Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A historical theory (Semiotic Power Catalysts for Psychos)

About 3000 years ago, a mountain people from the Badakshan area of Central Asia (northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan), an important trading center through which the “Silk Road” passed, became tempted by thoughts of wealth in lowlands to their west, which they were becoming strong enough to consider appropriating. These people of Kamboja, or Kambujiya, had strong belief in hierarchy, divine will and the right of might. To them, to be able to take was a mandate to do so, within the natural, moral compass and order of things. How could it be else-wise?
In the 9th century BCE they took Persis (now Fars Province of Iran, where Shiraz is), then Anshan (in the Zagros mountains of southwestern Iran), a quite ancient civilization, and soon the whole Iranian plateau.
The empire at around 500 BCE stretched from the Indus Valley in the east to Thrace and Macedonia; it eventually controlled Egypt and encompassed approximately 8 million square kilometers; in 480 BCE it is estimated to have had 50 million people. At its greatest extent, it had absorbed the modern territories of Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, most of Turkey, parts of Libya, Georgia and Azerbaijan, much of the Black Sea coastal regions and extensive parts of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Oman. They may well have been the root of the Ksyatriya caste, India’s ruling and military elite who were in charge of protecting society by fighting in wartime and governing in peacetime, and Gautama Buddha was most likely one of them (see the work of Ranajit Pal, who faces much disparagement but seems to me spot on, at least about some things).
Some of these Persian Ksyatriyas created the Srivijaya maritime empire, a splinter group from which met other Kambojas who had come overland (eventually following the path of the Mekong) to the Tonle Sap in what was then the kingdom of Chenla (Zhenla) and what is now Cambodia. These two groups, united by racial background and world-view, would have had trouble communicating verbally after a millennia and a half of differing influences on their language, but they saw the locals in quite the same way. Together they enslaved the local aboriginals, built the extensive Angkor Wat complexes, became known as the Khom and eventually formed the core of Siamese royalty and what became Thailand. As less than 1% has great difficulty holding in slavery over 99%, when drought and the Black Plague hit about 1300 CE, the Angkor Empire started to crumble, its edifices, by the time of the rise of Ayudhaya, left as a bad memory to become over-run by jungle, and the Khom were almost forgotten. Jit Phoumisak, called by some the only Thai intellectual, wrote about this, and seems as a result to have been executed. David K. Wyatt of Cornell University, the foremost historian on Thailand, might well have wanted to write on it, too, but wanted even more to be able to return to Thailand for visits, and so did not, although some of his later writings show interest in the surrounding controversies.
Srivijaya, like the Dutch and British East India Companies, merely expropriated ports, with “Factory” warehouses, and didn't attempt administration of colonies (Ligor, now Nakorn Sri Thammarat, Thailand, a possible exception), but the Khom rulers of the Khmer (pronounced “kha-may", the first syllable just like the Thai word for slave) raised rule to an art form, beguiling a gullible public with magical incantations and other bewitchery for half a millennium.

This is fascinating: in his “A history of Cambodia” David Chandler says, “In the 17th century, according to Dutch sources, foreign traders were required to love in specific areas of the new capitol, Udong, reserved for them and to deal with the Cambodian government only through appointed representatives, or shabandar.”
Wikipedia says, “S̲h̲āhbandar (Persian: شه‌بندر‎‎, lit. “harbourmaster”), was an official of the ports in Safavid Persia and one also known on other shores of the Indian Ocean. The Shahbandar (Port Master) was in charge of the traders and the collection of taxes. The office of shahbandar first appeared in Persia, and from there spread throughout the Indian Ocean basin.” Chandler doesn’t mention Persians though.
Yup, Persian influence in SE Asia goes WAY back. As Dr. Ranajit Pal put it, “evidence has revealed the presence of Siddhartha Gautama, the man who became Buddha, as far west as Persia. Family seals and records found at Persepolis, the ancient capital of the fourth Persian Emperor, Darius the Great, have been identified and associated with the names of Siddhartha Gautama and his father, Suddhodana Gautama. … Even the Indus Culture (India) is a colony of the Sumerian Empire, ...”
I was researching to write about Vasco de Gama for one of my novels, and ended up parroting others who had him meeting (and battling with) Arab traders in the Arabian Sea area, as if Persians would not have come down from the Persian Gulf… I’ve corrected that now. Clearly, Persians did travel and interact to the east and south of their home area, and why not? I’ve yet to have solid evidence for my speculations about their possible influence on Angkor, yet, though.
Seems likely to me that well before Persians became bureaucrats for Cambodian and Thai kings, they traded through a large coastal area extending until Chinese influence and control became too strong to deal with. Over centuries, they became knowledgeable in methods of control, lost interest in colonization or active political control in preference to manipulations through trade (for the most part), doing what Portuguese, Dutch and British later did with their “East India” companies. A break-away group forged Angkor, though, and kept an empire until Han population explosion and conquest of Han people by Mongols changed the socio-political situation enough that an alliance with T’ai peoples, emigrating for safety’s sake from their Southern Chinese homelands, seemed an appropriate recourse. Pressures from Vietnamese peoples may have contributed.
Anyway, mangroves clogging the northern shores of the Gulf of Siam were reduced in extent sufficiently that a new port city on the ChaoPraya River could be built, and a descendant of Shan/Lanna royalty invited to come rule. The rulers of Angkor and their hangers-on, Chinese merchants from Kwantung and others formed a new elite for this new city, which they called Ayudhaya, after a mythological city from the Ramayana tale. Eventually integration of their descendants with locals created the distinction from Malays that has become much more noticeable over the last century.
Cambodia was left with neither a strong elite nor much of a trading community (except for Vietnamese who took control of the ports that had exported their forest products), lost population and area and became a kind of satellite state controlled by Siamese and Vietnamese rivals.
This explains more to me than any other scenario I have encountered, and leaves fewer holes, less confusion, and so, utilizing Occam’s Razor, I accept it without the kind of proofs Western academicians prefer.

But I do have this: Tibet and Altai are high-altitude places a series of conquerors descended from. Tajikistan might be another. People from there, or other mountains nearby, conquered Persia and almost Ancient Greece. Their Achaemenid Empire was huge but historians have underestimated it, I think. They didn’t only go West, but also East, along the Old Silk Road and to the headwaters of the Mekong, down that river and finally to Cambodia, the name of which comes from them. Marco Polo’s ludicrous account of descending steadily downhill for three months, into what is now Myanmar, may well be a reflection of this, taken from stories Turk traders heard from Tajiks. After Cambyses II, (A Tajik descendant, I am suggesting), son of Cyrus the Great, uncle of Xerxes died in a Libyan sandstorm (or something close enough), some of his people turned back and tried India instead, forming the Kshatriyan caste of India and then the Srivijayan maritime empire based in Ligor and Java. One of their explorers, finding descendants of Tajik traders near Tonle Sap, decided to go for real empire instead of just trading, and with the help of a “5th column” of distant relatives, was able to found the Angkor Empire. In 1431, secrets of kingship gleaned over two millennium were used to found Ayudhaya, a trading partner for Southern Chinese loathe to remain subjects of Beijing (or Xanadu, X’ian, of Mongols, Ming or Qing). To accomplish this, when they were overthrown by a successful slave revolt, they allied themselves with T’ai princes pushed south not only by Mongol conquests but by Han Chinese population expansion. Later, others from Persia formed the backbone of Thailand’s Chakri Dynasty’s bureaucracy… Mountain people who ate fresh meat and forest products tended to be much hardier than lowland grain-eating agriculturists, and sometimes found opportunity to enrich themselves through their strength and simultaneously gain revenge on the “civilized” folk who despised them. To maintain supremacy, they found elaborate, formal high-church-like ceremony endowed with purported accouterments of power and embellished with semblances of magic importantly helpful. The pageantry, as it often does, worked, but they had to continually work at it, becoming, in a way, increasingly slaves to their slaves. Thus the switch to “maritime empire,” which was often equally rewarding but less demanding. Ports in India, Indonesia and at Ligor became havens of luxury. But some, as happens, sociopathically aspired to God-hood. Wealth and power weren’t enough; adulation and sycophancy were desired also. And so, Babylon, Constantinople, Angkor, Xanadu (X’ian) and perhaps Ayudhaya, although in its case, the mountain people must have been at greater remove from their ancestral mountains. I suspect it was similar with the Aztecs. Incas, however, stayed in their mountains (and I know little of their pageantry, except that they had plenty). I suspect that secrets of mass-manipulation have been handed down. This theory might help explain mafia influence in some current governments… Capishe?

