Monthly Archives: October 2007

Khanya on African Anglicans and Homosexuality

Through a pingback to my WordPress blog, which attracts a lot more readers interested in religion than my older mirror site on Blogspot thanks to WordPress’s tag aggregator, I discovered Khanya, a South African blogger who converted from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy, and who remains hard to pigeonhole politically. (That last characteristic I find most refreshing.) Khanya notes a very telling piece of historical perspective on African Anglican attitudes toward homosexuality, a perspective that seems little understood by many Anglicans outside Africa (or anybody else):

I’ve been watching from the sidelines as the Anglican Communion is tearing itself apart over homosexuality. The debate seems to generate more heat than light, and both sides seem to be talking past each other.

It seems to be a war of polemical slogans. The African “intransigence” has provoked a storm of racist bigotry in the Western homosexual lobby, with some bloggers being quite free with racist insults. The West [in turn] is accused of immorality and decadence, but very few have looked at the deeper issues.

An exception to this is a piece by Rod Dreher, St Charles Langa and African homosexuality, which looks at some of the missiological underpinnings of the African attitudes at least. Rod Dreher in turn quotes an article [in TNR] by [noted scholar of religious history] Philip Jenkins, in which he says

The Muslim context helps explain the sensitivity of gay issues in one other key respect. In the region later known as Uganda, Christianity first arrived in the 1870s, when the area was already under Muslim influence and a hunting ground for Arab slave-raiders. The king of Buganda had adopted Arab customs of pederasty, and he expected the young men of his court to submit to his demands. But a growing number of Christian courtiers and pages refused to participate, despite his threats, and an enraged king launched a persecution that resulted in hundreds of martyrdoms: On a single day, some 30 Bugandans were burned alive. Yet the area’s churches flourished, and, eventually, the British expelled the Arab slavers. That foundation story remains well-known in the region, and it intertwines Christianity with resistance to tyranny and Muslim imperialism–both symbolized by sexual deviance. Reinforcing such memories are more recent experiences with Muslim tyrants, such as Idi Amin, whose victims included the head of his country’s Anglican Church. For many Africans, then, sexual unorthodoxy has implications that are at once un-Christian, anti-national, and oppressive….

South African Anglicans seem to have been fairly neutral in the battles being waged elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, and the account above gives a lot less information than that of Philip Jenkins. The protagonists in the Anglican battle, on the African side, seem to be Uganda and Nigeria, both countries on the border of Muslim and Christian Africa. South Africa is far removed from the tensions in those countries.

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Filed under Nigeria, religion, U.K., U.S., Uganda

Judt on Belgian Identity Politics

From Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt (Penguin, 2005), pp. 708-712:

Belgium, in short, combined all the ingredients of nationalist and separatist movements across Europe: an ancient territorial division reinforced by an equally venerable and seemingly insuperable linguistic gulf (whereas many residents of the Dutch-speaking regions have at least a passive acquaintance with French, most Walloons speak no Dutch) and underpinned by stark economic contrasts. And there was a further complication: for most of Belgium’s short history the impoverished communities of rural Flanders had been dominated by their urban, industrialized, French-speaking Walloon compatriots. Flemish nationalism had been shaped by resentment at the obligation to use French, at the French-speakers’ apparent monopoly of power and influence, at the francophone elite’s arrogation to itself of all the levers of cultural and political authority.

Flemish nationalists, then, had traditionally taken for themselves a role comparable to that of Slovaks in pre-divorce Czechoslovakia—even to the extent of actively collaborating with the occupiers during World War Two in the forlorn hope of some crumbs of separatist autonomy from the Nazi table. But by the 1960s the economic roles had been reversed: Flanders was now presented by its nationalist politicians not in the image of backward, under-privileged Slovakia but rather as Slovenia (or—as they might prefer—Lombardy): a dynamic modern nation trapped in an anachronistic and dysfunctional state.

These two self-ascribed identities—repressed linguistic minority and frustrated economic dynamo—were now both woven into the fabric of Flemish separatist politics, such that even after the old injustices had been swept away and the Dutch-speaking provinces of the north had long since won the right to the use of their own language in public affairs, the remembered resentments and slights simply attached themselves to new concerns instead, bequeathing to Belgian public policy debates an intensity—and a venom—which the issues alone could never explain.

