Digging The View Through The Two-Way Mirror
I appreciate the reader submissions sent here. Some are gems. I would star a few that our good man Stick has not chosen as such, but I wholly appreciate the high standards held to this garden of wit. As may be, I have a winning relationship with a Thai
lady who has finally completed her PhD in Economics at Chula, and we are getting our feet out in the world, starting in Brazil and circling the globe more than twice from here. I need this leave. My agency never sleeps, and I have run out of bad
guys to tab on for now. Be it ever so whacked, there’s no place like the developing world to point up the BS that the developed one is sinking into, and it puts the world to rights again to get a lot of foreign sand between my toes, while
Tilac’s dtaa waan drink in the wonderful differentness of it all, and her liquid voice exclaims her new delights. She is such a child, and yet the wisdom she hides within that innocent laughter is all I can ever hope for. She has a fondness
for cutting straight through the crap to the point, and she has been indestructible whenever the truth has scored a direct hit on her. A keeper, no question.
She has a sociology professor friend, Nan, who has taken up discussion of the Foreigners’ experience in LOS, and in Asia in a larger sense, where the cultural pressures are putting things. Nan is a conservative, but she votes liberal and raises her Luk Kreung to be liberal as well. I insist on calling it a Love-Hate Relationship. Nan rebutts, insisting that a relationship is a two way exchange, a transaction which adjusts the bottom line of both parties. She has most foreigners simply reacting to what they experience here, not transacting with it. I think a lot of me does bounce off when I interact with Thais. That resonates. I can see the Thai side of things being that way too. I have gained a deeper sense of how strong the Thai social resolve to remain Thai is. But as we transact economically between LOS and the rest of the world, changes are brought into the Thai common national experience that are not a good fit, because they are not accompanied by social transactions that adjust behaviors accordingly, and there's the rub: The Thais themselves are getting a Love-Hate thing up that is not just garden-variety xenophobia brought on by some farangs huge white belly straining to get past an Arsenal t-shirt.
The Thais are dropping traditions and picking up cell phones in rising numbers, and two generations have consecutively doubled the take-home to the moo-bahrn. They want their MTV. This is off-putting to the other 60% of their countrymen. It is the same envy that has always streaked the windows here, but now it is on both sides of the window. The economic breakout of the KonLao and Kon Khmer into central Thai business seems to have more social flame then economic flame. Money is Money Business is Business, but "What is that Isaan Girl with Gang Tats doing parking her 750IL in front of the WTC?" Is the new racism going to go the other way?
Can you tell that I am now in the expert care of a single malt and a stogie? As my writing style slowly mutates…
As for this Love-Hate Relationship with Thailand… To be so in love with Thailand and all of it fruits, but so sick of its unsavory underside. Like Johnny Carson quipped on the tonight show once, "Its like the muskrat fxxking the skunk: I ain’t had enough yet, but I’ve had about all I can take!"
So many articles submitted to Stick’s BKK: The information that gets us there, and keeps our costs down. The bits of wisdom, dearly bought, that foretell the problems we ourselves shall face, and of the misread situations that surely drive our costs up. Meeting and greeting. All Smiles.
The recounts of Been There and Done That. What it Once Was, What it Is, What it Ought To Be, and – cleverly – What is Isn’t. The past as prologue, useful as a copycat how-to. Where to Get The T-Shirt. Commiseration with our newfound war-buddies.
The introspective essays, we sussing out the seed of our discontents, the cures for our ills, and the delicious Sucking-The-Marrow from the Bones of Life articles, just below the branches of poetry and philosophy in the tree of the fruit of knowledge.
The diatribe pieces that offer insights into the native mind, the Thai world, the Asian doctrines and traditions of social contract that birthed her civilizations and histories. Told at times by a westerner with a long leg in Eastern philosophy, religion, history. Told often by a westerner who has sat comfortably at the doorstep of an Asian family, in the ante-room of an Asian community, a (respected / or not so) guest, seldom more.
Not an Asian introspective. The native capable of putting the enigmas of Asian "culture" into English(sic.) for you to behold and astonish: Such an Asian would have no desire to reveal it to the world, to millions, in writing. Whatever you learn from discussions with westernized Asians you must labor to put into your own context of speech.
Schroedinger’s cat, langouring in the sunny spot between east and west, a shit-eating Cheshire grin on its mug. Cannot be petted, or in any way analyzed, by passersby. Just gets his happy ass up and disappears to a better place, should you try.
What you grasp at in Asian cosmology with an English diction, disintegrates under the gentlest pressure. What is Truth, here? What is Honesty, to wit? What is Value, intrinsically? What is Quality (which defies western pathologies, yet is devastatingly simple here in the Asian ethos), and so at last…Where is Truth in the Western hierarchy of values. And then Where is Truth placed in the Asian hierarchy of values?
