A Free Nation Strikes Back
I knew my submission (A Free Nation, November 22, 2004) would elicit controversial responses but I do not regret anything I have written and accept the full responsibility. Aahh here we have it, responsibility or Kwam Rap Pit Chorp as
it is called in Thai. You see, the Thai also have a word for it. This submission is a continuation and some food for thought.
Let me tell you something about my childhood. When I was a kid my parents taught me never to lie, cheat or to deceive. And they made sure I know what I have to expect if I break the rules. Because I was a well-behaved kid I stuck to the rules. Well, maybe it was the big brown wooden stick my mother kept in the kitchen and I was a coward. A couple of years later as a young boy my father and I took a walk in a park in the middle of the town where we lived in. It was a pleasant warm summer day and in one corner of the park was a small crowd. My father asked me if I see something devious in this group of people. All of them were young adults, casual clothed and most of them were lying apathetic on the grass. When we got closer I saw that all of them were in a rather sorry state. In my innocence I told my father that these people look ill and should stay in bed. To me they looked like somebody with a flu. My father answered that these people are drug addicts and they are high on H. He explained to me what hard drugs do to you and that no matter what your problem in life is, drugs are not a solution. Then he kneeled down to me, looked into my eyes and said: “Son, if you ever touch drugs I will kick you out of the family home and I’ll forget I ever had a son“. I never touched drugs. What my parents tried to teach me was that for everything I do in my life I am responsible and have to stand up and accept the consequences. No matter how harsh they are. You wanna play with fire? Fine, go ahead but don’t cry if you get burned.
All over the world parents try to bring up their children in a similar way. Don’t tell me that Thai parents teach their children to lie, cheat or deceive and not to worry about the consequences. They don’t do this.
I guess up to this point we all agree upon this. OK, let’s go further.
We all have heard countless stories about young Thai man abandoning their pregnant girlfriends or the driver who after an accident fled the scene. Typical examples of people running away from their responsibilities. Running away literally. Don’t get me wrong Farangs also abandon pregnant girlfriends or flee the scene, sometimes. But in Thailand it is not an exception. It is almost the rule. They are running away from the mess they have created to avoid the consequences. They know it is wrong but still these cowards are running away from it. What we are talking here about is responsibility on an individual basis.
I guess up to this point we all still agree upon this. OK, let’s go further.
Beside responsibility on a individual basis we have the responsibility on a collective basis for an entire nation. The way the Thai handle their history is selective. After they have been defeated by the Burmese the Thai nation stood up again. This is something they can be proud of. For a good reason. Thailand’s role during the 2nd World War is not something to be proud of. They pick out the things they can be proud of and those things which are rather embarrassing are not talked about. A differentiated approach on all historical aspects is missing. In my opinion they are dodging their collective historical responsibility.
What we have here is a clash between the concept of Western and Asian ethics. If I screw something up someone else will point his finger at me and say: it’s your fault, you are guilty. Criticising somebody else is fully acceptable in Western societies. Admitting your fault is no weakness but a sign of characteristic strength. And because I judge them with the set of Western values I have been taught since childhood (sorry, I have no others) I come to the conclusion that their behaviour is wrong because it is hypocritical. They are raping the truth and for me the truth is the highest value. You can not classify the truth lower than ‘face’. NO. But who I am to judge them with my set of values? Who says that my Western values are universal, worldwide valid and therefore the only correct ones?
For the sake of saving face and to preserve the harmony and avoid confrontation Asians consider it as acceptable or justified to sacrifice the truth. The truth could be embarrassing. The balance would tilt. The harmony destroyed. From their point of view they handle their history in complete accordance with the Asian set of values. Do they corrupt the truth?
Apparently here we have two different interpretations of responsibility with two different conclusions! If I measure the temperature in Fahrenheit and you in Celsius it is no wonder we have different results. Who is right and who is wrong? But as children we have been taught the same ethical values. How does it come that later we deviate in the outcome and have contrary point of views? Anybody out there with a good explanation? Don’t tell me anything about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. And lying is certainly not in line with Buddhism.
My submissions are not intended to enrage the Thai or any Farang who is deeply in love with Thailand. I do not disapprove a nationalistic attitude but you have to accept the entire history of your country and not only the more pleasant periods. Every nation has dark spots somewhere. I am the first to admit that my own nation has more dark spots than a Dalmatian dog. Or you could turn it around and say my nation has a few white spots. I would appreciate any constructive or critical comments from Thai nationals. No polemics please. I am wondering how they treat this subject at school…
When we look at the differences that you have highlighted, it is amazing Thais and farangs get on at all. The differences are HUGE!