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

“Fruit of a poisoned tree” and "national security"

Information, knowledge or power acquired unethically is tainted, suspect at best and likely corrupted. It is unwise to rely on it, depend on it for dispensation of “justice” or even to consider it as correct. Because it was acquired dubiously, it is dubious in and of itself. And it seems to me that this should apply to a lot of information from the CIA.
The legal concept of “fruit of a poisoned tree” is meant to indicate that evidence obtained through illegal search and seizure is tainted, suspect and inadmissible. By extension, shouldn’t it also indicate that rights and privileges won at the cost of the lives, freedom and dignity of people neither convicted nor even accused of crimes, are inherently unjust, unmerited and illicit?
Strange, how much hypocrisy, self-interest and self-satisfaction, plus blinders preventing consideration of activity abroad (as if morality changes at man-made national boundaries, as in: that was long ago, “in another country, and besides, the wench is dead” ) blinds so many ‘Murikans! (OK, OK, Christopher Marlowe was long, long ago and in another country, but I think the argument stands)
England, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and others have suffered as a result of arrogance in utilization of power, but the USA hasn’t, not really. Certainly hardly as much. The legal concept of “fruit of a poisoned tree” was arranged to limit the arrogant utilization of power, to curb excesses and abuses. But now the US glories in excesses and abuses (not only abroad but at home), as exemplified and epitomized by the “choice” provided in the last “two- way” contest for selection of chief executive. Disgusting, it was, and perverse. I realize that this is unpleasant for most who cast a ballot in that “election” to hear, but it is truth, as is the vaguely karmic truth of a kind of retribution for arrogance and other sins now inevitable. The US charges more than anyone else for health-care, holds a higher percentage of prisoners, still abuses its Native population, attacks others with near impunity for no other transgression than threats to the power of global-corporations which now add little to the common weal… It is tiring to think about. I understand that others will not want to, but also that there will be much suffering from that neglect.
What protections are there from unwarranted search and seizure by “the world’s policeman”/sole-superpower? US drones have victimized many not even suspected let alone accused. Even the Bible teaches of pride and subsequent fall, but while the US government is feared at home, most US citizens fail to fear what it does elsewhere…
The world has $70 trillion in national “public” debt; that’s about $10,000 per person. But over half of those people have as income barely enough to survive on, so they won’t be helping “reduce the debt”… another half, at least, are under 18 or over 65. Then there are the severely physically disabled, the insane, prisoners, and the rentier class, who won’t be helping either. Plus there are unsecured personal debts (on credit cards, for education or hospitalization, monies borrowed illegally, etc) so my guess is that, outside of what we owe on houses, cars and other mortgagable property, we average out to a debt obligation of at least $50,000 per person, and most likely far more – to the people who control the unaccountable uniformed services, and who themselves are totally unaccountable.
How safe does THAT make you feel? National security, indeed.

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

My Illustrious Namesake

My Illustrious Namesake

If memory serves (and when does it not?), my ancestors first came to the “New World” in 1630. A Barlow left England with little money, but somehow while on a ship for a long time, arrived with enough to buy much of what is now central Connecticut. Three or four generations later, Joel Barlow was born in Redding. He attended Yale, where he wrote an epic poem about, of all things, a snowball fight. Other students liked it. The experience with snow may have come in helpful when he worked as a chaplain for George Washington during that horrible winter at Valley Forge. His work there left him well connected by the end of the war, and he published and was able to sell another long poem, “The Vision of Columbus”. He was then able to marry and go to Europe and into shipping. First he negotiated with the Bey and Dey of Tunis and Tripoli to procure the release of US citizen sailors who had been captured. He did this in part by assuring the north African rulers that the USA was not, indeed, a Christian nation, which he was able to convince President John Adams to go along with. In London and Paris, he met and became friends with many of the outstanding people of the day, smuggled one of Tomas Paine’s manuscripts from prison and then arranged his release, and eventually returned to the USA, where he bought the nicest home in Washington DC and renamed it Kalorama (utilizing classical Greek instead of French). There he and his wife often entertained Thomas Jefferson and Dolley Madison. But an earlier episode caught up with him and he had to return to Europe…
While in London, he’d met William Playfair, a glib con-artist, and utilized that contact to sell land in Ohio to Frenchmen, to help pay of the Revolutionary War debt. 500 French folk looking for a better life where candles grew on trees and pigs didn’t mind one taking a slice from their rumps arrived in November and set about cutting trees, which they didn’t’ know what to do with and so buried. Then they began to die, and by Spring only 83 remained. But they have descendants in Gallipolis, OH today, so that’s OK. One prospective customer, Napoleon Bonaparte, didn’t get to participate in that adventure due to his mother saying no, but did get to invade Russia, and Barlow was sent to arrange something or other with him. There was another bad winter, and racing back from Moscow (pronounced ‘mos-coh’ with a long o), Barlow caught cold and died in Poland, but not before writing another poem, a much better one, about a raven.
His poem “A Hasty Pudding” was his most popular one, and from it comes the name of one of the Ivy League secret societies like Skull and Bones, that remain active today. His huge epic “The Columbiad” was widely subscribed to (bought) but maybe never fully read. He also wrote the marvelously titled, “Advice to the Privileged Orders” (of which I don’t imagine there’s much need to speculate on whether they took said advice, although there is, to this day, a bust of Barlow in the White House).

