31 March 2005

Across the Bay on the Head Heeb on Lebanon

Lebanon-focused blogger Across the Bay offers a stirring endorsement and exegesis of a five-part analysis of the prospects in Lebanon by Jonathan Edelstein at the Head Heeb. I'll just reproduce the combined conclusions here.
Jonathan's conclusion is equally sober:
But all that will be decided in the future. In the coming months, Lebanon will begin to make the transition to its third republic. It will have to find a method of mediating inter-confessional relations that avoids the rigidity of the first republic and doesn't depend on the artificial stasis of the second. The method it will choose is beyond prediction, and will be the product not only of the current crisis and the past five years' political evolution but other factors that will emerge only as the post-Syrian order takes shape. This time, it seems that the Lebanese factions have both the experience and the will to find such a method. The path will be long and difficult, and there will be setbacks, but I'm optimistic about Lebanon's new dawn.
Very well said. Finally, a level-headed article about Lebanon without the ideological bias, the venom, the contempt, the apologetics for Syria, and the thinly-veiled defense of authoritarianism. An excellent post all around.
And one that reflects the Head Heeb's wide coverage of the globe, with comparisons to Belgium, Canada, Fiji, Finland, and New Caledonia's Nouméa Accord. Be sure to read the comments, as well.

via Belmont Club

30 March 2005

Niall Ferguson on the Potential for Deglobalization

Economic (and big-picture) historian Niall Ferguson has published an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs (reprinted on RealClearPolitics) on the possibility of a second round of deglobalization in the world economy, noting parallels to the situation before World War I.
The last age of globalization resembled the current one in numerous ways. It was characterized by relatively free trade, limited restrictions on migration, and hardly any regulation of capital flows. Inflation was low. A wave of technological innovation was revolutionizing the communications and energy sectors; the world first discovered the joys of the telephone, the radio, the internal combustion engine, and paved roads. The U.S. economy was the biggest in the world, and the development of its massive internal market had become the principal source of business innovation. China was opening up, raising all kinds of expectations in the West, and Russia was growing rapidly.

World War I wrecked all of this. Global markets were disrupted and disconnected, first by economic warfare, then by postwar protectionism. Prices went haywire: a number of major economies (Germany's among them) suffered from both hyperinflation and steep deflation in the space of a decade. The technological advances of the 1900s petered out: innovation hit a plateau, and stagnating consumption discouraged the development of even existing technologies such as the automobile. After faltering during the war, overheating in the 1920s, and languishing throughout the 1930s in the doldrums of depression, the U.S. economy ceased to be the most dynamic in the world. China succumbed to civil war and foreign invasion, defaulting on its debts and disappointing optimists in the West. Russia suffered revolution, civil war, tyranny, and foreign invasion. Both these giants responded to the crisis by donning the constricting armor of state socialism. They were not alone. By the end of the 1940s, most states in the world, including those that retained political freedoms, had imposed restrictions on trade, migration, and investment as a matter of course. Some achieved autarky, the ideal of a deglobalized society. Consciously or unconsciously, all governments applied in peacetime the economic restrictions that had first been imposed between 1914 and 1918....

With the benefit of hindsight ... five factors can be seen to have precipitated the global explosion of 1914-18. The first cause was imperial overstretch. By 1914, the British Empire was showing signs of being a "weary Titan," in the words of the poet Matthew Arnold. It lacked the will to build up an army capable of deterring Germany from staging a rival bid for European hegemony (if not world power). As the world's policeman, distracted by old and new commitments in Asia and Africa, the United Kingdom's beat had simply become too big.

Great-power rivalry was another principal cause of the catastrophe. The problem was not so much Anglo-German rivalry at sea as it was Russo-German rivalry on land. Fear of a Russian arms buildup convinced the German general staff to fight in 1914 rather than risk waiting any longer.

The third fatal factor was an unstable alliance system. Alliances existed in abundance, but they were shaky. The Germans did not trust the Austrians to stand by them in a crisis, and the Russians worried that the French might lose their nerve. The United Kingdom's actions were impossible to predict because its ententes with France and Russia made no explicit provisions for the eventuality of war in Europe. The associated insecurities encouraged risk-taking diplomacy. In 1908, for example, Austria-Hungary brusquely annexed Bosnia. Three years later, the German government sent the gunboat Panther to Agadir to challenge French claims to predominance in Morocco.

The presence of a rogue regime sponsoring terror was a fourth source of instability. The chain of events leading to war, as every schoolchild used to know, began with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip. There were shady links between the assassin's organization and the Serbian government, which had itself come to power not long before in a bloody palace coup.

Finally, the rise of a revolutionary terrorist organization hostile to capitalism turned an international crisis into a backlash against the global free market. The Bolsheviks, who emerged from the 1903 split in the Russian Social Democratic Party, had already established their credentials as a fanatical organization committed to using violence to bring about world revolution. By straining the tsarist system to the breaking point, the war gave Lenin and his confederates their opportunity. They seized it and used the most ruthless terrorist tactics to win the ensuing civil war.

Bhutan's Constitutional Reforms

The Acorn notes efforts by the King of Bhutan to move his realm toward a constitutional monarchy dedicated to Life, Liberty, and Gross National Happiness.
While King Wangchuk is not about to become a relic any time soon, Bhutan’s movement towards becoming a constitutional monarchy is impressive, not least because there is no real pressure on the King to change. Tiny as it may be, in a subcontinent where democratic traditions are eroding rather alarmingly, Bhutan’s progress towards constitutional rule is a very welcome development.

Drawing a parallel with Nepal is inevitable — because of the warning it holds out for both countries. The moral of the story is that once a constitution come into effect, bad things will happen if the King insists on reliving the old days.
To the King's further credit, he wants the Constitution to be short and sweet, with only 34 articles. And perhaps the steps toward GNH can be enumerated in Clouds 1-9.

29 March 2005

Who Made Tokugawa Foreign Policy?

In 1643, during the early days of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868), a party of Dutch sailors from the yacht Breskens were captured on northern Honshu and repeatedly interrogated by Japanese officials.
Each time the men from the Breskens had been interrogated on a certain topic, they were first asked the main questions informally. Later, these were repeated on a formal occasion before the councilors and in the presence of the shogun himself. In other words, the interrogations were rehearsed beforehand. When the group first arrived in Edo, the main question had been whether they had been in league with the second Rubino group [of Jesuit missionaries in disguise], which had just arrived off Kyushu. They were first confronted with the Jesuits on 26 August at Inoue's mansion in Hitotsubashi, and later on 5 September, before the shogun and his councilors at Hotta's country mansion in Asakusa. On both occasions, the Dutchmen established their enmity toward the Roman Catholics to the satisfaction of their Japanese judges, and it was clear that the two groups had not been in cahoots....

All the interrogations revolved around the same theme: were the Dutch in league with the Portuguese and Spanish or not? This must have been [Shogun Tokugawa] Iemitsu's particular obsession. Were the Dutch in the pay of the Iberians to bring priests ashore, or to spy for good places to do so, or as the vanguard for a joint attack on Japan? Iemitsu may have considered the recent truce between Portugal and Holland as the first step toward such an alliance directed against Japan. The reports of ships firing their guns off the Japanese coast, together with the capture of a group of determined Jesuit priests off Kyushu for the second year in a row, may have been perceived by the shogun as indicative of a grand European design--headed by the Pope and the King of Spain and supported by Portugal and Holland--to dethrone him in revenge for the persecutions of Christians in Japan and the execution of the delegation from Macao in 1641.

The discussion within the bakufu pivoted on the following questions: Was Holland preparing to ally itself with Portugal? In that case, the shogun had reason to fear their combined sea power. Was Holland willing to become Japan's vassal? Then the prisoners needed to be treated with care. The less factual support there was for the idea of an evil alliance between Holland and Portugal, however, the more awkward it became for the Japanese side to admit that they had arrested their own "friends." It was, therefore, necessary to establish the existence of some other illegal act that could serve as the reason for the arrest. Hence the insistence, during the interrogations, that the shooting of guns off the Japanese coast had been contrary to the shogun's laws.

Although there are no Japanese sources left that report this discussion, we find all the arguments of the anti-Dutch side reflected in the questions asked of the prisoners from Nambu during their inter- rogations. However, the eventual release of the prisoners and the continuing relationship with the Dutch East India Company are clear evidence that the pro-Dutch side within the bakufu finally carried the day.

In theory, the shogun's power was supreme in Japan, but the resolution of the Breskens affair shows that even Iemitsu's megalomania had its limits. In spite of all the insinuations of a Portuguese-Dutch partnership, in spite of the resemblances found between Catholicism and Protestantism, and between the Spanish city of Manila in the Philippines and the Dutch city of Batavia on Java, in the end common sense prevailed over paranoia. For this containment of the shogun's suspicions, it is clear we can primarily credit three men: Sakai Tadakatsu, Matsudaira Nobutsuna [who with Dutch ships suppressed the Shimabara Rebellion in 1638], and Inoue Masashige (ex-Christian holding the post of inquisitor). And with this realization we have also defined who among Iemitsu's top advisers were principally responsible for Japan's foreign policy during the reign of the third shogun.
SOURCE: Prisoners from Nambu: Reality and Make-Believe in Seventeenth-Century Japanese Diplomacy, by Reinier H. Hesselink (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2002), pp. 120-122

28 March 2005

Retrospective on Iris Chang

On 17 March, The Times (of London) published a retrospective on the inseparable life and work of Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking.
THOSE who knew Iris Chang used to worry about how she could cope with the gloom of her chosen work. But when they visited the house in California that she shared with her husband and saw him playing with their two-year-old son by the swimming pool in the backyard, they were reassured....

