The #NODAPL movement and its legitimacy

 

 

As the title suggests this will be an analysis of the #NoDAPL movement. It will analysis how American including many indigenous built and sustained a movement for change.  The paper will show in depth analysis of how the movement gained so much momentum due to the use of social media. The movement may have started off as simply a protest to stop a single pipeline but has now grown into something much larger that supports and is supported by many rights groups. This will be shown throughout with reference to groups such as LGBT rights movements, black lives matters as well as numerous indigenous rights groups. There is and has been much political support and opposition to the pipeline from local and regional politicians to celebrities and even president elect Donald Trump. There has been much opposition to the pipeline but a number of people do in do agree with the construction of the pipeline and that many indigenous groups are using the #NoDapl movement as leverage to tackle other issues that they are facing.

 

 

What is the #NoDAPL Movement

The No Dakota Access Pipeline hash tagged as #NoDAPL movements are a group of grassroots movement that are against the construction of a crude oil pipeline in Northern America. The pipeline would be under American propane and fortune 500 natural gas company Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline will be projected to run from the Bakken oil fields in west Northern Dakota to the South of Illinois, passing beneath the Missouri, Mississippi rivers as well as Lake Oahe near the standing rock tribal reservation. That is a total of one thousand, one hundred and seventy two miles long. Many Indigenous groups and allies believe this to be a blatant disregard the tribes rights and poses a threat to both the clean water supply of the region and the ancient burial grounds of the standing rock Sioux tribes ancestors. The pipeline was granted permission for construction due to the Nationwide Permit 12 process that treats the pipeline as a series of small construction sites, the pipeline was granted an exemption from the environmental review required by the Clean Water  Act and the National Environmental Policy. In April 2016, three federal agencies – the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S Department of interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation requested a full Environmental Impact Statement  of the pipeline.

 

The Department of Interior issued the following statement as they had concerns about the safety of the water that may be affected because of the pipelines construction:

“The routing of a 12- to 30-inch crude oil pipeline in close proximity to and upstream of the Reservation is of serious concern to the Department. When establishing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s permanent homeland, the U.S. reserved waters of sufficient quantity and quality to serve the purposes of the Reservation. The Department holds more than 800,000 acres of land in trust for the Tribe that could be impacted by a leak or spill. Further, a spill could impact the waters that the Tribe and individual tribal members residing in that area rely upon for drinking and other purposes. We believe that, if the pipeline’s current route along the edge of the Reservation remains an option, the potential impact on trust resources in this particular situation necessitates full analysis and disclosure of potential impacts through the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.”

ICTMN Staff (April 28,2016). “Dakota Access Pipeline “Three Federal Agencies Side With Standing Rock Sioux, Demand Review”. Indian Country Today Media Network, August 6, 2016

A cultural preservation and resistance camp was set up by the standing rock cultural and Historic Preservation officer, named the Sacred Stone Camp. September 2016 she said:

“Of the 380 archaeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne…

The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.

If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?”

( Bravebull Allard, LaDonna (September 3, 2016). “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre. Yes! Magazine. October 25, 2016

The Standing Rock Sioux nation is fighting for what they believe to be their cultural heritage and believe that if the Dakota Access Pipeline goes forward then all of their freedoms may be put in jeopardy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How People are Resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline and how technology has helped them

 

As mentioned above the main place of gathering resistance is the Standing Rock Sacred Stone Camp and the subsequent that appeared after its creation. These are gathering points where people gather to resist the Dakota Access Pipeline both physically and ‘spiritually’. There has been hundreds of indigenous tribes gathered at these camps as well as thousands of allies. Together with the The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe they filed an injunction against the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to stop building the pipeline. People have been using these rallying points to peacefully demonstrate and resist the building of the pipeline. People have been holding banners and marching, chanting as well as standing in the way of machinery used for construction of the pipeline. Many Indigenous people and allies have physically tied themselves to the equipment and machinery used for the construction of the pipeline, resulting in harsh retaliation from the pipeline guards.   As well as being there physically there has been a huge amount of aid granted through social media and technology. A group that has helped standing rock immensely is the team behind the digital smoke signals website. Upon entering the site, user are met with the statement:

Indigenizing Technology: Walking the footsteps of our Ancestors as we educate the world through e-Learning, social networking & Film-making.

