Southeast Asia: “It gave me great joy that Europe’s colonial powers were at last leaving my territory after centuries of dominating my people and exploiting my resources. Of course the American Company had replaced Spain in the Philippines, France in Indochina, and the Netherlands in the East Indies. It could even be argued that American neo-colonialism was worse for my inhabitants in some ways than European colonialism.
It was depressing how easy it was for the Company to manipulate the American Public to do their bidding. But at least the bulk of Americans seemed to have genuinely noble ideals. It was apparent that they wanted for every country in the world to guarantee basic human rights for their citizens, including housing, food and equal rights under the law. Yet they seemed to be gradually waking up to the deception.
Perhaps the English people and their government opened their eyes a little more quickly. Why? Perhaps it was because their Company had dragged them into so many devastating wars with the accompanying loss of millions of lives. Further, the English were burned out from World War II and wanted to nurture their own. Maybe it takes a significant war to cure young men of their desire to win glory on the field of battle. Plus independence movements in their colonies were placing a significant drain upon scant resources.
In response to these motives, the British government was gradually and somewhat reluctantly divesting their portfolio of the Company’s income properties, i.e. the overseas colonies. They were becoming too burdensome to maintain. While the independence movements in the other European colonial properties were violent, the movement for independence in the English colonies was characterized by a gradual and peaceful transition. Let’s examine this movement towards local rule in more detail. We’ll begin our discussion with Britain’s maritime colonies – Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.”
While not easy, the British colony of Malaysia had perhaps the least difficulty in achieving local autonomy. Modern Malaysia consists of 2 distinct geographical territories that are separated by 400 miles of water. The most populous and politically influential area is Peninsular Malaysia. This territory is 500 miles long by 200 miles wide. Most of the peninsula’s elevation is over 500 feet. A mountain ridge characterizes the center with sharp peaks rising above 7000 feet. Malaysia’s other half is the northern portion of the island of Borneo. North Borneo is 670 miles long and 240 miles wide with a 7000-foot mountain range effectively isolating it from southern Borneo.
Malaysia didn’t exist as a political entity until modern times. Instead it consisted of multiple Islamic sultanates. Due to the rugged geography of the mountainous terrain, these sultanates never unified politically. There were no large river valleys and flat plateaus to form a densely populated civilization, such as existed in Java, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. In fact, these Southeast Asian empires frequently claimed parts of the Malay Peninsula as their own. It could be said that the Japanese occupation catalyzed a sense of national unity that had not existed before.
During World War II, Japan lumped all the Southeast Asian islanders, including the territories of modern day Malaysia, into one administrative unit. Their reasoning was straightforward. The majority of people on the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and the Indonesian archipelago speak languages in the Austronesian language family and are of the same ethnicity. Further they are all Muslim, primarily Sunni, and ruled by individual Islamic sultanates with shifting boundaries. Due to these distinctive similarities, the Japanese treated them as a single group during World War II. Late in the war, the Japanese placed the Javanese in charge of the entire collection of diverse Islamic sultanates in order to engender a sense of unity and cooperation.
Despite the unification efforts of the Japanese, the Islamic islanders had one major difference that became immediately apparent after the war. The Dutch had ruled the Indonesian archipelago and southern Borneo for centuries, while the English governed the Malay Peninsula and northern Borneo. The variations in colonial administration led to distinct cultural differences that in turn eventually led to the formation of two countries.
Prior to the war, the British had exerted only loose control over what is now called Malaysia. Their primary interest was the coastal trading centers. Any control of the rugged inland territories was accomplished via the multiple sultans. England granted the sultans quite a bit of autonomy if they cooperated in the exploitation of their people. Due to this offer that ‘they couldn’t refuse’, the sultans generally cooperated without resistance.
In addition to the majority Islamic population on the Malay Peninsula, there was also a significant Chinese and Indian population. The English had certainly increased their numbers by importing these nationalities in as laborers. However, both the Indians and Chinese had settled in the region as traders for millennia. In fact, the Chinese assumed a prominent role in business, as elsewhere. Not only were they in charge of international businesses, the Chinese also were also more likely to be local shopkeepers and run the village store.
