Monthly Archives: April 2004

Two Backgrounders on the Separatist Movement in Aceh

The East-West Center has just published two useful backgrounders on the separatist movement in Aceh in northern Sumatra in Indonesia.

The Free Aceh Movement (GAM): Anatomy of a Separatist Organization, by Kirsten E. Schulze. Policy Studies 2. Washington, DC: East-West Center Washington, 2004. ix, 76 pp. Paper, $5.00.

The province of Aceh is located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra in the Indonesian archipelago. Since 1976 it has been wracked by conflict between the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka; GAM), which is seeking to establish an independent state, and the Indonesian security forces seeking to crush this bid. At the heart of the conflict are center/periphery relations and profound Acehnese alienation from Jakarta. This paper aims to provide a detailed ideological and organizational “map” of GAM in order to increase the understanding of its history, motivations, and organizational dynamics. Consequently this paper analyses GAM’s ideology, aims, internal structure, recruitment, financing, weapons procurement, and its military capacity. The focus of this study is on the recent past as the fall of Suharto not only allowed the Indonesian government to explore avenues other than force to resolve the Aceh conflict, but also provided GAM with the opportunity to make some changes to its strategy and to transform itself into a genuinely popular movement. It will be argued here that the key to understanding GAM in the post-Suharto era and the movement’s decisions, maneuvers and statements during the three years of intermittent dialogue can be found in the exiled leadership’s strategy of internationalization. This strategy shows that for GAM the negotiations, above all, were not a way to find common ground with Jakarta but a means to compel the international community to pressure the Indonesian government into ceding independence.

Security Operations in Aceh: Goals, Consequences, and Lessons, by Rizal Sukma. Policy Studies 3. Washington, DC: East-West Center Washington, 2004. ix, 58 pp. Paper, $5.00.

Since Indonesia’s independence in August 1945, the province of Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra island has often been described as a center of resistance against the central government in Jakarta. The first uprising-the Darul Islam rebellion-began in 1953 and ended only in 1961 after the central government promised to grant special autonomy status to Aceh. When this promise was not fulfilled, another rebellion erupted in the mid-1970s. Unlike the Darul Islam rebellion which sought to change Indonesia into an Islamic state, the rebellion in 1970s took the form of a secessionist movement led by the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka; GAM). Despite its defeat in 1977 after the Indonesian military launched a security operation, another GAM-led rebellion broke out again in 1989–and again the Indonesian government responded swiftly with another military crackdown.

This paper examines the purpose, consequences, and lessons to be drawn from the security operations conducted by Indonesian forces in Aceh since 1990. As the vested interests of the TNI and its emphasis on a military solution have contributed to an escalation of the conflict, it argues that the military requires an exit strategy to be followed by socio-economic reconstruction. The paper is divided into four sections. The first outlines the root causes of the conflict and discusses military operations during the period 1990-98 when Aceh was designated a Military Operations Area (Daerah Operasi Militer; DOM). Security operations in Aceh between the downfall of Suharto’s New Order regime in May 1998 and May 2003, when the government finally decided to impose martial law and launch a full-scale military crackdown in the province are explored in the second section. The third explores the conduct of the counterinsurgency operation during the first six months of martial law in the province. The final section looks at how the government’s failure to consider the wider context of the conflict undermines the relative gains achieved on the military front. While security operations during the 1990s contributed to the aggravation of the problem–due primarily to the failure of Indonesia’s litary to protect human rights–the military operation since May 2003 will not end the conflict in Aceh if the government fails to undertake non-military measures to address the root causes of the problem in the province.

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The New Economics of Academia: Wanted: Really Smart Suckers

Reporter Anya Kamenetz has a must-read feature in The Village Voice (27 April) for anybody who has ever spent time working in academia–or who ever hopes to. It’s entitled Generation Debt – the New Economics of Being Young, subtitled “Wanted: Really Smart Suckers: Grad school provides exciting new road to poverty.”

Here’s an exciting career opportunity you won’t see in the classified ads. For the first six to 10 years, it pays less than $20,000 and demands superhuman levels of commitment in a Dickensian environment. Forget about marriage, a mortgage, or even Thanksgiving dinners, as the focus of your entire life narrows to the production, to exacting specifications, of a 300-page document less than a dozen people will read. Then it’s time for advancement: Apply to 50 far-flung, undesirable locations, with a 30 to 40 percent chance of being offered any position at all. You may end up living 100 miles from your spouse and commuting to three different work locations a week. You may end up $50,000 in debt, with no health insurance, feeding your kids with food stamps. If you are the luckiest out of every five entrants, you may win the profession’s ultimate prize: A comfortable middle-class job, for the rest of your life, with summers off….

But the Internet means no isolated community has to stay that way. A new group of tortured, funny, largely anonymous websites are providing an outlet for academics who feel like they’re getting spanked by their alma mater. They have names like Invisible Adjunct, (a)musings of a grad student, Beyond Academe, and Barely Tenured, and they address the emotional just as much as the practical consequences of competing in, and losing, the academic job-market lottery.

Founded in February 2003, Invisible Adjunct quickly became one of the most popular such blogs. Dozens of regular posters followed discussion threads like “The Old Boy Network” and “Is Tenure a Cartel?” Invisible Adjunct’s author—call her IA—is a New Yorker in her late thirties with a Ph.D. in British history, an adjunct for the past two years. “I’ve spent all these years and I’ve failed,” says IA, who entered graduate school in 1993 and received her Ph.D. in 1999. “You agree to do this five-to-seven-year low-paid apprenticeship because you’re joining this guild. And if you end up as an adjunct you think, wow, I’m really getting screwed over.”

