Readers' Submissions

Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 119

  • Written by Dana
  • February 4th, 2006
  • 18 min read


"Get Up, Stand Up"

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight! Bob Marley & Peter Tosh – 1973

GET READY TO RUMBLE

Violence in Thailand: Regarding violence against farangs in Thailand–I believe Thais have turned a corner on this issue and farangs are now more and more going to be targeted in an aggressive way. The weis are gone and an awful lot of traditional Thai and traditional family values are gone, and respect for farangs is gone. In it's place are anger and resentment and confusion and violence. One of the major contributors to the new attitude towards farangs in Thailand is numbers. There are simply too many farang now in many parts of the Kingdom. What was once seen as novelty and potential increased opportunity for income is now seen as an invasion. But it is more than just numbers. It is also a culture clash without compromise.

Unlike many Asian societies, many farang come from pro-active, risk taking, aggressive societies that respect those values and encourage that behavior in individuals. The United States for example was founded by a loosely organized coalition of poorly armed and poorly managed citizens that decided to revolt against and overthrow their King. And then proceeded against great odds to actually do it. The United States was founded by independent thinking, pro-active, risk taking, highly confident, aggressive individuals. Can you imagine this happening in Thailand? Is this the personality profile of the average Thai? Is this the personality profile that is endorsed and encouraged and taught to Thais?

In my case I am a typical American in that I am aggressive, and super confident, and attracted to risk, and pro-active. These qualities may be good for fighting off attackers and building great nations in a short period of time (300 years) but they do not necessarily receive happy review from others. Most people lead defensive lives of little confidence. Strong people irritate or perplex them.

This is the situation that we now have in the Kingdom with Thais and farangs. The danger that no one is writing social commentary on is that if the farangs decide to keep coming to Thailand but decide to stop taking abuse from the Thais then little wars will break out. I remember once being in a bar that was choked with Australians and Scots. It occurred to me that if a contingent of Thai males came in the bar and tried to muscle these guys around that it wouldn't work. Not because the Australians and the Scots were better fighters but because they had progressed beyond the guidebook-postcard mental stage of the newbie. They had seen behind the curtain.

They had caught up to themselves and been internally reminded that they count also. Just because you get on a plane and fly to a faraway place does not mean you leave your humanity behind. Now in my visits to the Kingdom I more and more see and hear increased social tension and a sort of cosmic sigh on the part of the farangs. Yeah, we all read the guidebooks before we came and we all tried to be good 'guests'. But there is a limit to the abuse that any human being can be expected to absorb. When our good intentions are not returned in kind then it is a new game, and I would advise the Thais to think seriously about this new game because westerners are used to winning. Capitulation and face are not part of our equations. We do not factor peer pressure into anything. And we are not handing our daughters over to anybody and then bleating to the world that we were never colonized.

If the Thais keep up this violent nonsense against farangs for the next 100 years they may lose their country. Welcome to Farangland. You can point your feet at anything you want–just don't start any fights. The first best/worst example of this future can now be seen in Pattaya where the Russians always fight (even the police). True, this earns deportation for many of them; but they always fight. You would think since so many of them are deported because of their instinct to defend themselves and their desire to be treated in a fair way that they would stop fighting and defending themselves.

Wait a minute–what did I just say? That makes no sense at all. Defending yourself and your dignity against aggressors is always appropriate behavior. I'll bet you don't see the police in Pattaya stopping a Russian and telling him there is a bogus fine for littering. The day I see a Pattaya brown shirt stopping a mean faced bald headed 250 pound Russian for non-existent littering will be a day I wished I had my camera. And have you ever seen those open jeeps with four of these Mafioso style Russian behemoths sitting in them? Sitting bolt upright and jammed into the tiny seeming jeep like four fat bowling pins? The day I see a Pattaya police officer stopping one of these jeeps for a traffic infraction is the same day I expect to win the Thai lottery with an honest ticket: translation–never. The police will stop me in Lumphini park with this nonsense because I am a little white guy foreigner who doesn't look like he'll fight back. I get no respect. To get respect in violent stupid societies you have to act violent and stupid. Don't like the conclusion? Then don't go to Thailand. Thailand is what it is. This is the intellectual difference between children and adults. Children want things to be different. Adults deal with 'what is'. The Russians are not normally people that I have a high comfort level with but on this subject they have my sympathy and my admiration. I hope they never stop fighting the Thais.

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your wife!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your life!

Social deportment restrictions and peer group behavior prescriptions keep people from telling the truth. But drug them up with alcohol and party laughter plus the comfort level that comes from being surrounded with birds of a feather and they will say astonishing things. They will tell the truth:

"Yes, the killing was fun. Exciting. Nothing since has matched it for feeling powerful and omnipotent and; well, just right. Right about everything. And fun. Violence is fun."

And it ain't that easy. It takes a mind and a body working together. As you go to full auto the barrel starts to rise and you have to constantly fight to keep it down. And there is the noise. Without the gun range ear muffs the noise is deafening. Plus you are yelling. You didn't think you were yelling but a training video shows that you yelled continuously from start to finish. So much power in your hands and oh so right about everything–a lethal psychic cocktail that delivers pleasure in such excess that it spills out of your chest in an expostulation of screaming song. You have never felt so alive. There is smoke and the barrel gets hot in your hand. The people you are shooting at are screaming. Their lives belong to you.

