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Major Changes to Thai Buddhist Sangha Organization

I wrote the following in an attempt to clarify my own understanding of what is going on in Today’s Thai Buddhism news. If I have made errors of fact, I would appreciate sourced corrections. If I have made errors of characterization, I would appreciate constructive and mutually respectful engagement. I have have made basic errors of political orientation, consider that you and I may merely have different approaches, and that such a disagreement is unlikely to be resolved on the internet.

EDIT: Since I am attempting to learn here on my own (I’m not a scholar of Thai Buddhism, remember, but usually hang out across the border in Cambodia. I also don’t speak Thai), I was aware I was going to make mistakes. Hence the note above. However, I made a big error. I confused Phra Buddha Issara another monk. Issara is definitely not the Red Shirt monk. If I were on social media, I’d have ended that last sentence with a “, lmfao.” Ah well. Thank to Erick White for the note correcting me, and keep them coming. Other corrections will go into the comments.

Big news about organized Buddhism in Thailand today. A reform to the Sangha Act of 1962 has just passed, in the fact of opposition from the Sangha itself. Despite promises from the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand (BPCT), which is supported by and supports the Sangha Supreme Council, to fight the reform, it passed today.

The sole change to the Sangha Act of 1962 is that the King now has the sole and total authority to appoint a Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, taking power away from the Sangha Supreme Council, the senior monks’ body.

What weakened opposition to this reform act? It’s a bit surprising that opposition was so defanged, considering the formal opposition to it by central Buddhist monastic institutions. Opposition to the reform may have been blunted, however, and received less public support that usual, for the following reasons:

  1. Fewer people than usual might have been willing to defend the sangha in this situation, given Dhammakaya’s controversy, and it’s perceived connection to recent sangha corruption scandals.
  2. The crisis of Somdet Chuang’s nomination to the Supreme Patriarchate deepened when the current head of state, Prayut Chan O-Cha, who has led the post-2014 coup government in Thailandrefused to refer the nomination.
  3. The current uncertainty and fear over the future of the monarchy, after King Bhumibol (Posth.: Rama IX)’s death and the confused and erratic elevation of his son, Prince Vajiralongkorn, to the position.

What is a Sangha Act?

Ever since the beginning of the modern Thai nation-state, the administrative and hierarchical relationship between the institutions of monarchy, sangha (the Buddhist order), and nation has been tense, and subject to various projects of reconfiguration (The relationship between Kings and Monks is one of the most central and contested relationships in Buddhist civilizational history, and goes back at least to the model of Indian emperor Asoka and Buddhism.

Because of the legitimating force of laws in the current global sphere, modern Sangha reform projects have most effectively been via national laws, especially via Sangha Acts. An excerpt from Dr Michael Jerryson’s book, “Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand“, explains the situation clearly:

Perhaps the most comprehensive State appropriation and centralization of Thai Buddhism cam under the umbrella of “Sangha Acts.” In the last century there have been three Sangha Acts–the Sangha Acts of 1902, 1941, and 1962-with amendments to the 1962 version occurring in 1992 and 2004. Each Sangha Act altered the structure of the Thai sangha and enabled the current administration to commission Buddhist monks for national programs and policies. (61)

This Sangha Act

The particular Sangha Act that was reformed this week was the 1962 Act created under Prime Minister Sarit. This act profoundly reshaped social views of the sangha, and wed those views to new state agendas. Jerryson quotes Stanley Tambiah on the 1964 program associated with this program of revival (quoted in Jerryson, 61-62):

Finally, it is clear that other monks explicitly or implicitly conceive the thammathud program as having the objectives of reducing regional grievances (particularly of the northeast), of stemming communism, and of mobilizing loyalty to the king and the nation and by extension to the government through the agency of religion.

The conflict began most proximately (we’ll point out below how this is a new wrinkle in an old fabric) in the possible elevation of Somdet Chuang Varapuñño to the position of Supreme Patriarch (Honorary name: Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn; henceforth Somdet Chuang or Chuang). Somdet Chuang is the most senior (highest ranked) monk in Thailand, and was previously appointed to a position that is considered the position that feeds into the Supreme Patriarchate. He’s also very controversial, for multiple reasons.

Many people believe that Somdet Chuang is deeply corrupt. He has been accused of tax evasion, because of a Mercedes-Benz registered in his name. Those who believe he is guilty assume this is indication of massive financial holdings acquired via corruption.

