Lessons from the world’s humblest president


Some quotes from the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica Cordano, regarded as the humblest president in the world.

He gives 90 per cent of his income away to charities so that what remains is about the same income as the average Uruguayan:

Now Uruguay is accepting a hundred Syrian refugee children – a move the UN has applauded. They will be housed in “the presidency’s summer retreat, a mansion and riverfront estate surrounded by rolling pastures”.

The country has also agreed to accept six released prisoners from the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention centre run by the United States. Mujica described the centre as a disgrace for the United States, “which on the one hand wants to wave the flag of human rights, and assumes the right to criticize the whole world, and then has this well of shame.”

Mujica takes a dim view of the materialistic consumer culture so prevalent in our world today.

On materialism

We have sacrificed the old immaterial gods, and now we are occupying the temple of the Market-God. He organises our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives, and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness.

It seems that we have been born only to consume and to consume, and when we can no longer consume, we have a feeling of frustration, and we suffer from poverty, and we are auto-marginalised.

On global consumption

We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means, by being prudent, the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.

And here, Mujica unwittingly makes a case for a decent living wage:

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On redistribution of wealth

Businesses just want to increase their profits; it’s up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so workers have the money to buy the goods they produce … It’s no mystery — the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources.”

On donating 90 per cent of his salary to charity

I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it’s not enough for others. For me, it is no sacrifice, it’s a duty.

On his goals for Uruguay

My goal is to achieve a little less injustice in Uruguay, to help the most vulnerable and to leave behind a political way of thinking, a way of looking at the future that will be passed on and used to move forward. There’s nothing short-term, no victory around the corner. I will not achieve paradise or anything like that. What I want is to fight for the common good to progress. Life slips by. The way to prolong it is for others to continue your work.

(Compilation of quotes from World.mic)

Instead of helping the vulnerable, we have certain politicians here who want to chase away the homeless from the city centre and shut down soup kitchens. The soup kitchens are out there largely because our economic system and social safety nets have failed the homeless.

You think any of our politicians could emulate Mujica’s lifestyle and environmental worldview?

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  1. Papa Sensible. U apek naik-brother nak cuba kerja lagi?
    Boleh tahan kah?
    jangan buang nafas sempoi lu orang apa tu? medi advertising.
    Red Lantern tunggu lu…

  2. Papa sensible. Pls lah be sensible as your name suggest (?).
    Why provoke tunglang, got many hours in your hand ah?
    If so free to retiting (?), can go help at roti kichen @Penang Road or soup kitchen.
    this is sensible advice to you old hack. Phai seh?

  3. Meanwhile our PM learnt a lesson from Brazil’s failure in the World Cup as ‘lack of leadership’.
    Is he apologizing for his own lack of leadership in governing Malaysia, especially his reluctance in making important decisions as PM of Malaysia. I hope he should now realise that keeping quiet on national issues and ‘ponteng’ parliament sessions are signs of poor leadership. Having empty slogans is indeed a mark of poor leadership.

  4. Best describe as pragmatic , liberal and strong advocator of human rights.
    And surprisingly, the President is an Atheist , is a vegan and support to make cannabis legit.
    The rest of his life story and interviews (mostly in Spanish) can be found in the BBC and youtube.

    • John Lennon wrote this beautiful song with inspiration from his wife Yoko Ono – Imagine.
      He didn’t believe in the Almighty, neither in the gomen of the day.
      Wasn’t a university graduate nor a PHD. Nor indoctrinated in religious bigotry & double standards.
      But his heart was philosophically gold, which many in humanity are missing the touch.
      And he sang in simple humanist terms, asking us to reflect deeply while imagine a world without the excesses, not praising the rich, the greedy nor the fleeting consumerist culture of US where he was then.
      If you know & understand what he sang, he’s still alive in us.

      • Unfortunately most Christians do not like John Lenoon as the Beatles once implied that they are bigger (in popularity) than Jesus Christ during the Beatlemania in the 60s.

