rosskopf.

 

The old fashioned Tante Emma shops are dwindling, giving way to supermarkets—like in France’s Atlantic Isle of Oleron. One remarkable feature of the Isle of Langeoog is that it has been long declared a car-free zone. The main means of communication in the Isle is with an old, gaudy diesel-driven train that brings you to the town from the harbour. After that you can hire a horse-driven taxi, bicycle or go on foot. The cars remain in Bensersiel (mainland). And unless you know someone in the island who has a plane, everyone is obliged to take the ferry.

 

We walked along the north-west beach into the small town. The beach was littered with churned sea-shells, sea-weed and plastic garbage of the tourists. A team of workers who belonged to a jaw-breaking measure (Arbeitsbeschaffungsmaßnahmen ABM) came with a tractor and a trailer to clear the beach.

 

Ordnung muss sein, even on the beach!” remarked Thomas. The people of Langeoog have to separate their garbage and put them in the respective bins—as everywhere in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Green bins for paper, brown for biological or organic garbage and yellow plastic bags for PVC and plastic garbage.

 

Watt n’ Erlebnis: The walk along the North Sea Wattenmeer, along the shore of Langeoog was interesting and strenuous and the local guide Uwe G. turned out to be a bearded, blond East Friesian bloke with a gift of the gab. He introduced us to the dangers and secrets of the Watt, which is typical for Germany and Scandinavian countries. We walked every 100 metres into the sea, and Uwe dug his fork into the sea-bed and showed us the wonders of the North Sea Watt: crustaceans and molluscs, crabs, shrimps, worms and their habitats. How the heart-mussel and clams live, and how to get a glass full of shrimps swimming in water. He loved to tell you about the peristaltic of the worms in comparison to humans, their reproductive and digestive systems. It was what you might call a marine biology lecture carried at a hilarious, non-scientific level and the people loved him for it.

 

An elderly Germany couple thought the Uwe had a “Bundeswehr tone” to his talk. Another German said that he was definitely “Analfixiert” (anal-fixed according to Freud’s theory, wherein he speaks about people being ‘fixed’ in the oral, anal and oedipal phases of human development). But Uwe was very self-conscious and he went on candidly comparing humans with molluscs. The children and grown-ups had a good time.

 

By the time we’d reached the outer periphery of the Watt, the tide started coming in. And it got difficult to pull out the gum-boots out of the Schlack (dark, sticky, muddy water). It was a moment when I thought it would perhaps be better to leave my gum-boots behind. But I somehow managed to walk on. The Wattwanderung along the shores of the Isle of Langeoog was interesting and strenuous and we learned quite a lot about the wildlife and acquatic animas on the shores of the North Sea Wattenmeer.

 

Another day it was a chilly, and we could feel the gusts of wind blowing to the island from the North Sea. Although we had our pullovers, jackets and gum-boots on, as we trudged along between the beach and the waves, busy gathering sea-shells, a woman in the autumn of her life, wearing a one-piece bathing suit in anthroposophical orange pastell colours, walked to the sea and began swimming in the cold, wind-swept water. Brr! She was very courageous, disciplined and trimmed for a hard life, I thought.

 

Downtown Langeoog reminded me of a sea-town in Britain with those neat brick-houses and white-painted doors and windows, cobble-stoned streets and sea-man’s kitsch on the windows. I couldn’t help it, I had to buy some of it: cards, Langeoogs water-tower in miniature with two sea-gulls and a red-white painted trawler, complete with fishing nets on two sides. Sigh!

 

 

 

Longing For Langeoog (Satis Shroff)

 

 

Were I a sea-gull

I’d fly to the north,

To Langeoog,

Where I spent my holidays.

Ach, how wonderful.

 

I think of the colourful

Wicker beach-chairs with hoods,

And the small island train.

 

I think of Flut and Ebbe,

Of time and tide,

Clams, starfish, seaweed.

The shores full of shrimps,

Sea-urchins and jelly-fish.

The fun of bathing

In the North Sea,

And the fear of the Qualle.

 

Grandma Else’s porcellain Stube,

A warm cuppa East Friesian

Candy sugared tea

At the harbour Teestube.

 

I remember ‘Watt’n Erlebnis’

What an experience,

During the Wattwanderung,

Along Langeoog’s dark, slicky shores,

Searching for mussels, clams and crabs in the water.

And in the endless sky,

Like an inverted cobalt bowl,

Swarms of Rotschenkel

On their way to Africa.