He is, or is assumed to be, too-closely connected to the very popular but still controversial Dhammakaya Buddhist movement, and especially the Wat Dhammakaya temple, whose abbot Dhammachayo, is under investigation for massive financial corruption. The temple is extremely popular among some Bangkok elites, and engages in controversial fundraising methods which have resulted in major criticism from mainstream Thai Buddhists, who sometimes disparagingly refer to the Dhammakaya as a ‘cult‘ by its critics, make fun of the ‘Flying Saucer’ shaped construction of buildings at the temple, and compared (also as a criticism) to the Christian ‘Prosperity Gospel‘ churches.

Background: Red v. Yellow in Thailand.

All of this is bound up with the political power struggles of the last few decades, especially in the struggle between the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts. Here’s a characterization so brief it’s probably vulgar:

A corrupt Thai state elected a corrupt Thai businessman named Thaksin Shinawatra as Prime Minister in 2001. He used his new power to financially benefit himself and his family. Frankly, that wasn’t a problem for most people. The real problem is that he was from the North of Thailand, and was aware of and somewhat interested in issues of rural reform and well-being that went beyond the capital city. The worst problem was that he started engaging in reforms that targeted those issues.

He was accused of corruption, lese majeste (still a crime in Thailand, if you can believe it), and other things (probably guilty of a few of them), and in 2006, a coup took place while he was abroad. He remained abroad. After a return to a civilian government, the new party supported by Thaksin in 2007 (and seen as a stand in for him) also won a landslide, which some understood as a rebuke of the coup-makers.

The 2007 victory began the most recent recognizable iteration of this crisis: the Red Shirts versus the Yellow Shirts. The “Red Shirts” are pro-rural, pro-working class, and pro-democratic. The “Yellow Shirts,” in contrast, are primarily made of up Bangkok-based professionals and elites, oppose rural reform, and are reflexively and wholly pro-monarchical. The Yellow Shirts, in other words, represent the elite and ruling class factions of Thailand, concentrated in the capital city.

Yellow Shirts generally see themselves as holding up the value and prosperity of pre-1997 economic crash Thailand, a prosperity rooted in an economic situation that no longer exists. They often blame Thaksin, and people or parties considered to stand in for him, a cause of Thailand’s economic and political difficulties since the 1997 crash. Without a solid reference for ongoing prosperity, the Yellow Shirts have focused most of their energies on nationalist crisis politics, especially ‘protecting the monarchy,’ promoting coups, nationalist conflicts with neighbors, and more.

After the initial 2007 Red Shirt victory, the Yellow Shirts threw everything they could find at the new Prime Minister, successfully ousting him in 2008 (for the crime of having appeared on a cooking show). His replacement was prevented from getting to his offices by Yellow Shirt protesters. At the end of 2008, the Thai judiciary dissolved the ruling political party in what some call a ‘judicial coup,’ allowing a different party to gain power.

Protests were tactics of politics, and in many ways, replaced politics, for much of the next two years. Yellow Shirts shut down Bangkok’s airport with an occupation and Red Shirts occupied areas of the city. Police crackdowns of one Red Shirt protest resulted in 87 deaths and almost 1400 injured. While most systematic violence was directed against the Red Shirts, violence against Yellow Shirts, including an apparent attempted political assassination, also took place.

Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was elected to PM in 2011, in a victory seen as a further rebuke of the anti-democratic Yellow Shirts. She remained in office until she was ousted in 2014 in connection with a rice-pledging corruption scheme. As with Thaksin’s ouster, however, it is clear that while the corruption was real and serious, corruption was a legitimating motive for the Yellow Shirts instead of a real issue for them. Yellow Shirt protesters had been increasingly demanded the ouster of “the Thaksin regime” since 2013. She dissolved parliament and called early elections. Before the elections could be called, however, in 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that she should step down, again posing the power of the Thai judiciary against the Red Shirts.

The choice of stepping down or staying in place was denied Yingluck, however, by a coup in 2014 led by General Prayut Chan O-cha, who became the Prime Minister after the coup. Since 2014, Thailand has been led by this coup government, which is indebted to and strongly aligned with the Royal faction in general (not true of all military factions), and supportive of the Yellow Shirts specifically.

