30 November 2006

Black Death Zerstörungsroman on a Plaque, 1349

In Derbyshire ..., the most eloquent set of mortality statistics are in a small parish church where a plaque commemorates the Wakebridge family's brush with annihilation in the summer of 1349.
  • 18 May, Nicholas, brother of William
  • 16 July, Robert, brother of William
  • 5 August, Peter, father of William and Joan, sister of William
  • 10 August, Joan, wife of William and Margaret, sister of William
William himself survived the pestilence.
SOURCE: The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, by John Kelly (Harper Perennial, 2006), p. 226

UPDATE: I concocted the pseudo-German term Zerstörungsroman 'destruction-novel' as the opposite of Bildungsroman, a German term applied to novels about personal growth, education, and development. I was trying to capture the opposition between 'coming of age' and 'falling apart' (or the 'age of destruction').

27 November 2006

Undermining Democracy in East Timor and Bosnia

In all the UN administrations, the vast network of human rights protections leaves little space for any local accountability. As Seth Mydans noted in the New York Times, one critical problem with the UN protectorate's nation-building attempts, involving an overhaul of every aspect of East Timorese society, has been that 'relatively few local people are being given important roles in the planning and running of the reconstruction effort'. While UN bureaucrats took on the roles of district administrators, the leading political group in East Timor, the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), was ignored by the UN and refused office space in the capital Dili. There were daily protests at the UN's high-handed rule over the territory. Jose Ramos Horta, CNRT Vice-President, complained: 'We saw time going by and no Timorese administration, no civil servants being recruited, no jobs being created.'

The Bosnian example is probably the most revealing, as after six years of international rule the problems of external regulation are becoming clearer. The constantly expanding role of the multitude of international organisations has inevitably restricted the capacity of Bosnian people to discuss, develop and decide on vital questions of concern. At state level, the Bosnian Muslim, Croat and Serb representatives can discuss international policy proposals under the guidance of the [UN] Office of the High Representative, but at the most can make only minor amendments or delay the implementation of externally-prepared rules and regulations. Even this limited accountability has been diminished by the High Representative who has viewed democratic consensus-building in Bosnian state bodies such as the tripartite Presidency, Council of Ministers and State Parliament as an unnecessary delay to imposing international policy. Compared to the swift signature of the chief administrators' pen, the working out of democratic accountability through the joint institutions was seen as 'painfully cumbersome and ineffective'. At the end of 1997, the 'cumbersome' need for Bosnian representatives to assent to international edicts was removed and the High Representative was empowered both to dismiss elected representatives who obstructed policy and to impose legislation directly. The international community thereby assumed complete legislative and executive power over the formally independent state.

The Dayton settlement for Bosnia, like the Rambouillet proposals for Kosovo, promised the decentralisation of political power and the creation of multi-ethnic administrations in order to cohere state institutions and provide security to ethnic minorities and safeguard their autonomy. However, the experience of Dayton suggests that the outcome of the framework imposed will inevitably belie any good intentions that lie behind it. Minority protections, promised to the three constituent peoples under Dayton, have not been delivered under the international administration. At state, entity, city and municipal levels, a clear pattern has emerged where elected majorities have been given little control over policy-making. However, this power has not been decentralised to give minority groups security and a stake in government but transferred to the international institutions and recentralised in the hands of the High Representative. Today, the international community regulates Bosnian life down to the minutiae of local community service provision, employment practices, school admissions and sports. Multi-ethnic administrations exist on paper, but the fact that the consensus attained in these forums is an imposed one, not one autonomously negotiated, is important. Compliance with international edicts imposed by the threat of dismissals or economic sanctions does little to give either majorities or minorities a stake in the process, nor to encourage the emergence of a negotiated accountable solution that could be viable in the long term.

The institutions of Bosnian government are hollow structures, not designed to operate autonomously. The Bosnian state Council of Ministers with the nominal role of assenting to pre-prepared policy has few staff or resources and is aptly described by the Office of the High Representative as 'effectively, little more than an extended working group'. Muslim, Croat and Serb representatives have all argued for greater political autonomy in policy-making, and have attempted to uphold the rights protected in the 'letter' of the Dayton agreement against the ad hoc reinterpretation of international powers under the 'spirit of Dayton'. As an adviser to former Bosnian President Alijah Izetbegovic noted, there is a contradiction between the stated aims of the international protectorate and its consequences: 'A protectorate solution is not good, because the international community would bring all the decisions which would decrease all the functions of Bosnia-Herzegovina institutions. The High Representative's mandate is actually an opposite one, to strengthen the Bosnia-Herzegovina institutions.'

The frailty of Bosnian institutions has perpetuated the fragmentation of political power and reliance on personal and local networks of support which were prevalent during the Bosnian war. Both Susan Woodward and Katherine Verdery provide useful analyses of the impact on Bosnian society of the external undermining of state and entity centres of power and security. The lack of cohering political structures has meant that Bosnian people are forced to rely on more narrow and parochial survival mechanisms, which has meant that ethnicity has maintained its wartime relevance as a political resource.

It would appear that the removal of mechanisms of political accountability has done little to broaden Bosnian people's political outlook. The removal of sites of accountable political power has, in fact, reinforced general insecurity and atomisation which has led to the institutionalisation of much narrower political relations in the search for individual links to those with influence and power. The narrowing of the political domain and reliance on individual survival strategies has assumed a generalised pattern across society. The 'new feudalism' noted by some commentators and the continued existence of weak para-state structures in Muslim and Croat areas of the Federation are symptomatic of the vacuum of integrative institutional power at state and entity level rather than some disintegrative dynamic.

The Dayton process has institutionalised fears and insecurities through high-handed international rule disempowering Bosnian people and their representatives. With little influence over, or relationship to, the decision-making process there is concern that entity boundaries or rights to land, employment and housing can easily be brought into question. The extended mandates of the international institutions have undermined the power of the main political parties and their elected representatives but have not created the political basis of a unitary Bosnia, except in so far as it is one artificially imposed by, and dependent upon, the international community.

Under the human rights international protectorates there is a high level of external regulation but little democracy and no mechanisms through which the rights administrators can rebuild fragmented societies. While mainstream commentators conflate human rights with empowerment, self-determination and democracy, there are few critics who draw attention to the fact that the human rights discourse of moral and ethical policies is essentially an attack on the public political sphere and democratic practices. The result is a 'hypertrophied public realm' with the political arena reduced to a narrow one of international officialdom with extensive powers wielded in isolation from wider society, and an 'atrophied public realm' in the sense of a loss of citizenship with collective political society reduced to reliance on personal and parochial networks. In fact, the time scales for external administration have been extended as society becomes increasingly atomised. In Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor external regulation has been highly destructive of the political sphere as increasing levels of civil interaction have come under regulatory control.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2002/2006), pp. 204-207 (reference citations removed)

25 November 2006

Sun Yat-sen's Bodyguard, Cohen Two-Gun

My historian brother alerted me to a fascinating far outlier, Two-Gun Cohen. Here's the beginning of his entry on Wikipedia.
Morris "Two-Gun" Cohen (1887 - 1970) was a Polish-born adventurer who became a bodyguard for the Chinese leader Sun Yat-sen and a general in the Chinese army.

According to a biography written by Charles Drage with Cohen's assistance, Morris Cohen was born in London to a family that just arrived from Poland.

Morris Abraham Cohen was actually born into a poor Polish-Jewish family in Radzanów, Poland. Soon after his birth in 1887, the Cohens escaped the pogroms of Eastern Europe and emigrated to London's East End.

Cohen loved the theaters, the streets, the markets and the boxing arenas of the English capital more than he did Jewish day school, and in April 1900 he was arrested for picking pockets. A judge sent him to the Hayes Industrial School for wayward Jewish lads. When he was released in 1905, the Cohens shipped young Morris off to western Canada with the hope that the fresh air and open plains of the New World would reform his ways.

Cohen initially worked on a farm near Whitewood, Saskatchewan. He tilled the land, tended the livestock and learned to shoot a gun and play cards. He did that for a year, and then started wandering through the Western provinces, making a living as a carnival talker, gambler, grifter and successful real estate broker. Some of his activitites landed him in jail.

Cohen also became friendly with the Chinese exiles who had come to work on the Canadian transcontinental railroads. In Saskatoon he came to the aid of a Chinese restaurant owner who was being robbed. Cohen knocked out the thief and tossed him out into the street. Such an act was unheard of the time, as few white men ever came to the aid of the Chinese.

The Chinese welcomed Cohen and eventually invited him to join the Tongmenghui, Sun Yat-sen's anti-Manchu organization. Cohen begun to advocate for the Chinese.

Cohen fought with the Canadian Railway Troops in Europe during World War I where part of his job involved supervising Chinese laborers. In 1922 he headed to China to help close a railway deal for Sun Yat-sen with Northern Construction and JW Stewart Ltd. Once there, he asked Sun for a job as a bodyguard.

