Stickman Readers' Submissions December 20th, 2005

My Thoughts

I was just discussing this exchange on your website with the author, who is a friend of mine:

It made me realize (and write down) something that he suggested I forward to you because you might like it. I hope you don't mind. Some of it may raise some political hackles, but by my own argument I guess I should not be afraid to say it.

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Just to fill out my background: I'm in a stable relationship with a Thai woman of little education, and have been for over three years. She's got her quirks as do people everywhere including myself, and she's my own age rather than a pretty young thing, and we have very different interests but overall I think she's wonderful. I met her the first time I came to Thailand, somewhere halfway through my first week, having already turned down my first wedding proposal. I do support her financially to some extent, especially when it comes to expanding her small business, and make occasional gifts to her family because I feel that is a responsibility I've taken. The family is not rich but they've made it clear through her that they don't need to live off me–though sponsoring a washing machine for her mother, for instance, earned me a lot of gratitude. Not that I "get" anything else to show for it: they've always treated me like a king anyway.

So despite all the horror stories I don't think I was suckered; having lived in one of the world's most famous Red Light Districts for 13 years may have helped prepare me for that. Perhaps the most important thing that got me into my current happy position is that I did not come to Thailand looking for love, and when we met, neither of us was out looking for love, sex, money, or security–so neither of us could be easily "bought" with promises of those. I've crawled a lot of bars with those needs in my own country, and it never works out. I think what happens to many farang men who hit Bangkok's bars in that spirit and end up getting disappointed is much the same mechanism as addiction, where the obsessive idea that you need just that one thing to become happy blunts common sense. On the night I met my girlfriend, each of us just went out for a good time with music, beer, and friends; then we saw each other and that was that.

So having said all that, here's what I wrote to my friend:

A lot of the stories about Farangs' experience with Thai girls strike me as farfetched, exaggerated, prejudiced etc. I usually find myself working hard to overcome that: maybe I'm unwilling to face something in my own situation (one farang lady once gave me a pointy finger and said "I know what you're going to say, your Thai girlfriend is different!") or in the world at large (I was brought up with a lot of Political Correctness so anything that reeks of prejudice is always completely wrong); maybe I'm mistaken, maybe I'm naïve, maybe I'm not experienced enough. Maybe I'm fooling myself, as by nature we always must, that "it'll never happen to me."

But I just realized that maybe there's another, happier reason why I don't see any of this happening to me: I care a lot about what's in people's hearts. I'm not saying I'll never be fooled by anyone but at least I try to keep an active lookout for integrity for more reasons than my own perceived interest.

Once in my own country, perhaps a year or so before I met my girlfriend, I failed to get off with a pretty student girl with a nice figure, big eyes, blond hair and all the plumbing who really, really seemed to like me–but I never really made the effort. Why? Funniest thing: she couldn't get over the fact that I was willing to splash out on a mobile phone with vibracall. Spend extra to save *other* people the annoyance? She just couldn't get it. I was disappointed in her character, and that more than anything else made me lose interest. The big difference is the will to be good to others, and from a social point of view I've explored freely on the one hand yet learned to be careful (perhaps too careful!) when it came to giving my ultimate trust. And once you care to see the difference, I suspect anyone can learn to.

Now here's where it all comes together. I went to Gulliver's the other day. I went there for the food, which is great <Totally tasteless if you ask meStick>. I hate the place otherwise! I can just feel that "my pussy is gold and you want me" [ here ] atmosphere oozing around the place. Really, it makes me feel like I'm walking in syrup when I go in there. It's a very strange feeling. So here's what I never understood: what are those girls doing there!? Regardless of their further intentions, presumably most of those girls are in there to meet guys. Presumably most of them are incredibly attractive once they turn on the charm–I find that many, perhaps most young women can do that. But what kind of man would be interested in these girls, having once observed them with their "disinterested" faces on? You'd have to be positively blinded by booze or your own hormones.

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Or by something. I don't like to consider this in isolation from e.g. politics or advertising just because "it's about sex" (as if advertising isn't :). I couldn't trust Tony Blair once I'd seen how he screws his face into a fake smile as soon as he realizes he's on camera, for instance, but lots of people still voted for him and even project integrity on him. I think people are conditioned to believe in this kind of fake charm, because:

1. We've been told, time and again, that we can get what we need in life without caring about goodness or integrity–and therefore haven't fully learned to distinguish or appreciate it. Integrity makes you look like a sucker compared to the guy next to you who cheats and wins, and thinks he's great. We're given examples like Bill Gates to illustrate that success is valued more highly than integrity, when at the same time the two are held to conflict. No wonder much "criticism" of Microsoft has been so half-hearted: many people think (1) you can't be both good and successful, and (2) success is good, therefore (3) don't try to be a good person even if your instincts tell you differently! In fact, how many subtle clues are we Westerners fed our whole lives that our instincts compel us to be evil, not good, to one another and therefore people will understand if we indulge in a bit of evil? The people who say it out loud aren't usually the bad ones: in my experience those are often the ones sitting on the fence, wanting to be assured that their own goodness is real but openly despairing of it and trying to go with what seems "mature" and "rational." One of Man's most distinguishing features is to learn from communication with others, after all.

2. We've been raised to believe–or at least not challenge–that some of the greatest crooks like child-molesting priests or parents; worthless but fashionable artists; and lying politicians who happen to be "on our side," are the very epitome of personal integrity–even when everyone can see what they really are. Worse when everyone can see it really, because the message there is that things will *not* change If People Could Only See. And on the other hand are the decent people, who if they achieve anything, are relentlessly attacked and abused in the public eye. Two reasons for that in turn, I think, are (I) that they make softer targets and (ii) that they give the lie to the silent "I'm not a good person but that's okay because neither are you" covenant.

I saw a piece of a BBC interview with Ronald Reagan a while ago, and it was astonishing how openly and directly he answered painful questions–without masking himself in generalities, without even taking a moment to compose a favourable answer. I don't even think the questions were vetted. To me at least, it seemed completely clear that the man was honest and in fact it was making his job easier because he didn't have to remember different versions of his stories. No wonder the press made him look like the Devil himself: he was showing everyone that you *can* be an effective and important figure without being a lying, conniving bastard!


I sorta missed the point here…

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