This is stated on the website on the main page as well as the stamp “Indigenous networking”. The site is a hub of activity supporting anything to do with indigenous people and rights related to such within America. Every morning the site has a live drone feed of the disputed areas in and around standing rock territory. The team of drone operators stream daily with an overhead view of the situation and giving updates as and when they develop. Using footage captured from the drones they have many many successful short movies gaining millions of views on YouTube. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition in conjunction with Digital Smoke Signals creating a trend in which they were asking people to ‘check-in’ at Standing Rock. This confused the armed guards working for the Pipeline as there was no way to know how many people were there as hundreds of thousands of people were checking in. Many other social movements have stood with standing rock such as the Black Lives Matters  movement, LGTBT as well as many military veteran movement. This statement can be read on their website at blacklivesmatter.com :

“Black Lives Matter stands with Standing Rock. As there are many diverse manifestations of Blackness, and Black people are also displaced Indigenous peoples, we are clear that there is no Black liberation without Indigenous sovereignty. Environmental racism is not limited to pipelines on Indigenous land, because we know that the chemicals used for fracking and the materials used to build pipelines are also used in water containment and sanitation plants in Black communities like Flint, Michigan. The same companies that build pipelines are the same companies that build factories that emit carcinogenic chemicals into Black communities, leading to some of the highest rates of cancer, hysterectomies, miscarriages, and asthma in the country. Our liberation is only realized when all people are free, free to access clean water, free from institutional racism, free to live whole and healthy lives not subjected to state-sanctioned violence. America has committed and is committing genocide against Native American peoples and Black people. We are in an ongoing struggle for our lives and this struggle is shaped by the shared history between Indigenous peoples and Black people in America, connecting that stolen land and stolen labor from Black and brown people built this country.”

 

Many notable celebrities have stood up for the water protectors and shared and contributed to the hatshtag #NoDAPL and #WATERISLIFE. This included many A-List celebrities such as the entire cast of the Avengers movies and the cast of the upcoming Justice League movies. Many celebrities have also made appearances at peaceful protests and demonstrations Leonardo Dicaprio posted on his Twitter account:

” Standing w/ the Great Sioux Nation to protect their water & lands. Take a stand: http://www.change.org/rezpectourwater #RezpectOurWater #KeepItInTheGround

Whist actors like Chris Hemsworth posted the following tagging even President Barack Obama in his post:

“I stand with the Standing Rock. Join me and tell @barackobama to say #NoDAPL by signing the petition.”

These celebrities amongst so many others have made a huge difference the support that the Standing Rock Tribes gain dues to their influential status and the publicity gained because of that. Not only is it celebrities that have reached out online to gain support for the movement but young tribe members themselves have created avenues of aid, such as the change.org petition that the celebrities are referring to and have shared . The petition was written by 13-year-old Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer on behalf of Standing Rock youth. It states:

A private oil company wants to build a pipeline that would cross the Missouri River less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Reservation and if we don’t stop it, it will poison our river and threaten the health of my community when it leaks.

My friends and I have played in the river since we were little; my great grandparents raised chickens and horses along it. When the pipeline leaks, it will wipe out plants and animals, ruin our drinking water and poison the center of community life for the Standing Rock Sioux.

The petition has been signed by nearly 46,000 supporters, just short of 4,000 signatures to reach the 50,000 goal.

(Ecowatch.com, Leonardo DiCaprio Stands With Great Sioux Nation to Stop Dakota Access PipelineMay 10, 2016)

It is clear that technology such as social media is pivotal to the success of any social movement in the modern world. With it people are able to share, tweet, and photograph anything and everything and have it uploaded instantly. This is a means of garnering support which was simply impossible before and social movements such as #NoDAPL may have died away already as they would not be able to broadcast their case on a national or international level.

 

 

Brutality of the guards

There has been much controversy over the brutality and harshness of the guards and officer working around the contested territory. Counter current news.com reported “Violence is breaking out at the Dakota Access Protest site, but the protesters have nothing to do with it. Pipeline police, bolstered by the North Dakota National Guard and sheriffs imported from around the country, have turned the standoff into a war zone. Water protectors are regularly pepper sprayed, tear gassed, and violently arrested. Over the weekend, 127 people were detained in the biggest mass arrest to date.

Militarized police at the Dakota Access Pipeline site are decked out in riot gear, armed with military grade weapons, use armored cars or MRAPs with snipers on top of them, and have regularly used LRADs, a type of mass crowd dispersal weapon that uses a high pitched noise to hurt people’s ears —sometimes permanently.

Early reports of protesters being armed and violent have proven to be instances of misinformation spread by law enforcement apparently seeking to demonize the opposition. No credible reports of violence by the protesters have been confirmed or prosecuted. Nearly all arrests stem from trespassing charges or crimes of journalism.

When protesters initially began using civil disobedience to physically shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline site, they were confronted violently by security guards from British mercenary firm G4S. The mercs sicced dogs and used pepper spray on the protesters in an assault that went viral and helped catalyze even more support for the water protectors.