The also pseudonymous Thomas H. Benton was a frequent contributor to Invisible Adjunct’s blog and has penned a series of cautionary columns for the Chronicle of Higher Education. He is even more blunt than IA. “The premise of graduate education in the humanities is a lie: Students are not apprentices preparing for a life of scholarship and teaching,” he says. “They are a cheap source of labor and status for institutions and faculty and, after they earn their degrees, most join the reserve army of the academic underemployed.” Benton, a professor at a small liberal arts college, warns his students about trying to follow in his footsteps. “My experience as a working-class kid who finally earned an Ivy League Ph.D. is that higher education is not about social mobility or personal enrichment; it is one trap among many for people who are uninitiated into the way power and influence operate in this culture.”

Grad school applications are up slightly over the last decade, as unemployed college grads seek a haven from the job market. Every winter, a new crop of bright, bookish, maybe slightly fuzzy-headed kids, the kind who cover the sidewalks of the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, decide they’re sick enough of the 9-to-5 grind to borrow some money and go back to school.

Unlike trade schools, most graduate programs do not offer prospective students detailed data on job placement, which varies widely from program to program. Tri-State Semi Driver Training School in Middletown, Ohio, for example, guarantees a job before you even start driving, while the American Language Institute in San Diego promises lifetime placement assistance to its teachers of English as a foreign language. Your local Ivy League English department can’t offer the same deal: Last year, the Modern Language Association expected some 965 Ph.D.’s to be granted, while only 422 assistant professorships were advertised, a drop of 20 percent from the year before. In the foreign languages, there were only 263 positions advertised (for the 620 Ph.D.’s projected), a drop of one-third from the previous year. The MLA estimates that students who entered English programs in 2003 had a 20 percent chance of coming out with a tenure-track position. The situation is better in history, where the number of new Ph.D.’s in 2003 almost equalled the number of new jobs, after a decade of “overproduction,” with growth coming in trendy specializations like the Middle East.

But numbers like these do little to deter the best students. “Top undergraduates are arrogant; they lack perspective,” says Benton. “They’ve been fawned over all their lives, and they think grad school is there to help them realize their potential, not to use them up and toss them out.”

The Chronicle (30 April) profiles the Invisible Adjunct at some length. Almost like an obituary.

Now, she senses that the Ph.D. in her pocket has grown stale.

“I have to confront the fact that my shelf life has expired,” she says, “and I’m not going to get a job in the academy.”

My sentiments match those in the comment posted by Anita Henderson on History News Network, where Ralph Luker noted the Village Voice article.

The reason grad students and adjuncts are taken advantage of is because they can be. And that’s because there are too many of them. More than the market needs.

What’s amazing is the sense of outrage in academic circles about the system, as if being a college instructor were different from other jobs. I’ve been through downsizing efforts in industries. Many, if not most, Americans have. People watching their earning potential fall through the floor. What they’ve worked to achieve for years become devalued in the marketplace.

Ivory tower academics must be oblivious to this, thinking that the old system of establishing yourself and then sitting back and letting the money roll in is in place. Rather than feeling sorry for themselves and their colleagues, they should try getting on with life the way most people do.

Lots of people want to be rock musicians. A few make it big, a few more earn comfortable livings. Most do it as a hobby along with their day job or barely squeak by. Lots of people want to be professional athletes. A few make it big, most don’t.

There’s nothing unique about academia. Social activists always say we need to tune inner city kids to reality, make them understand that they probably won’t become sports stars, the odds against that are too high, so they should have some other plan to fall back on. Maybe we need to let these professor wannabes [learn] the same thing.

Here’s my advice, from one who has made the transition out of academia, and back in, several times: Start early. Stay in practice. Avoid irrational optimism.

I first started after finishing high school in Japan (Canadian curriculum, not Japanese). I decided I didn’t want to go to college. (I wasn’t that eager to immigrate back to the U.S., either.) After working the summer in my uncle’s service station–not just pumping gas and checking oil, but changing tires on farm tractors and logging trucks, I acquired a new appreciation for schoolwork. So I applied late to my father’s alma mater, the University of Richmond, Va., where I was one of two “foreign” students–both American missionary kids, in fact. The Richmond Collegian interviewed us both, concluding thus.

Joel had visited the U.S. at several intervals before coming to UR. Joel said that his opinion of the U.S. changed each time he came. He said that he likes the U.S. better now than he did. However, he added, “When I read Mad Magazine in Japan, I thought the magazine exaggerated situations, but now that I’m here, I do not think the magazine does!”

I don’t think I phrased it quite so awkwardly, but that’s pretty much what I intended to convey. My U.S. college experience was not what the Asian edition of Newsweek had suggested it might be. Ferment, no. Boredom, yes. I dropped out in my sophomore year. The draft beckoned. The best I could do was opt for the Army language school. They gave me the 7th language on my list of 8: Romanian. So I spent my Vietnam-era Army days assigned to a stateside Civil Affairs unit that had more officers than enlisted men. I took a couple of extension courses on base, and spent a lot of time in the library and volunteering at the language lab on base: teaching an English class to Korean officers (always careful never to be seen in my enlisted uniform), and to a lovely class of Thai and Vietnamese army wives.