From googling I can add details:
Joel Barlow, a leading political thinker, writer, diplomat and poet, plus the most global actor of the US Revolutionary War generation, born 24 March, 1754, and raised by parents Samuel and Esther (Hull) Barlow at Redding, Connecticut, was a fifth generation descendant of John and Ann Barlow (son John, grandson Samuel, then another Samuel, then Joel’s older siblings and Joel). Two John Barlows, father and son, arrived together from England and settled at Fairfield, Connecticut, about 1630. John Barlow bought Barlow Plains, Connecticut, and the family became gentlemen farmers. Joel entered Dartmouth College, but transferred and graduated with honors from Yale, class of 1778, a classmate of Noah Webster (of dictionary fame). Too liberal in his thinking to be given a teaching post at Yale, he took an additional Divinity course, became licensed as minister of the Congregational church and then chaplain in Washington’s Revolutionary army, serving three years, until the end of the war. He was home from army duties long enough to marry Ruth Baldwin, the sister of a Yale classmate, on December 26, 1779; they married in secret because of her father's initial objection. In 1782 they moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Joel joined Elisha Babcock as partner in the magazine American Mercury. He wrote political pamphlets, satires and poetry. He was one of a group of satirical writers, mostly Yale men, called the 'Hartford Wits' (earlier, the ‘Connecticut Wits’). He soon published the first version of his American epic in verse, “The Vision of Columbus”, in which he was the first writer in English to use the words 'civil', 'civic' and 'civilization’ with their modern meanings; also in it he projected a future international council quite like the United Nations, dedicated to peacekeeping, cultural exchange, and development of the arts. He studied law, opened a law office in Hartford and in 1785 the general association of the Congregational church chose him to revise the Psalms of Dr. Watts. He continued to work on his epic poem, which became "The Columbiad," for 30 years.
After gaining celebrity for writing an epic poem to celebrate the American Revolution (subscribers included George Washington, General Lafayette, and the King of France, Louis XVI, to whom the poem was dedicated; the support of France for the US independence movement had been essential; without a French blockade, General Cornwallis would not have run out of bullets for his army), Barlow moved to Europe to peddle land on the Ohio frontier to potential French immigrants. His most popular poem was "Hasty Pudding", a work in three cantos showing decided poetic genius, written in France in 1793, where he was representing the "Scotia Land Company". In 1788 Barlow he’d gone to Paris to promote sale of a huge tract of Ohio wilderness opened by the government for settlement, to European emigrants. A large group of bourgeois French refugees, many wearing wigs, traveled hopefully to settle in Ohio. But no preparations had been made by the American promoters for their reception, and they met terrible privations in wilderness considered a paradise to the area’s natives. Little was as it had been promoted, and Barlow’s reputation suffered.
However, now fluent in French, he wound up with a front-row view of the French Revolution. Sympathetic to the new French republic, and successful in business (Ruth had somehow become a shipping magnate), the Barlows were popular with reformers, intelligentsia, and scientific innovators including balloonist Montgolfier and inventor Robert Fulton, who arrived in France in 1797, and worked for years on prototypes of his steamboat, torpedo boat, and other engineering projects. Barlow was in Paris at the fall of the Bastille on July 14 1789, and was a friend of Thomas Paine (he helped him publish the first part of “The Age of Reason”, after smuggling it from prison, before helping obtain Paine's his release) and other revolutionary sympathizers, French, English and American.
By the time Ruth joined him in Paris in 1790, the American organizers of Barlow’s employer, the Scioto Company, were exposed as profiteering frauds; however, Barlow was officially audited and cleared. The colony, named Gallipolis, survived despite the hardships; but Barlow's reputation with his own countrymen had been seriously damaged. He took some land there as a kind of commission- payment, and encouraged relatives to utilize it. I inherited a piece of that land, right on the Ohio River, the main source of what prosperity Gallipolis ever had. It’s possible that that parcel of land has never been bought or sold.
Barlow wrote ‘Advice to the Privileged Orders’ and ‘The Conspiracy of Kings’ in London, where he and Ruth went to avoid the Jacobin disorders. The 'Advice' so offended the British government that it banned the book and tried to arrest Barlow, who fled back to Paris, where his Letter to the National Convention of France (proposals for a new French constitution) so impressed the Assembly delegates that they made him an honorary citizen of the new Republic (1792), an honor he shared with Washington, Hamilton, Madison and Paine. In the final throes of the Terror, when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed in 1793, Ruth was still safe in London, and Barlow was in the southeast of France helping friends organize the Savoy, newly captured from Italy, as a division of the new Republic.
Algiers formally declared war on the United States in 1785, and within a few years, 300 U.S. citizens, mostly sailors, were in captivity in Northern Africa. In 1795 he was appointed by President Washington as consul to Algiers and diplomatic agent to the rest of the Barbary States, charged with concluding treaties with three countries-Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis. He was able to get into effect an important treaty with them. Article 11 of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary states, “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, - as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,- and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” The Senate vote in favor of this treaty was unanimous.

Wealth came to Barlow suddenly and mysteriously, perhaps through shipping activities begun in Hamburg. After becoming a member of the French National Convention, he renounced his faith in Christianity, proclaimed Deism and swore allegiance to Thomas Jefferson’s brand of American democratic principles. Shuttling back and forth from Paris to London, he befriended most of the radical writers of the day, including Thomas Paine, William Blake, feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of the author of “Frankenstein”), her husband, anarchist writer and publisher William Godwin, and Thomas Malthus, prophet of population growth. He also became friends with the Marquis de Lafayette, whom he had likely met during the US Revolutionary War. Barlow’s business schemes in post-Revolutionary France made him extraordinarily wealthy, and Ruth soon owned at least 10 ships. When they returned to the USA in 1805, after 18 years abroad, they bought a well situated piece of property outside Washington DC and named it Kalorama ('beautiful view' in Greek), a miniature palace situated high on a hill surrounded with 50 acres of forest and views of Georgetown, the White House and Capitol, Alexandria, & the Potomac. They had 3 carriages and 8 servants, and made Kalorama a center of early DC high society until they returned to Paris in 1811 when Joel, despite having hoped to spend the rest of his life at home, was named minister to France.
President Madison sent letters to Joel written in code; Ruth conveyed diplomatic secrets enclosed in letters to Dolley Madison, the First Lady.

Barlow had invited Fulton to live at Kalorama, which he did for ten years. When Fulton finished his steamboat, the Clermont, Barlow arranged a millpond for Fulton to try it out. Thomas Jefferson often visited Kalorama to consult with Barlow on foreign policy matters as well as gardening and agriculture. Jefferson wanted Barlow to write an American history, which he was engaged in writing when he was appointed United States minister to France in 1912. Fulton later did the illustrations for a large, handsome, second version of Barlow's epic, heavily revised and re-titled ‘The Columbiad’, published in Philadelphia in 1807, then republished in London in 1811. After Joel’s death Kalorama became the home of his favorite nephew, Thomas Barlow, and his wife, Frances Anica "Preble" Barlow.

