Monday, March 19, 2007

So, what do we do?

Thanks, everyone, for the comments on "Yesterday". They give me much to think about. In fact, many of them are going to be the launching pad for posts this week. You all make such goodpoints and I have to think about them. Thanks for that. It keeps me from falling into an unconscious and incomplete way of viewing things.

I'll start with this one from Jen:

"and seriously, I know what you mean..for me, the apathy has become toxic...i wonder how much influence the regular person has when it comes to the war and other politics...but i have to believe it still matters, the peace i want to generate.

Maybe it's not a question of "generating" but one of "being".

I gave some thought to this last night, of how the current approach is adversarial. The language that surrounds the topic is aggressive. We fight. We call them on their stuff. We force them to look at it differently. Offense/Defense. Dialectics. The implication behind the aggressive words is that "they" are our enemies. It's also worthwhile to note that people who are attracted to that way of thinking and that use of power will be the only ones who will voluntarily participate in the process.

In many respects, that is how the US got into the predicament it's in now. It has truly manifested what is at the core of its being. There are many uses for power and the governmental process has become the most destructive and divisive. (I'd recommend the book The Pathology of Power by Norman Cousins for more on this topic.)

There's a difference between apathy and acceptance. The old serenity prayer comes to mind. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

While some might consider me to be apathetic, and it might indeed appear that way on the surface, it is actually an acceptance of the things I can change and the things I can not. As for wisdom, the jury's still out. That's very different from the "I don't give a damn" apathy that is also present in many places.

I can and must change myself. I can and must try to influence my direct environment. By being what I want to project into the world, others are influenced in a non-aggressive way. Lead by example instead of coercion.

All of this to say simply, as Ghandi did, "Be the peace you want to see in the world".




MsLittlePea said...

I love that serenity prayer. I've only been visiting here for a little while but I would never describe you as apathetic.....

meno said...

For me, it was the comment from Katetv that made me think. We live in a country where we can protest, perhaps that is reason enough to do so.

meno said...

katemv, sorry.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

It is increasingly difficult to know the difference between the things we can and cannot change. We are exposed to aggressive, competitive hype all our lives, and those who would have our country behave differently are completely at odds with our government.

I don't believe that things will change until the present regime is out of office. I'm trying hard to be optimistic about the world surviving to that point.

flutter said...

My favorite quote ever. A wise man, that Ghandi

jen said...

I don't think you are apathetic..not by a mile. you'd not spend so much time spinning your wheels on this if you did.

and indeed. be the change you want to see in the world. indeed.

i keep promising myself that if i stay mindful, then that can radiate and hopefully connect with another's (see, like you) and then it continues to multiply.

and so on. thank you.

KateMV said...

Thanks, meno!

The quote from Ghandi is one of my favorites as well. However, I'm not sure that it advocates "acceptance" as a strategy for changing the world. (In fact, I've always heard it quoted as, "Be the change you want to see in the world," not, "Be the peace.")

Ghandi himself did not just "accept" things. He was active. Peacefully active, but active nonetheless.

If one of the things that we treasure about our country is that we are allowed the freedom of speech, then we better continue to "be" that freedom by using it. If we don't, it might get taken away.

Here in Thailand, a military coup took away many of the people's freedoms last September (including the freedom of speech). A vast majority of people here "accept" the loss of their freedoms. As a result, they are less and less likely every day to get them back.

Thailand Gal said...

MsPea, I find it very useful to remember that prayer. It kind of sums up what we need to do to survive in the world. It seems applicable to every and all religions.


Meno, I see what you're saying. It's a good thing, certainly. I'd never take that away. Whether it serves any purpose beyond venting is another issue.

I like Kate's posts, too, Even though I rather consistently disagree with her, she's so well-spoken and bright that I look forward to her comments. People need to start love-bombing her so that we won't lose her input when she leaves Thailand shortly. :)


Susan, I agree. With the current regime, it's difficult to get too enthusiastic about participatory democracy. Somehow, we need to be able to discern between the ideas that are being sold and the ideas that have some basis in reality.


Flutter, yep.. he was a Good Guy. We can learn much from him.


Kate, I don't really want to get too much into my personal political views here. This isn't really the appropriate place .. but I will say this much: It's important to consider what real freedom is all about. Choosing between red shoes and blue shoes isn't real freedom. Having the freedom to vent but still lacking power isn't real freedom.

I'm not convinced that any government on this planet allows true freedom. That would be anarchy.

As for Thailand's political situation, most people who read here probably don't understand that the coup took place to get rid of Thaksin Shinawatra, a completely corrupt PM who used his position to feather his own nest at the expense of Thai working people.

Let's keep it in perspective.

The new government needs time to draft a new constitution and has promised it will be in place by October. That's rather standard for any new government. If they don't deliver a constitution in October, then there will be an issue.


Jen, yes.. I have been chewing this cud enough for a while. On to a new topic. :)

Staying mindful. Yes. That is the answer, in and of itself.


