Monday, April 26, 2010

Enemy of the State - the Great Uninformed Mass #7

"More than anything else, we need in this society the opportunity for people to tell us what they think without being told that they're either dumb, or stupid, or uninformed."

Often we have heard via ASTV, the PAD stage and other outlets that the “Kwai” are ignorant. stupid, uneducated and uninformed. I’ll have to give them that a vast majority of the country is indeed under educated. Being undereducated doesn’t mean you are stupid, ignorant or uninformed. Being under educated means that you have not had the opportunity that others have had.. Often situations cause students to leave school early, family need is a major culprit.

We need decent consistent free education nationwide where every school is equal and not the selection process that we have now where often that selection also includes a “gift” to the school. You can read that as “bribe” because that is exactly what it is. The poor fall through the cracks and end up in schools that are the dredges overcrowded, in poor repair, understaffed and with little or no resources. No wonder these people are under educated. I’ve often argued that I know more stupid people with PHD’s, if you are reading this I’ll excuse you, than farmers with a grade 4-5 education. At least the farmer has the smarts to grow enough food. The educated could eat their diplomas but wouldn’t gain a lot of sustenance from it. It’s real world knowledge against book learning and theoretical knowledge. It’s a toss up but I like to eat.

As for uninformed. That’s pure PR and spin to make the rural poor appear to fit into the “ignorant. stupid, uneducated and uninformed” mold. All you have to do is drive around the North and, if you are observant, you will notice Satellite dishes sprouting up like oyster mushrooms attached to some very strange structures. Some you may even wonder if they even have power. Even if you can’t afford Sat Cable you can get all the government stations plus ASTV and PTV (when it was on the air). There is a huge abundance of Community radio stations now, some Red, some Yellow, some specialty and some neutral. When you walk around anywhere in the North, just listen. You will hear all types of radio and TV coming from the strangest places. The rural poor listen when they are working, eating or playing. They now have information in abundance and they can pick and choose which stations or information they wish to digest. It may even be fair to say they have an information overload now with the internet as well

Therefore, if you are one of those that think the Kwai are ignorant, stupid, uneducated and uninformed remember they are watching the same TV, listening to the same radio and reading the same papers as you are. Provided you can read and understand Thai, otherwise, they have a huge advantage over you and you may be the one that is in effect ignorant. stupid, uneducated and uninformed.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

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posted by Ricefield radio @ 6:07 AM   1 Comments Links to this post

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Enemy of the State - Stubbornness and Sanctimonious Arrogance #6

“A man will do more for his stubbornness than for his religion or his country.” Edgar Watson Howe

“This is an impressive crowd: the Have's and Have-more's. Some people call you the elites. I call you my base.” George W. Bush

When I was much younger, idealistic and just out of school in Canada, I held down a job as a Union negotiator for a couple of years. It was just plain frustrating. Governments dug in and were just not willing to move. The Union took the same line. It was a constant standoff. The Union asking for things that could only be conceived in a pipe dream from outer Space. The Government offering a pittance completely out of the realm of reality, not even close to the increase in the cost of living. Often this standoff, by both sides, resulted not in a new contract but some form of job action, lock out or strike.

Does that remind you of the situation in Thailand? If not, it should. The UDD has made unreasonable demands, although some of them do hold water and are justified. The Government has rejected, out of hand, any attempt to try to resolve or defuse the situation by negotiation, instead embarking on a policy of force and the intimidation of live fire. Neither is trying to solve a problem. Forget about the previous meetings that just turned into a sideshow, neither group was negotiating in good faith, neither can claim the moral high ground.

One Union negotiation does stand out in my memory. It had dragged on for about a year and ended going to negotiations at the local level. I was picked, for some reason I will never understand. I have always thought that I was being thrown to the wolves to protect the other negotiators.
I had never met their negotiator but the word was he was a hard ass. I decided that I may as well step into the deep end and I called him up. I asked if he would like to have a lunch meeting sometime that week. Surprisingly he said yes and he would call me back in a few minutes. As promised, he called and had arranged a local Chinese Restaurant for that Friday at noon. It was easy so far.
I arrived and was escorted to a private room where at the huge table sat Murray. He was a big good-looking person with that graying hair distinguished look. He was wearing what looked like an Armani suit. He said hello and with that, I sat down wearing my golf shirt and jeans. I felt at a disadvantage, a big disadvantage, this guy obviously had vast experience over me.
I made some joke about going to play golf after lunch. That was the kicker, Murray was a golfer. He told me about his club, one of those that cost a bundle. I told him I played at a little nine hole public course. He told me he played at that same course all through his University days. We had made a connection.