One of the crucial symbolic moments in the ‘language war’ came in the Sixties—fully half a century after Dutch had been officially approved for use in Flemish schools, courts and local government, and four decades after its use there was made mandatory—when Dutch-speaking students at the University of Leuven (Louvain) objected to the presence of French-speaking professors at a university situated within the Dutch-speaking province of Flanders-Brabant. Marching to the slogan of ‘Walen buiten!’ (‘Walloons Out!’) they succeeded in breaking apart the university, whose francophone members headed south into French-speaking Brabant-Wallon and established there the University of Louvain-la-Neuve (in due course the university library, too, was divided and its holdings redistributed, to mutual disadvantage).

The dramatic events at Leuven—a curiously parochial and chauvinist echo of contemporary student protests elsewhere—brought down a government and led directly to a series of constitutional revisions (seven in all) over the course of the ensuing thirty years. Although devised by moderate politicians as concessions to satisfy the demands of the separatists,the institutional re-arrangements of Belgium were always understood by the latter as mere stepping stones on the road to ultimate divorce. In the end neither side quite achieved its aims, but they did come close to dismantling the Belgian unitary state.

The outcome was byzantine in its complexity. Belgium was sub-divided into three ‘Regions’: Flanders, Wallonia, and ‘Brussels-Capital’, each with its own elected parliament (in addition to the national parliament). Then there were the three formally instituted ‘Communities’: the Dutch-speaking, the French-speaking, and the German-speaking (the latter representing the approximately 65,000 German speakers who live in eastern Wallonia near the German border). The communities, too, were assigned their own parliaments.

The regions and the linguistic communities don’t exactly correspond—there are German speakers in Wallonia and a number of French-speaking towns (or parts of towns) within Flanders. Special privileges, concessions, and protections were established for all of these, a continuing source of resentment on all sides. Two of the regions, Flanders and Wallonia, are effectively unilingual, with the exceptions noted. Brussels was pronounced officially bilingual, even though at least 85 percent of the population speaks French.

In addition to the regional and linguistic communities, Belgium was also divided into ten provinces (five each in Flanders and Wallonia). These, too, were assigned administrative and governing functions. But in the course of the various constitutional revisions real authority came increasingly to lie either with the region (in matters of urbanism, environment, the economy, public works, transport and external commerce) or the linguistic community (education, language) culture and some social services).

The outcome of all these changes was comically cumbersome. Linguistic correctness (and the constitution) now required, for example, that all national governments, whatever their political color, be ‘balanced’ between Dutch- and French-speaking ministers, with the prime minister the only one who has to be bilingual (and who is therefore typically from Flanders). Linguistic equality on the Cour d’Arbitrage (Constitutional Court) was similarly mandated, with the presidency alternating annually across the language barrier. In Brussels, the four members of the executive of the capital region would henceforth sit together (and speak in the language of their choice) to decide matters of common concern; but for Flemish or Francophone ‘community’ affairs they would sit separately, two by two.

As a consequence Belgium was no longer one, or even two, states but an uneven quilt of overlapping and duplicating authorities. To form a government was difficult: it required multi-party deals within and across regions, ‘symmetry’ between national, regional, community, provincial, and local party coalitions, a working majority in both major language groups, and linguistic parity at every political and administrative level. And when a government was formed it had little initiative: even foreign policy—in theory one of the last remaining responsibilities of the national government—was effectively in the hands of the regions, since for contemporary Belgium it mostly means foreign trade agreements and these are a regional prerogative.

The politics of this constitutional upheaval were just as convoluted as the institutional reforms themselves. On the Flemish side, extreme nationalist and separatist parties emerged to press for the changes and benefit from the new opportunities to which they gave rise. When the Vlaams Blok, spiritual heir to the wartime ultranationalists, rose to become the leading party in Antwerp and some Dutch-speaking suburbs north of Brussels, the more traditional Dutch-speaking parties felt obliged to adopt more sectarian positions in order to compete.

Similarly, in Wallonia and Brussels, politicians from the French-speaking mainstream parties adopted a harder ‘communitarian’ line, the better to accommodate Walloon voters who resented Flemish domination of the political agenda. As a result, all the mainstream parties were eventually forced to split along linguistic and community lines: in Belgium the Christian Democrats (since 1968), the Liberals (since 1972), and the Socialists (since 1978) all exist in duplicate, with one party of each type for each linguistic community. The inevitable result was a further deepening of the rift between the communities, as politicians now addressed only their own ‘kind’.*

*The main newspapers, Le Soir and De Standaard, have almost no readers outside the French- and Dutch-speaking communities, respectively. As a result, neither takes much trouble to report news from the other half of the country. When someone speaks Dutch on Walloon television (and vice versa) subtitles are provided. Even the automatic information boards on interregional trains switch back and forth between Dutch and French (or to both, in the case of Brussels) as they cross regional frontiers. It is only partly a jest to say that English is now the common language of Belgium.

