Maurilhio Nobrega, looking for the truth

Interview September 2021

Could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born on the 12th of April 1976 in Curaçao. Both my mother and father come from entrepreneurial families, so they were raised in an environment of taking the initiative to create something for themselves. Most of us in my family are quite loud and busy, busy, busy most of the time. I also have a brother.

My parents divorced when I was 11 years old, but they always stayed on speaking terms with each other. In that sense, the divorce did not affect me nor my brother very much. Both my parents are self-educated people that gave us a middle-income environment, neither rich neither poor, with its ups and downs.

How supportive were your parents in letting you become who you are right now?
My mother and father always encouraged me to think about what I wanted to do in my life and with my career. But they never ever told me what to do. That was up to me. They would ask me regularly the same question, just to trigger my awareness that I have a choice that I can consciously make. I was always free to decide, so in that sense, they were always very supportive.

Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
After finishing high school (Radulphus College) I moved to Tilburg in The Netherlands to study Construction Business Administration. At that point in my life, I was quite “fed up” with the limitations on Curaçao. I had this strong sense that I had to leave. Not that I wanted to end up in that business one day, but I was simply interested in living in Tilburg specifically and that was the only city that offered that course. Since Mathematics and Physics were part of my curriculum in High School it was rather easy to get admitted.

Picture and post from Facebook page Baksteen Productions

Thing is, I never was interested in studying. I was so much into playing music back then and Tilburg had a strong local music scene. Also, many of my favorite bands held concerts at a concert hall in Tilburg when they were on tour. And that’s basically the whole “why” I wanted to live there specifically and still make sense for my parents. Because most of my friends and former classmates lived in other cities. I am not actively playing that much music anymore, at least not with the idealism that I had in those days. In the end, 6 weeks after I arrived in Tilburg, I switched schools to study Social Cultural Work and confessed the whole Construction Business Administration thing to my parents. I was 18, wanting my life to make sense, help people, the whole thing. In reality, I was trying to make a career in music. My parents knew and played along with me. I did finish that study and got my diploma. But by the time I got that document my personal journey through life thought me that I am not willing to help people that are not willing to help themselves. So I had to figure out what to do next all over again.

Regarding my work experiences:
So even though I had a diploma I got a job as a deliverer at a pizzeria, which was by the way quite fun work to do. After a year of figuring out what to do next, I decided to incorporate all my knowledge into one. I did not only have kSo even though I had a diploma I got a job as a deliverer at a pizzeria, which was by the way quite fun work to do. After a year of figuring out what to do next, I decided to incorporate all my knowledge into one. I did not only have knowledge of Mathematics and Physics, but I also spoke at least 4 languages and was able to read some French and Portuguese. Since the European Union was developing at a fast pace I thought it was wise to educate myself in a more universal way. So I attended the Vertaalacademie (Translation Academy), where I focused mainly on technical subjects to broaden my opportunities, including the option to move to any European country I wanted. It was there at the Vertaal Academie that I “bumped” into the IT world.

Information Technology was a minor course during my study. It was kind of a scary subject because when I was studying Social Cultural Work I only knew how to type a text in WordPerfect and have someone else put it on a floppy for me. At the Vertaalacademie as a matter of fact I fell in love with it. It was only at this age, in my early twenties, that I got acquainted with computers. There was a manual available, so I just read it, something most people don’t do.

It was only then that I discovered I had a gift for understanding software on an abstract level that most people don’t have. I’m not a programmer, but I do have extensive user knowledge. I graduated at the Vertaalacademie with a 10 in IT. After finishing the Vertaalacademie I went on learning more about IT hands-on. I worked in the software localization industry for a couple of years both freelance and as a job. Localization basically means adapting a product completely to the specific requirements and regulations of a specific target market. The same goes for software (manuals). It doesn’t require extensive nor programming knowledge. One basically must be able to look up and confirm rules and regulations of the target market(s) effectively. Later on, I also learned how to design websites. In hindsight, my whole journey in choosing what to study was rather awkward, as I took a lot of decisions that were not very logical. But getting acquainted with the ICT, particularly the internet, was my thing in the end after finalizing two studies. My life’s been like that ever since: one thing always leading to another.

