Coronavirus 2019, COVID-2019, known on the Internet by many names, originated in Wuhan Province, the People's Republic of China (PRC) about 3 months ago. The first efforts in Wuhan were to contain the virus while also containing news about the virus, because every new flu-type virus has effects on both health and economies. If the economic impact is serious enough it can also have a political impact.
As of today (as I write this) there have been 2,700 Coronavirus deaths in China and 41 outside of China. The worldwide death-rate of those getting the disease is 2.3%, compared to 0.1% death-rate for those who get other types of flu. Furthermore, how the disease spreads is still uncertain, so how to protect one’s self is a question. We are warned to wear masks, wash hands, and avoid crowds. Antiseptic, surgical protection is impractical.
For the first two months the main emphasis has been on containment. Wuhan was put in quarantine, the entire province and anyone coming or going from there. The PRC government acted aggressively to build a large hospital in 10 days, to shut down businesses and travel, and to identify and isolate cases. On the one hand this strategy has worked to bring about a sharp dip in new cases in Wuhan. On the other hand the virus was not contained.
It has spread to several other countries. Thailand was the first country outside China to see confirmed cases, but South Korea is now in the lead. The news these last couple of days is about the virus spreading in Italy, from Milan, and clearly into Europe.
Apparently, epidemiologists are expecting the Coronavirus to spread around the world. They are working frantically to identify its origin, and they have not yet done so. Bats, again (poor beasts, never get a break), were thought to be at fault. That was just a rumor – maybe. But the medical strategy is first to decide how to deal with the inevitable spread, that is, how to protect people from getting the disease and how to treat them if they seem to have gotten it, and also to develop effective immunization programs, which will take years to perfect.
Meanwhile, the virus is just about the only news worth talking about. It absorbs attention to such an extent that other things matter less than they would otherwise. It is the top news story even in the USA where the Democrats are struggling to come to terms with Bernie Sanders’s ascendency as the candidate to enter the ring against Trump. But the virus’s impact on world economies, particularly in travel industries, caused the stock market in the USA alone, to lose 1.7 trillion dollars yesterday. That’s a stunning blow that simply means 2020 will NOT be a year of economic improvement. Economy always impacts politics.
Here in Chiang Mai, hotels are struggling to stay open, sites that rely on tourist traffic are empty and employees are beginning to panic, and even markets and malls are seeing 30% less business with the percentages rising. This comes on top of an already sluggish local economy due to depressed tourism caused by other things, including terrible air pollution and stiffer competition from other tourist destinations. Tourism is a fickle industry.
Our university cancelled a work camp yesterday, scheduled to bring a score of students from Japan as it has for 30 years. A hundred Chinese students are unable to come to begin work next week, and we don’t know when they will be able to come. This is a big disruption for them and for our university.
Nationwide, the virus is “one more thing,” but it is a big thing on top of everything else. Thailand’s economic picture is not as rosy as had been hoped. Several major companies are leaving. Chevrolet announced a couple of days ago that they are closing operations here in Thailand. The Prime Minister is dealing with a no-confidence motion this week, which he will probably survive, but his popularity, never very great, is declining over revelations that leak out about shocking financial deals, and now the dissolution of the third largest political party in Thailand. This has resulted in student protests on university campuses all over the country. Those protests may simply “blow off steam” since they are not spreading beyond university campuses. Exams are coming very soon. Student protests will end before they bring any change to the way the government operates. In fact, the virus affects even these things. If a large rally were to be held, say in the center of Bangkok, attendance would be smaller than otherwise because of the virus. Crowds are to be avoided.
Even here in our village, in a spur on the valley, back behind the mountain, everyone knows about the Coronavirus. They are thinking about it all the time. They are keeping track of where “cases” (confirmed, unconfirmed, suspected, and rumored) are being talked about. The news sources are public and social media. The virus is viral.
Witch-izards and Wiz-itches Join LGTBIQAK-SOGI-WZ PRIDE 2020
“Gender diversity now includes half the population, alphabetically speaking,” the Wizitch Sunshine commented proudly. “We don’t mind bringing along the last few letters. It’s important for us to be included. We have been discriminated against for centuries, and that has to end.”