Wow. It’s almost as if Belgium has been governed by a bunch of enlightened North American university administrators with ever-expanding budgets.

UPDATE: Judt provides useful background to the report last month by Elaine Sciolino in the New York Times entitled Calls for Breakup Grow Ever Louder, filed in the wake of a celebration of “100 dagen belgische Chaos” by the Flemish Bloc.

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Filed under Belgium, economics, language, nationalism

Interview with the Indonesian Archimandrite

Ever wonder about the Orthodox Church in Indonesia? Yeah, me neither. But I just came across this interview with Archimandrite Daniel D. B. Byantoro of the Gereja Ortodoks Indonesia. Here’s the lead-in (with a few editorial corrections) and one excerpt about the Archimandrite’s theological approach in Indonesia:

Orthodoxy was first established in Indonesia in Batavia, Java, as a parish of the Harbin Diocese in accordance with the Ukase of the Harbin Diocesan Council of November 23, 1934, № 1559. In the late 1940s, the parish was under the omophorion of Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco. Unfortunately, after the Dutch relinquished their powers to the local leadership, many of the Russian parishioners fled during this period of civil unrest, and eventually the parish closed in the early 1950s, when its rector Fr Vasily immigrated to the USA.

The following is an online interview conducted by with Fr. Dionysios (and his wife Presbytera Artemia Rita), one of the six newly ordained priests in Indonesia….

Theologically speaking, Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro also used the existing thought patterns of Indonesian culture to package Orthodox teaching within the Indonesian mental set up. Just as the Church Fathers had to face Greek paganism, Judaism, and Gnosticism in order to present the Gospel intelligibly to ancient peoples, Orthodox theology faces similar challenges in the context of the Indonesian mission.

Those challenges are:

  1. The Islamic strand that has similarities with Judaism.
  2. The Hindu-Buddhistic strand that has similarities with Greek paganism.
  3. The Javanese-mystical strand called “Kebatinan” (the “Esoteric Belief”) that has similarities to Gnosticism. (It is a blend of ancient shamanistic-animism on the one hand and Hindu-Buddhistic mysticism and Islamic Sufism on the other, and is divided into many mystical denominations and groups, just like Gnosticism was.)
  4. The secularistic-materialistic strand of the modern world.

The first three strands have made the Indonesian people intensely religious. Into this religious and theological climate, the Patristic approach to ancient Greek paganism, Judaism and Gnosticism has provided, for the present writer, a paradigm to deal with all those strands inherent in Indonesian culture. In this regard, Orthodoxy must build trust among religions in Indonesia before it can have any significant influence. By maintaining a harmonious relationship with other religions existing in the country, Orthodoxy can contribute toward combating the pernicious influence of materialistic secularism.

In term of Orthodox religious practices, there are religious practices that cannot be described as belonging to any particular religion in Indonesian culture. They are practiced all over Indonesia, and although they have many different names and some slight variations in practice, they basically have the same pattern. These practices include fasting, ascetic labor, communal meals, prayer for the dead, and the keeping of relics. Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro had to deal with these cultural religious practices carefully, in order that Orthodoxy be acceptable to the Indonesian people.

For example, the practice of sitting on the floor for religious purposes is adopted in the worship of the Church in Indonesia. “Coned rice” instead of kolyva is used for commemorating the dead, since Indonesians do not eat bread as their main staple and do not grow wheat. The prayer of the Trisagion is used to replace the traditional Indonesian practice of honoring departed ancestors. Women wear veils in the Church, as was traditionally done by Orthodox people, but also conforms to the idea of the pious woman in the Indonesian culture. Icons and relics, with a right Orthodox and biblical understanding, have replaced amulets and heirlooms. Communal meals are usually done during festivities in the Church, as well as during Lent, where everybody breaks their fast together in the Church after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. Some cultural symbolism has been adopted as well for the usage of the Church, such as the usage of young coconut leaves for decorating the Church building during festivals and feasts.

via Slainte, which looks to be an interesting new blog


Filed under China, Indonesia, religion, Russia

Multilingual Name Changes in the Bonin Islands

From English on the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands, by Daniel Long (Duke U. Press, 2007; Publication of the American Dialect Society, no. 91; Supplement to American Speech, vol. 81), pp. 125-128

There is something of a misconception among Japanese—or at least among that minute percentage of the population that has any knowledge of the subject—that the Westerners of Ogasawara acquired Japanese family names when they were naturalized as Japanese citizens back in the early Meiji era. This is not true….

