Saturday, September 10, 2016

Random thoughts: "beautiful souls"- a thought-provoking book

"Beautiful souls" is a wonderful book, it is cognitively stimulating and emotionally disturbing. It contains 4 true stories about  the courage and conscious of ordinary people in extraordinary times.

Just 1 story, and it stirs me. The story about the police captain who falsified papers so that Jews can stay in Swiss. 

It is not just a recount of what happens but also explanations of why it happens, with modern explanations why people do what they did. 

I remembered LP and I were talking about neutral good/evil. We weighed our options before committing. 

I found that this weighing of options, would properly mean I would have done the opposite, if I was in his shoes. Sending the Jews back to Austria. 

I had a break before reading the whole chapter, (waiting for my wife to finish her facial) and I thought to myself, if everyone is like him, wouldn't the place be swarmed with Jews and become a obvious target of hilter, who already annexed Austria? 

The author addressed this point, the "delegate" or shifting of obvious responsibilities to higher "doctrination", it also attempt to explain why the Nazis were able to do systemic killings. In short, they hid behind "were told to so", "others were all doing it" and there is a "greater reasoning" for all these.

The 3 factors applied also to the other side, who simply followed orders to send back the Jews to Austria. 

There is also one explanation that the "proximity" to the refugees, is why the police captain couldn't say no, while other captains "afraid of moral dilemma" simply delegate the duties of sending teh Jews back to more junior officers. 

The explanations are backed by modern experiments and not just by theories. There is this experiment of effect of "carrot and stick" but the test  was just carrot, and someone need to press the button to send electric shock of various intensity to a actor who will pretend to be uncomfortable, protest, shriek in pain and pass out. There are various variables introduce for the experiments but a high 60% of people would just continue to administer pain even if the actor is at the verge of passing out 

After the police captain was caught breaking the law, not only was he dimissed, experince hardship, but also had his reputations smeared that he was corrupted and receive monetary and sexual favors from those he helped. 

I shall not go into details, but the book classify those with moral courage into 2 groups, one who simply did what is right within his power, and others with conviction to lead opposition (change the world), the police captain belonged to the former.

While I was marveling at what moral courage he possessed and thinking he was angel on earth and happy they history has finally returned his name, the author wrote that the "glorifying" of his deeds decades after he died is yet another example of how he is extraordinary, gave the masses the excuse to delegate responsibility to be good to others within our power. We all could have done the choice under his circumstances, we need no superpower. It was like a big slap in my face and I felt ashamed. It's a bit like how my centuries, China has abused "Confucius" to confuse and enslaved the masses. 

A book that is worth reading. I am glad I picked the book. My paraphrasing of the content might not be accurate, just feel really like blogging about reading it. Pardon me. 


  1. Hi SI,

    I like such books. I keep on reading about the ww2 situations in various books. I shall read this one too :)

    I think in the end, whether we do good or evil (it's very subjective), we must be able to sleep soundly at night. If what we do is aligned with our conscious, regardless of whether pple say it's good or evil, we can walk upright and sleep without fearing. Let history judge what is good or evil after we've done it.

    Sometimes the world needs an evil person to accelerate things and to bring out the goodness in people. Goodness strive when there is evil in the world and vice versa. In that worldview, I think Hitler did bring about a whole change in consciousness in euro zone. He even accelerated the setting of a home country for jews. I'm not justifying his actions, but rather seeing what good came out of his deeds.

    The world is highly inter-related. Very complex. If I stop to think too much about the consequences, likely I'll just freeze and not do.

  2. Hi LP,

    I got a feeling u will like this and commented. Gotcha! U are not neutral, u are good LOL. U just do, unlike me, I do trade off analysis

    Share with me your thoughts after u read it ok. If u want it fast, just get it from Du Yi

  3. Hi SI,

    Thanks for sharing. Indeed there are still beautiful souls around despite the much corrupted system we are in.

    Hi LP,

    Share slight different ideology and yet some similarities relating to Hitler. Hitler is the evil of the evil, no doubt! We condemned his action.

    However the existence of Hitler seems somewhat pre-destined. The Jews are almost destined to be punished for the evil deeds they do hundreds and thousands years ago. It is almost like a curse down for generations!

    It was not until after WW2 after the punishment of the holocaust ends, that Jews finally find their own home in Israel. Almost like after they serve their punishments then they can be freed!

  4. Juyi asked, “What is the profound point of the Buddhadharma?”

    Daolin answered, “Refraining from harmful action and practicing helpful action.”

    Juyi retorted, “Bah, even a three year old could say that!”

    Daolin replied, “A three year old could say it, but not even an eighty year old can practice it!”

    —Dogen Zenji, Shoaku Makusa

  5. hi KenT

    indeed, say only means NATO, Not only must say, do it and finally be convinced.. How many can have all 3?

  6. My health getting worse and I may soon have to start dialyssi treatment. A bit worried and scared. Not sure still can cope with work or not. But I try my best to make myself still live as per normal

    1. Dun be scared Yeh,

      While it easier than done, since I am
      Not in your shoes, but we have "no choice" here.

