Monday, March 8, 2010

Buddhism & Free Speech

 Jetsun Pema: A threat to Thailand?

This weekend Jetsun Pema, the younger sister of the Dalai Lama, was due to give a speech at the Festival of Tibetan Spirituality, Arts, and Culture in Bangkok, Thailand. Although giving visas to another thirty-odd Tibetans, she was denied a visa request by the Thai Foreign Ministry. She was due to give a talk provisionally entitled 'Tibet: My Story.' The reason given by the Ministry for turning down the visa request was that her presence in the Thai capital might be seen as a political statement by the Thai government with regards the situation in Tibet. This, it feared, might offend the Chinese government, which could affect relations between the countries, including the growing trade between them.

It seems that the Thai government values its friendship with a tyrannical communist dictatorship (and the money that comes from this relationship) over allowing a Buddhist woman from telling her life story. In holding such a position, the Thai government is not unique of course, but the Thais do claim to be 'the most Buddhist nation on Earth,' citing ninety-five per cent of Thailand's population as followers of Buddhism. This claim seems an empty boast when someone like Jetsun Pema is turned away because her older brother is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, a Buddhist people cruelly subjugated by the atheist regime of the People's Republic.

Now, the Thai authorities are presumably not claiming that their decision regarding Jetsun Pema was taken from a Buddhist point of view; it was influenced by political and economical factors. But, as most (if not all) of the present administration would claim to be Buddhist, this ruthless attitude towards the Dalai Lama's sister doesn't come across as particularly compassionate. The thought arises as to what would happen if the Dalai Lama was somehow to make his way to Thailand - would he be arrested as an enemy of Thailand's big pal China? In contrast to 'Buddhist' Thailand, the US recently welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House, albeit in as hush-hush a manner as was possible, so's not to offend the Chinese dictatorship. Nevertheless, by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit the US at all, the American authorities were surely braver and more highly principled than their Thai counterparts.

As Buddhists, albeit from a different branch than the Dalai Lama and his sister, presumably most Thais would see themselves as having much in common with them, not least shared values based on goodwill, peace, compassion, and wisdom. Where are such values when Jetsun Pema is barred from sharing what happened to her and her homeland? It does appear that modern Thailand holds more in common with a violently repressive regime like the Chinese People's Republic than with the Buddhist-centered Tibetan Government in Exile, its leader, and his sister. (The former advocates and uses lethal force to suppress the Tibetan population, whilst the latter is wholly peaceful in its aims and actions.) So, was Thailand correct to bar Jetsun Pema from the country? And, furthermore, what do you think should be the Buddhist response to a dictatorship like China's? Please leave your thoughts by clicking on the comments link below.

22 comments:

Petteri Sulonen said...

Perhaps they feel they have more in common with Chinese Buddhists?

Gladstone said...

There is no real empathy with Chinese Buddhism in Thailand. The reason that not offending the Chinese is politically correct is that Chinese people run most of Thailand, i.e. they have all the money; your average Thai citizen is too easy going to bother about working 18 hours a day to become rich.


This is also true for Malaisia, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam.

Chinese number one is money. Thai number one is mother.

Years ago there was a coup where the army was going to round up and shoot the top 1,000 Chinese businessmen, because basically all major instances of corruption were centred around them. However, the King would not go along with it so it failed.

There was a time when the Chinese in Thailand were not allowed to become public servants or join the army and police (for obvious reasons). This changed, and Taksin, who started out as as a corrupt cop, eventually became the PM and supported the illegal logging run by Chinese businessmen (who killed a young monk to make their point), among other similar activities.

Every province in Thailand is generally run by a Chinese strongman, but they haven't always had their own way. Years ago one of them insulted the Thai Queen. One day his Benz and his bodyguards were blown into oblivion by RPGs on the highway by a mysterious bunch of men in uniform, and to this day no one knows who they were (actually, everyone does know).

