Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The German Invasion

Well, while the red shirt protests shuddered to a stalemate, some German choristers showed up in Thailand to perform Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle with our choir and orchestra.  Here's a picture of them at a welcome reception at the home of my sister Premika.

After two gruelling rehearsals with the choir, the soloists, and the orchestra, I could clearly see that this is going to be our most exciting choral concert in many years ... an evening of rousing tunes, thrilling climaxes and affecting solos.

If you're in Bangkok on Friday night, therefore, please make a beeline to the Thailand Cultural Center by 8 pm!  Or call my secretary at (02) 231-5273.  Or go to to book online.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Sour Grapes of Wrath

I promised to discuss politics a little bit, but today we're in a bit of a holding pattern.  There are supposedly "peace talks" going on right now, which is an odd concept since both sides deny that there's any kind of "war" going on.  So, I'm running to the TV to watch these talks right now.

So ... I watched the entire thing and the punditry is going strong on all channels right now.  A commentator  recently accused me of not being neutral, which is a little unfair as I have been known to be quite impatient with all sides in these wars, but it was clear that, from any non-partisan, logical, Harvard Debate Club point of view, Abhisit outmanoevered the red shirt negotiators at every turn.  Nevertheless, I do believe that in a very real sense, the red shirts won this round.  They did not, and probably will not, win the dissolution of parliament, their ostensible goal, but in a long-term sense they achieved much more.

The red shirt group won the appearance of legitimacy, a serious forum, and a chance to state their case in a very public avenue.  They also won  a divorce from Thaksin, managing to present a credible picture that they are not his tools, and indeed managing to marginalize him from the terms of discourse.

Dr Weng, a deeply committed person whom I respect, was right on target when he explained that Thailand isn't really that democratic at the moment, but his rhetoric started to go way over the top when he accused this government of being a fascist dictatorship and of giving orders to kill people — a problem much more prevalent during the Thaksin administration.  Dr Weng also made sweeping generalizations, such as "In every civilized nation, when people protest, the government always changes."  (He should be old enough to remember Kent State, he's older than me.)

Jatupon struck rather a persistent note by simply saying over and over that the government should resign; by the third hour his demagoguery had become wearying and even the smooth Abhisit was visibly bored.  Of the red shirts, Veera came across as the most reasonable.

Abhisit seemed Mr Voice of Reason himself as he deconstructed their arguments and made a case for caution, thoroughness, and a real respect for all sides of the argument.  He made it clear that he wasn't buying any "people power" arguments when only a small segment of the people were represented.  And he never said he wouldn't dissolve the house.

When reduced to sound bites, however, as it inevitably must be for television, Jatupon's black-and-white reductio may well prove to be more emotionally appealing that Abhisit's reasonableness.  I don't think that most people are going to bother to watch a three-hour debate over and over before making up their mind.  How this plays out, therefore, is really up to the media.  They can probably push this in either direction.

After two weeks of weird rituals and wishy-washy decisionmaking, the red shirts needed something to show they weren't just a bunch of superstitious bumpkins.  This debate has probably done the trick by presenting them on an equal footing in a public arena with the government, an achievement which the yellow shirts never attained.  In letting this happen, this government has shown itself to be more democratic that its detractors would want us to believe.

Finally, at the end of the third hour, reality reared its ugly head.  The red shirts needed to go to the bathroom.  There was a serious discussion of where the best place to pee would be in order to avoid being beset by reporters.  At last, there was something everyone could agree on.

A break from political turmoil

Every writer demands an audience.  I could not fail to be aware that as soon I started discussing political issues in this blog, readership leapt to 600%.  This puts me in a bit of quandary because this isn't a political blog per se; it's me sharing my world and my experiences with my friends around the world — especially those in the western hemisphere, whom I abandoned when I came east in search of (to put it simplistically) adventure.

So, let's compromise.  Today I'll talk about music; tomorrow I'll talk about red shirts, if I have time.