We in the West breed and bleed by the tenet of faith that Truth is always a singularity. In the Far-East, Truth is an elusive plurality of paths, all leading to the same conclusions, of which you choose one for yourself, and yet another for the person close to you, and so on.
Adhesion. Social adhesion. In the west, it is the stuff found on 3M Post-It’s. It works quite suitably, but you won’t get any on you, moving from place to place. In much of Asia, the agent of social adhesion is contractor-grade contact cement. Despotism, Nepotism, and Communism are houses of cards, held together by nothing but social adhesion in this part of the world. It has physical properties that defy all of western science to classify it. Quite beyond our ken.
Not every question has an answer. Some questions are false, not just some answers. Most people in the west do not defend Truth with their last drop of blood. They will fight for their Freedom that way, some of them, but not Truth. Truth, as singularity, arms the westerner with pocket jurisprudence, his social compass. Most Thais will defend their Family with the last drop of their blood. They will fight for their King that way, too. Truths, as pluralities, endow the Asian with pocket diplomacy, his social compass.
You can explain how the shortest distance between two points is along a curve, because space-time is curvelinear, if you can catch Einstein. She can explain how the most honest thing she could do was to tell This Lie in That Situation because that was the only line of logic which connected the necessary dots in that specific social equation. Everyone’s face was preserved. Q.E.D.
Beauty and Joy are ephemeral. Their Value to us is implacable. In our hierarchy, so frivolous. In our libidos, so essential. To a Thai, Beauty is Omnipotence. Joy is quintessential. In their hierarchy and in their hearts. As with the wages of blood, theirs is a union of purpose we have not EVER enjoyed in the West. Feel the weight of that.
Can you appreciate with your words and with your actions how solidly built the Thai cosmology is? Of harder stuff than yours. Yet your "culture", your civilization – Builds. We Build everythings. Bridges, Spacecraft, MRI units, Thermonuclear warheads, Industrial Light & Magic, Toys-R-Us. Manifest Destiny. To join with the world’s problems, and seek to solve every one, right every wrong, to cook up a yummy batch of capitalistic success the world over. Your kind modernized the world, for fxxk’s sake. Truth, Justice, and the [English, American, Ozzie, Kiwi, et al.] way should, shall, and must prevail.
Water off a duck’s back. Cracked the pavement, but didn’t even smear her makeup.
One point of agreement: "Life is just one God-dXXned thing after another." (M. Twain, explaining the meaning of life). You are here anyway, so right or wrong, good or bad, you should appreciate joy and beauty to whatever degree possible, with or without missive antidotes for guilt. Every task in life can be Sanuk, it is humanly possible. Apply your marvelous engineering acumen to that. Should it be? (Administer missives again as necessary until symptoms of guilt retreat.) YES. Imagine your own version of Utopia. The perfect society. Would every third task suck moose titty – because it should? OK, then.
Simple fact is, the Thais have gotten some parts of the whole thing closer to their ideal of perfection than any western nation has, while other departments are slipping, (because they were surviving on social truths that are fast disappearing). Everyone smiles, and if it is worth doing, it is worth making it fun to do. And there are beggars collecting flies every here and there. And everyone lies and cheats and steals to keep the smiling game going. And avoiding responsibility is a martial art (so is driving).
But in the West, people are emotionally honest and transparent, and all jobs worth doing are worth doing well, fun is gravy. And people are honest to a fault, or try to be, and keep a stiff upper lip to get through it all, as a job well-done is its own reward. Taking our responsibility with our tea is our chivalric code, and the rules of the road are fair play, (except at turnabouts). Or is your version of Utopia just free Wal-Mart, including the Pharmacy? But the west is nicer…the beggars don’t gather as many flies…the stores have one price for each item…and most dogs are in better shape, yeh?
Every man for himself. That breeds welfare industries. The Thais adhere everyone to a family. No-one is left for themselves. No welfare industries. As the Thais see it, if THE EDGE had safety rails, it would spoil the view.
Fxxking harp about lying and phony smiles all you like, mates. These folks have something in their birthright you have not got in yours. And until you figure out what makes it all run together, you are OUTSIDE. Where you belong, and its for your own good, ya goose.
Should you be let in, it will be on their terms. It is their family, so they can claim hegemony. It is a thing earned by fealty. You must apply your chivalry to all of that. They all do. They appreciate the meaning of sacrifice and fealty with their actions and their life choices. Can you? I mean actually, Can You? That's giving up a lot for something you have
worked you whole life to avoid need of, isn't it.
Bob Marley sings "One World". There is no part of that song that the Thais cannot do. So which part are you hung up on? I figure by now I have spent about 80% of my hard-earned on booze and women. But the other 20%….well, the other 20% I just foolishly wasted.
‘Nuff said. Hasta Encontramos otro vez, ex-paticos.
The Dirty Rotten Bxx…
No comments today….unless someone can give me a couple of extra hours!