Barlow’s career as a diplomat had begun simultaneously with his work for the Scioto Land Company, which was purportedly to help pay of the Revolutionary War debt. In 1796, in Washington's second term, Barlow was sent to Algiers as consul to help with implementation of a peace treaty with that state and to secure the release of more than 100 American seamen, some of whom had been held captive by the Algerian corsairs since 1785. It required great patience and diplomatic skill on his part not to mention payment of substantial sums to local officials, but he succeeded where others had failed, thus resolving the US’s first hostage crisis. At first, the Bey, furious at the seizure of one of his ships by the British and French, proved so scary that Pudding had scarcely dared to leave his quarters. The French council was taken away in chains and his assistant threatened with “a thousand bastinadoes”; when Pudding had an audience with the Bey, one of the court officials was strangled in his presence. Barlow was in North Africa two years, staying on as consul for a year after the hostages left. The agreements lasted until 1802, when bombardment was chosen instead of negotiation, which had come to seem foolish (in the Marine Hymn’s “Shores of Tripoli” conflict, only one US sailor died, from heat stroke).
Later, upon the resignation of the American Minister to France in 1811, President Madison persuaded Barlow accept the appointment and try to arrange a commercial treaty with the Napoleon’s government. His task was to negotiate for compensation for French damages to American shipping, make a trade treaty and improve relations between Napoleon and the USA. Reluctant, but desirous of serving his country, Barlow took his wife and nephew Thomas as secretary, and returned to France, only to meet with many delays as Napoleon was busy making war on almost every nation in Europe. Emperor Napoleon, engaged in a winter campaign against Russia, summoned Barlow to meet him in Poland, at Wilna (now Vilnius). The French armies had been utterly defeated by the Russians and the Russian winter. Napoleon fled south, ignoring the appointment with Barlow, who followed through freezing weather toward Germany with his staff, Thomas and other diplomats. Fleeing pursuing Cossacks, over 50,000, maybe 100,000 died. The diplomats missed Napoleon, who hurried straight on toward France to raise another army, with clearly little, if any, thoughts of the USA. Barlow died of pneumonia, exposure or maybe nutritional complications, Christmas, 1812. Riding in a carriage over frozen fields, they’d reached tiny Zarnowiec, between Warsaw and Krakow, Poland – where a memorial to Barlow remains today. It took nephew Thomas more than two weeks to bring the sad news to Ruth in Paris, and 3 more months before the news reached America. Barlow was mourned widely in France, but President Madison was more distressed by the lack of a new treaty.

The French 500 of Gallipolis, home to my father, his father and grandfather, etc., came over the rough Atlantic for reasons centered on feasts, balls, gay music and other forms of amusement and indulgence, hopefully without self-denial or time in religious service. They wanted to retain a pampered way of life increasingly insecure in their home country, but some, instead, got scalped by Natives who must have been quite amazed to discover the nature of their wig hair.
Col. William Duer, a New York politician, and Joel Barlow, young poet and diplomat, were partners in this unholy enterprise, with the inappropriately named William Playfair. Colonel Duer was a Congressman who had used his public office for the promotion of large undertakings in which he was deeply involved financially, as many another official like him has done since, and had also happened beforehand.
In 1719, the French Mississippi Company, after having proclaimed Louisiana a paradise rich with gold and silver, awash with precious stones and tame buffaloes, collapsed. A Scotsman, John Law, had presided over its propaganda machine, which proclaimed that, in a town of “nearly 800 very comfortable and well-appointed houses, each one of which has attached 120 acres of land for the upkeep of the families, nothing almost is wanting, but industrious people and numbers of hands to work.” Share prices had rocketed from 150 to 18,000, but then Law’s bank collapsed, his paper money lost over 80% of its value, and Law fled to France for his life. That, however, was a lifetime earlier, and the mechanics of propaganda and speculation had once again come to appear shiny, new and unassailable.
Duer stayed in the US while Barlow managed the office of the Scioto Company in Paris. This promised to better Barlow’s business affairs, which were hardly in good condition, and to insure interesting new acquaintances. There was never much organization to the company, but it involved also a Colonel Richard Pratt and other partners in the speculation including men of influence in the American Congress. When The Ohio Company desired an ordinance for the purchase of a tract of land northwest of the Ohio River, Colonel Duer explained in writing to Dr. Manasseh Cutler that if the ordinance were made to include five million acres instead of just a million and a half, the additional acres to be purchased by men whose names weren’t disclosed, the ordinance would go through, but otherwise not. The amendment was accepted, the ordinance passed; the Ohio Company closed its contract with the Government in October, 1787, and secured possession of a great tract of land. The Scioto Company, whose object was speculation alone, expected to pay for its tract in depreciated paper currency at the rate of eight or ten cents an acre, but the adoption of the National Constitution and the establishment of the Federal Government so raised the credit of its paper that the speculators were never able to pay for the lands, so when the French 500 arrived, they had no legal deeds.
In Paris, for a year Barlow had met with indifferent success in his new employment, perhaps because his habits of thought weren’t adapted to the land-office business, which at that time seemed to require the same combination of pushing self-assertion, lack of principle and disdain for truth found so frequently in lines of speculative adventure. Or maybe socializing and receiving the eminent men of letters who thronged his apartments, left him unfit during business hours. In an unlucky hour he made the acquaintance of William Playfair, an Englishman of vast assurance, who was familiar with the French language and Gallic temperament, and turned over to him the management of the venture, which had not proved to his taste. Barlow described Playfair as “an Englishman of a bold and enterprising spirit,” and “a good imagination,” (which he certainly had) and in entrusting the land sales to him, showed himself as either a singularly poor judge of character, or utterly regardless of the methods that might be used in disposing of the lands.
With Colonel Duer's power of attorney in his possession, Barlow sold three million acres to a "Company of the Scioto" in Paris, composed of a number of Frenchmen, Playfair and himself. It was this company which came into existence through a gross excess of authority illegally assumed by Barlow, that went into business under the management of Playfair. Playfair had a genius for rascality, and proved a most accomplished liar. Unrestrained by moral principle, he quickly mastered the problems blocking success in his new employment by stirring the emotions of the better class of Parisians, and setting them to thinking and talking of escape from discomforts threatening future of France. He contrived his snare in a prospectus depicting a delightful little boat ride from Havre de Grace, with refreshingly tonic ocean zephyrs bringing one to the lovely plain between the Muskingum and the Scioto rivers, where would be found a salubrious climate in which frost, even in winter, was almost unknown. The great river skirting it, destined in a few years to become the leading channel of territorial commerce, called by Natives "The Beautiful," or “The Great”, was so crowded by large and deliciously edible fish that they struggled in piscine rivalry to swallow the baited hooks or enter nets. Native trees produced great quantities of delicate flavored sugar; a peculiar plant yielded ready-made candles (cat-tails); coal, iron, lead, silver and gold were jutting out of every stony ledge and “a single boar and sow in the course three years would produce three hundred pigs without the least care being taken of them.” I've heard it claimed that the area between the Ohio River and Lake Eire became considered too magnificently bounteous to be worth fighting over for permanent habitation, as none would ever be able to long protect any of it from others, and that so, until Europeans came, it was shared between them as a hunting ground open to all, but can no more evaluate the truth of that claim than of another that the trees of the old growth forest there were so widely spaced that carriages could easily be driven through them...
At theaters, receptions, dinners and other social functions Barlow stood sponsor for this purported Elysium, which none of the promoters had ever visited, and about 500 French people of the better classes, sick of riots, executions, taxation, terror, and the impending menace of revolt and revolution, swallowed Playfair's bait, paid for land and received worthless deeds. With hearts full of thankfulness and great expectations, they bade farewell to their tumultuous native land, and in half a dozen vessels sailed for Alexandria, Virginia, most embarking early in February, 1790.
The first party reached their destination on 8 June, 1790. These 40 erected eighty log cabins, twenty in a row, and a high stockade fence. Among them was Colonel Robert Safford of Woodstock Vermont, marker and chain man for the surveyor. The Colonel attacked and felled a sapling with his ax for the purpose of immortalizing himself by striking the first blow to win the site of Gallipolis for civilization, as he announced when the job was completed. The square having been cleared and the habitations built, the Colonel was pleased by the noble elevation of the river bank, which yet stands above the maximum high water mark, and concluded to settle there. ‘River Road’ now runs between the Ohio River and the town’s houses; my land is between the road and the river, and sometimes only a few square feet remains after the river rises, but my father claimed that with a dock there, navigation rights to all adjacent waterways would be automatic (which may be just another story).
When the main party arrived on 17 October, 1790, after carrying supplies ashore from the river, the first of many semiweekly French balls ever given in the Northwest Territory commenced, an evening enhanced by rouge, curling irons, powder, satin slippers and other accessories. Hastily prepared refreshments were served, while violins and lutes tenderly unwrapped were played. The leaves of the surrounding forest were stirred by musical vibrations never before known in that region, and Natives who lurked in its dusky recesses gazed in amazement upon gaiety unparalleled in the history of pioneer America.
Afternoons thereafter were given to various forms of amusement, the most popular indoors being cards and dice, with also fishing, swimming, boating, and skating, as weather permitted.
With the spring of 1791 came seed time, and with it ludicrous attempts at gardening by the former Parisians. They peeled potatoes before planting them, used for seed cooked peas and corn from glass jars, and dug trenches two feet deep for the deposit of the germs from which they expected a crop to spring! But for the utterances of a friendly old Indian, in another déjà-vu all over again kind of story, there would have been no harvest. He instructed how to plant and cultivate corn and other native crops, and when additional settlers arrived things did not look entirely desperate. Soon they were making watches, silverware, thermometers, barometers and even confections, becoming accustomed to felling trees, grubbing up roots, milking cows, hunting, making soap from old bones and grease, manufacturing garments from the skins of wild animals, and a hundred other tasks entirely new to them.
Of new employments, few attracted the attention that did the felling the great trees which covered the land needed for planting. It was a thrilling when one of these hundreds of years old grandiosities would topple. Groups would gather to witness the fall, but due to inexperience on the part of the choppers, they were on several occasions unable to control the direction of fall, and several persons were caught by branches and severely hurt. A few were killed.
Still, settlers found beautiful flowers, artichokes, and almond trees, and soon there were vineyards and some rice fields. H. M. Brackenridge of Fort Pitt, who was detained in the French town for some months by a severe attack of the ague, wrote that:
"Gallipolis, with the exception of a few straggling log houses, consisted of two long rows of barracks built of logs, and partitioned off into rooms of sixteen or twenty feet wide, with what is called a cabin roof and wooden chimneys. At one end there was a larger room than the rest, which served as a council chamber and ball room. Most didn’t cultivate anything but small garden spots, depending for their supply of provisions on the boats. They still assembled at the ball room twice a week; it was evident, however, that they felt disappointment, and were no longer happy.
"Toward the latter part of the summer, the inhabitants suffered severely from sickness and want of provisions. The situation was truly wretched. The swamp in the rear, now exposed by the clearing between it and the river, became the cause of a frightful epidemic from which few escaped, and many became its victims."
There were outbreaks of disease, especially autumnal fevers of the kind often prevalent in newly cleared country. The disillusioned settlers petitioned both Congress and President Washington for aid. A group of woodsmen from Marietta came, and soon a thriving river trade was established.
In 1796 Jedediah Morse, D. D., "minister of the congregation in Charlestown," published at Boston the second edition of his "View of the Present State of all the Empires, Kingdoms, States and Republics in the known World", in which a short chapter is devoted to the "Territory N. W. of the Ohio." He put the population of Gallipolis at one thousand in 1792, and quoted with his endorsement several paragraphs from an anonymous pamphlet, which touch on the many true natural advantages of the Ohio country. Elsewhere it was reported that in 1796 the population was about three hundred.
Joel’s nephew Samuel, from whom I am descended, moved to Gallipolis in 1805. Samuel gave his son his name as a middle name, which became a tradition, so, I am Joel John Alfred Marion Stephen Samuel Barlow. One of my son’s is named Jit, nick-named Jit-Jo.
A taste of my great-great-great-great-great grand-uncle Joel Barlow’s poetry:
See the long pomp in gorgeous glare display’d,
The tinsel’d guards, the squadron’d horse parade;
See heralds gay, with emblems on their vest,
In tissu’d robes, tall, beauteous pages drest;
Amid superior ranks of splendid slaves,
Lords, Dukes and Princes, titulary knaves,
Confus’dly shine their crosses, gems and stars,
Sceptres and globes and crowns and spoils of wars.


