Category Archives: Asia

The impact of Bullying (stories)

Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

In October the whole world was shocked and outraged by the horrible story of Amanda Todd. Prior to her death, Todd posted a video on YouTube in which she used a series of flash cards to tell of her experience of being blackmailed, bullied, and physically assaulted. The video went viral after her death, resulting in international media attention.

A similar media frenzy occurred in the Netherlands after the suicide of 20 year old Tim Ribberink. His parents posted his goodbye note as obituary notice which led to nationwide attention to his tragedy.

Dear mum and dad,

My whole life I have been mocked, ridiculed, bullied and excluded. You are great.

I hope you are not angry.

See you, Tim


Everyone will agree that bullying is wrong, evil and should be banned from the world. After the stories like the ones described above bullied people are invited to radio and tv interviews and people demand that action is taken to reduce (preferably destroy) bullying in schools once and for all.

But how long does the topic really stick? It is almost December and the topic has almost died already. Politicians continue with their own agenda, a new topic to be outraged about comes up, and let’s not forget about Christmas, the time for love for all. So after the short burst of media attention the topic is forgotten, until another bullied teen takes his/her life in a remarkable setting. A normal teenage suicide is not sufficient, definitely not in December.

And why is that?

Bullying is a social phenomenon that is present where a group of people are together for a longer period.

I was not bullied growing up. I bullied growing up. There. I said it. I was a mean, insulting teenager, a breaker of weaker minds and souls. I have played mental warfare with people. Weak, vulnerable people mostly. I knew what I was doing too. I was fully aware that these people did not have many friends and just wanted to belong to our group. I did not let them. I told people they were not wanted. I do not remember having a reason to be mean to people besides me not liking them. Simple as that. As every child/teenager I struggled with finding out who was and what I wanted. Who I wanted to hang out with or have a crush on. And who I did not want to spend time with.

I am not proud of this. But I am not so naive as to think that I can change the cruelty of children and teenagers. I do not pretend that bullying stops at a certain age and is only a problem in schools.

I am not bullied as an adult. I do not bully as an adult. I know it happens though. People are being ignored, insulted, and mentally tortured by their adult peers. Bullying does not stop in high school, and adults can be just as cruel and mean as teenagers. But one is not supposed to be bullied as an adult; one should be able to deal with criticism. Grow some backbone. Not take it so seriously.

What I believe to be the root of bullying evil is the feeling of superiority we have. My belief is better than your belief. My country is better than your country. My political views are better than yours. If you do not believe what I believe, you are stupid and wrong. And I can tell the whole world you are stupid. Freedom of speech and so on. And teach my children that people that hold different views are stupid. “But my children are not bullies. Not my children. They are respectful and tolerant, just like me.” Right….

Bullying happens when someone is different in the eyes of the bully. Is a threat. If the bully wants to feel better about himself and attacks someone that cannot fend for him/herself.. Bullying is not restricted to the school or sports we use to go to. Is has nothing to do with age.

But I suppose that the once you have been bullied, you will always remember your first bullies. How hard and unfair it was. Arbitrarily even in most cases. Because you had glasses or funny teeth. The memory and pain will always stay with you. I hope you are being treated better now.

I hope that one day there will be no more bullying. But that is not enough for me. No more racism. No more religious battles fought with real bombs and guns. No more intolerance towards gays and lesbians.

It takes more to make better world. A lot more. From everybody. And not only after your cried about a teenage suicide. All the time. Developed yourself. Learn about a different culture. Accept differences. Because if you will not, I bet your children will neither.



Filed under Asia, Europe, USA

Tolerant people of the past: Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Tolerant person of the past: Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and spiritual leader of India.


Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most influential Indians of the last century is most famous for his non-violent civil disobedience. He was the leader of Indian Nationalism in British- ruled India. Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.

What would he say if he would look at the world today? How would he respond to the movie “Innocence of Muslims” and the following protests? Gandhi also had to deal with violent clashes between religions, and even though he was a great man, he could not stop it from happening. However it is argued that without his presence and persistence on non-violence the clashed would have been bigger, bloodier and deadlier. He had to live with racism while living in South-Africa, and deal with the intricate caste-system in India upon his return. The troubles of today are not that different from the troubles back then. Religions battle for ownership of absolute truth, creating enemies out of everyone who does not belief the same.

