SE Asia Unit Reflections

As complicated as they may be, societal issues aren’t as easy to solve as they may seem to be. At our very doorstep, problems plague society as we gaze helplessly, realizing how little we can do to control them. Highlighted clearly in Chart Korbjitti’s book No Way Out, we explore the injustices that plague society, restraining freedom and glory from the lives of many. I now think of social issues in a different way too, seeing it as an aspect of human life that is not caused only by poverty which we would usually think of, but an aspect of life that most of the time originates from lack of education and the advantage people take on each other as well. No matter abiding or not abiding with morality, people struggle to survive in the world of injustice what affects everyone in different levels in life.

From our discussion of societal problems, the issue that intrigued me the most is the prostitution. Even though we say it’s immoral, we quickly learn that the poor do in it due to having no other choice. Rather than sit still and starve, women allow their bodies to be drugged and taken advantage of in hope of a few banknotes. They willingly choose this path of life, providing considerable income at the cost of risking pregnancy. A hard issue indeed, this puts onlookers like me in an uncomfortable position. Despite my despise and view of prostitution as wrong, I quickly learned that poor don’t have really any other options, which we cannot blame as their fault. Their lack of education hinders their options even more, added with the growing price of basic necessities in the market each passing day. The fate of better jobs are sealed due to the shame prostitution brings on a person, thwarting their hopes of a life with steady income in jeopardy. As a painful factor that drives families apart, people still sacrifice their well made bodies with hopes of a better life.

In the end, the ways that issues like these are handled must be changed in society. Instead of simply letting people know of the issue with hopes that someone will stand up for others’ benefit one day, people with opportunities must step in before the issues spiral out of control. In the case of prostitution, others in society must not look down on these hopeless individuals but approach them with care, providing better options to find money rather than leaving them in the realm of prostitution. The elimination of disgust and discrimination would lead to this issue being handled better in society. Same applies for human rights abuses in the fishing industry as fishermen, no matter how poor they are, should not be looked down too. They are like us, human beings struggling to survive in a harsh world. With all nonsense excuses set aside, a change can be made in society for the benefit of everyone, no matter how rich or poor they are.

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DEEP QUESTIONS – No Way Out

As dark and painful as it always will be, suffering is the reality people face, highlighted in Chart Korbjitti’s No Way Out. Families take extreme lengths to support themselves day by day. From the book, suffering exists thanks to the rich taking advantage of the poor. This is shown through Boonma, a hardworking fisherman struggling to support his family and pay off debts. The fish caught wasn’t for him and his family at all, but rather for the rich towkay’s company, building wealth on the back of poverty-ridden men like him. Rather than giving money to the poor, Boonma was taken advantage of again with  his debt being transferred to another towkay, with the interest rising higher than the original, an unjust situation for him to suffer in.

The answer to the question of evil and suffering is to take action and make a change. Ort’s symbolic film Revenge of the Ducks explores this concept. The villians (the rich) took advantage of the duck (the poor) by killing the duck’s mother. The orphaned duck, along with a dog, cat, and butterfly kills the villians in the end, symbolizing the poor’s desire to get back to the rich who made them suffer. By taking action, a change could be made to let the world know of injustice, for the good of everyone. Karmic justice being questioned is explored too, particularly through Ort, who wondered why he was unfairly born poor and couldn’t be like other kids: rich and sitting in cars as he sold newspapers to keep his family alive. The previous life’s sins and the afterlife was questioned by Boonma’s grandfather too, wondering what sins he committed in his “believed” previous life. Still, he chose suicide in the end, thinking that the afterlife is better than him being here and causing the others to suffer. 

In the end, I personally believe that suffering as a whole is caused mainly by the causes already outlined in No Way Out. While others suffer, heartless individuals become wealthy through cheating others on money and treating them inhumanely. This is shown though the skipper refusing to help the dying fisherman, along with blaming him for being greedy with money even though the irony was playing out. To take action is to make a change, which is why I agree with Ort’s symbolic film, the Revenge of the Duck, a powerful story in the perspective of a slum kid. Still, I believe that a good God exists in a world of so much suffering and evil. Rather than questioning karmic justice and the sins of the previous life, we must give our life and believe in this good providing God who will never let go. As stated in Psalms 34:18-19, “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have troubles, but the Lord delivers him from all of them.” A good God who understands His creation exists in the world of suffering, and will help the suffering, hopeless, and guilty to have hope again in this one life they have. 