How did you end working as a journalist?
I came back to Curaçao in 2015 for family reasons. It was my plan to continue the business that I had started in Holland when I came back (Consultancy on Websites and Online Business Solutions). But I needed a part-time job and I was raised by my parents to take anything up, even if it meant filling bags at a supermarket. As long as it was decent work. I was living at my mother’s house. It was then that I saw that Radio Direct was looking for a person that wanted to be an added value to the company. Since everything was being built up from scratch I felt I could help them with a professional website. I went to present myself and during a conversation with the owner, I was asked after three minutes if I would consider presenting a program in the morning hours. ‘Why?’, I asked since I did not have any experience. There was something about the sound of my voice and the clear way that I was able to explain things that made an impression.

So I was hired anyway to help out with everything there was to do during the months prior to launching TV Direct and to become a presenter.

Screen test at Direct

I was interested in building and managing a website, which I now do at ParadiseFM by the way, and ended up presenting on the radio and on TV. That’s how I ended practicing journalism. Just like I explained before: one thing led to the other. But I prefer to be called a reporter, since journalism encompasses much more than what I actually do. Maybe I’ll get there, who knows.

We know you to be an educated, knowledgeable journalist, how do you try to give your work, your style that is different from mainstream journalism?
The important thing about being a reporter is the habit of double-checking what I am going to deliver. It’s what my previous jobs demanded of me in the first place, so it feels like something natural to do. I do my utmost to always be as sincere and honest as possible, even when it isn’t always that which people want to hear. It leads to disappointment at times and I’m even criticized for it. Sure, I make mistakes just like anyone else, but if it turns out that I published something that is not correct I correct it immediately and I will not try to defend my ego.

It is all about credibility to me and I will not try to explain myself, I am willing to be held accountable and that is it. This job is sometimes a very difficult thing to keep up with. In the movie “A few good men” this issue is raised and displayed perfectly. Tom Cruise asks the character Jack Nicholson is playing “To tell the truth” and Jack Nicholson answers “You can’t handle the truth!”. It can be hard at times, to tell the truth. There are consequences too, you know, things you might not be able to control anymore…..

How are you dealing with emotions in your work, your own emotions, and people you report over their emotions, do emotions clutter people’s lenses on how they perceive reality, yes definitely?
This is a very delicate theme here in Curaçao. I know what emotions are because I feel them too, but in our physical reality emotions actually take place in our heads.

Let’s say for example if someone would verbally offend another person, and you look at it objectively, the only thing you see happening is someone expressing something by means of the sound of his or her voice. Oddly enough that process of making a sound is enough to trigger another person to be offended to such heights that he or she is willing to aggravate the “offender” physically. But there was no stealing, touching, hitting, appropriating, raping, etc., etc., at all: just a sound coming out of someone else’s mouth! Still, the offended person acts as if he is now entitled to violate the other’s physical integrity for his or her words. In that sense, emotions are very deceiving, because they will affect the way a person perceives, interprets, and thus deals with his or her physical reality.

” I prefer to stay honest in my way of doing things….”

– Maurilhio Norbrega jr.

I do see how people like or enjoy my more “emotionally driven” colleagues that put politicians or some other important person “in their place”. To me, that is just a rant, a show, a public debate: everything else BUT journalism or proper reporting. I prefer to stay honest in my way of doing things. You know, the colleagues of mine scolding politicians when something’s boiling again….. I don’t feel the need to express those types of emotions. I prefer to judge the politician by actions or lack of actions for that matter. Sooner or later they are going to make mistakes, as they are human beings. Just realizing and knowing this makes it is easier for me to put my emotions aside for a while because when you are aware of them, it is easier to keep them under control instead of expressing them in an uncontrolled way. Since emotions can heat up “spontaneously”, it is imperative to “keep them on a leash”. Yep, just like a puppy dog. You are in control, not the dog.

In our time influencers, reporters, commentators, marketing gurus, and politicians focus on 4 basic emotions in this sequence: fear, sadness, anger, and pleasure. The latter being the most dangerous one: it is the most efficient way to suppress and not feel the previous three. Pleasure can help you to rid yourself of anger immediately. Pursuit of pleasure is exactly that what you see happening when you see protesters demolish and setting things on fire. That pleasure you see is fueled by anger, which is a very powerful emotion. Anger can prompt you to take action. Anger is the main driving force when you wish to see a building on fire, it even becomes a motivation. One who is able to identify the anger in him- or herself is able to divert it and put it to good use instead.