Last weekend we staged a very unusual camp for some of the brightest kids in the country.  It was wild.  We slapped together a symphony orchestra in three days that could play real music, blew the minds of young science students by using that symphony orchestra to demonstrate principles of relativity and quantum theory, used film music to ilustrate the laws of physics, and had Thailand's ten-year-old champion paper plane folder lecture on aerodyamics.  A jazz pianist taught improvisation to kids who had never touched an instrument, and an entire scene from Bruce Gaston's opera "A Boy and a Tiger" was staged.  And amazingly, they had fun doing all this, thanks to their own imaginations and an incredible catering service that produced food every 90 minutes.  At the final concert, Dr Yongyuth, former Minister of Science and Technology, told us that the camp was a fulfillment of one of his fondest dreams.

It was exciting.  The atmosphere all weekend was one of almost uncontrollable glee.  And the final concert, including Mozart, Haydn, and a wild improvisation in which the audience ran onto the stage and screamed and danced about under the direction of Zion from the Patravadi Theatre, was such fun that I didn't want to go home.

Indeed, the minute I got home, I broke out in hives, and haven't been quite myself since....

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Moratorium on Red Shirts

The red shirts plan to go marauding through Bangkok on Saturday, but I will not encounter them.
In a few hours I will leave for the Thailand Science Park in Rangsit, where for 3 days I hope to face 80 inquisitive young minds at our "Bach to the Future" camp.  I've always dreamed of creating a situation where the divide between art and science can be bridged.

Around 1980, I was in the lobby of the Sheraton in Boston where I encountered Marvin Minsky for the first time.  I had no clue who he was.  There were two pianos in the lobby.  We both started playing.  After a moment, it became clear that, even though we were both improvising, each was completely aware of what the other was doing, and the music began to gel into a complex and logical construct, far more integrated than one would think possible, and far bigger than either of us could create alone.

Five hours of playing together later .. having astounded all the attendees at the science fiction convention we were at ... I was finally introduced to Marvin.  I had heard of him, of course; he almost singlehandedly created the Artificial Intelligence. 

One of the world's great neurobiologists is V.S. Ramachandran.  When he and I were children, we used to dress up in bedsheets and improvise huge scenes from imaginary operas.  We created an artificial language in which to express the alien emotions of our characters.

What I'm saying is that music, so often, forms an underlying system of paradigms or structures that scientists intuit very well.  There is a reason why Pythagoras numbered music among the scientific/mathematical disciplines.  

I hope to spend the weekend leading a ragtag band of independent thinkers into this virgin territory.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

After the Deluge....

As I predicted, everyone from my mother to the maid has simply assumed that the rain that deluged the blood-spatterers at the gates of the prime minister's house was a direct divine intervention in the affairs of Thai politics.  The idea that it could simply be a cosmic coincidence has never occurred to any of them.  Unless you understand this, you will never understand Thailand.

Water is at the very center of the Siamese worldview.  Before there were roads, there were waterways.  The alluvial-rich central plains have enough water for two rice crops a year and are the heartland of the establishment; the drier northeast can only sustain one crop a year, and is the heart of Thaksin country. It is an inequity that goes beyond money, and money alone can't fix it.

Right now, it's still the dry season: the rain that descended on the red shirts was therefore unseasonal.  By definition, therefore, it was providential.  There it is.

The red shirts have presented a letter to the U.S. embassy demanding an explanation for the rumor that the CIA (or someone) told the government of a plot against the prime minister's life.

This is, I think, another example of irrational thinking.  First, although foreign governments have been mentioned, I don't think anyone in this government actually stated that the U.S. was informing them about murder plots.  It's a rumor built on a speculation built on someone's ambiguous remark.   The U.S. government, quite rightly, refused to comment.

But wait a minute ...  If I were the government of a friendly nation and I learned of a plot against that nation, wouldn't I give them a heads up?  If the Thai government had intercepted a secret missive from John Wilkes Booth, wouldn't King Rama IV have immediately despatched someone to tell Abraham Lincoln?  (Preferably not Deborah Kerr.)  Would a million sore losers from Dixieland have marched on the Siamese Embassy in Washington and pelted the ambassador with ham hocks?

WIth the blood ritual not having created quite the right sense of shock and awe, they are now planning to march randomly around Bangkok on Saturday.  Causing a severe traffic jam, apparently, is now the latest strategy for bringing down the government.

A few days ago I proposed a far simpler way of achieving the red shirts' goal: persuading a couple of small parties to switch sides in the coalition.  Politicians may cost a lot more than 500 baht apiece, but you don't need to buy them 100,000 at a time.