Democratic freedom has been won by India, and people live (mostly) in peace. In the Middle-East however this freedom has not been won in most countries, or has only been won recently and the political struggle has not (yet) evolved into a democratic political process. But the dictator has been beaten, the dragon has been slain, but the world did not change overnight. There is the need for an enemy, someone needs to be blamed. The difficult political relationship that has evolved over the past decades between the Western World and the Middle-East creates a platform for the search of an enemy. And when the insults keep coming, it is easy to hate.

Gandhi promoted asceticism; compassion for all forms of life; the importance of vows for self discipline; vegetarianism; fasting for self-purification; mutual tolerance among people of different creeds; and “syadvad,” the idea that all views of truth are partial.

Mutual tolerance of people of different creeds.

The idea that all views of truth are partial.

In times like these we could use someone to stand up and be the new Gandhi.

“Be the change that you want to see in the world”


Series: Tolerant people of the past

Charlie Chaplin

Mother Theresa


Freedom of speech vs Innocence of Muslims



Filed under Asia, Middle-East, Religion, Tolerant people of the past, USA

Freedom of speech versus “Innocence of Muslims”

The past week the world was once again shocked by violent demonstrations in the Middle-East. The reason was the controversial anti-Islam movie “Innocence of Muslims”.  The movie shows Mohammed in the desert with several of his followers. He says they can kill men, take women prisoner and sell children as slaves. He encourages them to do whatever it takes to spread “There is only one God and his Prophet is Mohammed”.  

The real identity of the movie maker is still unknown. The spokesman for the movie-maker, Jewish American Steve Klein, states that “Sam Bacile” is a Christian with Middle-Eastern roots.  The goal of the movie was “to go for the radical one percent (of Muslims)”. The main source of distribution stems from an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in the USA, looking for attention for the discrimination and attacks of Christians in Egypt.

Steve Klein says in the interview he does not have blood on his hands. He states that he is an expert on Islamic issues and on what Mohammed did. He wanted to support a movie that told the truth. “If there is blood on anyone’s hands I’d point my finger to (*drums please*) Hillary Clinton and the state department   for criminal negligence for not protecting the ambassador.”

Summing up the price of this week’s freedom of speech:

Libya: On Monday the American ambassador and three of his diplomats were killed during demonstrations.

Yemen: Current death toll is four; at least 15 people got injured. And maybe not related, but interesting enough to mention:  on Monday there was an attack on the Minister of Defense. He survived, 8 of his security staff and 5 civilians did not.

Egypt:  One American flag

Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan: Protest against the movie, no facts found about injuries

Iran: Because there is no American Embassy in Iran the protesters decided to go to the Swiss Embassy. Do not ask me for the logic behind this.


Goal Achieved: The world has seen that there are right-wing Islamic extremists in the Middle-East. The Western world condemns the violence and the footage of the protesters creates fear of Muslims.

I am a big supporter of freedom of speech, and I am happy that I live in a country where I can write pretty much anything I want. But with great freedom, comes great responsibility. I do not use this freedom to create hate, anger, nor discrimination. I know there are extreme people in the world; I do not need to provoke them to prove my point. And it is obvious that the movie is nothing more than a provocation, telling millions of people in the world that their Prophet was a raving madman. I assume that most Muslims look at the movie, comment about how shitty it is, take the insult and move on with their lives. But what we see in the media is not most Muslims; it is the small radical group of Muslims. The most dangerous group obviously, but not a reason to believe that the whole Middle-East is filled with only radical extremists.

The role of the media is crucial in this case. Instead of only showing rioting extremists, it is important that influential Muslims from the Middle-East that distance themselves from the violence are heard. Just as you have probably seen Mrs. Clinton distancing the American Government from the movie, the other side should also be shown from a Muslim perspective.  Even though the footage of rioting people is more spectacular, the media should provide a more neutral perspective.

The Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental teachings) which have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating visual depictions of figures. Still, many Muslims who take a stricter view of the supplemental traditions will sometimes challenge any depiction of Muhammad, including those created and published by non-Muslims. The difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims can be compared with the difference between Catholics and Protestant Christians. Catholic churches have many iconic images of Jesus and other saints, while Protestant churches are more sober and without (many) images. The same principal applies to Sunni and Shia Muslims.

I am an agnostic, I believe that truth of certain claims are unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable. Therefore I do not fully understand the anger of the Muslims about such a bad movie.  But I have even less understanding for the maker of the movie. It is obvious from the movie that the maker wants to anger and insult the Muslim society.

