Stickman Readers' Submissions September 22nd, 2003

What Is He Talking About?

A reply to "Comfort Ethics From Another Angle" By Wr

I read WR's response to "Comfort Ethics", and found it quite detailed but completely off-focus. The author attempts to pass off and justify all the incongruities and inconsistencies of what appears to be his (or her) Thailand with a lot of history and academic interpretation of that history. He does nothing to justify the actions. When did explaining the facts of an act justify the act? That's like me explaining how I beat someone up. Where is the reason why doing so is acceptable?

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First, let's look at what appears to be his inability to read. If someone were to review my article ("Comfort Ethics"), they would see that I stated very clearly that Thai Buddhism is nothing like the Buddhism found in China or India, from where it originated. I went on to give examples of how the Thai version of Buddhism is subverted and adjusted for the needs of the Thais, in the same way they "adjust" their ethics to fit their particular selfish needs. WR does nothing to justify why the Thais chose to corrupt this religion, he just goes on a tirade of how the Thais have incorporated animism into "Thai Buddhism", and then he "assumes" (ass-umes) that I did not know this. I will admit I have not read large volumes on Thais Buddhism, but yes, I have actually read about the religion and I have been to many of their "Thai" temples. I can assure you I found clear contrasts between Thai temples and churches. I also found it very distressing to find Thai temples and Thai Buddhist thought were in many ways highly variant and corruptive of Buddhism as it is from the founding regions. Where did I ever say I cared that Thai Buddhism incorporated animism, and that it justifies the Thais changing of the religion at their whim? When I wrote my article, I intentionally left it out to keep the piece shorter and because why Thai Buddhism is is hypocritical was not my point. My point is that it is hypocritical.

To turn it around on WR, who asks how farangs would feel if Thais came to Farangland and banged whores, how do you think the Chinese Buddhist felt about their faith being changed, manipulated, and still called "Buddhism"?

Chinese Buddhism, Indian Buddhism, and the main strains of Buddhism are quite different than Thai Buddhism, with all its changes. I stated my understanding of this very clearly in my "Comfort Ethics" article. It seems clear, once again, that WR doesn't read before writing.

Second, where exactly did I ever say there was no hypocrisy or contradictions in Western societies? My writing was on the "comfort ethics" of Thailand. Read the article's main points and that is clear. If I wanted to write about the hypocrisy of Western thought, I would not be submitting it to a Thailand site, would I?

Third, WR talks about the lifelong obligation of daughters to take care of their parents. He suggests it is this obligation ONLY and not Thai Buddhism that drives them to take care of parents. Whatever! This is only one of the reasons Thai women, bargirls included, take care of their parents, although it is one of the primary and strongest reasons (as WR suggested) that they take care of their parents and family so well. Other reasons include the fact they are Asian, and many Asians have a strong urge to take care of their parents. I know WR, like many fanatically nationalistic Thais, may not want to admit it, but they have many things in common with other Asians and in fact borrow (i.e. steal, like Thais often do) quite a bit of their culture, religion, ideas, and even language from other Asian cultures.

Furthermore, maybe he can then explain why many Thai women, including bargirls, will go so far as to believe that failure to take care of their parents will lead them to go to hell? No, these women were not bargirls I was involved in, and they never did nor could they have gained anything from me. Could it be that some Thais are "ignorant" to WR's highly academic explanations of what Thais think or don't think? Or maybe he is just imposing the "proper view" so many Thais, especially the more educated ones with some semblance of money, wish to believe their country and Thai Buddhism are really all about?

Another reason so many Thai women tend to give and give to their parents is due to decades of indoctrination in their youth, by their parents, that they must take care of their father and mother. You don't find this level of heavy handed indoctrination in Western society. Even in Chinese society, it is not so heavy from my experiences. Some would say it is almost to the point of brainwashing, and by some fairly selfish parents at that. The Thais parents will use every justification, from the girl losing face if she doesn't comply (social pressure) to religious pressure (you earn bad karma, go to hell, etc. if you fail to pay us in our old age). Despite what WR wants to believe and tries to make farang (whom he thinks are too ignorant to validate his inaccurate and interpretative suggestions) think, the Thais have tied their version of Buddhism to the girls' obligation to parents. Maybe the monks don't say so, and maybe the academics don't acknowledge it, but the people who practice this highly variant, animist-injected, semi-psuedo Buddhist faith have injected their own "comfort ethics" into Thai Buddhism. It's ironic, but justly so, that this has happened. It is only testimony once again to the Thais doing whatever they want in terms of any form of ethics, morals, or religious faith, even in corrupting their own "Thai Buddhism".