When the original inhabitants of the islands began to be naturalized in 1877, only a few took Japanified names. Among these was the almost legendary German figure Frederick Rohlfs (1823–98), who settled on Hahajima and aided subsequent Japanese arrivals when they were on the verge of starvation. He was commonly called “Rose,” probably because this is how his name sounded to Japanese listeners when pronounced by English speakers. His legal Japanese name was composed of five kanji (Sino-Japanese) characters chosen strictly for their pronunciation. Although they convey no coherent meaning, when combined the characters (pronounced as Rōsu Rarufu) sounded something like the two pronunciations of his family name. Rohlfs was in the minority, however; most of the Westerners (referred to as kikajin ‘naturalized people’ in those days) used katakana renderings of their own Western family names as the official names in their koseki, or Official Lineage Registries. These were not Japanese family names, nor Japanified versions of their Western names, but simply adaptations of them to the Japanese phonology and representations of them in the Japanese script (e.g., Gilley became Gērē, Savory became Sēborē, Webb became Uebu, Washington became Washinton, Gonzales became Gonzaresu).

The usage of kata[ka]na names continued for a couple of generations. It was not until the Sōshi Kaimei (創氏改名‘Establishment of Family Names and Alteration in Given Names’) law that people with non-Japanese surnames were forced to change them. This 1940 law is mainly known for its effect on the millions of colonized people in Korea, but it also affected the Bonin Islanders. Elderly islanders today recall choosing their own last names, often hurriedly and quite randomly….

Some of the islanders chose kanji characters that either sounded like their original names or expressed some significant meaning. The Savorys became Sebori (瀬堀[‘rapids-ditch’]), and the Ackermans, the Akaman (赤満 [‘red-full’) family. The Webbs chose characters that could be read as Uebu (上部 [‘upper-part’]) (though the name is pronounced Uwabe today). Other families decided on a name with some symbolic value. The Gilleys, proud of the “South Sea Islander” part of their roots, chose the name Minami (南 ‘lit. south’). Other families abandoned the idea of names in which either the sound or the meaning of the kanji held significance. In most cases, different family names were chosen by distant branches of the family tree, so that the Gonzales family descendants became either Ogasawara (小笠原 [‘little-hatshade-field’]) or Kishi (岸 ‘shore’).

During the war years, Westerners gave their children Japanese names. Children born after World War II (during the U.S. Navy period) were given only English names, and they use these today—written in katakana—as their official Japanese names.

Following the reversion to Japan, Westerners adopted the practice of giving Japanese names—written in kanji—to their children, but even here, we find cases of islanders identifying with their cultural roots. One case of this is Nasa Sēborē (セーボレー那沙), born in the 1980s, whose name, although written in kanji, is an homage to his ancestor Nathaniel (pronounced “Nasanieru” in Japanese).

Some of the Westerners legally changed their surnames back (from Japanese ones forced upon them in 1941) to their older katakana names following the changes in the Japanese law in the 1980s.

In many cases, a single individual has possessed four legal names in the span of his or her life. A case in point is Able Savory. He was born Sēborē Ēburu (in katakana, セーボレーエーブル), was forced to changed his name to Sebori Eiichi (in kanji, 瀬堀栄一) at the start of the war, and used Able Savory (in the Roman alphabet) during the Navy Era. After the 1968 reversion, he reverted to his wartime kanji family name, but used the katakana “first name” given to him at birth, resulting in the name Sebori Ēburu. In the 1980s, when some of the Savory clan changed their surname back to the katakana Sēborē, he decided four names in one lifetime were enough and retained the kanji surname.

In Ogasawara today, one finds many interesting name-related phenomena. Nicknames—in both Japanese and English—are the norm. Then, most of the Westerners have two names; many have both Japanese and English surnames and given names, which means there often are at least five or six ways to refer to most Westerners.

This reminds me my favorite comment thread ever on Language Hat, in reaction to a post about a poem entitled Peaches in Cluj.


Filed under anglosphere, Japan, Korea, language

A Father Confessor Researcher in Ukraine

Saturday’s New York Times carries a fascinating report by Elaine Sciolino on a remarkable research project undertaken by a priest who also doubles as a father confessor to the historical actors whose belated confessions he elicits.

The Nazis killed nearly 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine after their invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. But with few exceptions, most notably the 1941 slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews in the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, much of that history has gone untold.

Knocking on doors, unannounced, Father Desbois, 52, seeks to unlock the memories of Ukrainian villagers the way he might take confessions one by one in church.

“At first, sometimes, people don’t believe I’m a priest,” said Father Desbois in an interview this week. “I have to use simple words and listen to these horrors — without any judgment. I cannot react to the horrors that pour out. If I react, the stories will stop.”

