Monday, March 30, 2009

Asia stuff: SE Asian thoughts on politics

It's been a while since I've contributed to the blog. I've been busy lately with several things, among them helping refugees, primarily members of the various ethnic groups from Burma. This has been a major activity in my life lately and it's now time to add to the first hand contact with some academic study.

Therefore I broke out the book, "In Search of Southeast Asia --A Modern History," 1971, 1985, 1987, Edited by David Joel Steinberg, University of Hawaii Press.

I'm only forty five pages into the work but enjoying it.

Here's a couple quotes, quotes that I hope will help share some of the whys of how I fell in love with this field over the years.:

"As the Emperor Gia-long [of Vietnam] put it in 1811, 'He who loves his ox first drives away its flies; he who loves his people first punishes the sub-bureaucrats. This is a well-established theory of government.'" (From page 32.)

Or,

"A nineteenth century Cambodian treatise on the interpretation of dreams stated that if one dreamed of a person without arms or legs, one was destined to become a governor. Such limbless creatures could do nothing but eat, and in the eighteenth century there was no shortage of appetite or food." (From page 36.)

The work also contains an interesting chapter on the role of "non-state peoples" in South East Asia, much of which applies to the southern half of China as well, which only makes sense as these are in many cases the same peoples. Quite interesting and insightful, it offered me some new perspectives on the Burmese minorities who have come here to make their new homes.

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