Even Commerce instills people with fear, “forcing” you to buy their stuff. Marketing gurus are capable of making you believe you are making a big mistake if you do not buy what they are selling. They have a particular influence on people who feel sad and thus are easy to make angry. Finally, they will feel prompted to get that damn product. Especially out of fear of missing out on friends and acquaintances that got the same thing before them. So ironically they are back at where they began: they are afraid it won’t be noticed. Politicians and businesses also use this to mobilize and guide people to behave in a certain way. The emotion becomes the drive. In my work, I discard all of the aforementioned strategies. It’s my job to make people think. Not to make them feel or do anything.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
I have no control over the ethics of others, but I do know mine. If I wish to see them reflected in local news I have to be the difference myself, right?

What are your plans for the years and when do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let’s say 5 years from now?
I already feel that I am successful, otherwise, you wouldn’t have approached me for this interview for example. In the next 5 years, I will be doing my best to help our people understand uncontested information much better, to transform the way they are absorbing information for the better. We need an atmosphere in Curaçao of double-checking information instead of being satisfied with a just post on Facebook for example. There are also sources like Google and Wikipedia, you know. But our people prefer something that requires minimal attention, like a 3-minute-at-most-video or something. On Curaçao, we do not like to read, and if we do, we want it to “move” us as of the first sentence. As far as my own life is concerned, I do not care that much anymore about achieving public success. At this point in my life, it feels like a been there, done that. I care more about my personal successes in the next 5 years. After all, I can’t be successful professionally if I am not successful in my personal life.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with working as an independent journalist? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?

The biggest challenge is that we have to compete with the internet and deal with the emotions of people at the same time. Emotions have become so important that if you want to reach people you will have to tap into their emotions. We are living in an era of division and, to make matters worse, most people are subject to a consumers mentality. People will always ask themselves first: “Will this benefit me or not?”

The local media have changed drastically over the years and some of them have been rather successful in “handling” crowds. But it was not aimed at stimulating their personal development. No! It was and still is functionally aimed to “move” people to make certain decisions, such as what to vote, buy or protest against. People are divided into extremes such as poor and rich, while the biggest part of the economy is carried by those with enough buying or purchasing power. They are expected to be these “happiness machines” cause in the commercials they are depicted as being just that: happy. And the poor have their social justice warriors in the media taking up the boxing gloves for them and be angry at the government all the time for their suffering.

The question is if it is about the quantity or quality of information we are providing. Facebook is telling a lot of things that are far from the truth, but people believe it. Serious journalists can only do so much if they are not being part of the emotion business. We have to compete with it and it is a big challenge.

Another big challenge is the overpopulation of our planet. We are seeing that our natural resources are dwindling, there isn’t enough space for everyone while the world population keeps on growing. In meanwhile production processes are modernizing and requiring less labor force. It’s an inevitable scenario that things will get out of hand sooner or later if we do not pursue more harmony with our physical reality. Nobody’s talking about it though and nobody seems interested in addressing its consequences for the future. Ours here on Curaçao here as well.

 I don’t see a solution in sight, that is what I also consider a big challenge. It is not even global warming that is our biggest challenge, but the overpopulation of the earth. All these people have emotions and opinions. Do we want more of that? Will it do any good?

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
I extract wisdom from the best sources I can put my hands on or that are brought to my attention to deal with our current reality that can be quite confusing sometimes.

One of the things I like to read is the Philosophy of the Stoics, which lived in ancient Greek times more than 2000 years ago. Although I am very active on the outside and in my behavior, stoicism makes it possible for me to live with a sense of inner peace that there is neither good nor bad, only cause and effect. To be a stoic is to live with virtue and daily routines. All great masters became masters because of their routines. Routine can be combined with honesty and being truthful. Making a mistake, recognizing it, and correcting it as soon as possible is also routine. So I have learned to seek inspiration in that which makes me silent, not that what “moves” me. Knowledge makes you silent and puts you in awe. There is a lot of inspiration out there that Facebook does not have to offer if one really wants to “get there” spiritually.

I can recommend studying Stephen Covey’s Circle of Influence. Maybe the whole book (7 Habits of Highly Effective People – there it is again routine!) is too much of a read for some, but the Circle of Influence is a powerful tool for living successfully instead of pursuing success in life. I am not a religious person at all, but Neal Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God is a must-read if one really wants to learn to be truthful and actually listen to oneself.