Christmas Reading Blog – The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried was the book I read during the Christmas break. I enjoyed it, spending more time reading it day by day before finishing it a few days before the New Year’s Eve. A raw first hand account by Tim O’Brien, the author painted me a picture of his experience in the Vietnam War: how it affected him and his perspective on it as a whole. This is shown through intense situations such as trying to survive in harsh muddy conditions, seeing his friends die in gory ways, seeing how other people become mentally affected by the war, trying to stay alive in intense battles, and his view on the people he knew who fought alongside him. 

I found this story relatable to The Book Thief, as it proves war is misery for everyone. Not everyone supports it, such as Hans Hubermann, one of the 10% of Germans who didn’t support Adolf Hitler. Hans was forced against own will by getting drafted, forcing him to leave behind Max and his family. Similarly in The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien was one of the people who didn’t support the Vietnam War. Against his own will, the normal American civilian was drafted, forced into the army to prevent dishonor coming to himself, his family, and his home country. The war that followed was not only painful for the Vietnamese, but also traumatic for American soldiers, a similar situation faced by the Germans at war and the persecuted Jews during World War 2.

The concept of morality, which we discussed in the previous units is related to The Things They Carried too. O’Brien never wanted to kill the Viet Cong soldier, but was forced to do so due to his duty. This shows his sense of morality, as he is forever haunted by his action and regrets taking the Viet Cong soldier’s life. This is similar to Wang Lung, who treated O-lan inferior due to his duty as husband, strongly influenced by Chinese culture back then. Relatable to O’Brien, he regrets his actions after the other person is already dead, which shows the hidden sense of morality he has. No matter how strict a person’s duty may be, it’s never powerful enough to damage a person’s sense of morality.

Lastly, The Things They Carried is a book that I will never forget. It doesn’t only reflect human nature and the message of why war is bad, but brings up lots of great questions that regard life and religion as well. It reflects how short life is, and why we should make the most of it. We must be ready for the day it will be taken from us and hold strong in what we believe in, for example Kiowa who believed in Christ and the New Testament. It’s a good lesson on why friendship should be treasured, as the people you love may be with you today but may never be seen again tomorrow. Tim O’Brien was close to the members of his division (Kiowa, Rat Kiley, Ted Lavender, etc.) who would be talking with him one day and be killed in the day after. All what is left of them are memories of them, thanks to the bond they shared among one another. I will never regret reading The Things They Carried, a great book with deep messages and serious topics that reflect the importance of life. 

 

Joseph Moses Lang – A Holocaust Survivor’s Story

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Joseph Moses Lang was a Jewish teenager who was transported to Auschwitz on his 17th birthday, never to see his mother and sister again. At Auschwitz, Lang lied to the guards that he was 19 and stood on his tiptoes to look tall, in order to be with Meir, his older brother. The Nazis were looking for strong workers and believed Lang, resulting in both of them being sent to Dachau Concentration Camp as laborers. They were later transferred to Allach Concentration Camp, where they endured harsh labor in which various atrocities were performed on them. Lang was severely beaten, yet alone sprayed with bug poison, resulting in him having skin cancer for the rest of his life. He was also sent to a “dentist” who “removed” his wisdom teeth with a hammer and chisel, resulting in severe bleeding. He also forced to run 4 laps around the barracks yard with a dog chasing him on another occasion. Despite being bit on the neck by the dog after tripping on the 3rd lap, he was still forced to run despite being severely injured.

