Friday, October 10, 2008

“I’ll Be Back”

No I won’t, but lots of people in Asia think that they will.

I’m still proctoring tests. Yesterday a young woman sat in front of me and I noticed that she was holding her pen what appeared to be torturously wrong, most students these days hold their pens improperly, especially in Thailand. Then I noticed that she had that Bree Walker thing going on, some fingers on each hand just useless lumps of flesh, bone and muscle. So she had an excuse. She did have a good thumb and one or two good opposing fingers on each hand, so that was good.

She looked like a fine young lady. Smart enough, she went through her test with businesslike efficiency. She had the good grooming, posture, and modest, attractive clothes of an intelligent person. She was quite pretty, in fact. Interesting to note, however, that because of her hands many Thais would believe that she had been a bad person in her previous life, or at least had done something terribly wrong along the line of reincarnation somewhere, and was being punished by fate, “karma.”

This same belief falls on children who are born to very poor families. If mom and dad were born poor, the odds are that they would have received an education that was of very poor quality and/or incomplete. If mom and dad are now engaged in bottom rung employment, like working other people’s rice fields, or making baskets, the family’s income is barely enough for poor quality shelter and food. So even though many of these children are highly intelligent, they will, in their turn, receive a poor education and be pressured to go to work very young to supplement family income.

Many Thais believe that these poor children, like their parents before them, and the young woman with Bree-Walker-hands, are in the shape that they are in because of misdeeds in a past life. In the west, we were behavior-controlled by being told: be good, or else you’ll go to hell. In Thailand, it’s: be good, or you’ll be reincarnated as a cripple, or a poor child, or maybe even as a dog.

The other side of this coin is that many prosperous Thais believe that they are rich because in a prior life or lives they were very good people, consummate Buddhists. So they don’t think that they owe anything to anybody in the way of help . . . poor people’s role is to be good poor people so that they can move up the ladder next time around. Helping them would just be interfering.

Many things about Buddhism are very good, and in general, Buddhist societies are very well ordered and happy. Are there any Buddhist terrorists? Maybe somewhere, I don’t like to make absolute statements. Some aspects of Buddhism, however, need a little work.

Let’s think a little, though, before we condemn the complained of behavior. In Europe, we had Calvinist pre-determination, which is pretty close. There’s still a residue of it in some Protestant churches. Either way, your stuck being miserable for a reason beyond your control. Maybe it’s even sillier to think that god put you in misery “for a reason,” or to think that you are rich because god loves you more than he does the poor.

While you’re thinking about it, let’s recall that there are lots of kids out there that could use a hand.


Anonymous said...

I too have a writing disability. I'm right handed but hold my pen, pencil, whatever, like a lefty that wants to dig a hole through the table. The result tends to look like gang calligraphy, an unforeseen plus. I'm also very good at drawing.

Ann once called me a fatalist. I totally agreed but argued the opposite because i was buzzed.

Karma? possible. God decided? perhaps. Going to hell? why not. Or maybe people just get what they deserve. I'm a big fan of poetic justice.


Rory Cripps said...

Fred: I've enjoyed reading all of your blog posts. I may not agree with you on a number of issues, or share your sentiments and passions, but I have to tell you that "I'll Be Back" is, in my opinion, your best post yet. There's nothing that you said in "I'll Be Back" that I can disagree with and it, indeed, brought tears to my eyes.

I have an eleven-year-old autistic daughter. She's my only child. She has only one friend and that friend has more problems than my daughter has. Kids avoid my daughter like the plague and whenever I hear kids making fun of her, or whispering to one another about her, my heart breaks a little more. I just hope and pray that my heart doesn't break completely before its time.

My daughter's condition caused me to fully dispel some of those cherished beliefs that I was partially (never in full agreement with by any means) in sympathy with. You know: the belief that everyone can pull themselves up by their own boot-straps and the belief that if one does not become a "success" (whatever "success" means) then one is a loser in the game of life and deserves whatever misery comes their way. How can anyone, other than an ignorant/unfeeling fool, look a kid in the eyes and espouse that crap without feeling ashamed of themselves? Our friend Rush Limbaugh(along with a number of conservative talk-radio hosts) spews this self-reliance crap on a daily basis and this is one of the reasons why I no longer listen to him and his sycophants.

I've learned to control my self-pity. And every day I look on the bright side and tell myself that my daughter, in spite of her autism, has a much better life than most of the poor kids existing on the face of this earth. And no matter how mean and vicious my daughter gets,and no matter how many times she bites me or my wife and rips at our flesh,I tell her everday, before I go off to work, how much I love her. But there's always a "Why?" in the back of my mind. Why? Was it because of karma? Was it because of something that I or my wife did in our present or past lives? Was it because of something that my daughter did in her past life? Was it because of God's (or the Devil's) unfathomable will? Or was it because of the inevitable necessity of fate? Please God (or the Devil),give me a hint--I'm willing to make a deal with one or the both of you, and here's my deal: I'll cut off both my hands and bleed to death if you promise that my sacrifice will lend "helping hands" to the kids of this world and make their world brighter.

fred c said...

Rory: I appreciate your sensitive reading of my stuff; readers like you are blessing. I'd like to think that we are becoming friends across the miles and airwaves. And your comment, in turn brought a tear to my eyes. I have the nerve to complain about things, but note, please, that I do always acknowledge my general good fortune in life. See today's post too, one of them, you'll get it.

fred c said...

Jorge: I guess I should thank those nuns back at St. Fidelis. They made us fill notebooks with line after line of loops, perfect fucking loops, and they smacked our hand with a ruler if we held the pen wrong, a fountain pen no less, a room full of six year olds. "Penmanship" was a subject, for Christ's sake, it showed up on our report cards.

Don't worry too much about what Ann says. She really is Ms. Positive, in spite of all of her anger, and she thinks that anyone should just shut up and get over it, whatever it is. She thinks I'm a fatalist too, while I on the other hand think of myself as a qualified optimist (I'm pretty positive about most things; I'm just fatalistic about myself and about life in general).

Anonymous said...

It is then weird that your "favorite talk radio host" is micheal savage. From another blog:

This past Saturday, I blogged about comments made by Michael Savage on the July 16th edition of his nationally syndicated radio show. During his show, Savage called autism a “fraud, a racket” and proceeded to explain that in 99 percent of the cases, autism is a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out because they have no father around. Now obviously Savage’s comments are ignorant, offensive, and inflammatory on many levels, and as the parent of a child affected by autism, I was more than a little outraged by his comments.

So how can you listen to him Rory?