Her book brought international acclaim and controversy, and many spoke of a stellar future. It was not to be. In November she killed herself, no longer able to bear the weight of horrors from seven decades ago....

Orphans, rape victims and Holocaust survivors all wanted to bare their souls to her, finally relieving themselves of agonies sometimes decades old. They felt encouraged by the passion that she brought to the sort of grievances few of them could tackle on their own.

Chang cried when they cried. She was enraged even when they no longer were. It was unthinkable for her just to pass the paper tissues and wait until people had composed themselves again. Chang invited memories of atrocity and abuse with a seemingly limitless appetite....

But her success had its price. The book became a touchstone of renewed rivalry between Japan and China. Both nations had been content to allow the massacre to fade into the past, but in the 1990s China found itself in the ascendant and a long-suppressed sense of outrage burst out. Anti-Japanese museums sprang up across the country. Japanese nationalists responded by attacking the book and its author. Death threats were issued....

“The pressure on her from Tokyo was unbearable,” says Yang Xiaming, one of Chang’s research assistants in Nanjing. “She was afraid of travelling to Japan because she feared for her life.”

But the Japanese attacks were the easy part. With her newfound fame, Chang felt compelled to visit Chinese communities around the globe to hear more horror stories of Japanese occupation, forced prostitution in so-called “comfort houses” and nerve gas experiments on prisoners in Manchuria. After these encounters with people who would often approach her in tears, she felt utterly drained even hours later. Friends said that she was beginning to look frail, and she admitted to them that her hair was coming out. The more of others’ suffering she absorbed, the more her old energy and intensity drained away. Each horror story seemed to pull her down a little farther....

In the months before her death, Chang was researching a new book on Japanese wartime atrocities. Despite feeling unwell, she flew to Kentucky to interview survivors of the Bataan Death March. They recounted to her how thousands of American PoWs were killed during the occupation of the Philippines, some forced to bury their best friend alive or, if they refused, for both of them to be buried alive by a third friend, with the chain continuing until the Japanese soldiers found a PoW who complied....

On November 6 she spoke to Paula Kamen, whom she knew from university, and told her that she was struggling to deal with the magnitude of the misery she had uncovered, listened to and written about. She begged to be remembered as lively and confident. It was the last conversation they would have. Two days later, Chang was even more despondent than she had previously been. Her husband tried to calm her down but eventually fell asleep.

At some point in the night, Chang got into her white 1999 Oldsmobile, taking with her a six-round pistol that she had bought from an antique weapons dealer to defend herself from attackers. She drove to a country road, loaded the pistol with black powder and lead balls, aimed it at her head and fired. She was found a few hours later, along with a farewell note to her family....

In Nanjing, Professor Sun Zhaiwei says that being an historian can be “torture of the mind”.

“Nuclear scientists wear protective clothing and have their health checked by doctors. Perhaps we historians of the extreme need similar measures. Yet for now we have to take care of ourselves.

“Maybe that was Iris’s problem — she cared for the dead but failed to take care of herself.”
via Arts & Letters Daily

27 March 2005

International Trade in the Sulu Sea, 1791

Amasa Delano accompanied the McCluer Expedition to the Sulu Sea in 1791.
Commodore McCluer's hope for the Sooloos was to build up a better feeling toward the English. The matter of trade would be looked into of course; but trade would follow the good feeling. The Sooloos offered many useful items for trading purposes--sago, pearls, bêche-de-mer, gold dust, turtle shells, ivory, camphor, birds'-nests, and so on.

The birds'-nests held a special interest for Amasa. While in Canton he had seen mandarins and Hong merchants paying fabulous prices for birds'-nests. They made soup of the nests. In Timor Amasa learned that a tiny bird, small as a small swallow, collected a white, glutinous substance from the foam of the sea as it rolled up on the beach and made nests of it in the caverns and crevices of cliffs beside the sea.

Malays in Timor would dive into the sea to enter the mouths of the caverns where the tiny birds were and collect their nests.

Their example so stirred Amasa that he had himself "lowered fifty feet by a rope into a chasm between the cliffs, and there caught the swallows upon the nests, and plucked their nests. The nests were of the size of a quarter of a large orange peel, they were white like isinglass, and a single nest weighed about an ounce."

Amasa's craving for first-hand knowledge of strange customs led him to try out a bird's-nest soup. He found it "possessing an agreeable aromatic flavour."

The need of fresh provisions had to be met while at Sooloo. It was known that fat cattle were to be had there for little money--two or three Spanish dollars for a bullock, and take it out in trade. Goats were plentiful. Amasa swapped a knife or a goat. Hogs, sheep, and fowls of every sort abounded. Vegetables and fruits of many kinds and in quantities and fish of excellent quality and in great numbers were to be had for trifles and toys. Green turtles, big ones-- five-hundred-pound fellows--could be had for what the buyer felt like paying. And as for rice, a shipload of rice was cheaper than a kettle of salt cod back in Boston.

For trading purposes the [HMS] Panther carried plenty of "cheap cotton goods, white and colored calicoes, also opium, knives, scissors, razors, small looking-glasses, spy-glasses, perfumes, bergamot, essence of lavender and lemon, curious toys, and a few fine goods."

26 March 2005

Chinese Blog Posting on China-NK Relations

NKZone carries an English translation of an interesting Chinese blog forum post about relations between China under Mao and North Korea under Kim Il-sung. Here are a few highlights.
In 1959, when China embarked on the disastrous “three years of hardship” (the Great Leap Forward), NK seized the opportunity to urge Chinese-Korean graduates and other qualified personnel to take part in the NK Chollima (thousand mile/flying horse) movement, and set up border reception posts to welcome them back from abroad (presumably NK/USSR, etc).
China's Great Leap Forward actually began in 1958, but perhaps the scale of the disaster wasn't so obvious until 1959. North Korea's Chollima ('thousand league horse') also leapt out of the starting gate in 1958, and also began seriously stumbling in 1959.
In 1966 when the Cultural Revolution broke out, Kim Il-sung was deeply worried and had no idea what was going on in Mao's mind. But when the Red Guards came up with the slogan, “Chairman Mao is the red sun in the hearts of all the peoples of the world”, started putting up big character posters and said they wanted to arrest the capitalist roader Kim Il-sung [!], he thought to himself, I am the red sun of our country, how can it be Mao Zedong! He was furious and had a martyrs' memorial garden from the Korean war destroyed, including the grave of Mao's oldest son Mao Anying (1922-50).

The NKs set up loudspeakers on the border at this time, flagrantly attacking the Chinese Communist Party and proclaiming, “Chairman Kim Il-sung is the red sun in our hearts,” and even more audaciously building a dam on the Yalu river to divert water and creating a drought in China. The Chinese also set up loudspeakers, attacking Kim as a “Korean revisionist”. This was the doing of the Red Guards and “rebel faction” while the official media kept quiet, but relations between the two sides atrophied.

Kim later saw what chaos the Cultural Revolution had created and how the “capitalist roaders” in China had been overthrown, so when he visited Beijing he apologised to Mao and admitted his mistakes. He promised to rebuild the martyrs' memorial garden, while Mao said friendship came first and mistakes were secondary.

Oranckay on the Chinese Minority in South Korea

South Korea-based blogger Oranckay has a long, rambling post on the history of the Chinese minority in South Korea.
South Korea had around 120,000 Chinese in the early seventies, now there are 22,000. There are many reasons as to why they've left though one of them is that most are from families that originate on mainland, whereas because of history (being in SK at the height of anti-Communism) they are all Taiwanese citizens, with the exception of the relatively few who managed too obtain Korean citizenship. Problem with Taiwanese citizenship is that you couldn't go to the mainland all those years and if you obtain Korean citizenship you have to give up your previous citizenship and still would not be able to go to the mainland all those years (things have changed). So, a good option was emigrating to the US; you can obtain US citizenship without renouncing Taiwanese citizenship while still being able to travel to the family hometown on the mainland on your US passport.

(In major Californian cities [like Honolulu!] it is not difficult to find a Chinese restaurant with gimchi and jajangmyeon (Chinese food particular to Korea, like fortune cookies were developed by Chinese in California) or video stores with Chinese movies that have Korean subtitles, run by Chinese who have gone to the States and still do business with Koreans. Just last week in Seoul I met a Chinese man who introduced himself as being an American from Walnut Creek, California, "back" here to acquire more videos and see his old friends. We conversed in Korean, though probably because he already saw me speaking it with someone and I've no reason to doubt his English as an "American." He said he'd been in the US 20+ years. His Korean was perfect and I wouldn't have known about him had he not told me.)...

Perhaps because he was a protégé of the Japanese, the dictator Park Chung Hee was very harsh with the Chinese as well. Chinese who served in the ROK army during the war as interrogators of PRC POWs were denied their benefits. Park limited the Chinese to mostly running restaurants, and then - get this - enacted price limits on how much you could charge for jajangmyeon! For a long time they were not allowed to own their own land and businesses, and many lost everything when Korean friends who acted as proxy property owners turned around and claimed assets as their own....