 

Glossary:

Flut und Ebbe: flood- and low-tide

Qualle: jellyfisherman

Rotschenkel: red-legged island birds

Watt: banks of sand, flats

Watt’n Erlebnis: what an experience, with a pun on Watt

Stube: store, shop

Teestube: tea-shop

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Commentary on Tibet:

Dalai Lama’s Realpolitik: A Policy of Appeasement (Satis Shroff)

 

The Chinese poet Dong Guanfu writes in his blog: “We cannot win the heart of the Tibetans if we only develop their economy. If we cannot manage to understand this, then many other conflicts will follow. There’s no denying that one of the reasons of staging the Olympic Games is that we want to make money. But the greater value of the Games is to strengthen and rejuvenate the spirit of a nation. How many spiritual values can we convey by way of the Olympic torch? This is a question that has to be weighed by the whole Chinese folk, especially the ruling part members (in Beijing). ”

 

The Dalai Lama has threatened to resign as the political leader of the Tibetans in Tibet and the diaspora (USA, India, Nepal and Switzerland), but the protests within Tibet has been rising although Tibet has been hermetically sealed for foreign journalists, and the nabbed demonstrators have been put to show as terrorists, their own outmoded arms on display (Royal Enfield rifles from World War II), knives and a few cartridges. A young monk was shown on TV welcoming and thanking the Chinese Army soldiers as ‘saviours’ by putting the traditional khada scarves on their heads.

 

Never before was a farce staged so badly. It was sickening to watch it, propaganda at its worst. The foreign journalists were obliged to leave Lhasa so that the Chinese propaganda could function without democratic impediments. And the views that have emerged through Xinhuan and Chinese TV are conspicuous through their slanted reporting to the benefit of the rulers in Beijing. The selected foreign-press was invited to Lhasa but this time the younger generation of Tibetan lamas were shown in tears with the words in their mouths, “Tibet is not free!” You could only feel a numbness and a lump in your throat.

 

The world knew already in 2001 that Peking put not only the Tibetans under pressure but consequently cracked down on intellectuals and other Tibetan people, and went even so far as to hang them en masse as political criminals. It is ironical that the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Beijing. One hopes that this will be a lesson to the Olympic Committee, if they are ever in a dilemma of staging the Games in similar countries, where the rights of the individuals are suppressed, and human rights are trampled upon. This goes against the Olympic spirit. But the question of morality and ethics doesn’t seem to arise when political lobbyists are at work, and economic and commercial gains are also a part of the game, in this case, Games. The privileged party elite of Peking and the organisers of many western countries seem to have a common opinion as far as the Olympic Games are concerned, and they all come up with: how could be punish our own sportsmen and women by not letting them take part in the competitions? Think of the gold medal possibilities that might be lost.

 

A sportsman with ethos and integrity would be ashamed to take part in the competitions. Most of the organising and participating nations are against boycotting the Games “because it would damage the sport and the contestants (sic).” On the one side, we have competitors wanting to take part in the Games no matter what it costs. On the other side, there are the one-party organisers in Beijing who see the Tibetans as disturbing elements led by the Dalai Lama clique, although they know very well that this is a cheap lie, fabricated to suits their purpose. Thanks to the Olympic Games 2008, the Chinese elite are in the international limelight, and have been ignoring the critical views of the rest of the world’s leaders and world organisations, and using them for their own purposes. The march of the Chinese troops in Lhasa has shown the real face of China.

 

What are gold medals worth in terms of humanity? A dark shadow has been cast upon the Olympics 2008 and August is nearing, but Peking is adamant. It’s still playing the olde, hackneyed melody, instead of listening to the Tibetans and the conscience of the world that are demanding equal human rights and justice, tolerance and respect for China’s minorities. The sportsmen and women have got nothing to lose their fame in the form of gold medals and money from future sponsors, but the Tibetans and the Chinese have a lot to win in terms of human values, tolerance, compassion and togetherness—a Miteinander.

 

I met an old German lady yesterday on my way from downtown Freiburg and she said, “Herr Shroff, you should have seen the film about the Lhasa-Peking train in Fernsehen. It was fantastic. They even have oxygen-masks, like in the Airbus, for the passengers who feel weak. How thoughtful of them!”