The Dalai Lama and his folks are nice people, not giving them a visa is a joke, but what else would you expect on this planet. Every government is usually a pawn of the businessmen, Obama is a pawn of Goldman Sachs and the Thai PM has to follow what is good for Thailand's economy.

That's why people become Buddhists, because they realize that what they really want cannot be found in the world.

http://www.dhammaspread.org/Page439.htm

G said...

Hi, Petteri.
It's possible that some ethnically Chinese Thais feel closer to Chinese Buddhists than they do Tibetans, but as most of them actually follow Thai Buddhism which is pretty much as different to Chinese as it is Tibetan forms of Buddhism, it would seem that Gladstone may be nearer the truth on this issue.

Corruption seems endemic to Thai culture, Gladstone, whatever the ethnicity of the people concerned. As Sino-Thais have much of Thailand's material wealth, presumably they can bribe all the more successfully. Not all Thais - whether ethnic Chinese or not - are corrupt, of course. But having lived in Thailand for a few years, it does appear to be an integral part of life here, including politics. You appear to have hit the nail on the head, Gladstone, when you indicate that it is an economic & political decision to bar Jetsun Pema from the Kingdom.

Do all people become Buddhists because "they realize that what they really want cannot be found in the world?" This is true enough for some of us, no doubt, but it seems somewhat idealistic and simplistic to state that this is why people in general become Buddhist, Gladstone. (Depending on your definition of the term 'Buddhist', of course.)

This planet is both good and bad, of course, as all conditioned things are; the unconditioned is neither good nor bad, however, and yet it is in the midst of this world that 'it' can be awakened to. It is possible and preferable to live in societies where there is less brutality, dishonesty and exploitation. Buddhists are encouraged by the Teachings and by the arising of compassion & wisdom in our hearts from practice to help establish better communities. This is achieved by striking a balance between being 'not of this world' and yet fully engaged in it. Not easy, but well worth the effort!

Gladstone said...

Corruption is endemic to Thai culture for sure, but it is also endemic to all other cultures (anywhere where you have human beings). Different places have their own way of doing things but I doubt that Thailand is any more corrupt than say the UK, where around half of the house of Lords (equivalent of the Senate) weren't even born there and simply bought their titles. Not forgetting that most of the ordinary politicians are involved in corruption, even though they may not consider it as such.

I used to work in government and the amount of corruption is unbelievable. Ordinary workers rarely have the opportunities to be corrupt, but on a ministerial level the stuff that goes on and remains invisible to ordinary tax payers is astonishing, like renting a whole passenger jet airliner just to fly one of the minister's kids to boarding school, every week.

I also worked for the Thai government for a while and knew quite a few ministry Permanent Secretaries and Directors. They were generally nice people, not rich and led fairly ordinary lives, but not accepting the hospitality of the large Chinese run companies would have cost them their jobs, as would have ensuring that these companies follow all government regulations. These companies have all the power, not only for Government officials but also most politicians.

I also knew some of the kids from these rich Chinese families, and they carry around such things as the business card of the Chief of Police, which makes them untouchable to regular cops for speeding, parking, etc. They also boast of their connections to the top politicians in Thailand and the top politicians in China too, which I suspect would make them a security risk. They certainly don't act like regular Thai citizens, as ordinary Chinese generally do.

I doubt that such power exists in the NE of Thailand as it does in Bangkok, where everything is 'sen yai' (big noodle - or having connections to an influential person). Anyway, such power prompted the the coup against Chinese influence, not that being Chinese is an issue, just that their corruption screwed up the whole country, and probably still does.

As you probably know, the government of Thailand sets a basic rate for farmers to sell their rice, but they never actually get this because all of the rice mill owners are Chinese and they won't pay it, so the farmers get screwed every year, and while Thailand is the leading exporter of rice all of the companies involved are Chinese owned. Thai companies cannot get a look in.