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While "doing your own thing" and being free (in the Western sense, as opposed to the Thai sense of wanting to control everyone) is admirable, there is nothing admirable in a whole nation making up right and wrong as they go. People like that cannot be trusted. Sure, people stray from doing what they view as right at times. That is human nature. However, if someone doesn't even have a belief system based on any bearing of right and wrong, how can they ever be trusted to do right, even when they want to? They cannot be trusted. It's like trusting a car with bad tires.

Fourth, I found WR's analysis of why bargirls get jealous and hypocritically cheat on their customers very interesting. It could well be an accurate reasoning of their behaviour. Another suggested explanation is that they simply do it for the money, as guilt is a great tool to control a farang. However, again, all WR is doing is explaining why they do what they do. I never doubted the bargirls assert it is wrong for customers to butterfly due to money. I never said bargirls don't butterfly themselves. I said bargirls, like many Thais, practice comfort ethics, because they are too egotistical or rationally stupid to see they are acting hypocritically. If they lied to the customer but knew they were wrong, but did so for the money, then that makes sense. What doesn't make sense is their inability to see the wrong and their behaviour in justifying it with such a stupid explanation. Of course, many do exactly what WR did, they just keep on stating the facts of their behaviour, not understanding that the hypocrisy is not in the butterflying, but in saying it is ok for the girl but not for the guy. There is only immorality in lying, the hypocrisy is in accusing someone of doing wrong when you are doing the exact same thing at the exact same time (i.e. a bargirl who butterflies accusing a customer of butterflying, like it is wrong, whether it is wrong or not).

Is WR so ignorant of his own people as to believe the Thai bargirls actually know they are doing wrong? The average Thai bargirl I have spoken to actually has the Thai audacity to believe, totally in line with their twisted comfort ethics, that there is nothing hypocritical or morally wrong in claiming it's ok for them to butterfly but it's not ok for the customers to do the same thing. So what does it matter that WR has explained their behaviour pattern? It does not show their lack of comfort ethics at all. The Thai's ability to practice comfort ethics is only disproved if WR truly believes his countrymen / women are fully cognizant of their immoral actions, and mentally acknowledge it being immoral, when they lie to the farang. If that is the case, I have no problems with the situation. Whores are generally deceptive, so what would be surprising there. What is surprising is that these particular whores actually believe the crap they say, which is what so many Thais do, in their immoral behaviour.

Fifth, WR is right in that I have spent a bit of time in the bar scene of LOS. I've also read a lot about Thailand, and I read English language Thai newspapers every day or two. In case WR is blind, the Western world can easily see the hypocrisy of the Thai police, government, and people right there on the pages of The Nation and The Bangkok Post. Despite their attempts to shut down internet sites showing the truth of Thailand, they cannot. It is only now that they realize they must change, and thus why the government is finally trying to clean up their drug, prostitution, and corruption problems. We should all also note that it wasn't until the IMF got involved and pressured Thailand to change, that things finally got better after the crash in the late 1990's. Thaksin's final payoff of that debt only demonstrates how the Thais only pay attention and change, when Westerners make a stand and force them to see their own ugliness. And even then, instead of accepting their errors, they will often apply farang suggestions, claim "Thai" victory, and never acknowledge appreciation to those who helped them make the first steps to improvement, which is self acknowledgement of their shortcomings.

Finally, I'll close with this. I haven't addressed all of WR's many detailed "explanations" of Thai people's behaviour. A lot of it can be found in introductory level books to Thai culture and religion. They are just "explanations" of the behaviour, and hardly a justification for them. What is interesting is that he speaks and thinks very much like a Thai, to the very last detail. After all, in the end, he cannot tell the tree from the forest, as he tries to explain the behaviour. He should have been trying to explain how it was not hypocritical. Like an egotistical Thai, he also thinks that all farang don't understand their culture. Some actually do. And as far as knowing in-depth history of Thai culture or "Thai" Buddhism (notice the ego of a people trying to call an international faith "Thai"), exactly how much do most Thais know about Western history? A lot less than most Westerners who visit Thailand know about Thailand! And after seeing how the Thai people are, in their lack of a rational and understandable set of ethics and a well developed thought system outside of "traditionalized hypocrisy", how many farangs would really want to learn too much about their history of comfort ethics?

One last thought. I just had to point this out. WR would be one "independently minded Thai" (a rare commodity), if he actually meant it, when he said if someone insulted his country he would go over and kick their ass. Thais don't fight one to one. That would require ethics. That's why they beat a person in a group. Then they walk away, feeling superior for having cheated.

Stickman says:

"Farang who know too much no good." The words of many a Thai woman who come across farangs who do actually have a few clues about what is going on in Thailand. I'm sure that any Thai woman who had an in-depth conversation with you would hate you. And that is a mighty fine compliment! Once again provided us with a piece par excellence.

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