Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reference: Roof of the world, Bangkok Post, December 20, 2007
Reference: Bali a victim of its own success, Bangkok Post, December 20, 2007

Two articles on the same page of the Bangkok Post describe the ill effects caused when the dominant culture of a nation inundates by sheer numbers a small geographically distinct minority within its borders and thereby destroys its cultural identity. We are told that the Han Chinese are riding the new railway to Tibet in "alarming" numbers and that non-Balinese Indonesians are "flocking" to Bali drawn by the tourism boom, and that these trends have placed the Tibetan and Balinese cultures, religious heritages, and archaeological artifacts at risk.

Certain relevant aspects of these events have not been considered in making this case. First, no matter how quaint or historically significant it may be, no society wants to live in poverty just to be a living museum for the tourism pleasure of those who live more comfortably elsewhere. Until the quaint people one visits live as well as the visitor, with the same access to health care, education, and commerce, no visitor has the right to demand that the people should stay quaint.

Second, the free flow of labor, capital, and ideas within a nation also works in favor of the minority. Tibetans and Balinese people are afforded more choices in terms of education, jobs, lifestyles, travel, trade, and investment by having free access to the rest of the country. Consider the harm caused by the partition of India in 1947 when the citizens of the new Muslim nation of Pakistan suddenly found themselves shut out from most of what was once their country.

Cha-am Jamal

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