So, these seem to be the basic factions, most of them divided amongst themselves:

  1. The MonarchyUndivided. Powerful. Requires others to get things done. ailing for decades under the rule of the beloved but ill and reclusive King Bhumibol, now suffering after his death and the elevation of his much dislike son, Prince Vajirakorn. Unbelievably wealthy.
  2. The “Nation” – An ‘imagined community.’ Not real, and hence capable of being divided and unified at the same time. Not really a group of people. Instead, a symbolic token of ‘the people’ that is used in political rhetoric.
  3. The MilitaryDivided. Powerful. The Royal faction dominates. Composed of a divided group of powerful factions, representing royal factions, bourgeois elites, and rural military factions. Prayuth is part of the royal faction.
  4. The SanghaDivided. Powerful. In genuine contest between factions. The institution of Buddhist monks in Thailand. Heavily divided politically, though not always by sect, temple, or doctrine. As often, political divisions among monks are based on age and family status or wealth. However, individual temples are often autocratically run by abbots, and therefore become identified with the political positions of the abbot.
  5. Bangkok ElitesDivided. Powerful. Royal faction dominates. Socially liberal on many behavioral issues, socially reactionary when it comes to the monarchy, economically regressive and protectionist of Bangkok interests, the Bangkok elites often confuse liberals in other countries like the United States, who resemble them almost identically except for the lack of an American monarchy. Some Bangkok professionals and elites deviate from the reflexive “Yellow Shirt” position, just as a few contemporary wealthy suburbs in the USA tend to vote democrat.
  6. Bangkok Working ClassUndivided. Only powerful when exceptionally organized, or in the streets. These folks are red shirts. There is little unusual about the Bangkok working class, except for the specificity of its ethnic composition. They tend to be resolutely democratic and to believe that the current distribution of wealth is unfair.
  7. Rural ElitesDivided. Powerful. Political Outsiders. Like most elite classes, the rural elites tend to prefer the company and alliance of other elite groups. However, the Bangkok elites have refused most attempts to create a bourgeois network of capitalism in the country, instead favoring a Bangkok-centered focus. Thaksin Shinawatra is the pre-eminent example of a rural elite, though his extreme wealth and prestige do not make him representative of this class.
  8. Rural Working ClassUndivided. Powerfully motivated by Red Shirt causes, but loyal to the monarchy. Only powerful when exceptionally organized, or in the streets. Farmers and workers. Most significant beneficiaries of Thaksin-initiated reforms, especially the new health plan. Strongly Red Shirt, but also strongly pro-royal, denting some of their enthusiasm.

Note that ‘divided’ and ‘undivided’ are merely markers for what will never be a perfect case: there will never be a person, let alone a faction of people, that is truly undivided. In this short piece, undivided and divided refer to the faction’s ability to act in a manner that pursues the faction’s interests or stated goals in an effective manner. Thus, undivided refers less to their ‘feelings’ or ‘thoughts’ or ‘ideologies,’ and more to their public presentation of unity, effective use of state or popular power to accomplish goals, and ability to effectively defend other members of the faction. [Thanks to Erick White for prompting this clarification.]

Is this a proxy war for Red v. Yellow?

In some ways, the answer is obviously yes, it is a proxy war. The conflicts between the Red and Yellow factions has taken the field of monastic administration. A allegedly corrupt, wealthy monk associated with a new religious movement and many Bangkok elites, was about to take the position of Supreme Patriarch. The major complaint however, seems to be that the abbot of Wat Dhammakaya Temple, with which Somdet Chuang is supposed to be closely affiliated, is supposed by many Yellow Shirts to be a haven of pro-Thaksin traitors to the nation.

As Somdet Chuang, via his connections to Wat Dhammakaya, is seen as a proxy for the Red Shirt movement within Buddhism, some of his most significant opposition from within the sangha comes from monks such as Ven. Buddha Issara, with much stronger and open affinity with  Monarchical Absolutism, perhaps even beyond the norm that exists among Yellow Shirts. Issara frequently appeared on stage with anti-government (Yellow Shirt) protesters, and has maintained a profile as an activist monk concerned with political and economic corruption. Issara is Chuang’s greatest monastic critic.

It is Ven. Buddha Issara’s calls for investigation of the Sangha Supreme Council’s members for economic corruption, including specifically Somdet Chuang, that have been used as pretexts (legitimate or not) to stall the confirmation of Somdet Chuang as Supreme Patriarch.

If it’s a proxy war, are the Red Shirts Losing?