Unexpectedly he said to me. Would your people take 4% increase over a year? Previously their highest offer was 0.5%. I said maybe they would accept 6%, trying to get more. He said that was not possible, but he might be able to get you 4.5% and throw in some little benefits that your members might find to their advantage. I told him, I might be able to get the membership to accept 4.5% if the perks looked good to them.

I told him one of the big sticking points was overtime pay. When some of our members had to work large amounts of overtime in a pay period, they often ended up with a paycheck that was less than if they had not worked any at all. It all want to higher taxes because of the way taxes were calculated. He said he did not realize it was even a problem and asked me what they wanted. Time off for overtime worked rather than pay, I answered. A swap, hour for hour, which they could bank and take off as extra days or to add them to their holidays. We discussed some limitations on the amount of hours that could be banked or taken at a given time and negotiated a bulk payout once a year if the maximum bank time was reached. He told me that he would work some stuff out and get back to me as soon as he could. With that, we finished lunch and were on our way.

About 9:00 pm that night, the phone rang. It was Murray. He told me that they would accept the time off clause if we would accept the 4.5%. I told him it was doable and with that, we concluded the deal. Everything went through the local Government and the Union without a hitch.

I only met Murray once more. He told me that he was retiring in less than a month and that was the only reason he agreed to the time off clause. He said once the government found out what it really meant he would probably have been fired and jokingly said “You might even be shot”. We laughed, I thanked him, wished him well and we parted. I have never seen him since.

What we negotiated was the first Union/Government time off in lieu of overtime contract in Canadian history. It is now a normal clause in Union Contracts. It was simple, it only took about an hour, because each party was willing to talk, accept the realities of the other’s problems and compromise.

There is no reason the UDD and the Government cannot sit and hash out their problems. If one side wins, the other does not and the country will suffer an incredible loss. What they need to do is leave their personal egos outside a private room and try to come to some consensus and time line that everyone in the country can live with. That way everyone looks good and the country can move ahead. Any other result will be catastrophic for Thailand either now or in the future.

I do not have the answer, I wish I did. If the UDD puts Vera in a room with Abhisit, they can hash something out. Veera seems to be level headed, open minded and willing to compromise. Abhisit on the other hand seems to be defensive and afraid to lose power now or in an election. My feeling is that these two without the more radical voices, around both of them, and without having to play to the cameras. Can come up with a consensus and move the country forward. They have to forget about themselves and the way they look to their supporters and then think seriously about the consequences to the country if they fail.

The UDD has to be willing to peacefully protest elsewhere, remove the stockade, return any weapons they may have confiscated and allow the police a special group to keep the peace and oversee the protests inside the protest area. In return, the Government must be willing to remove the combat troops and riot police, rescind the SOE and reign in the M&M group as well as tone down their anti UDD rhetoric and restore PTV. That would show good faith on both parts and could be a starting point for worthwhile negotiations.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford

“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.” Mahatma Gandhi

posted by Ricefield radio @ 5:17 AM   0 Comments Links to this post

Friday, April 23, 2010

Comment on Hate Email with info for Stupid Emailers

Have you ever checked your email and got one of these?
"You\'re a whining piece of shit. People know where you live and if you keep stoking the flames of what is basically a international corporate fascist take over of this kingdom, you\'ll pay a personal price. ."
It's a bit rewarding, a badge, a confirmation that what you say has hit a nerve.  You are reassured that for every one of these type nut cases there are tens, or hundreds or maybe even thousands that may have read whatever you had written to set off this individual.  All the rest of the readers, all those people, the one's with the capacity to think and digest, to chew on your sometimes feeble inadequate words, to accept or reject your work, they are the one's that matter.
You don't have to please everyone, sometimes it's better that you do not.  When you only write the same drivel that everyone wants to hear it does not move you or them ahead it just maintains the status quo. 
I must have really hit a nerve with this intellectually sparse person for he does not have the capacity to think and bend in the wind of thought like bamboo does.   Like thinkers do.  He is rigid in his thought never varying from his safe ideas, never accepting that others may not agree, that others may have a point even if he does not agree with it.  He uses intimidation to try and quell the thoughts of those he does not either have the capacity to argue his point with or the mental capacity to chew on the information.  He only sees hate for what he feels is a threat to him, or his universe, or his comfort zone.
To you my friend I can only say that you need to open your mind to other ideas to stop trying to quell thought you don't agree with and to learn a bit more about computers.
So now a Computer lesson for our friend.
Every email, even that one you sent from the form on our website is tagged just as our server log tags every hit, every IP, every page visited, the time, the date, the computer ID code of your unit.  Everything.  You may have thought you pulled a fast one hiding behind what you thought was the screen of anonymity, but guess what?  This is the computer age and just in case you didn't know it's illegal to make threats using the internet or a computer.  Especially in the country where your email originated.  Next time you decide to send an email then just send it, put your name on it, stand behind it, be a man, otherwise you are just a sniveling coward that is afraid to stand and be counted.
Info has been X'd out for Legal Privacy reasons.
X-AntiAbuse: This header was added to track abuse, please include it with any abuse report

X-AntiAbuse: Primary Hostname - XXXXXXXXXX

X-AntiAbuse: Original Domain - XXXXXXX>XXX

X-AntiAbuse: Originator/Caller UID/GID - [946 32003] / [47 12]

X-AntiAbuse: Sender Address Domain - XXX.XXXXXXX.XXX
You see my friend with this info not only I but also the Police and your ISP know where you live

Now I am also a bit confused.  I'm not 100% sure if he is for or against an international corporate fascist take over of the Kingdom.

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posted by Ricefield radio @ 10:59 PM   0 Comments Links to this post

Enemy of the State - Who Me!!!!! #5

"Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice"

If you think I’m a subversive, you have to understand from where I come.

I am a product of the political system.

I may be in ways as far from a farmer as you can get and at the same time as close as one can get without getting dirty. It’s never confused me. I know where I stand and what I stand for. It does confuse others that don‘t understand.

My father was a relatively affluent businessman and as such I was raised in a very wealthy area, went to the best schools (although I didn’t apply myself) and wanted for little. Looking back I had it all and I was still greedy. I was privileged and I knew it and so did my father.

Every vacation when my friends were going to the beach or the mountains, I was sent to my aunt and uncles. They had 6 children lived in a 4 room house with no power, no bathroom or running water. We not only had power and TV at home we had hot and cold running water and a bath tub. I was not only living in the sticks. I was living with farmers. At the time it seemed a great hardship but looking back over time my father was a very wise man. The extent of his understanding, I didn’t realize until I was well into my thirties.

Life on the farm was hard. More so 50 years ago than now, but it's still back breaking work.  Up at dawn and out from exhaustion in the early evening. The food was short at times. My father gave them a stipend to help offset the added cost of the City Kid. One thing they did was talk and share their experiences every day; there wasn’t much else to do. They were close, very close, and I was welcomed into their family unit. My aunt and uncle are long gone but I still see and talk to all my cousins on a regular basis. They all managed to drag themselves out of the clutches of poverty and all have good educations, jobs and a wonderful outlook on life.

This part of my life chiseled the person I am now. When I wasn’t at the farm I was often sitting on the floor of our house listening to my father and his friends who were all very politically active. My father even served a term in the House, some of his friends doing the same. Politics was life in our house and my father was involved until the day he died at 88. But alas, as most young people I was idealistic wanted change now and didn’t embrace my father’s politics. I also didn’t understand them for a long time. His national politics were short lived by his choosing. My father was much more comfortable with provincial and local issues, he could see the fruit of his efforts. He never again went into the spotlight but spent his time in the shadows. One thing I learned was that everything happened in the shadows, everything. The guy in the spotlight is just there to mouth the words of the shadow people. Always.

While my father was very comfortable talking to large groups, I am not. If I was I most likely would have entered politics via the front door. I’m much more comfortable just talking to people, one on one, getting my point across. It’s surprising how much can be accomplished if you just put your ideas forward and let the other party chew on it for a bit. Often they eventually come up with something similar to what you had in mind in the first place. I’m proud to be one of the shadow people and if that makes me a subversive, so be it.