I suspect that most in the Thai government have sympathy for the Tibetan situation, but it comes down to one woman vs the economy, so it is not such a difficult decision.

G said...

From your description of Thai society, Gladstone, it does seem that Thailand is more corrupt than such places as the UK - at least more blatantly so.

This throws up an interesting point for future discussion - that if countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand aren't any better off by being predominately Buddhist, is it best to keep Buddhism small scale? Thanks for the stimulating thoughts...

uyulala said...

I think there's a danger in the way the media (and many Buddhists) tend to portay the whole Tibet issue as a good Vs evil situation- the big mean atheist Chinese crushing the helpless Buddhists underfoot. I suspect the reality is far more complex, as with any political issue.

That said I do like the way that here in the UK at least free speech is far highly valued than in many countries - when the Chinese were picked to host the olympics, despite their human rights record,there was a bit of an outcry over here, and plenty of comment when chinese people were forced to move from their homes to make make the olympics look tidy.

Predominately Buddhist countries perhaps aren't any better off for it, but again the political situation in any country is probably down to far more complex factors than its majority religion. I think Buddhism is most 'effective', as you say, 'on the smale scale', as the focus seems to be on sorting your own mind out first, in order to build a healthier community in the long run (if i've understood correctly :) )

G said...

It is easy to take things for granted in one's own society and idealize other places that seem to embody qualities that we value. The Utopian vision of Tibet in the years to the most recent Chinese incursions is an example of this. The Chinese authorities description of pre-communist Tibet as a feudal state is probably somewhere near the truth, although this in no way justifies the brutal treatment of the Tibetan people that the People's Republic has inflicted on them.

I agree, Uyulaya, that on the whole the relatively freer media of the UK is certainly preferable to the heavily monitored and restricted medias of countries like China and Thailand.

Small scale Buddhism does seem to be the answer with regard to such issues, cultivating Buddha awareness whilst encouraging those we come into contact with to get in touch with their innate wisdom and compassion. And, in this, the Internet can certainly be a useful tool!

Gladstone said...

Yes, I think that the Tibetans became better Buddhists due to the Chinese occupation, as previously they were not so compassionate. The situation in Thailand has also driven some people closer to Buddhism too.

As for any country being predominantly Buddhist, I think that this is beneficial as it creates more unity within society. It also minimizes inter religious conflict and the effects of agressive missionary influence by outside religions.

The problem with small scale Buddhism is that due to the variety of fields within Buddhism, e.g. study, practice, novices, nuns, it is limiting.

As for the media, some of them like the BBC are very useful, sometimes, whereas others, being businesses, rarely convey anything other than the official line or their own politics. The internet, however, is a true vehicle of free speech, although it is spied upon by various governments and controlled in some places.

Generally, ordinary people can only see ground-level corruption, e.g. the type involving ordinary cops say in Thailand or India. Thus, they usually form their opinions on instances like these, thinking that they are bad and we don't have stuff like that.

However, on a higher, more invisible level, developed countries are often worse, as the officials are involved in corrupt practices and they don't even consider it to be corrupt, simply perks that go with their position, e.g. the PM's wife spend 8,000 quid in one week on having her hair done.

In other well-known countries it is not an exaggeration to state that most of the politicians are bought and paid for by the various lobbies, so they are often more corrupt than most developing countries.

In Thailand there are corrupt people for sure, but there are many who are not, and they have to suffer some duress because of it. It is not simply the political pressure of Chinese businesses but the pressure of businesses and organized crime.

Many honest cops, judges and officials end up getting shot. Some years ago there was an unelected PM, and he was chosen because you couldn't buy him. However, he had to carry a machine gun wherever he went for protection. When you start ruffling feathers in Thailand you end up with a contract taken out on you, just like myself when I was there.

Thus, the army coup, previously mentioned, may have seemed extreme, but in the light of the real situation it was perhaps a sensible idea, although being against Buddhist teachings it could not be supported.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gladstone,

I am a Thai Chinese and was shocked by your comments about the chinese in Thailand and in other parts of South East Asia.

