Sunday, April 21, 2013

Morozov's biggest boosters are the copyright thugs, the spyware vendors, and the data retention snoops who argue that ripping up the Internet's fabric does no particular harm because the Internet isn't even a thing. "There is no such thing as the Internet" is the 21st century version of Maggie Thatcher's "There is no such thing as society" -- a dangerous, reductionist self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

International Art English

The German Joke

An English couple adopt a little German boy. After two years the child doesn't speak and the parents are worried about him. After three years he has not spoken and by his fourth birthday he still has not uttered a word.

The English couple figure he is never going to speak but he is a lovely child and on his fourth birthday they throw him a party and make him a chocolate cake with orange icing.

The parents are in the kitchen when the little German boy comes in and says, "Mother, Father, I do not like the orange icing on the chocolate cake."

My god," his mother says, "you can speak?"

To which the German boy replies, "Of course."

How come you have never spoken before? "his father asks.

"Well," the boy says, "up till now everything has been satisfactory."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Jews of the East

When hearing the phrase "The Jews of the East," people might think of people from North Africa and the Middle East rather than those from the Chaoshan area of China. But so are Chaoshan people known. They seem proud of this remark, yet there is a hidden history there.

Chaoshan people have been called "Oriental Jews" or "Jews of the East" for at least 100 years. But the unusual phrase used in connection with them raises a question: Where did it come from?

In 1914, an article called "The Jews of the East" appeared in a Thai newspaper by Asavabahu, a pseudonym of Maha Vajiravudh, King Rama VI, the King of Thailand, according to Walter P. Zenner, author of "Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis." 

"It combined themes of European anti-Semitism with the fear of the 'Yellow Peril,'" wrote Zenner. In the pamphlet, Asavabahu accused the Chinese in Thailand, most of whom were from the Chaoshan area, of excessive "racial loyalty and astuteness in financial matters."

"Money is their God. Life itself is of little value compared with the leanest bank account," Asavabahu wrote in the article.

Thus the King of Thailand was the author of one of the earliest references to the Chaoshan Chinese as "The Jews of the East." 

Ethnic Chinese have settled in Southeast Asia for centuries, but most today are descendants of 19th century migrants from southern China, according to Zenner. Thailand is a country in which many Chinese, especially those from the Chaoshan region, have successfully assimilated.

The Chinese are effectively the Southeast Asia's business class, with economic clout throughout the region, including countries such as Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. But success has also caused resentment among local populations in these countries.

"Some 80 years ago, Thailand's King Rama VI called the Chinese the 'Jews of the East'. Across the region, they have faced much discrimination, often deeply resented for their wealth," a BBC news analysis by Mangai Balasegaram, published in 2001, said.

Besides the "Jews of the East", Asavabahu was believed to have written many other articles against ethnic Chinese in Thailand. His words had a great influence in anti-Chinese movements in both Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, according to Yang Xi'ming, who wrote an article entitled "Discussing the Oriental Jews" in the Chaozhou Daily.

While the King of Thailand's remarks about being the Oriental Jews were intended as disparaging, they have now become a source of pride for some people in the Chaoshan area. "Jews are known as the world's most talented businessman, while in China, Chaoshan businessmen, known as the 'Jews of the East' are also playing an important role in China's economy area," noted an article by Peng Tao and Lin Fuyu in "Chaoshan Businessman," a magazine that focuses on studying the financial culture of the Chaoshan area. 

In China, assigning certain qualities or characteristics – whether positive or negative – to racial groups does not have the same sensitivity as it does in Western countries.

Nowadays, as a source of pride, several other ethnic groups and those from specific cities in China, including the Hakka people and people from Wenzhou, a southeastern city of Zhejiang Province, also regard themselves as "The Jews of the East." 

Because of the perception that Jewish people excel at financial matters, said Chen Zhanshan, Director of Chaoshan Cultural Studies at Shantou University, there is a sense of connection among groups with a similar reputation.

"This is a popular remark. Generally, people from the Chaoshan area (Wenzhou and Hakka included) are more skillful than other areas in China, so they identify with the Jews," he said