By the end of World War II, the Chinese were the most significant minority. At one point, it was estimated that the population distribution of Malaysia was roughly 50% Malay, 30% Chinese, 8% Indian, and 8% indigenous of non-Malay descent. The Malay sultanates were in charge politically, while the Chinese were business leaders. In general, this relationship had not been hostile, but cooperative instead.
Just after World War II in 1946, the British made an enlightened, seemingly benign, proposal to form a single Malayan Union that incorporated all the Malay territories on the Peninsula with the exception of Singapore. Under the proposed union, the autonomy of the sultanates would be diminished and non-Malays would be accorded equal political and citizenship rights.
Due to the presumed erosion of the political power of the sultanates under this proposal, the Malay population was outraged. In response, the leaders formed a political organization called United Malays National Organization (UMNO). In the years and even decades to come, the organization served as a vehicle to assert traditional Malay political privileges in the struggle to shape a new country from the diverse sultanates.
Strikes, demonstrations, and boycotts forced the British to negotiate with the UMNO. The negotiations resulted in the creation of the Federation of Malaya in 1948. This agreement between the Malays and the English unified the Malay Peninsula but left the sultans in charge of their traditional territories. Plus it guaranteed special rights to the Malay population.
Needless to say, this preferential treatment of the Malays outraged the minority populations, especially the impoverished Chinese. Already in 1930, a primarily Chinese Communist party had been formed to fight for self-rule and worker rights. This group had also been the backbone of the resistance to the Japanese occupation. In response to this British/Malay agreement, the Chinese Communists retreated to the hills and fought a violent 12-year guerilla insurgency, called the Emergency, to dislodge the British from power. Although unsuccessful in their attempt to establish a Communist government, the agitation of these guerilla fighters ultimately led to social reform and self-rule.
Initially, the British employed violence against violence. Further they employed the same village relocation strategy that they had used against the Burmese. Instead of resolving issues, this universally unpopular move generated more animosity towards English colonial rule.
Instead of accelerating the violence, the British wisely shifted course to the path of conciliation. They began addressing the political and economic grievances of the insurgency. These conciliatory actions isolated the Chinese Communists from the bulk of the population and defused their movement. This Malaysian example provides an excellent instance in support of the notion that Communism tends to be the path of desperation, not the first choice.
To accommodate the growing urge for self-rule, the British began negotiating with the different ethnic factions. Tunku Abdul Rahman gradually emerged as the leader of the Malaysian independence movement. A moderate, he consistently lobbied for human rights for all ethnicities, not just the Malay. He also counseled for negotiation rather than violence. Ultimately he was the chief architect of an alliance between the 3 primary cultures of Malaysia that eventually led to independence. As such, it could be said that Tunku Abdul Rahman is the father of his country.
As the son of a sultan, who ruled Kedah, in north of Malaysia for 60 years, he had prestige with the Islamic Malay population, including the other sultanates. Schooled in Thailand, Malaya and Cambridge, he had a cosmopolitan background that enabled him to communicate easily with the British. Due to his elite connections combined with his long-term commitment to self-rule and human rights, the Malay faction drafted him to be their leader.
After becoming the spokesman for the Malay people, he forged an alliance with the Malayan Chinese Association, a political group formed by wealthy Chinese businessmen to lobby for Chinese rights. Shortly after, Rahman was instrumental in including the Malayan Indian Congress in the coalition. With Malay, Chinese, and Indian leaders united behind one goal, they were invincible.
In 1955 the British allowed national legislative elections. Tunku Abdul Rahman’s coalition won all but one seat. This election set a permanent precedent for years to come. Instead of bitter partisan fighting, the country is ruled by a multi-ethnic coalition consisting of wealthy political and business leaders. Although the Malays are the dominant political force, they did not regress to a tyranny of the majority, as frequently occurs with nascent democracies.
On Aug. 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya achieved independence under a coalition government headed by Tunku Abdul Rahman as prime minister. This initial federation included all the sultanates on the Malay Peninsula. Due to its predominantly Chinese population, Singapore remained outside the federation as a British crown colony.
The British-style parliamentary government definitely favors the Malay population. A monarch is elected every 5 years from the 9 sultans. Further Malays tend to hold all the important political offices on both the federal and state level. However, the Chinese and Indians have liberal citizenship rights, and the Chinese have been allowed to maintain strong economic power. Cooperation and ethnic accommodation has proved to be good for Malaysia, who has one of the best and soundest economies in Southeast Asia and the world.