(A friend from Busan who married a Canadian man and has never come back says she doesn't know anyone from her Chinese high school in Busan who still lives in Korea. All the fellow Chinese she grew up with are gone, gone to immigrant countries like the US, Canada, and Australia as well as Chinese enclaves such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and of course Taiwan. Her 1st generation father wanted to go to the mainland so much he renounced his Taiwanese citizenship and defected to the PRC, even though her Korean mother renounced Korean citizenship and acquired Taiwanese citizenship when they married and has lived as an alien in her own land. Not uncommon in Busan it seems, that sense of just being here temporarily.)

I've seen relatively reasonable Koreans actually tell me that Park did a good thing by making Seoul virtually the only capital in the world without a full fledged Chinatown, "otherwise the Chinese would've taken over the Korean economy like they did in Southeast Asia" or something similar, believe it or not. Dictatorship has its advantages when someone else suffers, eh?...

So now Korea wants to bulldoze a whole neighborhood and build a Chinatown to attract investment and tourism, a "development project" largely initiated by Koreans? Maybe the idea looks impressive to Chinese investors from other countries but for those who've always been here it looks to me like something close to an insult and it comes way too late. Some Chinese might come and they might call it a "Chinatown" ('차이나타운,' [cha-i-na-ta-un] the loan word from English, like they do now for the one in Incheon) but that's not what it will be in the traditional sense of the word in English as it will lack culture and history, and because Korea will only take "investors" and not the "immigrants" that would create a community in the area. But what kind of developer really wants that anyway?
via the Marmot

25 March 2005

More North Koreans Glimpse Greener Grass

After interviewing North Korean border-crossers in China, reporter Howard W. French notes in today's NYT how their perceptions about their leader and their place in the wider world are changing.
In interview after interview, they spoke of the huge shift in perspective they experienced upon entering China. "When I lived in Korea, I never thought my leaders were bad," said one woman in her 50's, a farmer who had brought her grown daughter to Yanji recently from her home not far from the other side of the border for treatment of an intestinal ailment. "When I got here, I learned that Chinese can travel wherever they want in the world as long as they have the money. I learned that South Korea is far richer, even than China."...

Asked how they felt now, after having seen some of the outside world, each person interviewed said his or her illusions about North Korea had been shattered. "There is no way I can believe my government again," said one person who had been in China only a few weeks. "They spend all their time celebrating the leaders. There is one thing I have understood in China, and that is, as long as there is no freedom, we will never get richer."
via Instapundit

Democracy Guy on Falling Dominoes

I've felt little need to post on recent developments in Kyrgyzstan. It's already well covered by Nathan Hamm, PubliusPundit, and other blogs who are regularly linked to by big blogs like Instapundit. But here's a bit of historical perspective by Democracy Guy, in a post entitled Dominos Fall Harder from West to East.
When communism fell, it fell literally from west to east. The further east one travels from the Berlin Wall, the less democratic tradition the new democracies had to fall back on. So Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltics, were the first to emerge from the rubble intact, free, vibrant, with traditions built on Western European foundations. Slovakia had a harder time, but has turned a corner. Slovenia escaped by the skin of its teeth as Yugoslavia crumbled into ethnic genocide. Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, bled for years. Ukraine rotted for more than a decade before the Orange Revolution. Belarus simply reverted to Stalinism. Russia perpetually teeters on the brink of a return to authoritarianism. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan descended into ethnic conflict and militaristic authoritarianism before Tbilisi tasted freedom once more last year.

And in Central Asia, where Kyrgystan sits in the mountains, a statist fascism of the most extreme kind has taken hold. Kyrgystan was once a breath of fresh air among the near North Korean level of dictatorship in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. But communism's fall left the most rubble the further east you go from Berlin, and Kyrgystan today groans under the weight, falling ever further away from democracy.
For more, see Dan Drezner's equivocal blogpost (and comments) on The Fourth Wave of Democratization?--with emphasis on the punctuation at the end of the title.

24 March 2005

Black Star Journal on Namibia vs. Zimbabwe

Too-oft-neglected Black Star Journal posts on a wise (and all-too-rare) move by Namibia's President: Nujoma bows out.
I've often said that the greatest gift Nelson Mandela gave to South Africa was to serve only one term. In doing so, he sent the message that he was not indispensible, that he was not country. Too many African leaders peddle the propaganda that the state will collapse without their omniscient and omnipotent wisdom. In ceding power, Nujoma, like Mandela, sent his countrymen the message that they live in a mature country that is not solely dependent on a single man.

The charismatic Nujoma has often been compared to Robert Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe. They do share a few superficial traits. They both have publicly attacked gays, invoke anti-imperalist rhetoric whenever possible, have a great deal of charisma and are both former guerilla leaders. I believe they are friends.

But there are significant differences between the two. The main difference is that for his bellicose rhetoric, Sam Nujoma generally respected basic democratic norms and press freedom. There were no massacres in opposition heartlands, no mass arbitrary arrests, no use of food aid as a political weapon, no broad assault on the rule of law.

Another main difference is that SWAPO has evolved into an actual party that represents its membership and is not automatically beholden to its leader. In fact, there was a move by some to force through a constitutional amendment that would've allowed Nujoma to serve more terms as president. The party was independent minded enough to reject the effort. In Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF essentially remains an instrument of Mugabe.
By coincidence, Nick Kristof today paints an utterly discouraging picture of Zimbabwe in a NYT op-ed entitled A Morsel of Goat Meat.
Binga, Zimbabwe -­ The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970's....
I well remember attending in Honolulu a pan-African celebration of Zimbabwe's independence in April 1980, with a Christian Sudanese grad school colleague (since immigrated to the U.S.) and a Muslim Sudanese housemate, and listening without sufficient skepticism to an earnest African student telling me how one-party rule was the only way to deal with tribalism in a country like Zimbabwe. Well, at least Zimbabwe now has two major parties, a brutally persecuted opposition party and a ruling party of thugs. Is that progress?

23 March 2005

Memoir of an Acehnese Exile

The Jan-Mar 2005 edition of Inside Indonesia includes a memoir by an Acehnese villager in exile in New York.
Panga is a small village in West Aceh surrounded by mountains and wild forest. At night, you can hear clearly the waves of the Indian Ocean. This is the village where I was born in 1975, in my grandparents' home.

At that time, there were no modern medical facilities nearby, or even electricity. Most of the villagers were traditional farmers and some worked as small-scale loggers. Electricity arrived in my village only in the 1990s....

I moved to Banda Aceh for my final year of junior high school. It was in Banda Aceh that I first experienced a sense of inequality which I now realise was a result of Indonesia's policies. As a boy from a village, I often felt that I was being treated with disrespect. Most of the people in Banda Aceh felt that they were superior because they were more 'Indonesian' than we were. This was especially true of the children of the military and police.

There was an obvious 'class gap' in Acehnese society in the city. Political power was concentrated in the city and city people were materially better off than those in the villages. Most city people thus felt a certain sense of gratitude towards Indonesia.

By 1996, I had become a journalist. I witnessed first hand the impact of Suharto and his family's rule. I also saw the military's brutality and arrogance, and its abuses against my homeland and its people. Their repression not only resulted in the deaths of so many Acehnese over the years, but they also destroyed our natural environment. Our forests, and even the Leuser National Park with its unique ecosystem (which is funded by the international community), have been ravaged at the hands of the military and the authorities for the sole purpose of profit-making. These powers are behind the massive logging in Aceh, especially in the west, south and southwest, where I have seen for myself the scale of the devastation....

I was inspired by Suara Timor Timur, a newspaper in East Timor, which had succeeded in bringing independent news to its homeland during the conflict there. Unfortunately, unlike our East Timorese counterparts, we did not have a 'security net' like that provided by the church. Nor did we have much international support for our cause, or the financial strength to continue. Sadly, that project folded after only a couple of months.

I felt that it was too risky to continue working as a journalist under such conditions. The reason I left Aceh, however, was not because I wanted to avoid trouble with the military. It was because I felt that press freedom in Aceh had died after the military took control. I believed that the only way to present my ideas about Aceh independently was by developing alternative media from the outside.

I spent two and a half years in Malaysia while waiting to be resettled in the US. But there is no real refuge for Acehnese in Malaysia.... I was arrested and sent to jail twice in Malaysia. The first time was because the police suspected me of being a member of GAM (Free Aceh Movement). The second time was for simply being a refugee. My refugee status, although granted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, was not recognised by the Malaysian government....

I was finally resettled to the US in August 2003. I felt that I had found my freedom once again. After four months living in Houston, Texas, I decided to move to New York City. It has not been easy trying to settle down here.... In the US, and in New York City in particular, I have again had to deal with forms of discrimination. The funny thing is that I find discriminatory behaviour most widespread among immigrants, especially those who have recently become American citizens and now work in the public service. Sometimes their treatment of non-citizen immigrants is impolite and unfair. I find this attitude difficult to understand. Maybe it is because they think that we do not understand our rights so they can do whatever they want to us.