I took advantage of an early out to resume college, and managed to stretch my G.I. Bill benefits out well into my Ph.D. program, thanks to work-study, graduate assistantships, and other temporary or part-time jobs. I swore I wouldn’t get married until finishing my dissertation, then did anyway. I swore I wouldn’t accept full-time employment before finishing, then did anyway. I did finally manage to finish, mostly writing on weekends. And I finished only $2,000 in debt, which I paid off early! After spending most of the 1970s in grad school, I spent most of the 1980s doing computer support work in the business world (even taking a couple night classes in accounting), then migrated back into academic publishing during the 1990s.

In many ways, I’m a natural-born academic. But my wife teaches. Other friends and family teach. Heck, I’ve taught. And I know it’s not for me. Nor is the long stretch of pre-tenure paranoia and post-tenure burnout. I suppose this blog is now my classroom. Whimsy is my syllabus. Attendance is optional. And there are no papers to mark. My day job pays the mortgage. But I do worry about how to encourage my daughter to pursue her interests–even more academic than mine–while steering her away from a career in academia.

UPDATE: Via an update to History News Network, I see that Erin O’Conner of Critical Mass adds further thoughts and outlines her own answer to “The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad grad school question“:

Between the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s farewell paean to the Invisible Adjunct, the current Crooked Timber thread attempting to theorize the unconcern and even contempt tenured academics display toward the adjunct labor that sustains their comfortable lifestyles, and yesterday’s Village Voice piece on how you’ve got to be a hell of a sucker to go to grad school in the humanities or social sciences nowadays, I’ve been thinking a great deal not only about the politics of the academy, but about the politics of lamentation about the state of the academy.

There is something a bit, ummm, noisome in the spectacle of established, tenured academics clucking their virtual tongues and beating their virtual breasts about the terrible lot that has befallen the Invisible Adjunct and all those other adjuncts for whom she has so invisibly stood. What besides clucking are these folks doing to reform the abusive system that chewed IA up and spat her out? …

You can say that this is a fine case of the pot calling the kettle black. After all, what have I been doing on Critical Mass since March 2002 besides lamenting the state of academe, and devoting considerable space to the corruption of the academic humanities? I’ve clucked about the exploitation of adjunct labor more than once on this blog, and I’ve done it from a tenured position whose shape is structurally dependent on all the non-tenure-track lecturers, adjuncts, and grad students that my department regularly employs to round out its course offerings. So where do I get off?

I’ll know the exact answer to that question next week, when I decide which of several job offers teaching high school English to accept. In the meantime, I’ll simply note that what gives me license to point fingers in this moment is that I am leaving academe–in no small part because I cannot see a way to resolve the many interlinked crises facing the academic humanities, and I cannot reconcile my beliefs in institutional fairness, personal and professional integrity, and, much more basically, education, with a life lived from within a university English department. I’m not sure the problems can be resolved at this point. And, frankly, I’m not sure they should be. The self-discrediting behavior of the humanist “haves” during the past several decades of progressive deprofessionalization, combined with their confirmed collective refusal to take their own disciplinarity seriously (whether as scholars or as teachers), doesn’t suggest there is a whole lot worth saving….

There is one market, though, that is WIDE OPEN for humanities M.A.’s and Ph.D.’s, and that is the independent school market. “Independent” is mostly a contemporary code word for “private,” though it can also mean “charter.” Your Ph.D.–or, if you are ABD, your M.A.–is a very attractive qualification in this market….

Locating and applying for such jobs could not be easier. There are agencies whose entire mission is to match you with schools that are looking for candidates like you. The agencies are entirely free to the candidates. They are not gimmicks. They work.

Why do you hear absolutely nothing about this career option from within academe? Why do academic departments pretend this entirely dignified and deeply meaningful career path does not exist–even though it could be just what many of their otherwise unemployable Ph.D.’s, not to mention their dissatisfied faculty, are looking for? Why do they treat as beneath their notice a type of work that they ought to be embracing as a seriously significant alternative to the dead-end academic career of the adjunct? Do I really have to ask?

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Clarence Greathouse, Kentucky’s Legal Advisor to King Kojong in Korea

GREATHOUSE, CLARENCE RIDGEBY (c. 1845-Oct. 21, 1899), journalist, lawyer, diplomat, was born in Kentucky, the son of Dr. Ridgeby Greathouse, an early emigrant to Ca1ifornia. In 1870 he went to San Francisco. He practised law with Louis T. Haggin, then, upon the latter’s retirement, in the firm of Greathouse & Blanding–finally Wallace, Greathouse & Blanding. He was also active in local politics as a Democrat and in 1883 he became the general manager of the San Francisco Examiner, a Democratic daily. He continued in this position until 1886, when he was appointed consul-general at Kanagawa (Yokohama), Japan. Upon the confirmation of his appointment he left Washington May 31, 1886, and served successfully at his post for four years. At this time events and conditions in Korea were largely an enigma and a challenge to discovery to most foreigners in the Far East. Korea was also the one Asiatic country in which American influence and American participation in governmental affairs was at least the equal of that of any other Occidental nation. The successive American representatives in the Korean capital succeeded in so impressing the Korean King with the friendly and disinterested nature of the policy of their government that he was led to secure a comparatively large number of American advisors and on Sept. 12, 1890, Greathouse was engaged to serve as legal advisor to the Korean government. At that time there were eight Americans serving in Seul in various advisory capacities. The extent of American influence in Korea displeased the Chinese, but despite positive suggestions by the Chinese Resident against the employment of further foreign advisors, on Jan. 3, 1891, the Korean government gazetted Greathouse as a vice president of the home office and gave him charge of matters pertaining to foreign legal affairs. Gen. Charles Le Gendre [q.v.] at this time was a vice-president of the same office as foreign advisor to the King.

