Saturday, May 25, 2013


I was reading "The God Argument" by A C Grayling who is the professor of Philosophy and master of London's New College of the Humanities. His latest book consists of two parts: (a) Against Religion and (b) For Humanism. I suppose many will not share his argument on the former; however, his argument on the latter touches me greatly. I would like to share the following excerpts with you...

"Cicero in his De Senectute (On Old Age) held that people should be free to think for themselves, because they possess rights; but at the same time they should be conscious that their rights define their responsibilities to others. Our ethics should be premised, he said, on the fact that all humanity is brotherhood: 'There is nothing so like anything else as we are to one another,' he wrote in On Laws; 'the whole foundation of the human community' consists in the bonds between people, which should reside in 'kindness, generosity, goodness and justice'. The possession of reason places on individuals a duty to develop themselves fully, and to treat others with respect and generosity. These ideas are the essence of humanism today."

"Ideas of a distinctively humanist stamp are however not restricted to the Western tradition. Equally ancient in their roots, they are central to Confucianism and the tradition of non-theistic ethical schools of India."

"That the human good is for human responsibility to discern and enact, without reliance upon, or invocation of, any of the many religions which claim a transcendental source of authority, and posthumous rewards or punishments for obeying or failing to obey."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Batavia by Peter Fitzsimons

Friends who are interested in maritime history may want to read this book: Batavia by Sydney journalist Peter Fitzsimons. Its account of the fate of the people in the Titanic of the day is so gripping that one can easily breeze through it in a couple of days, even though it is quite a thick book.

The Dutch were the foremost maritime power of the world in the 17th century; it had already 'colonised' Jacarta (Jakarta). Batavia was the newest, most modern addition to the Dutch East India Company (VOC)'s merchant fleet. The route from the Cape to Batavia latitudinally across the Indian Ocean was already known, yet a skilled captain could overshoot the longitude it was supposed to turn north and sail straight into the reefs at Houtman Albrolhos Islands off the west coast of Australia. No sooner had the VOC commander and the captain left to look for help than those who were left behind were condemned to hell by the mutineers headed by a charlatan. Massacres and atrocities were blatantly carried out. Greed and betrayal was the order of the day. Fortunately, all was not lost, thanks to a great soldier on board and the commander's return in the nick of time. Two mutineers were left to rot in Continental Australia. Although there appeared to be no trace of them after that, some aborigines there are said to carry European features.

I did not know that Batavia is actually the name of the Germanic tribe that became the forebears of the Dutch people and samurai mercenaries were already being employed by the VOC to inflict fear and terror into the Javanese under the Sultan of Mataram. Surprisingly, the Dutch also did not seem to have family names during that time. And Netherlands was a republic at that time!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tang Taizong (唐太宗),

Tang Taizong, who reigned from 626 to 649 AD, is generally regarded to be one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history. Was he really a Han Chinese?

Some have argued that he was 3/4 Xianbei (), which is a sub-tribe of Donghu (), who were really the Steppe people.

You may want to follow the thread in the following weblink.

But does it really matter?