I have decided to post these articles bcos i found them really informative and interesting.
Further, I love Thailand and everything Thai since last yr after my Bkk trip (love the place and the food and all the good looking guys and girls there!!) and find Thai people one of the friendliest people in the world....it seems others agree too:)
Further, I have always had a special spot in my heart for Mother India, the world's largest democracy, one of the oldest civilisations in the world, and also a place of deep culture and history. India, by the way, celebrated its 60th Anniversary of Independence from British rule a couple of weeks ago (India was split into modern-day India and Pakistan in 1947, now known as 'The Partition') and so i would like to wish Mother India a Very Happy 60th Birthday:)
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007
Thai character trumps flaws of politics
By TOM PLATE
LOS ANGELES — When social scientists or journalists are in doubt, sometimes it's best to consult the artist.
On Aug. 19, there was a big referendum vote in Thailand. It passed, but no one is that thrilled about it — no one except the ruling junta. It had kicked out the previous prime minister, who is now in exile, and cooked up the new referendum to make it harder for someone like him to ever have so much power again.
The referendum did well enough in the urban areas of Thailand, but it pretty much bombed in the rural areas where the previous prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, is still considered a hero.
The reason Thaksin is liked in the sticks is that he gave the impression he really cared about the plight of the poor. The gap between rich and poor is a big problem in Thailand, even if poverty is no worse than in the rest of Asia. Increasingly, in fact, it's a regionwide concern.
India's intellectual prime minister has offered deeply thoughtful and timely speeches to his wealthy business elite as well as to his countryman about it.
China's current leaders have openly admitted that creating wealth alone won't do if the rich-poor gap only gets worse. Even Japan, with its samurai-socialist-capitalist system equating proper income distribution with social harmony, is alarmed by its own apparently widening gap.
But up to now, none of these three giant countries has been able to dazzle the world with original and effective gap-reduction policies. Thailand, under Thaksin, had hoped to be different. Instead, Thaksin's pro-poor policies were viewed as deeply demagogic and insincere by ruling circles, and triggered a military takeover almost a year ago. To say the least, the country's oft-admired king did not appear notably unhappy about the ouster.
You would think that all this political turmoil would have made Thailand into something like another gloomy Myanmar. But that hasn't happened. That's because, if I may be allowed a diversion, you can travel as much as you want and go wherever you want but you may not find a more likable people anywhere than the Thais. In their culture there is no hour for the dour.
This is where the artist as expert comes in handy. Chris Coles, the painter who divides his time between Bangkok and Los Angeles, is a huge fan of the Thais as a people and often paints them in his art: "In my paintings, there is tremendous resilience in the Thai culture and personality that can deal with an amazing level of adversity without complaining, a primitive energy that can work six 12-hour days and still find the energy to party hard a few nights a week.
"And there is also the Buddhism that helps Thais maintain a strong desire for the middle way (i.e., endless compromise and wavering) instead of violent confrontation."
Coles loves painting Thais precisely because their stoic energy brings his canvases so much to life. And if the artist — with his slashing expressionist lines and bucolic bursts of color — has in fact caught the national character more or less exactly right, the character of the Thais should long endure over the defects of the country's political system and culture, at least as we in the West see them through our own ethnocentric eyes.
You don't have to be an expert on Thailand to appreciate the enduring Energizer-Bunny energy-level that is manifestly on view. Coles himself admires the Thais for more than their vivacity as models; he admires their vivacity in life. He says the reason that unemployment in Thailand, despite all the other troubles, hovers at a mere 2 percent or so has little to do with government policies.
Rather, it has everything to do with the Thai character. These people work — and when they lose a job, they don't wait for someone to help them; they go out and find a new job.
Says Coles: "The big capitalists and industries will keep growing, the tourists will keep coming, and the Thai people will carry on."