(Countercurrentnews.com, What You Need To Know About Police Brutality Against DAPL Pipeline Protesters and How You Can Help, Friday, January 27, 2017)

It is clear that even if the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is lawfully wrong to be stopping the advancement of the pipeline, the retaliation has been unwarranted and much harsher than it needs to be to stop them. These acts have not gone unnoticed however and have been publically viewed and shared online, much to the dismay of the pipelines supporters.

Controversy of the Pipelines resistance

Many people believe that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies are in fact using the cover of the #NoDAPL movement as cover for ulterior motives. For example the tribe claims that the pipeline encroaches on indigenous lands. In fact the pipeline has been rerouted many times to avoid any lands belonging to the tribe but does not actually touch Standing Rock Tribal lands. Many protesters claim that the pipeline will endanger the pipeline will endanger the tribes water supply but in fact eight pipelines already cross the Missouri river and carry hundreds of thousands of barrels every day and a pipeline is by far the safest way of transporting the crude oil , especially comparing it to the many seven hundred and fifty rail-carts used currently. Another claim is that the tribal community was not consulted when in fact  389 meetings took place between the U.S. Army Corps and 55 tribes about the Dakota Access project. In addition the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met individually with the U.S. Army Corps nearly a dozen times to discuss archaeological and other surveys conducted to finalize the Dakota Access route. These claims as well as numerous others show the controversy of the legitimacy of the protesting. There may be another angle for the Standing Rock Tribe and it’s allies such as wanting to oppose fracking within the region, opposing fossil fuel use and many other possible reasons.

 

 

 

It seems that movements such as the #NoDAPL movement simply could not exist without the aid of technology and social media. Before the invention of social media movements would simply have lost momentum and died away. Globalization plays a role in this, although many social movements have came into existence to combat globalization. Due to the weakening of national borders and online freedoms social movements are able to gain power for themselves on a global scale like never before. The #NoDAPL movement for example has created social change by standing against ‘big oil’ and successfully halting the construction of the pipeline for now. Political and social rights have always been an issue for indigenous groups, particularly in America. The #NoDAPL movement  gained global attention and shows the power available and means of gaining it in the digital age.

 

 

The Thai Bhikkuni and their role in promoting female empowerment in Thailand

 

The majority of people in Thailand are devout Buddhists, with over 95 percent of the country following Buddhism and its entailed traditions and practices. Buddhism therefore, of course, plays an integral part in the culmination of Thai cultural identity. Buddhism is a part of every aspect of life in Thailand, from giving alms in the morning to the monks and children saying Buddhist prayers in the morning and the majority of Thai men being a monk at least for a short period of their life; Buddhist traditions are seen and felt everywhere in Thai society; As is the presence of the male dominated monkhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

As Thailand is heavily influenced by Buddhist values, the Buddhist monks are of course the curators of the religion. Thai monks are seen and felt everywhere with over 32,000 monasteries, 265,956 monks and 87,695 novices (Bangkok Post survey 2017).Monks take part in many official ceremonies daily throughout for example monks may bless a house or a new car, offer prayers at a wedding(Less than 100 years ago, this would never have happened as monks were seen as an ill omen, only to attending funerals): monks may offer prayers for a new business and any number of other occasions. Although monks are numerous in Thailand and come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds (Even the current King has ordained) they do have one thing in common, they are all male. Monks being the representatives of a religion which take part in every part of daily Thai life and they are all male, there is another group of individuals who also embody traditional Buddhist values, the ‘rebel monks’ the Thai Bhikkunni. The Bhiksunni are a group of female monks ordained in the Theravada tradition. Many Bhikkunni have faced opposition in Thailand, both from the male dominated Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand (Buddhist governing body in Thailand) and from laypeople (non-ordained individuals).  This paper will be an assessment of  role that men have in challenging gender equality, namely the male dominated Sangha in Thailand. It will discuss if it is more important for women to form their owns groups, or to work alongside with men. The gains that could  be made through gender equality  programmes targeting both men and women will be discussed as well as what may be appropriate or undesirable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The origins of Bhikkhuni

Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Shatsena now known as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni was the first modern woman to receive full ordination in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism in Thailand. Born in 1944 Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Shatsena to Voramai Kabilsingh also known as Ta Tao Fa Tzu as she was ordained in the Dharmaguptaka  school of Buddhism and Kokiat Shatsena Chatsumarn has to lead a fascinating life and is now the abbess of  Songdhammakalyani Monastery, the only Bhikkunni temple in Thailand. Translated as the “temple where women uphold the Dharma”. Dhammanda Bhikkunni was ordained on 28 February 2003 in Sri Lanka after which she returned to Thailand.(Snyder, 2003). There has of course been much opposition to the Bhikkuni order in Thailand. Many Bhikku (Male monks) including the Ecclesiastical Council disagree with the ordination of Bhikkuni in Thailand believing their ordination to be illegitimate. According to Metthanando Bhikku a prominent monk in Thailand and member of the Ecclesiastical Council:”Equal rights for men and women are denied by the Ecclesiastical Council. No woman can be ordained as a Theravada Buddhist nun or bhikkhuni in Thailand. The Council has issued a national warning that any monk who ordains female monks will be severely punished.”( Metthanando Bhikku,2005).According to Buddhist historians, the original order of the Bhikkuni was set up several years after the Bhikku order at the request of Mahapajapati who was the Buddhas aunt and carer after the death of his mother and her followers. According to tradition, the Buddha denied her several times before allowing her to ordain.This was not however due to her gender but was in fact because they were courtly women used to the extravagances of palace life and would find the harsh lives of monks of that time a struggle. According to Dhammananda Bhikkhuni: “Many people in Thailand both monastics and laypeople do not realise that there has been Bhikkunni in the region before. According to Not many in Thailand understand Buddhism truly like when the Buddha first said no to his aunt and her followers when they asked to be ordained, this was not because of their gender, but because they were women of the court, they could not handle the conditions. Many forget that the Buddha was from a time when social values were different.”( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni 2017). Since the ordinations of Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, a number of other Bhikkhuni have been ordained in Thailand now number numbering over 100 Bhikkhuni throughout Thailand.Not including the number of Sramaneris(Novices) and Mae Ji’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mae Ji’s

Due to the prohibition set by the Sangha, many Thai women instead volunteer to become Mae ji’s.Mae ji’s try to lead a devout life according to the Buddhas teachings, shaving their heads like monks and wearing white following 8-10 precepts(holy rules that must be followed) as opposed to the 331 precepts for Bhikkhuni and 227 for monks.Mae ji’s do not receive the benefits of monastics but are denied rights are are offered to lay people throughout Thailand such as being able to vote or stand for election. According to Dhammananda  Bhikkhuni Mae ji’s are a new concept and not part of traditional Buddhism: “I depend on you and you depend on me, my grandmother was illiterate, and she was a Mae ji, yet when it came to praying she knew everything. She prayed beautifully.Mae Ji’s are not ordained, nor do they receive the benefits of being so.In fact, they are more often treated like servants, having to wash the monk’s clothes and cleaning. Look at the four pillars of the Buddhist community, like legs on a chair, The Bhikkus(monks) Bhikkhunis(nuns), Laymen and Laywomen.Mae Ji’s are a new concept”.Many Mae JI’s face discrimination throughout Thailand, not only do they not have the benefits offered to other monastics such as free transport, etc., many believe they become Mae Ji’s for the wrong reasons. Many Thai people look down on Mae Ji’s feeling that they had no other option, that they could not find a husband or are using the cloak of becoming a Mae Ji to escape other problems in their life.

 

How can Bhikkunini and Buddhism be used as effective tools to empower women in Thailand

 