Going on the same token, I could also comment in volumes about the whites in US and how the american natives, the blacks, hispanics and other races are treated in America.


In addition I could also raise issues about the Palestinian causes, Iraqi war, Afghanistand and many others.

As a practising buddhist, I would prefer to refrain from making unfriendly remarks as it would transgress upon my meditative practices.

I am always mindful about the importance of practising Right Speech.

G said...

Gladstone and "Thai Chinese", thanks for the comments. In defense of Gladstone, he did write that in his opinion on a higher governmental level many Western nations are probably worse than Thailand when it comes to corruption. The reason that he has focused on Thai society in particular stems from the fact that the original post was specifically about Thailand, not other countries.

"Thai Chinese," you are certainly correct that as Buddhists we should observe Right Speech as part of the Path, and not say "unfriendly remarks." It is a matter of perspective, however, whether Gladstone's remarks regarding Thailand are unfriendly or not. My interpretation is that they are neither friendly nor unfriendly in intent, but aimed at representing the truth, and part of Right Speech is not lying or twisting the truth.

Is it possible that you are offended by Gladstone's words because you identify with being Sino-Thai, and take his remarks as 'personal?' If so, it might help you to meditate on the impersonal nature of all phenomena, and how (ultimately) you are no more Sino-Thai than you are a Venusian. These are outer identifications and they are not self.

As long as we all remember to not become attached to personal identifications and opinions, there should be no problem with communicating different views on any subject. Also, if we reflect on such issues when reading each others words, and especially when replying to them, no conflict can arise. As you've written, "Thai Chinese," Right Speech should be our main concern as to how we communicate as Buddhists.

Gladstone said...

Dear Anonymous, I am sorry that you are offended by my posts, there was no intention to offend. However, they are not merely opinions, as can be easily verified by facts, and the mentioned coup was not fiction.

Neither are they directed against Thai Chinese in general, as many of my friends in Thailand happen to be Thai Chinese, and many of the best monks in Thailand are or have been of Chinese descent.

What is practicing right speech? Not telling the truth? The situation in Thailand is due to a difference in cultures, where immigrant Thais who come from difficult backgrounds have a different priority than most ethnic Thais.

If you look at prostitution for example, who owns the brothels, and who offers money to poor farmers for their daughters?

When I lived in Bangkok the Chief of Police came out with a statement that there was no prostitution in Bangkok. The owner of the largest brothel then presented a brand new Benz to the Chief's son at his wedding; something quite open and normal in Thailand.

Who are the kerb market money lenders and who own most of the banks? Who owns the gold shops and most of the restaurants?

Who runs the narcotics trade, formerly in heroin and ganja when I was there but now changed to designer chemicals?

Who profits from the illegal logging (other than the army and police who get small cuts, and even less for the guys who do all the work)?

As for large companies, the informative profiles of Thai business groups compiled by the Brooker Group Plc pointed out that most companies in Thailand are controlled by 150 leading families (The Brooker Group, 2001). You can include the Thai Royal family as one of these, but what about the 149 others?

In Indonesia, less than 4% of the population are of Chinese descent, yet they own most of the businesses throughout Indonesia; similar figures in Malaysia, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

My guess is that you are a Thai Chinese who is not privy to this general wealth; my sympathies.

There is no great secret behind this wealth, many Chinese people devote all of their time to it and work hard. There is nothing wrong with this, all credit to them.