All great masters became masters because of their routines. Routine can be combined with honesty and being truthful.”

– Maurilhio Nobrega

In many ways, I also learned about many aspects of life through my idol Bruce Lee. Most of us know him as a martial arts guru, but he was also a graduated philosopher with powerful insights. It was through Bruce Lee that I heard of Jiddu Krishnamurti, whom I have also come to admire. I learned an awful lot listening to Jiddu Krishnamurti. He wasn’t a philosopher according to himself and even disliked being called one.

I strongly recommend people to look up the 18 dialogues between Dr. Allan Anderson (poet, author, Professor Emeritus, beloved teacher, scholar of the Oracular Tradition) and Jiddu Krishnamurti on YouTube. It’s available for free.

You know, I never heard someone talk as clearly as Krishnamurti did back in his time. Not after his death either. He talked about how to become at peace with yourself, which has helped me greatly in my personal development. It was through Krishnamurti that I learned the principle: “If it doesn’t serve you or others, discard it immediately”. And that is how I deal with my dilemmas and train myself to listen to my inner voice.

There is this popular saying that: “We should be ourselves”. But that is extremely difficult, as Bruce Lee has taught me. It is difficult because people don’t want you to be yourself, they want you to be who they want you to be. It’s up to you if you want to comply, but always remember that “being yourself” is not going to be easy. It is easier said, than done. But totally worth it in the end if you can handle peer pressure.

How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skills levels?I
think I choose them very well. I choose my sources following the principle “How often has this source been correct or wrong?”.

What are your strengths?
I am my biggest critic, I’m ruthless towards and never spare myself. I also believe I am good at getting to the core of the matter. I still need to learn not to level with people all the time by the way. It’s a bad habit that I developed writing lots of manuals in my life and only got worse doing news. Things need to be easy to grasp for the audience at all times, so I often make the mistake to explain too much.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I love music and like to (re-)arrange songs into other styles than their original styles. I do it just for fun, nothing fancy, not for the greater public either. I love reading comic books, like Marvel and Detective Comics. It’s not a fascination with “the good guy versus the bad guy theme”. Most comic book characters have origin stories with interesting character development that is at a very different level than just ordinary fight scenes. I also like watching a good documentary or a good movie in my free time.

I am also a little bit hedonistic, meaning that I am not ashamed of triggering the areas of pleasure in my brain. I take time consciously to enjoy the good things life has to offer. I love my routines like drinking my coffee, smoking my cigarette, or enjoying the company of a beautiful lady once in a while. Drinking alcohol or drugs is only for very special occasions every couple of weeks or sometimes even months. I don’t exaggerate in order to actually enjoy them when the occasion is fit.

If you as Maurilhio would meet a stranger on the bus (let say in Amsterdam or New York) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
It depends on which time it is of the day, but I would most probably say “Hi, I am Maurilhio, nice meeting you”.

How would you describe Maurilhio in one word or one sentence?
Difficult but engaged.

Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Bruce Lee has inspired me in more than just martial arts because he was also a philosopher. I have learned a lot from his workout ethic. His approach towards martial arts opened an unknown world for me. The story of how Kareem Abdul Jabbar, one of his students, met him is just typical of what kind of master Lee actually was. Kareem Abdul Jabbar was skilled only skilled in basketball, but judo as well. On the day they met, Bruce Lee suggested they spar and that both would do their own thing. Within seconds after they started Kareem had Lee on the floor with a judo suplex and stranglehold. Within seconds Kareem felt extreme pain in his ankle, which prompted him to let go only to see that it was Lee biting him in the ankle. Bruce only told him “You didn’t learn the lesson yet that your way will not always work in every situation, since you let me go. The lesson here is that we always want to do things beautifully, while we only need to be efficient. With my teeth, I beat you at your thing.” I cannot quote their dialogue literally, but it was an important lesson to me right away. When things are not moving forward through the usual and traditional way, improvise something different to reach your goal.

What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
I lack patience. And this is becoming worse every day. In a more general sense, things that I consider a waste of my time, I don’t engage in. That could be the work I am doing, if it doesn’t make me happy, I will quit.

