A person may cause evil to others…

“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.”

John Stuart Mill

From Thurman’s Soapbox

* * *

“The first thing I had to get used to was the institutionalisation… Establishments like orphanages are only able to function by dehumanising people so they will work as a single unit… It was impossible to display any individuality…

Something I especially hated about the institutions was how, at night,… the lights went out. They would dim slowly and then blackness, no matter what you might be doing… Since those times there have been a lot of exposes about what goes on in these institutions, and they were nirvana for paedophiles… In those dormitories, life was a multi-dimensional reign of terror – you were at risk of abuse from caregivers outside and gangs of boys inside. The longer the others have been there, the stronger their gang was and the more trouble you were up for when you arrived. I discovered quickly tat the more people there are trying to kick the living daylights out of you the better off you are because there’s no room for them to work up a good swing. If it is just two or three you’re going to end up with some serious damage. I learnt to stand up for myself early on. …

One of the few friends I made in all those years, when I was twelve, was a boy my age called Graeme. … He was very intelligent and we had proper conversations about life and what our aspirations were. That sort of bond was rare.

But Graeme was also very vulnerable. He was bit for his age and a very good-looking boy with a crop of blond hair and very pale, luminescent skin. He was a quiet, gentle boy and just the sort paedophiles find really attractive.

One of our caregivers became obsessed with him and sodomised him frequently in the dormitory…

I convinced Graeme that we should go to the head administrator and tell him what was happening. We told him our story and he agreed to follow up but advised that the teacher was well respected and a good teacher, which he was, and advised that he was confident that no further ‘incidents’ would take place and it would be best not to mention this again.

But like so many things, it was a political decision. I realised later the immorality of that: I had gone to somebody in trust to try to stop something bad happening, and I got a political response.

And, of course, this man felt rejected because his affection for Graeme was genuine. He had just taken it to the next level. So he felt betrayed and he took that out on the boy. And one day it got too much and Graeme went into the changing rooms and hanged himself.”

(from ‘Rebel with a cause’ by Ray Avery)

Soft words…

“Soft words butter no parsnips”

English Proverb


“Don’t listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds.”

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

* * *

(from www.hollows.org.nz)

“When I met Fred Hollows, I didn’t think I would end up on this path. He wanted someone who knew what they were doing to go to Eritrea and help set up a plant to manufacture intraocular lenses – artificial lenses that can be transplanted into people’s eyes to defeat cataract blindness and allow them to see…

An old colleague from the medical school introduced me to Fred as a scientist who could build labs in Africa and Asia, but Fred, who usually made a point of being as rude as possible, didn’t even acknowledge me.

“Yeah, but is he any bloody good?” he snorted and kept moving…

Fred had a tendency to say whatever he thought he needed to get the results he wanted. I’ve seen him with patients and he was the classic gruff, kindly old physician with them. And there was no one smarter than he was when it came to community medicine. Everybody else, though, only got to see the foulmouthed tough guy. He loved to challenge people: “Jeez you’re ugly, you’ve got a face like a hatful of arseholes,’ was a standard greeting. But he was also a supreme example of how one person can inspire people to do great things.”

(from ‘Rebel with a cause’ by Ray Avery)

* * *

Fred Hollows
( 1929 – 1993 )

(from www.hollows.org.nz)

“Fred Hollows was an internationally acclaimed eye surgeon and social justice activist who championed the right of all people to high quality and affordable eye care.

The Fred Hollows Foundation was established in Sydney, Australia, on 3 September 1992, just five months before Professor Fred Hollows passed away.

We have a vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind. We work  to restore sight and end avoidable blindness in more than 29 developing countries across Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

Our sight-restoring work is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Since 1992, The Foundation has restored the sight of well over one million people around the world; in many cases all it took was a simple 20 minute operation costing as little as $25. In the last five years alone, The Foundation has also trained more than 30,000 eye health workers.”

(from ‘The Foundation and Our Achievements’)

Art and Nature

(Russia, 1990s)

Tania was my best friend at University. She was a lovely girl from a very nice family. She lived with her parents and an older sister. I always envied her a bit as she had such a warm, supportive and loving family – something I did not have by then…

Tania studied German at University. One of the local newspapers offered a free opportunity to find penfriends overseas. I thought that it would be a good chance for Tania to put her language skills into practice, so for her 17th birthday I put a free ad in all German newspapers for German-speaking penfriends interested in art and nature.

She got a few nice letters, but then … I was sitting in a big auditorium waiting for the Genetics lecture when Tania came in laughing loudly.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“What ad did you put for me in Germany?” she asked.

“Nothing extraordinary – just something about a girl looking for German speaking penfriends interested in art and nature.”

Mrs Grumpynova who was teaching genetics entered the auditorium and the lecture began.

“Guess what I got the other day,” whispered Tania. “I was sitting in the living room with my mum and sister, when my mum gave me this envelope with pictures of flowers and butterflies. The art bit looked very pretty. So I opened the envelope and here came the nature – a picture of a naked middle-aged man fell out. You should have seen my mum’s face when she saw that. Surely enough just at that moment we heard my dad’s footsteps. “Hide this photo somewhere quickly,” shrieked my mum in horror, “If your dad sees that, you’ll be banned from having any penfriends from the West.” I quickly pushed this photo under the carpet just a second before my dad entered the room. My sister could not help it and burst into laughter rolling on the floor. “What’s the matter?” my dad asked with a puzzled look on his face. I tried to keep my face straight. “Nothing, darling,” said my mum with a sweet smile. “Just shared a little joke,” and she gave him a kiss.”

Tania got the photo and passed it to me. I could not help it and burst into laughter. A girl sitting next to me grabbed the photo from my hands and started laughing as well. Other girls started passing this photo along the rows and soon a Mexican wave of laughter engulfed the auditorium with all 150 girls bursting into laughter one after another. Mrs Grumpynova stopped her lecture.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. Everyone just kept laughing. Mrs Grumpynova went to the last row and got the photo.

“Who brought this photo here?” she asked angrily.

Both Tania and I stopped laughing and raised our hands. Mrs Grumpynova promptly kicked both of us out of the auditorium and continued her lecture:

“What will you get when you cross yellow and green peas?” she asked the audience.

“What will you get when you cross hedgehog and a snake?” whispered Tania standing next to me by the door.


“A few metres of barbed wire,” she chuckled.

“Be quite”, – I said to Tania. “I want to listen to Grumpynova. We’ll have a test next week – don’t want to lose my scholarship if I get her peas wrong.”

I moved closer to the door and peeked through the key hole. Just at that moment someone opened the door.

“Ouch,” I shrieked. My right eye started turning black. “You know, Tania. As the Bible goes, ‘If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away…’ …. Don’t you ever bring such photos again to the University. I can hardly see with my right eye now – don’t want to risk my left one …”

Tania laughed. A few weeks later she put an ad in all English-speaking countries for English-speaking penfriends interested in Shakespeare and Dostoevsky – that was her present for my 17th birthday…