In Shanghai and Canton Cohen trained Sun's small armed forces to box and shoot, and told people that he was an aide-de-camp and an acting colonel in Sun Yat-sen's army. His lack of Chinese — he spoke a pidgin form of Cantonese at best — was thankfully not a problem since Sun, his wife Soong Qingling and many of their associates were western educated and spoke English. Cohen's colleagues started calling him Ma Kun, and he soon became one of Sun's main protectors, shadowing the Chinese leader to conferences and war zones. After one battle where he was knicked by a bullet, Cohen started carrying a second gun. The western community began calling the gun-toting aide "Two-Gun Cohen."

22 November 2006

Rural Malay Reactions to Islamicist "Resurgents"

I noted various changes in the fieldwork site of Bogang (Negeri Sembilan) between my first period of research, from 1978 to 1980, and my second, from 1987 to 1988. First, the public address system housed in the village mosque and used to call people to prayer was always operational (and set at a higher volume) during the second period, in sharp contrast to the situation during my first fieldwork, when it was typically out of order. Second, the quintessentially Islamic salutation "assalamualaikum" was far more frequently used, and other Islamic symbols and idioms permeated local discourse. Third, young male dakwah ['evangelical'] adherents now appeared in the village on a fairly regular basis to "spread the word." And fourth, the dress of girls and young women had become much more modest, and some of them had taken to wearing the long skirts, mini-telekung (head coverings, like those worn by Catholic nuns in the United States), and other headgear donned by female dakwah adherents in the cities.

Transformations such as these are in some respects superficial, but they are important public markers of the shifting religious climate in villages like Bogang. Other, less "tangible" changes include the further delegitimization of spirit cults, shamanism, and other ritual practices subsumed under the rubric of adat [traditional custom]; the development of non- or arelational forms of individualism, realized by conceptualizing serious wrongdoing (such as the harboring of spirit familiars [pelisit]) in terms of "sin" (dosa) rather than "taboo" (pantang [larang]); the emergence of a more pronounced pan-Islamic consciousness, a key feature of which is greater awareness of current trends elsewhere in the Muslim world, where Islamic resurgence, efforts to forge worldwide Islamic solidarity, and radical separation between Muslims and non-Muslims is the order of the day; heightened concern with demarcating local (i.e., intra-Malaysian) boundaries between Muslims and non-Muslims; and, related to this last point, greater suspicions of all non-Muslims, as expressed in the intensified bodily vigilance of males and females alike.

While many of these shifts are broadly compatible with the stated objectives and overall agendas of dakwah leaders, we should not jump to the conclusion that ordinary Muslims are firmly behind or centrally involved in the resurgence. Indeed, we should start with a clean slate and the most basic questions: How are the legal and other initiatives cited earlier being received by ordinary, especially rural, Malays? And, more broadly: What is the nature of ordinary, particularly rural, Malays' perceptions of and attitudes toward the resurgence? The answers to these questions are elusive for two reasons. First, some of the legal and other initiatives noted earlier are of very recent origin and have yet to have their full impact in rural areas. And second, such questions have been largely ignored in the literature, even though most observers are well aware that Malaysia's Islamic resurgence is a predominantly urban, middle-class phenomenon.

The short, admittedly imprecise, answer to the question regarding ordinary, especially rural, Malays' perceptions of and attitudes toward the resurgence is that, while some of them support it, many, perhaps most, are clearly hostile both to various elements of the movement and to the state agents and others who endorse it. This hostility exists even though ordinary Malays experience Islam as central to their daily lives and cultural identities, and embrace in principle most, if not all, efforts to accord Islam greater primacy among Malays and in Malaysia generally. In Bogang, for example, many elders lament that those who have sought to sanitize local religion by cleansing it of its "parochial accretions" are ignorant not only of the true teachings of Islam, but also of the ways of local spirits (jinn); these elders hasten to add that the neglect of spirits due to the nonperformance of rituals such as berpuar and bayar niat has led to repeated crop failure and, in some cases, the demise of rice production altogether.

Others speak scornfully of the fact that members of certain dakwah groups (for example, Darul Arqam [now banned in Malaysia]) have thrown their televisions, radios, furniture, and other household commodities into local rivers to dramatize their disdain of the polluting influences of Western materialism and to underscore their commitment to returning to the pristine simplicity of the lifestyle of the Prophet. These dramatic gestures were highly publicized—and undoubtedly exaggerated—in the government-controlled national press at a time when the government was actively attempting to discredit the more radical elements of the movement. Though practices such as these are not typical of the dakwah movement as a whole, they loom large in some villagers' perceptions of the resurgence in its entirety. More to the point, they fly directly in the face of the most. pressing concerns of rural Malays, especially the poorest among them, who seek to improve their standards of living—ideally to attain middle-class status through the acquisition of more land and other wealth-generating resources—and who struggle desperately to avoid further impoverishment and proletarianization.

Other residents of Bogang talk about the sexual inappropriateness and hypocrisy of the members of some dakwah groups (Darul Arqam?) who, according to villagers' understandings of accounts in the local media, allegedly engage in "group sex" while enjoining fellow Muslims to observe strict sexual segregation. Still others feel that the dakwah emphasis on sexual segregation is largely redundant, since sexual segregation has long been a feature of rural Malay society. Perhaps more important, they feel that it represents a glaring example of the resurgents' ignorance of rural Malay culture and yet another indication of their profound hostility to it.
SOURCE: "'Ordinary Muslims' and Muslim Resurgents in Contemporary Malaysia: Notes on an Ambivalent Relationship," by Michael G. Peletz, in Islam in an Era of Nation-States: Politics and Religious Renewal in Muslim Southeast Asia, ed. by Robert W. Hefner and Patricia Horvatich (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1997), pp. 241-243

21 November 2006

Grand Sumo Tournament Synchronized Upsets

After Day 9, it seemed that the three top Japanese ozeki (champions) and the recent Estonian rookie Baruto would dog the heels of the undefeated Mongolian yokozuna (grand champion) Asashoryu, but then all four stumbled at once on Day 10. Ozeki Chiyotaikai (now 8-2) lost to sekiwake Miyabiyama (5-5), ozeki Tochiazuma (8-2) lost to once-ozeki Dejima (7-3), ozeki Kaio (8-2) lost to fellow ozeki Kotooshu (7-3), and up-and-comer Baruto (8-2) lost to fellow up-and-comer Homasho (9-1), who is now just one step behind Asashoryu. So, it's still a comeback for the Japanese rikishi, but just not the higher-ranking ones. Last tournament's phenom, the tiny Mongolian Ama, is at 2-8 this time around, and the Georgian komusubi Kokkai finally broke his 9-game losing streak by lengthening Iwakiyama's losing streak to 10.

UPDATE, Day 11: Most of the pack that stood at 8-2 lost again. Only Kaio "protected his 2 losses" to stay in 3rd place at 9-2, behind Homasho at 10-1 and Asashoryu at 11-0.

UPDATE, Day 12: Asashoryu (12-0) handed ozeki Kaio his 3rd loss, dropping him back with the rest of the former contenders, while ozeki Tochiazuma (now 9-3) handed Homasho his 2nd loss. Unless Homasho wins his next 3 bouts, and Asashoryu loses his next 3, the Mongolian grand champion looks to cruise to another tournament victory.

UPDATE, Day 13: The leaders are now Asashoryu (13-0), Homasho (11-2), and Kaio (10-3). At the other end, Iwakiyama (1-12) finally won a bout. The grand champion will cruise to his 19th tournament championship unless he loses his next two bouts, while Homasho wins his next two and then demolishes Asashoryu in a tie-breaker at the end of the basho.

UPDATE, Day 14: Asashoryu (14-0) has clinched it. Homasho (12-2) will likely win the Fighting Spirit award and a higher ranking on the banzuke. No one else has fewer than 4 losses.

UPDATE, Day 15: No surprises. Asa finished at 15-0. Homasho (12-3) won the prizes for both Fighting Spirit and Technique.

20 November 2006

Black Star Journal on Mugabe's Zimbabwe

Africa-blogger Black Star Journal notes that the floor just keeps dropping below Mugabe's Zimbabwe. The death rate in Zimbabwe—at 3,500 every week—now surpasses the death rate in Darfur, Iraq, or Lebanon; and average female life expectancy—at 34 years—is now the world's lowest.
What makes this disaster more tragic and outrageous is that it's largely Mugabe-made. The economic and food crises are largely his fault thanks to his attacks on large industrial farmers, food producers who were also significant employers. The AIDS pandemic isn't necessarily his fault but his oppression and the economic crisis have forced large numbers of qualified medical professionals to flee the country....

3500 black Zimbabweans are dying every single week because of Mugabe's policies. But Mugabe went after WHITE farmers in his land 'redistribution' program (ie: redistributed to his cronies). And Mugabe's 'liberation' movement (from the 1970s) went after white imperial rule.

As a result, Africa's so-called intelligentsia has largely given him a free pass. I can honestly say that few things enrage me more than when educated and normally reasonable Africans provide nothing more than shameless apologia for this guy.