It has not all been a negative experience, though. I am particularly grateful because I now have the opportunity to further my studies. It is not a problem for me that I have to start college all over again. I am now working towards a degree in Media Studies and hope to return to journalism after I graduate. I also hope that when my command of English improves, I will be able to continue campaigning for the Acehnese cause at a more meaningful level.
via Macam-Macam

22 March 2005

Media Coverage of the Aum Shinrikyo: A Retrospective

Ten years have passed since 20 March 1995, when the Aum Shinrikyo staged a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.
After the subway attack every area of the media was for weeks afterwards saturated with coverage of Aum. Indeed, it was several weeks before anything other than an Aum story captured the front page of newspapers, while the main television companies devoted hour upon hour of primetime television to the affair every day for weeks on end. A lot of the coverage was sensationalised and there was profound disquiet in Japan at the lurid ways (which included peddling rumours, harassing members of Aum and their parents, and riding roughshod over the privacy of those associated in the affair) in which the media had behaved....

The sensationalised coverage at first glance appeared to verify the frequent criticisms scholars have made of the media's treatment of new religious movements. There is an extensive academic literature on this topic, providing detailed analyses of how the mass media treat small religious movements outside the mainstream in unbalanced and inflammatory ways. The consensus has been that the mass media tend to discuss new religions in terms of deviance from mainstream attitudes or in terms of what some scholars have termed 'atrocity tales'--stories that depict such movements in a bad light, highlighting odd behaviour or alleging breaches of social norms. As some scholars have pointed out, these often turn out to be far less dramatic or 'atrocious' than initially portrayed. However, the Aum case offers a cautionary warning that this is not always the case. In Aum, while many of the earlier 'atrocity tales' (besides those relating to the subway attack and suspicions about the murder of the Sakamotos) were highly sensational, such as stories of Hayakawa's fantasies about nuclear weapons, much of the later evidence that came out as result of investigations (such as the internal killings, uses of drugs, extortion and experiments with weapons designed to kill vast numbers of people) showed a far deeper culture of violence and criminality than even the early media stories appeared to suggest.

Naturally, besides reporting the events relating to Aum and speculating about the movement's intentions, the biggest single question that ran through all the discussions of the affair in Japan was how a society that prided itself on its high levels of public safety and order could have produced such a movement, and what this said about the nature of Japanese society in general. These issues were discussed over and over in the weeks after the attack by social commentators and analysts, and their discussions tended to revolve around two interrelated themes.

One focused on the assumption that Aum was not a real religion, but a 'cult' (Japanese: karuto) established by an evil manipulator who was only out for power and money. The term karuto was used much in the ways the word 'cult' has been in the media in the West, to suggest a deviant, fanatical group led by a charismatic person who postures as a religious leader but who is in fact a self-serving individual who beguiles people into following him or her, and who manipulates and uses them for his or her own purposes....

The most common theme running through Japanese discussions of the affair focused on its national dimensions. In observing that the perpetrators of the affair were Japanese, it saw the seeds of their violence as being related to their discontent with their society, and their behaviour as reflecting and being produced by the Japanese system and cultural environment....

The Aum affair, in other words, provided every critic of Japanese society with avenues through which to vent their particular grievances. The interpretation which relates the Aum affair primarily to the shortcomings of the Japanese social and cultural environment clearly has some resonance. Aum was, after all, produced in the Japanese environment and, as has been seen in this book, many of the factors leading people to join it were related to general problems within mainstream society, such as the over-rationalised, stratified and pressurised education and work system, excessive materialism, and the familial demands for success coupled with the emotional deprivation that can be engendered by such a system....

However, it would be problematic to limit analyses of the Aum affair to such Japanese cultural-specific interpretations. What Aum, as a world-rejecting religious movement with a focus on internal spiritual development, reacted against and criticised most harshly was not Japanese society per se but contemporary materialism. Aum's antipathies had universal dimensions and its primary target of hate was materialism in general and the USA in particular. This was underscored by the views of one of my interviewees, who told me that, even if he did decide at some stage to leave Aum he would not want to return to the mainstream of Japanese society because he found it so corrupt and materialistic. He was also certain that he would not have felt better in any other society that was governed by materialism. Hence he felt most comfortable withdrawing from society and entering into a closed, world-rejecting order that focused on internal self-development.
SOURCE: Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo, by Ian Reader (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2000), pp. 225-228

Butterflyblue on Japanese Name Trivia

Butterflyblue has a fascinating post on Japanese surname trivia. Compared to China, and especially Korea, Japan has a huge number of surnames.
Compare these numbers: China only has about 500 surnames. Korea only has 249. Japan has about 120,000....
The possibility of the same kanji (Chinese character) having multiple readings makes it imperative when exchanging business cards in Japan to have a little dialogue about the pronunciations of the characters on the respective cards. For example, 熊谷 can be "Kumagaya," "Kumagai," "Kumatani," or "Kumaya" (all meaning 'Bearvalley')! Here are some more examples Butterflyblue lists under Weird Names.
  • 子子子 is pronounced "Nejiko" [Kinderkidson?]
  • 林林 is pronounced "Rinbayashi" [Woodgrove?]. This is just crazy. You will notice they are the same character.
  • 谷谷 is "Tanigaya" [Valleyvale?]. Again, they combined two readings for the same character.
Apparently, most Japanese didn't have surnames until about 1875.
Some people at that time must have thought "soy sauce" [醤油 'shoyu'] and "tabacco" [煙草 'smoke grass'] made good names, I guess. Others went to the village chief or someone else they trusted and got themselves a name based usually on where they lived [in a rice field = Tanaka, in a forest = Morinaka, above the well = Inouye] or what they did for a living ("Watanabe" means "ferryman"; "Kodama" means "jeweller").
I wasn't aware that given names in olden times were often scatological.
Yes, in the Heian period and after, it was common to use "Kuso" in names, which means just what you think it means.... Names like "Kusoko" [Shitchild] and "Oguso" [Littleshit] were in vogue among the nobility [as well they should be!].
via Language Hat

21 March 2005

Danny Yee's Wombats

Danny Yee reviews The Wombat: Common Wombats in Australia, by Barbara Triggs (UNSW Press, 1996).
Anyone who has spent much time in the bush in south-eastern Australia will have encountered the signs of the common wombat Vombatus ursinus: the entrances to their burrows are obvious and their cubical scats are the most distinctive of any Australian mammal. Being nocturnal, however, wombats are rarely seen -- most commonly crossing roads at night, or as road-kill -- and have not been as well studied as Australia's other iconic mammals. In The Wombat Barbara Triggs gives an entertaining and informative presentation of what is known about them.

She begins with an overview of wombat evolution and taxonomy and distribution. There are two rarer species of hairy-nosed wombats, found in Queensland and South Australia, as well as the common wombat covered here, which is found in south-eastern Australia and Tasmania. Other related species are now extinct; the closest living relative of the wombat is the koala....

There are some fascinating and sometimes surprising details in here. One question prompted by scats found high on ridges is how wombats can survive so far from water.
"Grassy creek and river banks are popular feeding areas at all times, but a wombat rarely drinks from the stream or any other free water, except when all the grass has yellowed and lost most of its moisture. ... Adult wombats rarely urinate."
Wombats are, however, efficient swimmers over short distances.
Well, that answers at least three questions I've never asked myself.

China : Taiwan (now) :: U.S. : Canada (then)

Econoblogger Brad DeLong suggests an interesting parallel between manifest destinies on two continents.
A hundred and fifty years ago it was our "manifest destiny" to own the entire North American continent. Today the desire to annex Canada is limited to us left-of-center Democrats desperate to turn the marginal voter from a guy outside of Nashville with a hound dog to a guy in suburban Toronto with a Greenpeace card. May an analogous process take place between China and Taiwan.
via Simon World

Asashoryu Now 24-0

It's now just over halfway through the Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament, and Asashoryu has taken sole possession of the lead, but Fukuoka favorite Kaio is just one loss behind.
OSAKA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Asashoryu unleashed his fury on Kokkai to maintain his lead with an unblemished record at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

Asashoryu had little problem absorbing the burly fourth-ranked maegashira's charge before slapping him forward onto the ring's surface to improve to a spotless 9-0 at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium. Kokkai, who hails from the Soviet former republic of Georgia, slipped to 5-4.

Asashoryu, who is the odds-on favorite to win his 11th Emperor's Cup after taking the New Year's title with a perfect 15-0 record, improved his winning streak to 24. Ozeki Kaio stayed hot in pursuit of the yokozuna at 8-1.

Last year, the Mongolian grand champion won five of six tournaments and appears to be on another roll in 2005.
UPDATE, Day 13 - Ozeki Tochiazuma ended Asashoryu's winning streak at 27-0 and postposed the yokozuna's chance to clinch the Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament for at least one more day. He would have to lose the final two bouts for anyone else to have a chance to tie his record and force a deciding match-up.

UPDATE, Day 14 - Sure enough, Asashoryu won his very next bout to clinch the tournament at 13-1. His next closest competitor was Tamanoshim, at 11-3. His final bout won't matter--except to start another winning streak. Russian rookie Roho has made a very respectable showing at 10-4, but the Bulgarian Kotooshu was a lousy 3-11 going into the final day, while the Korean Kasugao had a nightmare tournament, managing only one win in 14 days.

Huge Japanese Submarine Discovered Off Hawai‘i

Sunday's Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports on a new undersea discovery in waters off Hawai‘i.
During test dives Thursday, the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's Pisces submarines found the remains of the Imperial Japanese Navy's I-401 submarine, a gigantic underwater aircraft carrier built to bomb the Panama Canal.

"We thought it was rocks at first, it was so huge," said Pisces pilot Terry Kerby. "But the sides of it kept going up and up and up, three and four stories tall. It's a leviathan down there, a monster."