        But many Indians like George Harrison for his association with Ravi Shankar, and the Concert for Bangladesh.

        Here is the late George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord at the 40th anniversary for the Concert for Bangladesh:

        Harrison wrote “My Sweet Lord” in praise of the Hindu god Krishna, while at the same time intending the lyrics to serve as a call to abandon religious sectarianism, through his deliberate blending of Hebrew “hallelujah”s with chants of “Hare Krishna” and Vedic prayer.

      • IMAGINE too much ? In time of present commercialized world, those in media/advertising are supposed to get more lucrative projects to influence the public to spend on specific products. I am sure tunglang with his imaginative tendency must be very busy. If not, better look for alternative mentor. Cheers alicafe or ah huat cafe !

      • Of course, I am very busy unlike Papa who is so free & ‘hard-up’ for red lanterns in JB.
        Must be also hard up for cash at such old age trying to be another Joneses.
        Can dance GangNam style? Hope you don’t get heart attack like that kwei low!!!

      • I love it – Papa’s a faithful follower (liken to Facebook’s) & word of mouth advertising media (unpaid) for tunglang brand advertising & desire creation (not the red lantern type of JB).
        Is CAT Deity his blame-game + cocky mentor?

        Get a real life in real advertising. At your age, I am not too sure you will get an apprenticeship in a sweat shop ad agency to 360° untrain + retrain yourself in proper Advertising + Marketing practice.
        You may try your luck in JB. There, I heard is an back-alley ad shop called The Red Lantern with 4As+One Middle F-Finger accreditation. I heard the hard-core ad guys love ‘cocky-hard-up’ headlines & scams (a term for idea sketches)….

      • tunglang easily provoked these days.
        a few lines and he reveals his identity.
        I beleieve I have met him before. I was from medi advertising in the 80s now retiting comfortably not in “red lantern” business.

        ho ho ho …… ring a bell tunglang ?

  5. Over here we had our PM spouting military style rhetoric and telling UMNO to emulate ISIS (in some imaginary war) now we have our DPM issuing threats about the specter of May 13th while UMNO’s own paper publishes racist and bigoted propaganda and right wing UMNO related groups spout all sorts of racism and hatred against the non Malays.

    Both of them should clean up their own back yard first before start telling the rest of us what is right and wrong.

  6. Another swan song for Penang heritage landmark – Odeon cinema final screening on 15 July 2014. May be Anil and nolstagic yesterday good times rolling gang can watch a final movie there and take selfie with the building. Who knows Odeon may follow the fate of Capitol Cinema disappearing from site (demolished) ? Or may be Mydin will take over it as what it has done to Cathay cinema ?

  7. Lesson learnt recently is that the JE incident in Penang is not due to the pig farms. The affected residential area should spruce up their area to prevent mosquito breeding instead. But the Umno media conveniently use the incident as am excuse to shut down pig farming. Many (other) environment is dirtier and more unkempt compared to pig farms!

  8. Yes, Nice to see you pick this one up Anil. Today the Malay Mail (Sat July 15) featured a full two page centerpiece presenting 15 quotes from President Jose “Pepe” Mujica. Oh dear, a person of common sense as President of a country….surely impossible….not.

    • Yes, Michael, wish there were more politicians around who were more in touch with the people’s hardships.

  9. This is living how life is ment to be, thank you for posting the lessons Anil!
    Not many humans heard of this president and his life view
    Wisdom comes from inside…you cant live without!

    Forwarded too many…..
    Start with living it yourself, be the example!
    Live life!
    Be love, do joy, have peace

    Love always prevails!

  10. Anil, I love this President of Uruguay.
    Makes my Saturday.
    We can learn how to live meaningfully, not forced to live to be outwardly happy or ego-busted.
    Cheers Kopi-O kau kau to Jose Mujica Cordano.


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