Today I will also propose a simple way for the current government to prevent future red shirt invasions.  Over 50% of the electorate is functionally illiterate.  (I got this statistic from some professor on a late night talk show, and I bet it's true.)  Take Thaksin's 46 billion baht and give them a decent education.  Stop underestimating them and they will surprise you.

There is in this country an enormous gap, financial and cultural, between city and country.  This gap has been heavily exploited by the architects of this protest, but, contrary to what the western press seems to think, it is not what this present struggle is about.

It is in fact an incestuous war between two elites: an old-style, gentlemanly elite and a flashier, no-holds-barred elite.  The poor have been duped into serving as collateral damage.

The actual  struggle, the one to narrow the gap and to bring the entire kingdom into the modern age, has not even begun to be fought.  We must give it time.  To demand all the results immediately would be to insist that Magna Carta, the Reformation, the Restoration, the Industrial Revolution, and the New Deal all be squeezed into about fifty years.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nothing to do with the Red Shirts

So much excitement in the real world, I almost forgot to tell you an interesting experience in the other world ... the Dream Time that is.

Last night I dreamed that I was a a futuristic undertaker in a funeral home that was located in a vast, antiseptic shopping mall.  In this future, there is a technology where you coat people's faces before death with a semi-sentient gel which absorbs the essence of their personalities and in a sense, becomes their soul. This gel is then stripped off and is a kind of mask, so that anyone may adopt the guise of any dead person.

In my dream, I was the master of this technology and at one point, looking up through the ceiling, I could see floors and floors of my store room in which hung these masks that contained dead souls, including celebrities like Cicero.

A close member of my family was in the funeral parlor.  It was his funeral, but he was not actually dead yet; in this dream, people have the funeral services before death so that the gel can be applied to their faces to suck away the last remnants of their life force.

In my dream, everyone is waiting for this person to die.  But he doesn't.  He doesn't seem to realize that it is his own funeral.  We need the gel to set and the magic mask to be stripped off so that his body will be faceless and his soul will reside in my upstairs collection.

As I watch, part of the mask peels off, revealing clumps of dark hair ... I know who the dying person is, but I don't want to say.

Then I woke up.  It was about 4 am or so and I slept fitfully thereafter which is why I still remember the dream very vividly.

I see that I'm getting a lot of hits now that the Guadian has outed me as a political blogger, but I am not.  I use this blog to talk to my real friends about what is happening around me ... that's all.

If I can figure out how to tweet while dreaming, I'll let you know.

The Mandate of Heaven

Well ... the red shirts SHOULD have reached my house last night; being on Thai time, they are only just arriving now.  However, the delay has been a severe miscalculation.  It's now raining cats and dogs.  Thunder, too.  So, any blood thrown at the gates of the prime minister's house will be washed away by an act of god.

The clear implication, if you analyze this according to the animistic world view, in which every rock and stone and drop of water has consciousness, is that heaven itself is negating any spell which the red shirts might want to cast on the home of my fellow Old Etonian.  And, as I frequently have to tell people, animism is the basic fabric of Thai religion, and this is true whether they profess to be Buddhist or Catholic.  (Sometime I must tell the story of my former Muslim housekeeper, who claims to become possessed by Hindu gods from time to time.)

Now, please understand the unique symbolism for Thailand of this image.  H.M. The King of Thailand holds a recognized international patent on a rain-making technology.  In popular imagery, his "barami" is often seen as the rain that soothes the parched earth.

In the Hindu cosmology of divine kingship, which the Thais took over from the more ancient Khmer culture and which became inextricably woven into the fabric of Buddhism, an earthly kingdom is a reflection of a heavenly one.  (This is also how the Byzantine Empire was run.)

There is therefore no escaping the fact that this rainfall will be widely perceived as the judgment of heaven, and that the fact that the red shirts were several hours late to perform their ceremony and encountered this rain is simply a matter of karma.

This is a country in which magic still works.  There's reality, and there's truth.  They are not always the same thing.

Then again, maybe they'll wait out the rain; I can hear them chanting right now.  If they wait long enough, of course, the rites can  proceed and and they'll all be dry....

More time has gone by and it now appears that they did succeed in getting some blood on the door, plus throwing a few bags on the roof.