What was a defining moment in your life?
I prefer not to go into details but there is a life or death situation that did both good and wrong to my psyche. This traumatic incident affected me in two ways. In the beginning, after it had happened, mostly in a negative sense. I was only 19 years old and after that, I sort of got in a negative tailspin. I drank, smoked, and picked up fights regularly. I was irresponsible. I lived my life to the max and I was inconsiderate towards everything, everybody, and lived as if there was no tomorrow. This incident poisoned my inner self in a way. But in different ways, it was a defining moment for me. Because at a certain moment I became aware of the fact of what I was doing and on the upside, I learned a valuable lesson. My lesson learned was that this precious life can be over in a second. I had become what I so much hated: an abuser. But I kept telling myself that I was not aiming at women or innocent people. I learned to be aware of tomorrow and to prepare for tomorrow and in the end, it made me a better human being. But I had to go through a rather dark period to get there, although I still have the tendency to be mean to other mean people.

Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career?
I would mind being at the same place I am right now like 5 years from now. Maybe that based on my experiences, I would have been able to contribute and help certain people to stop with certain bad habits. Or well…… we can’t get rid of bad habits, but we can learn new better habits. I would like to have shared enough knowledge on what works for me, to obtain constant emotional and spiritual success. I hope that enough people keep trusting what I do. Furthermore, I’ll just see what crosses my path. I am not making any plans whatsoever.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
I wouldn’t dare to talk to them. Of course, I value what for example my mother would think of me and be proud of me, but then again I am not so much concerned about what other people think of me. Or maybe ….that “he was difficult but engaged”, hahaha.

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession, and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences.
There is always a reason to be optimistic about something. Like this paperclip that I am holding in my hand now, if you look for its potentials there are sufficient reasons to be optimistic about it. Despite circumstances, in the end, it is about how to deal with reality. Even if in the end, when shit hits the fan, if we as human species would be erased from this planet, the earth will still remain. So there is no reason to be pessimistic about the future of planet earth, only that of ourselves. In the end, you determine how optimistic you are. Seneca, a stoic, would have said: “Don’t expect anything and be hopeful about everything else”.

As an island as we are going through these challenging times, how do you deal with that in your work? Does it affect you at times?
One thing that is a major concern is the popularity of fake information. Just look up Pizzagate (+ the word fact check) on the internet and find out for yourself. Some time ago a guy went berserk in the USA, as he went to a pizzeria with an automatic weapon ready to kill. He regained his sanity just in time as there was no ceremony of pedophiles taking place where children were sacrificed during satanic rituals in the basement. It’s a rare incident, but it did happen.

Look at what happened right here on Curaçao on the 24th of June 2020.

When I deal with fake news I am not that amiable Maurilhio everybody knows, no, no, no. I have zero tolerance when it comes to fake news and people deliberately spreading it to incite others. We have become too tolerant with incitement that finds its way to the general public in the form of “opinions”. Opinions that have 0 added value or that are obviously expressed to maintain the current division, especially on social media.

This was another defining moment in my life by the way, as I was flabbergasted by how people would let their emotions take over their reason, actions and become so destructive. Some ransacked and looted an establishment, a business, and in the camera showed off the stolen goods as if they were trophies. This was an ordinary looting activity, a crime. Period!

There was no justification at all for such behavior. So, yes I believe that fake or incomplete information is something to be concerned about. It can prompt naive people to become extremely destructive. When it comes to debunking fake news, I am relentless, show 0 tolerance, I do not compromise. I’d rather become impopular for debunking fake news and information than allowing it to destroy my country. 

One of the 250 Influencers
Maurilho Nobrega is a dynamic, pro-active, fun-loving, strong-willed, opinionated, “critical but engaged” reporter, that is passionate about sharing the truth and getting to the core of matters. His upbringing in an entrepreneurial background enabled him to make his own choices regarding not only what he wanted to do in life, but also to have a mindset “to take whatever job that crosses his path to earning a decent living”. This has brought him to do a myriad of things that have helped to become a multi-facetted person, as is illustrated with a degree in Social Cultural Work, a degree from Vertaal Academie, a small business owner, relevant expertise and knowledge in the ICT sector, a musician, a martial arts practitioner and of late better known as a knowledgeable reporter. To maintain his inner peace, Maurilho reads philosophy that helps him deal with the challenges and complexities of the island and the world in general that he has to report about. For his dedication to the truth, in a world where real facts seem less relevant, especially because of the increase of the importance of social media, makes him “different” from other journalists. For all these reasons, we dearly love and respect him and consider him one of the 250 influencers of the islands representing the media sector and journalism in Curaçao

Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.

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