Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three Cups of Tea; Three Cups of Deceit

I wrote this blog post about Three Cups of Tea a pretty long time ago, more than 2 years ago. Below is an almost exact review done for Three Cups of Tea (with slight grammatical changes) because sometimes it just doesn't do justice when you try to refresh your memory and risk distorting some facts. I'll then compare this against Three Cups of Deceit.

Three Cups of Tea (3 August 2009)

I read this book almost two months ago, but the message that this book brings across is still strong and fresh. In fact, it opens your eyes to many things that we neglect, in the war against terrorism- not everybody is a radical, that many of them crave for a chance to get an education, that many of us get without any effort. It's education that will transform the minds of the students.

The author is a true hero, who braved extremely dangerous places, during dangerous times. Despite this, he trudges on, with the meagre amount of money that he had raised, selling all his belongings, to fulfil his promise of building schools. The hospitality that the locals showed to him as an appreciation of his tremendous efforts was also a display of fierce loyalty to him.

From a mountaineer who failed in an expedition, to someone who is actively involved in raising money to build schools in these impoverished areas, he is truly one capable of overcoming the highest peaks in his own conquer of life's challenges. An inspiring read.

Three Cups of Deceit (1 December 2011)

I bought this book for three reasons. 1) It was sold at $6 at Border's closing down sale. 2) I enjoyed Jon Krakauer's Banner of Heaven. 3) I thought it will be quite interesting how somebody I thought was inspiring turned out to be a cheat.

Of course, I think it's important to have an open mind and not conclusively decide whether before or after reading the book whether Mortenson was or was not a cheat. There are many things that we are not privy to and coming to a conclusion without the necessary clarifications probably isn't the best way to go.

Anyway, more about this book. I found Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven to be a wonderful read, not because it was thrilling or anything. But because I had a very strong sense when reading it that he puts a lot of effort into research. Of course I can't vouch for the authenticity of his research, but at least it seems that he knows his stuff (Note: His non-fiction works have been criticised to some degree). And it provided a great insight into Mormon history, but that's a story best left to another day.

By the way, just a tip, you can probably avoid paying so much money for such a thin book by clicking on this link, which gives even more updates since the book got published. But it might be a great cause to buy the book because the proceeds go to the "Stop Girl Trafficking" project.

Basically, Krakauer tore Mortenson's story apart and found flaws with his stories. And it is how, using Krakauer's words, "Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way". In the book, he  painted Mortenson as a person who was unwilling to account to the Board of Directors for the money donated to the Central Asia Institute, who increasingly did not care about the real goals of what he set out to do, and only cared about his public talks and the money that was rolling in. He spun his own stories in order to lead people to believe that he was a person who was willing to take risks for the greater good of human kind.

I have to admit that I can't take a neutral position because I tend to find Krakauer's case more convincing. I'm reluctant to deviate because I had hoped so hard that Mortenson was someone special in our midst. In any case, I think we are used to seeing initial humaniatarians or people with good intention turn to the dark side because of the lure of money- Is there such a thing as pure goodness? 


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