As often happens historically, it is possible to see specific events and personalities as occupying merely a location on an enormous tidal wave of change. From this god’s eye view, this conflict looks like an important but not decisive struggle between various forces of modernization and reaction in Thailand. Of course, ‘modernization’ itself is merely a code for a set of contests and concerns that have been created and exacerbated by the rise of modern capitalism and the nation-state. The forces of reaction have won a battle and returned absolute control of the head of the Buddha sangha to the  monarchy. But they have done so at a moment when the monarchy is particularly vulnerable – after the death of beloved king Bhumibol and during the elevation of dislike prince Vajirakorn. The monarchy gains some control, but is indebted to factions of the military for this increased power.

 

 

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I’ve written extremely briefly on Accumulation By Dispossession in contemporary Cambodia previously.

A definition of Accumulation By Dispossession from Wikipedia:

Accumulation by dispossession is a concept presented by the Marxist geographer David Harvey, which defines the neoliberal capitalist policies in many western nations, from the 1970s and to the present day, as resulting in a centralization of wealth and power in the hands of a few by dispossessing the public of their wealth or land.[1] These neoliberal policies are guided mainly by four practices: privatization, financialization, management and manipulation of crises, and state redistributions.

David Harvey, who invented the term, can probably do the best job explaining it:

There appears to be an irony here: the term Accumulation By Dispossession is in many ways an an attempt to update Marx’s Primitive Accumulation for the neo-Liberal era. By “Primitive,” Marx mean “originary,” as an answer to the question, “where did the employing class get the wealth necessary to invest in the creation of means of production such as factories?” The term was not intended as pejorative but is certainly received as such by many; given the history of supposedly ‘civilized’ groups’ actions towards supposed ‘primitives,’ the dislike of the term is easily understandable.

Regardless, Harvey’s reworking of “Primitive Accumulation” into Accumulation By Dispossession describes some modern neo-liberal practices very well, but it seems to lose the ability to capture precisely the dynamics that Marx was describing in the Enclosure Movement in England: how did individuals get enough wealth in order to found companies and build factories? Once one has a corporation, Accumulation By Dispossession describes things nicely. But what about cases where it’s not primarily large corporations doing the dispossessing?

One of the hardest questions to answer when considering the question of accumulation by dispossession is how the individuals doing the dispossessing justify it to themselves. How does one justify actions typically considered theft by one’s neighbors, whom one is often dispossessing? It’s easier to comprehend, I suppose, if it’s a large corporate exploitation or colonial exploitation. Is the model of accumulation by dispossession flexible enough to describe a process like the one that Pamela McElwee writes about in her book, Forests are Gold: Trees, People and Environmental Rule in Vietnam (2016, University of Washington Press).

51zbmqkqwpl-_sx332_bo1204203200_

I haven’t read the book yet, but am always interested in questions where labor and environment come together, especially in Southeast Asia. This podcast episode, from the New Books in Anthropology podcast, part of the New Books Network, features Nick Cheesman interviewing McElwee. Shortly after the 50 min point, the conversation takes a fascinating turn, when McElwee starts discussing precisely the problem above: when semi-local individuals are the prime movers in Accumulation By Dispossession.

Highly recommended.

Accumulation By Dispossession in Vietnam – Book Note

Aside

The situation in Syria today is breaking many hearts. It’s also deeply distressing to those of us whose faith in the future relies on humanity’s ability to learn from its past mistakes.

There are people on the Left who are openly supporting Assad, Putin, and even Trump – and frankly, cackling over what appears to be the death throes – often quite literal ones – of all organized resistance to the murderous regime of Assad, ranging from resistance groups most of us would be horrified at, to those we might consider critically supporting.

I am confused as to why some on the left, who are very well-educated and often have decades of experiences on which to reflect, continue to pretend that the horrors of authoritarian left regimes are illusory, exaggerated, or acceptable in the face of US Imperialism.

I’ve met folks holding positions like these before. It’s not company you want to keep, or be classified among:

DSC00818 Erik and Nuon Chea

This is where history seems important. You’d think people who talk about historical materialism would agree. That’s a picture of a sullen-looking, much younger looking me, and Nuon Chea. Nuon Chea was “Brother Number Two” after Pol Pot, and the man considered most responsible for the estimated 1.7 million deaths of the period of Democratic Kampuchea (“Khmer Rouge”). People supported the Khmer Rouge for the same reason that many authoritarian leftists today are supporting Assad.

I think that the reason the ‘marxist-leninsts’ (Stalinists, mostly), maoists, and some trostkyist groups, find themselves supporting genocidal and mass-murderous regimes, is that  give is that they see these people acting against the imperialist actions of the United States. So, by the traditional binary logic that identifies one’s friends among the enemies of one’s enemies, authoritarian anti-imperial leftists around the world have thrown their support to this bizarre and bloodthirsty set of leaders, who now stand in for the Syrian people themselves.