There is no denying the suffering imposed on witches of all genders and cultures throughout history. Once in a while exceptional individuals worked their way into the office of Grand Vizier or Vestal Priestess, but all too often it was “to the stake with them” and a fiery end.
“We thought about having a Pride Parade of our own” Sunshine (a nom-de-broom) admitted. “It’s the thing to do, these days. I was inspired by the Islamic Pride Parade reported this week. If there has ever been a persecuted gay community it’s them.”
The fall-out from this report is that some non-Muslim gay protesters wanted to know why the Islamic Pride group couldn’t just join the rest of the LGBT+ people in big Pride Parades being planned. It would show we’re united.”
Sunshine told our reporter, “Obviously those protesters don’t understand what Pride is all about. Those who are threatened and driven into hiding have their sense of self-worth eroded. It takes courage to march. Marching restores pride as well as community. Identifying with a specific persecuted group enhances pride that may be diluted by joining a massive march.”
“Have you been persecuted?” our reporter asked.
“Not me, personally, as such. Witches where hunted nearly to extinction as recently as 150 years ago right around here in Chiang Mai, but this gender transition part is what our generation is dealing with.”
“We, and by that, so far, I mean ‘I’, I decided not to have a separate Witch-izard-Wiz-itch Pride Parade here in Chiang Mai , however,” Sunshine sighed and then brightened.
“What do you indicate by calling yourself a Wiz-itch?”
Sunshine glowed, “These days we affirm our diversity by being precise about our identity. That’s how we establish our unity in the realm of sexual exceptions.”
When our reporter didn’t quite understand this, Sunshine explained, “I’m neither 100% Wizard nor Witch. Society would like to force me into one or the other box, but I’m trying to help non-binary, intermediate and transitional terms gain traction. I’m a Wizitch, a Wizard who is tentatively moving toward the Witch side of the spectrum.”
“How many transgender Witch-to-Wiz and Wiz-to-Witch individuals do you estimate there to be in Chiang Mai?” Sunshine was asked.
“So far there’s just me that I know of (and I’m often nor sure about me), but after this Saturday there may be others who come out onto their brooms in the daylight. I’m what you could call the Wizitch vanguard.”
[NOTE: Chiang Mai Pride 2020 really is taking place on Saturday 22/02/2020. A march through the city is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. To find details search the Internet for Chiang Mai Pride 2020 or check the Chiang Mai Pride Facebook page.]
Spiritual corruption begins with an unremitting terror that sinks so completely into one’s being that it can transmogrify. That terror gradually becomes the opposite. There it festers and insinuates itself into other areas of one’s existence like a cancer.
When it reemerges it is in such a dissipated spiritual state that it will either take what seems to be desperate measures to survive or heroic measures to achieve some magnificent illusion.
One way to assess the nature of a manifestation of spiritual corruption is to consider its two basic myths.
First, there is a formative or POSITIVE MYTH about what is or what may be. To function as a powerful positive myth it must have three basic aspects:
1. It must be ATTRACTIVE. It must express what is passionately desired.
2. It must be RICH. It must be endowed with heritage, nobility, and essence.
3. It must be WORTHY. It must describe a state that is valuable and worth effort, even though it requires a term of sacrifice. In fact, it is likely to be in the achievement of the goals of this transition to glory that the dynamics are set into motion which brings about the end.
But this mythical destiny is essentially the opposite of what it proposes to be.
Second, there is a NEGATIVE MYTH about an enemy that stands in the way. This enemy is thought of as the real danger, the essential problem, and the basic obstacle. The enemy is traditional, always there throughout conscious history, but now this old enemy is radicalized, magnified, and utilized to rally excessive protective and proactive defensive measures. However, when the enemy in this myth is analyzed it can be seen:
1. The enemy is essentially imaginary, not a viable, actual threat
2. The enemy is actually a personification of one’s own dysfunctionality.
But, ironically, this presumed enemy, now considered mythically, has really been one of the contributors to the authentic destiny that could have been realized for the individual, society or nation that has now vilified it.
