Friday, September 21, 2012

Mingun, SE Asian Capitalism, and the Wedding Crashers

Forty-five minutes by boat across and up the river from Mandalay, lies the area/town of Mingun, consisting mainly, once again, of monuments and pagodas.
We climbed to the top of this ancient relic, an earthquake years ago have been destroyed much of its grandeur.  A young Burmese boy attends to us, assuring that we navigate the chasms safely, and don't fall through the narrow separations in the structure (created by the earthquake) with more than enough room for human body to fall through.
Mingun monument

Buddahs inside of course
 He offers to take our pictures, gives the girls a helping hand, and if I should have needed him to fetch me a newspaper, I'm sure he would've sprinted back to town and done so.  Of course, all this attention to us is given with the hope of a tip, of which I oblige.
atop the monument

Returning home on the boat, it starts to rain.  Everyone but me and a Frenchman living in Laos flee from the deck to shelter.  I don't mind a little rain, living in the desert called Los Angeles I actually rather enjoy the rare moments of my life when the heavens bless me with a shower.
Robert relates to me how much of Southeast Asia has changed in the last 10 years.  He describes how in the past the people were so mellow and kind, living much more harmoniously with the land.  Today, the new mindset is to get as much as you can right away, by any means possible.
He describes the black market, clear-cutting of Laotian forests for immediate gain, with the bribing of shallow officials, robbing the country of its shade and natural cooling system, eventually turning the land into desert (I'd feel like I was back home.)  Turn the hardwood into exportable furniture, and reap a tremendous profit.
He laments how greedy the people have become. "It didn't used to be that way," he explains.

The problem with the unfettered form of capitalism is its need for growth and profit at the expense of all else.  A factory that pours its nearly invisible carcinogenic chemical waste into a river, adversely affecting the health of those living downstream, will argue that it's not the company's problem, and that enforcing environmental regulations would create massive lay-offs by raising the cost of goods sold, and affect its competitiveness with China.  They will argue how un-American it is to employ these "burdensome regulations," and that the Environmental Protection Agency was created by a Communist devil.
This photo makes the area looked much more forested than it truly is. Nice view of the pagoda

I personally am a believer in Adam Smith's invisible hand theory (business is good), but capitalism needs regulations or else it will destroy the world by its own avarice.  A few extra dollars does not mean a better quality of life.  I'm not a fan of teachers unions that stand in the way of their brethren being fired for incompetency, but to vote for Newt Gingrich and other Neo-conservatives would mean an assault on all regulations at the behest of business, and while some are certainly burdensome and unnecessary, eliminating them all would mean a lower quality of life.

The Wedding Crashers
We walk back from the docks, dodging through the heavy Mandalay traffic.  We look inside a restaurant, and see festivities taking place. A wedding?
the married couple
Gazing in we attract the attention, and are immediately invited inside.  The ceremony was recently concluded, and we are seated, cake and ice cream placed in front of us.
me and kids at wedding
The spirit is festive and joyful, and most of the guests are intrigued by our presence. The bride and groom immediately venture over to me, standing behind, as a videographer films us. I feel like I'm in the spotlight, that they want me to perform and say something memorable.
"Yo, we're straight from America, celebrating the happy couples wedding. Much blessing to y'all and everybody in Burma. Straight from the USA! Word up! Celebrate," I punctuate my speech with a semi gang sign.

I'm not sure anybody will understand a word I said. They'll probably look back one day on the video and wonder who was that crazy guy?  Is that a gang sign? More importantly, who the hell invited him to our ceremony?
When they went around to each and every guest with the camera for some video shots, I felt a little bit of an ass for making such a spectacle. But hey, isn't that part of the fun of life?

video: crashing a Burmese wedding


  1. Actually, the bride and groom just wanted to stand behind and record your presence with the camera or the video camera. I find it frequently annoying when they suddenly appeared behind me while I was eating. I had to stop eating immediately and look straight at the camera until the cameraman stopped filming. I don't a record of me shoving food into my mouth in their wedding videos.

  2. I feel like I'm in the spotlight, that they want me to perform and say something memorable. Mark Hutchinson is a very experience man which is working in wild life field from many years.


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