Mongering and Koyaanisquatsi
Having just read the latest Green Star submission to StickmanBangkok entitled 'About Mongering', I am moved to put pen to paper (or in this case, fingers to keyboard) and try to add substantially to what Mac BKK brought to the table. (21/11/09)
I have no disagreement with what he said. I do however feel strongly that his wise and thoughtful comments do not address in the least the full human range of sexual possibilities and how human sexuality fits into a balanced and/or happy
I'm a 55 year old retiree living comfortably and happily in Bangkok. Two of my most explicit memories from more than three decades ago are sexual in nature.
1) Holding a friend's newborn child in my arms, I couldn't help but thinking "ahh haa, biologically speaking this is why the libido is so damn strong; to produce more of these little consumers."
2) Reading Plato's Republic in an introductory philosophy class in college I encountered a passage that I'll try to paraphrase.
An old man, Sophocles I believe, is asked if being an old man, does he miss partaking of sexual exploits. His response is something to the effect of: Not in the least, it is like being released from the clutches of a raving madmen and I'm content to be done with all that.
The sexual drive of the human male is legendary. I spent many years contemplating whether the sexual drive was really all that powerful or was enhanced by western deprivation and the commercial use of sexual themes in advertisements. There are believable tales told of concentration camp survivors from Hitler's clutches who were so deprived of food that even for years after surviving the experience, they always wore large overcoats in order to keep their pockets stuffed with food. My unscientific but eventual conclusion was that men, be they western, Thai, pious Jews or Muslims, or African tribal people have strong sexual appetites. The orthodox Jews and devout Muslims have similiar prescriptions for dealing with the problem. Keep the women covered, at home, and keep them away from other men. A starving man isn't very delicate as he tears into his long sought meal. How polite and delicate is the western man brought to S.E. Asia for a taste of the local delicacies?
Although I don't have the testosterone levels of the average 20 year old, capital 'T' still flows through my body. As important as the presence of this hormone is an understanding of the culture I came from and the culture in which I now live. The western culture in which I grew up was purient about matters sexual. Without a 2nd-fucking-doubt, women and mongering are what bring a disproportionately large number of men to Thailand. It is definitely what keeps them here.
But it is not merely matters sexual where cultural differences are drastic. Whereas many middle class western people are obsessed with financial security and the future, many Thai's are at the other end of the spectrum focused only on today and seemingly unconcerned about what comes tomorrow. When discussing this early in my stay with a long-term resident Aussie, he said if you offered a Thai 100 baht today or 1000 tomorrow, they would all choose 100 today. I assumed he was exaggerating but over time was no longer so sure that was so. Encountering this situation not long after arriving in the LOS, it occurred to me that there must be some sort of healthy middle ground in this arena. And frankly, this is what is missing in the mongering-mans lifestyle; a sense of balance, temperance, self-control.
Countless men wash up on the Suvarnabhumi shores and profess to be here only for fun, not love. Then why do so many of these guys not find themselves content with the tasty Thai candy and find themselves becoming emotionally involved with bad girls? Why do so many men who I meet who reside in Thailand, who profess not to want a girlfriend, end up living with someone that they met in a bar or go-go? In large measure this is due to mens profound ability to lie to themselves and remain oblivious to their inner needs. What are a man's inner needs? What is going to bring a man ongoing, enduring satisfaction in life? Is what you find exciting during a relatively short holiday going to be equally fulfilling and satisfying as a fulltime lifestyle?
To cut to the chase, no 'healthy' man is going to find ongoing happiness in probing any human orifice(s) any more than they will in overindulgence in booze, gambling, food or opium. (I don't know the plural form of 'orifice' but I do know the difference between 'excess' and 'surplus'. 'Excess' is the amount of the breast that won't fit in your mouth. 'Surplus' is the other breast'.) It's great initially, but when the addiction clicks in so does the trouble. And when you finally get around to confronting and eliminating that addiction, the underlying problem(s) remain waiting for your attention. In the meantime, you've caused yourself a lot of physical and emotional distress, pissed away a lot of money and perhaps hurt a lot of other people along the way.
Pattaya purports to be a Disneyland for adult pleasures, a beach town playground. Every child who visits the real Disneyland still has to go home, return to school and get on with the real business of life. A child understands that Disneyland is a temporary pleasure; something for a 'short time'. Why is it so difficult for the average guy to return home? Sure, he's got to tuck his 'johnson' back between his legs and return to the working world, but I think it is much more than that.
There is a very revealing story told about some western people visiting India and spending time with Mother Theresa. Eventually the western people found themselves expressing their dismay at the dire poverty and disease so rampant in the country. Mother Theresa couldn't deny the truth of their observations but she had a very profund reply. "In the West, you have something even worse than disease and poverty and that is 'loneliness'. I call it the leprosy of the West." This was a pretty damn savvy lady, dog bless her. (Stick: It is meant to be 'dog' and not 'god')
The truth is that Pattaya is full of lonely and depressed men and it doesn't take a team of crack psychologists and rocket surgeons to figure that out. They are looking for sustenance and pleasure and I pass absolutely no moral judgement whatsover on how they seek it (provided that they do it with fully consenting adults). Oscar Wilde said it well: "He felt keenly conscious of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment. He knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their spiritual mysteries to reveal." I had a prolonged period of cavorting in Pattaya and it helped me to develop emotionally. It helped me to understand who I am and how to have a fulfilling life. And for sure I had some great times and have a headfull of never-to-be-forgotten memories.
