Tuesday, November 24, 2020
"'We will act as a meteorite and hit the outdated ways of the older generations in this country,' the protest organisers explained. 'We will talk about all the topics that the dinosaurs don’t want to hear.' Inflatable dinosaurs wobbled in the afternoon heat, representing the Thai government. The symbols are playful, but the message is clear: teenagers want change.A student-led protest movement has shaken Thailand over the past five months. Young people have taken to the streets to call for a true democracy, and have risked jail to shatter a taboo that has long prevented frank, public discussion of the monarchy. Their protests, attended by tens of thousands, present one of the boldest challenges that the Thai royal family has faced in living memory.Demonstrators say they are not calling for the monarchy to be abolished, but for it to be reformed, accountable to the people and not above the law. They have also called for the prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army general who came to power in a 2014 coup, to stand down, and for changes to the constitution to make the political system more democratic."
Let's not pretend that a new Biden administration magically washes away the past four years of dictatorship-humping done by Mike Pompeo. But at the very least it's a turn towards a time when we at least paid lip-service to the idea of promoting democracy.
Monday, November 23, 2020
"Appeasement didn’t work in the 1930s and it won’t work now. That doesn’t mean that people have to be angry or hate back or hostile, but it does mean they have to stand on principle and defend what’s under attack. There are situations in which there is no common ground worth standing on, let alone hiking over to. If Nazis wanted to reach out and find common ground and understand us, they probably would not have had that tiki-torch parade full of white men bellowing 'Jews will not replace us' and, also, they would not be Nazis. Being Nazis, white supremacists, misogynists, transphobes is all part of a project of refusing to understand as part of refusing to respect. It is a minority position but by granting it deference we give it, over and over, the power of a majority position.
In fact the whole Republican Party, since long before Trump, has committed itself to the antidemocratic project of trying to create a narrower electorate rather than win a wider vote. They have invested in voter suppression as a key tactic to win, and the votes they try to suppress are those of Black voters and other voters of color. That is a brutally corrupt refusal to allow those citizens the rights guaranteed to them by law. Having failed to prevent enough Black people from voting in the recent election, they are striving mightily to discard their votes after the fact. What do you do with people who think they matter more than other people? Catering to them reinforces that belief, that they are central to the nation’s life, they are more important, and their views must prevail. Deference to intolerance feeds intolerance."
The writing here is typically excellent, but basically a well-written formulation of "how do you run a Democracy when half the country hates Democracy?"
(Not a hypothetical!)
Sunday, November 22, 2020
I've posted before about the ongoing debate over mandatory military service in South Korea (about two years, only for men) and whether or not "national treasures" like excellent athletes or performers or scientists should get special treatment. With K-pop boy-band sensations BTS at the top of the Billboard charts, the arguments for and against continue apace:
"Current laws allow men to postpone their military service until the age of 28 for academic reasons such as studying abroad, or enrollment in graduate school or in the the Judicial Research and Training Institute after passing the bar exam. Additional exceptions are made for men enrolled in Ph.D. programs abroad, who can postpone their service until age 30.
Current laws also allow athletes or artists of classical or traditional arts such as gugak (traditional Korean music) to substitute military service with volunteer work approved by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Only athletes and artists who have won awards in international and national competitions designated by the Military Manpower Administration, such as the Olympic Games or the Asian Games, are allowed to apply for the substitution for their military service.
Examples include famed footballer Son Heung-min, who gained an exemption after Korea's national football team won gold at the Asian Games in 2018, and pianist Cho Seong-jin, who won the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2009 and the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015."
It's complicated, obviously. When K-pop groups "make money" for the Korean economy (as claimed by pro-exemption folks) just how much of it is going to public projects, and how much is lining the pockets of the managers and producers? We all know Soft Power is An Important Thing, but how do you put an objective price on it? And is 20 months really all that much to ask for performers who haven't reached 30 yet? (I think the arguments for athletes are actually much stronger, in terms of "lost time.")
For what it's worth among my very small sample size of Korean students, the males definitely tend to oppose any and all exemptions, while the female students are more open to the idea.