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There is no society at present. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your last on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. I dare say that five years ago the following countries would be quite unknown to all of us. Burma Cambodia Laos Vietnam Indonesia Malaysia the Philippines Singapore and Thailand and yet they are part of that vast area vaster than the United States. Southeast Asia and we are painfully aware of these names and countries and we feel the outcome of the trouble and we hope that somehow the trouble can be resolved. It's something that is on the minds of everyone I think every day whether we talk about it or not. And that's why I like in this series called the ages society presents we hope to bring you some understanding which you never know
how in your own way may enable you to put some light on this problem. Our guest on this program is Dennis Ledwith and Mr. Bloodsworth is a British journalist. He has been Far East correspondent of The Observer of London since 1954. He has written two books that I know of about one called the Chinese looking glass. Remember it but remember this one even more. One called an eye for the dragon because that is the one which is in a way the subject of our conversation on this program. Mr. Bird with an eye for the dragon originated from a very charming legend would you describe that please. Yes I'd like to make it clear that the dragon is not representative of Southeast Asia necessarily It only covers some of the countries like Vietnam. The title comes from the Chinese the legend or hearsay anyway that when painters painted a picture of a dragon in the old days they left it to the very
last to Paignton the eye because as soon as the eye was painted into the dragon it brought the beast to life and off it flew. So that when I was writing this book it occurred to me that so many books had been written to delineate Southeast Asia and to speak about the political and economic situation in the countries concerned of the archaeological position that it was about time that someone tried somehow to bring it alive to bring alive the peoples and their ways of thinking and how they react to us and we react to them and therefore I'm afraid I was slightly pretentious and thought I would put the eye on to the dragon and bring it alive. And that's called the book by that title adding I hope as a sop that I hope that the reader or for the other eye and for himself afterwards will that with generous and modest of you and I don't think I'm complimenting you too extravagantly when I say at least for me as a reader you did put an eye on the Dragon. Thank you. You have given a liveliness in a readability to the
material which I think is rare. Mr. Bloodsworth one of the things that you say among many very quotable things is the fact that the ways of the Asian confine the white man of the West. Having to learn to understand and accept some of these ways by now. Well I think so. I think in the course of the last 10 or 15 years that our understanding has increased enormously and that this is particularly true of the young people on both sides. I mean it is it's commonplace now really to say that the new generation in the West Stand tends to study Eastern philosophy and way of life and outlook turns towards it away from materialist materialistic Western ideas and at the same time the young people in the East I think tend to turn towards the west because they're on the upgrade. They haven't achieved the age of affluence yet and they're beginning to wonder how we did the trick. And they're also beginning to realize that it wasn't just a question of the two colors in
carboys so that we really do have more to our civilization and culture and they're learning from us as we are learning from them so the old stuff about used in the West and never the twain shall meet I think is going to be gradually disproven. But it's a slow process or yes as you point out if these two halves of the world unite come to some understanding. I think sooner rather than later that they can be no future for this you know this because the haves have been separate for some long. Oh absolutely. And I think we've got a very long way to go but it just kind of pleases me to see around for example in New York and in the bookshops in New York the extent to which there is an enormous display of books on Eastern philosophy and Chinese literature even as I have seen in Chinese ways of thought and Southeast Asian ways of thought generally. Obviously they have an enormous audience new audience. And we're getting very much closer I think in these
terms the understanding is not completed just in front of us we we notice the extent to which I do for example traveling in Southeast Asia that Eastern people study western music and literature and philosophy and to some extent turn away from what is weak in their own culture look to us for a greater strength in these things. And conversely we do the same with them of course both sides tend to be a bit chauvinist and Asians very often will defend lorde to their own cultural background and civilization and heaven knows sometimes they have excellent reasons for doing so ourselves. But there's a readiness now. Readiness to give up chopsticks and eat with with a knife and fork on the other side whereas we will go rushing off to Chinese restaurants all the time on this side. These are not bad things however superficial they may appear. No I think it's pleasant to see that there is the commingling We like many things which is east and east people like many things which are Western. Do you think that is one difference between
us that they revere their past and respect their civilization more than we do our own. We have a tendency to denigrate ourselves I don't know what makes us do it. I think on the whole they do. Yes I think that they are they have a greater reverence for civilization but it is partly a sense of resentment against what appears to be a superiority an air of superiority on the Westerners which is an gendered entirely by his material affluence an advantage and they therefore fall back on the position of same without horses. Of course this is ephemeral nonsense and it doesn't really exist at all it's an illusion and you fallen for it and we haven't. We know what eternity and the cosmos really mean and songs and so forth. But but I think it basically you are right though in the younger generation as in young people everywhere you do get this tendency to turn around and criticize and say what is this really true. You will find that I don't want to tread on anybody's toes but