Lords of themselves and leaders of mankind
On equal rights their base of empire lies,
On walls of wisdom see the structure rise;
Wide o’er the gazing world it towers sublime,
A modell’d form for each surrounding clime.
To useful toils they bend their noblest aim,
Make patriot views and moral views the same,
Renounce the wish of war, bid conquest cease,
Invite all men to happiness and peace,
To faith and justice rear the youthful race,
Till Truth’s blest banners, o'er the regions hurl’d,
Shake tyrants from their thrones, and cheer the waking world.
Some other of his poetry was a bit more poetically inspired: Advice To A Raven In Russia (1812)
Black fool, why winter here? These frozen skies,
Worn by your wings and deafen'd by your cries,
Should warn you hence, where milder suns invite,
And day alternates with his mother night.
You fear perhaps your food will fail you there,
Your human carnage, that delicious fare
That lured you hither, following still your friend
The great Napoleon to the world's bleak end.
You fear, because the southern climes pour'd forth
Their clustering nations to infest the north,
Barvarians, Austrians, those who Drink the Po
And those who skirt the Tuscan seas below,
With all Germania, Neustria, Belgia, Gaul,
Doom'd here to wade thro slaughter to their fall,
You fear he left behind no wars, to feed
His feather'd canibals and nurse the breed.
Fear not, my screamer, call your greedy train,
Sweep over Europe, hurry back to Spain,

You'll find his legions there; the valliant crew
Please best their master when they toil for you.
Abundant there they spread the country o'er
And taint the breeze with every nation's gore,
Iberian, Lussian, British widely strown,
But still more wide and copious flows their own.
Go where you will; Calabria, Malta, Greece,
Egypt and Syria still his fame increase,
Domingo's fatten'd isle and India's plains
Glow deep with purple drawn from Gallic veins.
No Raven's wing can stretch the flight so far
As the torn bandrols of Napoleon's war.
Choose then your climate, fix your best abode,
He'll make you deserts and he'll bring you blood.
How could you fear a dearth? have not mankind,
Tho slain by millions, millions left behind?
Has not CONSCRIPTION still the power to weild
Her annual faulchion o'er the human field?
A faithful harvester! or if a man
Escape that gleaner, shall he scape the BAN?

The triple BAN, that like the hound of hell
Gripes with three joles, to hold his victim well.
Fear nothing then, hatch fast your ravenous brood,
Teach them to cry to Bonaparte for food;
They'll be like you, of all his suppliant train,
The only class that never cries in vain.
For see what mutual benefits you lend!
(The surest way to fix the mutual friend)
While on his slaughter'd troops your tribes are fed,
You cleanse his camp and carry off his dead.
Imperial Scavenger! but now you know
Your work is vain amid these hills of snow.
His tentless troops are marbled thro with frost
And change to crystal when the breath is lost.
Mere trunks of ice, tho limb'd like human frames
And lately warm'd with life's endearing flames,
They cannot taint the air, the world impest,
Nor can you tear one fiber from their breast.
No! from their visual sockets, as they lie,
With beak and claws you cannot pluck an eye.
The frozen orb, preserving still its form,

Defies your talons as it braves the storm,
But stands and stares to God, as if to know
In what curst hands he leaves his world below.
Fly then, or starve; tho all the dreadful road
From Minsk to Moskow with their bodies strow'd
May count some Myriads, yet they can't suffice
To feed you more beneath these dreary skies.
Go back, and winter in the wilds of Spain;
Feast there awhile, and in the next campaign
Rejoin your master; for you'll find him then,
With his new million of the race of men,
Clothed in his thunders, all his flags unfurl'd,
Raging and storming o'er the prostrate world.
War after war his hungry soul requires,
State after State shall sink beneath his fires,
Yet other Spains in victim smoke shall rise
And other Moskows suffocate the skies,
Each land lie reeking with its people's slain
And not a stream run bloodless to the main.
Till men resume their souls, and dare to shed
Earth's total vengeance on the monster's head,
Hurl from his blood-built throne this king of woes,
Dash him to dust, and let the world repose.