However, when some people create lots of wealth they become powerful, and power corrupts, and although this is in the end nothing to do with ethnicity, in Thailand, apart from the Thai Royal Family, all the wealth and power is in the hands of Thai Chinese.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gladstone,
Right Speech should not be used as a twisted tool to justify one’s opinion - race-based. Criticizing Chinese as a race and justifying it in bad faith did not augur well in Buddha’s Right Speech.
Any opinion done in good faith, but in bad taste, could create negative and dangerous impact in the mind of innocent readers.
You have mentioned that Gladstone aimed at representing the truth, and part of Right Speech is not lying or twisting the truth.
A question has come up in my mind:
"Why are the Jews always getting picked on?"
Can we say all Jewish people are evil because Adolf Hitler hated them and the Muslims hated them?
I would be grateful if you could provide me an answer and direct me to resources that can answer this question with impunity.
In the same light, can we also say all Americans are bad people because the “American imperialist” invaded Iraq, hunted down Saddam like a rabbit, tortured and send him to hell?
I am not offended by Gladstone’s word about the Chinese, but as an analogy, I am a little concern if we justified an argument as not lying or twisting the truth and as Right Speech; implying that all Chinese, all Americans and all Jewish are bad people.
As a Vipassana Meditator, I am always mindful of my thoughts, views and opinions. I do appreciate and enjoy reading the writings of Gladstone, and hold him/her in high esteem.
Please accept my sincere apology if my opinion is seen as being a little too personal. Thank you.
With metta,
A Thai Chinese

Gladstone said...

Dear anonymous, you are under the impression that I am writing opinions that denigrate Chinese people, which is far from the truth. I simply stated that Chinese people control the economies in most Asian countries despite being minorities, which is a fact, and that they control most of the economy in Thailand. As stated, this is due to their culture rather than race.

I could give you the facts for every country, but I suggest that it would be better if you found out for yourself. However, I will give you the facts regarding Malaysia.

"With a population of 26.6 million in 2006, Malaysia is ethnically diverse with Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai and Eurasian peoples;

The communities coexist in relative harmony, but the wealth gap among them is grave. Despite making up 60% of the population, Malays own just 19% of the economy, trailing far behind the minority ethnic Chinese, who make up only a quarter of the population but hold 40% of the economy.

In 1970, the government initiated an affirmative-action programme, which aims at addressing economic imbalances between Malays and other ethnic groups. At the time when the programme was launched, Malays held only 2.4% of the country's economy, compared to 27% by the Chinese."

You see, this is not an opinion, but a fact put out by the European government.

Another thing is that I never said that every Chinese was corrupt, as many Chinese are poor, and when you are poor you have little chance of being corrupt, plus many are decent and honest people.

As for extremely wealthy Chinese, then that is often another story, as anyone who is extremely wealthy becomes powerful and is often corrupt. None of this has anything to do with race, it's all about money.

I would say that you have a strong attachment to being Chinese, and are sensitive about it. Human beings are pretty much alike, despite their origins. Thus, Chinese people are no better or worse than any others. Individual Chinese might well be better or worse than others. Remember See Ooi, the crazy guy who used to kill children and eat their livers?
You can see his body in one of the museums in Bangkok if you have never heard of him.

In complete contrast, one of the most famous monks of Thailand, the late Ajarn Buddhadasa, was also Chinese I think.

Anyway, Thailand's economy is run by Thai Chinese, like it or not, and the methods and activities of many of them are far from polite. Thus, if people don't like these powerful people it is not because they are Chinese, but because they are often corrupt and dangerous people.

Anonymous said...

I would to share a short extract on “Right Speech” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Yours truly,
Silent Observer

Right Speech - An essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
For many of us, right speech is the most difficult of the precepts to honor. Yet practicing right speech is fundamental both to helping us become trustworthy individuals and to helping us gain mastery over the mind. So choose your words - and your motives for speaking - with care.
Right speech, explained in negative terms, means avoiding four types of harmful speech: lies (words spoken with the intent of misrepresenting the truth); divisive speech (spoken with the intent of creating rifts between people); harsh speech (spoken with the intent of hurting another person's feelings); and idle chatter (spoken with no purposeful intent at all).
In positive terms, right speech means speaking in ways that are trustworthy, harmonious, comforting, and worth taking to heart. When you make a practice of these positive forms of right speech, your words become a gift to others. In response, other people will start listening more to what you say, and will be more likely to respond in kind. This gives you a sense of the power of your actions: the way you act in the present moment does shape the world of your experience. You don't need to be a victim of past events.
So pay close attention to what you say - and to why you say it. When you do, you'll discover that an open mouth doesn't have to be a mistake.

