erikwdavis

Posts Tagged ‘war’

SOUNDING on Water, Poverty, Commons in Southeast Asia

In sounding on February 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm

A great review of a new book on Water Wars in Southeast Asia over at New Mandala came across the wires, serendipitously enough, at the same time as this tidbit:

Anthropology At War Update.

In read on February 16, 2010 at 10:17 am

Important new events within the criminally insane Human Terrain System, a military program enlisting anthropologists to serve as the front lines of colonial oppression.

I’m going to link to Maximilian Forte’s Zero Anthropology Blog here, instead of the original articles at Counterpunch and elsewhere, because Max has the best online coverage of the HTS available, and should be your first-stop shop for attempting to understand the issues.

David Price: Human Terrain Systems Dissenter Resigns, Tells Inside Story of Training’s Heart of Darkness.

Also: the disgraced Montgomery McFate (like lots of folks with anti-social personality disorder, she doesn’t seem to realize or care that she’s been disgraced) is apparently back blogging at her ridiculously named military porno site, “I luv a man in a uniform.” This person is driving the policy? Seriously?

Happy Parinirvana Day!

In notice on February 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

Today is the day that Buddhists around the world mark the death of the historical Buddha, a moment called his parinirvana.  Thanks to Rev. Danny Fisher for the reminder. on the BBC page about this day, they remark that

The day is used as an opportunity to reflect on the fact of one’s own future death, and on friends or relations who have recently passed away. The idea that all things are transient is central to Buddhist teaching. Loss and impermanence are things to be accepted rather than causes of grief.

Having just last week lost a woman from my family that I have routinely described as the living hearth of my extended family, I will certainly be meditating on her passing, and impermanence.  I miss you, Aunt Jackie.

Now, a word about the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddhist text which describes the days leading up to the Buddha’s final nirvana:

The Mahaparinibbana sutta is the locus classicus for discussions of funerary ritual, relics, and post-mortem attitudes toward the dead.  Toward the end, the Buddha gives directions for his funeral (which is expertly analyzed by John Strong in his excellent book Relics of the Buddha as a rejection of kingly, brahmanical authority and prestige), and the division of the Buddha post-cremation relics.

What is rarely noted about the text however, is the way in which the entire sutta is framed by war.  At the beginning, patricide king Ajatasattu (“He who is without enemies,” largely because he seems to have murdered them all) asks the Buddha for advice on how to conquer a neighboring republic.  The Buddha advises the king that as long as Ajattasattu’s neighbors continue to practice the community teachings of the Buddha – which are explicitly non-religious, and not even terribly ‘Buddhist’, but generally just good advice – he will be unable to conquer them. The king decides to go after them anyway, and begins preparations for war. Read the rest of this entry »

Milton Osborne: The Mekong River Under Threat

In read on February 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Read this. Dr. Osborne has been a scholar and authority on Southeast Asia for many years, having written crucial texts, including one biography of Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk which all Cambodianists should read.  He has also had a long-standing interest and authoritative position on the Mekong, having authored a wonderful history of European attempts to achieve its headwaters, and most recently, a more contemporary and scientific examination of the Mekong and the (already going on but oftentimes described as ‘impending’) water wars. His bio at the Japan Focus site (which includes directions for getting to the entire paper by Osborne at the bottom of the page) follows this excerpt.

The Mekong River Under Threat

Milton Osborne

Until the 1980s the Mekong River flowed freely for 4,900 kilometres from its 5,100-metre high source in Tibet to the coast of Vietnam, where it finally poured into the South China Sea. The Mekong is the world’s twelfth longest river, and the eighth or tenth largest, in terms of the 475 billion cubic metres of water it discharges annually. Then and now it passes through or by China, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is Southeast Asia’s longest river, but 44% of its course is in China, a fact of capital importance for its ecology and the problems associated with its governance.