In the late 60s and early 70s, Joel Barlow High School in Redding Connecticut had a huge computer, almost as big as Decatur, Georgia’s Stone Mountain.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Assertions of superiority are admissions of lack and need.
We all decide what, and who, is worth more or less time and energy, depending upon what might be expected from the time invested, and so judge greater and lesser worth. But to make a decision and to proclaim one’s worth are somewhat different, insofar as a decision in action alone is often more readily and easily changed than a proclamation, and less easily judged to be in error. The less obvious the assertion, the less risk. The assertion only has the advantage that it might deceive, with the result of undeserved gain. So the decision to assert is a kind of gamble generally made from lack of better options. Bluster is often used to disguise weaknesses, a gamble which does sometimes succeed, even among animals. But others who gamble (and survive) learn to recognize it for what it is.
The USA’s expansionist doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” (1845) was but the kind of bluster its efforts towards global empire are today, ineffectively hiding reliance upon those stolen from. Superior weaponry wasn’t just bluster, although it did prove to be in Vietnam and seems to be again proving so in Afghanistan. But the costs of oppression have hardly been sufficiently analyzed, as is equally the case with the newly even more powerful force of money.

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Monday, August 01, 2016

Life Belt

We live in a very limited area: a balloon-like sphere of about 30 kilometers thickness, which includes our planet’s thin crust and troposphere. Beyond, there be dragons and stuff. Galaxies, black holes, dark matter, doesn’t matter.
The crust varies from as little as a kilometer thick, to usually between 5 and 70, and up to a bit over 80 km thick in spots. The radius of the earth is about 6370 km, ranging from 6453 to 6384, so the crust is about 1.25% of the earth’s thickness and less than 1% of Earth’s volume. Add in the troposphere and, well, it’s about the same!
The crust has dry, hot rock reacting with water and oxygen; its plate-tectonic activity mixes and scrambles the rock, injecting chemically active fluids and creating newer forms of rock and eventually, topsoil. As the home of life, which exerts strong effects on rock chemistry and has its own systems of mineral recycling, the crust is quite active. Its thin parts are oceanic crust, under ocean basins (5–10 km deep), composed of dense iron magnesium silicate igneous rocks like basalt. The thicker continental crust is less dense, and composed of sodium-potassium-aluminum silicate rocks like granite. Some of the thinnest oceanic crust is along mid-ocean ridges, where new crust is actively formed. Collisions like that of the India and Eurasia Plates cause some of the thickest sections of crust.

Many geologists believe that as the Earth cooled, heavier, denser materials sank to the center and lighter materials rose to the top. The crust is made of the lightest materials (rock- basalts and granites) and the core of heavy metals (nickel and iron).
The temperatures of the crust vary from the air temperatures on top, that we experience, to about 1600° F. (870° C.) in the deepest parts of the crust. You can bake a loaf of bread in your oven at 350° F.; at 1600° F. rocks begin to melt and the below-lying ‘mantle’ is formed.
Geologists subdivide Earth’s lower crust into different plates that move about in relation to one another. The Earth’s surface being mostly constant in area (or, according to a few theorists, very slowly growing, most likely from deeply internal activity), you can’t get new crust without losing some old; as magma from the lower mantle gets pushed upward to insert along ocean ridges, forming new oceanic crust, elsewhere, to make room for this, oceanic crust sinks below the continental crust. Geologists study the history of plate movement, but we haven’t determined why and how these plates move the way they do, as that information is kept secret from mere humans.
There are usually seven or eight “major” plates, depending on how they are defined: the African, Antarctic, Eurasian, North American, South American, Pacific, and Indo-Australian, and also dozens of smaller plates.

Below this is the ‘mantle’ layer, the largest one, 1800 miles thick, composed of very hot, dense rock. This layer of rock flows like warm asphalt pushed by a heavy weight. The flow is due to great temperature differences from the bottom to the top of the mantle, variations from 1600° F. to 4000°F. (near the bottom). Here live some dwarves (just below the plates), dragons and shape-shifting lizards that dragons eat.
The core of the Earth is a ball of very hot (4000 to 9000° F.) metals. The outer core, about 1800 miles beneath the crust and about 1400 miles thick, is composed of melted metals, almost entirely nickel and iron in liquid state. The inner core has temperatures and pressures so great that the metals aren’t able to move about like a liquid, but vibrate in place as a solid. The inner core begins about 4000 miles beneath the crust and is about 800 miles thick. Temperatures may reach 9000° F. - and pressure is 45,000,000 pounds per square inch, 3,000,000 times that at sea level! It is unlikely that people will visit.

The atmosphere of Earth is layers of gas surroundings the planet. It protects life by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention, and reducing diurnal temperation (heat loss from day to night). Air content varies; it becomes thinner and thinner with increased altitude. Earth’s atmosphere can be divided into five main layers: the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere. From highest to lowest, the main layers are: Exosphere, 700 to 10,000 km (440 to 6,200 mi); Thermosphere, 80 to 700 km (50 to 440 mi); Mesosphere, 50 to 80 km (31 to 50 mi); Stratosphere, 12 to 50 km (7 to 31 mi); and Troposphere, 0 to 12 km (7 miles). The Kármán line, at 100 km (62 mi), or 1.57% of Earth’s radius, is often used as the border between our atmosphere and outer space. Atmospheric effects become noticeable during spacecraft re-entry at an altitude of around 120 km (75 mi). In the different layers exist differing dragon forms with differing numbers of dragons.
The ozone layer is in the lower portion of stratosphere. The ionosphere is a region of ionized by solar radiation, causing auroras (like aurora borealis). During daytime it stretches from 50 to 1,000 km (31 to 621 mi.) and includes the mesosphere, thermosphere, and parts of the exosphere. Ionization in the mesosphere largely ceases during night, so auroras are normally seen only in the thermosphere and lower exosphere. The ionosphere forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere, where Magneto lives. The homosphere and heterosphere are defined by how well atmospheric gases are mixed. The surface-based homosphere includes the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and the lowest part of the thermosphere, where the chemical composition of the atmosphere doesn’t depend on molecular weight due to gases being mixed by turbulence (wind, mostly from temperature variations). This relatively homogeneous layer ends at the turbopause, about 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft), which places it about 20 km (12 mi; 66,000 ft) above the mesopause. Above that is mostly hydrogen, with forms of being we remain mostly blind to, but may once have had more information on.
In the high altitude heterosphere, including part of the exosphere and most of the thermosphere, chemical composition composition continues to vary with altitude. Gases stratify by molecular weight, with the heavier ones like oxygen and nitrogen present only near the bottom of the heterosphere. The upper part is composed almost completely of hydrogen, the lightest element.