Never mind that white farmers merely had to flee the country. The worst victims of Mugabeism, the dead and starving, are black....

But with tragic symbolism, at least one profession is booming: undertakers.

A real nail in the country's coffin.

19 November 2006

No Island Is an Island, Not Even Simunul in Tawi-Tawi

Tawi-Tawi lies in the southwesternmost corner of the Philippines, only miles from Sabah, Malaysia. Over three hundred islands are located in this province, most of them small and uninhabited. The island of Tawi-Tawi is the largest of these islands. The Sama are the predominant ethnic group of Tawi-Tawi Province and live along the coast of Tawi-Tawi Island and on the shores of the many small islands that surround it. The island of Bongao (pronounced "Bunggau"), located on the western tip of Tawi-Tawi Island, is the provincial capital and regional center of trade.

Simunul Island is seven miles south of Bongao. The island is only fifteen square miles in size, but it contains fifteen barangay (communities) and is home to over 25,000 people. With its swaying palm trees and turquoise-colored sea, Simunul is picture perfect. There were moments during my fieldwork there when, watching the sun set over the sea and listening to the call to prayer, I believed that Simunul was a timeless, distant place. As a coup was attempted in Manila, as Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Gulf War ensued, and as the Soviet Union collapsed, life went on as usual in Simunul.

Or, I should say, life went on as usual for me. People of Simunul were aware of these world events and understood that they would soon experience the ripples of their effects. After the coup attempt in Manila, more people planted cassava because they realized that political instability in the capital would result in inflated food prices. Likewise, the situation in the Middle East caused the price of gasoline to rise, requiring people to pay another five pesos to travel to Bongao.

The Sama of Simunul, concerned about their kin who work in Middle East, closely followed the events of the war announced over the radio. One man was convinced that if a world war ensued, Simunul would be one of the first places to be bombed, as a result of its strategic importance. This conviction is less absurd when one considers that the Japanese invaded Simunul during the Second World War, that Simunul was the training ground for President Marcos' covert Operation Merdeka [an attempt to "liberate" Sabah] in 1967, that the people of West Simunul participated in the Moro National Liberation Front from 1972 to 1974, and that the Philippine Navy shelled West Simunul because of this MNLF activity. The people of Simunul do not "go off to war" in foreign lands. Unfortunately, national and international violence has a way of coming to their small island.

While I could thus pretend to be on a remote and isolated island, the Sama with whom I lived could not afford the luxury of such an illusion. The seas I perceived as clear, tranquil, and little-trafficked were actually swirling ocean currents that for centuries have been drawing the Sama into contact with a succession of outside powers. Simunul is not and has never been an isolated enclave.

For centuries the Sama of Simunul Island were subjects of the Sulu Sultanate. This sultanate emerged in the fourteenth century and was dominated by the Tausug people of the island of Jolo (pronounced "holo"). The Sultan of Sulu administered the Tausug, Sama, and Bajau people of the Sulu Archipelago by assigning datu, traditional regional leaders, to specific regions. These datu were usually Tausug men who were subordinate, loyal, and accountable to the sultan.

The Sama also have ties to the Malays of Sabah, Malaysia, with whom they have a lively and profitable trading relationship. This relationship continues today in spite of the national boundaries that separate Malaysia and the Philippines, and the laws that define their trade as smuggling. Currently, almost half of the Simunul population lives and works in Sabah, where they easily find jobs in lumber mills, restaurants, and shops. The wages are quite high in Sabah, and consumer goods are much cheaper than in Tawi-Tawi. When the Malaysian government cracks down on illegal aliens, the Sama are shipped back to Tawi-Tawi, only to return days later aboard the boats of traders/smugglers. There is thus a steady traffic of people and goods between Sabah and Simunul.

The Sama are also oriented toward Mecca. Mecca is the ponsot dunia, or navel of the world, for these Muslims. People pray toward Mecca, sacrifice to travel to Mecca as pilgrims, and, when they die, are buried with their bodies facing Mecca. The Middle East is not only a center of Islam, however. It is also a center of employment. The Sama began sending people abroad in 1975. In 1990 about 14 percent of women from Simunul between the ages of twenty and forty worked in the Middle East as domestic helpers, midwives, and nurses. Seven percent of men of the same age group worked in the Middle East as laborers.

The people of Simunul are oriented toward the United States as well. After the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States took possession of the Philippines. After many violent military acts, the Americans "subdued" the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu, a feat the Spanish had failed to accomplish during their three-hundred-year reign in the Philippines. Employing a policy of attraction, the American government instituted public schools throughout the Philippines. In 1918 the United States built an elementary school in Simunul. Shortly thereafter, children continued their studies in a high school located in Jolo. By the 1930s the Sama themselves were becoming teachers and replacing the Americans and Christian Filipinos who taught them. Today, about 30 percent of the adult population of Simunul has had some college education, and half of this number are college graduates. Their ability to speak English fosters an awareness of and participation in world events and discourses.

These seas of strong currents carried Tausug datu to Simunul and brought American teachers and administrators to Bongao. These seas carried furtive traders and workers to Malaysia and brought pilgrims to the Persian Gulf. These seas also brought foreign Muslims, carrying the Word of Islam, to the people of Simunul.

One of the first of these foreign Muslims was a man the sarsila (local histories) identify as Sheik Makhdum. According to the sarsila, Sheik Makhdum arrived in Simunul aboard an iron ship but, once in sight of the island, walked the remaining distance on the water. He taught the people of Simunul about Islam and impressed them with his supernatural abilities. Sheik Makhdum built a mosque for his followers, carrying tree trunks from the jungle to the seashore as if they weighed no more than matchsticks. The pillars of this mosque still stand today, serving as a testament to the presence and the power of Sheik Makhdum. These pillars have been dated to the fourteenth century and support the claim that this is the oldest known mosque in the Philippines.

Many Muslim traders and missionaries followed Sheik Makhdum to Simunul, some of them spending their lives on the island. The descendants of these missionaries have a special status in the community and are believed to be direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

After the Second World War, many Muslim Filipinos were educated in madrasah (schools of Islamic learning) in Jolo and Basilan. These learned men became missionaries and traveled throughout Mindanao and Sulu to teach people about Islam. Four of these missionaries found their way to Simunul and spent years living with and teaching the Sama.
SOURCE: "The Ahmadiyya Movement in Simunul: Islamic Reform in One Remote and Unlikely Place," by Patricia Horvatich, in Islam in an Era of Nation-States: Politics and Religious Renewal in Muslim Southeast Asia, ed. by Robert W. Hefner and Patricia Horvatich (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1997), pp. 184-187

17 November 2006

Head Heeb on the Rioting in Tonga

As usual, the Head Heeb offers some of the best analysis of unrest in the South Pacific, most recently the riots in Tonga.
If last year's successful civil service strike was Tonga's first revolution, then a second and more violent one began yesterday when widespread rioting broke out in the capital. As with the strike, the catalyst for the riots was a combination of economic distress and frustration over stalled political reforms. Unlike last year's peaceful protests, however, the riots have left much of Nuku'alofa in a shambles - and, in contrast to the civil service walkout, they were targeted not merely at the royal family but at the entire governmental structure....

The final straw came when Prime Minister Feleti Sevele - ironically, Tonga's first common premier - proposed adjourning parliament without voting on either of the reform packages, and instead establishing another committee to study the situation. Rioting broke out almost immediately in the capital and turned quickly to looting, with much of the commercial district sacked, including Sevele's office and a shopping center owned by his family. There was also, as in the Solomon Islands this spring, an ethnic cast to the riots, with Chinese businesses reportedly targeted by the looters. Although no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, the violence grew beyond the ability of Tonga's beleaguered police force to control.
In Tonga, it looks as if the Kiwis will take the lead in outside intervention.

Belmont Club on the Overseas Filipino Revolution

At the end of a long post comparing and contrasting insurrection and pacification efforts in Iraq now and the Philippines a century ago, Belmont Club offers an interesting take on the socioeconomic revolution now underway in the Philippines.
What finally weakened the Filipino elite was economic globalization. By the late 20th century the descendants of the illustrados had nearly run their patrimony into the ground. And to cover up their failures they resorted to the time-tested technique of scapegoating their enemies; first blaming the economic role of foreigners; then junking the American-era Constitution modeled largely after that of the US; finally in 1992 closing the last of the American bases .... The one legacy they had not succeeded in completely dismantling was that of the Thomasites [President McKinley's Peace Corps?]. English remained the official, though declining, medium of higher instruction until 2001 when it was finally replaced by Pilipino at all levels of education. The displacement was to last two whole years.