“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than ruin -- more even than death.... Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit.” Bertrand Russell

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posted by Ricefield radio @ 4:03 AM   0 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Enemy of the State - Thomas the Train and the UDD #4

“The odds are six to five that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train“.

We had been passing by the Train station in Chiang Mai for days and every time my son asked if we could go see the train. I have to admit that it looked like Thomas in that incredibly stupid kids show from England that seems to have brainwashed the young set, before they turn into Power Rangers.
I’ve driven by the train station a thousand times but I’ve never bothered to drive in to it as the train is about the last mode of transport I’d ever use in Thailand. The Reds have had a stage set up there for ages and they pipe out the Protest in Bangkok at a high decibel level. Sometimes they go to the traffic light and give out leaflets or little pieces of red cloth. I thought lets kill two birds with one stone and off we went to see Thomas and the Reds.

It didn’t take long to look at Thomas so we headed over to the red encampment. There were only about 30 people sitting under an open sided tent watching the rally from Bangkok. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting what we found. There wasn’t a single person there except a lady in her early fifties that was wearing anything red. The people were all very subdued and just watched the protest in silence. I was expecting the hardcore radical reds would be here CM51 or something, but these people were just normal folks. The kind you would find in BigC or Makro any day of the week. Wasn’t a single one that would bring about even a pang of caution if you passed them in the street in the middle of the night. None of the radical drunk element that was constantly put forward on ASTV, I was mildly disappointed. I was hoping to talk to someone that had real fire in their heart. Nothing.

I talked to the older lady for some time. She told me that most of the Reds from Chiang Mai had gone to Bangkok. That they all had to stay behind because of commitments. They came to the Railway station to lend support when they could. There were always different people that came but they got to know one another and that they all agreed and supported the Reds in Bangkok. That they wanted new elections and for Abhisit to dissolve the house.

This eloquent, vastly intelligent and pursuasive lady even got me to buy one of their Red shirts for 200Bt.  Picture of Thaksin on the front - DOUBLE STANDARDS on the back.  So away we went distancing ourselves from both the Reds and Thomas with new red shirt in hand. 

I have to wonder if this exchange with this older lady and the purchase of one of their shirts has skewed my judgment and pushed me over the line of neutrality. Probably not. I can always argue with my alter ego that it was purchased to give the shirt to my son, later in life, and explain what went on in the Red Era of Thai Politics. BUT that argument with myself went out the window when we passed a TukTuk driver sitting in the shade and he just smiled and nodded his head in approval.

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posted by Ricefield radio @ 2:54 AM   0 Comments Links to this post

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Enemy of the State - Archaeologists, Temples & Buddhism #3

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Turn here and as a dutiful husband, I made the rapid turn off the secondary rode onto an even smaller on. Where are we going I said. “I saw a sign” was the reply and with that we were following Frost down the road less traveled.

My wife then informed me that the sign was old and it pointed down this road. All it has said was “Ancient Ruins”. That was enough for her. We went on and on through the rice fields of the North some green and some brown. About 5 kilometers down this single lane piece of broken pavement we stopped at a roadside stall and asked directions.

Indeed there were ruins in the area and at the old temple there was even a museum. With that we started off invigorated using the instructions that we were given. Lo and behold we eventually came to the Temple.

The place looked deserted but we wandered around for a while looking at the old Chedi and the river that skirted the back, which was now only a trickle in the dry season. The buildings were not all that spectacular, typical poor area temple with a locked Ordination Hall. We wandered over to a big building that we thought may be the museum but it was locked.

As we were about to go back out the gate and be on our way a underwear clad Monk appeared on a balcony. He asked if we wanted to see the museum. We said yes we would and with that he appeared with a huge ring of keys but now clothed.

As we walked the hundred or so yards to the museum he told us that they had to keep it locked because of the thefts of artifacts from Temples lately. He also asked us not to take pictures of any of the displays.

As we walked around looking at the stuff the Monk opened windows so we could see better. There was a wide range of things min their showcases some not that old but some very ancient. He told us that occasionally archaeologists from the government would for a day and catalog stuff but they did not stay long. The building was built in the Thaksin days but since the coupe they have no funding.

Personal Note:- I’m an amulet collector of sorts, like everyone in the North, and there were amulets that would have sold for thousands of US dollars in the collection.