Yet in the early 1960s, Malaysia was still Malaya. North Borneo was still separate geographically as well as politically. Although the residents had begun lobbying for independence, they had little leverage. However, the democratic process had begun, as elections were held for local councils.
This lightly populated, oil-rich, poorly defended and nonaligned territory had begun to attract international attention. The U.S. via their puppet state, the Philippines, claimed Sabah, based on former suzerainty by the Sulu sultanate located in the southern islands. Further, an expanding Indonesia under Sukarno had already included the southern half of the island of Borneo in their country and wanted to seize the upper half as well.
Finally due to the global desire for self-rule accompanied by peaceful demonstrations and militant action, England had been increasingly burdened by colonial rule. In the process of rebuilding a war-shattered nation, the government simply didn’t have the resources or desire to defend the Company’s overseas income property. Accordingly, she had been in the process of granting her former colonies freedom. To this end, British leaders proposed an expanded Malaysian federation that included the 2 sultanates of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Sabah, as well as Singapore.
Elections in the respective areas approved this marriage of convenience. Four hundred miles of ocean separated the two parts of Malaysia. Plus they were ethnically and historically distinct. However, they had both been under British rule and so shared some traditions in common. As such, the sparsely populated northern region of Borneo preferred inclusion in the Malaysian federation, as a way of preventing absorption by her powerful neighbors. On Sept. 16, 1963, the Federation of Malaysia was formed.
The new nation faced many problems. Indonesia was threatening to expand its territories into the remainder of the Islamic Austronesian world, i.e. Malaysia. Ultimately, the international community prevented this military aggression. There was also a sporadic communist insurgency in Sarawak and the usual democratic problems associated with under-representation in government of rural populations, in this case North Borneo.
More importantly in terms of current political boundaries, Singapore seceded from the Federation at Malaysia’s urging in 1965. This was due to increasing friction between Malaysia’s Malay rulers and Singapore’s Chinese ruler, Lee Kuan Yew. As we shall see, Singapore chose to be a center for the international banking community ruled by the International Cartel. In contrast, Malaysia chose to be neutral. To accomplish this goal, Malaysian leaders wrote laws forbidding the acceptance of any kind of foreign aid. In this way, the country avoided the strings of dependency that tend to be attached to gifts of any kind.
Southeast Asia: “I was exceedingly happy that Malaysians had achieved independence from English rule at last, and in a peaceful manner besides. Although buffeted by external events and circumstances beyond their control, they were finally able to exert an influence on the future course of their newly formed nation. However, I was equally dismayed by how my children were treated. The indigenous people were treated like the dirt floors that they had walked upon for generations. The ruling elite walked all over them. This disturbing imbalance had severe consequences rather quickly.
Recall that Islamic sultans along with their family formed an alliance with Chinese and Indian business leaders to form a political party. It was this political party that then negotiated with England to establish an independent nation. This civilized discussion between the elite of the respective societies was a major factor in the relatively smooth transition. But the needs my common people were not considered. The business of exploitation continued as usual. But now Malaysia was a democracy. My people had the right to vote for their leaders.
In 1969 shortly after the government was formed, the opposition party, made up of labor unionists and underemployed middle class intellectuals, won many seats in a national election. Excited about the possibilities of social change, the party held a celebratory parade. The majority party countered with a parade of their own. On May 13, 1969, race riots between the Chinese and the Malay broke out. The May 13 Riot, as it is called, resulted in the loss of hundreds of primarily Chinese lives and the destruction of up to 6,000 Chinese homes and businesses. The laboring class, the indigenous Malays, took this opportunity to express their frustration against the wealthier Chinese who ran the businesses. They were presumably afraid that the Chinese might gain more power in the new government.
Due to this social turbulence, the moderate Tunku Abdul Rahman was forced to resign. The new government declared a state of emergency, where Malays assumed full political and military power. The Malay controlled state then suspended Parliament and political parties, imposed press censorship and placed severe restrictions on political activity. Further they passed the Sedition Act, which declared that any person suspected of sedition could be imprisoned indefinitely. This law has never been repealed. As expected, these political restrictions effectively silenced any government criticism. Further the Constitution was changed to make it illegal to criticize the Malay monarchy, the privileged Malay position in society and Malay as the national language.