G said...

Thanissaro hits the nail on the head when he writes of intent with regards to Right Speech:

"Right speech, explained in negative terms, means avoiding four types of harmful speech: lies (words spoken with the INTENT of misrepresenting the truth); divisive speech (spoken with the INTENT of creating rifts between people); harsh speech (spoken with the INTENT of hurting another person's feelings); and idle chatter (spoken with no purposeful INTENT at all)."

The Buddha said, "It is volitional intent (cetana) that I call karma." If Gladstone has written with the intent of offending, then he is creating negative karma, but if not - and I suspect the latter - then no personal harm has come about from his writings in this thread. Creating negativity in response to his writings may create harmful states of mind in the reader, however. Therefore, let's be careful not to blindly react to other people's writings from the viewpoint of the ego-personality (whether quoting Buddhist teachings or not), for we are creating unnecessary suffering for ourselves and possibly others. Thanissaro also writes:

"In positive terms, right speech means speaking in ways that are trustworthy, harmonious, comforting, and worth taking to heart. When you make a practice of these positive forms of right speech, your words become a gift to others. In response, other people will start listening more to what you say, and will be more likely to respond in kind."

If there's a question mark over Gladstone's approach in this thread it may be found here. Does he write in a trustworthy way that is worth taking to heart? Arguably, yes. Are his writings harmonious and comforting? From the responses to them, possibly not!

Writing with positive intent in positive and inspiring ways does not mean avoiding unpleasant truths, and in this Gladstone's words in this thread have served to open our eyes (if we are willing to do so). For this, I thank Gladstone for his forthright contributions to Buddha Space, and encourage his readers to to read his words in a spirit of liberality. Buddhism does not encourage the hiding of unpleasant truths; it simply encourages us to communicate them in non-abusive and friendly ways.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gladstone,
Although I am a Thai Chinese, I wish to inform you that I was a former Political Science student at a local University in Malaysia.
Your points about the economic gap between the Malay and the Chinese, and the latter control the economy of the country is very true. But I have to make some correction on your narrowly aligned view about the economic power of the Chinese in Malaysia.
First, let me explain to you regarding the economic gap between the Malay, Chinese and also the Indians) in Malaysia. Malaysia is a former British colony and it’s a multiracial country where the three major races co-exist. The Chinese and Indians migrated from China and India to work for the British and to build up the country’s economy. The Malays are migrants from neighbouring Indonesia who formed the majority, while the indigenous “orange asli”, and are the natives of the country.
Under the British occupancy, the Chinese and Indians worked hard to save for the family and to ensure better security for the future generation. The Chinese worked in tin mine and later ventured into consumer businesses. The Indian worked in Rubber plantations and they too at a later stage also venture into consumer businesses. The Malays were mostly rice planters and they were drafted into the civil service and the armed forces.
In 1957, the British granted independence to Malaysia and the Federal Constitution was drafted to protect all the races as citizen in the country.
There were three major political parties representing the races in the country. These are namely UMNO (Malays), MCA (Chinese) and MIC (Indians) which are also the ruling coalition party. Everything went well under the First Prime Minster Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra (a Malay of Thai Royal lineage) but this took a turn when a group of UMNO members claimed that the Chinese and Indians are migrants and do not deserve a place here. The best excuse to find fault was that these groups controlled the country’s economy.
In 1969, MCA (Chinese) and MIC (Indians) were back-stabbed by UMNO, claiming that the Chinese and Indians controlled the country’s economy. In trying to revise the constitution agreed upon by the British colonial master, the Malays with the help of the Army initiated racial riots killing thousands of Chinese, Indians and other minority groups. Because of this, many Chinese and Indians left the country for their ancestral homeland.
As a result of the racial riots, the UMNO Malays introduced the “New Economic Policy” (NEP) as an instrument to control the economy and considered themselves the “Malay supremacy”. This reduced the Chinese and Indians as mere second class citizens fighting very hard for survival.
Do you think it is justified that a citizens of Chinese or Indian origin deserved to be robbed by a citizen of Malay origin because they worked hard and saved for the future?
According to the Buddha:
“To the industrious, everyday is a lucky day”. The 5 precepts also prescribed that one should not take away what is not one’s own but belong to others.
You should update your knowledge on Malaysian politics and the plight of the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia at the following sites:
1.“Malay supremacy” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketuanan_Melayu
2.‘Grievances of the Indians – appeal to Queen Elizabeth” - http://www.isaitamil.net/forums/f46-isaitamil-current-affairs-section/hindraf-s-final-media-statement-before-peaceful-assembly-6624-p194649.html
3. No end to NEP - http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2009/10/25/end-the-50-year-new-economic-policy-if-najib-wants-to-lay-claim-to-innovation-or-shift-to-a-new-economic-model-as-the-nep-had-stunted-malaysia%E2%80%99s-economic-growth-and-prevented-the-nation-from-b/
A Thai Chinese

