I am in a writing mood on this fine Sunday morning, so I thought I'd weigh in on your weekly piece. It's always a pleasure to read your column because, in addition to keeping me close to Thai life, it always gives me food for thought. Always–so
thanks in advance for that.
I didn't wade through the discussion, but I'll bet that many of my points here were previously stated. I therefore don't really expect this to be published and don't believe a response from you is necessary. I'm just writing because I have the itch to write this morning.
Point–The Industry is a blight on the country's image.
While this is probably true, I believe it says more about the people holding the 'image' than it does about Thailand. Those opposed to The Industry invariably invoke children as their first line of attack. While very, very few would want to risk the health and welfare of children for the sake of The Industry, it is important to realize there is a fair amount of hysteria and exaggeration with this line–particularly here in the USA. Without the threat of child abuse, the 'image' could easily be closer to what it is in reality–swinging nightlife, amazing food, beaches and so on.
Point–Women leave The Industry in a worse situation when they entered it.
I have no evidence otherwise and offer no substantial argument to the contrary.
Point–Without The Industry Thailand would be better off.
Maybe, maybe not. What is 'better off'? USA? New Zealand? Japan? Honestly, I don't think Thailand will ever be any of those countries, nor do I think it will move incrementally in that direction any time soon, with or without The Industry. Undoubtedly, Thailand would be better off if it didn't rain so much and it wasn't so God damned hot.
Perhaps a more realistic point would be–without a 'tolerated' industry, Thailand would be better off, but even this is difficult to imagine. If The Industry went underground, how would Thailand change?
Point–Do foreigners ever consider what it is like for the girls who work in the industry?
To the extent that Wal-Mart shoppers consider the slave labor that produced all of the goods in the store, they do. I'm not sure why whoremongers should be held to a higher standard.
Of course, not all Thai women are professionals. I'd guess, a lot more than professionals get The Call from the family, but still do not resort to entering The Industry. What makes those who enter The Industry different from those who choose other ways of sending home the family tax? I don't know the answer, but can only guess the difference is greed and laziness. If my suspicion is right, and The Call happens all the time to your average Thai good girl, then why isn't the industry bigger than it is? Why aren't there 17 Pattayas?
I believe the cold, hard, fact is that men and women barter sex and security. Security is amorphous, but women's endless thirst for security can be met with cash, in kind and marriage. The Industry is just one paradigm for this bartering to take place. It is clearly less favorable to the women involved. A real and extreme alternative is here in the USA, where marriage is The Industry and the divorce rate is over 50% and where a man generally comes out of a marriage financially stripped and perhaps burdened indefinitely.
I must say, I love your column to death. I read it religiously. But you play a significant role in promoting and facilitating The Industry. Yes, if you didn't do it, someone else would (and is). Yes, you are not marching people into Nana Plaza. I know. But just as a successful, glossy Hot Rod magazine inspired me to buy my car, your column played a major role in bringing me to the LOS and contact with The Industry. My primary (constructive!) beef with your writing is that you often write very black and white. Perhaps this a mark of a good writer, and one of the reasons why I come back for more. But those two girls in the column were never, ever going to be a nurse or a teacher, because they never wanted to be. The Industry was only the shortcut for them that they would have tried to find otherwise.
All fair comments but let me just home in one point you make which for some reason really bothered me. You say "those two girls in the column were never, ever going to be a nurse or a teacher, because they never wanted to be." Well, one of those girls has a bachelor's degree, used to be an accountant, was going to be a policewoman and now cannot. I had her crying on my shoulder over that about 4 or 5 months ago.
I don't wish to sound nasty or mean-spirited here, but how could you possibly have any idea what those two girls wanted?