Readers' Submissions

Money And Power, Two Of The Trifecta

  • Written by Y Fever
  • December 22nd, 2009
  • 12 min read


I read the submission “Intersection of Respect, Money and Power” which I gather from the references to me and my previous submission Mongers in Denial was supposed to be a rebuttal of some kind. I am slightly confused by that as what was said agreed with my points almost to a T. So I can only assume that the “anonymous” writer did not fully grasp who said what in my submission.

The opening paragraph gave me a clue as to the confusion of the writer.

“In a recent submission “Mongers in Denial ”, the question was raised on the social respect which a bargirl would have in Thai society. Y Fever has the simplistic view that it’s black-or-white, a common problem for westerners who think in terms of absolutes.”

For those not up to speed here is the Coles notes version. A poster in an online Thai based forum claimed that Thai society in general (black and white statement and NOT from me) accepts bar girls (sex workers) much like they do laundry workers and wait staff, I said that’s poppy-cock, no such statement can be made. I never claimed the reverse was true by saying ALL Thais don’t accept/respect people in the industry, but it seems our rebuttal writer was not going to let a little detail like that stop him from having his rant.

The point our dear rebuttal offering submitter misses is that when the term "Thai society" is used it is by its nature implying that ALL or a vast majority is being referenced. As in, "it is considered impolite in Thai society to show affection in public." That is not to say that ALL Thais consider it impolite but enough do currently and have for as long as anyone can remember that it is an accepted comment made to blanket an entire society’s point of view.

Something to ponder for those that want to throw out statements using the phrase “Thai Society” in them regarding Thai social values and morals and how things are accepted and respect is gained/viewed. In the 2006 Census Thailand’s population was pegged at 64 million the birth rate being 1.05 male/female means there are very roughly speaking about 30 million females in Thailand. I read on a website somewhere (I can’t recall where so I can’t vouch for the quality of its research) there were roughly 300,000 women involved in the sex trade in one way or another. (Stick what do you think, high or low?) <That number would be in the ball parkStick> Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s accurate.

This means ONE person will look at those stats and say WOW that would mean roughly 1% of Thai females are involved in the sex trade in one form or another, that’s over a quarter of a MILLION women.

Others will look at it another way and say WOW 29,700,000 Thai women are NOT involved in anyway. It’s all about perception, isn’t it?

The last population number I heard for Bangkok was a touch under 12 million. Meaning there are 52 million people that DO NOT live in Bangkok. I wonder how many of those 52 million common everyday hard working citizens respect and accept sex workers?

Simply more food for thought, there are NO absolutes. I never claimed otherwise pro or con, read my submission again if you failed to “get” the point. Discussions should always be encouraged and both sides heard on every subject, I never implied otherwise.

I made it clear that I have in the past used P4P services, so I was NOT mocking anybody for that. I do think it’s sad that if somebody comes to this country and they don’t have the common decency to respect its culture when they can, part of it being that public affection is frowned upon and makes many “normal” Thais uncomfortable. It would seem a simple thing for the mongers that do NOT respect such a simple expectation to do so. If pointing that out is “mocking” mongers, then I guess I am guilty as charged in that instance.

My anonymous fan then trots out this paragraph which makes my previous point for me perfectly

“Let’s circle this back to bargirls. Middle class white-collar Thai folks indeed look down on a bargirl for her profession, but they also do the same for the sidewalk fruit seller or a factory worker. By the spectrum of power-and-money they live by, they are superior.”

The monger I was referring to in my submission said that Thai society respect/accept bargirls as they do laundry workers and service staff in restaurants. But according to you “middle class white-collar” Thais don’t respect ANY of them, many thanks for confirming my point.

I really did laugh out loud at this one.

“A final note for Y Fever. Your employees don’t respect you, and the girls you go out with don’t really respect you either.”

That is a neat trick please let me know how you’ve come up with your theory that none of our 300 employees respect me? Seems like a pretty "black and white" statement, but you wouldn't make one of those now would ya? ha-ha no I didn't think so….the term “the pot calling the kettle black” comes to mind here Mr. Anonymous.

You seemed to have gotten your teeth in YOUR belief about what I was saying and ran with it, before really grasping what the discussion was related to. You continued to harp on and on about the word “respect” but we were discussing “acceptance” as well I am sure you will agree the two are in fact not mutually exclusive. I don't know about you but there are things in this world that I "accept" as being part of a status quo that I can’t change, but it doesn’t mean I "respect" that status or issue it pertains to.

In Thai culture as you rightly point out there are some things that demand public “respect” or at least a show to pretend one does. But that does not go hand in hand with something being accepted.

You said…

“A bargirl who moves into the building and takes the biggest and most expensive unit will be the target of whispered insults behind her back. In public, her wealth requires acknowledgement of her status before other residents. Her neighbors back at the village look down on the source of her money but the physical reality of the large and beautiful house her family lives in requires respect.”

