War on Christmas News — Heathen Edition!
We’re getting to that time of year again when the snow starts falling and we all come together in the spirit of harmony and goodwill to wage War On Christmas. But as we get into the serious anti-Christmas fighting over the next few week, we might take a moment or two to consider the less fortunate among us who might not have a Christmas to wage war against. And by that, I mean Hindu and Buddhist fundamentalists.
Not many of us here in the West get too worked up about these two religions. Liberals want to be ecumenical, inclusive, and multicultural, so they tend to withhold harsh criticism of minority (in America, at least) religious views. Conservatives believe Hinduism and Buddhism are just different forms of Islam, so they figure they’ve already got it covered. But what both groups miss is that these religions make claims which are just plain wrong. And those wrong beliefs can lead to some terrible actions.
A couple of recent news items raise this issue. For starters, in India a 14 year old boy was found strangled in a field. His name was Neeraj Kumar, and he was a member of the “untouchable” caste. Except it’s no longer PC to call him an untouchable — and you can touch him, apparently. Now they call them Dalits. It’s still OK (socially if not legally) to have caste system biases in some parts of India. Go figure.
According to the BBC article, the boy’s family had been a-fussin’ and a-feudin’ with a higher caste family, one member of which shared a name with the murdered boy. And as we’ve all learned from The Big Lebowski, having the same name as a rich person leads to conflict. But in this case, most stoners won’t find much humor in it. The rich family had been pressuring the poor family to actually change the name of their children because they didn’t want to share a name with a Dalit, who they believe are somehow lower than them. The good news for the rich family is that they don’t have to worry about associating with someone lower than them because there is nobody lower than them, ridiculous bullshit about karma and reincarnation notwithstanding.
Anywho, the police say that this murder is the culmination of this absurd fight. With a billion people in India, you’d think even the most backwards of them would get used to some name overlap, but I guess not.
Representing Buddhism, we’ve got King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, but you can just call him Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitalathibet Ramathibodi Chakkrinaruebodin Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatbophit. That’s his official title. Seriously. Some insecure guys get sports cars to compensate for their, um, shortcomings; others give themselves insanely long and silly titles.
Like the caste system in India, the Thai monarchy is justified in religious terms. In the early days it was a mixture of a Hindu emphasis on military power and the teachings of Buddha. The current monarch is a staunch defender of Thereveda Buddhism. Back in the 1950s he became a monk for a couple weeks because one of his relatives died, which is apparently a thing Thereveda Buddhists like to do. He even wrote a book based on a traditional Buddhist story.
Buddhists try to reach what they call enlightenment, for some reason. Enlightenment means you monitor the private text messages of the citizens you rule over and throw them in prison for a couple decades if any of them insult you. That’s what happened to the 61 year old Ampon Tangnoppakul, whose lawyer says doesn’t even know how to send text messages and “loves His Majesty the King.”
Tangnoppakul has a reason to lie, though. This isn’t the first time King Adulyadej has gotten his panties in a bunch over someone saying mean things about him. Back in 2007 the Thai government banned YouTube after it refused to remove videos mocking the monarch. That same year a Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for dabbing some black paint on the king’s portrait while drunk. Others are currently serving long sentences in prison for such trivial “offenses” as posting pictures or forwarding Facebook messages critical of the thin-skinned dictator. Not standing during the royal anthem is also considered a crime in Thailand on the grounds that it insults the monarch.
The judge in Tangnoppakul’s case found him guilty and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Tangnoppakul wasn’t there to hear the verdict in person though because as the NY Times article cited above notes, the prison he was kept in was surrounded by floodwater at the time of his sentence. Personally I doubt the authorities had any intention of letting him leave the prison even without a guilty verdict from the judge.
That really says it all when it comes to the Eastern religions which even critics of religion often treat with kids’ gloves. How messed up are your priorities when the government would rather scour the internet for critics (or develop nuclear weapons, in India’s case) than do something about massive flooding to the extent where a prisoner can’t even leave his cell for his own trial? For some reason Hinduism and Buddhism get this reputation as ‘peaceful’ religions, but even a quick glance at the news over the past week or so shows that such a reputation is totally unjustified.