They are now, apparently, on their way to protest at the American Embassy, having decided that the U.S. government didn't play fair when they warned the Thai government about some plot they had heard from somewhere ... I don't know, they tapped someone's phone or something....

I received a warning in my email from the U.S. Embassy saying that they might be protesting on the 17th, so it seems that once again, no one is paying much attention to schedules....

Bring Out the Leeches

Well, today has been a very inconvenient day.  At 4 pm, my street was filled with red-shirted protesters bearing buckets of blood, headed towards the Prime Minister's house, and the police were barricading the way to my house.  I decided it was best to cancel choir practice.

But there was something suspicious about it all.  The redshirts had announced they were going to do the baptism in blood first at government house, then at the Democrat party HQ, and only finally at the home of the Prime Minister.  At 4 pm, the should have been on the other side of town.

Sure enough, by 5 pm they were gone; apparently it was just a small subset of the protesters that had got their schedule in a muddle.  What was I to do?  The choir practice was already cancelled, and if I un-cancelled it, what would happen if the blood-spatterers managed to synchronize their iPhones and burst into my neighbourhood in the middle of Rossini?

Well, judging by average traffic, the protesters should be here by now, but I've just heard that they're not coming until 7 am.  Meanwhile we did have a brief rehearsal with a few who came despite everything, and that small group got a handle on another piece of the Rossini, so it's moving along.

By the way, the papers have been greatly at variance about the amount of blood that actually managed to be squeezed from our gullible friends from the country: estimates ranged from 10 liters to 300.  None of the amounts actually came close to the 1,000,000 ml that has been rhetorically demanded.  Just as well.  The Red Cross is screaming for blood donors.  Let's not waste another drop.  (This is another plug for my campaign to save someone's life, not someone's fortune, by donating blood....)

The authorities didn't use magic lustral water from the Emerald Buddha temple to exorcise the blood as recommended by the astrologers' association; instead, they used chlorox.

Tomorrow, it seems, I'm going to wake up to the smell of bleach....

Inconvenience will turn to Catastrophic Inconvenience, I am sure once, once the western press against recasts this sorry tale as a battle between the downtrodden and the elite.  I've got fifty tourists flying in to perform with us at their own expense -- pouring a few million baht into Thailand's economy -- in two weeks, just the kind of person the Ministry of Tourism loves, and symbolic of all we are working for to raise this country's image as a haven for cultural tourism.  If they see what is bound to be sensationalist and distorted coverage of what is happening here, they'll probably end up flying to Cambodia.

Which may be exactly what Cambodia's high-profile new economic advisor has in mind.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Save someone's life, not someone's fortune

Dear Friends:

I have had it with voodoo politics and I would like to make a stand.  I want to encourage all of you to do so as well.  While watching the news today I realized that there IS something ordinary people can do to express our feelings about all this nonsense.

Please pledge to donate blood sometime in the next month to help the sick.

Let's not take names.  Let's not count how many million ccs we can come up with.   This is not about numbers, it is about right and wrong.  "Pid thong lang phra"* is what we need to do.

If we cannot donate more blood to help our fellow humans than this manipulated gang can waste on a senseless ritual, then we deserve to be ruled by a mob.

Please pass this on.

Best wishes
Somtow Sucharitkul

*This is a Thai saying referring to the idea of doing good for the sake of doing it, not in order to be seen by others.

The Haruspex Hath Spoken!

So, while surfing through the screens and screens of TV punditry today, I come across a fascinating discussion amongst Thailand's leading astrologers and magicians about the efficacy of the blood spattering ceremony which the redshirts have now moved up to 4 pm, presumably so that it will still be light enough for video.

I see no reason why we shouldn't have political commentary by haruspices and shamans; it is surely no more outlandish than the O'Reilly Factor, and only serves to enhance Thailand's reputation for "mysteries of the east".

I would like to mention for my friends out there in that alien world called "western civilization" some of the interesting theories propounded by these experts.  This discussion, you must understand, is a perfectly serious one, carried out with the same passion and breadth of historical context as any political free-for-all in a U.S. TV punditry-fest.

First, there's the Cambodian Theory, which states that pouring the blood on the headquarters of the government is a Cambodian plot to ensure the return of Thaksin.  (Not sure of the logic of this; as a professional fantasist I for one would never use such illogical magic in one of my novels.)