It is difficult to evaluate the work accomplished by Greathouse during his eight years in Korea. It is certain, however, that he secured the confidence of the King, and that for a time he was given complete charge of the trial of important political cases. He is also said to have acted as head of the Korean post-office department, but since during most of his service this department was weak and struggling he cannot be said to have accomplished much in this direction. His legal knowledge was often called upon in the drafting of conventions, in the constant negotiations with foreign representatives in Seul, and in the revising of Korean law and the reorganizing, at least on paper, of the Korean judicial system. His best-known work was in connection with the trial of the Koreans implicated in the murder of the Queen of Korea by Japanese and Korean conspirators on Oct. 8, 1895. After the King had escaped from his Japanese and Korean captors to the safety of the Russian legation, he asked Greathouse to supervise the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of the Queen. Greathouse attended all sessions of the court, examined the witnesses, and had the trials conducted in a thoroughly modern manner. It was owing to his influence that the trials were free from the gross faults which customarily disfigured the proceedings of all Korean courts, and that for general approximation to Western notions of justice and integrity they were in every way remarkable. During the last few years of his life Greathouse acted as confidential advisor to the King on foreign affairs. As far as the records show, he was never married; his mother remained with him until his death. While he was in Japan he secured the services of a young Goanese, H. A. Dos Remedios, as his secretary. When he went to Korea he took his assistant with him and Dos Remedios came practically to occupy the position of son as well as secretary, although he was never officially adopted. Greathouse died in Seul while still in the service of the government of Korea.

[The only trustworthy sources on the life of Greathouse are in the archives of the Department of State, and in the former American legation in Seul, Korea. Unfortunately, these are very meager. For printed sources see the Korea Repository, Mar. 1896, aud the Examiner (San Francisco), Nov. 18, 1899.] H.J.N.

SOURCE: Dictionary of American Biography. Greathouse was survived by his mother, who donated her diaries and documents to the U. of Kentucky Library in Lexington. I attended first grade at Greathouse Elementary in Louisville, KY, after kindergarten in Kokura, Japan. All I remember about school that year was nuclear attack drills and warnings about not allowing strangers to pick you up in their cars. (I guess nowadays kids are more scared of their classmates.) I never knew until decades later that Clarence Greathouse was a Kentucky notable who provided legal advice to the Meiji government, then to the Korean court. His whiskey-swilling mother was said to be one of the distinctive characters in the diplomatic community in Seoul. I spent some time exploring her diary and other documents in the Greathouse archives at UKy at few years back. Most of her diaries are concerned with diplomatic gatherings, especially this or that “tiffin” (high tea), with increasing worry about her son’s stomach ailments. I got the impression he drank himself to death.

A series of letters from other members of the diplomatic community in Seoul during the 1890s is online here.

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Mining Muninn: Shanghai in August 1945

While perusing the archives of the Muninn blog I recently discovered, I came across another interesting bit of historical detail posted on 26 March, which describes the content of the newspaper Shenbao in Shanghai in August 1945:

You pick up the most circulated newspaper in Shanghai on August 15th, 1945, the day of Japan’s surrender. What do you see? Well, the news of the surrender hasn’t made it for the day’s issue. Instead, in the days leading up to the end of the war the newspaper focuses on the Russian advances in Manchuria, or the arrival of B29 bombers attacking Japanese targets in China. Of course, you still see the usual advertisements for CPC Coffee, and various brands of penicillin. But how will the newspaper change in the next few days as Japan’s control over Shanghai comes to an end? While this wasn’t a question related to my research, it was at the back of my mind as I skimmed through an important Shanghai newspaper called 申報 from the second half of the year 1945….

CPC Coffee, which had long had very recognizable, if somewhat boring, advertisements depicting a can a coffee, finally join the victory bandwagon on the 21st by getting rid of the can image and replacing it with three victory slogans for the Allies, China, and Chiang Kai-shek. They scrap this on the 26th and add an image of a caucasian drinking coffee. Prices still look kind of inflated on the 26th. Meimei Si is selling coffee for 18,000 yuan and ‘Victory’ sundaes for 40,000. Also on the 26th we see the sudden appearance of radio channel advertisements, promising the latest news from San Francisco or India. Not far from Meimei Si’s victory sundaes is a very short article noting the mass suicide of a group of Japanese soldiers in front of the imperial palace. The editorial of the day emphasizes the need to preserve social order and reminds everyone that Chiang Kai-shek has ordered that no-one is to show hostility towards the surrendered Japanese soldiers. Thousands of them are still wandering around with their weapons, some have yet to officially hand over control of the cities they control. Most of them are not disarmed until weeks or months later and some of them end up helping one side or the other in the conflict to come. In these early postwar days, the KMT and the Communists are in a mad nation-wide rush to get their troops into each Japanese controlled area to accept the hand-over of power first. While the two sides were nominally allied during the war against the Japan, the country is on the verge of a new civil war between the two. In the first few weeks, however, we see Mao and Chiang inviting each other to tea parties and banquets.