The Mekong is Southeast Asia’s largest river, seen here at sunset in Luang Prabang, Laos. (Photograph by Milton Osborne)

In 1980 not only were there no dams on its course, but much of the river could not be used for sizeable, long-distance navigation because of the great barrier of the Khone Falls, located just above the border between Cambodia and Laos, and the repeated rapids and obstacles that marked its course in Laos and China. Indeed, no exaggeration is involved in noting that the Mekong’s overall physical configuration in 1980 was remarkably little changed from that existing when it was explored by the French Mekong Expedition that travelled painfully up the river from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to Jinghong in southern Yunnan in 1866 and 1867. This was the first European expedition to explore the Mekong from southern Vietnam into China and to produce an accurate map of its course to that point.

Since 2003, the most substantial changes to the Mekong’s character below China have related to navigation. Following a major program to clear obstacles from the Mekong begun early in the present decade, a regular navigation service now exists between southern Yunnan and the northern Thai river port of Chiang Saen. It is not clear whether the Chinese, who promoted the concept of these clearances and carried out the work involved, still wish to develop navigation further down the river, as was previously their plan. To date, the environmental effects of the navigation clearances have been of a limited character.

read the rest here.

The Mekong at Sunset near Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo by M. Osborne

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. King Said More Than “I Have A Dream”

In comment on January 18, 2010 at 11:39 am

Thank you, Racialicious, for this MLK Day gift.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

via Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

READ for the Week Ending 1/15/2010

In read on January 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

What I’m reading. Comment if you want to know more about anything in particular.

  • Scott, James C. 2009. The art of not being governed: an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia. Should be a groundbreaking correction to the pernicious and tenacious stereotypes about upland and lowland cultures, genesis, maintenance, and relationships. So thoroughly revises reflexive assumptions about mainland Southeast Asia that the book resists quick summary. A lengthier review may be required. Required reading for SEAsianists, Sociology.
  • Holt, John Clifford. 2009. Spirits of the place. Buddhism and Lao religious culture. In many ways this book represents a landmark in the English-language study of Lao religion. Taking upland-lowland realities seriously, Holt treats the interaction between ‘animist’ and Buddhist systems and rituals (and peoples) from a theoretical and historical point of view. A bit weaker in the last two chapters, the first three would serve excellently as an introduction to both the theory and realities of Lao religion and history. Strongly Recommended to SEAsianists and Buddhist Studies.
  • Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the witch: women, the body, and primitive accumulation. Stunning. A corrective to Marxist theories about the genesis (transition) to capitalism, Federici argues convincingly that a necessary and (logically) prior moment in the developing of formally free, male, waged productive labor, is the production of a denigrated, reproductive, female, unwaged domestic laboring class.  She then ties in, also completely convincingly, the witch-hunts of roughly two and a half centuries of (primarily) European history (though her last chapter traces the witch-hunt throughout colonialism’s path). Required reading for Anti-capitalists and Feminists.
  • Jerryson, Michael K, and Mark Juergensmeyer, eds. 2010. Buddhist Warfare. A much-anticipated and somewhat controversial volume that traces the connections between the Buddhist religion – stereotyped as a pacifist religion – and warfare. The essays are uneven, though some of this unevenness is undoubtedly tied to the wild diversity of attitudes and approaches (insider, outsider, political scientist, anthropologist, sociologist, religious studies, etc.) represented. (Note that google books does not show the actual cover on their page. Actual cover has a picture of a Lao Buddhist novice monk holding an automatic pistol). Recommended to Buddhist Studies.
  • Kummu, Matti, Marko Keskinen, Olli varis, eds. 2008. Modern myths of the Mekong: a critical review of water and development concepts, principles, and policies. Of great interest and contemporary currency, this volume contains a few critically important moments, but is of such wildly uneven quality that I cannot recommend it in its entirety. I’m personally most impressed with the essays by Jussi Nikula (“Is harm and destruction all that floods bring?” – an introduction to ‘flood-pulse’ ecosystem functioning) and Lustig, Fletcher, et al. (“Did traditional cultures live in harmony with nature? Lessons from Angkor, Cambodia.”). This latter is somewhat misleading, since ‘traditional’ here seems merely to mean ‘historical,’ which in many ways means ‘nothing.’ As a specific case study of Angkor, however, their evidence is clear and the conclusion not negotiable – Angkor was not ‘ecologically neutral.’ Not recommended as a volume.
  • Watts, Peter. 2008. Blindsight. Hard Sci-Fi. Very very cool, cerebral: is consciousness worth it, from the perspective of the species? And exactly how would an empathic vampire act in space toward a half-brained crew member who can’t be convinced to act in the interests of self-preservation? Essential for Hard Sci-Fi fans.
  • Wu Ming. 2005. ’54. Just awesome.  From the same collective author responsible for Q, this time the group tackles the year 1954 – the height of the cold war, the rise of the global heroin industry, and Cary Grant. And Hitchcock. Awesome.
  • Germano, William. 2008. Getting it published: a guide for scholars, and anyone else serious about serious books. 2nd Ed. Essential for academics.
  • Germano, William. 2005. From dissertation to book. Essential for academics.
  • Silvia, Paul J. 2007. How to write a lot: a practical guide to productive academic writing. Recommended if you need help scheduling your writing.
  • Boice, Robert. 2000. Advice for new faculty members. Recommended for academics.
  • Lamont, Michèle. 2009. How professors think: Inside the curious world of academic judgment. Recommended for academics facing tenure review, or charged with some form of ‘assessment.’