Second, a theory propounded by the chairperson of the Thai astrologers' society, which is that this is simple sympathetic magic in order to gain victory and the sort of thing anyone would do under the circumstances.

Third, someone has come up with a historical basis: in the reign of King Naresuan, apparently this ceremony was performed, bathing the King's feet with the enemy's blood and letting it soak into the soil.

Someone else pointed out that using your enemies' blood to ensure victory might be a logical example of sympathetic magic, but spilling your own might have the opposite effect.

It was also pointed that the Cambodian Theory would automatically backfire, because you need to be "pure of heart" to perform that rite.  (Is there a "pure of heart" certification for this?  The catholics, with their thorough grounding in Roman Law, have figured out a brilliant doctrinal workaround stating that transubstantiation will still work if the priest is not pure of heart because God is working through the imperfect vessel.  This means that a priest can have it off with an altar boy in the vestry and still successfully turn the bread into the body of Christ.)  However, without this doctrinal protection, according to the TV experts, the magic would reverse itself and the intended consequences would occur to the curser, not the cursee.  Scary!

The astrologers all agree that the entire ceremony can easily be negated by the simple act of sprinkling some holy water from the Emerald Buddha Temple over the blood.  They explained, also, that the smell can be removed using a mixture of flat coke and vinegar.

They know this because, of course, in Thailand, this kind of thing happens all the time....

Blood Simple

Soon it will be passover, but the red shirts may be unaware of this as they plan their latest plague against Pharaoh Abhisit.  They've announced they're going to drain 10 cc of blood from each member of the crowd for a total of 1 million cc, and (according to the Bangkok Post) put it all the gates of Government House.

I'm not quite sure how this can result in the dissolution of the Lower House.  However, I suppose that the red shirts' other measures, such as breaking a pot in front of the statue of King Taksin, calling down a curse on the government, throwing plastic bags of rotten fish, and having the ex-PM descend through the airwaves from a place variously described as Germany, Cambodia, and Montenegro, have not worked.  They were all very imaginative methods of bringing about political change, but when you have the all the resources of witchcraft and the supernatural at your disposal, why stoop to such mundane devices as, for instance, lobbying one of the smaller parties to switch sides so as to shift the balance of power?

Anyhow, this ghoulish act of smearing blood on the entrances to Government House doesn't appear to have anything to do with passover.  It is so that our evil government will have the shame of having to "tread on our blood" before they can get to work.

Now it would indeed be shameful if the government had slaughtered the red shirts and were stepping over their bloodied corpses in order to reach their place of business.  While of no practical use, I could see the beauty and symbolism of using blood in this way.

However, this blood isn't being shed by the evil government.  If you have not in fact been attacked, attacking yourself and then trying to guilt the opposition is pretty childish; it's right up there with "see what you made me do".

In fact, the only actual casualties so far have been two soldiers, wounded when a grenade was lobbed into their midst.  The red shirts have claimed that this is an act of provocation in that the government must have lobbed a grenade at itself in order to discredit the protesters.  It is a bit far-fetched, but then again, now they're doing the same thing ... without even bothering to disguise it as an attack from their enemies.

I think that it's time for several people to grow up.  The rural poor have a number of genuine grievances. These grievances will not be solved by making a rich man richer.  Magic spells and bags of shit will not solve their problems either.  Throwing money might be a quick fix.  But not in the long term.

The use of voodoo rituals, mob-buying, and fish-slinging as political devices won't end without a real investment in education.

Then again, why bother?  According to Pat Robertson, voodoo worked fine for Haiti, and you can make a deal with Satan to delay the earthquakes by two hundred years.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Calm Before the Calm

It's now been twelve hours since the red shirts announced that if the government doesn't resign, they're going to go on a rampage.

They've already done some terrifying things, like performing a ceremony in front of the statue of King Taksin in order to put a curse on the government, armed themselves with plastic bags of shit and rotten fish, and had their leader appear by satellite link to swear that he's not in Cambodia.

Presumably, the rampage is going to be a little more serious than the above examples, and yet for some reason I can't feel that much terror.  Maybe it's because I have lived through a lot of political upheaval in my day.  I was in Thailand in the 70s, when there was a coup every October.

