Tuesday, May 01, 2007

a history of johor and some other kingdom

Right now I’m reading A History of Malaysia to satisfy the research phase of my novel. Mostly this involves trying not to fall asleep as I skim chapters about how trade centers like Srivijaya gave way to trade centers like Melaka. I love history, but I’m not so into the ancient stuff. Even though my novel is set entirely in the present, I like to be thorough, except of course when I’m totally ignoring the facts. I’m a little bipolar when it comes to research.

Anyway, today’s reading involved the kingdom of Johor colluding with the Dutch to take down…shoot, I already forgot. Some other kingdom. But the point is that they were siding with the colonizers, which made me think about what colonialism must have looked like in its early days.

To the average Johorian, this wasn’t a matter of selling out to the white man to defeat your own people and ultimately yourself. Because the people in that other kingdom weren’t your own people, they were just the assholes across the straights. And the Dutch weren’t The Man, they were just a convenient ally. It’s just that convenient allies have a tendency to turn on you. (The first edition of this book was published in 1982, but apparently no one in the U.S. government read it before arming Afghan freedom fighters against the USSR.)

As my Chicano lit professor said, “We’re all the oppressors. We’re all the oppressed.” Useful words to remember when you feel bogged down by your own victimization or your own guilt.

I doubt this particular blog entry will be anywhere near as popular as my insightful critiques of The L Word, but I’m hoping that writing little book reports here and there will keep me on track research-wise. Then I’ll feel less guilty when I sit down to watch The L Word on the laptop that I undoubtedly own as a result of various forms of oppression.

3 comments:

thelastnoel said...

Welcome to dorkdom. I always thought the Srivijaya period was an interesting time for Southeast Asia. If I'm correct, the period lasted from 600-1220. I want to write a narrative about this time because of its Buddhistic influence in the area.

Cheryl said...

Wow, you know way more than I do--which means I'm going to be knocking on your blog-door with all my Southeast Asia questions. Consider yourself warned.

thelastnoel said...

Ur, this is mostly what I know about Southeast Asia. I do have a blogger friend from Malaysia, named Jason Phoon. www.jasonphoon.com

Be warned: he's only 24 and he's working out his issues with girls, which is evident in his comics.