Corrupt spirituality is either a deadly cancer or a ticking time bomb. It will kill sooner rather than later, one way or another.
One scenario is for the spiritual corruption to “mature,” its corruption spreading to ever- widening areas of spirituality, increasingly consuming all one’s spiritual energy until the deterioration and decay expire into doom and extinction, sometimes with a final spectacular eruption, but sometimes not.
The other scenario is for outside forces to undertake AN INVASION. (There are countless forms of invasive action – surgical, military, reformative, and other interventions – initiated and carried out by entities acting without the cooperation and sometimes against the will of the afflicted individual.) This intervention will be either to eradicate the expanding threat or to redeem the elemental aspects of the corrupt entity in order to create a new order, society, or national entity.
The dynamics that will most often tend to coalesce the external forces that lead to the invasion and consequent decimation of the old entity, society, or nation are:
1. A reaction to some great aggression that was undertaken to advance the positive myth.
2. A reaction to some great abomination that was motivated by the negative myth.
3. A reaction to both.
German National Socialism from 1925-1945
Their foundational story was that Teutonic-Germanic people were the descendants of the Aryan supermen of Atlantis; the survivors from an Atlantis-like island named Thule immigrated to Tibet; and then migrated back to Germany holding onto certain key encoded truths. These German-Aryans were the race of founders of civilization. The Nazi myth was that the genetic heritage of the Aryans was retained in the Nordic-Aryan race, and the Aryan wisdom and knowledge was available through esoteric and occult means to those with special abilities. The Aryan race would again attain their leadership of the world when their time came and the messianic leader appeared. Their long-expected Leader was not a mere mortal, but the incarnation of the perfection that the Aryan heritage had preserved, and he and a caste of special highly-select pure-blood Aryans would carry forward the reestablishment of the Aryan race. The Nazis’ “positive myth” provided the rationale the Nazis used to inspire their initiates to take over other lands, particularly those to the east.
This foundational myth was about physicality (blood and land), but it was expressed in meta-cultural terms, with the Aryans as heroes. A hero is brave in the service of others. This was corrupted in Nazism. The heroic class of Nazis, as they celebrated their heroes with songs and festivals, was dedicated, not to the service of others, but to the Fuhrer, one of their own, and to the Volk, their own people, and the Vaterland, their homeland. Patriotism very often constricts and contorts heroism in this self-serving, egocentric way. It is politically expedient and often popular, but it is a spiritual corruption.
The anti-heroes of the negative myth the Nazis propounded were the “destroyers” of civilization; they were the dark races and Semites led by the Jews. The Jews had insinuated themselves into the most critical points of society where they held key roles in banking, industry, science and intellectual enterprises. What’s more, they played sinister roles in much else, such as religion, medicine and geo-politics. It was Hitler’s plan from the beginning to eradicate the Jews from the German Fatherland. It was to be his legacy that the Jews were removed from Europe. But, by the latter stages of the Second World War, Hitler dreamed of trying to eradicate the memory that the Jews had ever existed in Europe.
The myth of the adversary was the opposite of the foundational myth of the Nazis. It posited that the Jews were demonic (the reverse of heroes), rather than being holders of key service roles in every level of society, which was a more apt description of their role in nineteenth and twentieth century Germany and middle Europe. The Nazis imagined a great conspiracy afoot, with the Jews in league with satanic forces behind it all. Since the roots of the danger could not be discerned, and the extent of the danger could not be exaggerated, any effort to thwart the enemy was justified, and needed to be carried out at every level: the Jewish genetic pool had to be eradicated; the Jewish intellectual heritage had to be expunged, and so forth. The Nazis’ “negative myth” justified wiping out the Jews. It is equally chilling to consider how ridding society of the Jews was largely acceptable to such a large percentage of the Germans as well as the Nazis.