Over four years, Father Desbois has videotaped more than 700 interviews with witnesses and bystanders and has identified more than 600 common graves of Jews, most of them previously unknown. He also has gathered material evidence of the execution of Jews from 1941 to 1944, the “Holocaust of bullets” as it is called.

Often his subjects ask Father Desbois to stay for a meal and to pray, as if to somehow bless their acts of remembrance. He does not judge those who were assigned to carry out tasks for the Nazis, and Holocaust scholars say that is one reason he is so effective….

Father Desbois became haunted by the history of the Nazis in Ukraine as a child growing up on the family farm in the Bresse region of eastern France. His paternal grandfather, who was deported to a prison camp for French soldiers in Rava-Ruska, on the Ukrainian side of the Polish border, told the family nothing about the experience. But he confessed to his relentlessly curious grandson, “For us it was bad, for ‘others’ it was worse.”…

To verify witnesses’ testimony, Father Desbois relies heavily on a huge archive of Soviet-era documents housed in the Holocaust museum in Washington, as well as German trial archives. He registers an execution or a grave site only after obtaining three independent accounts from witnesses.

Only one-third of Ukrainian territory has been covered so far, and it will take several more years to finish the research. A notice at the exit of the Paris exhibit asks that any visitor with information about victims of Nazi atrocities in Ukraine leave a note or send an e-mail message.

“People talk as if these things happened yesterday, as if 60 years didn’t exist,” Father Desbois said. “Some ask, ‘Why are you coming so late? We have been waiting for you.’”


Filed under religion, Ukraine, war

Wordcatcher Tales: Katatsumuri, Otamajakushi

Which word is more poetic? Snail or tadpole? Escargot ou têtard? Melc sau mormoloc? Schnecke oder Kaulquappe? (Jeez!) Much depends on the poetic traditions of the language in which one is writing—whether rhyme and meter are important, for instance.

What got me wondering was the original Japanese version of that famous haiku by Kobayashi Issa:

katatsuburi soro-soro nobore fuji no yama
‘Snail, slowly climb Fuji’s mountain!’

(You may prefer R.H. Blyth‘s translation: “O snail / Climb Mount Fuji, / But slowly, slowly!”)

The more common form for ‘snail’ is katatsumuri, so in Japanese the choice offered above is: Katatsumuri ka? Otamajakushi ka?

One thing katatsumuri has going for it is its five syllables (or moras), perfect for an opening or closing line of haiku. (Snails feature in 53 out of Issa’s 8000 haiku.) But snails seem to lack any specific seasonal association, at least according to Yamamoto Kenkichi’s The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words.

Otamajakushi ‘tadpole’, on the other hand, has good seasonal associations. But its six syllables can only fit well into the middle line of haiku, with the help of a filler particle like ya. Maybe that’s why Issa wrote 166 haiku about frogs (… tobu kawazu ‘jumping frog’, … naku kawazu ‘croaking frog’, kawazu kana ‘frog …’ etc.), but apparently none about tadpoles. It’s not really that hard. Here’s one I made up.

atsumono ni / otamajakushi ya / kawazu kana

In the broth / Is it a tadpole / Or a frog …

Regardless of their poetic qualities, these two words have interesting etymologies.

お玉杓子 otamajakushi literally means a ball (otama) ladle, scoop, or rice paddle (shakushi), which well describes the shape of a tadpole. Well, okay, a giant tadpole.

蝸牛 lit. ‘snail-cow’ can be pronounced kagyū in its Sino-Japanese reading, but the kanji have no relation to the several native Japanese words for ‘snail’: katatsumuri, katatsuburi, dedemushi, dendenmushi. When I was a kid, I learned dendenmushi, but I had forgotten whether it meant ‘snail’ or ‘caterpillar’. If I had to guess at the native Japanese etymologies for the two principal words for ‘snail’, I would propose that dendenmushi comes from dandan ‘little by little’ + mushi ‘bug’ (i.e., a slow-moving creepy-crawly); while katatsumuri comes from kata- ‘hard’ + tsumuri ‘head’ (i.e., a hard-shelled creepy-crawly).

I await further instruction from Matt of No-sword.

UPDATE: And Matt comes through with a much more thorough and enlightening post! He finds support for the same etymology for katatsumuri (‘hard head’), but explains that de(n)de(n)mushi comes from a recent song appealing to the snail to come out (hence 出 de-) of its shell. Better yet, the latter term, the only one I had heard, seems to have arisen in Kyoto, where I spent my elementary school years.