When this strategy of substituting political leaders for actual human beings at the level of political discussion succeeds, perhaps it becomes hard to see that one is justifying horror.

I won’t tell you what should happen in Syria. I’m not so arrogant as to expect that my opinions are worth basing an entire country’s population’s lives on them. I also won’t keep my mouth shut about the horrors that are happening.

I am on the anti-authoritarian left, so perhaps my appeal will still come off as predictable and unserious to those on the left who are applauding the destruction of Eastern Aleppo and hailing the new alliance between Assad, Putin, and Trump, as a victory for Anti-Imperialism.

I do not mean to be predictable. I do mean to be consistent. So I respectfully ask that if you are one of those people who honestly embraces the idea that a victory for Assad is a defeat for United States imperialism, that you consider these thoughts on your own time.
One can oppose US Imperialism without supporting mass murder.

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A Cambodianist’s Note on Syria

A brief note from a student of Cambodia on the authoritarian left, and why people might want to be more careful about the company they keep, and support.

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We Can Haz Moar Watchlist, Plz?

The early social-media era leet-speak in the title telegraphs the more important move I’d like to make here.

Like a lot of folks, I’m alarmed by the way that the Trump campaign emboldened (word of the year 2016) white nationalists, men’s rights activists, and a whole other set of toxins masquerading as political positions. I’m angry at the cocky way that the conservative and right wings of American politics have started leveraging their new positions to threaten their old enemies, all the while claiming that they didn’t mean any of it, really.

So like many others, I was annoyed when the new academic watchlist was announced. Any such list is an attempt at intimidation at the very least, and it must also minimally be considered a concerted attempt to undermine the autonomy of institutions of Higher Ed by creating an ‘enemies list.’

So I added my own name to the funny AAUP-sponsored petition to “Add My Name To the Professor Watchlist.” I even included a straight-faced satirical ‘confession’:

I teach the anthropology, history, and sociology of Religious Studies. As a consequence, I frequently refer to Marx, Durkheim, and Weber: a commie, a socialist, and a liberal. The first two were also Jews, which I gather is something you want to know, for reasons I’m sure are very complex and shouldn’t concern me as much they do.

These biases clearly disqualify me from a teaching position in the The Greatest Country In The World, and my curriculum should be replaced with true classics, like Evola, Eliade, Heidegger, and Schmitt, good fascists all.

I look forward with Fear and Trembling at the judgment that will decide whether I am admitted to this enemies list or not.

But I need to confess I’m also a bit exhausted at the level of outrage that has suddenly manifested itself in a largely otherwise apolitical academy. Oh, I know you hear all about how weird-liberal-radical the academy is, and there are in fact a lot of professors who adopt very leftist academic viewpoints. But there are also good reasons for jokes like these:

Q: How can you tell the marxist professors?
A: They’re the first ones to cross the picket line.

A group’s discourse is not necessarily closely related to that same group’s practices. Like any other group of humans, there are a number of Continue reading

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Was Castoriadis tutored in French as a child by a Nazi mystic?

Weird.

I was talking to a colleague about Castoriadis; he hadn’t heard of him previously, and was intrigued. On getting home, he searched on the internet and found multiple sites claiming that Savitri Devi, fascist mystic, tutored Castoriadis (presumably in French) from 1932-1935. Born in 1922, Castoriadis would have been 10-13 years old in these years.

Savitri Devi was the adopted name of Maximine Julia Portas, born in 1905 to a Greco-French father and English mother. She became a fascist very early in life, and would certainly have been one from 1932-1935. She was an active spy for Axis Powers during Workd War II, and continued public pro-Nazi pilgrimages and wrote books of fascist ideology and adulation until her death in 1982. She supported the British National Party,  and her ashes are supposedly housed alongside those of George Lincoln Rockwell of the American Nazi Party of America. 

She similarly renounced Christianity early on and became an advocate of the notion of aryan paganism, which she pursued to India, where she believed Hinduism was a living aryan paganism.

Devi/Portas always claimed to be in India 1932-1935, and the only proof to the contrary seems to be this claim by Castoriadis. He would have been 10-13 years old at the time.

I’d never heard of this before and was a bit stunned: Castoriadis joined the Communist Party as a teenager, and fled Greece pursued and attacked by fascists and stalinists alike. The idea that he was educated at such a crucial point in his life by one of the a famous-and famously weird-fascist ideologue was definitely a surprise.

