A Thai aphorism “catching a fish in each hand” is meant to illustrate the futility of trying to do too much at one time. I thought it was the Thai equivalent of “killing two birds with one stone,” but it’s not. That American phrase is about rare good luck, while the Thai saying is about common sense.
This is the twentieth anniversary of my decision to try to be an active LGBT advocate and insider while being a non-traditional missionary and family member. To put it simply, the Thai saying was right and my sketch made that year was overly optimistic.
I know people who are trying to catch a fish in each hand.
One young friend in Chicago wants to be a Black American Christian radical while being in the diplomatic corps of the United Nations. An older friend in Pennsylvania is trying to hang onto his estranged family who has locked him out and at the same time he is dreaming of plans to renew his career as a photo journalist. A church worker from Texas is trying to be retired and still influential in running an institute he founded. A former colleague in New York swears he can be both an LGBT NGO leader and a Trump conservative.
In world politics, over-grasping is also rampant. The current US government is proposing to be conservative and destructive at the same time, conservative of “Great America” while deconstructing government along with a wide range of legal curbs and protections. The Thai government wants to retain royalist military control, while transforming economic generators (which can only be done by freeing and enabling the middle class to expand in skills and power). Indonesia is struggling, trying to sustain a modern, democratic, pluralist nation while allowing Wahabist Islamic influence to expand.
The likelihood, in trying to catch a fish in each hand, is not that you will only get one, but that you will lose both.
It is a moot point whether I would have made a greater contribution to humanity by not over-extending myself 20 years ago. It seemed important to try. The results have been good, but very different from what I had hoped at the time.
I’m hoping for my young friend in Chicago to find a handful of something he can handle, with God’s help. I think that my older friend in Pennsylvania has already lost his two fish and he needs a new quest. The retired church worker from Texas has reduced his manipulation of his former institute, which is running just fine without his hand on. I believe my former colleague in New York will soon realize hitching to Trump as a gay advocate is counter-productive.
In the case of governments, either the power is with the people or with a limited entity. The current military-industrial complex begun in the USA is international, owned by global financiers, while skillfully being challenged by the Chinese. Whether or not the US government’s regime change fails, it looks like the Chinese will capture the white queen (US economic sovereignty) but the people may still be able to fend off a check-mate by quickly sacrificing their tarnished White House knight. In Thailand regime change is not imminent. Thailand has never had any other kind of government than a royalist-military alliance with some economic power occasionally slipping into other hands until the resulting confusion could be sorted out and the elite realigned. In Indonesia, as everywhere in South East Asia, no matter who is sitting in the front office, the military is close by. If militant Muslims gain control by virtue of their numbers and outside funding, the military will be the only thing that could stop them. Duterte in the Philippines understands this is true in Mindanao as well, so he’s just going in with both hands for a single fish – military control. His drug war and economic recovery are apparently on hold for a while.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.