It is characteristic of corrupted spirituality that the individual (person, society or nation) cannot heal itself, largely because healing involves initiatives that appear to be insidious. To heal would involve the unthinkable removal of both the positive and the negative myths, and therefore the destruction of the reason for being. Yielding would lead to an unimaginable outcome and back into terror. The very opposite kind of courage and leadership than the heroic sort being celebrated would be called for. Left to its own devices, if actions being undertaken are allowed to reach their final conclusion, corrupted spirituality expires in a final Ragnarok sort of Gotterdammerung, or simply becomes too much to sustain and then withers and putrefies.
However, in the face of the Nazi aggression against the nations of Europe, and their being in league with other aggressors, more decisive action was decided upon. An alliance of nations was formed to not only oppose Nazi military moves, but to reverse them and then to obliterate the threat of them re-emerging. The first motive for invading Nazi-held lands was to oppose Nazi aggression. Meanwhile, Nazi atrocities not only (nor primarily) against military targets, but against civilian populations, gnawed at the consciences of the Allied nations. Even though many people in those Allied nations agreed with some of the stereotype stories about Jews, the treatment of Jews through mass murder and the gradual truth about the concentration and death camps, further motivated the invasion. In the end, it was not just the elimination of the ability of the Nazis to wage war that purged Germany of its toxic spiritual corruption, but the exposure of the rottenness of its enabling myths. That effect was greatly speeded up, of course, by conclusive military action.
Finally, it would be unrealistic to think that all the seeds of those myths have been completely and utterly obliterated. Friends in Austria and Germany report that there are neo-Nazi factions alive and growing again with variations of those same empowering myths. Other friends in the Americas and England, as well as elsewhere scattered around the world, tell of nationalistic groups (sometimes actually employing Nazi titles and regalia) who have revised the myths and gain energy from them to undertake action plans.
There are also movements and groups who deny any affinity with the Nazis and the content of their myths, who have other corrupted narratives of an endangered society or nation beset by people bent on disempowering and destroying their entitlements, who are rallying around an inward-looking charismatic leader.
The time comes when vigilance is not enough.
[Note on the picture above: The Dadaist artist John Heartfield was a fearless critic of Hitler and his movement. His montages showed the spiritual corruption inherent in militant nationalism.]
In the two countries most important to me personally, Thailand and the USA, one of the most enigmatic controversies is about disappearing monuments. And in both cases the underlying issue is, “What is our significant history, really?” To be sure, monuments disappear all the time, sometimes long after whatever they were celebrating has been forgotten. This fact, and the hubris that led to the erection of the monument in the first place, was the subject of one of Shelly’s most famous poems, the most memorable stanza of which brags, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” All that was left of those works was a shattered statue.
We will return to the more recent disappearing statues shortly. First, a bit about monuments.
There are various reasons for erecting monumental statuary. Some of the main reasons are: (1) to serve as a venue and stage for a great celebration. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Arch of Titus in Rome are examples. Conquering heroes need suitable backdrops for their victory celebrations and they build those sites impressively because they expect praise of their conquests to be lasting. (2) An even larger number are erected to memorialize persons who are significant to the cultural heritage of a people. At the present time that is what is supposedly being memorialized in the world’s largest bas relief statuary on Stone Mountain, Georgia (USA), and the tallest free-standing one, the Statue of Unity in India. Using heroes as metaphors was also the purpose of the sculptures on Mount Rushmore, South Dakota (which is likely to be the last trace of human habitation on earth when the human race becomes extinct, according to a pundit whose speculation I read on-line, so it must be true). (3) A third category is of people whom later descendants or beneficiaries do not want to be forgotten. Soldier and Sailor memorials and statuary of former kings or celebrities do this.
The Statue of Unity is an immense likeness of Vallabhbhai Patel, a leader of the independence movement of India. The statue is 597 feet high, higher than any other statue, even religious ones. Patel remarkably united the hundreds of principalities in India into the united nation of India. The statue is 2 years old. It is so young that controversy about it is just getting started.