Early every morning in Thailand the streets are lined with people throughout the country, waiting to give alms to the monks. This is part of the merit system in Buddhism which is believed to bring benefits to the next life. The alms givers are predominately women however, some folklore says that women are born with bad karma and must make more merit in this life to become a man in the next. In the same sense that transgender individuals are born in the wrong body due to transgressions in their previous life, this is not true to the Buddhas original teachings however . According to Buddhist tradition It is believed that everyone is born with both good and bad karma within them and all have the same potential to reach enlightenment. It is cultural , in that same sense the culture protects you.( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, 2017).It is not only in alms giving where women take the prominent role, also cleaning at the temple, washing , brushing and preparing for  the numerous religious festivals that take place all year round. Like the Mae Ji’s at temples many Thai women still take on the domestic responsibilities , even when it comes to religious duties. After offering alms and preparing comes the time for the religious ceremonies, this is a time when women do not take a prominent role. During religious ceremony the monks sit elevated, with the grandfathers and oldest men sitting closest to the monks, and then come the fathers and then the sons. At the back sit the women and daughters, even though the majority of alms giving  and preparation  for the ceremony was carried out by women, they sit furthest away from the monks and instead the men of the family take control of orchestrating the other attendees.History is written by by men, about men, so we start to write a story about women, from a woman’s- that is a different voice.( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, 2012).It is not only in alms giving where women take the prominent role, also cleaning. Perspective As was mentioned before, Buddhism is a significant part of Thai peoples cultural identity, yet the male figures are dominant in Buddhism in Thailand and are the leading figures who govern the dissemination of Buddhist and patriarchal ideology. It is seen that people are punished and rewarded for carrying on in this way, people are encouraged to conform and what is viewed as masculine is also seen as superior(Mead 1949).If women were able to be seen in positions of power in a religious sense in Thailand, it would change their perception of value and empower them to take on new roles for cultural and religious traditions . The whole power dynamic and system of bunkum(system of ineptness) and sakdi na (social hierarchy).  According to Dhammananda Bhikkhuni: “I’m just a small crack in the wall; the wall of patriarchy; on the wall of the hierarchy; on the wall of injustice. Soon there will be more cracks and someday the wall will fall.”( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni,2017).The ‘Wai’ in Thailand is a significant act of social behavior in Thailand. It is a physical gesture which is  symbolic of  a person’s social standing. The wai consists of hands clasped together, prayer-like, followed with a very slight bow. There are a variety of different ways to wai, for example someone would never wai a person younger than them first or in a lower position. In a school a new and younger teacher would wai the older teacher and the students would wai the new teacher and so on. The higher someone stands socially the higher hands are to be raised with monks and royalty receiving the highest of wais, with people raising them hands to their forehead. Thai people are very sensitive to their social standing in Thailands immensely hierarchical structure. The idea of a male having to Wai a religious female monastic in Thailand is an alien concept. Even in other intuitions such as hospitals and schools men advance much further and quicker than women. If someone in a senior position wished something done, they would ask the female, even if they started the job at the same time and were both interns with the same qualifications. This may even include cleaning or simply going to get coffee, the junior female in the place of work would always be asked, and if not then it would be the more feminine man and so on. By seeing more women in as leading figures in Buddhism it would begin to effect all other parts of Thai society. Human behavior is unbelievably malleable responding and contrastingly to contrasting cultural traditions(Mead 1949).Throughout the country there are numerous temple schools where families who cannot afford schooling can send their sons to get a good education. There are few choices for girls with little education, factory workers, manual workers or even sex workers. Families believe that sending their sons to be a  monk at a temple even for a short time garners them much merit for the next life, again something which is currently not possible for girls in Thailand currently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discrimination that Bhikkhuni face in Thailand

To avoid trouble with the greater clergy many Bhikkhuni dub their temples ‘womens meditation centres’.Bhikkhuni in Thailand have faced widespread discrimination throughout Thailand both by Bhikku(male monks) and laypeople despite many trying to lead a quiet existence. On April 20, 2016, a Bhikkhuni ‘womens meditation centre’ was burned down, the centre was run by two Bhikkhuni who may also have had land problems with their neighbours, they, however, faced many challenges before this incident with being frowned upon by the clergy. Not only do Bhikkhuni have to work extremely hard to support themselves and their centres, due to not receiving any of the benefits that other monastics get; they must also concentrate on having relations with locals. The image of Thai monks has been tainted severely over the last few years with accounts of rape, drug trafficking, smuggling amongst an array of other crimes. Similar to in the way the image of Catholic priests has been tarnished the monks in Thailand have also been, perhaps, irreparably. The social elite in Thailand also are against female ordination in Thailand as every year Thailands biggest stars, and wealthiest individuals donate millions to temples, which they frequently receive tax refunds for.Many of the wealthiest people in Thailand have made deals with famous Thai monks as it is a legitimate way to take care of some of their money and keep it ‘clean’. Not only does the Thai Sangha forbid the ordination of females on Thai soil but they have also denied visas to Bhikkhuni coming to Thailand from abroad. In 2003 the Department of National Buddhist Affairs for Thailand denied visas for multiple Bhikkhuni; both from Sri Lanka and India. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni made the following statement after the visas were denied: “Is this the way that the Department of National Buddhist Affairs is trying to preserve Buddhism? This is clearly a systematic elimination of the Bhikhunni Sangha.This is disrespectful to the allowance of the Buddha himself. ” Another example was in early 2017 when a large group of 70 Bhikhunni arrived at the grand palace intending to pay respects to the late monarch but were denied. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni had already made preparations and called to the palace for confirmation however when they arrived at the palace were denied the monastic entrance. They were told that if they wished to pay their respects, they would have to disrobe and join the other laypeople.  Earlier in the year, other groups of Bhikkhuni were also denied entrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

It is clear that the Bhikkhuni in Thailand face an uphill battle. They fight not only ideals of gender conformity but also are faced with opposition on all sides: The Sangha, laypeople, male patriarchy and the social elites. Bhikkuni offers a new vision for Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, one free from the corruption and scandal that is currently residing in the monkhood here. It is clear that individuals such as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni strive not only for gender equality in religion but in all aspects of Thai life. Gender equality in Buddhism is, of course, the first step in empowering women in Thailand to a new future. One in which women are as valued as men and feminine qualities are also seen as powerful.When Dhammananda Bhikkhuni was asked in 2017:

What do you see as the future of the Bhikkhunis in Thailand?

