Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Trip to Bhutan

Washington DC, Public Library

We didn't really take a trip to Bhutan, but it feels like we did. The Smithsonian is holding a folk festival in the National Mall this week, so Libby and I went to see. They have three themes. The first two, Texas and NASA were kind of boring. The third, the country of Bhutan, was thrilling.

Neither Libby nor I knew anything about Bhutan before going. Well we learned a lot in a short time. Bhutan is a Himalayan country, not part of Tibet, bordered by India and China. It is also the place whose King declared that his goal is to maximize Gross National Happiness.

We learned that the men of Bhutan are strikingly handsome, and the women are exquisitely beautiful. Still better, they all speak excellent English (not the Queen's English but real English). Bhutan schools are all taught in English plus their native language.

Their art is beautiful. Their dances are beautiful. We listened to a lecture by their major domestic film producer. That man was so eloquent and erudite that he would be at home holding debates in Cambridge Mass. What an impressive people.

They practice Buddhism in Bhutan. They teach wisdom and method, and harmony. They embrace the five Zorig commitments ( quality, continuous learning, enterprise, dignity of labor, and resistance to corruption). With those basic values and with an intelligent and well educated people, I would say that the future is bright indeed for Bhutan.

This is the first time that they have ever presented Bhutan culture and art outside of their own borders. How fortunate for us that they decided to do that here.

I bumped in to a Bhutan man and I remember how handsome he looked. A few minutes later I saw a picture of this man (the man kneeling with a child in the collage below.) He is the King of Bhutan. Wow, never bumped in to a king before.

Libby and I were very impressed. We admire Bhutan and its people. We understand why it is called The Last Shangri-La. Too bad that it is a landlocked country and we can't sail Tarwathie there. (Alas, Bhutan is not perfect. They have troubles too. See the Wikipedia article. )

Oh yes, this morning we also took the studio tour of Voice of America. That was very interesting. I assume that you all know what VOA is.

I had always thought of it as an instrument of the Cold War, and an anachronism. But our tour guide today said that 150 million people worldwide still listen to VOA. Wow, if that number is to be believed (I'm suspicious but I have no basis to disbelieve it), it is a very significant audience. Still, we are told that the USA is losing the propaganda war, the struggle for hearts and minds, all over the world. Millions of people, supposedly the majority of Muslims, believe that 911 was a Bush plot. They believe that the USA did not set foot on the moon and that the holocaust didn't happen. If VOA does as it says -- tell the absolute truth, and tell it effectively, and to disseminate it all over the world, then how come the lies are winning?

Amazingly, VOA broadcasts in 46 languages but none of them are Arabic. Go figure.

There's another fundamental problem with VOA. It must cost a fortune to produce, perhaps as much as the collective news budgets of all private radio and TV networks in America. Yet VOA is forbidden to compete with private industry so we can't hear what it broadcasts. If one could tune to VOA every night and compare it with what is said on NPR, then we could judge for ourselves how good a job they do. If they did that, they would be in competition with NPR, and a libertarian like myself would never allow that. What a dilemma!

I left the VOA tour very disturbed. Every fact I learned about it caused 10 unanswered questions to pop in my head.


  1. Dick, the lies are winning because of what we do, not what we say. When our own leaders ignore our constitution, and we torture, and we discriminate, and we bomb, we appear hypocritical. The VOA just comes across as more imperial propaganda. It must be hard for them to continue coming up with material, after what we've become over the last 8 yrs.

    Enough of that...great blog. We follow your travels, in hope that someday soon we can do the same.
    Fair Winds,
    Sodus Bay NY

  2. hi blog hopping here form have nice blog...:D :D


Type your comments here.