On the other hand controversy is main feature of the huge Stone Mountain bas relief sculpture honoring Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. It is immense and it has more visitors than any other site in Georgia. Controversy is due to what the sculpture stands for. Defenders of the monument say it is a marker of the historical fact that at one time those three men lived, served heroically, and were appreciated by people of the South. Opponents say that, as with all public monuments lauding leaders of the Confederacy during the War Between the States, Stone Mountain Park ignores the basic facts that those men and the war they led were to sustain slavery, and to energize movements to retain racial divisions. It cannot be a mere coincidence that the official opening of the park was delayed several years so it could be held on the very day of the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The park and the sculpture were constructed as the US Civil Rights Movement was beginning to succeed. Stone Mountain was in defiance of that movement. [For more about this aspect of the removal of Confederate statues see an earlier blog essay entitled “Confederate Statues”: www.kendobson.asia/blog/confederate-statues ]
Reasons for removing monuments are as varied as the ones for erecting them. Some are removed to better preserve them, or to make way for something more important (such as an expressway or condominium) as the monument has lost importance, or to dull collective memory about why there used to be these heroes. Since there can be conflicting opinions about just how important those memories are, arguments can arise about why the monuments are being removed. To get at the bottom of that, it is necessary to be clear about why the monuments were put up and who wants them taken down.
Removing or simply moving monuments to heroes of the Confederacy is contentious in this regard. They are historic, say the preservationists. They were put up to validate the fiction that “the Confederacy was a grand idea and the subjection of inferior races was just fine,” say the ones offended by the monuments.
Here in Thailand monument removal is going on right now.
Khaosot-english newspaper carried the latest of several articles by senior staff writer Pravit Rojanaphruk on January 27, 2020 reporting on the removal of two statues of heroes being demoted.
Background: in 1932 a revolution in Siam replaced the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy and elected parliament, called a democracy. The two main leaders of the revolution were Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram and his colleague Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena. In the years following, various monuments to this revolution and to its leaders were erected, including the largest, the Democracy Monument, in the middle of the royal boulevard connecting several royal palaces. Democracy Monument has been the rallying point for several political movements including deadly ones in 1973 and 1976.
What happened late last month is that a statue of Field Marshal Pibul who founded the National Defense College was removed from its place of honor on the college campus. It was first reported gone on January 20. Then on the 27th both Field Marshal Pibul’s and Phraya Phahol’s statues were removed from an army camp in Lopburi and the camp was renamed, stripping any mention of the revolutionary leaders. This followed the removal on December 28, 2018 of a monument commemorating the government’s victory over a pro-royalist counter-revolution attempt in 1933.
The first democracy monument to be bulldozed was in Buriram Province on 7 November 2014 right after the military coup removed the last fully-elected parliament and installed an ultra-royalist military government. They said the monument was removed to make way for a highway.
The most controversial removal was also the smallest. In April 2017 a small brass marker disappeared in the night after having been imbedded in the pavement of the Royal Plaza in Bangkok for 80 years marking the spot where the Democracy Revolution began. It was replaced with one praising the monarchy, just after the new King ascended the throne.
Meanwhile, phrases from the official swearing-in ceremony for government officials have been removed that mentioned their duty to the constitution rather than the monarch. Control of royal funds of several kinds has been moved from government to palace officials. A new parliament has been installed with entire blocks simply appointed by the military, and important branches of the military have been put back under the King’s command.
This week the government scurried to deny a rumor spreading on social media that the next to go would be the Democracy Monument itself. A major expansion and improvement of the boulevard “will not touch the Democracy Monument” which sits in the middle of the street, the government spokesperson insisted.
The model of the democratic constitution still resides prominently on its three layers of ceremonial basin atop the Democracy Monument, although the actual constitution has been replaced at least 19 times.
It takes a special kind of blindness not to see how the idea of constitutional democracy is being removed one monument and one step at a time. But there are other ways to dilute the rule of law and hand it over to rulers. Refusing to let courts of justice function impartially is one of them. Fixing it so that elections no longer put the people in office that the majority of citizens want to be their representatives is another.
History is harder to manipulate, but people’s memories are easier to deceive when historical reminders are removed. Start with the oncoming generation. Remove the statues, then shorten mentions of inconvenient events in text books, and pretty soon history is all fixed.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.