 

It is a fact that China has opened to the economic benefits of the western world, but in the jurisprudence sector, China this big Asian giant, is still an underdeveloped country and more paragraphs on human and individual rights have yet to be added before China’s Communist Party can speak of equal rights like others in the comity of nations. China’s leaders have been keeping its own Han-folk in the dark through the usage of propaganda by treating the Tibetans who protest in public as criminals. But the worst part of this propaganda war is that the Han-Chinese have become gullible and actually believe the theatre that has all the while been presented by Xinhua and CCTV. Moreover, the Han-Chinese believe that they freed the poor Tibetans from slavery and feudalism. The reality is, however, complex, because the Tibetan folk have their own script, scriptures, their own history of development, their mentality, psyche, religion, traditions and rich culture. When you see a Tibetan monk or youth throwing stones, it is a metaphor of a David who is trying to raise his hand against a Goliath (Han-Chinese), and this protest has nothing to do with criminality in the ordinary sense of the word. The real crime was committed when Han-Chinese overran the Tibetan Plateau and robbed the Tibetans of their religion, language, culture and outlawed them after the principle: A good Tibetan is a Han-Tibetan.

 

There was a time when the Dalai Lama was a welcome guest, as the spititual and temporal ruler of Tibet, and he was feted by rich and poor alike, by academicians and statesmen. Even the town of Freiburg showed that we were in solidarity with him, his folk and his cause. Now we are silent when Tibet needs us. The Olympic spirit and Machtpolitik should not be allowed to go hand in hand. We have had parallels in Berlin in 1936 and Moscow in 1980. The International Olympic Committee has made a terrible mistake in awarding Peking, at this stage of its power-politics, the privilege of staging the Olympic Games.

 

Come August and the Games are really staged in Beijing, this will be the unkindest cut for the people of Tibet, the peace-loving Dalai Lama, the man who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in Stockholm, lest we forget, by the western world. The Dalai Lama has been all along constantly following a pragmatic Realpolitik, for the only way to bring China to reason is through the practice of patience, far-sightedness, pragmatism and non-violence in the spirit of Gandhiji and Martin Luther King.

 

The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying that China’s re-settlement policy is a “demographic aggression” and that China is a Police-State with “the rule of terror.” How are the Europeans reacting to all this? The EU Commissioner Ferrero Waldner threatened with an Olympia boycott and the EU foreign minister demanded that Peking should carry out a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. According to the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the EU foreign ministers want to invite the Dalai Lama to Brussels. The EU parliament has already extended its invitation to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. China’s Jiang Yu from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs naturally protested.

 

Tibet and China are an unequal brotherhood sealed by fate, destiny, kismet, history. Tibet was ignored for centuries but globalisation has caught up with Peking after the Han-Chinese marched into Lhasa and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee or face imprisonment.

 

It can only be hoped that the Beijing government gives up the path of brutal confrontation, does a bit of soul searching and turns to the peaceful path of conflict solution through dialogue at the same eye-level, and not from above-to-below with its minorities. Since the Chinese and Tibetans (government in exile at Dharamsala) obviously are not in a position to carry out talks together, it would be better if Beijing consented to talks with UN mediators.

 

There is no denying that the Olympic Games are a competitive festival of sports and cultures, but how can people of different cultures celebrate when war-tanks and the Chinese Army are holding the Tibetan folk back in Lhasa, “Jhokang-market, and people in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Tongren (Rebkong) in the province Qinghai? The situation is similar to 1989 when ten thausand Tibetans demonstrated against the Chinese regime.In those days Perking imposed military rule over Lhasa, and sent its People’s Army to the streets. Hundreds of monks were imprisoned, many were shot.

 

Today, a new generation of monks and Tibetan angry youth have grown up and are only trying to fight for their human rights, as members of Homo sapiens. Even the Dalai Lama spoke of more autonomy, mind you, within the framework of the Chinese constitution. What the Tibetans want are equal rights and freedom from the cultural domination of thousands of Han Chinese, who have been re-settled by Beijing’s policy makers with the result that the Tibetans have become a minority in their own country. This is certainly not what the Tibetans and the western world understand under ‘autonomy.’

