Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," wrote Charles Dickens in the first sentence of A Tale of Two Cities, and this description could apply to the days in which were are now living. No one seems sorry to see the decade go.

Dickens was writing about the period before and during the French Revolution. The novel was published seventy years after the bloody social upheaval that traumatized Europe for decades and his novel was partly a cautionary tale about what might happen in England if the social injustices of the 19th century were not addressed. Dickensian London may have been colorful, but hidden in the back alleys behind the impressive facade of the British Empire were the impoverished masses, in England and in her widespread colonies, who fueled the machine of modernity. A feudal agricultural society was dismantled to provide the labor that enabled the rise of capitalism. The plunder of the earth's limited supply of coal and oil supplied energy for incredible technologies that would change the face of the planet (and guarantee its eventual demise). Yesterday's aristocracy are today's bankers, lawyers and politician. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This decade began for me with a diagnosis of prostrate cancer, the end of a 24-year marriage, and the first reality TV show in which one morning a bunch of terrorists discovered they could turn planes into weapons and destroyed two Manhattan skyscrapers while the world watched. Eight disastrous years of Bush ended with the ascent of Obama who has shown in his first year as president that, no, he can't. Working wasn't fun any more, so I retired with a pension and medical benefits and set out alone to see the world. After visiting countries in Central and South America, Europe and Asia, I resolved to settle permanently in Thailand.

Now in my 71st year I teach English to monks part-time and live with a wonderful woman in a 10th floor apartment in Bangkok. Every day is an incredible adventure. But the decade has also been tough for Thailand, with the rise and fall (and possible resurrection of) exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Increasing polarization between the royalist yellow shirts and populist red shirts bodes ill for peace in the immediate future for this troubled land which is ruled by non-elected elites from Bangkok. But the real elephant in the room is the Succession and it's illegal to speculate about it. Ever the optimist, however, tomorrow we're traveling to the island of Ko Samui for a six-day vacation on the beach.Three nights from now we'll greet the second decade of the 21st century with hope that the world will eventually share our happiness and contentment with the way things have turned out for us.

We've been celebrating the end of the decade for a week. The picture at top was taken at E-San Tawandang, a large restaurant where we held a birthday party for Jerry's wife, Lamyai, on Christmas evening. The photo below was taken at an early New Year's party held the next night by our condominium complex, Lumpini Place. What I am not including is a video which shows me dancing with the Isaan ladies.

May all beings be happy, healthy and at peace. Happy New Year, dear readers.

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