Artists are not always known for being optimists, but this optimistic view by one optimistic artist is going to be my view for the time being. Thailand is never going to become a leaden Myanmar or a disaster like North Korea. Bumping along, working hard, it will find its rightful place on the Asian stage — and find it with a smile as big as the country itself.
UCLA professor Tom Plate is a veteran journalist and author of "Confessions of an American Media Man."
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007
SCOURGE OF 'WOMB MURDERS'
Indian women who never had a chance
By B. GAUTAM
MADRAS, India — India may be the land where the Buddha preached nonviolence, and Mahatma Gandhi practiced it to perfection, but the country's "womb murders" are a horrible reality.
The UNICEF report "State of the World's Children 2007" states that about 7,000 fewer girls are born each day in India than the global average of girls born in a given population would indicate.
This finding is based on the latest Indian census data and a study by the British medical journal, Lancet. UNICEF concludes that 10 million female fetuses have been aborted in the past two decades. India's gender ratio has therefore fallen to a terrifying 800 girls to 1,000 boys.
While the nation is ready to congratulate itself on a variety of achievements, including a 60-year-old democracy and a just judiciary, many Indian mothers turn into killers. More precisely, they are pushed into killing baby girls growing inside them. If female fetuses are not aborted, many infant girls are killed soon after birth. The methods are primitive: Babies are fed paddy husks or poisoned milk, or drowned in water or milk, or smothered with a pillow, or buried alive.
Renowned economist Amartya Sen said as early as 1986 that 37 million women were missing in India. The aversion to raising a girl child is age old. Ancient Indian religious texts such as the Vedas say: "Let a female child be born somewhere else. Here, let a male child be born."
Another religious manuscript, Manu Shastra, is well known for its vilification of women. The mood and the mind-set have not changed much since then.
Today's pressing socioeconomic problems are added factors provoking feticide and infanticide. Women in India are still second-class citizens and, at least covertly, are treated so.
Sons are preferred because, traditionally, they will earn income and support their parents. And in a largely agricultural society like India's, boys are considered more helpful for working the land than girls.
Daughters will marry and leave home; what's worse, they must be provided with a large money dowry for their husband's family, an obligation that still festers like a cancer.
The belief that the solution to the burden of providing a dowry lies in eliminating a female life cuts across religious and economic lines. The rich and the poor are equally guilty of this crime. In the posh, upmarket South Delhi area, the gender ratio is 798 girls to 1,000 boys.
Despite the ban on conducting sex determination tests, clinics for this purpose, under the garb of examining the fetus for abnormalities, have sprung up in Indian cities. If the fetus happens to be female, chances are high that it will be aborted.
The question that naturally arises is how a mother can take the life of her own child. Writer Gita Aravamudan says: "The hand that takes the life of the infant may be hers, but the will is not. This will has been generated over many centuries by the subjugation of women to a subhuman status. The time-immemorial prejudice has been so internalized by women that they can hate their own baby girls and carry out murders with clinical precision. She remains mute as her backyard is turned into a graveyard."
I remember seeing a Bollywood film in which the scriptwriter and the director paint a horrifying picture of a futuristic land with hardly any women. Men turn into carnal creatures, treating the few available women as pure sexual objects, meant solely for pleasure. A family of five men — a father and his four sons — ravish a woman to death!
Is there a way out of female feticide and infanticide? Some say yes, and they point to education. In a highly literate state like Kerala in South India, womb murders are unheard of and there is a healthy sex ratio of 1,058 girls to 1,000 boys. Female literacy in the state is a high 87 percent, and one can understand why little girls live.
Literacy certainly enables communities to get around dowry and other troublesome issues. Education is equally helpful in making women economically productive and independent. Above all, it fosters a healthy respect for women, which is still a distant cry in most parts of India.
Ultimately, society must learn to turn a girl from an economic liability into an economic asset by educating her and helping her lead a life without crutches of any kind. Only then will society be able to vanquish practices such as womb murders.
B. Gautam writes for a leading Indian newspaper.
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