Corruption/Lawlessness, Asia/America, First world/Third
I have never been to Thailand, but personally I have had some very pleasant experiences dealing with Thais in the U.S. I have however lived in LA off and on for many years, in the city’s Koreatown, which sits below Thai Town, south of Hollywood,
and the nearby Thai Yoga Massage parlors (professional ones, where they actually massage and don’t rush into negotiations).
The experiences I have had with Koreans were very up close and personal. I lived in an all Korean household. Some of the cheapest rent in Los Angeles. Rice was always in the cooker in the communal kitchen, kimchi was always in the fridge for me to eat. The old house was reasonably well maintained by the house matron, a mother of two, and a Mexican woman that came to help with basic cleaning duties once every week.
I direct this response to the old reader submission by Anonymous posted on 2/1/11 about the abundance of corrupt Thais in Los Angeles, and also to Stickman's comments on it. My experiences living in an all Korean household (Koreatown LA is the largest concentration of South Koreans outside of Korea) were similar to Anonymous's experiences with Thais in Los Angeles, which I believe illustrates that 'lawlessness' is not the only or event greatest reason why Thailand is held back as a country.
First I will address the experiences I had with the 'corrupt' Koreans, then I will move on to reason why I believe Stickman is wrong when he says “…people are taught to completely ignore any law that might encroach upon their 'personal freedom'…And that is why Thailand will always remain an insignificant, corrupt, backwater country.” <I cannot for the life of me remember saying this, and a search did not find this apparent quote of mine anywhere – Stick>
The reader submission on 2/1/11 mentioned visa overstays, well tell me about it. This household I lived in in LA was filled with young Korean women who were in the U.S. illegally. Everyone pretended to know less English than they really did. The people there seemed to be cautious around me, especially at first. I got an overall impression of anxiety and paranoia living there.
Despite this, the women, but not the men, liked me and were very kind. We shared food. I chatted with them. One gave me hair cuts. I did get the impression that a few had me in their sights as potential marriage material. The pressure was on. These ladies were obviously stressed about their citizenship/visa situations and I felt for them, but it made things awkward at times.
These ladies were adorable. If anyone ever has the opportunity to travel to Korea, the women are a chief draw. Somehow Koreans have managed to breed themselves into a race of vibrant, healthy, tall (especially for Asia) and attractive people. They are however pale. I do like darker skin, and have an eye for Khmer-ish dark tones and the short but athletic body type I see often on the Southern California beaches, where Cambodian/Khmer women love to play volleyball in bikinis. (Orange County, South of Los Angeles, is home to many Khmer. And beaches.)
Okay, back to the Koreans, the ladies liked me but also I am a young white male, and am considered very attractive by a lot of women. So that probably helped and explains why I was such a hit in the household. I got the feeling that if I ever get to go to South Korea, I will be knee deep.
I soaked up the attention. It feels good to feel like a king sometimes in life, and after it is over it can be tough to go back to regular American life. In LA, looks count for almost nothing, much of the time. As a good looking young male in a town full of actors and models I need much more to set myself apart, in Hollywood circles. I would need my looks, a nice car, a nice apartment. But in that Korean household, where I rented a room for dirt cheap, all I needed was my looks, a smile, and a genuine interest in people and Korean culture.
The multitude of social dynamics at play in that house made my head swim sometimes. The middle aged house mom, herself very pretty after two children, had constant power struggles with her lazy husband. She liked me much and because of this he didn’t like me. I helped her by doing the dishes and random cleaning in the kitchen sometimes. Some of the other renters got a kick out of this. Personally I did it for a few reasons. One, I liked to help. Two, I spent all day when I wasn’t working on the internet. Doing something away from keyboard, as mundane yet meditative as dish washing, felt good.
So I allied myself with the house mom, and she liked me. We laughed together, chatted. Yes, I would call it mild flirtation. Not only that, I made her husband look even more lazy by helping her out. He wasn’t working, but she was in TEOSL classes to become an English teacher, in addition to her household duties.
The other young Korean men ignored me, out or racism or competitiveness or whatever. I didn’t much mind. I was enjoying being surrounded by beautiful Korean women! Ironically, the one I liked the most was half Chinese, half Korean. At first she was friendly to me, and there was some chemistry, but then she cooled.
My (admittedly narcissistic) theory was that the other (full blooded) Korean women in the house who I flirted with called ‘dibs’ on me. I was almost certain that the half Chinese woman experienced racism there, and that probably extended to who got to give attention to the marriageable (little did they know I will probably never marry) white guy. Even if that was not the case, I was a little sad that she started to ignore me. She seemed very interesting.
The women were so much more interesting to converse with than American women. Much more intelligent in my opinion. But another irony was that they were very programmed with their religion. I like Jesus and his teachings, though I do not call myself a Christian. But I am used to dealing with American Christians who seem to have a more eclectic take on the Abrahemic traditions, with gray areas and personal interpretations. These Koreans were very cut and dry. Jesus = good. All else = Satan.
Overall, upon moving out of that house and neighborhood, my interest was more than piqued in Korean culture, women, language and food. It wasn’t the first time I had interacted with Koreans, but it just kind of built on the foundation of interest that had already been laid…
…and I didn’t get laid. No, I approached the political environment of the house as a diplomatic gentleman. Had I gotten intimate with any of those young women, things would have changed, and probably gotten out of my control. Koreans are very emotional and animated, not as reserved as Japanese and Chinese (from what I can tell). Are Thais similar to Koreans in this manner? Seems so.
Now on to corruption and individual liberties…Stick I believe you are wrong. I have much more faith in the economic future of countries that are corrupt. My reasoning is that corrupt countries are actually primed for economic growth potential, because the government, being more inefficient, can not get in the way as much.
I understand why it is so easy to conclude that corruption is what is in the way of Thailand’s, or any other corrupt third world country’s future. But upon closer examination I think it is evident that the governments of first world nations are also incredibly corrupt, just better at hiding it. The U.S. government is probably MORE corrupt on a macro level. Sure the cops seem to have some reigns on them here, but in D.C., congress will take us to war for nefarious reasons.
I have spent much time in Mexico, and from what I have seen, it is actually easier to start a small business there than it is in the U.S. Mexico is much more of an open market for entrepreneurs. The profits may not be much, and they may not be able to grow much, but anyone with ingenuity and a little start up cash can start a business in Mexico with minimal interference from the government there.
I would rather deal with a cop that can be paid off than one who can’t. Sure, there is an element of danger in any place where calling the police makes matters worse, but a little danger is good in life, and I like to take responsibility for my own safety.
Your theory Stickman, that corruption and lack of rule of law is all that will hold Thailand back, seems simplistic. Mexico, and more so Brazil, countries where lawlessness prevails, are poised to be major global players in the near future. Part of this is because of their natural resources, but I believe also in part because they have more open markets, markets unencumbered by stagnating regulations and loop holes that discourage entrepreneurial activities.
Furthermore, the experiences I had with Koreans in Los Angeles were very similar to the experiences the other submitter had with Thais Los Angeles: major visa issue corruption. Not only that, but Koreatown in general is mafia run. I wager some of the young women in my very household had worked as slave masseuses, smuggled over by organized criminals. This is so common in Asian communities regardless of ethnic origin, and Korea is a economically successful, first world country, unlike Thailand.
Perhaps then Thailand can one day too become successful, and perhaps corruption and obedience to laws is not the chief obstacle in its way.
I would love to comment on your thoughts referring to what I said, but they have been taken out of context and refer not to a previous submission at all. But I will defer to you. You've never been to Thailand but you seem to have it all figured out… What would I know?!