A Little Bit Of History
The other evening me and the misses were watching The History Channel on TV. The programme we were watching dealt specifically with the rise of Japanese Imperialism and the behaviour of the Imperial Japanese Army in China in the 1930s. I have always had
an interest in history resulting in my head being full of historical trivia and out of general interest I began a conversation with my wife about the TV programme that we were watching.
There followed a very humbling experience for me that I would like to share with you. Until the wife and I had this conversation, I just didn’t know how much she didn’t know. I also didn’t know until then, how much it didn’t matter….to us that is. This is no reflection on her but rather the hopeless education system that existed then and exists now in many developing countries, Thailand being only one amongst many.
To put this into context, during this conversation I discovered that my wife had never heard of World War II. She did not know that the Japanese and the Germans were at war with the Allies in the 1940s. She did not know about the wars in Korea or Malaysia or Burma or Vietnam. She had never heard of Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Chang Kai Shek or Chairman Mao. She had heard of Adolf Hitler but she couldn’t say with any certainty why she had heard this name. She had never heard of Joseph Stalin or Albert Einstein.
My wife was trained to be a teacher in Isaan in the late 1970s / early 1980s.
“What did you teach?” I asked.
“Thai language” she replied as if I was some kind of simpleton.
My wife was born in 1960.
Judge for yourself how naïve my questions were.
Me : Didn’t you have any TV when you were growing up?
Her: TV? We didn’t have any electricity in our village.
Me : What about newspapers?
Her : There were newspapers but we never had any in our house.
Me : Why not?
Her : No money to buy newspapers.
Me : What about radio? Did you listen to the radio when you were growing up?
Her : Some people had a radio but we didn’t.
Me : What about farangs? Didn’t you see any American servicemen in Isaan in the 1960s.
Her: No. My mother told me that if I ever saw a farang I was to run home straight away because they were no good.
Me : How old were you when you first spoke to a farang?
Her : I was more than twenty I think. I think they were French but they spoke Lao.
Me : Were you never curious about what was happening in the rest of the world?
Her : No. The rest of the world is not Thailand.
The point I am making is that my wife only had the benefit of a very basic education because that was all that was available to her in Isaan. She was then qualified to pass on this ‘knowledge’ to others. Now there’s progress. Millions of Thai men and women have never even had that basic schooling.
The truth is that to this day, my wife has no interest in world affairs. To her Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel are far away places where they don’t speak Thai. To her, they might as well be on Jupiter. She does, however enjoy some western music. Funnily enough her favourite western music is music from the seventies and eighties. She says she had never heard any until she was about thirty years old.
Her interest does wander abroad if there is a Thai playing tennis or golf in a tournament on the other side of the world. She will get up at three o’clock in the morning to watch Paradorn or Thongchai play ‘live’ on TV in a European or a US competition. She is fiercely patriotic.
So does any of this matter?
My wife and I have lived together (mostly happily) for over ten years. The fact that she doesn’t know stuff has never been an issue for us. She knows how to cook and how to look after me and our house and that, gentle reader is really all she wants to know. I taught her to play golf and she loves it. She likes watching football (soccer that is). Our relationship clearly does not need the influence of intelligent debate to survive. So, here’s a question, does any man really need intellectual stimulation from his partner? Or is it just the accepted norm that our partners should be our intellectual equals of a similar age.
Is being able to communicate intelligently with your wife on matters of national security, US foreign policy or the London Stock Exchange necessary for a long and happy relationship?
Or do we really only need a comfortable life with hot and cold running sex and freshly pressed shirts in the wardrobe?
Do educated (western or Asian) women feel threatened by men who they perceive as lacking in depth. Is that why some of us are dismissed as ‘pathetic’ by educated women? Am I a shallow person? And if I am why should I do anything about it? Am I a ‘sexpat’ who can’t get laid in his own country? I don’t know, personally I have no interest in western women so this question will likely remain unanswered.
Let’s be honest, being married to or just involved with a Thai woman can be very demanding too. But from my perspective, the next time you are at your wits end because of what your Thai wife or girlfriend just did or said, try to cut her a bit of slack. The chances are she will not have enjoyed the huge benefits of education and knowledge that has been heaped on you down the years. Surely, you are better equipped to deal with her than she is with you, no?
The education system….what you mentioned is still the case in a lot of Thailand today.