the young people supposedly following certain religions in the East are tend to be very critical of them. Young Muslims for example will often say well how do I get on in the world if I have to pray five times a day and fast for one whole month. It's very difficult to work under such conditions. They are in fact trying to modernize their religion and in fact the movement for modernizing Islam are very sensible and obviously needed and this will all come to pass and probably be a very good thing. You find that Buddhists tend to query the beliefs of the past the somewhat fatalistic outlook which said Well I was not only Buddhist but also Hindu which said Well if you cure one meal you probably create two more if you solve one problem and two more are going to crop up. This is and this is to some degree true. And to some degree it is still followed but I find that less and less young people automatically thoughtless
rather fatalistic outlook and I think it's a good thing. Yes but it is a situation where iconoclasm is arising isn't it the old guard being shaken on all sides. That's right and they had been demolished. Do you think that's good or bad. Do you think that the values of the past in crumbling would give the Asian people even more confusion than they must be suffering from now with all this political and military are people. Well I think that if I may say so it's all pretentious I think for one person to comment on is that what Asian people must one hopes cling onto is that their attitude towards the universe and towards life and to its. Its ephemeral nature and whether this means you have to believe in reincarnation or not is is is perhaps questionable. Obviously if you do believe in reincarnation then you will in fact regard your present existence of not great importance and it isn't
essential that you make a million dollars or that you caught her fish. Some for society or the other to this degree and to this degree I think that it is important for Asian people to hold on to their traditions in this respect which obviously have great I think validity and which have attracted enormous numbers of people in the West who are second tired of this kind of screw tops of allies ation that we have which and that with a whole pile of Rusting cars is still the fact that for years over centuries one should say Asians have had their philosophies and religions as a comfort to them because they couldn't arise in their poverty. They couldn't get out of this backwardness in any other way and so they come for themselves the idea will. This world is not for long over going to a better place. But isn't that vanishing and maybe rightly so. These beliefs which you feel they should cling to because these are the beliefs which have held them back from having a fairly
decent time in this world in which they've been placed. Well I think there are two things about this. The first is that there was a kind of healthy respect among Asians and still is for balancing this. The example of course was really set I suppose by Buddha himself in that having that an extremely ascetic life he achieved in life and often he'd had a square meal in a bath. If I may put it in those slightly irreverent terms much to the disgust of the other sages who were with him at the time. I don't think that the patients sort of cling to the extreme idea of asceticism in the way that we are sometimes falsely led into into believing that there is a kind of healthy combination of an outlook towards eternity and infinity which means that you don't attribute too much importance to what's happening in every day life or keeping up with the Joneses. But on the other hand. You you do it as I say square
meals and have bars you don't. You don't sort of drop out of existence and adopt an attitude of well nothing counts whatsoever and happiness is meaningless in this life and so forth you just make the best of it. I could balance it but the physical man is not for God not again. I know exactly and to this extent when hippies come to my part of the world they don't always get the sort of welcome that they expect because although the basic philosophy of the people may seem very sympathetic towards them. In fact I mean people write the Laotians who are accused of sort of lying around being lazy all the time do a perfectly honest day's work they do it slowly but they do it according to the seasons they're not in a hurry and they don't use the word urgent very much or important but they get on with it they really don't believe in people who do nothing and just and unjust. Cling to about normal society which they are they in fact to despise
one of the things that took me aback was the tremendous Just occasion of the Asians in this respect that they are going out of their way to create tourist attractions for gullible tourists Daria's. Well I mean we've been talking about these transcendental aspects of the nation outlook but heaven knows as a materialistic world as I said they're climbing the hill towards affluence Still it isn't that they've got sick of it. And even their sort of student power is used in that direction rather than in a purely anarchical one. And when it comes to making a fast buck creation is not very far behind anybody else anyway. We have this extraordinary situation that tourism is kind of taking over the Far East is being transformed into a sort of instant exotic only hunt for hordes of people who are going to leap out of jumbo jets and immediately want to see temples without carving robes and oxcarts and shadow plays and whatever it may be that the Asians are seeing to it that
the visitor has his heart's content. Now we have and we are temples don't exist they will build a few. Well yes there will come a shop an old one. Yes on Bill facts some of this and well things are rather inaccessible You see they put them together in convenient clumps as well I mean by instant exotic aura and things which might look pathetic such as a rickshaw and its working driver are considered quaint customs and so they are not beyond concentrating on material and why not. No that's that's quite true of course they would. They would argue that it's good for everybody it brings them more affluence including the rickshaw. But I think I do create some resentment when they insist that they are more spiritual than other people because they are not. Well is it. It's again you know we're dealing in these millions of images of God. So I want to say that it is almost where it is that a person is going to be spiritual He can't be anything else but if he can get along materially why he isn't going to overlook that.