She replied:
“Remember three things in life, think of yourself as in a cocoon as we are 1.To always be humble that is the most important thing,2. Be eager 3. Always seek to improve yourself. No one can stop us now, not the Sangha or others, we are growing and will continue to grow.”

The formation of identity in Thailand

Identity

 

This will be a short presentation on the formation if identity in Thailand. The presentation will look at how not only identity has been developed, but also how it has been maintained throughout history. The focus will not, however, be solely on a National level but also from an ethnic identity viewpoint.

 

 

Thai National Identity

 

Thailand can be broken into four main regions. The North with its mountainous and fertile lands viable for growing rice and teak. Central Thailand home to Bangkok”City of Angels” and the fertile Chao Phraya basin. The North East (Essan) the driest, least productive and least modern place in Thailand. The South with its moist atmosphere where many produce rubber, tropical crops and tin. Thailand “Land of the free” In the past was a country living in the ideal of attaining a virtuous life by shaping their character to Buddhist principles where goodness was prized over personal wealth. Thailand has now changed from an absolute monarchy rule to one of self-sustained Democracy. Buddhism has supplied cognitive and evaluative elements that have been integrated into every aspect of Thai identity, even If the individual is Thai or part of a Thai ethnic minority. For example, many of the “hill tribes” in Thailand may be Christian or follow traditional religious practices. They do however pay respect to monks and often offer alms during ceremonies. Buddhism in Thailand is practised very differently compared to how Buddhism is practised in other many other countries such as in Japan, China and Vietnam. Each country practices Buddhism but in a very different way. For example, if the Dalai Lama came to Thailand he would have to sit down with the lay people as his position is not recognised in Theravada Buddhism.  In Japan there are not nearly as many images of Buddha compared to Thailand and if there are they are often quite plain and not extravagant and often painted and jewelled as they are in Thailand. As is shown it is distinctly Thai Buddhism that contributes to Thai people’s identity not the Buddhist faith itself with 95% following Theravada Buddhism. Thailand is a very Hierarchal society, If you are born into a  “High-so”  family as they are typically referred to her you, your sense of identity is of course very different than if you are born into a “Low-so” family. Being in a “High-so” family often individuals may have a feeling that they are held above ” Low-so” families. This is not through that particular person’s fault but rather how society has helped shape their identity. An individuals Identity as we know does often change in adolescence as people are exposed to new groups of individuals. When they leave the “bubble” of the social class and meet people from different backgrounds, religions and classes. This change happens not only throughout High School but all the way through to young adulthood.  Steinberg sums up the adolescence journey to identity perfectly by saying:”The development of a strong and stable sense of self is widely considered to be one of the central tasks of adolescence. Despite the fact that identity development occurs throughout one’s lifetime, adolescence is the first time that individuals begin to think about how our identity may affect our lives. During adolescence, we are much more self-conscious about our changing identities than at any other stage in our lives” Steinberg, L. (2008). Adolescence. New York: McGraw-Hill. Families are close in Thailand and are often held above all else, maintaining strong relationships throughout their entire lives.

 

Ethnic Identity

 

There are numerous Ethnic groups in Thailand  according to Reach To Teach” Of Thailand’s nearly 70 million people, roughly two-thirds are from Thai ethnic groups. Although the ethnic Thai people can be divided into dozens of different subgroups, their traditions, languages, and cultures differ only slightly. This leads to a population with a strong sense of shared traditions and cultural identity. The remaining third of the population is made up primarily of Chinese, as well as various minorities including Vietnamese, Khmer, Hmong, and Mein. Even among these diverse ethnic groups, the Thai language is widely spoken and understood, and the Thai script is often used in place of traditional writing styles.[Reachtoteachrecruiting.com,2016].There is also many much smaller ethnic groups throughout Thailand, many who may not even be citizens but have lived in Thailand for hundreds of years. The Karen people for example ” Current debates on Karen identity have tended to focus on the development of a nationalist construct of a pan-Karen community”[Rachel Sharpes,2015]. Many Karen people are Thai and are citizens but identify as Karen more than being Thai. Many ethnic groups such as the Karen live in the mountainous North of Thailand.  As the Thai government started cracking down on the growing of poppies(for opium and heroin production) many had to move further down the mountains Now the majority of Karen people still live in the mountains but do however go to lowland cities for work or grow cash crops in the hills. There has been in the past some problems of course between different groups Although the population of Thailand is relatively homogeneous—regionalism and ethnic differences are issues that are socially and politically significant. Moreover, these differences affect the access of specific groups and regions to economic and other resources, which in turn heightened ethnic or regional consciousness”[Library of congress]. Through all of this, the Karen and others have still kept a  strong sense of cultural identity. Many Karen people are Buddhist, but the majority are Christian and follow animistic beliefs. Sgaw, Pwo, and Pa’o on top of this, almost everyone speaks Thai. If there is a temple or a monk near a village they are still paid a high level of respect, given alms and offerings. This shows how the identity of many ethnic groups has changed since they first arrived in Thailand several hundred years ago.It is true each has their own customs and beliefs but are still very much living in Thailand and follow at least some of the Thai traditions. This is not characteristic for Karen people in other parts of the world. Karen people in America do not pay respect to Buddhist monks in America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