A radiation belt is a layer of charged particles held in place around a magnetized planet like Earth, by the planet’s magnetic field. Earth has two, sometimes more. The discovery of these belts is credited to James Van Allen, so they’re called Van Allen belts. The main belts extend from about 1,000 to 60,000 kilometers above the surface, in the inner region of the magnetosphere. The belts contain energetic electrons and protons, plus some alpha particles and other nuclei, upon which dragons, and Magneto himself, feed. Radiation levels vary; solar cells, integrated circuits and sensors can be damaged by radiation, which is why some see the first Apollo moon missions as quite miraculous.
Radiation belts endanger space-craft, which must have heavy shielding to protect sensitive components when passing through, but protect the planet’s life. Beyond them be other hazards: cosmic rays, solar flares and extraterrestrials.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

MahaTevi(s) of Lanna

The ancient Kingdom of Lanna had several woman who were crucial to its civilization’s development. Haripunjai (Lamphun) was said founded by holy men who asked the king of Lopburi to send them a ruler; his daughter JamaTewi went. Legend tells of her overcoming a great Lawa chieftain with female magic… and of twin sons, one which succeeded her, the other of which founded Lampang. Mon, Buddhist Haripunjai thrived independently for over four centuries after her (her dynasty lasted at least 2 – at the end of it, Haripunjai was attacking Lopburi!), then was taken into Mengrai’s new Lanna Empire.
The first MahaTewi I know of was MahaTewi Kaeo Phimpha of LanChang, LanSang or Lane Xang - Laos. Her title derives from Sanskrit mahadevi… This MahaTewi wielded much power from 1428 to 1438, just before Lanna’s “Golden Age”, but surely then, as now, Laos was no great power center. Laos was, though, an important part of a culture which extended through Lanna and the Shan States into Yunnan. This “Culture of the Dhamma Letters” was Buddhist, T’ai and in many ways the basis of present traditions in Laos, Thailand and the Shan States.
When Mengrai Dynasty Lanna began to crumble, with no reign ending peaceably for a quarter century, a LanSang ruler, King Potisarat, began to fantasize of becoming the ‘wheel-turning universal monarch whose righteousness and might make all the world turn around him.’ Unfortunately, at the same time, so did a King Burengnong from Toungoo (due west from ChiangRai, separated by Karen people and the mighty Salween River). After Mengrai’s direct line ended, half of the last independent rulers were women. One, MahaTevi Jiraprapa (sometimes said named PhraNang Yout KhamThip), was a full, absolute ruler from 1545- 46. Then Potisarat’s son ruled briefly until duty pulled him away and for 4 years, no central ruler commanded at all. Jiraprapa may have been returned to power by Burmese King Burengnong, or perhaps he put her sister, whom we have little reliable data about, on the Lanna throne. There’s a problem with the few records which remain, in that a person or place is known here as this, there as that, and in another place and time gets referred to in another way entirely! But, to understand, we must endure.
In July, 1545, Shan King FaYongHui of Mong Nai (Muang Nai, on the Salween, were Lanna’s last king was from) attacked ChiangMai. As he did, an earthquake destroyed nine revered reliquaries there, including a couple of the most important (finials at Wat Jedi Luang and Wat PraSing). For a month attackers poured dirt into the city moat and tried to cross it with bamboo bridges; but defenders burnt the attackers’ encampment, and the Shans withdrew. Then Jiraprapa, daughter of King Ket Jettarat (deposed, then brought back by ministers who soon assassinated him), was given rule. Perhaps envoys from Ayudhaya had rushed message of Ket’s murder home; anyway, it’s thought they supported the rise of Queen Maha Jiraprapa (a.k.a. MahaTewi), and likely also they who not only requested military assistance from Ayudhaya, but had Ket’s killers killed. Regardless, an army from Ayudhaya under King Chairaja (or Borommatraijak) came near; either Jiraprapa persuaded (bribed?) him to hold off, or, as the ChiangMai Chronicle says, “He was defeated and fled.” Anyway, armies and devotions were displayed, and the Ayudhayan army “proceeded back to Yotthiya”.
Her cousin, Phaya Ket’s 12-year-old nephew (some say he was 19) from LuangPrabang, Setthatirat (a.k.a. Uppayo), was invited to rule under Jiraprapha’s regency. The Laotian government holds that King Potisan (Phohthisat, married to Ket’s daughter, who’s also said to have had the same name, Yotkamtip), conquered Lanna; if he did, he certainly didn’t rule it (unless through his wife, which is not claimed). 100 years before, LanSang attacked Nan; 50 years later it briefly took much of Lanna, but the tattered bits of Lao history which remain seem to miss these events… Regardless, according to local chronicles, in May, 1546, Setthatirat came to ChiangSaen and ChiangRai, appointed local rulers and went to rule in ChiangMai. He stayed until August 1547 (well, for 2 years, say the Chronicles, and ‘til 1550, they say in Laos).
According to the ChiangMai Chronicles, in June of 1546, Setthatirat, accepted as king, “went to reverence the Emerald Buddha at its pavilion” in Wat Jedi Luang, then on 17 July was coronated as Phra Ratcha-uppayo. Pra TonThip is named as his first royal queen (and there are 2 daughters mentioned, casting doubt on his being aged 12). Pra TonKham is named as the Queen’s younger sister.
Word came that Potisan was killed by accident during a wild elephant round-up, and that younger brothers (if he was 12, well, supporters of younger brothers) were fighting for power. This threatened to divide the country, so Setthatirat returned to LuangPrabang. In April 1551, he handed ChiangMai over to “the queen”, Phra Ton Thip. Not KhamThip (though her sister was Pra TonKham… ‘Tip’ – a popular nickname, meaning to kick or rise as a kite?). David Wyatt’s 1984 “Thailand, A Short History” (published over a decade before his Chronicles translation) refers to Thao MaeKu, who was deposed after less than a year. The similarity of that name to the name of the next and last King is confusing but interesting. Mae Ku – mother of a pair? Popular Thai historian Manich Jumsai says this was Princess Chiraprabha, “(sometimes known as Maha Devi)” who resisted, perhaps foisted off, ‘King Prajairaja’ of Ayudhaya – King P’rajai or Chairacha, who died almost soon after return to Ayudhaya.
It seems generally agreed MahaTewi Jiraprapa first convinced the king from Ayudhaya nothing was to be gained by violence, and, doubtless with tribute, persuaded him to return home. When Setthatirat abandoned Lanna, or in January, 1546, Chairacha or Borommatraijak (“King of the South”) came back, and Jiraprapa then led successful resistance. The leader of this resistance is not said to be Setthatirat’s wife. At any rate, “Many Southerners died, and they dispersed” – according to the ChiangMai Chronicles – “30,000 Southerners went away by water”, “10,000 infantry and 3000 war boats were taken”, and 4 elephants!

The Portuguese had captured Islamic Malacca in 1511, and sent gunnery instructors to assist in wars to the north, supplying arms and soldiers to both mighty King Burengnong (Bayinnaung, or Jao PoengPawa MinTaya of Pegu, an important city south form Toungoo - on the Sittaung River - between its mouth and Yangoon) and King Maha Chakrapat of Ayudhaya. King Chairacha (Phrajai) may also have had some of these instructors, when on expeditions against ChiangMai, but despite Portuguese mercenary help and the violent power-jockeying which had been dominating things within Lanna, he was completely routed by MahaTewi Jiraprapa.

