The Pot Calling The Kettle Black
By Jimmy Collinson
In response to a father's recent submissions (see Stickman's Weekly Column – "A Father Writes", 14/11/04 and Readers' Submissions – "A Parent Writes", 18/11/04)) in which he declares war on farang school teachers who
patronise go-go bars, I'd like to ask him whether or not it was his intention to portray himself as an ignorant moralising hypocrite, because that's certainly the impression that I, and many others, got.
It seems that it was my submission (TIT – Teaching in Thailand) which prompted him to step up on his pedestal in the first place. His first submission literally stunned me; I was amazed that someone could be foolish enough to announce their narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy in a public forum. I actually typed up a response, but then decided against sending it, as I thought it would make rather dull reading on what's usually an entertaining website. However, after reading his second submission in which he wrongly accused me of "suggesting that sex tourists apply to international schools", then I naturally decided to defend myself, and take him to task over his ludicrous arguments.
To be perfectly honest, the whole point of my submission was to highlight the fact that the only way of pursuing a satisfying long-term teaching career in Thailand is to work in an international school, which is an option only available to real teachers with real qualifications. Admittedly, my submission did state that, as far as international school teachers are concerned, "teaching in Thailand is not 'a rather embarrassing way to make a living', as it's the same decent living they would be making in the West, probably even better if they're hot-blooded males with a penchant for silky Asian flesh". However, that was my submission's only allusion to sex. Why on earth he felt that I was advising sex tourists to work at international schools, I'll never know.
As a teacher of literature, I'm quite accustomed to loose interpretations, although this guy's interpretation did genuinely surprise me. All I meant was that life here in Thailand is likely to be even more enjoyable for male international school teachers who happen to be attracted to Asian women. Just because much of this website's content concerns Thailand's naughty nightlife doesn't necessarily mean that I was referring to whores who ply their trade in go-go bars. As we all know, not all Thai women are whores; in fact only a relatively small percentage are. Just because someone has a "penchant for silky Asian flesh", as I do, doesn't necessarily mean that person is a whoremonger, a sex tourist, or a sexpat, i.e. barfining whores in go-go bars isn't the only way of forming sexual relationships with Thai women. The target audience of my submission was people, particularly males, interested in teaching in Thailand, not sex tourists. I'm sure Stick would agree that there's a lot more to this website than matters regarding prostitution, i.e.. not everybody who reads this website is a whoremonger, a sex tourist, or a sexpat.
While I'm in the mood, I might as well set the record straight on a few other matters which arose in the wake of the father's submissions. He emphasised that none of his international school teacher friends have ever stepped foot inside a go-go bar. Considering that the people to whom he was referring are happily married farang couples with children, then this is hardly surprising and hardly worthy mentioning. If however, his friends were single males, then I would find this highly unusual. As an international school teacher myself, I have to admit that the overwhelming majority of single male teachers who I've met over the years have, at the very least, visited go-go bars out of curiosity or, more likely, have patronised them with great gusto, particularly in their early days. However, most of them soon become bored with the whole scene, just as I did, and then only visit them very occasionally, if at all.
As for his reference to contracts which forbid teachers from entering places like go-go bars, then I have to say that this is a bit of a myth. While it's true that any school, whether it's a reputable international school or a dodgy language school, would prefer to discourage their staff from going to such places (mainly to protect the image of the school), I very much doubt that this is stipulated in written contracts (it certainly hasn't ever been written in any of the contracts that I've signed over the years). It might well be written in the staff handbook, as it is at my school, but that's about it. As for the writer's related claim that it is a sackable offence, then I'd say that this is also a myth; I've never heard of any international school teacher who's been sacked on the grounds of frequenting go-go bars. After all, it's not against the law, is it? In fact, it's perfectly legal provided that the hostesses are over the age of 18.
He also states that international schools prefer to hire couples, for obvious reasons. Let me tell you, those obvious reasons are not the actual reasons. The fact is that international schools prefer to hire couples because it saves them millions of baht in accommodation allowances. A single teacher might cost an international school 25,000 baht a month in accommodation allowances, while a teaching couple might only cost the school 35,000 baht a month. To put it simply, more teaching couples and fewer single teachers means less money spent on accommodation allowances. It's called economic rationalism.
Even if it were written into teachers' contracts, and even if it were a sackable offence, it's highly unlikely that problems would ever materialise, as someone associated with the school, such as our moral-crusading father, would have to witness a school teacher present in a go-go bar. This would obviously raise the question of what that someone was doing in a go-go bar in the first place, which leads me to the main point of this submission.