One memory is of an English guy who I thought was one of the more intelligent and engaging guys I'd met. But he fell greatly in my esteem when I was trying juggle two different women at once. He asked me why I was concerned and I told him that I was afraid I'd play my cards wrong and lose them both and be alone. His response was that in Pattaya, no guy ever had to be alone.
But even when I was living in Pattaya, most (90%) of the nights I went out mongering I came back home with my 'precious bodily fluids' still nestling in my tubes. Once I completely comprehended that I could have what I'd always wanted, it wasn't so special anymore. It wasn't distasteful to lie down with unknown women, but it sure was unfilling. What I really wanted was an emotional connection with another person. I wanted laughs, I wanted to trade stories and share food and play pool. (A Norwegian man I met couldn't get over my turning down a beautiful dancer in a go-go bar because she couldn't play pool.) Over time I became more selective and only took ladies who fit my image of great beauty. But eventually, even that lost its allure.
I didn't like having to accept that for me, my mongering days were behind me. I finally understood that I came home empty-handed from my mongering runs because the anticipation was better than the actualization of the fantasy. It was fun to anticipate the chance to go shopping. Sometimes it was even fun doing the shopping. But the truth was I was satiated and it was time to move on.
20 Years ago when I did volunteer work with people that were HIV positive that were too sick to clean their homes or go grocery shopping or needed someone to talk with, I worked with a gay man who at that time was about my present age. I've always been obsessed by sex and if I couldn't indulge in it or read about it was happy to talk about it or listen to others talk about it. This gay man had had a very active sexual life and was now dying from it. (This was before anti-retroviral medicines became available.) This man loved to tell about his sexual past and I was fascinated to hear these tales. Eventually he got around to telling me about his time in San Francisco and his countless visits to the bath houses where gay men were free to really let loose. But eventually the truth hit me like a ton of bricks. This man had never connected physical passion with emotional passion. To him, it was always a physical act and I found this awfully sad. It was as if he had witnessed a multitude of magnificent sunsets, but always from behind the bars and stained window of a grimy prison cell.
I've been living in Bangkok just down the street from some of the largest pleasure palaces in the city. Ratchadaphisek Rd. One of the largest structures and that perhaps most resembles an ornate Las Vegas casino is the Lord Palace. I've yet to visit any of these entertainment factories so close to where I live. But I do appreciate the corporate motto of of the Lord group. "BEYOND PARADISE"
Thailand helped me to fully comprehend that for human beings there is no paradise. Give a man precisely what he wants today and tomorrow he wants something different. (Same goes for women as well.) Heaven and hell co-exist on our little planet and most of us make it a personal heaven or hell by what we do and what we think. When I first spent time in Thailand, I felt badly for the bargirls and go-go girls not because of what they did after they were barfined, but because life inside of these clubs is grotesquely loud and boring and it shows on a lot of the girls faces. It took a long time, but eventually I saw the same facial expressions on women working in Robinson's department store. (H.L. Mencken: The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.) The world is chock-a-block with menial, demeaning jobs. I cannot fix the world's problems. But I can treat the bargirls with respect and appreciate them for what they do.
I feel very strongly that genuine love can be found here. I have a theory that being a more tolerant society, Thailand also produces a broader range of human personality. It is a lot of fun interacting with these diverse personalities to say nothing of enjoying their physical beauty. But love takes time here as it does anywhere and likely cannot be found during a brief holiday. Trying to find love with a bargirl is like a butterfly lured by a plastic flower. No honey will be produced as a result of the encounter. Enjoy the flight inside though. And learn what you need to be happy and content when you aren't on vacation.
Do I have any advice for the men residing in or returning to Celibacyville? Not really. Besides, it wouldn't be any more effective than recommending to a flea-bitten dog to ignore the itch.
But it does prompt me to roll-out my favorite euphemisms for masturbation:
a) choking the chicken
b) polishing the porpoise
c) shaking hands with the unemployed
d) taking matters into your own hands
e) rounding up the usual suspects
Thailand is full of retired farangs who are bored out of their minds. I suspect that they would be bored anywhere in the world. I enjoy watching the cultural clash play out.
But I certainly wish that there were more happy people in our world. A good start would be more rounded and balanced lives.
Yes, I'm coming to the end of this rambling and I'll try not to digress anymore. By now, you might have guessed or assumed that I'm married and monogamous. You would be semi-correct on the first count and incorrect on the later count. I may be married (or it's equivalent) but I'm not dead. I enjoy my life very much in the Kingdom and still go shopping, but very rarely sample the products. Incidentally, I've told my better half that if she wants to have a gik (lover on the side), she won't find me objecting. Fidelity is overrated. Young men want to be faithful and are not. Old men want to be unfaithful and cannot. (Thanks again to Oscar for that tidbit.) As mentioned earlier, I've always been mesmerized by the subject of human sexuality and although I cannot return to my early days of mongering, I'm still a dog; just like all you guys out there.
Enjoy the party. A party hat is recommended. And please treat everyone, including yourself, with dignity and respect.
"Thailand is full of retired farangs who are bored out of their minds." – far from the point of your article I know, but this sentence is SO TRUE.