Even as the "nationalists" put the capstone on their decaying edifice the "peasants" were deserting their structure wholesale. By the early 21st century fully 11% of the entire Filipino population had fled to work abroad, though the percentage was probably higher. As a proportion of population it was a diaspora unprecedented in modern history. There are twelve million overseas Filipinos. By comparison there are only 35 million overseas Chinese. In 2003 the Philippine elite woke to the fact that overseas Filipinos were literally keeping their decaying kingdom afloat, providing 13.5% of total GDP, chiefly in sums sent to relatives. That year the Philippine Department of Education ordered English reinstated as the medium of instruction. Like some strange delayed explosion, the Thomasite weapon had detonated a hundred years into the future. But this time it was not the American teachers who crossed oceans to teach Philippine peasants. It was the Philippine peasants who went overseas to work and to learn.

Contemporary Manila is reeling under the impact of the Overseas Filipino revolution. Some of the changes are subtly cultural. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos of lower-class origin return for holidays or furlough between contracts with more money than the old social elite. They often return with more sophisticated consumer tastes and better foreign language skills then their social betters, who have never been to anything other than local finishing schools. In particular, many Filipinos of lower-class origin speak American or British standard English learned by immersion overseas unselfconsciously, at a stroke removing the class stigma that often attended the use of fluent English. The ultimate testimony to the return of English has been the widespread rise of that bizarre product of globalization, the Korean-run English academy for Filipinos, pitched at the those desperate to learn enough English to go abroad for a job. One of these unusual academies is shown below beside the another compelling reason to learn English: the Internet Cafe. If anything symbolizes the Overseas Filipino revolution, it is these English academies cheek by jowl with Internet portals.

But if some changes are subtle, others are glaringly obvious. Almost overnight, the ability to stand in line at a ticket booth or at a taxi stand has become a mainstream Filipino value in a country formerly renowned for jumping queues. At a business district in mid-Manila, thousands of call-center workers -- another incentive to learn English and hook into the wider world -- stop for fast-food meals at restaurants open on a 24 hour basis before manning workstations serving every corner of the globe. Perhaps most importantly, many Filipinos no longer expect the government to do anything for them. They simply go out and do it for themselves. A country in which telephones were until recently a comparative rarity has become a hive of cell phones and the text-messaging capital of the world. Nor does anybody rely on government mail when a private courier can be used. Coup rumors which until recently have set the country on its ears are now greeted with indifference. It is the elites who are treated with a amused condescenscion, as a source of entertainment.

16 November 2006

Japanese Public Art over Holes in the Ground

One of the distinctive features of Japan's public utilities is the wide variety of manhole cover art. The phenomenon is not strictly limited to "manholes" designed to allow humans to enter subterranean conduits; it can also be found on the panels covering Japanese fire hydrants (as pictured here), which are usually under the surface of the street. The link above offers a gallery of over 200 examples of Japanese art over holes in the ground, some quite brightly colored, like this one from Nikko; others rather dull but still locally distinctive, like this one with porpoises from Chichijima in the Ogasawara (aka Bonin) Islands north of Iwo Jima.

Of course, Japan isn't the only country that indulges in manhole cover art. Take at look at the Russian gallery entitled Sewers of the World, Unite! or the utility cover artist Bobby Mastrangelo at The Grate Works.

Will the Red Sox–Yankee Rivalry Spread to Japan?

Japundit's baseball columnist, Mike Plugh, offers some interesting speculation on some possible implications of Boston's $50 million bid to talk with Japan's top pitching ace, Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Should those plans fall through, what’s to stop the Red Sox from splashing on Ichiro. It would do two things. One, it would add an All-Star outfielder with a great bat, legs, and throwing arm. Two, it would permanently steal the Japanese spotlight from the Yankees, who are wildly famous and popular, and reposition it on the Red Sox. The Yankees would be famous, but the Red Sox would be Japan’s team. Theo Epstein knows this and I guarantee they are working on a plan to acquire Ichiro already. With Ichiro and Matsuzaka, the Sox would not only be good, they’ll be the most famous franchise in Japan. What kind of dollar figures can you put on that?

The flip side to that situation is that the Yankees know this too. The Yankees could use a centerfielder who hits, runs, and plays defense. Johnny Damon is good, and Melky Cabrera is up and coming, but let’s face it ... Damon’s defense is in decline, and Melky is probably better suited to left. If the Yankees choose to counter the Matsuzaka move by spending huge on Ichiro, they will solidify their strong hold on Japan, and perhaps do so irreversibly. That goes double if the Yankees are able to land the Yomiuri Giants’ Koji Uehara in the same 2007 offseason. What is that worth to the Yankees?

In either case, the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is now global. The frontlines are drawn and they extend all the way around the world. For fans who are already sick of the two teams, it’s more nausea. For Yankees and Red Sox fans, it’s more fuel to the belief that the world revolves around the ebb and flow of Boston against New York. For Mariners fans, it’s something to mourn. Unless Ichiro is so intensely loyal to Mr. Yamauchi, or intent on returning to Japan to end his career, the money that will be out there for him in a year’s time will make A-Rod’s deal look like pocket change.
Coverage of baseball on Japanese TV almost always starts off with footage of individual Japanese players in the U.S. majors—referred to in Japanese as the "Big" (大, Dai) Leagues—before turning to the state of play in Japan. This will only increase the number of Japanese ads in American ball parks.

15 November 2006

Medical Professionalization in Medieval Europe, 1300s

On November 2, 1322, Madame Felicie was convicted of violating an ordinance that prohibited unlicensed healers from visiting, prescribing medications, or performing other duties for a patient, except under the guidance of a university-trained and licensed physician. The conviction was a major victory for the Paris Medical Faculty, a principal architect of the new medical pecking order, which had a pyramid-like shape. At the pinnacle was a relatively small coterie of the university-trained physicians; they practiced what we would call internal medicine. Beneath them were the general surgeons, who usually lacked academic training, although that was changing. By the early fourteenth century surgery was beginning to find a place in the medical schools. A surgeon could treat wounds, sores, abscesses, fractures, and other disorders of the limbs and skin. Beneath the general surgeon "was the barber surgeon, a kind of paramedic, who could perform minor operations, including bleeding, cupping, and applying leeches, as well as cutting hair and pulling teeth; next came the apothecary and the empiric, who usually specialized in a single condition, like hernias or cataracts. At the base of the pyramid were thousands of unlicensed healers like Madame Felicie.

To reflect their new eminence, in the decades prior to the plague, physicians began to adopt a more professional—that is, authoritative—demeanor and code of behavior. A cardinal "don't" in the new medical etiquette was: don't jeopardize your professional dignity by visiting patients to solicit business. "Your visit means you are putting yourself in the patient's hands," warned William of Saliceto, "and that is just the opposite of what you want to do, which is getting him to express a commitment to you." A cardinal "do" in the new etiquette was to conduct a comprehensive physical exam on a first visit; the exam should include not just urinalysis, but a detailed medical history and an analysis of the patient's breath odor, skin color, muscle tone, saliva, sweat, phlegm, and stool. Some physicians also cast a patient's horoscope on the first visit. Another cardinal "don't" in the new etiquette was to admit to diagnostic uncertainty. Even when in doubt, said Arnauld of Villanova, a physician should look and act authoritative and confident. For the uncertain physician, Arnauld recommended prescribing a medicine, any medicine, "that may do some good but you know can do no harm." Another strategy was to "tell the patient and his family that [you are] prescribing this or that drug to cause this or that condition in the patient so that [they] will always be looking for something new to happen." A third "don't" in the new etiquette was volubility. Reticence conveyed authority, especially when combined with a grave manner; besides, said one savant, the physician who discusses his medical reasoning with the patient and his family risks letting them think that they know as much as he does, and that may tempt them to dispense with his services.

What made the university-trained physician such an impressive figure to laymen, however, was not only his authoritative bedside manner but his mastery of the arcanae of the New Galenism. Its signature principle was the theory of the four humors. For the ancient Greeks, whose thinking shaped so much medieval medicine, the number four was, like the atom, a universal building block. Everything, the Greeks believed, was made out of four of something. In the case of the physical world, the four elements were earth, wind, water, and fire; in the case of the human body, the four humors were blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. An important element in the humoral theory were the four qualities of all matter: hot and cold, wet and dry. Thus, blood was said to be hot and moist; black bile, cold and dry; yellow bile, hot and dry; and phlegm, cold and wet.
SOURCE: The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, by John Kelly (Harper Perennial, 2006), pp. 167-169

Human Rights Interventionism: A 1990s Flashback

The advocates of coercive interventionism have no qualms about questioning any reluctance to use force on the part of Western governments. Their response has been a consistent one of calling for more military intervention to protect human rights in Africa or the Balkans. Liberal broadsheets, like the Guardian, Independent and Observer, have been more than willing to editorialise on the need for a firmer approach. With editorials like 'We Must Find the Stomach for Years of War over Kosovo' and 'There is No Alternative to This War' the liberal press have outdone the tabloids in patriotic jingoism (Independent, 1999; Observer, 1999a). For these crusading 'lap-top bombardiers' even months of bombing in Kosovo was not enough. They consistently argued for ground troops and the resolve to spend more resources and effort in the struggle for human rights. Ardent interventionist Michael Ignatieff puts the case strongly:
Had we been more ruthlessly imperial, we might have been a trifle more effective. If General Schwarzkopf had allowed himself to become the General MacArthur of a conquered Iraq, the Iraqi opposition abroad might now be rebuilding the country; if the Marines were still patrolling the streets of Mogadishu, the prospects of moving Somalia forward ... might be somewhat brighter; and if NATO had defended the Bosnian government with air strikes against the Serbian insurrection in April 1992 ... [I]f after the Dayton peace accords of 1995, Western governments had simply taken over the administration of Bosnia ... Bosnia might have been reconstructed on a more secure foundation. (1998:94)
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2002/2006), p. 168

13 November 2006

Dids Rats or Catapulted Cadavers Bring Plague to Caffa?