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Mining Muninn: 102 Former Soldiers in Nanjing, 1937

Mining some of the historical posts on the Muninn blog I recently discovered, I came across an interesting entry on 19 March, 102 Former Soldiers in Nanjing, 1937:

I went on a used book buying spree last week, finally blocking off some time to roam the stores near Waseda’s campus one afternoon. One book I snapped up was a cheap copy of the normally $60 oral history book … edited by … (Matsuoka Tamaki). The book is part of a series of new Japanese books coming out which is methodically publishing vast amounts of primary materials on the Nanjing Massacre. Don’t read this posting if you are squeamish. I believe the books are associated with a group of historians who are disgusted by the revisionist nationalist scholars who once completely denied that anything horrible happened at the fall of Nanjing and now still claim that there was nothing out of the ordinary by the standard of modern warfare. While mainstream Japanese historians, along with the rest of the world, recognize that the fall of Nanjing was followed by an unusually horrible amount of slaughter and rape, I think most of them are tired of playing games with the revisionists and thereby sustaining the idea that there is some controversy worth debating. Rather than engaging them in futile debates, this particular group of historians seems focused on getting as much raw data as possible into print. The two newest books that I have seen are a collection of statements by Chinese witnesses of the massacre (which of course, the revisionists dismiss as liars or government stooges) and the volume I purchased collecting the statements of the soldiers themselves.

The rest is not pleasant, but really should be read.

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Buddhism and the Rise of Written Vernaculars

Why are there so many writing systems in India and and so few in China? In 1994, Victor H. Mair addressed this question in an article in the Journal of Asian Studies. Here’s the abstract.

The premise of Victor H. Mair’s wide-ranging article is that written Chinese emerged not as transcribed speech, but rather as a special, radically shortened cipher with its own grammatical and expressive conventions. He calls this written form Literary Sinitic (LS) and finds the disparity between it and any form of spoken Chinese, which he refers to under the general heading of Vernacular Sinitic (VS), is of a wholly different nature than the contrast between written Latin and any modern written or spoken Romance language. Indeed, he argues, Literary Sinitic remained incapable of serving as a means of recording spoken Chinese or any other language. Thus, for Mair, the question becomes: How did vernacular written forms emerge in a milieu in which Literary Sinitic dominated intellectual life? He finds the earliest instances of written Vernacular Sinitic occur typically in Buddhist texts. He believes the Buddhist emphasis on teaching through the local dialect (desa bhasa) was a major impetus for the development of written vernacular, but concludes it is difficult to determine exactly which aspects of Buddhism had the greatest influence on the slow maturation of written Vernacular Sinitic.

And here’s Mair’s conclusion.

We have seen how, under the probable influence of the Indian concept of desa bhasa brought to China by Buddhism, numerous peoples in East Asia created a whole series of written vernaculars. While Chinese authorities stubbornly resisted recognition of any of their own vernaculars as a national language–probably due to the extremely high prestige and power of LS–the Buddhists used the vernacular liberally in their own writings. Once proffered as a functional alternative written language, use of the vernacular steadily grew until, by the late Ming-early Ch’ing [= Qing], it is likely that as many books were being printed in vernacular or a heavily vernacularized literary style as in LS, not withstanding the censure and ridicule of strait-laced scholars. Finally, even the Manchus, who already had their own written national language, which was swiftly dying out because of pervasive sinicization, yielded to the idea that their Sinitic subjects, too, needed a national language keyed to one of the spoken vernaculars. After the agitation of the May Fourth Movement [in 1919] led by progressive Chinese intellectuals and students, many of whom were exposed to radical ideas about language and other aspects of culture and society through the window of Japan, kuo-yü [= guoyu, Mandarin] was publicly proclaimed the official written language of the nation. This marked the formal end of the multimillennial separation between book language (shu-mien-yü [= shumianyu]) and spoken language (k’ou-yü [= kouyu]) in China.

That Buddhism played a crucial role in the evolution of the written vernacular throughout East Asia is beyond any doubt. The question remains, however: Which aspect of Buddhism was responsible for these momentous changes? Was there some religious doctrine belonging to Buddhism that fostered the written vernacular? Was it the fondness for storytelling, preaching, and public speaking by the early Buddhists in the language of the people? Did the ostensible orality of Buddhist scripture have anything to do with the origins of the written vernacular in China? Was the fact that most of the early translators of Buddhist texts into Sinitic were foreigners with a poor command of the literary language a significant factor? And did the phonological sophistication of Indian linguistical science lend credibility to the spoken vis-à-vis the written? What of the elaborate, rigorously defined Indian traditions of chanting and recitation? And may the social values, institutions, and position of Buddhism have contributed to the rise of the written vernaculars? Last but not least, did Buddhist practice have anything to do with the validation of the vernacular? Perhaps I have entirely overlooked some vital facet of Buddhism that contributed to this process. In the end, Buddhist support for the written vernacular may best be identified as a complex combination of diverse factors, all of which were determined by an integrated socioreligous ideology.

SOURCE: Victor H. Mair, “Buddhism and the Rise of the Written Vernacular in East Asia: The Making of National Languages,” Journal of Asian Studies 53 (1994): 705, 707-751

UPDATE: The comment thread on this at Language Hat is most interesting.