My searches reveal the exact same wording and reference in all the online sources, all of which reference a radio show and a date. The wording in these web sites, in all cases, seem to trace to a 2015 book called The esoteric codex: naziism and the occult, by Hans Tilde.

The radio show itself is three hours and in French. It was recorded in 1996.  It’s in French and three hours long, so it’ll take me some time to find the right spot.

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Reading for November 2016

…This thing still on?

DeLanda and Deleuze/Understanding Society Blog

I have always really appreciated the Understanding Society blog. This, on Manuel DeLanda’s new book on ontology and assemblage theory in the social sciences, is particularly excellent. (Understanding Society started this discussion back here).Although I have Manuel DeLanda’s new book on social assemblages in hand, I haven’t had the time to start reading it yet. I should note that I found his previous book-length attempt at dealing with assemblages to be his least successful work; this new one sounds like a considerable step forward.

I’ve been reading DeLanda for over a decade now, and have always found him to be the clearest exponent and expositor of Deleuze’s philosophy, though calling him an editor and synthesist of that philosophy might be a better description of DeLanda’s relationship to Deleuze.

Despite admiring aspects of Deleuze’s thought greatly, and always enjoying DeLanda, I have never once been genuinely impressed by anyone else’s attempt to apply Deleuzian thought to a social or historical analysis. Likewise, I’ve never seen how one could do it in practice (it was inspiring, but not practicable)

Nevertheless, DeLanda’s diligence seems to be paying off. Little by little, he is making Deleuzian thought seem closer-to-practicable within the academy. I suspect that the best of the Deleuzian socio-historical tradition (often, lately, focusing on military applications in the Middle East) will experience a quantum leap in clarity and reproducibility within the next 5 years.

Symbolic Value of the Safety Pin.

I’ve been an active anti-fascist for most of my adult life, and have a different view of the American right and fascism than most American liberals, I think, as a consequence. The rise of attempts to signify a personal relationship to changed political circumstances, such as with the display of the safety pin, has been interesting. I’m personally grateful to those who rather immediately demanded of the people promoting it whether they were taking any actual steps to help, or whether the mere symbolism of the safety pin was sufficient for their purposes. I think the notion that the safety pin is solely a means of alleviating (endemic levels of) white guilt and fragility, on the other hand, goes a bit far. I think this piece, on Sociological Images, is particularly good at demonstrating that the effect in certain locations – especially conservative, racist, or rural locations – is quite different than pinning on a safety pin in Manhattan after secretly voting for Trump.

Nuance is good.

Renewed Genocide in Myanmar/Burma

The attack on the Rohingya has renewed and intensified. Hundreds of homes and many villages have been razed; people fleeing or homeless as a result of previous violence are made more vulnerable. Here’s just one article

It’s been happening for a few years, and is ramping up again. But the West has been utterly silent on this except for a few sensationalizing pieces. The problem with international assistance is that our distance usually renders us dependent on compromised AID groups. The best thing those of us in the USA can probably do here is to publicize (will require self-education), demand action, lobby (if you’re active in the political system or have special access), etc. Those with money could donate to MSF. Other suggestions?

Higher Ed and “Identity Politics”

I’ve decided this piece on Academe, by Christopher Newfield, titled “Higher Ed and ‘Identity Politics,’ is the must-read piece on Higher Ed this week. It’s a takedown of the  nearsighted piece by Mark Lilla on the cause of the democratic loss in the election, which he identifies largely as campus identity politics. Whew.

 

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A collection of articles

I’ve been talking to reporters a bit, lately. Here are some articles that resulted.

The cycle of rice: Part 3: Rice For the Spirits“, an article on Pchum Ben by Anthony Jensen and Kang Sothear, photos by John Vink, whose photographic series on “The Cycle of Rice” extends (far) beyond this article.

And, a nice short video!

Cambodian Pchum Ben festival is a time to feed hungry ghosts, another article on Pchum Ben, by Nathan Thompson

Buddhist monks, death rituals and black magic in Cambodia, by Erin Hale, a series of short answers excerpted from a lengthier interview on Deathpower.

Grave Lines: The democratization of Cambodia’s Coffin Industry, by Maddy Crowell and Mom Kunthear

The bewitching allure of magic tattoos, by Harriet Fitch Little, on the fad of non-Khmer getting ‘traditional’ Sak Yoan (Sak Yantra) tattoos.

 

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