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Letter 18 from Eric Arnow                                Arnow Letter Index

Eric Arnow link page

Eric Arnow has his own web site now. For years I've been putting his letters from Asia here. From now on they'll go on his site, the Bumble Buddhist which also now has all the previous ones from cuke and photos more. - dc

Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005
Subject: News headlines

Hi All:

I seem to be lucky so far. I have been staying in Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. It's the rainy season, and it has been raining alot. I plan to start a new retreat in a couple of days, so I went for a brief stay in Pai, where I have spent time before, and have a friend with whom I am storing excess stuff.

I then came back to Chiang Mai, and decided to go to the city of Phitsanoluk, an hour from the meditation center I planned on go to. Explore a bit and head to the Center on Wednesday.

Well, I see the news from the English daily, Bangkok Post.

"Four Dead in Northern Floods--Central Chiang Mai a chest-deep lake..........Night Bazaar and Warorot market vendors raced higher ground but were unable to beat the rapid surge of water. Water one meter (about a yard) high." That's right where I usually stay.

"Mae Hong Son ( I stayed at Wat Tam Wua near there) was the worst hit. Large Areas of farmland in Pai were devastated.......Pai district was a sea of mud."

I was just in Pai about three days ago!

Anyway, not much I can do about this stuff. I am lucky that I got out of Chiang Mai when I did, or else maybe would be stuck there.

Here in Phitsanoluk, it is hotter than Chiang Mai, some rain but not like it was there.

It's a smaller city and not too many foreigners come here, so it's a chance to practice my minimal new Thai skilled learned in June at a local language school.

I think I am a bit of a novelty because people respond to me a bit differently. More friendly.

The ladies of the night operate more openly here and are more vocal to a degree. Not that the risk of AIDS or whatever, not to mention my basic aversion to their paid for affection influences me. [I think he means the opposite - DC]

But even regular folks hail me on the street. With some people, though, you do have to be careful

I visited a bird zoo this morning that has many very pretty birds, some parrots and mynas and hornbills, which are quite large and friendly. The young lady who gave the tour charged $2.50. But the brochure said it was only $1.25. A not uncommon type of occurrence, though the numbers are not enough to hurt.

On the other hand , I met a fellow who wanted me to buy his house in a distress sale. He claimed it was worth 1.8 million Thai Baht... about $60,000. Except that it wasn't finished. It just needed electrical wiring, interior put in, pump drilled, etc. Oh, and there were big cracks in the wall and floor. And he bought the land in 1997 when land prices were higher.

"Good Foreigner, have I got a deal for you. Take this lemon off my hands before the bank forecloses and you will get a helluva deal."

Thanks, but no thanks.

Anyway, in Phitsanoluk, a couple of soldiers hailed me from a restaurant..."Hey you!!"

So I took their cue and got a bowl of noodle soup for 50 cents. And on a walk up the street the  first day, a young woman in a store was talking to me so much that the store owner called her back in to get back to work.

On a walk today, I passed a University and some students yelled out "Hallooo!"

When I answered in Thai, they got shy and giggled. We chatted a bit in my very limited Thai but it was a nice way to make a bit of contact with the locals.  So there is a mixture of innocence and guile in the people here. You just need to tell the difference.

Last night, the owner of my guest house offered to give me a ride to the local movie theater. The movie being shown is "Tom Yom Kung", in English  "Shrimp Soup". It's a martial arts film, and I speculate on whether it's a take off on the Marx Brothers, Duck Soup. Any way, I passed on the movie, but she and I spent some time shopping in a big department store/supermarket.

I bought a peach, the first I have eaten in a year. They cost $3 a pound for non organic. Way more expensive than , say, mangos, which cost only 25 cents a pound or bananas, which cost 20 cents pound.

She got a couple of cosmetic items. As a property owner and banker, she is one of the wealthier Thais. Most Thais are lower, lower middle class, often making less than $1,000 a month.

Switching subjects, I had the idea of going to Burma to a meditation Center there, but with all the rumors of war I feel it's better to be in Thailand,  where I have better communications if necessary.