"For the combatant in control of the encounter, the moment before squeezing the trigger can be fulsome and erotic. Lust is part of killing in battle, . . . A man so fearful he soils himself may, in the next moment, have an erection. Subordinating another by force is said to be exciting." (Theodore Nadelson)

If the weapon is belt fed all the better. A continuous stream of heat and light and smell and smoke and screaming. Violence is fun. Killing is fun. Once both sides subconsciously key in on this the devil's needles are in the social veins. Then it is a slippery slope. And the beginning of the slippery slope starts with what we teach our children about other people. In Thailand Thais are taught either overtly by statement or covertly by example that foreigners have no rights. No rights? Isn't No Rights very close to Not Human? Quick, grab a gun–you may need it.

No Rights? What could that mean? Let's imagine that I have taken my elderly father and my wife and my six year old daughter on a family vacation to the Kingdom. While on vacation in the Land of Smiles some horrible abuse is visited upon one of my family members by a Thai. You pick the family member and you pick the abuse. In the follow-up to this visitation of abuse and tragedy upon one of my family members I find that I have no rights. In fact I may be requested/required to pay money to the perpetrator. Are the Thais kidding? No they are not. You are what you do and this is how they behave.

Times are changing and not for the better. There is little evidence that a Third World country with Asian values of face and capitulation and compromise and constant political response to every one of life's issues can successfully absorb a large number of people that are confident and pro-active and aggressive. Once the number of foreigners reaches critical mass than you start to have social hiccups that yield violence. Adding in a lethal way to this social mix in Thailand is the myth/fact that all Thais are brought up with that they can abuse foreigners and not be held accountable for it.

Suddenly the Thai who didn't have the balls to raise his hand in class in Roi Et has the confidence to take on foreigners in a violent way because he knows the fix (xenophobic racist corruption) is in and he won't be held accountable. There is no happy conclusion to social suicide like this. If the Thais do not re-educate their populace than this attitude will contribute to a downward spiral that will not bode well for Thailand. In the last 10,000 years thousands of tribes and groups and societies and nations have passed from history–social failures that could not positively influence their neighbors or defeat their neighbors. Thailand now visiting violence on foreigners for whatever reason is a historical cul-de-sac.

It is hard to know what percentage of the native population this critical mass of foreigners would be that would trigger the downward spiral leading to systemic violence. It may be as little as one half of one percent (.005). The reason it is hard to know what percentage of the native population occupied by foreigners would cause social shifting problems is because the social phenomenon is as new as the air carrier and long distance foreign travel. Before the ocean crossing prop planes and current jet planes it was not possible to transport foreigners in sufficient numbers to faraway places to cause social unrest for the indigenous peoples. Foreigners were novelties, not irritations.

When Harry Pidgeon sailed around the world in 1921 he did not even need a passport. Just a smile. He was smiling and the natives he met were smiling. The issue of large numbers of incoming foreigners causing social stress hadn't even been born yet. But since World War II this has changed. So the phenomenon of foreigners invading native societies is only about fifty years old. Too little time to draw incontrovertible conclusions.

But the glimmer of the problem is on the horizon and the sun is rising on new social problems that will be a part of the 21st century. One half of one percent (.005) of anything may not sound like a large enough percentage to be meaningful but a little more rigorous thinking can show the rosy tinted fallacy of this thinking. Suppose every one of your glasses of water had one half of one percent (.005) strychnine poison in it. Suppose one half of one percent (.005) of the time you turned the key in your car's ignition the car caught on fire. Suppose one half of one percent (.005) of the time your child raised his fork to his mouth he miscalculated and stabbed himself in the eye. It is a matter of context and results. And do not forget–percentages do not work the way people think they do. Your child may stab himself in the eye the first five times–just not for the next 995 times in a group of 1000. Your car may catch on fire the first ten times you turn the key in the ignition–just not for the next 1990 times in a group of 2000. The number of incidents within a group does not necessarily happen at the end of a group but as part of a measured group. The measured incidents that yield the percentage can happen at any time. You are never safe from percentages. They can strike at any time. Math does not care about morbidity or mortality or accident or coincidence or human tragedy. It may be that one half of one percent (.005) of a native population occupied by foreigners is a large enough percentage to cause social hemorrhaging. Still not convinced? Suppose .005 (one half of one percent) of your body was infected. Your whole body. .005 (one half of one percent) of your brain and .005 (one half of one percent) of your lungs and .005 (one half of one percent) of your arteries and .005 (one half of one percent) of your kidneys and .005 (one half of one percent) of your epidermis and .005 (one half of one percent) of your stomach lining, etc was infected. Sound like a big percentage now? Do you think your body could effectively fight off a head-to-toe systemic infection of one half of one percent (.005)? It would be quite a battle wouldn't it. Alright, now try and imagine this battle on a grander scale. Human beings against human beings. Natives against foreigners.