When we finally went around the exhibits, with a constant narrative from the Monk, we came upon a pile. I cannot explain it any other way. It was a pile of artifacts in the corner of the museum .

The monk commented that he hoped that the people would succeed and soon vote in a new government that would look after historical artifacts and historic sites. This was the first time that I had ever heard a Monk, not directly related to the Reds, make such statements.

Personal Note:- As promised we will not divulge the location of this Temple or Museum. It is our heartfelt hope that some government will soon take the initiative to save and restore historic areas and relics like this. It is Temples that are old and worn, that is the basis of pure Buddhism. Temples with flashy and sparkly facades are often hollow, devoid of real history and become more touristy than needed.

If you look over my son's left shoulder you will see the pile. On the corners of the ceremonial chair there are three small Buddha images pulled from the pile.  My uneducated guess is they are at least 300-500 years old.  The monk said they didn't feel they should be thrown in the pile and they were retrieved and just put on the chair.

posted by Ricefield radio @ 1:47 AM   0 Comments Links to this post

Monday, April 19, 2010

Enemy of the State - You Gotta Make a Living. #2

Nothing too spectacular about the little restaurant we are sitting in in the Bandu area of Chiang Rai.   A very nice couple and their son run it.   It is cleaner than most places, the woman is an incredible cook and they have a huge wide screen TV.

We ate there a lot in our few days in the Rai.   Convenience, being treated like family and the food kept bringing us in.   A short block away was the Chiang Rai PAD office and across the Street was the EC office, not that I felt the need to go to either.

It was a convenient place to watch the Red rally that was on most of the time. Occasionally the owner would all of a sudden change the channel to National Geographic and we would sit there for 20 minutes watching grey whales or similar frolic in the ocean. Then as fast as they arrived, the whales were replaced with the UDD rally again and it was back to the normal programming.

This happened a number of times and I was bewildered at why, but didn't want to ask.

Then one afternoon I was leaning against a car waiting for my family to come along. All of a sudden, the owner looked up the street in the direction of the PAD office 2 guys were about 30 yards away. With lightning reflexes, he changed the channel back to Lions on the Kalahari. Then I realized. Sometimes you just have to do things in business to keep your clientèle happy and survive. I did not have the heart to tell him that when I walked past the PAD office earlier they were watching Red TV.

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posted by Ricefield radio @ 11:00 PM   0 Comments Links to this post

Enemy of the State - Discussions with Rural People in the North - #1

I was sitting on the floor with a young guy, maybe 25 years old, in his parents living room eating sticky rice, grilled chicken and something else I wasn’t familiar with. It was hot and he turned on the fan for me.

He started to talk.

Sometimes it was a bit hard to understand him, not because he wasn’t articulate but because he would bounce from Thai, to the Northern dialect and throw in some English words just to help on my toes and confuse me. He had a story that made one feel like having a breakdown and start to cry.
He was living with his parents as he couldn’t find any reasonable work. He had graduated from Trade school as an electrician but there was no work around for him. I just let him talk, not knowing what to say.
He told me that all he wanted out of life was a house, a beautiful Girl, his words, and a decent car, he had nothing. He told me how people looked down on him because he had dark skin and I thought to myself he should go to Isan, but I digress. He said that because he was only a soldiers son he didn’t have the opportunities that others had, that he was looked down upon and he was depressed about it as he didn‘t know what to do. He told me that he had taken the Government course and it was worthless but at least they paid him to take it. He told me about his sister who had to travel way south of Bangkok to find work and leave her son to be looked after by his aging parents. He told me about how his parents got up at 4 am every day to go to work for a few hours because his father’s military pension was not enough to pay the family costs. He then told me he was a Red supporter but couldn’t go to the city as he didn’t have any money.

The frightening part is his story is not unique. I heard it, or versions of it constantly as I traveled around the North for the month of March doing some research for a story I was going to do and which, as always happens to me was preempted by events bigger and more important. Death of the Polish President and the deaths of protesters and soldiers in Bangkok.

I’ve decided to write some small articles over the next while about what I learned about the people, the reds and maybe even life in our recent travels in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Lampang and Tak. Maybe, just maybe, people will begin to understand a bit more about the mindset of the rural people of Thailand.

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posted by Ricefield radio @ 6:44 AM   0 Comments Links to this post