      Accept that life might not be the same but it need not be for the worse. Maybe it's time to start giving tuition than slogging it at the schools?

      Rest more, feel
      More but earn less?

  7. Hi mike
    I am not singaporean . PR lesser medical subsidy. Dialysis fee need 2k ++ at least in sg. Even now MediShield cover 1k. I still have to pay 1.5k at least. Not include iron injection medicine and hospital doctor fee.

    Thinking to do 2/3 load. Maybe my pay just enough to cover medical and living expenses.

    If I back hometown, I will be a useless. And my Husband also wish I stay in sg. He said sg take care patient better. Then chances of infection also lower. Like this can live longer.

    My Husband willing give me a kidney. But I just worried I may waste his kidney as I have a disease of auto immune . Hard to explain, but they will keep attacking my kidney.

    Yes, I didn really cry last few days while doctor tell me.

    Now I just hope everything can go well then I can still live as per normal. I dun Wan my disease and dialysis affect my life much.

    Easy say but hard to do. Especially I scare pain. The needle is very big. And my hand vein is thin. Not sure whether i can bear it or not.

  8. Yeh, honestly,
    2/3 load is a lie la, a lot depends on your school and immediate supervisor. I can take away your CCA and some no. Of periods, but can still work you to death.

    U know if your boss is caring enough to carry out 2/3 load deal in all fairness and compassion or it just become a number game.

    Scare? Now u scare, will get over it.

    Half load is better, or relief teacher.

    I am of sure how much of your pay, but grab well paying assignments and u need only 4-5 of them and work 20-25 hours a week and u can get 3-4 k.

    Keep your eyes open for opportunities

  9. If so then I do full time then

    Tuition need to travel ,
    I don't like to spend so much in travel. Tired

    5 pupils can get 4K? I think hard leh

  10. 5 pupils 4 hours session per week. 20 hours per week.

    20x4 = 80

    80 hours In 1 month checking $50 per hour

    What's so difficult

    1. Nobody Wan to do twice per week then 2 hour per lesson. Also need time to travel.

      I think school understand my health condition and won't burden me.

      Like this year I initially have to teach upper primary because poor health then they shift me to middle levels.

      Also let me take time off for my medical check up and also didn comment much for my sick leave.

      I know I will have no PB or Low PB. But blessed that I able to do full time and straggle to the last term Liao.

    2. Yeh,

      Teaching no longer Iron bowl.

      If u are getting low or no PB, it's better to think in advance before they start talking to u

  11. The math is correct. Better to count by hours. As a moe teacher, probably $50 is too low, but let's count it as $50/hr. 4000/4weeks/50 = 20 hrs per week. You need 20 hrs per week, so you either have 10 students doing 2 hr per week or whatever combi to have 20 hours. 20 hours is very relaxed. 2 students from mon to fri, so 4 hours a day. Very do-able.

    If you want, you can also do a group. Charge lower but you have higher per hour rate. Work less too. Just small group of 2 or 3 person is good enough.

    1. LP, the guru is here.

      The tought part is how to get the 20 hours. When I am teaching in a renowned school, I know if I go private, I will get phone calls, but now that I am "forgotten" and that my new school profile is now rich, I am not sure how I can find 5 pupils in a short time if I am in your shoes, yeh.

      But I guess I will find a way.

      I even thought of combining relief with tuition, and the sums work out to be in the range of 5-6 k, working hours might be long, but weekends will not by "totally free"

      But in the end, I stay put, the money is good, and the interaction with big group of pupils still nice. I ego, I very happy with pupils come by and excitedly say 黄老师!mum, that's my teacher!

    2. wah so stressed arr? So far nobody talk to me, even my RO, HOD , P and VP all seem supportive.

      They got offer me 2/3 or half load.
      I am actually thinking it next year.

      Relief teaching also another way. Just like LP said, teach tuition some Month has to eat grass.
      Of course can find tuition. But if + travel time . I think one day also a lot of time to spend.

      Sound like I back hometown to do dialysis better? Then no need work? But like this you think better for me? I dunno. I just dun Wan to be like a person waiting to death also and become burden to family.

      Also I have a thinking that sg probably better medical in taking care patient. Not like Malaysia.

    3. Hi mike
      走一步 看一步
      Now so many things to worry. Maybe end up I seek public donation. Hahah

      If really can't work then back hometown wait Husband feed.

  12. LP,

    20 hours is very relax huh. So I should be working 40-60 hours.

    I roughly know your pay Liao LOL MIAHHAHA


    Sorry, just being naughty

    1. Haha, it's easy to roughly know the range of my pay lah, just take hours x hourly rate :) But you might not know the how unstable that pay will be and how many months I need to eat grass lol

      Mine is a seasonal work. I work hard during harvest season and I play hard during winter seasons :)

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  14. I came across this link on Health App Singapore, hope can provide more insights.

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