[In 1346] one Russian chronicle speaks of the plague arriving on the western shore of the Caspian Sea and attacking several nearby cities and towns, including Sarai, capital of the Mongol Principality of the Golden Horde and home to the busiest slave market on the steppe. A year later, while Sarai buried its dead, the pestilence lurched the final few hundred miles westward across the Don and Volga to the Crimea, came up behind the Tartar army in the hills above Caffa, and bit it in the back of the neck.

The Genoese, who imagined that God was born in Genoa, greeted the plague's arrival with prayers of thanksgiving. The Almighty had dispatched a heavenly host of warrior angels to slay the infidel Mongols with golden arrows, they told one another. However, in de' Mussis's account of events, it is Khan Janibeg who commands the heavenly host at Caffa. "Stunned and stupefied" by the arrival of the plague, the notary says that the Tartars "ordered corpses to be placed in catapults and lobbed into the city in hopes that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside.... Soon rotting corpses tainted the air ..., poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one man in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army."

On the basis of de' Mussis's account, Janibeg has been proclaimed the father of biological warfare by several generations of historians, but the notary may have invented some of the more lurid details of his story to resolve an inconvenient theological dilemma. Self-evidently—to Christians, at least—the plague attacked the Tartars because they were pagans, but why did the disease then turn on the Italian defenders? Historian Ole Benedictow thinks de' Mussis may have fabricated the catapults and flying Mongols to explain this more theologically sensitive part of the story—God did not abandon the gallant Genoese, they were smitten by a skyful of infected Tartar corpses, which, not co-incidentally, was just the kind of devious trick good Christians would expect of a heathen people. Like most historians, Professor Benedictow believes the plague moved into the port the way the disease usually moves into human populations—through infected rats.* "What the besieged would not notice and could not prevent was that plague-infected rodents found their way through the crevices in the walls or between the gates and the gateways," says the professor....
* Khan Janibeg does have one stout modern defender, Mark Wheelis, a professor of microbiology at the University of California. The professor notes that in a recent series of 284 plague cases, 20 percent of the infections came from direct contact—that is, the victim touched an object contaminated with the plague bacillus, Y. pestis. "Such transmissions," he says, "would have been especially likely at Caffa, where cadavers would have been badly mangled by being hurled, and many of the defenders probably had cut or abraded hands from coping with the bombardment." Professor Wheelis also thinks the rat scenario favored by many historians ignores a crucial feature of medieval siege warfare. To stay out of arrow and artillery range, besiegers often camped a kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) away from an enemy stronghold—normally beyond the range of the sedentary rat, who rarely ventures more than thirty or forty meters from its nest. (Mark Wheelis, "Biological Warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa," Emerging Infectious Diseases 8, No. 9 [2002]:971–75.)
SOURCE: The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, by John Kelly (Harper Perennial, 2006), pp. 8-9

Ukraine Remembers While Russia Forgets

In an essay posted on Maidan, a Ukrainian civic action site, Ivan Ampilogov contrasts The Power of Memory in Russia and Ukraine.
We can say that the anti-empire tradition of Soviet dissidents has suffered defeat in the mass consciousness of contemporary Russian, while in Ukraine it can take on new meaning.

In Solzhenitsyn’s novel “The First Circle”, the author writes about camp prisoners, their future and at the same time about the future of the whole country. “Years will pass, and all these people, now oppressed, indignant, despairing and choking with rage will go to their graves, others will become weak, flabby, while a third group will forget it all, renounce it, with relief burying their prison past and a fourth will be turned around, and they’ll even say that it was all reasonable, and not ruthless – and maybe none of them will get around to reminding today’s executioners what they did to the human heart!” In contemporary Russia the idea that the terror was “reasonable” or “required” is gaining ever greater influence, most often they prefer not to remember it at all....

Over recent years many Ukrainians have become convinced that their country is freer than Russia, that their democratic institutions are much more developed and that at the end of the day, the Ukrainian state is more humane or, more accurately, less inhuman than Putin’s regime. The level of freedom both of Ukrainian, and of Russian society can be measured by the weakening or strengthening of the enforcement structures of the state – against its citizens. A Ukrainian feels that living without an omnipresent and all-powerful secret police is possible and very comfortable, whereas Russians loudly declare their attachment to unlimited power of the state and their readiness to endure its police, both secret and open. Modern Ukrainians do not face any dilemma of whether to forget the fate of their grandfathers who were left to rot in labour camps, or the fate of their parents frightened to talk with foreigners – and to forget who made their life like that – or to feel redundant in that colony of fervent patriots which Russia is once again becoming.

In contemporary Ukraine, at least two general groups are implacable opponents of the re-emerging Russian imperial spirit, being able to speak about themselves as victims of Soviet Russia – the descendents of Ukrainian nationalists and the Crimean Tatars. The link between the Crimean Tatar dissidents and the Ukrainian nationalists was strong back in the times of their common struggle with the Soviet regime.
via A Step at a Time

12 November 2006

Foreign Outliers in Kyoto 50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago, I was attending second grade at the U.S. Army Base on the grounds of the Kyoto Botanical Garden. I'm not sure whether it might have been called Camp Botanical Garden (Shokubutsuen, 植物園). I remember that some of my military-brat classmates had to ride a school bus from nearby Camp Otsu, which didn't have its own school at the time.

It was my third school in as many years, and the next year I would enter my fourth. The previous year, while we were on furlough at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, I had attended first grade at Greathouse Elementary School in St. Matthews. The year before that, I had attended the Japanese kindergarten on the grounds of Seinan Jo Gakuin, a Baptist girls school where my father served as chaplain.

After we returned from furlough in 1956, my father became chaplain of the newly established Japan Baptist Hospital in Kyoto. The military base closed down the very next year, so the local missionaries hastily organized Kyoto Christian Day School (now KIS), using Calvert School curriculum materials.

The photo above is from a KCDS field trip to the Kyoto police headquarters, maybe in 1958. Our adult chaperone was Mr. Daub, whose eldest son Philip was in my brother's class (a year behind me). My brother is the disgusted-looking kid in the front row, with Philip to his right. I'm the angry-looking kid in the front row, with my classmate David Thurber to my left. I don't remember much about David except that he was somehow related to the writer, James Thurber; and that he had a wide-smile contest at his birthday party, which I thought was kind of unfair because he had the widest mouth in the class (and not just because I was such an accomplished frowner).

Behind me are two more of my classmates, Danny Hesselgrave and John Hawley. I remember riding my bike to the Hesselgraves on more than a few weekends, where Danny and I would play with his sets of little plastic cowboy and Indian figures, each of us taking one side or the other. Our games would always start with the question "Peace or War?" I once experimented—only once—with the game-killing answer, "Peace!"

John Hawley was an only child with what we supposed to be a rich grandmother back in England, who used to send him much more impressive sets of little metal figurines: legions of finely crafted toy soldiers in the colors of famous British regiments. I remember only once or twice going out to visit him in a huge mansion on a large estate in Yamashina. To us, he seemed the poor little rich kid. We envied him his toys, but not what we imagined to be his solitude.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: Such, anyway, were my childish impressions at the time. In truth, we were all poor little rich kids relative to our Japanese neighbors at the time. We lived in a large American house on a lot so big that it was later subdivided to accommodate at least half a dozen Japanese houses for employees of the Baptist Hospital. We had a Japanese maid, as did most other American missionaries at the time. And we got presents of various kinds either from relatives or churches back home or from Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogs we ordered from in time for Christmas every year.

At the time, we only knew that John's father was a writer of some kind, but I've just this weekend learned what an extraordinary man he was. Frank Hawley (1906-1961) was a linguist who taught at SOAS, spent the 1930s in Japan, helped found the Japanese language section of the BBC after being repatriated to England during the war, then returned to Japan where he worked as a writer and collector of well over 20,000 books, some of which were destroyed during the war, others first confiscated then purchased by Keio University in Tokyo, and others after his death now housed at the University of Hawai‘i.

It also turns out that Danny Hesselgrave's father was a very productive author in his own right. I had thought the Hesselgraves were Evangelical Lutheran, but now I've found that they belonged to a pietist, congregationalist offshoot of Scandinavian Lutheranism, the Evangelical Free Church, explained further below.