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How Stalin and the Cultural Revolution Preserved a Chinese Tradition

In the 16 & 23 February issue of The New Yorker, Peter Hessler’s “Letter From China” (not available online) hints at how close the PRC came to abandoning Chinese characters for an alphabet.

In 1936, as the Communists were gaining power, Mao Zedong told an American journalist that alphabetization was inevitable. When Mao finally took control of China, in 1949, many expected the government to replace characters with Latin letters, as Vietnam had done earlier in the century. But in the summer of 1950 Mao handed down a surprise decision, calling for linguists to develop a “national-in-form” alphabet–a new writing system, whose letters would be distinctively Chinese.

John DeFrancis, a linguist at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, has studied this period, and he told me that the inspiration for Mao’s order has always been a mystery. DeFrancis recommended that I speak with Zhou Yougang, a ninety-seven-year-old linguist who had worked on the writing reform committee … [which] considered more than two thousand proposed writing systems. Some were derived entirely from Chinese; others used Latin or Cyrillic alphabets; a few combined fragments of Chinese characters with foreign letters. There were Chinese alphabets in Arabic…. In 1955, the committee narrowed the field to six alphabetic finalists: Latin, Cyrillic, and four completely new “Chinese” systems….

In 1956, Mao and other leaders concluded that the Chinese alphabets weren’t yet usable. They sanctioned the Latin scheme, known as Pinyin, for use in early education and other special purposes, but not as a replacement script. And they decided to simplify a number of Chinese characters. This was described as an “initial reform stage”: Mao, it seems, wanted more time to consider the options.

But writing reform soon became entangled in politics. In April of 1957, the Communist Party launched the Hundred Flowers campaign, during which intellectuals were invited to speak their minds, however critical…. Then, after only five weeks, Mao abruptly terminated the … campaign. By the end of the year, more than three hundred thousand intellectuals had been labelled Rightists….

I asked Zhou what had happened to the four Chinese alphabets, and he told me that all records had apparently been destroyed. “It was easy to lose things like that during the Cultural Revolution,” he said.

The Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 to 1976, represents the climax of China’s disillusionment with its traditions. But, ironically, the upheaval helped protect the characters. When the chaos finally ended, the Chinese no longer had an appetite for radical cultural change, and both the public and the government rejected further attempts at writing reform. Today, almost nobody advocates alphabetization, and Zhou predicts that China won’t give up its characters for at least another century, if ever. Even the simplificiation didn’t get very far. It reduced the number of brushstrokes that make up some of the most commonly used characters, but the principles of the writing system remain the same. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of converting an English word like “through” to “thru.” Zhou and others believe that simplification hasn’t had a significant effect on improving literacy rates. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and many overseas Chinese communities don’t use the simplified system, and traditionalists despise them.

In hindsight, Mao’s 1950 command doomed writing reform; without the search for a national-in-form alphabet, China likely would have adopted Latin script before the Cultural Revolution. When I asked about Mao, Zhou said that the turning point was the Chairman’s first state visit to the Soviet Union, in 1949. “Mao asked Stalin for advice about writing reform,” Zhou said. “Stalin told him, ‘You’re a great country, and you should have your own Chinese form of writing. You shouldn’t simply use the Latin alphabet.’ That’s why Mao wanted a national-in-form alphabet.”

NOTE: The impetus to blog this (after losing track of it) came from reading a post on the fascinating blog Muninn (discovered via Language Hat) about Chinese character reform in Taiwan, where both Chiang Kai-shek and a solid majority of Taiwanese favored it as late as 1954. I wonder if it was abruptly abandoned precisely because Mao adopted it after letting alphabetization–and any intellectuals who opined about it–fall by the wayside.

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The Perpetually Invisible Crisis in Darfur, Western Sudan

On 26 July 1985, The Times (of London) reporter Paul Vallely wrote a story about aid efforts in western Sudan entitled “Riding the Lifeline Lorry.” Here’s what Robert Kaplan has to say about it in his book, Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea (Vintage, 2003): “To my mind, it was the best single feature story I ever read about the famine. It’s too bad the U.S. public never got to see it.” And here’s Kaplan’s retelling of the story in his chapter entitled “Aid: Rolling the Rock of Sisyphus” (pp. 195-196).

For weeks the requests had been trickling into the old British garrison post of El Geneina, the furthermost town in the west of Sudan….

These particular requests came from the chief of police at Beida, through the cursive handwriting of the little border town’s scribe. At first they were for food. Then last week came a plea for shrouds.

“We have nothing in which to bury our dead, and 15 children died yesterday,” said the letter addressed to Peter Verney, the Save the Children (SCF) representative in Geneina.

As Vallely related the story, so little food was coming into Geneina from Khartoum on account of floods and other difficulties that there was not enough to send onward to Beida, about fifty miles south along Sudan’s western border with Chad. Those dying of starvation in Beida were all Chadian refugees, and the local Sudanese commissioner Sherife was not cooperating in the release of emergency grain. Finally, however, Verney managed to secure 150 sacks of food and seed. Then the head of the Sudanese haulage firm doubled and tripled the price. Verney did not have enough cash on hand to pay for the lorry and in desperation went to the local army brigadier in Geneina, Ibrahim Muhammad, who told Verney, “This is the situation everywhere. No food is reaching the extremities. It reaches the hands but not the fingers. Of course you can have one of my trucks.

