Readers' Submissions

Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 230

  • Written by Dana
  • October 10th, 2009
  • 7 min read


GEOGRAPHY

Years ago on an island in a racist Caribbean sea I asked an elderly native taxi cab driver if he would be happier if all the whites went home. The economy on this U.S. assisted tourist rich island would stagger, but would he like all the white people to go home? He was quiet for a while and then he said:

"This place is for the fish, and the birds, and the waters, and the sun, and the stars, and the moon, and the flowers, and trees, and the sandy beaches, and the black people. Whites are not on that list. They have come but they do not belong. Except for discord and confusion there is no contribution they can make. It is a mistake of geography. The social equation has to handle a factor that should not be in the equation in the first place. We want them to leave. Some want to encourage the process by killing them. The eight continentals killed on St. Croix in the Fountain Valley massacre are just the beginning. How would you feel if someday you woke up and strangers were in your house?

I would never raise my hand to a white person. Not out of principle but due to lack of courage. I'm an old man. I am what I am. There is no going back. But I would hand the bullet to the person who would pull the trigger. I would like to be part of the process. I would like to be in the choir. I would like to eliminate the white scourge from our black African islands. We were brought here as slaves. Well, now it is our time. These islands are ours."

Don't think an elderly native taxi driver can speak that well? Yes they can. Anyway, I was shaking as I got out of the taxi cab and I made sure to put a tip in the huge gnarled black hand with the broken nails and deep fissures. I had learned something. His remarks were not about (or less about) nationalism, or jingoism, or tribalism, or even racism; as much as they were about geography. People have an innate brain stem primal sense of rightness based on geography. Violate a people's sense of geography and you can find yourself in a social card game where you are holding twos and sevens, and they hold aces.

The Romans finally lost Rome and the Empire to invaders from the north. It took a long time but it happened. But what of today? Is Italy run by Germans? No, Italy is run by southerners. Italy is run by Romans. Italy is run by the people who took in the most geographical data over the years. It took a while but geography trumped again. Only tourists remain as a reminder, and they go home.

If I did not have the language barrier and I asked a Thai taxi driver the same question that I asked the taxi driver on St. Thomas what do you think he would say? Here is what I think he might likely say. I think his words would be almost identical. He would use the word Thais instead of the words black or African, and he would for sure mention elephants; but other than that his answer to my question would be about geography. Non-Thais go home. You do not belong here. How can you not see that?

Non-Thais in the Kingdom and interested tourists with all of their college degrees and book learning are like walking patronizing mouthy human thesauruses and so you hear words and you read words in newspaper Letters to the Editor columns like prejudice, and ignorance, and politics, and civil rights, and human rights, and nationalism, and jingoism, and tribalism, and corruption, and . . . it's a long learned list. Boy-oh-boy can non-Thais talk. Do Thais spout off and show off in the same way on these issues? No need. It's all about geography. You don't belong here. Go home. How can you not see that?

Years ago I lived on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Lots of natives (Africans) and lots of narrow roads. If you and a native met on a narrow road, one of you would have to back your car up. How did this social problem get solved? The native would sit in his car and say, "I born here." You backed your car up. He understood geography.

Still not engaged by the Thai point-of-view? Still anxious to show how modern you are by demanding that the family home you have invaded treat you like family? Still all excited because you have been invited to speak at an expat's club on the subjects of unfair visa rulings, unfair banking practices, and unfair judicial proceedings?

Ok, then try this. Let's turn the time machine back only a little bit. Siam. No modern plumbing, no cars, no airports, no computers, no modern medicines, no cell phones, no printing presses, no scientific thought, no satellite dishes, no highways . . . another long list. You are standing on a wide blazing white clean beach in Pattaya. Yes, it used to be a blazing white clean beach. I have seen old photos. Before you is the sea and behind you is the land that has not changed in five thousand years. Dark skinned, high cheek boned, raven haired people smile at you but no communication is possible. You are a curiosity, a freak; they wonder where your space ship is for surely anyone can see that you have come from another world. It is so obvious. In not one single way do you fit in with the palms, and the crops, and the natives cleaning fish on the beach, and the plants and shrubs and flowers and trees, and the soft and heavy rains, and the small naked children. Anyone can see that. All can see that you do not fit in. The elephants, and the water buffalo, and the geckos, and the prawns in baskets, and the big eyed nursing babies can see that you do not fit in. The geography is screaming at you: GO HOME. Well, this is not Siam time, this is Today time. Do you see a difference?

Convinced of your expat and your visitor's rights? Know all about what's right, do you? Why you could write a paper on it. Anxious to do battle with people you do not consider your equal. Proud to be a modern warrior in a 'what is right' war? Eleven years into your application process to become a Thai citizen and still convinced it is a good idea. Once you get Thai citizenship with your cocktail party bragging rights Thai passport you'll be able to pull the little fxxxing monkeys down into the mud and wrestle them into the 21st century?

Really? I guess it is nice to have a dream. Maybe you need to work on your listening skills. Maybe the fact that you are a double addict, nicotine and alcohol, will work for you. While sitting on the balcony, or under the house, or at the beach, or on the steps of a broken down temple having a cigarette or a drink or both a cigarette and a drink you'll have time to listen and to reflect.

What do you hear? The thud of a falling coconut as it strikes the earth? Soft rain plinking on the metal roof? Childish voices on the way home from school? The barometer is dropping so there is now the sound of the wind in the trees? An elephant across the khlong has made an elephant sound? A squeak and a chirp as a bird flies right through the house? In the living room window and out the kitchen door. Some dog is barking, some chicken is making a chicken sound, and insects you know nothing about are chattering in the trees.

A chirp and a squeak, an elephant sound, a dog's bark, a coconut's thud, plinking on the metal roof, insects in the trees making insect sounds, the scratching sounds of leaves and branches in the wind, and a chicken with something to say? Is this what you hear? Well, these are the instruments in the symphony. The symphony piece is titled: Geography. It is geography that you hear and it is geography that is talking to you. And it is saying: Go Home.

Stickman's thoughts:

Go home, but leave your wallet behind, please.