Luckily for Lang, Allach was liberated in 1945. However, he would be separated from Meir who needed 6 months of treatment after contracting Typhus. Still, they promised to meet each other again after Lang’s journey home to search for remaining family members. The search was overall fruitless, with Lang only discovered a few members of his mother’s family. Once the time to leave home came, Lang’s older uncle joined him on the journey to Belgrade to meet up with an underground group that would take Jews to Israel, which wasn’t an independent state yet. The rough journey by boat to Israel for Lang and his uncle included an 8 month stop in Cyprus, before finally reaching the Promised Land in 1948. He was reunited with Meir a year later there, where both got married and raised families of their own. Lang would become a carpenter and woodworking teacher, a wonderful new life for him. Despite Meir later dying from an agricultural accident in the 1970s, Joseph Moses Lang would live on to tell his story to the world, despite having skin cancer and feeling uncomfortable to talk about his experience for a while. Still, he feels that it’s time now to tell his story as a survivor of World War 2’s Holocaust to the world. 

I found Joseph Moses Lang’s story to be very powerful, as it reflects the atrocities of mankind. This indicates why we all should make every effort to prevent these horrible events from happening again. The Jews are humans too, and it is never right for other people like the Nazis to consider themselves superior. Lang’s experience reflects how it is to be oppressed, an experience for others who consider their race superior than other’s to see how they would feel if they were oppressed like him. How detailed Lang is in storytelling made the story very memorable for me, as he clearly describes the pain he was forced to endure, such as being sprayed with bug poison, a heinous act committed indeed. Lang’s determination for a new life after Allach’s liberation makes this story memorable too, as it’s a good lesson to the world that if you are determined to accomplish something, reach for it no matter what. This is shown as no matter how desperate the whole experience has been for Lang, he eventually brought himself to safety in Israel, the land of his forefathers. Joseph Moses Lang’s story is a great message to the world, and will forever be remembered by those who had the wonderful chance to read or hear. 

Military Camp Poem Analysis

Learning the parts of a rifle, the smell of oil,

learning to march, to wheel in the rub of khaki

learning to hate, to be resourceful and kill,

they grope like wind through the night or rain in a hill.

 

Definite weapons, slicker than wounds, surround them,

they camouflage, they bristle with arms to the teeth,

they implement with knives their patient wonder

and wander like children the iron techniques of death.

 

The military camp, the row of huts,

the tanks and the guns, here and there grow strange

with a new thought that scraps old discipline,

germ of a people’s army trained to change.

 

Who whisper freedom, soon must learn to shout,

brighter than bayonets or first conquest come

rolled back by seas to play a finer part–

the greatest victory is the one at home.

Military Camp by Patrick Anderson is told in a soldier’s grim tone, expressing the things he has been through, seen, learned, and realized from being at the Military Camp. For sure, this soldier is like any normal civilian who lives an ordinary life but gets drafted into the army; required to protect his home country from war. He doesn’t want to be there and reflects his feelings through this poem. Structured with 4 stanzas, the poem reprisents something similar to what a soldier learns bit by bit throughout his time of being one. This includes training, dress, equipment, knowing about the camp, and of course, personal thoughts about the whole thing, a pattern which each stanza emphasizes.

Despite figurative language not being the main technique used in this poem, a few similes are still put to use. He implies the importance of being swift as the wind, as stated, “they grope like wind through the night or rain in a hill.” “They implement with knives their patient wonder and wander like children the iron techniques of death.” means that they are trained to the point where killings and death are a normal things to them now, in which they wanter towards it like children playing. This diction used in this poem is a mix between a rhyme scheme and a free verse, with usually the 1st and 3rd line of a 4 line stanza ending with rhyming words. The rest however, is just free verse with no exact rhyme scheme at all.

Military Camp’s themes focus mainly on force, change, and a good sense of irony on the whole war itself. He was forced to learn about weapons and various other equipment, contrary to a life that he surely wishes and once had. When war comes it calls for training, and his experiences are told through this poem as a whole. Change is a bigger theme explored, since he was trained to do so. His viewpoint was forced to be changed, now to viewing “freedom first,” and seeing it as the main reason why they are fighting for. This truly reflects indoctrination in an army, in order to motivate troops to fight which is used up till present day. They designate the opposite side as their number one enemy, want their side the hate them, and feel the urge to kill them with no remorse. We humans are quick to believe, and often follow what everyone around does, which is why indoctrination can be effective in an army. 