From the outside, this political response to the May 13 riot seems to be blatant racism in favor of the Islamic Malay. But, the Chinese held most of the economic power, even though the Malays, the sultans and their families, held the political power. As mentioned, Malaysia’s ruling party was formed from an elite coalition of Malay, Chinese, and Indians with economic and political power. It did not include the common people of any race.
The May riot certainly had a racial component, but was actually more of a spontaneous expression of rage concerning untenable living conditions. The poorer elements of the Malay population attacked the wealthier Chinese as a convenient target to express their frustrations. However, they were equally frustrated by the Malay leaders for not granting them adequate pay and housing for their labors.
The Malay-dominated government was acutely aware of what the problem was. And it had little to do with race. Due to the riots, the government launched what they called the New Economic Policy. The intent of this policy was to better the living conditions of the indigenous Malay laboring class. In this way they hoped to damp the heat of the revolutionary coals that exploded so suddenly.
This initial attempt at improving living conditions for the poor only focused upon the Malay, but ignored the Chinese and Indian laborers, who were also indigenous to the region. Due to this neglect, the Chinese launched another Communist insurrection that lasted from 1968 to 1989. To the Malay government’s credit, they defused the Chinese rebellion, not through military force, but by introducing more social reforms that improved the plight of the working class of all ethnicities. Since then, the Malaysian government has attempted to maintain a delicate ethno-political balance that includes all races and economic classes in the wealth of the nation.
Southeast Asia: “In general, I am quite happy with Malaysia’s progress. After attaining independence from Britain, Malaysia has experienced social problems, just like every other country. Business interests still exploit the environment and the poorer classes of society, just like everywhere else. But at least, the bulk of Malaysians have adequate food and shelter. Further, they live in a limited democracy, where everyone has at least the potential to participate in the government of the country.
Self-rule, neutrality, and a respect for the rights of all citizens regardless of ethnicity or economic status, have been good for the country. Fifty years later Malaysia is one of the most stable and prosperous countries in Southeast Asia. Now let us explore the quest for independence in one of Britain’s adjacent colonies – Singapore.”
Singapore is a small island located on the tip of the Malay Peninsula. Because of its central location on the Straits of Malacca, it has become one of the premier entrepots on the planet. The British established the port in the 1800s, when they entered the region.
They ruled the island until the Japanese occupied all of Southeast Asia during World War II. After the end of the war, Singapore was returned to the British. Dominated by Americans, international business merged with and took over the strictly British run company. America is now Singapore's largest trading partner - with 40% of its business.
In 1959 - due to widespread revolt, Britain finally granted her Southeast Asian colonies self-rule. In 1963, Singapore became a semiautonomous state within the Federation of Malaysia. Then in 1965 this prosperous port city was asked to leave the federation to become an independent republic.
To understand why Singapore was asked to leave the federation, let us examine the life of Lee Kuan Yew - the undisputed founding father of this modern nation. He was prime minister from Singapore's inception in 1959 to 1990 - 31 years. Further, his political party, the People's Action Party (PAP), which he led, has completely dominated the country's politics since birth. Under Lee's autocratic rule, Singapore became a highly prosperous, but tightly controlled city-state.
Educated at Cambridge in England, Lee Kuan Yew was exposed to the British Labor Party. This introduced him to the ideas of worker rights, the liberation of women, and self-determination. He returned to Singapore to work for these ideals. His efforts were cut short by World War II, when the Japanese conquered Singapore. He was a witness to their atrocities against the Chinese - almost akin to genocide. The Japanese occupation, while brief, also exposed the vulnerability of the British.
After the war, the Singaporians, with Lee Kuan Yew as their leader, began demanding independence. The left leaning members of Lee’s party, including some Communists, broke off, presumably because Lee didn’t go far enough in terms of workers’ rights. This led to permanent animosity between his party and theirs.
Lee and his pro-business party, the PAP, won the first elections in 1959. After his party assumed control, he began censoring dissenting newspapers and suppressing political opposition. A law was even passed giving the government the right to imprison anyone suspected of sedition. In Lee's defense, Communism was being actively propagated from China. Additionally, their extreme social experiments, i.e. eliminating families and religion, the purging of professionals, the elimination of dissent, and the collectivation of property were well known and feared.