UPDATE 2: Matt of No-sword follows up with a wonderfully clarifying post on one of the murkiest issues in contemporary herpetological poetics, the difference between two types of frogs in Japanese: the poetic kawazu and the aquatic pedestrian kaeru.

Before I repeat Matt’s far more poetic conclusion (which Language Hat has already done, dammit ribbit!), I should add that Japanese kaeru has been borrowed into at least one language in Micronesia: Yapese kaeyruu, where it seems to refer mostly to the decidedly prosaic and invasive marine toad (Bufo marinus), a species more fit for senryū than haiku.

Only three amphibians are native to the [Polynesia-Micronesia biodiversity] hotspot, and all are ranid frogs of the genus Platymantis. Two species are endemic to Fiji, the Fiji tree frog (Platymantis vitiensis) and Fiji ground frog (P. vitiana, EN), and one, the Palau frog (P. pelewensis), is endemic to Palau. All three species are related to other Platymantis species in the Solomon Islands and in New Guinea.

This explains why, of all the Micronesian dictionaries I consulted, I could only find a native word for ‘frog’ in the Palauan Dictionary: bechébech, where the unaccented e represents a schwa (uh, er sound) and the ch represents a glottal stop. (By the way, the E[uro]speranto words for ‘frog’ and ‘toad’ are rano and bufo, respectively.)

So here’s the enlightening conclusion to Matt’s follow-up frog post, which cites one of the most famous haiku of all by perhaps the most famous haiku poet of all.

古池や かはづ飛び込む 水の音
Furuike ya/ Kawazu tobikomu/ mizu no oto
Old pond/ Frog jumps in/ Sound of water

Bonus fact: Bashō was actually consciously playing with the kawazu tradition here by attributing the sound to the water rather than the frog. The frog’s implied silence, after centuries of naku kawazu [‘croaking frog’], is a crucial part of the stillness that allows the sound of water to make its impact.


Filed under Japan, language

Hawaiian Words in Bonin (Ogasawara) Speech

From English on the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands, by Daniel Long (Duke U. Press, 2007; Publication of the American Dialect Society, no. 91; Supplement to American Speech, vol. 81), pp. 65, 67:

Many words in use in the Bonins even in the late twentieth century are thought to be derived from the contact with Pacific Island languages that occurred from the 1830s until the end of the nineteenth century. Today these lexemes are used not only in the English of the Bonins, but in Ogasawara Japanese and the Ogasawara Mixed Language as well. Hawaiian words form the majority of the Oceanic-language words we find in the Bonins. Since Polynesian migration to the islands occurred only in the early history of the settlement, it seems clear that most of these words came to the island during the first half of the nineteenth century.

I’ll list some of the most straightforward examples, where the meanings and the sounds correspond most closely. The following list presents the Hawaiian word first, then its various derivatives in the Bonins, where the pronunciation has been influenced not just by Japanese and English phonology (and the lack of orthographic standards), but by varieties of Hawaiian that are now nonstandard (for instance, those that retained t in place of King Kamehameha’s k).

  • Haw. kamani, tamani ‘hardwood tree, Calophyllum inophylum’ > Bonin tamana, tamena, tremana
  • Haw. lahaina ‘type of sugarcane’ > Bonin rahaina ‘sugarcane’
  • Haw. lau hala ‘pandanus leaf’ > Bonin rawara, rawarawa, rauhara, rowara, rohara, roharo, rūwara, rohawo, lohala ‘pandanus tree’
  • Haw. moe ‘sleep’ > Bonin moe-moe, moi-moi ‘sex, copulation’
  • Haw. puhi ‘moray eel’ > Bonin puhi
  • Haw. uhu ‘parrotfish’ > Bonin ūfū, uhu
  • Haw. wiliwili ‘leguminous tree, Erythrina sandwicensis’ > Bonin biide-biide, bari-bari, uri-uri, ude-udeErythrina boninensis

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Filed under Hawai'i, Japan, language, Polynesia

Death of a Dutch Adventurer: Erik Hazelhoff

Dutch expatriate Pieter Dorsman of Peaktalk notes the death in Hawai‘i of the Java-born Dutch adventurer Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, the author of Soldier of Orange. That prompted me to begin reading an autobiography I have had sitting on my shelf for quite a while. Here are some excerpts from the chapter “To Arms for Ambon!” from In Pursuit of Life, by Erik Hazelhoff (Sutton, 2003), pp. 242-245, 250-251:

On 24 April 1950 the Ambonese and other inhabitants of a group of islands west of New Guinea proclaimed the Republic Maluku Selatan (RMS) – Republic of the South Moluccas – and declared its independence from Indonesia. They had every right to do so. The preliminary Constitution of the United States of Indonesia, Article 189, affirmed: ‘Each federal state shall be given the opportunity to accept the Constitution. In case a federal state does not accept it, they shall have the right to negotiate a special relationship with the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.’ The same article appeared word for word in the Treaty of Independence between Holland and Indonesia, and as Article 2 of the Dutch Transfer of Sovereignty Law. Both countries’ highest representatives had signed these documents.