Three hours after leaving Geneina for Beida, the food lorry got caught in a torrential rain. Vallely and the driver whom Verney had rented were stuck for nine hours in the mud; sixty peasants helped to dig the two men out.

It was two days before we reached Beida…. We were welcomed by Muhammad Ahmed Bashir, the local chief of police. Over sweet tea on the rafia mat before his office he was effusive in his thanks for the food.

“I will put it straight into the store with the other food.” The other food? “Yes, we already have 140 bags in store but we have had no authority from Sherife or his nephew Ali Mansour to release it.”

Because of Sudanese bureaucracy, Chadians were starving to death with food only a few feet away. The next day, Ali Mansour, the executive officer of the rural council, agreed to distribute the grain. “You will take my photograph,” he said to a news agency photographer with Vallely. “This will be good for me.”

The distribution caused a riot among the refugees. Sudanese soldiers responded by lashing at the crowd with whips in all directions. The news agency photographer started snapping away, even though editors had become bored with pictures of starving Africans. The photographer confided to Vallely that starving Africans being whipped had novelty value that would result in his pictures gaining wide distribution. Sure enough, the photos of the riots in Beida were picked up in Europe.

Nearly two decades later, we’re still “rolling the rock of Sisyphus.” The Washington Post editorialized on 3 April 2004:

ACCORDING TO THE United Nations, one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises now afflicts a Muslim people who face a horrific campaign of ethnic cleansing driven by massacre, rape and looting. These horrors are unfolding not, as Arab governments and satellite channels might have it, in Iraq or the Palestinian territories, but in Sudan, a member of the Arab League. Maybe because there are no Westerners or Israelis to be blamed, the crisis in Darfur, in northwestern Sudan, has commanded hardly any international attention. Though it has been going on for 14 months, the U.N. Security Council acted on it for the first time yesterday, and then only by issuing a weak president’s statement. More intervention is needed, and urgently.

The victims of the ongoing war crimes are non-Arab African people who have lived in the Darfur region for centuries. In February 2003, as the Sudanese government began to negotiate a peace agreement with rebel movements representing the non-Arab peoples of the south, an insurgent movement appeared in Darfur demanding more government resources and power-sharing. The Khartoum-based government responded by sending troops and by enlisting Arab tribes in the region as allies. Early this year, after the breakdown of a cease-fire, it launched a scorched-earth offensive in the region that, according to the United Nations and human rights groups, has taken on the character of an ethnic war.

According to a report issued this week by Human Rights Watch, “the government of Sudan and allied Arab militia, called janjaweed, are implementing a strategy of ethnic-based murder, rape and forcible displacement of civilians.” More than 750,000 people have been forced from their homes, and 100,000 more have fled across the border to neighboring Chad, an area of desperate poverty and little water. The dead number in the tens of thousands, though no one knows for sure how many: Humanitarian aid groups have had almost no access to the Darfur region.

For years Sudan’s government, a dictatorship headed by Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir, waged a similarly ruthless campaign against the rebellious south. At last, under considerable international pressure — much of it from the Bush administration — it agreed to a cease-fire and negotiations that now inch toward a peace settlement. Some of the governments that pushed for that accord are concerned the deal may be disrupted if the international community also presses Mr. Bashir about Darfur. They should take a lesson from the 10th anniversary this month of the Rwandan genocide, which the United Nations failed to stop: Political and diplomatic calculations should never prevent the international community from intervening to stop mass murder.

As usual, the best coverage for this type of out-of-the-way story is not in the international media, but in blogs such as Head Heeb, who has been assiduous in covering Darfur: on 21 April, 18 April, 25 March, 19 March, 16 February, 10 February, 4 February, 30 January, 7 January, and elsewhere.

UPDATE: Foreign Dispatches offers a blistering assessment of the statement by the U.N. “Human Rights” Commission on this tragedy.

Absolutely incredible! Instead of condemning Sudanese actions, the UN “Human Rights” Commission actually decided on a message of solidarity with the Sudanese government! …

UPDATE: This VOA article entitled “Human Rights Commission Losing Credibility, NGOs Warn” is also worth reading; frankly, I’d say the Human Rights Commission and the parent UN lost their credibility a very long time ago, and only now are the NGOs belatedly waking up to that reality.

UPDATE, 4 May 2004: Sudan has just been re-elected to the UN “Human Rights” Commission. What purpose does this serve?

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A Growing Malaria Problem

In honor of Earth Day, last night’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS showed a segment about the possible danger of global temperatures rising enough to permit bird malaria to wipe out unique endangered species at higher elevations in Hawai‘i. As one who has experienced repeated bouts of human malaria (P. vivax, not the dreaded P. falciparum variety), I thought I might mark the occasion by reminding readers yet again that the human malaria problem is already here and growing fast, and that we do not lack the means to fight it, if we are persistent and careful and rethink old shibboleths about DDT.

Most of what Ellen Ruppel Shell wrote about the Resurgence of a Deadly Disease in The Atlantic back in 1997 still applies.

All but obliterated in the developed world half a century ago, and suppressed in the Third World in the 1950s and 1960s [thanks to DDT!], malaria has since returned in full force to North Africa, India, Southeast Asia, China, South America, and the Caribbean. Worldwide incidence of the disease has quadrupled in the past five years, and resistance to available drugs for prevention and treatment is growing rapidly. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s population lives in regions where malaria is endemic, and millions more live in areas that are encountering the disease for the first time in decades….