There were also Finnish Lutheran missionaries in Kyoto at the time, and at least two Finnish MKs, John and Eva Kekkonen. Eva taught the kids of KCDS a game that we used to call Finnish Red Rover, where one kid in the middle tried to tag the other kids as they ran between the endzones, turning each person tagged into a tagger until all had been caught. (Eva was also the object of my first secret boyhood crush.)

Thanks to a random, mindful act of Internet archiving [PDF], I've discovered more about the first school teacher whose name I remember. Miss Pilcher was the first principal and first credentialed teacher of Kyoto Christian Day School.
Reflecting the keen interest of the denomination to which they belonged, the fledgling church [Evangelical Free Church of Walnut Creek, now known as NorthCreek Church] was very missionary-minded from the start, and this was further demonstrated when Shirley Pilcher left for Japan. Shirley’s folks, Carl and Ada, often had missionaries visit in their home thus exposing their children to the spiritual needs of the wider world.

After high school, Shirley went to Trinity College, the EFCA school in Chicago, and then to San Francisco State where she completed her teaching credential. After a second grade assignment for one year in Walnut Creek, she felt God’s call to overseas work under the Evangelical Free Church Overseas Missions Department, as it was then called. This opportunity had developed on very short notice, so a commissioning service was quickly arranged and held on the evening of July 31, 1958. About 200 people attended. A few days later, with about 100 well-wishers at the airport, Shirley left for Kyoto, Japan, where she spent four years teaching mostly missionary children plus some from U.S. Embassy families. Church records show that the stipend paid to her monthly was $1,287.

Because Shirley would spend her next birthday thousands of miles from home, all in the church family were encouraged to send her appropriate greetings. For those wishing to send money, envelopes were provided. A telephone call to her was initiated from the church during a Sunday school hour; it was probably very early morning in Kyoto. In 1962 she returned home to a public school teaching assignment in Alamo. Later, Shirley met Foster Donaldson and, after they were married, they served for many years in the Philippines with Overseas Crusade where they were engaged in a Bible correspondence ministry and provided literature resources for pastors. They also opened a couple of bookstores there. Shirley lost her life to cancer in January 2004; Fos continues to be active in the church. Following is a reproduction of the farewell program for Shirley’s departure for Japan.
I must confess that, until today, I had never heard of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Here's a bit of its history, from the document I discovered online.
Scandinavians began streaming to the United States in the late nineteenth century, settling mainly in the East and Midwest. They brought with them all of the thinking, the implements, and the practices of the culture they knew abroad. One big difference was that there was no state church in America. Most Christian immigrants attended a Lutheran Church where their own languages were spoken, Swedish, Norwegian, or Danish. Following their experiences back home, especially where they did not find evangelical messages in the churches here, many began to meet privately for worship, Bible study, and fellowship. In 1884 a Norwegian-Danish Free Church was founded in Tacoma, Washington. It was the first church with “Free church” roots on the West coast. Shortly a group of seven persons formed the next Norwegian-Danish Church, this one in Boston. Those of this European background thus organized two conferences, one “eastern” and one “western.” In time these two joined to form the Evangelical Free Church Association....

Although there were a number of leaders in those early years, the research points to John. G. Princell as the “founder” of the Swedish Evangelical Free Church of America. His counterpart was R. A. Jernberg of the Norwegian-Danish Free Church. Princell attended the University of Chicago, majoring in Latin, Greek, and mathematics. Jernberg graduated from Yale University and the Chicago Theological Seminary. So both of these men were learned and well-trained in the American tradition that the best educated men were those “of the cloth.”

People feared becoming a denomination because that word was associated with Lutheranism in Europe....

In the early history of these Scandinavian free churches, all the preaching was done in the native tongues since the immigrants still spoke them here. But their children were learning English rapidly and so English gradually took over, first in the Sunday schools. And little by little it then followed in the preaching services despite some resistance by the “old timers.” In some churches it was necessary for lay people to provide the pastoral leadership owing to the absence of ordained and capable men. So efforts to unite the two regional Norwegian-Danish associations had taken a long time, and getting those two to agree, despite their long years of political union in Europe, was not accomplished without a lot of discussion. And then there were many further discussions before they united with the Swedes!

10 November 2006

Riding to Hounds with Eagles: A Reinvented Tradition

Ardent fox-hunters in Merry Old Anglistan are reinventing their traditions in the face of new laws that restrict riding to hounds, the Guardian reports:
Without the bird of prey, it would not be legal to flush out a fox using a pack of hounds. All that would be permissible would be the use of a pair of hounds to flush out a fox to be shot. Some hunts are using the latter exemption, but it is the presence of a bird of prey that permits the hounds to work as a pack of 30 or 40--the essence of hunting, in the view of connoisseurs....

Hunting a fox with a bird of prey is bloody hard, especially in the presence of a pack of 40 hounds, 70 people on horseback and large numbers of car and foot followers. If the hounds and the bird get to the fox simultaneously, mayhem is likely to ensue; or the bird might mistake a small dog for the fox and carry off Miss Ponsonby-Smythe's Jack Russell; or a bird of prey of lesser stature than a golden eagle might get mauled by a fox.
Colby Cosh, whence came this gem, explains the "Anglistan" angle.

Sectarian Violence Continues Apace in Sulawesi, Indonesia

From the Jakarta Post, 9 November:
One of three militants charged with beheading three Christian schoolgirls last year in Poso carried out the attack as an "Idul Fitri gift" for Muslims, a Jakarta court heard Wednesday.

Reading out the indictment, prosecutors at the Central Jakarta District Court accused Hasanuddin alias Hasan of instigating the attack to avenge the slaying of Muslims during the sectarian conflict in the Central Sulawesi province between 1998 and 2002.

Hasan was charged under the antiterrorism law and could be sentenced to death if found guilty....

He along with fellow suspects Lilik Purnomo and Irwanto Irano and another six militants currently on the run, allegedly beheaded the three girls as they walked to school along an isolated jungle track leading to Poso. Another girl was also slashed in the cheek, but managed to escape....

Three Catholic militants were executed in September for instigating a deadly attack on a Muslim village in Palu in 2000, killing from between 60 and 190 people.

Tensions in the two regions have risen recently with the shooting of a Christian minister and the killing of a Muslim man by an angry mob.

The police are hunting 29 suspected Muslim militants believed to be responsible for a series of murders and bomb attacks on Christians in Poso and Palu since 2002.
via Colby Cosh

Nepal's Maoists and Monarchists Give Peace a Chance

After exhausting themselves, their nation, and all other possibilities, Nepal's murderous Maoists and monarchists have finally pledged to give peace and democracy a chance, reports Christian Science Monitor correspondent Bikash Sangraula:
The two sides have also agreed to sign a comprehensive peace accord by Nov. 16, which will include provisions to compensate the families of those killed or maimed during the conflict, rehabilitate displaced civilians, and form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with cases of serious human rights violations.

Ordinary Nepalese appeared upbeat on Wednesday morning as news of the agreement screamed from the front pages of Nepal's daily newspapers. "Congratulations to all for the success of peace talks," wrote Raju Chhettri, general manager of Kawasaki motorcycle outlet in Kathmandu, in a text message forwarded to friends....

"The agreements have cleared all obstacles till constituent-assembly elections," he says, referring to the body that will write Nepal's new constitution. "After the elections are held, the rest of the steps for peace will be taken automatically."

In fact, the violent insurgency first changed course in November 2005, when rebel leaders admitted, after nearly a decade of fighting state forces, that they could not secure political legitimacy through violence alone. The Maoists entered into a loose alliance with seven political parties to end the king's rule. It was only after this alliance that the popular perception of Nepal's Maoists shifted from a rebel group with a single-minded focus on violent revolution to a serious democratic political party.

Despite the long-overdue success, Nepal's civil society leaders remained skeptical of Wednesday's agreement. While acknowledging that the accord is likely to steer the country toward peace, human rights officials and observers were disappointed at the lack of specific legal protections for ordinary Nepalese.

08 November 2006

Ode to Rattus rattus

The black rat first evolved in Asia, probably India, sometime before the last Ice Age. At a weight of four to twelve ounces, it is only half the size of its first cousin, the Norwegian brown rat—also an important vector in human plague—but Rattus more than makes up for its unprepossessing physical stature with incredible powers of reproduction. It has been estimated that two black rats breeding continuously for three years could produce 329 million offspring, as long as no offspring died and all were paired (fortunately, all very big ifs).

Rattus also has some other remarkable qualities that make it a formidable disease vector. One is great agility. A black rat can leap almost three feet from a standing position, fall from a height of fifty feet without injury, climb almost anything—including a sheer wall, squeeze through openings as narrow as a quarter of an inch, and penetrate almost any surface. The word "rodent" derives from the Latin verb rodere, which means "to gnaw," and thanks to a powerful set of jaw muscles and the ability to draw its lips into its mouth (which allows the incisors, or cutting teeth, to work freely), Rattus can gnaw through lead pipe, unhardened concrete, and adobe brick.