To remove any doubt about their status, the Ambonese brought the case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which pronounced the RMS legal. The Republic – formerly United States – of Indonesia ignored the verdict and opened hostilities by throwing a sea blockade around Ambon and other major islands, vowing to wipe the new country off the map by military means. Meanwhile the RMS provisional government sent Karel Vigeleyn Nikijuluw, who had resigned from the Dutch Navy, to New York in order to seek support and recognition for the little republic from the United Nations Organization. Before April was over, Nikki – as his friends called him – appeared on our doorstep at Milton Point….

Ideals are like your children, often a pain in the neck, but they are your very own, so you can’t just dump them. You are responsible for them. The cause of the Republic Maluku Selatan, morally right, legally uncontestable, threatened by the overwhelming might of giant Indonesia backed by the limitless power of pragmatic, ill-informed Uncle Sam, was pure as gold and almost hopeless from the beginning. The Ambonese stood for everything that I had fought for in the Second World War, freedom, the right of self-determination and national identity. All they had against them was the size and location of their country, and three centuries of loyalty to the Dutch. How could I not support them? Already in 1572 William of Orange, the George Washington of the Netherlands, remarked during our desperate 80-years’ War of Independence, ‘It is not necessary to hope in order to attempt, nor need one succeed in order to persevere.’ Well. what was good enough for William the Silent was good enough for me. I told Nikijuluw he could count on me, provided it left me time to write. In answer to more specific questions, he assured me that God would show the way….

Through my contact with Vigeleyn Nikijuluw and the cause of the Ambonese I seemed to be sliding back into the past. It felt as if I were partly relinquishing control over my destiny to powers that for the last five years – the era of chaos – had kept their distance from me. It was a familiar, reassuring sensation as good things began to happen for which I myself could not possibly take credit. Judge for yourself.

At the time of the Spanish Civil War (1935–9), the proving grounds and dress rehearsal for the Second World War, a handful of British seamen in small ships regularly risked their lives – and made money – by sneaking through General Francisco Franco’s naval blockade around Spain in order to feed and supply the Loyalists, including thousands of Americans who fought in the International Brigade. The two most renowned of these, Potato Pete and Dod Orsborne, were finally intercepted by the Fascist navy. The former reputedly paid with his life, but Orsborne, cut off from friendly territory and unable to return to England, alone and with no other provisions than some leftover raw potatoes and beans, kept sailing his little craft, the Girl Pat, due west, until one fme day he hit the USA. Instantly famous, he later wrote a book, Master of the Girl Pat, that made the author with his red beard and wicked smile the darling of the radio talk shows. Through this he met, somehow but inevitably, Margaret Sangster. She telephoned us with an invitation ‘to meet this crazy Brit’; Midge took the call because I was out on the Sound discussing ways to sneak through to Ambon. That same night, the most celebrated blockade runner of the times and the world‘s only contemporary naval blockade were fused together at Park Avenue and 77th Street.

The affinity between the Dutch and the Scots is as mysterious as it is documented. In most places on earth, no matter how distant, you’ll find one or two of each, side by side in a local bar, sharing their exile experiences. From my father’s friends in Surabaya to Mauricio Pieper’s buddies in Argentina to my own RAF pals in the war, Scotsmen – and their lassies – abounded. The feisty little redheaded sailor with the Vandyke beard and a Scottish burr that could cut timber proved no exception….

[Many charming misadventures ensue.]

Dirty tricks are pulled in the dark. In the eight months that it took the Republic of Indonesia to wipe the RMS off the map, not one word about it – as far as I know – reached the American newspaper reader. At the height of the conflict 1,800 Ambonese, armed with klewangs and captured rifles, battled against almost 12,000 Indonesians equipped with rifles, light and heavy machine-guns, field artillery, armoured cars and a few light tanks, supported by reconnaissance planes, two B25s and four corvettes with 10cm cannon.