A sense of Identity is formed throughout our entire lives, always changing and adapting. We are born into an identity in some ways, some people with opportunities that people are not. This does not define us however as we are exposed to new groups and cultures our own identity changes, especially as young adults. For example, the Karen people as were shown, very much have their own identity. They are also Thai however. Karen people in America and Karen people in Thailand are as different in many ways as American and Thais are. Our identity is formed by those around us and our social environment, always changing, growing and adapting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief Brief on Gender Inequality in Thailand

In 2011, Thailand ranked 69th out of 143 countries in the Gender Inequality Index. The Gender Inequality Index mainly focuses on topics such as sex segregation and employer discrimination. During the last several decades the Thai Government and Non-Government Organisations have put many motions in place trying to change their ranking on the Gender Inequality Index.

 

 

 

In Thailand, the structure of gender relations suitable same for hundreds of years, with women being caretakers of the family and men taking care of the household financially.Thailand, however, had a massive shift in their social and economic structure in the 1960’s which changed gender relations in the country. The change in gender relations was due to a massive influx of American culture due to the war in Vietnam.Even the relatively small city that I live in had an American military base. Until this point, only the elite in society had any exposure to Western culture in any way. Many Thai people being exposed to these new ideals were drawn to the new and modern ways; this ended in the traditional Thai rural family unit, something of the past and people looked for a fortune in many of the major cities such as Bangkok.

 

 

 

There are three ways in which Thailand still has to make progress; this is reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity.Regarding reproductive health,  too many women are dying from maternal causes. Too many adolescent women are still giving birth. With roughly 48 women dying in every hundred thousand dying from pregnancy-related causes and 43 out of every 1,000 births being those by adolescents(15-19).Empowerment for females is also still an issue as only 14% of all parliament seats are held by women, and with regards to education, only 25% of women have attained at least secondary school education. Economically women in Thailand still had a labour force of 65% as of 2011.

 

 

 

Due to Thailand dramatic Western influence in the 1960’s Thailand changes from an agricultural to an industrial economy.Now women in Thailand hold 50% of the employment rate.

 

The breakdown of occupations can be shown:

 

 

 

Men-

 

 

 

Agricultural (55.8%)

Mining and quarrying (83.6%)

Public administration and defence (64.0%)

Water supply (69.7%)

Construction (84.6%)

Transportation storage (86.9%)

Information and communication (64.8%)

Professional, Scientific and Technical (52.4%)

Administrative and support services (57.7%)

Electricity, gas, stream supply industry (81.17%).

 

 

Women-

 

Accommodation and food service (64.2%)

Financial and insurance activities (55.5%)

Real estate activities (55.7%)

Education (61.1%)

Human health and social work (75.9%)

Activities of household employers (82.1%)

Activities in international organisations (100.0%)

Other service activity industry (55.3%).

 

 

From personal experience, there does seem to be very much a “glass ceiling” in Thailand.Part of my job is to travel to various schools, almost every time the Directors, Vice Directors and Heads of Departments are men, even when many women have been working at the school for many years and are much more experienced more than them.

 

 

There have definitely been improvements, however. As was mentioned before due to the Western influence Thailand changed dramatically during the 1960’s. This did break down many of the traditional Thai family social norms. However, some of these changes were progressive. These changes allowed women to start and education and eventually a career. These changes allowed women to not only serve their families but server themselves. It is true that women still face opposition and many a “glass ceiling”, the salaries are still not the same, women still are often sold by their families and women must often do what is best for their family. In 2011, Yingluck Shinawatra was elected as the first ever female Prime Minister of Thailand, something which would not even be a concept in the 1800’s.Thailand has a long way to go regarding gender equality, but for now, at least it is moving in the right direction.