Sound preposterous? Really? Why do they call us foreigners? Because just as in biology and medicine we are foreign bodies in the social body. Infections. Let me ask you a question: when you have an infection in your body and you go to the doctor do you say,

"Doctor please tell me how to live with this infection."

or do you say,

"Doctor, how can I get rid of this infection?".

Stay tuned. Thailand could become an entertaining theatre of social change and violence in the next fifty years. And yes, thank-you very much; I know that there are societies currently 'hosting' foreigners in excess of 2% successfully but that is not Asia and that is not Thailand.

And of course with human beings it is never about the numbers or the percentages but the perceptions. Human beings are not charts or percentages or data or the scientific method or quantitative analysis but primates stumbling through lives influenced by fear and superstition and emotion and impulse and the herding instinct. So with human beings it is always the perception that drives the emotion and the emotion that drives the behavior. If one Christian in an 80,000 seat stadium full of Muslims makes all of the Muslims angry than one Christian is too many. The fact that 1 in 80,000 would be an infinitesimally small percentage and should not be statistically important is completely beside the point. The point is how people feel. And 79,999 Muslims feel angry. With humans emotions always trump math.

So there will never be any future to telling the Thais that they should not be feeling the way they are feeling or that they should not be reacting the way they are reacting because based on the total population of Thailand there are really not that many farangs in Thailand. This type of remark does not illustrate the Thais ignorance but instead illustrates our ignorance. Emotions have not got anything to do with numbers or percentages. If someone is sad someone is sad. If someone is fearful someone is fearful. If someone is angry someone is angry. These are internal truths to that person with 100% credibility that can not be diluted or negated by someone holding up a chart or spouting statistics. That is the social horror of individual emotion. It gives every player carte blanche to do anything they want with a clean conscience.

So the total number of farang or the percentage of farang in the Kingdom is never going to be as important as the results and the results thankfully are easy to see. In my opinion the evidence is in that we are heading down a road in a society (Thailand) where sooner rather than later there is going to be trigger point emotional unease that leads to systemic hemorrhaging that leads to social violence. And there is no bigger waste of time or more transparent example of stupidity than to try and talk the native population out of their feelings. There are only two social realities of any consequence:

1. They feel the way they do.
2. They are more of them than of you.

The beauty of this for the interlopers (farang) is that it makes decision making easy because there are only one of two decisions to be made.

1. Stay and fight.
2. Leave.

Birds of a feather like to flock together and instinctively no one likes to have their party crashed. So it is easy to have sympathy for the same people that are abusing us. You wouldn't naturally be happy about lots of strangers with strange ways moving into your neighborhood or your house or your workplace or your country or you language or your culture. Well, the Thais feel the same way. The only problem with this sympathy mode however is that they keep letting us in. They keep inviting us in. They keep encouraging us to come and visit. The Thais want to have it both ways. They want to invite us into their country and then they want social carte blanche to be pissed about it when we show up.

I'd like to be able to say "You can't have it both ways". But you can. You can have it both ways–but only for a limited amount of time. Make a study of revolutions and impulsive violence and mental instability and there is always one unifying thread–time was up. Right now the Thais have it both ways. They invite us to the Kingdom and then they are rude to us when we get there. But time tells all and time rules all. A couple of hundred years ago nobody had ever heard of Thailand–a couple of hundred years from now it may be the same.

I will probably continue to visit Thailand the rest of my life. The pattern has been set. I have spent years researching other places and considering a lifestyle change but have not followed through on any new ideas. Thailand and I are marching together into an uncertain future. But at least my eyes are wide open. I now consider visiting the Kingdom very high risk behavior and I no longer recommend it as a vacation spot to friends–even male friends. I instinctively distrust every social situation in Thailand and every Thai. I especially avoid groups of young Thai males and the police. It is not a way of life that I recommend but I feel that it benefits me. On a personal level there is a positive compensator for the negative environment. So I'm locked in and Thailand is a part of my personal life. It is a little like deciding not to quit your job in a lunatic asylum. Objective analysis and your friends and your own brain tell you that you would most probably be happier or safer or more respected working somewhere else. But you have decided not to quit. That is where

I am with Thailand. I have decided not to quit vacationing in a dangerous lunatic asylum. Newbies might be better advised to start elsewhere and understand that once the number of highly confident westerners reaches critical mass in that place (Rio, Cuba, Philippines, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Bali, Cambodia, etc.) then they may be faced with the fact that it is time to move on because the party is over.

The weis are gone and so is my patience. I'll continue to visit Thailand and shuffle along and stay out of trouble and hide every time I see the police and do my level best not to raise the level of social tension but I have seen behind the curtain folks. Thais are only special when they are special and Thai culture is only special when it is special. Do me wrong and I am probably not going to do anything about it. But I will pray to the avenging God in heaven that you get a bullet in the head.

Life should be more than struggle
and strife.
There should be a reward
For risking your life.

But reward is only gifted
To those that say:
I ain't takin' it no more.
Nope, not today.

GET READY TO RUMBLE


Stickman's thoughts:

Is the disappearance of the wai the disappearance of the welcome?