The tolerance issue here is a difficult one. What should we tolerate and what not? Freedom is speech is a key freedom in a democratic society. So even if you make an insulting film it should be tolerated. Violence and murder should never be tolerated. So what is the verdict you ask? Who is right?

The thing is: both the movie-maker and the Muslim demonstrators are wrong! Freedom of speech is there to make yourself heard if there is something in your society that you want attention for. But the movie-maker is only hate-mongering, depicting all Muslims as vile raving madmen. I believe in being tolerant towards other people’s believes. One could argue that the Muslims want to force everyone to believe the same, but they are not guiltier in that as that Christians. Both religions state to hold the absolute truth. Only one prophet is the “real son of God” and my book holds the true word of God. Battle it out between yourself, but leave the people that just want to live their own lives out of it.

Use freedom of speech for good, not to point your finger to something you don’t agree with.

Demonstrate for something good, not against something your belief states is forbidden.

Take your life into your hands, and stop hiding behind your religion to disagree with other people. Different cultures have different values and traditions. Stop making everyone think the same, eat the same and talk the same as you do. Life will be a boring place if you succeed.


Filed under Middle-East, Religion, USA

Tolerant people of the past: Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997)...

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997); at a pro-life meeting in 1986 in Bonn, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mother Theresa

I can remember her well, the old wrinkly lady on tv. By the time I had the maturity to appreciate her work wholeheartedly she was no longer officially in office. But she had such a charisma and noble vibe around her that she was still quite often in the news, helping in one of her missions, trying to make the life of the poorest of the poor a little bit better. She did not do this for fame or money: it was her life’s mission.




She was the recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She refused the conventional banquet given to laureates, and asked that the $192.000 funds be given to the poor in India. Mother Theresa stated that earthly rewards were important only if they helped her help the world’s needy. All over the world she worked hard to battle for people that needed support. Even though she was a devout Christian, her work transgressed over the boundaries of religious teachings. Teresa received Vatican permission on 7 October 1950 to start the diocesan congregation that would become the Missionaries of Charity. Its mission was to care for, in her own words, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

Her actions aimed at the poorest of the poor, but she was not blind for the difficult problems that are common in western civilized societies. I will not state that there is no poverty in Western Society, however the problems are significantly different from the poorest people in for example India. Recognizing this difference in her Nobel price speech Mother Theresa stated:

“Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society—that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult.”

The life of Mother Theresa shows devotion and action for people that need it most. Be more like her, and be kinder to people that are not as fortunate as you are.

How did the life of Mother Theresa influence you? What is it about her that you remember the most? And how do you see her life from the perspective of tolerance?

I’d love your feedback. Also if you have a suggestion to spot someone in the spotlight let me know!

Series: Tolerant people of the past:

Charlie Chaplin



Filed under Asia, Tolerant people of the past

Reasons to be Tolerant of Gay people

There is still a lot of debate about the rights and duties of gay and lesbian people. I have started a short list with points why we should be tolerant of gay/lesbian people. The list is not complete, I would like you to contribute to make the list as long as possible. Of course my statements cannot apply to all gay people, just as statements about hetero people can never apply to all “straight people”. I do not mean to offend anybody; I am trying to create a tolerant community where everything can be discussed. As long as the comments are written with respect for other people, feel free to join the discussion.Gay Parade

I believe gay (that obviously includes lesbians, bisexuals and trans-genders) people should be tolerated because…


1. They are valuable members of our society.

Everyone can think of someone that they believe is providing value for their community and that happen to be gay. The music industry has plenty of famous, talented gay people. Also in politics one sees high positioned gay people. The German minister of Foreign Affairs (Guido Westerwelle) for example, or the Dutch minister of Finance (Jan Kees de Jager). And there are millions of gay people working hard in all industries, just like you and me trying to make a decent living and to live a happy fulfilling life.


2. They are fighting to be accepted and tolerated without forcing their own beliefs on other people.

Gay people are not trying to convince you to be gay. They do not feel offended that you do not feel the same way as they do. They are open and tolerant towards others beliefs. They are fighting to get equal rights as gay couples, being able to marry and adopt children. Why should anybody have a problem with that? Give them the same rights; they already have the same duties as everyone else!


3. They got style and guts.

Gay people are very influential in the fashion world. One could say they just have a keener eye for fashion but I think it is also because they have guts. They are not afraid to come up with new trends and think outside the box. Fashion would be quite boring if everyone would only design conformist outfits.


4. I have started with the first three reasons, it is up to you to make number four!







Filed under Asia, Europe, USA