 

For centuries Tibet was the ‘autonomous region’ of China. But the Tibetans have been deprived of their very autonomy with the creation of a Chinese governor. China has in the past regarded the Himalayan countries as its phalanx, and has fought fiercely against India in 1962 over the border areas. There’s a Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai atmosphere, as the two big South Asian powers vie with each other for economic and commercial gains and cooperation, as evident newly between the Indian and Chinese troops that took part in military exercises. I remember a similar military exercise at the invitation of the Indian Army. A Chinese general had been invited and the Indian Army demonstrated its fire-power. The Chinese general applauded the firepower of his neighbour, then added: “Wonderful, but can you produce this same firepower under Himalayan conditions?” And truly enough, in 1962 the Chinese troops had a better fire-power than the Indians and were no match for the thoroughly trained mountain divisions of China.

 

The Lingua franca of Tibet is not Tibetan now but Standard Chinese, for the Han Chinese are out to develop Tibet and its people culturally, economically, socially and psychologically after the motto: there’s no better culture than the Han culture.

 

In the Kindergardens and schools of Tibet most of the lessons are held in Chinese, and not Tibetan. If one speaks Tibetan, one risks losing one’s job. When the Tibetan parents speak with the teachers they are obliged to do so only in Chinese, even though they are Tibetans. If this isn’t cultural imperialism, then what is it?

 

Even though some athletes are showing character and personal integrity by protesting as individuals spontaneously, the majority, however, do want to take part in the Games. Like for instance the German spear-thrower Christina Obergföll who said: “The boycott would steal the chance of a lifetime.” The manager of Sabine Spitz (mountain-bike discipline) said: “The boycott will only punish the athletes.”

 

Beijing has to listen to the Dalai Lama and his followers in the West, and in Tibet, and take to dialogue, instead of playing the hardliner and condemning and slandering His Holiness and his ‘so-called clique.’ The former spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet has serious and sincere intentions as far as the future of Tibet is concerned The communist politicians in Beijing have to realise that the only way to peace and stability in this former poverty-stricken country of monks, farmers and nomads is not through the use of force (Gewalt) but through well-meant consessions through dialogue, and by raising the status of the Tibetans to that of the Han-Chinese, and letting and encouraging them to develop Tibet together, and not by regarding Tibet’s wonderful culture and religion as something inferior and exotic. We can all learn from Tibet’s rich culture. Beijing has more to gain if it follows the path of peace, tolerance and Miteinander (togetherness) instead of using cheap propaganda to stage a Peking Opera with Tibetans as the culprits, which no one with a conscience, character and integrity wants to see. The scenario is well-known in the western world and no propaganda in this world can help the Chinese government in this particular issue.

 

The Han and other Chinese have the chance to prove to the world that they can practice social welfare and social development by giving the Tibetans the same autonomy, same status as the other Chinese. Otherwise, Beijing’s political goals remain a farce, reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’: all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others.

 

The Ocean of Wisdom (Satis Shroff)

 

Tenzin Gyatso, the spiritual and former

Temporal ruler of Tibet,

Came to a town in the Black Forest

And conquered the hearts of the Freiburger.

A lama in a back limousine,

Applauded by hundreds of Europeans and Asians.

You could feel the goose-pimples in your body,

Tears of joy came to your eyes.

His Holiness prays and blesses

The Tibet Kailash Haus,

A thousand Tibetan prayer flags

Flutter merrily in the wind,

Carrying the mumbled words to Himmel.

 

At the Freiburger Town Council

Says the lama:

Nations, races, social classes

Even religions are secondary.

What is important is that

We are all human beings.

 

Even the sun breaks through the clouds

When Tenzin Gyatso folds his hands,

Smiles from the balcony,

And throws flying kisses

To the German masses.

Even Petrus seems to be smile in Heaven.

 

The Ambassador of Peace

Hopes for a peaceful change,

In Tibet, the Roof of the World,

Where the economy booms

Under the control of the Chinese,

But where democracy and human rights

Are still stifled.

 

I remember seeing His Holiness

As a child in the foothills of the Himalayas,

As he fled across the Abode of the Snows.

Crowds thronged with snow white khadas,

To greet the Dalai Lama.

And here was I in Germany

With my humble prayers,

And there His Holiness,

Blessing us all,

The personification of the Ocean of Wisdom.

 

A seventy-two year old monk,

With the charisma and spontaneity of a child.

A message which said:

Whether you are a Christian, Buddhist or atheist,

If you have compassion for humans,

You can’t be wrong.’

What counts are the inner values

Within us:

Love, forgiveness, tolerance and self-discipline.

Religions help us to make these values even stronger.

Like the inner love and dialogue,

Between a mother and a child,.

To create a Century of Dialogue.

 

 

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