It is not the first World War II-era "monster" that the HURL scientists have found. Last year, off Pearl Harbor, they located the wreck of the gigantic seaplane Marshall Mars, one of the largest aircraft built and used as a transport plane by the U.S. Navy. Two years earlier in the same area, the HURL crew also found the wreckage of a Japanese midget sub that was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941.

The latest HURL discovery is from the I-400 "Sensuikan Toku" class of submarines, the largest built prior to the nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the 1960s. They were 400 feet long and 39.3 feet high, could reach a maximum depth of 330 feet, and carry a crew of 144.

Each carried three fold-up bombers inside a watertight hangar, plus parts to construct a fourth airplane. The bombers, called Seiran or "Mountain Haze," [but see note below] could be made ready to fly in a few minutes and had wing floats for return landings. Fully loaded with fuel, the submarines could sail 37,000 miles, one and a half times around the world. Three were captured at the end of the war, as well as a slightly smaller test design called the I-14.

Their first mission was called "Operation PX," a plan to use the aircraft to drop infected rats and insects with bubonic plague, cholera, dengue fever, typhus and other diseases on American West Coast cities. When the bacteriological bombs could not be prepared in time, the target was changed to the Panama Canal.

I-400 and I-401 were captured at sea a week after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. The commander committed suicide and the huge submarines' mission was never completed.
For much, much more on the sub's mission, see this site.

NOTE: The Combined Fleet website consistently translates Seiran (晴嵐) as 'Mountain Haze', ignoring the meaning ('clear, not cloudy') of the first character, but staying truer to the usual Chinese meaning of the second character. However, the Smithsonian's National Aerospace Museum's website translates it as 'Clear Sky Storm', which captures the most common Japanese senses of both characters (hare 'clear skies' and arashi 'storm') and strikes me as a more natural name for a surprise attack submarine-carried bomber, perhaps implying something like 'Bolt from the Blue'.

The Funatsu Aviation Instrument Museum's website gives a guide to the naming conventions of Japanese naval warplanes. Fighters were named after strong weather (-fuu/-puu '-wind', -rai '-thunder'); (high-altitude) bombers after constellations (-sei '-star'); reconnaissance planes after clouds (-un); attack (dive?) bombers after mountains (-san/-zan); patrol planes after seas (-kai); transports after skies (-kuu); trainers after plants (-giku 'chrysanthemum', -gusa 'grass'), and others after scenery. This is helpful except that Seiran appears under the Other category in one listing, and under the Attack Bomber category elsewhere.

20 March 2005

Pictures after the Earthquake in Fukuoka, Japan

David A. Johnson, a Southern Baptist missionary in Fukuoka, has posted an interesting photo exhibit of the damage caused by the 20 March 2005 earthquake there. Among the other things, it popped a pipe out of the pipe organ in the Seinan [Southwestern] Gakuin Seminary chapel and turned cobbled streets to mud by liquefaction.

Christian Missionaries in North Korea

Speaking of missionaries sneaking into a hermit kingdom, Asia Times OnLine has posted an article by Andrei Lankov on the role of Christian missionaries in North Korea.
SEOUL - Churches are opening in North Korea, a country long known for its hostility to any religion, and especially Protestantism. But it is not the handful of officially sanctioned churches that are interesting so much as reports of a revival of the North's "catacomb church".

Given the privation and suffering in North Korea, it's not surprising that the masses would find solace in the opiate of the people.

North Korean defectors to South Korea recently were asked about the fate of those escapees who were apprehended in China and sent back for interrogation in North Korea. Their treatment is harsh but they are not necessarily doomed. If an arrested escapee does not make some dangerous confessions while subjected to relatively mild beatings, he or she is likely to be set free very soon (not very nice, but still it's a vast improvement over the situation that existed two decades ago). This correspondent asked, "What do interrogators see as dangerous activity?" The answers were virtually identical across the board: "Contacting missionaries and bringing religious literature to North Korea."...

Once upon a time, relations between early Korean communism and Korean Christianity were much closer than either side is willing to admit nowadays. Kim Il-sung himself, the founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), was born into a family of prominent Protestant activists. His father graduated from a Protestant school and was an active supporter of the local missions, and his mother was the daughter of a prominent Protestant activist. This was fairly typical: it seems that a majority of early Korean communists had Christian family backgrounds, even though Christians were few and far between in the general population....

Nonetheless, left-wing Christianity was not a success in North Korea. Most Protestant preachers and activists were enemies of the new regime. There were a number of reasons for this. Most pastors came from affluent families and were not happy about the redistribution of wealth during the land reforms of 1946 and subsequent nationalization of industries. As well, many Christians had personal connections with the West and admired the United States as a beacon of democracy, and thus were alienated by the regime's intense anti-American propaganda. The increasingly harsh and repressive policies of the new government did not help either.

Thus in 1946-50 Protestants formed one of the major groups of the refugees who moved to the South. When the Korean War began, these Protestants often helped the advancing United Nations troops. Such incidents once again demonstrated to the Pyongyang leaders what they believed anyway: that Christians were politically unreliable....

By the mid-1950s, not a single church was left functioning. As usual, the Korean Stalinists outdid Stalin himself: even in the worst days of Josef Stalin's rule a handful of churches remained opened in Soviet cities, and some priests avoided the gulag (more often than not through cooperation with Stalin's secret police).

Some North Korean believers continued to worship in secret. The precise scale of the North Korean "catacomb church" is likely to remain unknown forever. Serious research is made impossible by the secrecy of the church, and in the post-unification future (if there is one), the picture is likely to be distorted by exaggerations and myth-making to which religious organizations are usually so prone. A lot of martyrdom stories are certain to emerge in post-unification Korea, and some of them are certain to be true, but none of these stories should be taken at face value without careful checking. Nonetheless, the existence of the Protestant underground is beyond doubt.
via NKZone

19 March 2005

A Tropical Melting Pot in the Frozen North

The New York Times on 18 March ran a cheery little sketch of a community of tropical immigrants in northern Alberta.
FORT McMURRAY, Alberta, March 13 - Forty below zero isn't so bad once you get used to it. At least that was the message of a seminar at Keyano College called "We Love the Winters Here," attended by 30 new immigrants from warm-blooded places like Venezuela and Nigeria, drawn here by the promise of hefty salaries in an oil boomtown....

Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez fired more than 5,000 employees at the state oil company after a failed general strike, has been particularly fertile recruiting ground for energy companies.

"When you are in Venezuela and you read the word 'cold,' you don't really know what that word means," said Cesar Mogollon, an electrical engineer with Suncor Energy who arrived from Venezuela in November....

But Mr. Mogollon said that once he found that local supermarkets carried the white maize flour dough used to make arepas and empanadas, "I was O.K." He and his wife have adjusted, he said, and his 9-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son are snow tubing and skiing with gusto.

At least 4,000 foreign-born immigrants now live in Fort McMurray, and the number is growing fast. Local supermarkets carry halvah from Saudi Arabia, mango nectar from Egypt, jarred yellow cherries from Guatemala, rice sticks from the Philippines and marinating sauces from South Africa. There are cultural organizations for Latinos, Hindus, Filipinos and Chinese. The first Islamic school opened last year.

Mushtaque Ahmed, a 54-year-old engineer at Syncrude Canada, who was born in Bangladesh, has worked previously in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He says that 10 families from Bangladesh arrived here in the last three years, and that they now get together to celebrate Bangladeshi holidays with potluck dinners that mix their native cooking with Canadian fare: typically roast turkey and assorted biryanis....

"I like the friendliness of the people here," Mr. Ahmed said, although he admitted to one misgiving that has nothing to do with the weather: "I can get uncomfortable with what's on television. There's a lot of tolerance to things I am not accustomed to."
via OxBlog

18 March 2005

Doris Duke's Islamic Art Shangri-La

Here's an interesting perspective on Doris Duke and her Shangri-La residential tribute to Islamic art, which I recently had the chance to visit. It's by Sharon Littlefield, the Consulting Curator of Islamic Art for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation/Honolulu Academy of Arts.
While the American heiress Doris Duke (1912-93) succumbed to an elite desire to collect, display, and donate, her chosen field of Islamic art and architecture was at odds with the legitimacy her social circle sought in their collecting. Moreover, relocating such art to her private home in Hawaii effectively estranged her from all established patterns of art collecting. Likely, her motivation to both acquire Islamic art and create an Islamicate estate for its display was driven, in part, by the very need to dissociate herself from her peers and her inherited lifestyle. But, profoundly drawn to Islamic aesthetics, she continued to collect right up to her death. She did not simply reject her own culture, but actively embraced Islamic ones. Despite being intensely private, Duke decreed that her estate, baptized Shangri-La, should be opened to the public following her death. Scheduled to open in October 2002, Shangri-La stands as a significant Islamicate monument, a fact which has, and will likely continue, to perplex those who cross its threshold.
I managed to check my cynicism and class resentment at the door and came away thoroughly fascinated. It's well worth a visit. The virtual tour is also first-rate.