Only the extreme isolation of the war zone made it possible to keep a conflict of such dimensions out of the world press. Day after day Radio Ambon broadcast pleas for assistance, but its primitive signals were received only by the local population, by the Indonesians who did everything in their power to keep the campaign secret, and by the Dutch in nearby New Guinea who, mistrusted and discredited by their police actions, were not believed by any foreign journalist. The Ambonese were not only right, but also strictly on their own.

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Burma: Engagement Has Failed, Isolation Has Failed

I’ve posted a good bit about Burma since starting to blog almost four years ago, but I’ve been hesitant to post much now because I feel we are all little more than drive-by rubberneckers, turning our heads toward Burma just long enough to catch a glimpse of yet another passing segment in the endless video of disaster news that no one can really do much about—apart from finding a way to pin the blame on one’s favorite ideological demons, of course. Every disaster is good for blind partisans.

But a current article in Foreign Affairs seems to offer a useful retrospective on two opposing diplomatic dead-ends. Both engagement by its neighbors and isolation by more distant but powerful forces seem to have failed.

U.S. policy toward Burma is stuck. Since September 1988, the country has been run by a corrupt and repressive military junta (which renamed the country Myanmar). Soon after taking power, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), as the junta was then called, placed Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition party the National League for Democracy, under house arrest. In 1990, it allowed national elections but then ignored the National League for Democracy’s landslide victory and clung to power. Then, in the mid-1990s, amid a cresting wave of post-Cold War democratization and in response to international pressure, the SLORC released Suu Kyi. At the time, there was a sense within the country and abroad that change in Burma might be possible.

But this proved to be a false promise, and the international community could not agree on what to do next. Many Western governments, legislatures, and human rights organizations advocated applying pressure through diplomatic isolation and punitive economic sanctions. Burma’s neighbors, on the other hand, adopted a form of constructive engagement in the hope of enticing the SLORC to reform. The result was an uncoordinated array of often contradictory approaches. The United States limited its diplomatic contact with the SLORC and eventually imposed mandatory trade and investment restrictions on the regime. Europe became a vocal advocate for political reform. But most Asian states moved to expand trade, aid, and diplomatic engagement with the junta, most notably by granting Burma full membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997.

A decade later, the verdict is in: neither sanctions nor constructive engagement has worked. If anything, Burma has evolved from being an antidemocratic embarrassment and humanitarian disaster to being a serious threat to the security of its neighbors. But despite the mounting danger, many in the United States and the international community are still mired in the old sanctions-versus-engagement battle….

If ASEAN and Japan are critical components of any international approach to Burma, China and India could be the greatest obstacles to efforts to induce reform in the country. China has many interests in Burma. Over the past 15 years, it has developed deep political and economic relations with Burma, largely through billions of dollars in trade and investment and more than a billion dollars’ worth of weapons sales. It enjoys important military benefits, including access to ports and listening posts, which allow its armed forces to monitor naval and other military activities around the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea. To feed its insatiable appetite for energy, it also seeks preferential deals for access to Burma’s oil and gas reserves….

It will also be a challenge getting India on board. Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trumpeting of democratic values, India has actually become more reticent when it comes to Burma in recent years. This is particularly regrettable considering that Congress was one of the Burmese democratic opposition’s strongest supporters during much of the 1990s and that Suu Kyi continues to cite Mohandas Gandhi as a model for nonviolent resistance. The change occurred during the past decade, after New Delhi detected that China’s political and military influence in Burma was filling the void left by the international community’s deliberate isolation of the junta. Like China, India is hungry for natural gas and other resources and is eager to build a road network through Burma that would expand its trade with ASEAN. As a result, it has attempted to match China step for step as an economic and military partner of the SPDC, providing tanks, light artillery, reconnaissance and patrol aircraft, and small arms; India is now Burma’s fourth-largest trading partner. Singh’s government has also fallen for the junta’s blackmail over cross-border drug and arms trafficking and has preferred to give it military and economic assistance rather than let Burma become a safe haven for insurgents active in India’s troubled northeastern region….

Given the differing perspectives and interests of these nations, a new multilateral initiative on Burma cannot be based on a single, uniform approach. Sanctions policies will need to coexist with various forms of engagement, and it will be necessary to coordinate all of these measures toward the common end of encouraging reform, reconciliation, and ultimately the return of democracy. To succeed, the region’s major players will need to work together.

Fat chance of that happening, I’m afraid.

As a gesture of mourning for the lives being sacrificed to ‘keep the peace’, I’ll retain one header image for the rest of the week. It’s a stupa-style memorial dedicated to Japanese war dead in Burma, which I came across in the massive Okunoin cemetery at Kōya-san, one of Japanese Buddhism’s holiest sites.

via Arts & Letters Daily

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