Nonetheless, the United States has shown little interest in the problem. Malaria is transferable in blood, yet it is not screened for in the American blood supply. The country’s Anopheles mosquito population has gone unmonitored for more than fifty years. “We just don’t know the potential for transmission,” says John Beier, a professor of tropical medicine at Tulane University. Temperature and humidity may well be among the most important factors in the rate of spread of the disease, yet we have only a vague notion of what effect, if any, climate change will have on malaria transmission — if, for example, global warming can be expected to bring malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases north from Mexico. Most Americans seem to think the disease has been eradicated or, at worst, is confined to the tropics. In fact there are few places on earth that cannot sustain a malaria epidemic.

A much more iconoclastic take on Earth Day appeared in the San Francisico Chronicle, coauthored by Patrick Moore, apostate cofounder of Greenpeace who left to become chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit, and Nick Schulz, editor of

Ironically, the very movement that made its presence felt in rallies across this country in 1970 and that thrives in the developed world today must shoulder much of the blame for the developing world’s sorry state. It is impeding both economic and environmental progress due to an agenda that is anti-development, anti-technology and, in the final analysis, anti-human.

For example, today’s eco-activists boast that they have blocked more than 200 hydroelectric projects in the developing world over the past two decades. It is true that hydro power has a large ecological footprint, creating lakes and filling valleys. But it is a renewable energy that makes it possible to read after the sun goes down, boosting literacy in poor areas. It provides controlled irrigation for better crop yields and mitigates flooding and the loss of life and property damage….

Or consider that the pesticide DDT has been proven to radically reduce malaria in South Africa, while activist groups such as the World Wildlife Fund push for a total ban on its use. It only needs to be sprayed inside houses, where it poses no threat to the external environment, to make it effective. Despite the ability to stop malaria in its tracks with DDT — as the United States had already done before its use was prohibited here — 300 million people will become infected every year and at least 1 million will die, according to the World Health Organization.

UPDATE: Abiola Lapite’s Foreign Dispatches and Virginia Postrel’s Dynamist blog jumped on this story before I did: Abiola on 11 April (where I found the NYT article); Postrel on 19, 20, 21, and again on 21 April (where I found the Atlantic article).

UPDATE 2: Now the Washington Post has weighed in.

A large portion of the blame for the increased incidence of malaria can be laid at the feet of WHO itself, as well as other aid agencies such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

These agencies’ mosquito-prevention and drug-treatment policies in Africa are in tatters. A group of prominent malaria experts has even charged the agencies with malpractice for their reluctance to supply new, more expensive and better drugs for treatment [like artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs)], and for sticking instead with essentially ineffective medicines [like chloroquine and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine]. But if WHO and its partners are serious about reducing the malaria threat, they need to reconsider their approach and start using all the weapons available to combat malaria — and soon.

While AIDS gets all the attention for destroying the young adults of Africa, few Westerners are aware that malaria kills more children than any other disease….

Preventing malaria means creating a barrier between the mosquito, which is the carrier of the malarial parasite, and the parasite’s primary host — humans. Since malarial mosquitoes bite only between dusk and dawn, WHO’s campaign has promoted bed nets, which can protect those who sleep beneath them. But this policy has had limited success. Nets for a whole family are expensive, and mosquitoes can take many blood meals between dusk and bedtime. Also, nets work best if treated with insecticide. But a recent survey in Kenya found that 21 percent of households had one single bed net, and only 5.6 percent of these were insecticide-treated. Moreover, mosquitoes are growing resistant to the type of insecticide with which the nets are coated.

By contrast, South Africa — which is rich enough to fund its own public health programs and doesn’t need to rely on WHO’s largess — has reduced malaria transmission by 90 percent in recent years, by a combination of returning to an old insecticide and investing in a new drug. It chose to spray insecticides, especially DDT, on the inside walls of dwellings to prevent mosquitoes from entering the buildings. This protects everyone inside all the time, not just when people might be sleeping.

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Indonesia’s Golkar Nominates Possible War Criminal for President

Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, UPI Business Correspondent, reports a troubling development for this summer’s Indonesian presidential elections:

SINGAPORE, April 21 (UPI) — The nomination of General Wiranto as presidential candidate for the leading party in the Indonesian general election is adding a new layer of uncertainties for investors in Indonesia.

Wiranto faces a U.N. indictment for crimes against humanity and is partly responsible for a U.S. congressional ban on military ties with Jakarta after mass killings by Indonesian troops in East Timor in 1999.

But on Tuesday, the retired general won the nomination of the Golkar party (former President Suharto’s party), pushing ahead of expected winner Akbar Tandjung, the party’s chairman. He won by promising “strong leadership” and an end to corruption….

Golkar is leading the results of April 5 voting, with 21.1 percent of the vote, followed by President Megawati’s party Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) with 19.5 percent, Former president Wahid’s party the National Awakening Party (PKB) with 11.89 percent, the Islamic party of Vice-President Hamzah Haz’s United Development Party (PPP) with 8.33 percent and the newly formed party of retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Democratic Party (PD), with 7.52 percent.

But, a survey by London-based Taylor Nelson Sofres indicated that 28 percent of the surveyed voters will chose Susilo as president.

For more on the legislative election results, see below.

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