Gladstone said...

Racially it is usually pretty hard to determine the difference between ethnic Thais and Thai Chinese, you would have to notice their eyelids, or ask them to close their eyes for a moment. Unlike 'white devils' like me, who can usually be spotted half a mile away. Thus, most people who live in Thailand don't give a hoot what your origins are.

What people do notice, however, is people's behaviour, no matter what race or what country they live in.

Naturally, if a bunch of 500 Eskimos start trying to usurp the government and generally try to control society, then people will not bother to list the names of these 500 people but just call them Eskimos. What happens then is that all Eskimos tend to get the blame for such behaviour.

When I lived in the UK the stinginess and meanness of Jews (along with the Scots) was part of local lore. But then you realize that such ideas are simply based on the behaviour of a few Jews (or Scots).

There are many types of Jews, and unfortunately the ultra religious types who consider everyone else to be inferior, or goyem, cattle, tend to create a bad image that sticks to all Jews.

Many Jews are rich, like the Rothschild bank in the UK that determines the price of gold, and they generally control the diamond trade, not forgetting all the rich Jewish finance companies (money lenders) in New York and other places.

Naturally, as they have lots of money they become influential in politics here and there, and this leads to resentment, particularly when this influence leads to a distortion of what people know to be true.

This always comes back to money, whatever the race or religion, as while attaining a reasonable living is possible by working hard and saving money, to become filthy rich you generally have to exploit other human beings and cut corners through corruption.

Somewhat like talking about a bunch of Thai Chinese, it is almost impossible to realistically talk about the injustices of a bunch of Jews, like some of the Israelis, without getting flamed, or being called antisemitic, and "How come people always pick on the Jews?" This is despite the fact that my closest friend happens to be a Jew.

Anyway, the people I am referring to in Thailand are definitely not Eskimos, but like everywhere else people get judged on their behaviour.

As for Malaisia, I have been there many times and have quite a few Chinese friends there too, so I am well aware of the situation. I also worked in Singapore for a few years, where the favourite expression at the time was "No money, no talk."

Gladstone said...

The problem with money is that it makes people start to think that they should be in charge, and even though they might be a distinct minority in a particular country they think that their wealth warrants them a higher status and that they should be involved in running the country. This isn’t peculiar to any one race, but any group of people who create wealth start to think that they are special and should therefore be recognized as such.