Because his country was so small, he joined the Malaysian league in 1963 for protection. But when he entered his party in Malaysian politics in 1965, the Malays began rioting.
Possibly the Malays feared Lee Kuan Yew as a popular demagogue; or maybe they were afraid that his primarily Chinese city-state would align with populist interests of Communist China or the business interests of Nationalist China, Taiwan; or perhaps they were nervous that the Chinese from Singapore would form an unhealthy alliance with the Chinese business leaders of Malaysia. Whatever the specifics, the Malays were afraid of the powerful Chinese business community. The result was that Singapore was asked to leave the Federation. Lee Kuan Yew tearfully withdrew.
Still anxious because of Singapore’s tiny size, Lee Kuan Yew then turned to the international business community for protection. Lee promised them a secure place to do business, if they granted Singapore relative political autonomy. Using the dictatorial powers that they provided, he eliminated corruption and turned Singapore into the safest city-state in the world. To accomplish this task, he sanitized the nation. No more prostitution, no more drugs, no more obvious black market, no more drinking, no more spitting, and no more chewing gum, a habit that Lee had always hated.
On the positive side, Lee was committed to increasing women’s rights, ethnic harmony, universal education and economic modernization. On the negative side, this meant restricting personal freedoms, including political dissent. He ruled autocratically - pathologically suppressing any opposition to his policies. In attempting to clean up Singapore’s slums, he also eliminated some traditional neighborhoods, because they didn’t pass the test of modernity. They weren’t attractive enough for the businesses he was trying to entice.
Lee’s pro-business strategy has proved to be to an eco-disaster for the island. The construction of modern highways with skyscrapers has denuded the island of its tropical forests. Today only 5% of the land area is covered with trees and the traditional mangroves.
His strategy of pursuing stability at all costs was undeniably successful in attracting international business. Although just a tiny country, Singapore has survived and thrived. This island city-state, along with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, are known as Asia's four ‘Little Tigers’.
Lee’s method was straightforward: Suppress freedom and liberty in the name of business. These judgments may be a bit harsh. Did Lee Kuan Yew really have any choice? Could he have pursued a balance of culture and business? Who knows? Under the political climate of the time, he may have done the only thing possible to retain political autonomy for Singapore, his tiny country.
It's evident that the Singaporians, who supposedly ‘enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Asia’, have had to pay some heavy costs - including eroding traditional culture, eco-destruction, and the limitation of personal liberties.
Was there any other way?
No one will ever know.
Reflecting upon the state of affairs in the new millennium: although there are huge disparities between the rich and poor classes of Singapore, the economy is stable and prosperous. More importantly everyone has enough to eat and a place to live. Further, after its early years, Singapore has gradually evolved into a representative democracy. Everyone is required to vote and the elected representatives exert some real control over government policies.
However, the dominant political party has won every national election since Singapore achieved independence. This is due to a low level of press freedom coupled with suppressed civil liberties and political rights. For instance, a police permit is required for public gatherings of more than 5 individuals. As such, Singapore is classified as a semi-authoritarian regime.
The International Cartel justifies this repressive government because Singapore acts as their bank, as well as being a major trading port. As usual, the international business community has no qualms about suppressing human freedom, as long as their money and profits are secure. As another indication of the Cartel’s power, there has never been any attempt or discussion about increasing personal freedoms on this tiny island. The status quo is just fine, because the Cartel is firmly in charge.
Brunei was the last of Britain’s maritime colonies to achieve independence. It is a tiny Islamic sultanate located in Northern Borneo. Considering its size and location, why wasn’t it included in the Malaysian Confederation? Oil.
When the Europeans arrived in the 1500s, the sultanate of Brunei was in effective political control of the entire island of Borneo as well as the Sulu Archipelago of the modern day Philippines. Over the centuries, the sultanate fragmented. When the English arrived in the 19th century, the sultanate lost most of its territory. The English adventurer James Brooke and later his family assumed control of Sarawak as white sultans. Then the British Company took over Sabah in the northeast of Borneo.
It seemed as if the sultanate of Brunei was destined to disappear into the mists of history. To survive, the sultanate cooperated with Britain. In 1906, they accepted a British ‘resident’, an advisor whose advice the sultanate was bound to accept. This was the same pattern the British developed with all the Islamic sultanates of Malaysia. The underlying subtext was straightforward. ‘Help our Company to exploit your resources and your people and we will allow you to survive and even thrive.’ It was an offer that was hard to refuse.
