Mustard Seeds

Some years ago, the king of Thailand ordered that his subjects make lots of origami doves. These doves, symbols of peace, were to be airdropped into the southern portion of Thailand, a place called Pattani after an older, Islamic kingdom.

Fifty Thai aircraft distributed one hundred and twenty million paper doves, in an attempt to demonstrate good will to the people of that restive province.

Did it work? Of course it did not. The local insurgents passed a rumor that the doves were coated with contact poison, and that it was all a plot to kill off the Muslim population. Whether or not the local peasantry believed the rumors, peace still has not come to Southern Thailand.

Yet we can admire the spirit of the thing, even if in practical fact it did not work. It was a nice try, a fine and a romantic deed. Perhaps a few of those doves fell on a heart ready to receive the message; perhaps someday we may yet see a wild crop grow out of that good soil.

I feel much the same way about the Swedes who recently piloted a single small plane into the forbidden airspace of Belarus, and air-dropped teddy bears on parachutes with messages of freedom. (Thanks to Tom for passing this one along).

The stiff hand of tyranny is not so easily moved, but it was a bold and romantic gesture. Perhaps a few of the messages will resonate. Perhaps we may yet see a crop grow out of the rare seed that fell on good ground.


Tom said...

I've talked to Poles who made a point of telling me how much Reagan's speech calling the USSR the 'Evil Empire' meant to them. It was just a speech, but they said it let them know they weren't alone and it encouraged them to keep fighting.

Of course, there's a big difference between a U.S. President and a couple of Swedes acting on their own. But, similarly, the air drop was supporting Belorussian pro-democracy movements like Chapter 97, and maybe the publicity will do them some good.

In one way, things like this, where someone takes a chance to make a statement, remind me of Gordon R. Dickson's novella, "Lost Dorsai." It was part of a series of science fiction novels he wrote. In them, the Dorsai were born and bred warriors, in a somewhat evolutionary sense.

He generally portrays these masters of warfare as heroes. However, this novella is about a Dorsai who completes all of his training, but has become a pacifist. While his fellow Dorsai are taking jobs around the galaxy as commandos, defense advisers, military leaders, etc., he takes a job leading a military band in one of the backwaters of the galaxy colonized by a Hispanic nation. The local army revolts and the planet's rulers hire a team of Dorsai to quell the rebellion. At the end, while the Dorsai are preparing to repel an assault by an overwhelming force, they begin hearing bagpipes; the 'lost Dorsai' is marching out into the lead elements of the rebel assault, facing them down, playing 'Su Madre'. (I won't spoil the ending, but it's a great story.)

Teddy bears aren't going to solve the world's problems, but sometimes symbolic gestures help, and gallantry itself can be beautiful. Besides, laughing at dictators is an unqualified good in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

You might try to find Janet Kagen's sci-fi short story "The Nutcracker Coup" about how something small can bring down tyranny. Laughter, and nutcrackers, won the day.


Texan99 said...

I watched a grade B shoot-em-up movie once, I think it had Dolph Lundgren in it, for Heaven's sake, but it had a line that arrested me. Our antihero is a mercenary sent to pacify a tropical island. He and his small team suffer some kind of setback and end up hanging out with the islanders, one of whom is a young lady who tries to persuade him to come over to their side. He objects that his employers will just send more mercenaries. She says, "When they come, I will talk to them. Right now I'm talking to you."

One heart at a time.