Well I think it depends on the individual very much in there. But spirituality among nations in the 20th century is probably more marked than it is in some ways by the older generation of today in the in the West and certainly among the sort of materialistic societies of the West but you still have the other thing humans are just being humans and that's why I thought we might talk about this to the extent we have because it is a very strong bridge of understanding between east and west. These people are not about earthly matters and grasping that we can I think make better contact with them. Oh yes I absolutely agree with you. We are not different from them in this respect and I suppose basically we're not really different from them in in any respect I find the more one looks at for example the philosophers of east and west the more points of contact you find but the thing is that most people ignore them or don't know about them that's all. I think that the difference between east and west
today is still a matter of ignorance between the two. More than a question of Outlook admittedly. I mean there are many many aspects of nation life which appear strange at first sight to sight. For example one thing of which great misunderstanding is going to occur. There is the question of merit that by giving in the east in the broadest East you gain merit to the person who accepts is doing you a favor because he is allowing you to chalk up a spiritual mark in your favor as far as your future existences and ultimate heaven are concerned. We give and we expect the east to thank us for it. Their attitude if one really wants to sort of simplify it is rather that we should be thanking them for taking the opportunity to be a saint. Exactly. Well in many things like this and it occurs over attitudes towards corruption and superstition. So
for the cause that the Asians are often different we are often baffled by them. But I think that all of this can be swept aside if one tries hard enough because basically people are just people. I think another area of bafflement as far as we're concerned is this matter of democracy. We have been told that democracy is the best form of government and we are happy I suppose to have it. On the other hand we assume that other people want the same democracy or something similar. It's not that communism has made much headway in Asia has it except on mainland China. But democracy has made too much progress. Is it that they want neither but some other filename of government which we simply cannot envision. Well the part of their trouble is they can't really envision it themselves and it's hard for them to know what they want but I mean I absolutely agree with what you said. We talk about falling dominoes the great big domino of China. Foule twenty one years ago when
apart from North Vietnam going Communist the rest of Southeast Asia is still outside the communist bloc and most of it is anti communist. There are already other well yes but I was speaking of Southeast Asia just North Korea if you include the far east as a whole. This means I suppose that and I think it's reasonable to assume that in these fairly sort of soft latitudes where you have good weather and. Not the terrible poverty of parts of India for example where most countries as enough rice to eat and you don't need much in the way of clothing the weather is clement you don't need fuel and a roof over your head is enough from the rain. Communism does not necessarily have an enormous attraction. The desperado is acceptable was acceptable rather. I mean traditionally provided he was a benevolent despot and when a new god king arises in some of these countries he has accepted
despite his often outrageous and atrocious behavior provided he plays the role of the god king and presidents gone it was a perfect example of this I mean he spent money like water and womanizing all over the world. The Javanese peasant expected him to womanize I mean a god after all is supposed to be a bit more powerful than a man in every possible respect and for the rest he was a genuine Patrick. And he won independence for his country in this anti colonial thing is very important here and he was their leader and he is now dead and although he was discredited many many people lamented his passing and many believed implicitly in him and that's why although he had been deposed and in a sense had become a political a non entity in international affairs international affairs he was still a threat to the regime which supplanted him. Democracy I mean Sukarno hated democracy. He described the liberal parliamentarian ism as a dreadful evil the
devil. Or words to that effect. And so we've declared a holiday the day the day that he dissolved parliament. Nobody really cared about that but they were looking for was a kind of square social deal. And if this was what they might find itself getting in the end that was all they wanted for the rest was simple in that it was ready to accept a hierarchical society. For example the Indonesians have no tradition of one man one vote whatsoever. Their tradition lies in a sort of group system of mutual cooperation which begins with the family. In the old days the family was the unit and the head of the family the father as they called him was the boss. But before the father took a decision he consulted the entire family. He probably told him which way that they should choose for things to be done. But anyway they did. There was a sort of consultation that went on. The results had to be unanimous This is where democracy has nothing to do with it. Consider the majority of business tourney with 51 people tell 14 I don't want to do