Would this guy really be silly enough to walk into a headmaster's office and say, "I'm sorry to take up your time Mr Headmaster, but I was in a go-go bar in Nana Plaza on Friday night, just looking of course (yeah, right), when I saw my daughter's teacher bouncing a teenage hooker up and down on his knee, and I want him sacked now!"? Mr Headmaster, who probably prefers bouncing two girls up and down on both of his knees in a VIP bar (only joking – don't take the bait) would naturally reassure him that he'd look into the matter, but he'd also be astonished at the guy's hypocrisy. Needless to say, nothing would be done about it, especially if the teacher in question was a respected and valued member of staff.
This guy has already made a feeble admission that such a course of action "might be hypocritical". He's nearly right; if he'd chosen the words "is most hypocritical", then he would've hit the nail on the head. To defend
his hypocrisy, he simply asserts that he's "not in Thailand to teach children" and that he's "not being paid to bring up anyone else’s children", and this is where his argument becomes truly absurd.
Quite clearly, the logic of his argument is that if you're in Thailand to teach children, then it's wrong to hang out in go-go bars. He seems to believe that people who patronise these establishments cannot be trusted around children, especially international school teachers who are essentially the de facto parents of their students during school hours. He's effectively implying that go-go bar punters are in much the same category as paedophiles (quite a serious accusation, very serious). Does he realise that he's inadvertently unleashed his own argument on himself? In other words, if he believes that it's inappropriate for teachers (de facto parents) to visit go-go bars, then surely it is just as inappropriate for him (a real parent) to do so. After all, both types of parents have close contact with children. Obviously, this is, without question, a ridiculous argument, but it's his argument, not mine.
Although I, and many of my close friends and colleagues, have frequented go-go bars in Thailand before, particularly in the earlier days when it was a bit of a novelty, we have never entertained any thoughts of entering into a sexual relationship with a minor. As a loving father of two young luk-kreung daughters, I abhor paedophiles as much as this guy abhors international school teachers who are go-go bar punters. The difference is that I'm not a paedophile, but he's a go-go bar punter. I'm in a position to pass judgement on paedophiles, but he's not in a position to pass judgement on teachers who are go-go bar punters. I'm not a hypocrite, but he is. Simple, isn't it? Or is it?
Perhaps I've misinterpreted his argument. Perhaps he believes, as many others do, that a teacher-cum-whoremonger is not the ideal role model for impressionable young students. If that's his argument, then I couldn't agree more. However, the fact is that no teacher-cum-whoremonger would be daft enough to project such an image to his students. Such teachers are usually masters of disguise. At work, they fit the mould of the typically-straight teacher; outside school hours they just do what they fancy, whether that involves shagging prostitutes, smoking marijuana, or viewing (adult) porn, it's their own business. I know many international school teachers who do this; as long as they are effective and consistent in carrying out their teaching duties and in meeting their pastoral responsibilities, then I don't have a problem with them. If they're kiddy-fiddlers, on the other hand, then I would be the first to have them removed from the school, the country, or even from this life, if I could get away with it (I'm sure that could be arranged in Thailand for a modest fee).
To be fair, I'll give credit where it's due. I do admire the genuine concern that the father expresses for the well-being and upbringing of his daughter. Like any other father, I share his sentiments; I would also like my daughters' teachers to be squeaky clean, but I realise how unreasonable that is. Teachers are only human; if they like doing things that do not fit the typical Western stereotype of a teacher, then good on them for living life the way they want to live it. As I've said already, so long as they don't cause any physical, emotional or psychological harm to their students (our sons & daughters), then I say live and let live.
I'm no psychoanalyst, but I would venture to guess that the father, like so many other farangs, is grappling with a serious moral dilemma. He obviously enjoys the seedy pleasures of Bangkok, but finds it difficult to reconcile those pleasures with traditional social constructions of morality. Of course, one cannot reconcile the two without being labelled a hypocrite. One day, we must all decide whether or not we are for or against the go-go bar scene. He obviously hasn't decided yet (or perhaps he conveniently chooses to sit on the fence); in the meantime, he's not only guilty of passing hypocritical moral judgements, but he's also guilty of reinforcing and perpetuating unfair and unfounded generalisations about people who choose to participate in Thailand's naughty nightlife.
On a final note, it was interesting that he was so indifferent to the "torrents of abuse" that were directed at him as a result of his submission; I guess being thick-skinned and hypocritical go hand in hand. Nevertheless, I'm glad I read his submission. Next time I go to a go-go bar (very unlikely these days as I generally prefer "straight" girls in "regular" bars), I'll don a toupee, a fake moustache, and a thick pair of glasses to hide my true identity. Not that I'm afraid of losing my job, it's just that I would rather avoid a potentially awkward and embarrassing conflict between myself, my employer, and an irrational parent of one of my farang or luk-kreung students.
Anyway, that's enough diatribe from me for one night. It goes without saying that, as a responsible international school teacher, I must get to bed early for a 5 am start tomorrow morning. Come Friday night, however, …..
Great stuff! It is excellent to see submissions on this subject. A lot has been written about life in Thailand on this site and others, but this issue is one I have never seen broached, at least not in any detail.