Once again you make my point so very clearly for me. Whispered insults are NOT what one does when one “accepts” a lifestyle or employment choice. But faking respect to keep the peace in public, another thing altogether.

You are once again taking parts of what goes on in everyday Thai society and not really telling the whole story, I don’t know if that’s because you are not aware or you are just doing it as a means to counter my previous submission.

I will admit to being somewhat surprised that Stick didn’t set you straight on this one as it’s a very well known and accepted fact in Thai society. You are quite right that POWER and MONEY are two of the most important issues when a Thai shows (or pretends to show) respect, but you left out the third and in many cases most important.

Let’s revisit our Issan village and see how your comment that being rich “demands” respect holds up, I say that is NOT enough. If two girls worked the bars from the same village and BOTH were superstars and duped a ton of mongers into sponsoring them etc, basically were well off well beyond normal Thai standards HOW they conduct themselves while home in the village is the main factor of how they are treated.

If Nit comes home with millions of baht in the bank, and dresses impolitely and spends all her time while home rubbing everyone’s nose in how rich she is and drinks and smokes and basically acts like the spoiled stuck up hooker she is, NO amount of money on the planet will garner her respect, and the Thais can justify NOT doing so due to her being a “bad girl” and how she makes her money AND safe in their belief that she would NEVER share any with them.

If Noi comes home with the same amount of money but dresses very polite while home and buys all the local kids ice cream, and donates money to the local school for books and does selfless things with that money NO MATTER how she earned it the Thais will show her respect. Sadly often the respect they show in public is simply that, a public face they use in the hope that Noi will give them some money or help them out in some way, but regardless we agreed upon the fact that “respect” as we know it in the West does not really exist here. The point is MONEY is NOT the only determining factor and in this example power played no part at all.

The people you are getting your info from appear to be quite different than the staff I have spoken to and the Thais I know outside of work. Not ONE of them would ever wai a gold covered Issan princess regardless of how much money she has or how big her condo is. NOBODY in their village would look down on them for NOT doing so, unless she did many good things for the village as a whole.

Taking that point of view further it is not uncommon for a criminal who has a lot of money from drugs, gambling, etc to be shown public respect and to be wai’d. So are we saying that Thai society respects all criminals? Of course not, but it is not unheard of for a criminal to treat his village with such generosity and do so much good that the people there will in fact turn their heads as to where the money comes from. It is indeed a slippery slope when one wants to blanket an entire society’s “point of view”

I also made it very clear that due to speaking Thai I am well aware of the fact that many of the things that are said in public are not always in tune with how the speaker treats the person they are speaking about. Again false respect is the same as no respect.

Finally the last quote from my new best friend

“They just think you’re a rich, young guy. When you’re out and about with the legitimate shop-girls you pick up, there’s little doubt what the Thai observers are thinking and you’re not that far above the mongers you mock.”

Finally here you go again speaking for Thai society. Are you in fact Thai? Where did you get all this knowledge?

So according to you, I who have invested in a business here, employee 300 or so Thais in better than average paying positions, pay my taxes, donate generously whenever an employee’s family member becomes a monk or gets married and show respect to Thai culture as much as I humanly can am viewed “not that far above” a guy that saves his pennies to come over here and fuck 30 girls in 30 days, take degrading photos of her to show his buddies and post in monger forums and then write up a trip report so people know if that service provider is worth the punt? I guess you’re right Thai Society is pretty messed up if a majority of its 64 million members would view us anywhere near the same.

Oddly enough I have the things you said would garner me at the very least the fake public respect, I have money, I have a lot of power over those around me and I go out of my way to be generous to my host country. Wonder what that monger is doing with his spare time???

You need to keep your story and actions straight, don’t make black and white assumptions about me but attempt to chastise me, when I did no such thing.

A few notes and observations since the submission, Stick I don’t know what you charge for advertising but it’s likely NOT enough. Within two days of the submission I had 61 replies. I would say roughly 55 or so of them were on the same page and “got” what I was saying, not in fact thinking I was mocking mongers. One guy well, let’s just say his 12 page run on sentence really said all that needs to be said about his umm “points”. A couple of guys said they agreed to a point, but offered some other POV and I was more than happy to listen. Unlike what our anonymous friend thinks I was NOT looking at anything in black and white, hence my request for feedback from more long term expats

I should also point out having lived here and dealt with government on many levels for the last seven years I could tell you stories that would no doubt surprise even Stick. The one constant I accept about Thailand is NOTHING is as it seems, NOTHING surprises me anymore. It has been a fun, interesting, frustrating, rewarding and stressful ride, but clearly NOT how I want to spend the balance of my life. I will always hold Thailand (warts and all) in a very special place in my heart and will come back as much as time permits the phrase “it’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” could have very well been coined about the Kingdom.

As with the last submission, any and all replies and points of view are welcome.

Filipina Dating, Singles and Personals

Stickman's thoughts:

There's so much going around in circles here with no clear point. It's like one big mind dump, impossible to comment on so I'll remain silent.