Look  at those last five titles. I’ve read all of them in the last month.  Can you guess what I’m working on?

PTSD, Suicide, and Combat Deaths

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2008 at 3:53 pm

In a paper I gave recently at the International Association of Buddhist Studies, in Atlanta, I had occasion to introduce the topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. PTSD was a diagnosis fought for politically by veterans of the Vietnam-American war, though in all likelihood it shares a commonality with Shell Shock and other combat and trauma-originated disorders (the very fact that it is a disorder makes it difficult if not impossible to truly classify it).

I discussed this history and then applied it to Cambodia’s post-Khmer Rouge situation. I won’t discuss that here – far too depressing for a day I’m supposed to be writing. Instead, since I discussed the case of Derek Henderson, who threw himself off a bridge at the age of 27. Since I used the example of dead servicemen and women in that talk, I feel obliged to put some of these statistics out here.

Those without relatives or friends serving in active military duty often ignore the wars entirely. Those on the left without such acquaintances often make the horrible mistake of blaming soldiers for the wars they are sent to fight. Neither group, and occasionally even those who do have acquaintances in the military, are usually aware of the relationship between casualties in combat, and casualties at home.

The numbers are hard to come by – like the pictures of flag-draped coffins coming home, they have been deliberately obscured, hidden, and sometimes straightforwardly lied about. Still, it is clear at this point that the following numbers are accurate, at least as of last year:

  • Since combat operations began, the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed 4116 deaths in Iraq (this excludes Afghanistan, which recently began to exceed the combat death tolls of Iraq) [link].
  • Every year, approximately 12,000 U.S. veterans attempt suicide in the United States. [link]
  • Of those attempts, 6256 took their lives ‘successfully’ in 2005. [link]
  • That amounts to 120 suicides a week, or 17 a day; this out of a total of 230 attempted suicides a week, or 32 a day. [link]
  • In other words, for those who need to be beat about the head to understand this, the soldiers and veterans of the U.S. Military, taken as a single group, have thus far lost approximately 7.5 times more the number of human beings to suicide in the United States, than they have to operations in Iraq.
  • And that doesn’t even begin to include the loss of life represented by the deaths of non-U.S. forces, or the civilian deaths, which are documented at between 85,865 – 93,675, in Iraq alone. [link]

OMG: Ambrose Bierce Quote on The Daily Show?

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2008 at 8:09 pm

The guest on last night’s The Daily Show (no link needed, I suppose) quoted Ambrose Bierce! And it was one of his best quotes ever!:

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

Yes, indeedly-do. Though I also enjoy:

Religion: A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Bierce disappeared in 1913 after going to Mexico to cover, and then to join, Pancho Villa’s revolutionary Mexican army. While some suppose he returned privately to commit suicide near the Grand Canyon, I prefer to imagine him as a revolutionary martyr, as he himself seems to have done in a pre-mortem letter to his niece:

“Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!” [via]

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