A good sense of irony comes from the thoughts of Patrick Anderson, as no matter how much they are fighting to protect their country, “the greatest victory is the one at home.” This sense of irony is a very true message, since war no matter how violent, does not bring full time peace rather than gives birth to future conflicts to follow. This is why greatest victory is the one at home, as no lives are lost. It is a symbol of peace as well, since living peacefully is the best way to prevent conflicts from starting. I personally found this poem to be both interesting and relevant, since the wars we face in the world today all have roots from these big wars in the previous decades. Fighting equals more violence and is never a good solution to end a problem. It’s a meaningful message to the world, reflecting how war is not only miserable for one country or race, but it’s miserable for us all. 

Nationalism – Good or Bad?

“I love my country and I’ll live for it! I’ll make it better than anywhere in the world!” a person may say much to another person’s annoyance. The source of all these patriotic words come from nowhere else but nationalism: a person’s extreme love of their country. We have learned throughout the history of why nationalism is a wonderful method that can lead countries forward. Many countries have won wars thanks to nationalism, which served as the main motivating rationale for people to fight. Modernisation of certain countries have roots from nationalism as well, since the people who really love their country will be determined to fix the country’s problems. This will keep their nation going forward at its best technologically and economically, which in return people can live together in peace and harmony.

Nationalism is a good think most of the time, as it’s a powerful driving force that brings people together. Every person who loves their country would surely want to see it as a leading nation; for it to become good example for lesser developed nations around the world. It’s a good teaching passed down to children from parents, as they are the defining future of each country. A good lesson that can forever be passed on, where generations after generations can fix their predecessor’s flaws. Still, nationalism can become harmful, as it can lead to the start of many conflicts around the world. If interpreted in the incorrect way, nationalism will lead to discrimination. This ultimately leads to comparisons from people, which we humans can offend one another! For sure, no one would like it if their nation was compared to another person’s country, boasting of more wealth, more power, and a better economy. Just one offensive comparison can show light the spark of war. Nationalism can also create territorial conflicts, as it has been used before as an excuse to claim land. Especially throughout the present-day Middle East, conflicts rage on and on with no peaceful solution at hand, indicating how harmful being nationalistic can be.

In the end, we must reconsider the nationalistic messages spread throughout our world. It’s totally fine for every country to spread the message that “citizens must love your country and be proud of your nationality,” but it will never be fine once it turns radical. Nationalistic messages should preach peace, love, and harmony, rather than messages that one country is better than another. This will lead to respect and friendship for all nations, the beautiful result of nationalism used correctly. 

The War of Ideas

Religious ideology. The fuel to light the fire of extremism and fundamentalism. The system of ideas which recommends people how to act, treat others, worship, and view others in a certain way. They serve as ways to bring people to eternal life, only to be interpreted in a way totally strayed from what it was supposed to be. Pointing fingers to blame other religions as wrong and its their fault is not the way to go either, as it all boils down to how the followers interpret that ideology. 

The best way to confront religious fundamentalism and extremism is to prove to the world which ideas are interpreted wrong. Waging wars or killing leaders of groups like ISIS won’t fully help either, as no matter how many followers get killed, the wrongly-interpreted ideology continues to live on. The violence will also escalate the situation, and make the end of the war way farther than it should be. We must resist fundamentalism and extremism by getting together to proclaim the right message, in order to make it significant for the whole world including the extremist groups to see. This applies specially for non-extremist Muslims, as by showing their straying brothers in faith the right way to interpret religion, a great number of them may realize their mistaken life choices. This can bring them to the correct ideology, and finally put the days of extremism to rest. The root of all fundamentalism and extremism comes from wrong interpretation of ideology, and by proclaiming the right message, we can confront and bring down fundamentalism and extremism in a more peaceful way. 

Tying in to the evil resulting from religious fundamentalism, the ideal perspective on the world should be centered on peace. We must learn to accept and respect each others’ religion, and prevent any issues from arising whenever we can. All religions should look to the goal of living in harmony rather than judging one another. Look at the world in the “every religion teaches everyone to be a good person” perspective, as at the end of the day, everyone wants to find salvation peacefully for themselves. They do not know when their death may come, and preparing for the worst is the best approach to life. We should all submit to our religions and respect the religion of others as well. No matter how long it will take, a correct peaceful approach is the best way to win this “war of ideas.”