In Thailand, Chinese immigrants naturally started in the lowest positions, but there wasn’t that much discrimination as they were able to improve their situations and marry local people. The problem initially was that few of them wanted to assimilate and become Thai citizens. They spoke their own languages and opened their own schools and generally followed their own culture. The government allowed them to choose their own citizenship, and their daughters usually took Thai citizenship, in order to be able to own land, whereas their sons took Chinese citizenship. This created problems in working out who was actually Thai and who was not, and also strengthened Chinese allegiance to the Chinese government and worked against the Thai government’s efforts to encourage loyalty to Thailand; enabling the Chinese government to influence Thai domestic politics.

This situation posed a great threat to King Rama VI’s authority, so he introduced a regulation to coerce the Chinese into assimilating into Thai society. This act, based on the Jus Soli system, considered everyone born on Thai territory as Thai citizens. However, the Chinese felt threatened by this act and responded by grouping together more tightly. Later, when the Chinese government was overthrown by the communists, the fact that many people still held allegiance to the Chinese government was a serious concern. As it turned out nothing untoward happened regarding this influence, but it took until 1970 before over 90% of the Chinese population became Thai citizens, leaving fewer than 200,000 as alien Chinese. In 1987, the Chinese population was estimated at 11%, around 6 million people, the largest Chinese population in South-East Asia.

Anonymous said...

Hello Gladstone,

I felt deeply offended and belittled by your comment on the Jews:

“Many Jews are rich, like the Rothschild bank in the UK that determines the price of gold, and they generally control the diamond trade, not forgetting all the rich Jewish finance companies (money lenders) in New York and other places.”

I personally felt hurt by this attitude and assumption of unfriendliness and unprofitable talks on your part. Could you kindly provide facts and figures on the number of rich and poor Jewish you have researched around the world and in the US?

I think it is assumptions on your part to think that one rich Rothschild bank in the UK is a benchmark representation of all Jewish people as wealthy people. So it seems, in this world, all Jewish people are born with a silver spoon in the mouth.

Perhaps you would care to share with the rest of your readers exactly what you are talking about?


I have also observed your threads somewhat turned political, racist and lately a slur. I understand “Thai Chinese” unhappiness over your anti Thai Chinese sentiment and felt sympathetic over your racial epithet and intonation that all Chinese have “slit eyes”:

“Racially it is usually pretty hard to determine the difference between ethnic Thais and Thai Chinese, you would have to notice their eyelids, or ask them to close their eyes for a moment...”

How can anyone actually agree with this racist post of yours? For all I know, you detest people of Jewish and Chinese descend because the threads in question were silly. That was just one big rant with no substance at all.

I become offended more and more simply because racist remarks in your Buddhist blogs seemed to be aimed at people as a whole, and I don't like the idea that I'm being lumped together with a group of sub-human beings.

Defending your position will only entranced your ego deeper and deeper inside your heart and can just be as fierce as getting the position in the first place. If you practise Right Speech - an open apology would be better.

- American Jewish

Gladstone said...

How can I apologise for the ignorance and selfishness of other people?

Be my guest, knock yourself out with being offended, but before we predictably receive another post from an irate American Eskimo, I think that we should come to a conclusion; you have my sympathy.

Natives American said...

I think one should not get too personal by hitting on racial notes when discussing Buddhism. Right Speech should always take a centre stage when discussing the Buddha dhamma. Its bad to offend other races, be it chinese, Jewish and etc because its against the teachings of the Buddha. The Arabs hated white people as they were taught at young age that whites are their enemies. Many asian people viewed europeans as colonialist who robbed them of their lands and wealth. Perhaps Gladstone should write about the invasion of America, Canada and etc by whites of the American Natives. You could also read in wikipedia about famous Indian warriors who died in the hand of the white invaders.

G said...

With all this prejudice and hatred around, isn't it wonderful that we have the Buddha Dharma that encourages us to cultivate kindness, compassion, and wisdom? As an antithesis to all this negative feeling, reciting and reflecting on the Metta Sutta wouldn't go amiss, really.

May all beings be happy!