Thanks everyone :)I'll try to come up with a new topic tomorrow or the next day. I'm running a bit dry lately.



Anonymous said...

What we do? great question! I wonder how many of the persons who applauded yesterday here about demonstrations,and their necessity, actually went to one this weekend? ( you apart)

We are often quick to state great lecturing principles, and slower to apply them, unfortunately. I suppose you have the same saying about the road to hell and good intentions?

KateMV said...

Well, I'm not sure how my words got misinterpreted from "freedom of speech" to the freedom to choose "between red and blue shoes." Here goes a little more explanation...

When I referred to the freedoms that we have in our country (the USA), I was referring to the first ten amendments of our Consitution. Among them, in addition to freedom of speech, is freedom of the press. Perhaps both are well-exemplified by our blog world.

Although it could be argued that much of the media in the USA today has been taken over by profit-seeking corporations, it still must be acknowledged that anyone who wants to voice an opinion is able to do so, in one format or another. Some might have more difficulty getting an audience than others, but it can happen.

This is a far cry from the current situation in Thailand, where, since the September coup, many of these sorts of rights have been taken away. Take, for example, freedom of the press. Last month in Bangkok, I tried to turn the TV to CNN. Instead of international news, I saw a black screen with a line across the bottom reading something like "this station is currently being blocked." Of course, this was around the time that (deposed Prime Minister) Thaksin had given an interview to CNN.

This week, I read several articles in the Bangkok Post referring to websites that the government is currently blocking. Why are they blocking websites? Because the website creators are critical of the coup.

These are the types of things I'm referring to. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the coup, I think most Americans would believe that those who criticize it have a right to voice their opinion without the government blocking them. I'm not talking about shoes.

Regarding the coup itself, I want to make a correction. Although many will argue that Thaksin was a corrupt leader, it must be acknowledged that he won the 2005 re-election by a wide margin. Very wide. I know many of the people who voted for them. They are without a doubt "Thai working people," if by "Thai working people" you are referring to the rural poor and much of the rural middle class. Whether or not Thaksin was corrupt made no difference to many of these people, because he was the push behind many of the programs that benefitted them, including affordable health care, loans for small-business development and community projects such as wells and water systems, and housing. That is one perspective, and an important one.

Many of the people who did not support Thaksin were middle- and upper-class Bangkok residents. I've had conversations with them, too. That's another perspective.

The current government is not an elected one, but is a group of military generals. They have taken from Thai people a number of the basic rights that we Americans take for granted. However, they do still allow Thais to choose their own shoe color... What I'm referring to is the freedom to think and to act reasonably, not the right to go shopping.

Anonymous said...

Last December I read a book about successful change around the world brought on through peaceful means (I don't remember the title offhand). It was interesting because I tend to consider most non-violent protests naive and ineffective.

Thailand Gal said...

Hi Kate...

Thanks for coming back to follow up.

I think you missed two of my most substantial points. When I talked about red shoes and blue shoes, I was talking about the essential meaning of what most call "freedom".

It is market freedom.

There are limits to freedom of speech in the USA as well. Have you read the Patriot Act? Do you know why sedition laws are in place?

It costs to have a voice in the US. The richer you might be, the larger your voice. Poor people do not have a voice here. Poor people do not have the money to run for office or get into a position of power to create substantial change for their own class. Those who run for office have to have the funding to back them up. They either get it from corporations or other wealthy people. They are then beholden to those backers. They are going to protect their own.

Choosing between Rich Guy #1 and Rich Guy #2 is not real choice.

As for freedom of speech, they have the freedom to vent. The freedom to vent is certainly not a bad thing and it serves the essential purpose of keeping social tensions to a controllable level. That was just a sensible way for the founders to go. It protected them from revolution.

This is a market-centric culture where everything is for sale. If you have the money, you can do/have anything you want to have.

I am fine with that until human rights are also put into the market place. Justice is for sale. Basic human rights are for sale.

It doesn't work for me. I understand it works for many others.

That doesn't mean I am "anti-American". There are plenty of things I like and enjoy about country. The geographic beauty, the fact that American people are probably just about the most generous and open-hearted people on the planet, that the country produces good literature by the boatloads, the ethnic diversity... There are many things to like here.

As for the core issues, I am not too likely to bend. I consider the culture sick. Predatory capitalism and self-interest as the motivation for human activity is not a cultural ethic I respect. It's not where I would choose to live out my older years. It is not where I would have chosen to raise children.

We all make our choices for our own reasons.

This isn't really the right place for the Thaksin debate. I read all you said though. Thanks for the perspective. :)



Thailand Gal said...

G, everyone does things differently. Not everyone was free to go to a demonstration on Saturday and many areas of the country simply didn't have them. That doesn't really have any impact on the validity of their views.

Yes, the road to hell and all that. I'm all for everyone backing up their views with action whenever possible. It seems just as often though that it's not possible. :)


De, the only effectiveness in them is to show that people can use their voices in a non-aggressive manner and perhaps influence opinion. I don't believe it affects policy, either.