 

Gustavo Esteva’s talk on ‘Challenging the Institutional Production of Truth’

Mexican activist Gustavo Esteva is a world renowned intellectual and is the founder of Universidad de La Tierra. He is a well-known advocate of post-development as well as being active in the Zapatista movement in Mexico which advocates the rights of indigenous people. In 2012 he gave a provocative talk on ‘Challenging the Institutional Production of Truth’ at Berkley, California. In this talk, he mentioned the “current situation”. This is as he feels is a radical situation. The radical situation he describes as “A radical situation is a moment, a period of collective awakening. Produced by two separate factors. One is a tough situation, jobs, assets, expectations are gone” (Gustavo Esteva, Berkley 2012). The second factor he described as being “With increasing evidence that the powers that be are doing, aggravate the situation, instead of solving our problems. These two factors combined produce this collective awareness.” (Gustavo Esteva, Berkley 2012).

 

The institutional Production of Truth

 

Esteva says that there is nothing more important than “challenging the institutional production of truth” Esteva mentions the “Truth not being right or wrong but the statement’s to which we burn ourselves”. This a statement which many believe in and hold real value in. Truth is universal, and it is singular. However, there are two forms of this truth.To begin with, there is the empirical truth, for example, humans need oxygen to survive. The other form of truth is truth itself, this is defined by ourselves, what we believe, what we do, the way we think.(Michael Patrick Lynch, The nature of truth, MIT press,2001) This does not mean however the truth that we know is in fact the established real truth. Esteva describes the truth that we know as being “constructed by the powers that be” and that “they decide what is right and wrong”. The Cambridge dictionary shows that “the powers that be” refers to “important people, who have power over others”. It could, however, be ascertained in this case in particular that Esteva is referring to the government or at least political bodies of the government. In a democracy, it is believed that the decisions are made democratically. Evidence against this view can be obtained from The Foundation for Economic Education (Fee.org) it states” Before a democratic process can even begin to function, some nondemocratic process has to make the rules. And those rules will have a major impact on the choices available to the people once they finally begin to have a say. “So an example of this could be shown when a legislator is voted is elected in America. When they are then elected, there is no guarantee they will adhere to what the people will truly wish of them when in power. The protest against the war in Iraq is one such instance labeled “the largest protest event in human history”(Walgrave, Stefaan; Rucht, Dieter(2010). The number of protesters accounted by the BBC ranged from eight to thirty million. All of these protests and shows of rejection were to no avail. However, nothing stopped the war in Iraq. It is true politicians are democratically elected, they do however determine the very rules in which they will stand for election.

 

Food

Esteva makes several points on food. Food is something no longer in the hands of everyday people but is in fact in the hands of larger powerful companies .He points out that “half the world is starving, the other half are scared to eat”. There are multinational super companies that control so much of the world now: Monsanto, Walmart, Nestle, and Kraft to name but a few. He talks about them having a ”moral epiphany”. It is well documented that these companies are very powerful in and amongst themselves. Coca-Cola for example is summarized by Bob Zurn(Coca-Cola: The Power of a Brand) he describes it as “showing the popularity of a soft drink as well as the dominance of American entrepreneurialism in the twentieth century and beyond.” This is simply one of many super companies that control vast amounts of industry throughout the world as can be depicted in the image below.graphic-72dpi-8x5-english_custom-e7798a240cf729589c407e5c47c5e3db515da21a-s40-c85.jpg

To Challenge the Institutional Production of Truth

As mentioned before Esteva said how important it is to “Challenge the Institutional production of Truth”. He even gives examples of some acts where people have wrought such. One such person that Esteva mentions is Pope Gregory the seventh. Esteva was a very beloved and abhorred man in his time. During the twelfth century he was a pioneer in many regards. One such example is “connected with his championship of compulsory celibacy among the clergy and his attack on simony” (Encyclopedia Britannica, Chrisholm Hugh).This was very unpopular among the clergy and he invoked widespread resistance which led ultimately to his exile. A people which Esteva also mentions is the Zapatista army of National Liberalism (EZLN) more commonly referred to as the Zapatistas. They are a revolutionary leftist group movement based in Chiapas, Mexico. Possibly there most famous act is the 1994 uprising also known as the Chiapas conflict. This is where the EZLN led an armed insurgence against the Mexican government because of the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).This agreement undermined the rights of indigenous people in Mexico. Since then the EZLN has declared war against the state and stands for social, Cultural and land rights for indigenous people. Even today they still oppose the Mexican Government.

 

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These were just a few and brief minor points and people mentioned by Esteva. He has apparently painted a clear picture of ‘the current situation’. It is a time when people are ruled by ‘the powers that be’ and as Esteve put it “there is a crack in the dominant mentality”. His talk gave much evidence that although many social movements have made tremendous changes throughout history, they must be started by one person. That is all that it takes, one person to make the difference. From lowly medieval peasants leading revolts against their Lord everyday individuals in the French revolution, this is what the world needs. Social change to be started by just one ordinary person.