Setthatirat took away the Phra Kaeo Morakot (Emerald Buddha), other important Buddha images, religious texts and treatises, and many monks and scholars, when he effectively abandoned Lanna. He attempted to consolidate Lanna and LanSang in 1558-9, then before heading off to secure things in the south, established a new capital at WiangChan (Vientiane), much farther from Burmese-held territory than LuangPrabang (with more of difficult, unpopulated Saiaburi (Sayabuli or Xaignabouri) to cross. Or, as others hold, Potisarat chose WiangChan as a better capital “within the expanding Lao world” and for better communication with Vietnam, Champa, Cambodia and Ayudhaya.
Lanna endured anarchy and civil war, with nobles fighting on elephants in the middle of ChiangMai City. Petty officials and rulers of principalities proved more interested in their changing relative power than in the threat from Burma (as seems the case today), until Mekut of MongNai (a Shan State where rebellious descendants of Mengrai were sometimes sent to rule) was made king in 1552. In 1555, Mekut’s brothers attempted to seize Lanna’s Mekong region, and gained ChiangRai and ChiangSaen… so Mekhut “was not at first inclined to listen to his brothers’ cry for help” when Burengnong, who’d become king in 1551, took Ava in 1555, then Hsenwi, then KengTung… Mekhut surrendered to Burengnong, who accepted him as a vassal, but soon revolted against his new obligations. Setthatirat, returning with help from the governors of Lampang, Prae and Nan, took ChiangMai and begged pardon before the Sangha (Buddhist clergy), handing “all the country of ChiangMai over to the Queen” (according to the Chronicles). He almost took ChiangSaen, but Burengnong forced him back to LuangPrabang, where Mekut had taken refuge (leaving Lady Wisutthathewi – his consort, says history professor at ChiangMai University Sarassawadee Ongsakul, to rule in his place). Burengnong seized Mekut (the Chronicles say this was in ChiangMai) but Setthatirat escaped to pursue guerrilla warfare until Burengnong ran out of provisions. For a year Setthatirat launched harrying sallies against Burmese patrols and supply lines, until they withdrew in mid-1565. Perhaps before going back to Burma Burengnong married Princess Jiraprapa, now in her 40s (at least). The woman who ruled Lanna from 1564 until her death in 1578 is called Wisutthitewi (again there is name confusion: Mekut’s full name was Mekutawisutthiwong). This PhraNang Visuti (Wisutatewi, a.k.a. MahaTewi) whom Burengnong replaced Phra Mekut with, may have been a different, younger daughter of Phaya Ket; and maybe Potisan’s wife was Ket’s sister…
Anyway, Mekut died in exile at Pegu or Ava, and became known as one of Burma’s famous “37 Nat” spirits, YunBayin. The Mengrai line is said to end there, but the last person descended from Mengrai to rule might have been Thado Gyaw, 4th Lanna ruler (descended from Burengnong/MinTaya) through MahaTwei Jiraprapa). Mon rebels, aided by Shan and Siamese prisoners resettled to the area, burned Pegu after Burengnong hurried off to deal with an Arakanese invasion; he sacked Ayudhaya in 1569, but didn’t absorb it into empire, and died (1581) without subduing LanSang. He sent another expedition, which again briefly occupied Vienchan, but Setthirat directed more guerrilla warfare against them and has remained a national hero since, despite dying (well, disappearing) a year later.
In 1595 the kings of LanSang and Nan took ChiangSaen; amazingly, Burengnong’s son on the Lanna throne asked King Naresuan of Ayudhaya for help; this resulted in a Lao noble acting as Siamese commissioner there. Then, for about the length of time they’d been an independent power, ChiangMai and ChiangRai were vassal states required to pay annual tribute of gold and silver trees, and manpower as necessary in times of war – usually to Burma, occasionally to Siam. MahaTewi’s descendants may have continued in local rule. After Setthatirat disappeared mysteriously while campaigning in the south, LanSang suffered a 70 years of wars of succession and reduction to a Burmese vassal state, until King Suriyavongsa (Suriwong?) restored independence.

It all goes to demonstrate – national borders, royal lines, culture and economics are hardly hard and fast realities; national historians often portray things differently from their neighbors, and any set of important records needs corroboration, even if from a very different way of looking at things! Many records were destroyed, but Thailand’s MahaTewi remains respected; really though, who was she? Is she little more than an amalgamation?

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Saturday, May 28, 2016


From my novel "Dignity, Too" “Liars or not, Puchteca weren’t socially admissible.” “Suspect characters.” “Spies, even.” With discussion of the social ostracism of early traders, they proceeded on to how otherwise odd they must have been. Rodney explained: Ancient traders of the area seem, to those who’ve investigated sufficiently, to have of necessity become spies and agents for lords of rival empires, lords the jealousies of whom the traders must certainly have needed to stay most carefully aware. Despite their knowledge of themselves as ‘traveling lords,’ their wealth and even influence was of necessity kept disguised. No rivalry with their ‘masters’ could ever even be suggested (without disastrous results, destabilizing at best!). Often wealthier than the richest nobles, they yet traveled difficult, dangerous terrain on foot, hauling trade-goods on their backs. Because they already undertook such great risks, a strict code of honesty had to be adhered to amongst themselves, but only amongst themselves. They neither competed, nor needed to. Compounded in their code of honesty was a directive to display respect for others, especially when bargaining with them. Humble in appearance, often they held the real, most important powers, so much so that the places kept for paying respect to, and asking things of, ‘the knowers of things,’ were located at their places of business, the main markets. Other than the Market God ‘Knower of Things,’ their Gods were strictly their own. Their relation to them was direct; while traveling, they submitted to no other priests, acknowledging none as holier than themselves. Little else may have been theirs to control, overtly, but only they governed the rules of their religion, and their markets. There were other markets, for instance garden markets and local crafts markets, and other market gods, which were not theirs, or even based on theirs. But over anything foreign, they were the masters. Coming under, and living by, their own special laws, they respected their own amorphous nation, which existed invisibly to outsiders, while within other nations. They decided things in their own way, creating impact as they thought best for themselves. Rodney, surprisingly and pleasantly informed and open, explained on about Oztomeca, hereditary Puchteca based in Aztec society, who “went disguised in local garb speaking the local language” wherever they traded. They exchanged militarily useful knowledge in addition to trade goods. Oztomeca had private social clubs, their own houses (usually quite luxurious on the inside) in their own neighborhoods, and observed their own feast days. Who had more direct power, greater physical might, though, they of direst necessity acknowledged, and carefully gave the appearance of humbling themselves before. From the California deserts to southern Colorado and the hills of east Texas, then south even past Panama, the Oztomeca and other Puchteca traded among empires and tribes whose only other intercourse involved war. For them, distant future planning had a meaning it couldn’t for others, and they were perhaps the first to see various tribal groups as kinds of repositories… Certainly conspiracy and some successful premeditation seemed to Rodney to have existed among them, with planning suggestive of other more extensive planning, perhaps even regarding things yet to come, things perhaps still not fully apprehended by us in the modern world.

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