17 March 2005

Multinational Coalition Invades Japan, 1643

In the summer of 1643, a multinational coalition of Jesuit missionaries arrived in fiercely anti-Catholic Tokugawa Japan, just three months after another group of nine had been tortured to death in Nagasaki.
The leader of the second group was the Jesuit Pedro Marquez (1575-1657), born at Mouram, in the archbishopric of Evora, Portugal. After his training and admission into the Society of Jesus at the age of seventeen, we find him in 1627 in Tonkin and in 1632 on the island of Hainan. In 1636, he was in Macao, where he cosigned the order expelling [infamous Jesuit renegade Christovão] Ferreira from the Society for his apostasy. At the time of Marquez' capture, he was sixty-eight years old and had just received his appointment as Provincial, or head of the Roman Catholic Church in Japan.

His three European companions were: Alonzo de Arroyo (1592-1644), fifty-one years old, from Malaga in Andalusia, doctor of philosophy and former priest of the Spanish settlement of Cavite in the Philippines, where he had arrived in 1621; Francisco Cassola (1603-1644), forty years old, a mathematician and astronomer who had been in Manila in 1636 with Mastrilli, later to become famous as a martyr in Japan; and Giuseppe Chiara (1603-1685), an Italian, also forty years old and recently coming from Manila as well. These four Jesuits were accompanied by six Asian converts: one lay brother (iruman) and five supporters (dojuku). The lay brother was Andreas Vieyra (1601-1678), forty-two years old, who had been born in Mogi and brought up in Nagasaki. He was later named Nampo, and had been educated in Macao and Manila. The supporters included two Japanese men: one from Imabashi Itchome in Osaka, known to the Europeans as Julius and to the Japanese as Shiro'emon, fifty-one years old; and one from Mototsuchimikado machi in Kamikyo of Kyoto, known as Kassian and Mata'emon, also fifty-one years old. These three men had left Japan in the early 1620s and were coming home, pathetically, to certain torture and death.

Then there was Lorenzo Pinto, thirty-two years old, whose father was Chinese and whose mother was of mixed Japanese and Portuguese descent. Even though his parents lived in Macao, Pinto had many friends and connections in Nagasaki. The last two supporters were a twenty-year-old Chinese man from Canton, called Juan and later Saburozaemon, and a seventeen-year-old Vietnamese man from Tonkin, known as Donatus or Nikan. These men were the last of the group to die, in 1697 and 1700 respectively.

The captives freely confessed they had come to Japan to preach Christianity, or as the Japanese put it: "to spread the Evil Doctrine in order to snatch away [authority in] the country of Japan." They had disguised themselves as Japanese because the shogun had forbidden foreign priests to proselytize. Nevertheless, they were put to the water torture to make sure they were holding nothing back.
SOURCE: Prisoners from Nambu: Reality and Make-Believe in Seventeenth-Century Japanese Diplomacy, by Reinier H. Hesselink (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2002), pp. 51-53

I'm surprised there wasn't at least one Irishman in the group.

15 March 2005

Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

Princeton emeritus professor of philosophy Harry G. Frankfurt has published a book On Bullshit (Princeton U. Press, 2005).
With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.
The Press's website also includes video clips of an interview with the straight-talking bullshitologist. Here's my transcription of clip 7.
Q: You mentioned democratization as a function of bullshit. What about education? Are more highly educated people more likely to engage in bullshit just because they have the faculties to do so? I mean, are we more likely to be twits here at Princeton University than in some other part of the country?

A: I think it's not only that highly educated people have the linguistic and intellectual gifts that enable them to create bullshit. But also I think that a lot of people who are highly educated acquire a kind of arrogance that leads them to be negligent about truth and falsity. They have a lot of confidence in their own opinions, and this may also encourage them to produce bullshit.

Nick Kristof on Environmentalists Gone Wild

I enjoy Nick Kristof's political unreliability. In the New York Times of 12 March, he takes on environmental car-alarmists.
When I first began to worry about climate change, global cooling and nuclear winter seemed the main risks. As Newsweek said in 1975: "Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend ... but they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."

This record should teach environmentalists some humility. The problems are real, but so is the uncertainty. Environmentalists were right about DDT's threat to bald eagles, for example, but blocking all spraying in the third world has led to hundreds of thousands of malaria deaths.

Likewise, environmentalists were right to warn about population pressures, but they overestimated wildly. Paul Ehrlich warned in "The Population Bomb" that "the battle to feed humanity is over. ... Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." On my bookshelf is an even earlier book, "Too Many Asians," with a photo of a mass of Indians on the cover. The book warns that the threat from relentlessly multiplying Asians is "even more grave than that of nuclear warfare."
Too many Asian men, and not enough Asian women. Now that's the real problem in Asia. Meanwhile bald eagles multiply and malaria just gets worse and worse.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club has much more about efforts both to ban DDT and to resist banning it, with follow-ups here and here.

14 March 2005

Dutch Bathing Practices in Kupang, Timor, 1792

In 1792, American Lieutenant Amasa Delano spent some time in Dutch West Timor with the British McCluer Expedition.
A river of clean, clear water flowed through Copang [= Kupang, West Timor] to the sea; and a short distance from the mouth of the river was the bathing resort of the well-to-do residents of Copang. The families of the government officials of account and of the merchants in profitable business composed pretty much all the well-to-do people of the port. On fine days, and most days in tropic Timor were fine, they went in for bathing en masse. The bathing scene was a delight to Amasa:

"The bank of the river where they bathed was shaded with rows of fragrant trees, and under the trees were small dressing cabins. The Dutch, men and women both, donned a Malay garment for the bath, a sort of petticoat, which was tied high up on the breast, but so tied as to leave the arms free. Some of these bathing garments were of extremely fine texture, and with beautiful designs woven into them."

Amasa and his brother officers were furnished with the same sort of bathing robes of extremely fine texture and beautiful design. "Men and women bathed together, picking out a spot with their backs to the current, and allowed the swift running water to rush over their heads, or flow around them." Amasa was always among those present at the bathing hour. His choice of place was between two rocks; and there, with a stone against which to brace his feet, he sat in secure enjoyment of the current, without incurring danger in an absent-minded moment of being swept down-river and put to the labor of swimming back against the current. He liked to swim, and these days in Timor were for relaxation after the wearying passage from New Guinea.

While the favored people bathed, Malay slaves were setting the tables and laying the lunch in the shade of the wide-spreading, handsome trees on the bank of the river. It was the life for a sailor ashore--that is, when the sailor was an officer.

"There was the river foaming over the rocks below gently in some places, sublimely in others; and the river was on the opposite shore spreading itself out like a transparent lake with lovely scenery reflected in its calm surface."

Amasa and his bathing brother officers would work up grand appetites while observing the tables being loaded deep with the wide variety of savory dishes. There were also oceans of fine wines. Amasa had not yet had the experience of sitting in at a party when English officials took on the job of entertaining Dutch rivals in trade; but certainly the Dutch in Amboyna and here in Timor were setting a warm pace against the day when it came the turn of the English to do the entertaining. For the prestige of that Royal Navy to which his officer shipmates belonged, he hoped said officers would rise to the occasion when it came their turn to play host. They would have to log the good knots to do so. The Dutch in Amboyna had done them well; the Dutch governor's widow in Timor and her official aides were doing them even better:

"The Dutch in Timor gave us altogether too good a time. It may have been the too frequent bathing, and staying too long at it that brought on intermittent fevers, from which several of our officers died. These deaths from the bathing in Timor were not the first of their kind, which I have known from personal observation."

... Not long before the McCluer visit to Timor, Lieutenant Bligh of the Bounty mutiny episode had arrived there [in 1789]. Timor was still lauding the seamanship and fortitude of Bligh and the men who had survived that long passage in that open boat, and Amasa thought the laudations well deserved. But shortly after Bligh's departure from Timor another boat's crew arrived there from a more perilous and far longer voyage than Bligh's; and they made the passage with only a chart and a compass for their navigation. While McCluer's officers were still at Timor that boat's crew of the more perilous passage were being held in ignominy in Copang.

13 March 2005

Inoculating Islanders with Kinepox in 1807

In 1807, Captain Amasa Delano of the China-trader Perseverance, was keenly aware of the deadly effects of smallpox on Pacific Islanders--and he knew how to prevent it.
Before leaving home forehanded Amasa had stuffed his medicine chest with whatever specifics the Boston doctors recommended. He had added several specifics on his own account, one being for inoculation against smallpox. He had seen the ship's doctors of the McCluer expedition inoculate island natives against smallpox, and why couldn't he do the same now? Why not?

Canton was notoriously a smallpox-ridden port, and, arriving off there, Amasa got out his kinepox from the medicine chest, stood his five Kanakas (Sandwich Islanders) in a row, and inoculated them. He had faith in his technique, but there remained a doubt of the efficacy of the kinepox after lying up in the medicine chest since he had left home.

Fresh kinepox would make him feel better; and certainly it would do no harm to his Kanakas to inoculate them again. Sailing up the Canton River he made inquiries of ships he met along the way, and from an American captain whose ship he hailed he procured "a kine pox which would answer all the purpose of a preventive, and at the same time would be attended with no dangerous consequences to the patient."

Amasa inoculated his five Sandwich Islanders with the new kinepox and awaited results. They all lived, as did others of his crew whom he then treated with full confidence. After that he was all set to deliver lectures to other ship captains wherever met on the virtues of the new kinepox.