I am very gratified to hear of Cindy Sheehan's raw spirit in confronting power with truth. I also read that Bush's poll numbers are way down, and especially the dud of a speech he made to the military recently shows that at least among the enlisted men, I sense a tinderbox of resistance. On the other hand, with Cheney asking the military to draw up plans for nuclear attacks on Iran if there is another 911, in the face of new revelations undermining further the "we just didn't know" ridiculous 911 conspiracy theory advanced by the criminal crew running the country, it feels like we are in a very volatile period. And with oil prices going up so fast, I think we are actually AT Peak Oil production now.

The website, has articles about this and also about plans to do away with the law that forbids military operations in the US. This is called martial law. If the natives (i.e you) get restless, they know what to do.

One item I wanted to mention was my train ride to Phitsanoluk. It is a tale of two train rides. I went to the Chiang Mai train station, showed the agent what ride I wanted and for a 5 hour ride on a rapid express train, I paid $7.50. They gave me a small snack for breakfast, and an airplane ride quality (not great but edible) lunch. When I was in California, the 2 hour train ride from Sacramento to San Francisco required a photo ID. "Since when" I asked. Since 911. It cost $20 and no food.

Thailand has big problems in the South but no where near the type of regimentation I see going on in the US. NO terrorist attacks since 9/11/01 in the US, vs. many in Thailand, but they are treating us like criminals. Frankly I find that infuriating. Especially in light of the body of evidence that attempts to block 911 were undermined by higher ups in the FBI, who then got promotions. The Patriot Act is a deliberate attempt to corral the American people. Remember, on December 20th, 2000, Bush said, "Things would be a lot easier if this were a dictatorship, and I was the dictator" A very rare moment of honesty.

What is the most surprising for me is how very few Americans seem to be in Thailand versus from other countries. Frankly, it is an embarrassment for me that the citizens of the most powerful country in the world, having the most impact in the world, seem to be uninterested in what it is like in other countries.  I feel a lot freer in Thailand and in my travels, even with the the various inconveniences annoyances like I mentioned above, than in America.

So I guess you may be thinking, "fine, America Hater, good riddance".

It is NOT the Bill of Rights and the many good things that ordinary people like Cindy Sheehan  have done, or like William Lloyd Garrison, who worked against slavery, or all the unions that made it possible for people to have a 40 hour work week (remember that?), or the agitation in the ''30's that forced Roosevelt to create a social safety net now being shredded, that I cannot abide. 

No. What I can't stand It is the fact that, as one woman told my friend Todd several years ago, "Your country (and mine) is run by gangsters." Why, as far back as 1934, General Smedley Butler, who fought numerous times in the Caribbean from 1915-25 or so, himself said that after he left the military he realized he was "A gangster for Capitalism" and that "War is a Racket"

They sure have a great racket going now " A war that won't end in our lifetimes", they say.

Remember those songs from the 60's? They hardly ever get played and its not because they were bad. It is because they spoke the truth to power. It is rare to hear that type of song nowadays.

Country Joe and the Fish

"Come on all you big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again,
he's trapped way down yonder in Vietnam,
so put down your books and pick up your gun.
We're goin' to have a whole lot of fun

And it's one two three four. hey what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me cuz I don't give a damn
And it's five six seven eight, open up the pearly gates
Ain't no need to wonder why, whoopie we're all goin to die."

Not great for recruiting. Or remember this line

War............what is it good for...........absolutely NOTHIN"

One of my favorite bands was the Jefferson Airplane. Maybe the oldies stations play one or two songs, but they played lots of good stuff.

One album, Crown of Creation should be dedicated to Dick "the American Way of Life is NOT NEGOTIABLE" Cheney. Even if the oil is running out. In light of the wars for oil and the TV and radio filled with hate talk against anything to the left of Attila the Hun (like Clinton, who was responsible for sanctions that killed 500,000 children in Iraq so as to punish Saddam).

Here it is:

Crown of Creation

You are the Crown of Creation, you are the crown of creation
And you've got no place to go.
Soon you'll attain the stability you strive for
In the only way that it's granted
In a place among the fossils of our time.

In loyalty to their kind they cannot tolerate our minds
In loyalty to our kind, we cannot tolerate their obstruction (my italics)

Life is Change...How it differs from the rocks
I've seen their ways too often for my liking
My life is to survive and be alive
With you.

At least now, I hear, the Rolling Stones have a new album out, and it uses a 4 letter word to describe the Neo -Cons. Maybe with that and Cindy Sheehan, there is, to quote our dear newly departed mass murderer, General Westmoreland, there is light at the end of the tunnel.



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