In 1929 oil was discovered in Brunei. Prosperity followed. The sultanate was invited to join the Malaysian Confederation when it was formed in 1963, but declined. The sultan preferred to remain independent, rather than give up his privileges as a British protectorate. He presumably feared that the somewhat democratic assembly of Malaysian sultanates would erode his autonomy. We must assume that the Company approved of his decision for the same reasons. It would be better for profits if the sultanate remained free of Malaysia.
The British took steps to turn Brunei into a democracy. A constitution was written and limited elections were held in 1962. But the sultan suspended the constitution after a popular revolt that was suppressed with English assistance. Again he probably suspected that his absolute power would be compromised under a democratic political system.
Britain allowed Brunei to become fully independent in 1984. The international community, including Malaysia and Indonesia, gave assurances that they would recognize Brunei's sovereignty, presumably with the Cartel’s encouragement. Brunei became independent, not as as a limited democracy, but as an Islamic sultanate. As such, the sultan was in charge of all crucial political decisions.
In other words, nothing has changed in Brunei since the colonial days. Although seemingly independent and without an official British ‘resident’ to offer ‘advice’ that can’t be refused, the sultan of Brunei is acutely aware that his independence and prosperity is dependent upon cooperation with the International Business Cartel.
Because of the Company’s tacit support, Brunei, like Singapore, has remained politically stable and economically prosperous throughout modern times. However, it is politically repressive. The government runs and owns all the major media, thereby limiting criticism or dissent.
More importantly, Brunei is one of the few Islamic states run by Sharia law. Sharia is Islamic religious law based in the Koran. Under this legal system, stoning to death is the punishment for the ‘crimes’ of homosexuality and adultery. Businesses are not permitted to sell alcohol, although non-Muslims are allowed to bring it in for private consumption. Although women’s rights are protected outside the home, the husband is considered to be his wife’s ruler. It is also against the law for Muslims to change religion. The punishment for this transgression against Sharia law is also death by stoning. Those who belong to other religions are required to pay a special tax and have limited rights.
In other words, the International Cartel has allowed the leaders of the Sultanate of Brunei to survive and thrive despite their flagrant violation of basic human rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of sexual choice, and the independence of women. If not for the protection of the international business community, the progressive Islamic state of Malaysia would certainly have absorbed this tiny nation-state into its boundaries. But that would have been bad for profits. The trade arrangement based around oil has been favorable to the Cartel.
Note that Brunei’s extreme application of Sharia law violates the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights on many accounts. This example seems to provide clear evidence that the Cartel is much more powerful politically than the United Nations. Brunei would not exist, except for the military support of the international business community.
Southeast Asia: “Although the living conditions have improved tremendously for the laboring classes in Malaysia, the income disparity between rich and poor is among the highest of the world nations. This is also true of their neighboring city-states of Singapore and Brunei. This trio of countries has the greatest income disparity in all of Southeast Asia. In contrast, their Southeast Asian neighbor, Indonesia, has one of best ratings in the world in terms of income equality. As a comparison, the U.S. ranks just below Malaysia on this scale, while the Western European countries rank with Indonesia.
In contrast, the potential for human development as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI) in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei is very high. The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and quality of life for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare.
In other words, the relative well-being of the citizenry in these 3 former British colonies is quite high. This is true even though income disparity is also high and political freedoms are restricted. Even though Malaysia is a quasi democracy ruled by sultanates, Singapore a semi-repressive regime, and Brunei a sultanate ruled by Sharia law, the rulers have taken the welfare of their subjects into account.
If my indigenous people are cared for, this makes me happy. After all, money and freedom don’t necessarily equate with happiness. Better to be surrounded by a loving family and community with enough food and a roof over one’s head, than to be free to starve to death.
I truly wish that the citizens of these 3 countries would be granted more basic human rights, such as freedom of speech. However, at least they have a stable social situation: no bombs, no civil wars, no mass executions, and no social turbulence. This gives me a measure of satisfaction, as a peaceful environment is certainly more conducive to the quest for self-realization and even enlightenment, than is chaos.”