"All captains, who are employed on voyages, where they may take the natives of these islands on board their ships, should provide themselves with the kine pox matter, which may be easily procured, and preserved in such a manner as to be carried to any part of the world, and have them inoculated with it before carrying them to places where they would be exposed to take the small pox, which most generally proves fatal to them, and the distress and sufferings of the poor creatures have been beyond description; many scenes of which I have been an eye witness to, that would excite the compassion of any man possessed of the least particle of humanity."
Edward Jenner had published his work on cowpox and coined the term "vaccination" in 1798.

12 March 2005

Hirahara Zenmatsu, the First Japanese in Hawai‘i

Hirahara Zenmatsu was a Japanese seaman who lived among the people of the island of O‘ahu for about three and a half months in 1806. Zenmatsu was a native of the province of Aki, now Hiroshima prefecture, during the reign of the Tokugawa feudal government (1603-1867). He and seven others aboard the Inawaka-maru, a small Japanese cargo ship, were shipwrecked off Japan and remained adrift in the Pacific Ocean for more than seventy days....

On March 20, 1806, a foreign ship appeared. The crew of the Inawaka-maru climbed onto the deckhouse roof and signaled the ship by waving a mat and shouting for help. At first they seemed not to have been seen, but finally, the ship came closer and lowered her sails. Four foreigners, including one carrying a sword, who seemed to be the captain, came up on deck as the ship circled around the Inawaka-maru. Upon realizing that the Japanese vessel was disabled, they came aboard. Two sets of Japanese swords that belonged to the two officials from Iwakuni were found in a closet at the stern and were confiscated.

The captain asked the Japanese something, but they could not understand English. The Japanese asked for food by putting their hands on their stomachs, pointing to their mouths, and bowing with their hands together. The captain touched each one's stomach and took a look around the galley. When he realized that they had no food or water, he took all eight Japanese on board his ship, assisting them by taking their hands and putting his arms around them. Personal belongings of the Japanese were also transferred.

The rescuing ship was an American trading vessel [returning from China], the Tabour, commanded by Captain Cornelius Sole. The Japanese had been rescued after being adrift in the Pacific for more than seventy days.

Aboard the Tabour, the Japanese were served a large cup of tea with sugar. It tasted so good that they asked for more, but the captain did not allow them to eat anything more on that day. On the following day, they were given two cups of sweetened tea followed by a serving of gruel. This was repeated for another three days. On the fifth day, when everyone gradually became well, they were served rice for breakfast and dinner and bread for lunch. The bread, tasted by the Japanese for the first time, was described by Zenmatsu as similar to a Japanese confection called higashiyama, which is shaped round like a cross-section cut of a thick daikon (radish).

The Japanese had no words to express their gratitude, and they were deeply touched by the kind treatment received from the foreigners.
It sounds as if Capt. Sole had prior experience reviving starving, dehydrated sailors.
On May 5, 1806, the Tabour arrived in Hawai‘i after forty-five days of sailing following the rescue.... On August 17, 1806, all eight Japanese left Hawai‘i with [Captain Amasa] Delano aboard the Perseverence.
They arrived in Macao in October, then were transferred to a Chinese ship bound for Batavia (now Jakarta), where five of the eight Japanese contracted various tropical diseases, so that only three survived by the time the crew reached Nagasaki in June 1807 aboard an American vessel flying a Dutch flag.
Unfortunately, one more died soon after returning to Nagasaki, and another committed suicide during the official interrogation there. Zenmatsu was jailed and underwent severe interrogation by the officials as he had violated the sakoku edict, which prohibited Japanese subjects from leaving the country. Zenmatsu was kept at Nagasaki for five more months before being allowed to return to his village on November 29, 1807. Soon after his return, he was summoned by Lord Asano of Aki to report on his overseas experiences. He died six months after his return.
SOURCE: Observations of the First Japanese to Land in Hawai‘i, by Hideto Kono and Kazuko Sinoto, in The Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 34 (2000), pp. 49-62

The account by Kono and Sinoto was based primarily on Japanese and Hawaiian sources, and makes no mention of an interrogation of the Japanese crew recorded in chapter XXI of Delano's Voyages and Travels, orginally published in 1817 but now available online as Master Mariner: The Life and Voyages of Amasa Delano, by James B. Connolly.
On arrival at Canton, Amasa hunted up a linguist who knew Japanese. He found one of a sort, a Chinese, and through him he questioned the Japanese, being curious to get their story of the wreck. The Japanese could not understand the Chinese linguist's Japanese speech, but they could read his Japanese writing, and he could read theirs; so it was question and answer on pieces of rice paper, which Amasa took over and kept for his own information later:

QUESTION: What place did you leave last, previous to your being shipwrecked?
ANSWER: The town or city of Osaca, on the island of Niphon.
QUESTION: How many men were there of you on board, when you left Osaca?
ANSWER: Twenty-two.
QUESTION: What happened to the other fourteen?
ANSWER: Some were washed overboard in the gale of wind in which we lost our masts, rudder, and were otherwise materially injured, and a number were killed and eaten for food to save life; all of which died by lot, fairly drawn.
QUESTION: How were you treated by Captain Sole?
ANSWER: We acknowledge him as our saviour. He not only took us away from that death which stared us in the face; but he gave us victuals, and carried us safe to land; after which he befriended and provided for us.

11 March 2005

Erazim V. Kohák's "Requiem for Utopia"

In the context of reviewing the book, Legacy of Dissent, invisible reader Mithras the Prophet posts "a long excerpt from Erazim V. Kohák's "Requiem for Utopia", written after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Kohák went into exile from Czechoslovakia in 1948, and continues to write and teach at Boston University and Charles University in Prague."
[Dubcek and his colleagues] were determined to be humane authoritarians, respecting the rights of their subjects. In their seven months in power they discovered that the idea of a humane authoritarianism, the standard illusion of well-intentioned rhetorical revolutionists, is an illusion, a contradictio in adiecto. A humane authoritarianism would respect the freedom of its subjects, and so inevitably create the possibility of dissent and opposition. Faced with opposition, the human authoritarian faces the choice of ceasing to be authoritarian — or ceasing to be humane. Repression, whatever its overt aim, can be humane only in rhetoric — in practice it necessarily means breaking men. Czechs and Slovaks, including Dubcek, were too familiar with the logic of terror to opt for the latter alternative. After seven months, the program which started out as a program of humane communism became a program of social democracy....

The ideals of human freedom and social justice remain valid. Democracy — democracy for blacks as well as whites, in economics as well as politics, at home as well as in remote reaches of Latin America or Eastern Europe — remains valid. Socialism, the ideal of social justice and social responsibility in industrial society, remains valid. Human and civil rights, the right of every man to personal identity and social participation, all remain valid. But the utopian myths of self-proclaimed rhetorical radicals do not advance these ideals. The detour on which too many socialists embarked in 1917 is over, finished, discredited, revealed as an exhiliarating, aristocratic, and ultimately reactionary social sport, not the radical social progress it claimed to be. The task that remains is the work of social progress — not the aristocratic sport of revolution, but the solid work of redical, deep-rooted transformation of society. Men may still demand their daily dose of illusion, the exhilaration of revolution or "confrontation" rather than the down-to-earth facts and figures of a Freedom Budget; but those who cater to this demand can no longer do so in the name of social progress — or in the name of socialism.

Utopia is dead. Czechoslovakia has been a graveyard of illusions.
And not just Czechoslovakia, about which I've posted once or twice, and intend to post again. For me, a long winter--including a Dean's December--in Ceausescu's Romania first began turning shovelfuls of earth into a graveyard of illusions.

Andres Gentry on Foreign Policy Oceans Apart

A few days ago, China-based blogger Andrés Gentry reacted to a post by Belgravia Dispatch on foreign policy disagreements across the Atlantic.
Belgravia Dispatch has a nice (and sharply worded!) summary of the foreign policy discussions happening on both sides of the Atlantic. While I appreciate the amount of time he spends on talking about French and German foreign policy aspirations, at the end of the day it all sounds more like a coda for an era past than anything else....

Well, here's one indicator of the future: in discussions about East Asian international relations I have never, not once, read anyone ask what France's, much less Germany's, opinion is....

Anyways though, the world stage moves more and more away from the European peninsula. The Economist has recently run a survey on India and China, the US and Japan have just released a joint statement declaring they will work together to safeguard Taiwan, the 6-nation group trying to deal with North Korea includes no European nations [except Eurasia-spanning Russia], the democratic changes sweeping the Middle East owe to a Coalition that Old Europe deliberately cut itself out of, and in last December's Indonesian tsunami it was the US, Japan, India, and Australia working together to help those affected by the natural disaster. These are the contours of the new world that is being made.
I wouldn't be too quick to write off the EU in Asia. It now wants in on the six-party talks and is likely soon to resume arms sales to China.

10 March 2005

Acts of War, 60 Years Ago

The Marmot reminds us that today marks the 60th anniversary of the fire-bombing of Tokyo, as a BBC report notes.
People in Tokyo have been marking the 60th anniversary of a massive US night-time bombing raid which destroyed much of the city in 1945.

Several memorial services have been held across the city to remember the more than 100,000 people who died.

