The Opium War Syndrome Continues

by bicyclemark 4 Comments

Writer and historian Amitav Ghosh writes about the Opium Wars of the later part of the 1800’s, a time where not unlike today, the western world had wracked up a great trade deficit with China.  And also just like today, the dominant discourse that was proselytized like the answer to all ills, was what they called free trade.  The benefactors of this trade were some of the largest corporations of that era, the British East India Company and names like that.  They all claimed that free trade was their goal and insisted that empires in the east adopt this practice for the good of the world.  But with this good came a long list of problems, as western traders pushed Opium on Chinese traders, and eventually triggered the Opium Wars.

Opium War MuseumIn the US education system, both primary and higher education, the Opium Wars are hardly mentioned. Children are taught that it was a British problem, a disagreement with the Chinese, and has nothing to do with the United States or these modern times we live in.  But in fact, the opposite is true.  The US played a major role, with relatives of presidents Thomas Jefferson, Calvin Coolidge, and even the Delano (Roosevelt) family being major investors in the Opium trade. And once we again we find ourselves in an era where nations claim free trade will solve the problems of the world, while at the same time pushing, secretly or overtly, monopolies and other “unfree” business tactics.

As people around the United States and throughout the western world occupy and retake public spaces and confront centers of business and trade, I wonder if they know how far back the practices they are raging against go.  The lives we know, for well over a century have been built on top of deep traditions connected to corruption and greed at the expense of massive groups of people. How do you halt or change a system so deeply ingrained in how things function? I think its a good time to revisit the Opium Wars, especially for those of us who don’t know the lessons that were never learned.

ctrp369 Modern War over Ancient Land

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

The Temple

Temple photo by flickr member: Everything Everywhere

The Preah Vihear temple is piece of world heritage dating back to the 9th century. But the war being fought over who controls it between Combodia and Thailand is going on right now in 2011.

This past month saw more fighting between both nation’s military, with a number of casualties, all despite the fact that there has been an international court of justice ruling on who rightfully controls the temple. Some forces in Thailand see it as a matter of national pride and heritage to hold on to this ancient site, while the Combodian government answers with their own bravado. In the line of fire lay poor people, historical heritage, and a legacy of violence.

My guest is a blogger, author and concerned Khmer-American Sambath Meas who has appealed to the UN and ASEAN to stop the war and mediate a settlement.  You can read her letter and more posts related to this conflict on her site, you can also read her book “The Immortal Seeds: Life Goes on for a Khmer Family”

Update: Sambath just posted a followup video to our interview on her site! In my 6+ years of podcasting, she is perhaps the only guest to ever do so!

ctrp353 Working as a Female Photographer in Afghanistan

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ctrp353 Working as a Female Photographer in Afghanistan

It wasn’t some childhood dream that led Mariam to photography, instead it was a series of encounters and encouragement that led her to become a professional photographer in her home country of Afghanistan.

In this podcast interview, recorded on my last day in Kabul, Mariam explains her experience as a photographer working throughout Afghanistan over the last few years. She tells about her training, the different jobs she has done, and all the challenges that have arisen along the way.

See her photos on Flickr or Contact her via her website

Counting the Votes

ctrp351 Post Election Update from Kabul

by bicyclemark 4 Comments
ctrp351 Post Election Update from Kabul

Rooftops of Kabul

4 Days after the 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Afghanistan, some audio reflections on how it all went and what is to come.

Another fine source for post-election news, my good friends at Democracy International