Ignorant Good Intentions Lost in Translation


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

During the Iranian hostage crisis, UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim flew to Teheran and announced at a news conference at the airport,

“I have come here to mediate a compromise.”

As he was driven downtown in a limousine, angry crowds in the street pointed their fists at him and threw stones at his limousine. He could not understand what had upset the people so much.

Someone explained to him that in Farsi “to mediate” means to meddle into someone else’s affairs that are none of your business.

“Compromise” means to give up sacred principles, as in “a virgin compromised her virtue.”


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. Fischer was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University 1986-88, has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities, and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Dec 2019.

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