The raid was part of an American strategy to try to wear down Japanese morale ahead of a possible invasion.
Last month, we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the fire-bombing of Dresden.
An aspect of the Dresden bombing that remains a question today is how many people died during the attacks of February 13/14, 1945. The city was crammed with uncounted refugees and many POWs in transit when the raids took place. The exact number of casualties will never be known. McKee believed that the official figures were understated, and that 35,000 to 45,000 died, though "the figure of 35,000 for one night's massacre alone might easily be doubled to 70,000 without much fear of exaggeration, I feel."
The battle of Iwo Jima began 60 years ago, shortly after the fire-bombing of Dresden, and didn't end until after the fire-bombing of Tokyo.
The battle for Iwo Jima began Feb. 19, 1945, but didn't end until March 15, with nearly 7,000 Americans and more than 20,000 Japanese killed. After years of retaking soil conquered by a Japanese military machine, America was knocking on the enemy's door by taking Iwo Jima. It was the first invasion of Japanese soil since Pearl Harbor. Iwo Jima was heavily entrenched with a network of caves, tunnels and pillboxes. The brilliant Japanese commander defending the island, Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, had been told to fight to the death -- no Japanese survivors -- hoping high American casualties would deter further attacks against Japanese territory.
And in April, we will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the battle of Okinawa.
Okinawa was the largest amphibious invasion of the Pacific campaign and the last major campaign of the Pacific War. More ships were used, more troops put ashore, more supplies transported, more bombs dropped, more naval guns fired against shore targets than any other operation in the Pacific. More people died during the Battle of Okinawa than all those killed during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Casualties totaled more than 38,000 Americans wounded and 12,000 killed or missing, more than 107,000 Japanese and Okinawan conscripts killed, and perhaps 100,000 Okinawan civilians who perished in the battle.

The battle of Okinawa proved to be the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. Thirty-four allied ships and craft of all types had been sunk, mostly by kamikazes, and 368 ships and craft damaged. The fleet had lost 763 aircraft. Total American casualties in the operation numbered over 12,000 killed [including nearly 5,000 Navy dead and almost 8,000 Marine and Army dead] and 36,000 wounded. Navy casualties were tremendous, with a ratio of one killed for one wounded as compared to a one to five ratio for the Marine Corps. Combat stress also caused large numbers of psychiatric casualties, a terrible hemorrhage of front-line strength. There were more than 26,000 non-battle casualties. In the battle of Okinawa, the rate of combat losses due to battle stress, expressed as a percentage of those caused by combat wounds, was 48% [in the Korean War the overall rate was about 20-25%, and in the Yom Kippur War it was about 30%]. American losses at Okinawa were so heavy as to [elicit] Congressional calls for an investigation into the conduct of the military commanders. Not surprisingly, the cost of this battle, in terms of lives, time, and material, weighed heavily in the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan just six weeks later.

Japanese human losses were enormous: 107,539 soldiers killed and 23,764 sealed in caves or buried by the Japanese themselves; 10,755 captured or surrendered. The Japanese lost 7,830 aircraft and 16 combat ships. Since many Okinawan residents fled to caves where they subsequently were entombed the precise number of civilian casualties will probably never be known, but the lowest estimate is 42,000 killed. Somewhere between one-tenth and one-fourth of the civilian population perished, though by some estimates the battle of Okinawa killed almost a third of the civilian population. According to US Army records during the planning phase of the operation, the assumption was that Okinawa was home to about 300,000 civilians. At the conclusion of hostilities around 196,000 civilians remained. However, US Army figures for the 82 day campaign showed a total figure of 142,058 civilian casualties, including those killed by artillery fire, air attacks and those who were pressed into service by the Japanese army.
The only TV news that I can sit through for more than 15 minutes without channel-surfing away (usually in response to commercials or "celebrity justice" stories) is The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, which ends each broadcast with a photographic listing of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq (no other individuals killed in Iraq or elsewhere). I view them all, with a mixture of sorrow and respect. Can you imagine how long The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer would have to be to list onscreen the names and photos of just the U.S. military personnel killed during World War II? It would have to be NewsWeek 24/7 with Jim Lehrer. I remind myself of that when I get too depressed about the state of the world 60 years later.

An imaginary Jim Lehrer Sr. in 1945: "And now, in silence, are 7,000 more ..."

UPDATE: Tokyo-based White Peril has much more.

09 March 2005

Indonesia and Malaysia at Odds

Malaysia and Indonesia had a naval stare-down recently over an oil-rich area in the Sulawesi Sea. From a Singapore Angle (formerly "Singapore Tsunami Relief Effort" blog) covers the story in four parts, with a lot of background about effects on ASEAN and other regional relationships.

Meanwhile, Colby Cosh (on 7 March) covers another angle of dispute between the two states, the huge number of illegal (and indispensible) Indonesian workers in Malaysia.
Recognizing the perceived need for cheap Indonesian labour, the Malay government decided to seek a middle course: give the workers an amnesty period to return to Indonesia, have their status regularized and documented, participate in classes that would instruct them in the distinctive cultural sensitivities of their Malay masters, and return to Malaysia to get back to the saw and the scrub-brush.

What the Malaysians didn't foresee was that once the workers had returned to Indonesia with their Malaysian savings, they might not be allowed back over the border so easily. Indonesian officials, it appears, have jumped at the chance to hold their rich neighbour's workforce hostage, or at least to squeeze it for every penny they can get.

08 March 2005

An Afghan Woman Contemplates Exile, April 1980

The country's conditions had become even worse. Several months had passed since I applied for a passport and I still didn't know whether I would be able to make the planned trip to India, because the report from the secret police had not been made yet. With great sorrow I resolved to leave the country--for who knew how long?--the country to which I owed my entire life, the country my husband took such pride in serving [in the Afghan military], the land we cherished, treasuring its memories deeply, the one we always felt homesick for when we traveled.

This day, on my way home, I reviewed the situation carefully and these were my conclusions: It had been two years since my husband had gone missing, with no word about him or the reason for his disappearance. I didn't know whether he was alive or not. I had a sick child and was not permitted to have her admitted to the only hospital that had proper facilities, even though I was willing to pay the entire cost up front. We had lost not only the benefits of health insurance but also Saleem's social security and the retirement money he had paid into the fund directly out of his paycheck every month.

Many young students had disappeared lately without a trace. The schools were getting dangerous. I could not send my children to school without worrying about them all day long. I'd had them stay home several times during the past two weeks because of student demonstrations and the brutal efforts of the police to repress them. Omar and Ali both complied with my orders but didn't understand my position. They thought I was paranoid.

I did not have security at my job. Any minute, I thought, they would come and arrest me. There were no guarantees of safety for any one of us anymore. In fact, circumstances were forcing me to leave as soon as possible--not for myself but for the safety of my family. It was the hardest decision I ever made in my life. To assuage my agony, I promised that I would return when conditions became right. Surely the Russians would not last very long.

The day I decided to leave, I cried all the way home from the office. A searing pain shot through my heart when I looked at the Aliabad Mountains behind the university. I remembered the times in college when we frolicked and played games among those steep rocks. We even tried one day to climb a large boulder but didn't get very far before one of our classmates got stuck between two rocks. The rest of us tried to rescue her and the whole class missed a lecture. The dean didn't let us make up the test we missed that day; he never understood the pleasure we derived from going up there.

All night long my head was full of unanswered questions. What was I going to do in a foreign country with no money, all by myself with three children? How would I be able to earn money for their food and education? Would I be able to provide the comforts they had here at home? What if my husband was released and I wasn't home? Would he understand? Was I doing the right thing? What about the promise I'd made to him: "In bad times as well as good, in sickness and in health, I will stay by your side until death parts us"?

I had applied for a passport, but then my idea had been to return home after my daughter's medical treatment. Now I must change the plan and I needed more money. I couldn't sell our real estate because of the uncertainty concerning my husband; and even if he were no longer living, it could not be sold till all the children had passed their eighteenth birthday. I dare not sell the household goods because that would attract attention. Even if I did, they would realize only a small fraction of their original price. So I would have to give away everything we had accumulated and saved bit by bit over the years. My heart broke when I remembered that Saleem had sometimes saved money by canceling a movie or a trip in order to have enough to build our house.

Could I keep my plan secret? I certainly could not tell my husband's family that I was leaving. The very few whom I trusted could not keep the news to themselves, especially my mother-in-law, who would begin to cry, and then others would know. Would our departure be too hard on her, especially at this time when my husband was missing too? What would happen to my mother and brothers and sisters? Would the government arrest them because I had left the country? Many close relatives were arrested and questioned if one family member left the country. Yet how could we all leave with our children, twenty-six of us, without being noticed? The more I thought, the more questions appeared in my head which called for answers--answers that I did not have. In fact, everything seemed impossible, out of reach.

Finally, early in the morning, I decided to put all the negative and all the positive points of my plan on the two sides of an imaginary balance. On the left side went all the negatives, such as lack of money, trouble finding a decent job, starting all over again from zero, leaving all my property behind; on the right side were the positive points, such as having a safer life for my sons and not being afraid of losing them, having proper health care and a good education for my children, not having to worry about spies and false reports. I still was not able to decide. In fact, it seemed I might lose a whole lot more than I gained in the deal. The future lay ahead of me as a somber blur.

At last I realized that what I would really gain from leaving would be freedom. The thought of freedom grew larger and larger in my mind until it completely weighed down the right side of that imaginary balance. It would be well worth fighting for. I thought, I can trade everything in the world, all the luxurious and elegant things in my life, in order to earn freedom for my family and for my mother, my brothers and sisters, and their families. The idea of achieving freedom for all of us gave me the peace of heaven.
SOURCE: An Afghan Woman's Odyssey, by Farooka Gauhari (U. Nebraska Press, 1996), pp. 171-174