Estimates of the ravening hordes have been at about 100,000 to 200,000, somewhat short of the one million that was threatened, but the Bangkok Post says that  someone who actually counted said it's only about 46,000.  That's a lot of people all right, but it also seems to show how little money can buy these days.  I'm sure the Shinawatras are complaining bitterly about how you can't get decent help these days.

So, I spent the evening watching a Spanish film about Hypatia, the Alexandrian astronomer, philosopher and feminist icon who was (legend has it) skinned and burned alive by a mob of Christians in the 4th Century.  Though by no means a great film, it certainly brought a sense of perspective back to my life.  Hypatia once presented her suitor, the future governor of Alexandria, with a used sanitary napkin to illustrate the dark side of the human condition.  Now that is style.

I just received an sms from Jay's school saying that they will not be closing tomorrow.  Ah well.  In New York, kids may yearn for blizzards so they can stay home from school, but in Bangkok, they earnestly pray for revolting peasants.

In about twelve hours comes the deadline for rampage.  I can't stay indoors: I have a big meeting on the other side of town.  Once again, if I do get skinned alive, I'll be sure to tweet.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Parting the Red Sea

Well, according to rumor, Bangkok is a sea of red-shirted protesters, but even though I live 5 houses away from the Prime Minister, presumably a danger spot, I haven't yet encountered a single revolting peasant.  Perhaps the drama is to come.  In his phone-in to his supporters, our intrepid ex-PM had to skirt the issue of his having been thrown out of Dubai for violating his agreement not to use the country to cause political mayhem, and had to insist that he was not in Cambodia although I read in at least one newspaper that he had already landed in Siem Riep.  This morning the papers estimated the number of rallyers at around 100,000 and growing, but this is considerably short of the million man march promised.  Nevertheless, I saw a BBC clip that gave the impression that we're on the eve of the French Revolution, with libert√©, egalit√© and fraternit√© being shouted from the rooftops.

Now I have always insisted on being politically neutral.   As far as red and yellow leaders are concerned,  Dr. Weng is a good man and I worked with him on the concert for world peace 9 years ago.   Sonthi is also a fine person and a good patron of the arts who once funded one of my film projects.   I had some sympathy with the yellow shirts at first, but their blatant declaration that the poor were too stupid to vote was as ignorant a statement as any uttered by the most bull-headed of the red shirts.   As for the reds, there are real grievances, but I'm afraid the legitimacy of the current government can't be considered a genuine one.  They are, alas, still protesting the concerns of 2007 without realizing that the country has shifted.

The 2006 coup was a very silly idea, one whose time was long past.  The generals realized very quickly that they were not that great at running a country, and the democratic process, complete with attendant corruption, was restored almost immediately.  The present government has come about through perfectly acceptable parliamentary procedures.  Bringing down the government would not punish the perpetrators of the coup which ousted Thaksin.  It's a completely different government, and one which has largely continued Thaksin's policies with regard to the rural poor. Nor has it murdered accused drug dealers without a trial or repressed the Muslim community or muzzled the press, all major distinctions of the Thaksin regime which blighted the many brilliant ideas that Thaksin also put into practice.

Nor would bringing down the government give Thaksin back his confiscated money.  We are in theory supposed to have a proper separation of powers in this country, so there's no reason that the judiciary would suddenly rewrite its decision, especially since, by not taking it all, they were able to appear pretty even-handed.

What, in fact, would bringing down the government achieve?  I, for one, am not sure.  I am not sure that the protesters are sure.

What I am sure about is that my housekeeper told me that according to her sources upcoutry the fee for protesting is 500 baht, minus 300 which must be paid to an agent.  The newspapers printed that it was 1,500 and that people were objecting to how little money they were getting to protest compared to last time.  If it's 500 a day for 3 days, I guess the figures match.   My housekeeper said, "My village isn't coming to the protests.  They're not getting enough money, and last time it was too hot and it wasn't what we we were expecting."


Well it is now 11 am and it seems that there's some protesters on my street now.  Unfortunately I have to go out to pick up a repaired computer.  We will have to see whether traffic will be blocked.  I think I'll wear green or purple.  Most other colors are political unreliable.

Luckily for all of my faithful readers, I now have an iPhone, so I will continue to tweet as I am being bludgeoned to death by some over-zealous police officer or angry farmer.