it but there is no logic in that you go that way. But getting back to the idea that communism has more or less been rejected in quoting from your book. You said that people who have rubes and rice in a reasonable relationship with their fellow man have discredited communism and they feel that it is no longer social surgery but social butchery which leaves the patient mentally lame and physically impoverished. Why do the people of South East Asia have this aversion them to communism because they always have it has been something which has been developing with the years as they seen examples of it around them. I think it's been your last sentence I think of your rants for yourself in the last sentence in a sense that originally they presumed we had an open mind about communism and those who are extremely poor because of the depredations of landlords for example demanding very high rents and the poor peasants were probably very much attracted to it. This was certainly so in China and accounts for the communist revolution
in China which was a perfectly natural development to my way of thinking. A But then as the stories filtered through to Southeast Asia as to what was happening in parts of the world which had gone Communist the traction as it were faded and this was also true when North Vietnam went Communist. There was a tendency on the part of the Southeast Asians to say well it was perhaps necessary in a society in which the poor were desperately poor. There were terrible injustices of starvation and so on but in our softer things we really don't need to go so far. This is too drastic a solution. I think this is watered a great number of them feel that they're there for looking around for for something else which in many cases they haven't yet found it may lead them out I'm a lead to democracy. Still Mr. Blood with communism which apparently they don't want is forced upon them
through the military strengthens diversion of other groups. And how will they defend themselves without help from the larger powers. Well. It depends. I don't know that they can defend defend themselves in the short term but on the other hand we've seen a lot of examples of countries which were basically anti-communist and which had communism thrust upon them where the communism itself was slowly modified You know I'm sometimes I feel that communism is now as vague a word as democracy I mean Chinese communism is so utterly different for example from Yugoslavia communism in the same way that popular democracy is entirely different from parliamentary democracy and that if you look at Yugoslavia in fact to take this example here it's quite a close one although I know it's often been cited. Still very valid. After all at the end of World War 2 we had to Tito and we had made Heil of age and height of it should have been the
anti-communist guerrilla leader and the West allowed Tito to liquidate and eliminate his forces and to take over the country. And it was considered an appalling disaster at the time and an awful letdown on the part of the British and the Americans. And so it was. We were living in that Stalinist era and we had a very clear idea of what this was all about. I think well the fact of the matter is that if we look at Yugoslavia today it is an entirely different proposition and it's still my contention that if Hoshi minute overrun Vietnam. In the way that Tito seized control of Yugoslavia from the very outset I think we'd have a sort of communist or socialist Vietnam at the moment but it would not be one that would make us lose any sleep necessarily. Are you saying then that in the long run human nature will out and that people will refuse to live on the too much domination where they have no rights
even if it thrust upon them they will gradually wriggle out of it. Yes and if they don't well I don't know that playing God from the outside is really going to be a valid solution for them. It may give them a short cut. Well it might give them a short cut but it hasn't yet done so for anybody. Well you raise many provocative questions through your observations as a dentist but with and I very much appreciate on behalf of the aging society that you are here and I would say that for anyone who wants to know more about Asia. But in a way Southeast Asia but in a way that is highly readable. I recommend an eye for the dragon and his blood with its author in our guest has been Far East correspondent of The Observer of London since 1954. Thank you and goodbye. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to
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Asia Society presents
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Global Affairs
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-54 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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