A wary nature also makes Rattus a wily vector; the black rat usually travels by night, builds an escape route in its den, and reconnoiters carefully. This last behavior seems, at least in part, learned. During a foraging expedition, one young rat was observed taking a reconnaissance lesson from its mother. It would scamper ahead a few feet, stop until the mother caught up, then wait as she examined the floor ahead. Only after receiving a reassuring maternal nudge would the young rat advance. Rats also have another rather unusual, humanlike trait: they laugh. Young rats have been observed laughing—or purring, the rodent equivalent of laughter—when playing and being tickled. Rattus is, by nature, a very sedentary animal—usually. A city rat may wonder what lies on the other side of the street, but studies show it won't cross the street to find out. Urban rats live their entire lives in a single city block. The rural rat's range is a not much larger—a mile or so. However, if Rattus were phobic about long-distance travel, it would still be an obscure Asian oddity, like the Komodo dragon lizard. Rats do travel, and often for reasons that highlight the role of trade and ecological disaster in plague.

For example, on occasion an entire black rat community will abandon a home range and migrate hundreds of kilometers. Research suggests that what makes the rats override their sedentary impulses is a craving for grain germ—and perhaps more particularly, for the vitamin E in the grain germ. Under normal conditions, rat migrations are infrequent, but under conditions of ecological disaster one imagines that they might become quite common.

For distances beyond the multikilometer range, Rattus relies on its long-time companion, man. The stowaway rat is the original undocumented alien. In modern studies, it has been found in planes, in suit-jacket pockets, in the back of long-haul trailers, and in sacks carried by Javanese pack horses. Trade has also been a boon to Rattus in another, more subtle but very significant way. In the wild, when rat populations grow unstably large, nature can prune them back with a prolonged period of bad weather and scarce food. The advent of camel caravans, pack horses, ships—and, later, trains and planes and trucks—has weakened this pruning mechanism. Once commercial man appeared, the highly adaptable rat was able to escape to places where food was abundant.
SOURCE: The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, by John Kelly (Harper Perennial, 2006), pp. 66-67

07 November 2006

The ICC: An International (Neo-)Colonial Court?

In June 1998 the treaty for the International Criminal Court was signed in Rome.... Despite the positive publicity the court has already received from the human rights movement, it can only magnify the dangers of the ad hoc tribunals. The standard of justice that will be delivered has already been widely questioned, as the odds will be stacked high against defendants with the court structured to enable close co-operation between the judges and prosecution at the expense of impartiality and even-handed justice. The dependence of the court on the support of the major powers indicates that those brought to account for 'international crimes' will be little different than under the present ad hoc system. Like its ad hoc predecessors, it will be little more than the backdrop for show trials against 'countries like Rwanda and former Yugoslavia where none of the combatants have superpower support'.

The human rights NGOs have been heavily involved in these international institutional developments. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch led the lobbying of nearly 200 NGOs with delegates involved at the 1998 Rome Conference. The main message of the NGO reports was summed up by Human Rights Watch: 'Delegates are urged to ensure that the Rules do not add to the burdens of the Prosecutor, create additional procedural steps or further limit the Court's jurisdiction.' Even legal commentators supportive of the new court were taken aback by the desire of these groups to abandon judicial neutrality in the search for 'justice'. Geoffrey Robertson QC notes 'what was truly ironic was their zeal for a court so tough that it would actually violate the basic human rights of its defendants'. Amnesty International, an NGO that established its reputation by prioritising the rights of defendants, has even called for the abolition of traditional defences, such as duress, necessity and even self-defence, for those accused of crimes against humanity. The rapidity with which established human rights NGOs, such as Amnesty, which previously defended the rights of all defendants, have taken up the agenda of international institutions, illustrates the shift away from universalist approaches to 'justice' today....

The developments in international law since 1990 have been greeted by the human rights community as universalising and extending the law, providing greater protections for the least powerful.... In fact, the reverse is true. Attempts to strengthen international law, without the development of any global authority able to stand above powerful nation-state interests, have instead reinforced the political and economic inequalities in the world. Removing the rights of non-Western states to formal equality in international law has not led to a redistribution of power away from the powerful to the weak, but reinforced existing social and economic inequalities, institutionalising them in law and politics. Despite their rhetorical critiques of the old Westphalian order, the advocates of 'international justice' have done much to resurrect it. As we have seen in the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and Afghanistan, the development of new international jurisdictions has heralded a return to the system of open Great Power domination over states which are too weak to prevent external claims against them. As Simon Jenkins notes:
Augusto Pinochet of Chile is seized from the authority of his own people for inquisition by Chile's former ruler, Spain. President Saddam Hussein [was] being bombed by Iraq's one-time overlord, Britain ... Post-colonial warlords are summoned from Africa to stand trial for 'war crimes' in once-imperial European capitals.
What is different in the twenty-first century is that this open domination is not legitimised by a conservative elite, on the basis of racial superiority and an imperial mission, but by a liberal elite, on the basis of ethical superiority and a human rights mission.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2006), pp. 147-148, 155-156 (reference citations removed)

Human Rights vs. Human Agency

With little agreement on the substance of human rights, or the means of implementing them, it is easy to see why the claims made are often declared to be normative 'wish lists'. To achieve the good ends of human rights advocates ... is 'to reshape political and social relations so that this moral vision will be realised': 'Human rights thus are simultaneously a "utopian" vision and a set of institutions – equal and inalienable rights – for realizing at least an approximation of that vision.'

The lack of an autonomous human subject means that human rights advocates' aspirations for a better and more just society must necessarily focus on a beneficent agency, external to the political sphere, to achieve positive ends. There may be a duty to act to fulfil human rights needs but there is no politically accountable institution that can be relied upon. In order to help bridge this gap, between the ideal critique of the real and solutions which are necessarily part of the profane reality, human rights advocates tend to privilege the role of institutions which can stand above politics.

In the world of realist political and international relations theory, the focus is on existing institutional arrangements. This focus makes it difficult to accept the possibility of institutions that stand independent from social and political pressures. When addressing practical alternatives, the advocates of human rights are forced either to take existing political institutions, at state or interstate level, out of the political sphere or to posit some form of alternative institutional arrangement, which is independent of politics. For some theorists of human rights, the solution is to bring the state back into the analysis. But, of course, only if the political sphere is subordinated through the institution of forms of regulation independent of elected government. This can occur through political actors being bound by a bill of rights and, therefore, capable of acting morally, that is, independently from the economic pressure of the world of business and the political pressure of parliamentary competition.

The idea of the state acting morally to guarantee a set of moral ends seems to fly in the face of the democratic political conception of the state, based on the need to achieve consensus between competing interests within society. To justify the subordination of politics to moral ends, human rights theorists often stress the protective and morally progressive role of the state as the guarantor of democratic political rights as well as potential human rights....

What was lost in the promulgation of human rights theory in the 1990s was the connection between rights and subjects who can exercise those rights, which was at the core of political accountability and democracy. Once the historical and logical link between rights and the subjects of these rights is broken, then democracy is a meaningless concept. The epistemological premise of democracy is that there are no final truths about what is good for society that can be established through the powers of revelation or special knowledge.... If we accept that people are the best judges of their own interests, then only self-determination can be the basis for collective self-government. Democracy, therefore, is only a means to an end, to the realisation of the public good because it allows people to define what that good is, as well as to control the process by which it is realised....

All human rights advocates share the view that social justice, the righting of 'human wrongs' should stand above the formal political equality of liberal democracy. The protection of women, national minorities, children, the environment, peace, multi-ethnic society and many other rights-causes are considered, by their advocates, to be too important to be left to the traditional instruments of domestic and international government. Whereas representative government works to realise the derivation of the state from the will of the people, human rights theorists seek to subordinate the will of the people to ethical or moral ends established by a less accountable elite. The traditional conservative critique of democracy was that of the 'despotism of the multitude'; today's human rights advocates dress these nineteenth century arguments in the twenty-first century garb of normative rights theory....

In place of the democratic participatory society, assumed as the basis of the political conception of rights, the role of the individual is a much less empowered and passive one. In place of politics, we have the moral advocacy of a liberal elite. The voices of the human rights victims and politically excluded are not expressed through the ballot box but are the raw material for their self-appointed liberal advocates in the media, academia and the international NGOs....

Once humans are universalised, not as competent and rational actors capable of determining their own view of the 'good', but as helpless victims of governments and the forces of the world market or globalisation, then democratic freedoms and civil liberties appear meaningless. Under the guise of 'ethical' universalism the human subject is degraded to the lowest level, in need of paternalist guidance from the 'great and the good' who can establish a moral agenda of human rights to guide, educate and 'empower' the people. The assumptions and processes of representative democratic government are turned on their head.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2006), pp. 110-111, 114, 116, 119 (reference citations removed)

04 November 2006

Japan Missionary Burnout, 1970s

In the early years following the Pacific War ... missionaries worked with confidence and optimism among a people bewildered and depressed. By 1970, the situation had reversed. The Japanese were confident and optimistic, and many missionaries were bewildered and depressed. The Protestant missionary force in Japan was declining sharply. Southern Baptists, barely holding their own, were not immune to stress and uncertainty. Upheavals in the Convention were unsettling, and the 1970 world Baptist congress, like the 1963 New Life Movement, was followed by a spiritual and psychic let-down.

