Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Look to make change in New Year

December 16, 2009
A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D.
In 15 days, 2009 will give way to the New Year, 2010. Time does not stand still, life evolves and changes. And how the world has changed!
Change comes in different forms. Some change occurs without our input; some change is of our making. Some changes are positive, other changes cause us to feel regret. But in the ages-old process of renewal and new
beginnings, the advent of a new year brings us opportunity to look forward to the inevitable changes that will challenge us in 2010.
Some of us like the slogan, "Yes, we can," and speak of change, but leave to others the hard work of bringing it to fruition.
Some like the conventional way of looking for "good leaders" to foment change. Yet "good leaders" do not fall from heaven; they are humans and are here among us.

I wrote in this space before that leaders are leaders because they have ideas, they commit to changing the status quo through sharing ideas, connecting people who desire the same, creating hope and instilling a belief that in time nothing is impossible through determined and continuous efforts. Then, "Yes, we can."
And it is you, rather than someone else, who can make change happen. Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, a founder of modern political science, said, "One change leaves the way open for the introduction of others."
Last week I suggested we begin small but wonderful things that would inspire others to imitate us, so we can open Machiavelli's door for bigger wonderful things to follow.

Napoleon Bonaparte said, "Those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people." Thus, to the conventional standard of "good leadership," we should add the need for a "good citizenry" as the best engine of change, a powerful force of transformation.
The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy's "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself" is a good starting point.
I've written in this space about Jeffrey Kluger's cover story for Time magazine, which posited, "the savage and the splendid" coexist in the same person, "morality and empathy" and "savagery and bloodlust" are "writ deep in our genes." People "do come untracked," he wrote, but the "overwhelming majority" don't "run off the moral rails."
Wisdom comes slowly, but it comes. That's hope.

The search for peace in a "good society" is eternal. A former university colleague introduced me to the writing of Indian spiritual sage Jiddu Krishnamurti, who posited that in a world of friction and disharmony among friends, within families, between office workers, society members and nations, "it is possible to live ... sanely, happily, intelligently, without all the battle going on inwardly and outwardly."
In his book, "This Light in Oneself," Krishnamurti philosophizes that life is "a constant struggle" and a "battlefield" within ourselves and outwardly: "That is what we call living."
Life's "order" gives way to "confusion and chaos," he says, because in our relationships, actions, thinking and way of life, we focus heavily on the "me." This breeds pettiness, narrowness and shallowness in life.
Meditation, he says, helps transform the mind and instill compassion, love and energy, and he advised that we engage in an "Inward Revolution," to live in the present, here and now "in goodness" -- that is, not to preach love and practice hatred, not to preach killing, stealing and libelous behavior, and to embrace high principles.
Lord Buddha has taught all these -- if only man practiced his teaching.
As usual at this time of the year, I recall a presentation by New Zealander John Sax at a regional conference in Manila, where he spoke of the "highway of humanity" on which all of us are travelers, and free to choose to get off on one of the two exits.
On Sax's exit named "Great," travelers can stop at stations called love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, humility, honesty, truth, generosity, forgiveness and self-control. On Exit "miserable," there are stations called hate, misery, conflict, cruelty, meanness, unfaithfulness, brutality, pride, dishonesty, falsehood, misery, unforgiving and no self-control. Which exit do we choose, Sax asked?
We are what we think, and are thinking, which determines the quality of the future. It's based on ideas, opinions, information, experiences, values and beliefs acquired from family, school, friends, religious faith and occupation.
As we move on to the New Year, let's look at areas in ourselves that need change and then we can move on to change the world.

Let me share with you what I have learned: Positive attitudes breed positive results; you cannot always control your life circumstances, but you can control your attitudes toward those circumstances; what whips you is not defeat but your mental attitude toward it; a positive attitude produces a positive perception and changes the situation for the better; thoughts can be developed.
A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at


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