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How quickly we forget

March 21, 2010 Leave a comment

The redshirt, yellowshirt situation in Thailand that has centered around the King, the ex-prime minister Thaksin, and Democracy, has drawn attention from people all around the world. Comments that have been made are sometimes humorous, generally opinionated and often lack perspective. One such comment was made today about how Democracy is on it’s deathbed here in Thailand. What rubbish!

I wonder if the protests that happened around the leadership of Martin Luther King were viewed by people as a weakening of democracy in the US. Hmmm.

Today, we have people (perhaps as many as 50,000) demonstrating peacefully (with the spirit of fans at a football game) throughout the city. These are people who have largely never been a part of any democratic process before in their life time. “Vote? Why? Sorry, not interested.” has been their level of political involvement.

Today, these people are in the real-life classroom and not only are they involved, they’re helping to involve others as well.

What is it about the us that causes us to expect that people can get to the place of understanding we are on any particular point overnight? There is not a better sign of the vibrance and health of democracy in Thailand than the fact that people are engaged and able to demonstrate in this way, in many ways, with the support of the government.

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Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts – How will this end?

March 14, 2010 Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but if you’re in Thailand, you’re probably getting asked this question as much as I am.  Most of the people I know don’t really define themselves as either Red or Yellow.  Most of the people I know, wish that we could just have nice, quiet coups without all the publicity, which by every account, has hurt Thailand considerably.  It’s not that people don’t care that business interests are suffering – it’s more like there simply seems to be no way forward that’s positive.

As in other places in the world, the whole situation lacks real leadership and direction.  (Perhaps in this sense, the government is truly representative of the people.)  Or perhaps, and I think more likely, this situation needs a different sort of solution, one that cannot really be provided by politics.

Everyone seems to want democracy – but everyone it would seem, realizes what with the social, educational, and class differences among the constituents, a representative government is unlikely.  Not to over-simplify things, but it’s not dissimilar to an imagined representative process where the majority of the voters were 16 year olds, while the minority were 70 year olds.  The minority has held the reigns of power (i.e. money) and all of a sudden, the 16 year olds have found their voice.  Among his many other successes and failures, Thaksin gave the kids a voice.

The problem as I see it is this: While we may hope that the Red Shirts will slowly lose their ability to gather together, and Thaksin may lose his ability to support them, this is a dangerous game to play.  Ideas don’t die so easily.  Sooner or later, new leaders emerge.

It’s not hard to see that the present powers that be, don’t really represent the poor and less well-educated of the country. (notice I’m not saying repressed.) [In their own view, Thaksin was the first major politician to extend a ‘helping hand’ to the poor majority.  We could all debate whether his motives were to help the poor or not, and whether what he did actually helped anything – many families have become destitute because of the loans that couldn’t be repaid.]  But as a scenario, is there any leader among the Red Shirts including Thaksin, who could possibly bring together a government which is representative of the business and economic interests of the nation?  (notice I’m not saying majority.)  [And here lies the democracy problem.  Who possibly favors allowing the 16 year olds to control finance, foreign policy, national security, etc.?]

We currently have two ways of seeing things, that are held apart from each other by virture of education, knowledge, and experience.  If there was some way to educate, and bring the majority of Thai people up to the levels of the Yellow Shirts, democracy might work better. By levels, I don’t mean higher in any moral sense, simply more advanced due to broader experience, opportunity, education, money, etc.  This is the vital difference between the young and the old.  Thailand doesn’t do retirement very well.  We value our aged.  But this can also be extremely stifling.  And on occasion, splits occur.

What is needed here is a bridge, or better yet, many bridges that will span the gaps between the Red and Yellow factions.  Today, Thonburi is nearly non-existent as a unique and different place from Bangkok – it has been so integrated mainly due to the bridges across the Chao Phraya River.   But where the bridges might come from in order to span the gaps between the Red and Yellow is anyone’s guess, but they must ideally be built from the power base to the disenfranchised – and here too, leadership appears to be lacking.

Thinking out loud, I wonder if business people, all of who suffer from the current state of dysfunction, could develop a plan to make the needed bridges.  While a return on investment in the poorer communities may not make great business sense, it makes great social sense.  It might also do wonders to alleviate the political divide that is costing business so much today.

I imagine people commenting at this point – something down the lines of how long such a strategy would take and how expensive it would be.  I agree, it could only happen little by little over a period of time, before the lasting results would be understood completely, but I also know that this problem of Red and Yellow isn’t going to end with the demonstrations this weekend – and frankly, from the business perspective, it’s costing too much already.

Last year I visited Taiwan.  I spoke with friends about the tensions between the mainland and their country.  Those tensions are lessening, little by little, because of investment between the countries.  If the Thai government created incentives for businessmen to invest in the poorer communities, much could happen quickly.  It wouldn’t take too long before the knowledge and experience would be there in a way that everyone could finally wear new shirts with new colors.  Then, and not before, will Thailand find the means to a representative government.

Thinking out loud – about thinking…

February 16, 2010 2 comments

I’ll be 49 years old this year.  If I live until June anyway.  50 used to sound so old!  🙂  There aren’t many things that I’d do differently in my life if I had the misfortune of having to do it all over again.  But there is one thing I wish I knew better, and wish I’d have known a long time ago.  It has to do with thinking.

It’s like I’ve got this voice inside of me, and the conversation between me and that voice goes on nearly all the time.  I never used to be distracted by it very much.  I am distracted by it now – I want to say to this voice, “Shut UP!”  Of course that doesn’t help but there are ways.  This voice, is never focused on what I need to focus on; and always talking about the past, or worrying about the future.

Today, right now, I’m taking a moment to quiet him.  Slowing down all the chatter until there is only quiet – then I can think clearly.  I can choose what I need to think about.  I can make decisions easily and find then the ability to move forward.

“Why is it so difficult to quiet that inner voice?  Why didn’t I learn to just shut-up before now?”

Ha!  see there?  He’s talking again!  Just as I decided to become quiet!

I suppose I’ve never been regarded as an intellectual.  (I can hear friends and family snickering…)  But even I find that the best way forward is to slow down my mind.  Slower.  slower.  s l o w e r.

Quiet.  Present right here, right now.

All around me is noise – but inside is calm and still.

This is the place to be.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why is ‘change’ so difficult?

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

 My friend Tony, has this thought… “We should try to be the parents of future rather than the offspring of our past.”  I have thought of that idea often.  Why is it so difficult?  While reading The Death of Religion and the Rebirth of Spirit by Joseph Chilton Pearce I came across the following additional thoughts.

“The word tradition comes from the Latin traducare, “to traduce,” “to betray,” to trade on or barter away.  Tradition is a snare, locking the present into a replication of the past, a dynamic similar to the one that led to the fate of Sanskrit, with its vitality diminished and its fresh content immobilized in formal overlay until it had gone stale and was spoiled and of no use-expect to those diehards upholding the tradition, those whose identities are locked into it, whose egos are invested in it, or whose fortunes depend on it.  Tradition and religion go hand in hand-two cutlural supports tying us to replications of the past and blocking the unfolding of our future in the present.”  [pg. 223]

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Categories: Uncategorized