In 1971 a charismatic evangelist from Canada, Les Pritchard, conducted a timely series of renewal conferences in Japan that attracted large numbers of missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant. Participants were led to pray for "the baptism of the Holy Spirit," and many spoke in tongues for the first time. About 12 Southern Baptists were caught up in the movement, somewhat as Edwin Dozier and Max Garrott had been caught up in the Oxford Group Movement that swept Japan in the 1930s. The new Southern Baptist charismatics, claiming that their deepest personal needs had been met, brought their spiritual exuberance to the July 1972 Mission meeting, only to be confronted by others who regarded glossolalia as weird and divisive if not heretical. Providentially, it seems, Bob Culpepper had been chosen to lead the customary time of prayer and sharing. Deeply interested in Pritchard's ministry, Culpepper had attended charismatic prayer meetings in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Fukuoka, and he had begun a serious theological study that was later developed into the book Evaluating the Charismatic Movement. Himself not a tongues-speaker, Culpepper was able to play a mediating and healing role as testimonies were given from "both sides of the charismatic divide."

Pritchard visited Japan occasionally over the next several years, conducting well-attended seminars in the major cities. His 1973 seminar in Kyoto, held in an Anglican church, drew about 300 people. "What a wonderful time it was," exclaimed a Southern Baptist couple, "filled with the anointing of His Holy Spirit and the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ." The couple joined with pastors andmissionaries of many denominations to form an Agape Kai ("love meeting") that met monthly for fellowship and prayer. This couple later resigned from the Mission, and some other members ceased speaking in tongues. Southern Baptist participation in Japan's charismatic movement gradually faded away.

Another 1972-73 visitor to Japan, Everett Barnard, a psychologist from the Sunday School Board, helped missionaries understand and deal with their personal problems from a different perspective. Barnard gave personality profile tests to members of the Mission and met with them privately to interpret the results. He traveled to several areas to render this service and to give counsel when appropriate.

In 1978 missionaries saw themselves through the eyes of Janice and Mahan Siler, counsellors from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where Mahan was director of the School of Pastoral Care at Baptist Hospital. The Silers spent six weeks in Japan conducting family life enrichment conferences in several areas and one in conjunction with Mission meeting. After returning to America they wrote a follow-up report that identified with professional precision the strengths and weaknesses of the Mission.

The Silers were impressed with the importance of the Mission as a family--an extended, functioning family that satisfied some of the deepest needs of its members. But some members, they noted, especially among the field evangelists, were still searching for their place within the Mission and its work in general. Second- and third-term missionaries seemed to be doing less well than first-termers. The older ones, while subject to "the general mid-life kind of stress," were far enough into the Japanese language and ministry to experience the severity of their limitations in an alien culture. The Silers described this state as "delayed" or "deferred" shock. Their observations were supported by Foreign Mission Board findings that missionaries were vulnerable to the "middle age syndrome," a significant factor in resignations.

The Silers called for "more mutuality and partnership" within marriage. Wives especially, they pointed out, wanted more interpersonal fulfillment in their marriage relationship, which often felt more like co-existence. Since there was little opportunity for missionaries to deal with anger and frustration directly with the Japanese, resentment often built up within the marriage and the family, a resentment potentially explosive. Though not mentioned in the Silers' report, it should be noted that six of the couples who had resigned from the Mission during the previous two decades had also divorced after their return to America. At least three more of the couples divorced later on.
SOURCE: The Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, 1889-1989, by F. Calvin Parker (University Press of America, 1991), pp. 253-254

My parents had earlier resigned in 1961, my father citing both burnout and a feeling "that the work in Japan was too heavily subsidized and too tainted with Southern Baptist and American ways" (p. 218). We spent two and a half years in Winchester, Va., where I had the opportunity to get to know my mother's side of the family. But my parents were already experiencing marital problems, and those problems got much worse after their five children had left home. They resigned as missionaries at the end of 1975 and divorced a few years later. The divorce came as a surprise to my three youngest siblings, but not to the two eldest, who thought it was long overdue.

02 November 2006

The Scent of Sycamores

I have a lot of smell memories. One of the most nostalgic for me is the scent of sycamores, a scent I associate both with Japan, where I spent most of my youth, and Virginia, where my parents grew up and I spent several years of my youth. My mother was also sweet on sycamores, as I recall.

When I catch the scent of sycamores, I invariably stop and sniff—like a dog at a curbside tree or fire hydrant—matching the odor against my smell memories from Japan and Virginia. I discovered the same scent along a few sidewalks in Seoul during a visit there in 1995, and wondered whether the Japanese had first planted those hardy trees along those streets. I also caught the scent in the parking lot of the Cincinnati City Museum, during a visit to see my sister when she lived there later in the 1990s. My most recent favorite spot to stop and sniff the sycamores was in Ashikaga, Japan, during my time there last year, where a central city block was lined on both sides with the same trees. I wasn't there during the heart of winter, but the trees caught my nose during the late summer and early fall (August-September), and then later when I came back in the spring (March-June).

It wasn't until much later in life that I discovered that the sycamores of my smell memories were the plane trees of my literary memories, whose Latin genus name, Platanus, was borrowed into both Japanese and Korean. The native Japanese name for the tree is suzu-kake-no-ki 'bell-hanger tree'. The Oriental plane, P. orientalis, is quite hardy, but the American sycamore (P. occidentalis)—also called buttonwood—is more susceptible to a fungus, so the hybrid London plane (Platanus × hispanica or Platanus × acerfolia) is the more likely species to adorn streets in Europe and North America.

The term sycamore has been applied to quite a range of trees, including the biblical fig tree (Ficus sycomorus) and sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) as well as the plane trees.

UPDATE: The Japanese rendering of Platanus is プラタナス  puratanasu. The Korean name I elicited in Seoul in 1995 sounds very close to that, but I've never seen it spelled. The native Korean name for the genus seems to be 식물종 sik-mul-jong (pronounced something like shingmuljong).

01 November 2006

The Quagmire Continues — in Kosovo

In a story appropriately timed for Halloween, the International Herald Tribune updates us on the continuing quagmire in Kosovo.
PRISTINA, Kosovo: All expectations are that, in the next few months, Kosovo will claim an internationally sanctioned independence, concluding a titanic struggle by the United Nations and Western governments to close a chapter that began with its bloody ethnic war.

But it is unlikely to be the conclusion the United Nations hoped for, after having invested seven years supervising the enclave at a cost of about $1.3 billion a year. That is because it seems increasingly evident that the West will need to retain far greater responsibilities than it wanted.

The outlook has changed with the failure of both the Albanian and Serbian sides to reach an agreement in nine months of negotiations, in particular since the Serbs are refusing to recognize Albanian-dominated institutions in what has been a territory dear to their religious and cultural heritage.

The negotiations are dragging on, raising the likelihood that a solution will be imposed. That would end a process that began with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia 15 years ago, which led to wars in Croatia, Bosnia and, finally, Kosovo.

For Western Europe, the wish has always been that resolving Kosovo, the last of the three problem areas, would end the risk of violent disputes over borders and alleviate the need to have a heavy international presence - both in troops and in civil administration - on the ground. Planning is already under way for a European Union-led mission to take over from the UN.

"Everybody is anxious to solve this," said Joachim Rücker, head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo. "It is the last bit of the Balkan puzzle."

The political calendar in Serbia leaves unclear exactly when a resolution might come: possibly next year, after Serbian elections, although the Americans are eager to conclude things without delay. The Americans are not heavily invested in Kosovo but would be expected to pay some of costs of establishing a more independent state.

Whatever the timing, it seems that foreign officials will retain extensive powers for some time to come, UN and EU officials here say.

With high levels of poverty in Kosovo, the financial costs may continue to be substantial.

"I think the EU is going to be in for a bit of a shock," said Anthony Welch, coordinator of a UN-commissioned review of Kosovo's future security needs. "I think their role is going to have to be a little more hands-on. And it is going to cost a lot."

Kosovo has remained under UN control since the province was prized away in June 1999 from Yugoslav security forces accused of committing atrocities against the majority Albanian population. Its sovereignty remains in limbo: While Kosovo is formally part of Serbia, the six nations overseeing the negotiations on its future say it cannot return to Belgrade's rule.
I'm sure it won't take any longer—or any more resources—to resolve Kosovo to everyone's satisfaction than it will have taken to resolve the division of the Korean peninsula, whenever the latter is finally resolved to everyone's satisfaction resignation. Perhaps in my daughter's lifetime. Not mine.