Readers' Submissions

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?



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I’ve already mentioned the racism in Thailand in my last submission to the Stick Chronicles, involving both foreigners and their own people, and I’m going to expand my thoughts on that. Not that I’m suggesting that all Thais are racist. I’m sure we’ve all had some very positive experiences here, and sometimes found extraordinary goodwill and generosity. Throughout this submission there must inevitably be a certain amount of generalisation. Please bear that in mind before you think of flaming me.

I’ll get pulled up on this by many, perhaps, but the good and bad ways we foreigners get treated by Thais, and maybe the way Thais get treated by other Thais, is because of a theory that I have. I believe that, in many cases, Thais seem to mature to about the age of 13 or 14 and then they stop (sometimes physically as well as mentally). What we often most enjoy about them is their child-like naivety and innocence, which really is delightful. But it also makes them easy to exploit, and some of us have read theories that keeping a large section of the population ‘dumbed down’ is to the advantage of others.

Which makes the nationalism stirred up by Thaksin and continued, even expanded, by the new, unelected regime, a powder keg. Many people here believe most of what they are told, without question. That is the way they have been (under)educated. Again, I am making generalisations here, I admit, but I think it is safe to say it is more often true than not. So, when they keep pushing the Thai love Thai agenda, and continually blame many of the negative things that happen in the country on foreigners (the smoke in the north as a recent example) it drips drips drips into the Thai subconscious. I have read many times of ordinary people using conflicts with foreigners as an excuse to offer racist abuse. I could quote them here but that might lead to copyright problems so you’ll have to trust me.

I have absolutely no time for nationalism. It, like religion (oh oh, here I go again), is often destructive and to me serves very little purpose. It is built upon artificial borders which mean nothing to any living thing on this planet except us humans. Many, most, of those borders have been established by war. Great. I’m a Brit but have not lived in the UK for nearly 20 years, and have spent much of that time travelling to dozens of countries in my job as a journalist, although I have not visited South America and have no wish to visit Earth’s basket-case, Africa. I have no time for that place, which lurches from one crisis to another and just recently shot itself in the foot yet again by deciding to criticise western nations for establishing sanctions again Zimbabwe, in doing so supporting Mugabe instead of helping to depose the vicious dictator.

Because of my travels I see myself as a citizen of the world, and now find pride in one’s country rather bizarre. There is good and bad about everywhere, in varying degrees. There’s nothing to be especially proud about anywhere. I have met people from perhaps 50 countries, and what I have discovered by mixing with people of so many nations is that, actually, everyone is the same. Everyone is just trying to make a living and raise a family. Everywhere. Conflict is often not stirred up by the normal people, the people you’ll meet in the street, but by politicians. What is it with them? A recent example was the kidnapping of British seamen by Iran because it was claimed they entered a small distance into Iranian waters. They didn’t do and could not do any harm there, but nationalism, backed by politicians acting like children (you’re in our piece of the water) caused a crisis and great anxiety to many families. Why do politicians do this, at the same time generating hatred amongst an impressionable (and often undereducated) few. Yet I’ve read more than once of tourists who have visited Iran and been warmly welcomed by just about everyone, the normal people, they meet. The generation of hatred against foreigners by normal people is limited there so far, as it is in Thailand. But how long might that last, with the drip drip drip going on?

What happens to normal, decent human beings? Not just politicians. What about civil servants or bank employees or shop assistants who delight in being obstructive. What about drivers here who with few exceptions will not politely give way. They would resent it if it was done to them, so why do they do it to others? When I was a teenager I attended a youth club, and on Sundays we had speakers come and address us (the club was affiliated with a church but religion was rarely the theme). I’ve always remembered what one visitor told us, and I’ve done my best to live my life that way ever since. Treat everyone the way you would want them to treat you. Simple. If everyone lived that way think how pleasant life would be. As Rodney King so famously said, why can’t we all just get along?

An aggressive and nationalistic attitude often doesn’t even have anything to do with money, although in Thailand that may play no small part as they see foreigners spending amounts the locals can only dream of. But rich and poor are often the same underneath, all part of the same human race. They all are just trying to make a living (admittedly some doing it more successfully than most). It is rare for most of us to get to know mega-rich people and we often have to rely on what appears in the press, especially the tabloids. But basically they all want to stay healthy and raise a family, no matter how much is in the bank. Just like everyone else. In my job I have mixed with and been able to call many millionaires my friend (some only on a superficial, business level, some closer than that). Most of them are the same as you and I. Really.

As an example I’ll tell you a little story. Anna Kournikova is rich and has often been portrayed as spoiled, but the reality is very different. When she came to Thailand a few years ago to film a promo or two for the Thailand Tourism Authority I had the task of looking after her during her stay. Several million would have wanted the job, and I got it. She had little to do during the mornings so we suggested some shopping here or some shopping there, but instead she chose to visit a children’s ward at a hospital. Wasn’t in the contract. She did it because she wanted to. And later, when she met someone she hadn’t seen for a couple of years, they were like two squealing kids together. Just natural. Another thing. She got rid of most of the security around her because she didn’t like the fuss. Some prima donna, huh? You wouldn’t know though, would you, from the way she is portrayed in the media. But she’s a normal human being, which actually must be quite difficult to achieve when you live your life under the spotlight all the time. Imagine being stared at wherever you go. Ugh! As she’s said, she can’t help the way she looks and does she have to put a bag over her head? I know another millionaire, who travels across Melbourne to buy fish at the market because he can save a few dollars. Just like you and I. Normal.

So we don’t want or need certain people with blind and ignorant nationalistic fervour generating unrest. Everyone is the same, rich or poor, whether they come from the United States, Iran, Germany or North Korea. Everyone is just trying to get by. So why can’t we all just get along?

Stickman's thoughts:

The world would be so much better if we all got along.

I really like the Anna Kournikova story, very nice indeed.