Stickman’s Writers’ Community
Over the 10 years since 29/07/2011, when Stick published his very first reader’s submission, he has shared with us literally thousands of contributions from his readership around the world. The common denominator is that submissions should loosely relate to life in Thailand and the neighbouring counties. Excepting sex reports and certain topics that cannot be openly discussed within the Kingdom, Stick has given us pretty much carte blanche to ‘publish and be dammed’. Although the vast majority of Stick’s writers appear to be white, middle-aged, heterosexual males; there have been a number of submissions from contributors outside the core community expressing interesting and sometimes challenging insights.
As an avid reader and sometimes contributor, I have often wondered what motivates other submitters to take the time and trouble needed to structure their thoughts, stories and experiences for consumption by a wider audience. It’s certainly not the money – contributing to Stickman’s site will never pay the bills! Perhaps we are all seeking our 15 minutes of fame? I prefer to think that we do so because we have a story to tell, a point to make, some insight to share; or are seeking advice, guidance, approval and in some cases confrontation. We also get to receive Stickman’s comments; usually poignant and fair, but just occasionally quirky. Perhaps the least welcome response from Stick is the single full stop, (i.e. not worthy of comment)! It is always nice to receive feedback, sometimes positive, from the Stickman readership. If you have an interest in what has been written and wish to share your experiences or express an opinion, then why not drop the submitter a line? It costs nothing and reassures the author that he is not publishing into a void.
Although Stickman submissions cover a variety of themes and topics, there are a number of recurring threads and also received wisdom that anyone with an interest in Thailand (especially a newbie) should take on board. I’m sure none of Stick’s readership would ever sponsor a bargirl – that would be just ridiculous, unless off course you have the intellect of a stick insect! Indeed, an ex-tour guide with whom I’m very well acquainted always told her charges (especially the single gentlemen amongst you); ‘let the girl break your heart but not your wallet!’ Sound advice, which I should have followed; as I’ve told her on many occasions since! Stick has also educated us as to the need for sound financial planning prior to making a permanent move to Thailand. Additionally, I think we all now understand that the Thai police have a different modus operandi to those in our home countries!
So who are the Stickman writers’? Well, despite largely comprising of a homogenous social group (white, middle-aged, heterosexual males); the reality is we are a diverse bunch in terms of writing style, interests and opinions. Take for example Stick himself, who sets the tone for the site (although perhaps being atypical insofar as we understand that he is neither old, fat nor bald). Stick once described himself as a hack in his weekly column – it is certainly true that he favours a journalist style. Over the years Stick has demonstrated that he has a solid understanding of his adopted country; including its people, culture, customs and language. He informs us about what he has seen and experienced in an interesting and coherent fashion. I think the second part of his column in which he summarises the previous week’s news and documents any upcoming events is a real achievement given the difficulty of adopting a writing style that is both informative and concise, whilst also retaining the reader’s interest. How many different ways can you say that Bar X has closed down and the owner of Bar Y will be holding a spit roast BBQ to celebrate his forthcoming birthday? That being said, Stick always manages to pull it off and I continue to enjoy the column.
I really enjoyed Stick’s coverage of the May 2010 ‘Red Shirt’ protests. At some risk to his own safety, Stick visited the hot spots, describing what he saw and summarising some of his exchanges with the protestors. In so doing, Stick succeeded in bringing the atmosphere on the street into our homes. Stick’s narrative was supported by some excellent photos – a picture is worth a thousand words. Probably some of Stick’s finest work on the website!
Common to many journalists, Stick is not afraid to promote his personal views after summarising what he sees as the poignant facts. Although usually spot on, there are perhaps occasions when in the interests of balance Stick might give greater weight to opposing viewpoints and counter arguments prior to presenting his conclusions. For example; in Stick’s column of 27/03/2011 he considers the future of the naughty nightlife industry. Stick contends: ‘birth rates in South-East Asia are dropping. Where 4 or 5 kids per family used to be the norm, now it's more likely to be 2 or 3. Young people are better educated and have more opportunities to secure employment outside of minimum wage positions which surely will result in fewer women entering the bar industry. While there will be an increased demand from men the world over, it looks like the supply is not going to increase. If demand should exceed supply – a real possibility – the industry will change markedly.’
Whereas Stick’s observations about demographics, better education and improving job opportunities are undoubtedly true; there are also valid counter arguments as to why demand is unlikely to exceed supply any time soon – at least within the better Farang bars. For this to happen, there would need to be a significant uplift in the employment prospects for female non-gradates originating from the poorer regions of Thailand, most notably in the Isaan. It is also possible that prostitutes currently serving the larger but less lucrative Thai centric market may redeploy to the Farang establishments in order to meet any increase in demand. Although a ‘respectable’ Thai woman might never consider working as a prostitute, the potential earnings of a bargirl continue to comfortably exceed what she could reasonably expect to earn as a graduate working in many other professions (especially true for ‘honest’ government employees). For Thai women unable to enter a graduate profession the temptation to work as a bargirl is stronger; especially if she becomes a single mother, and, or, is expected to be the main breadwinner for her extended family. In fairness to Stick, it may be the case that bar owners will need to improve their recruitment methods if they are to continue attracting an adequate supply of lovelies, ‘fresh off the farm’.
I would be surprised if I am the only Stickman reader who sometimes finds himself agreeing with most of the points raised by two or more submitters promoting opposing positions. I do not necessarily see this conundrum as feeble mindedness on my part (although others may disagree), but rather that opposing opinions may both have merit – at least to the individuals expressing them; based on their personal circumstances, aspirations and previous experiences. In each case the writer is attempting to justify his or (occasionally) her own perspective, although in doing so may not feel the need to present a balanced argument – as perhaps an academic or impartial journalist would be obliged to do. Issues are rarely black and white (paedophilia I believe being an exception), but rather shades of grey. I see this as being constructive and educational – perhaps one of the key strengths of Stick’s website?
Take for example Korski, who in ‘Facing The Real Truth About the Whoring Grounds of SouthEast Asia’ presents a persuasive argument in defence of the naughty nightlife industry. Conversely, it is true to say that other contributors’, Stick and I included, have expressed some reservations about the industry.
I have met a number of ex-pats who have achieved some success in their business lives allowing them to retire early to the ‘Land of Smiles’. Sadly within a couple of years, some degenerate into an alcoholic haze. They strive to do less and less each day until such time as they do nothing at all. On reaching Nirvana, they contrive to do more of the same, only more slowly! One such individual did not eat for a whole day because his bargirl girlfriend promised to fix him breakfast, but then couldn’t be bothered to do so. I guess his self-reliance and decision making ability had degenerated to the point where he was no longer able to take responsibility for meeting his own basic needs – so he went hungry. An appalling state of affairs and tragically a true story! I am sure Korski has the self-discipline and wherewithal necessary to maintain his positive lifestyle balance (indeed, his submissions demonstrate this) – but for others, an aimless life of alcohol dependence facilitated by their bargirl girlfriend carer is reality!
Korski argues that prostitution provides economic benefit for the women involved. Indeed it does, although young women’s lives will be maimed by the experience and some destroyed. To his credit Korski freely admits this to be the case. I do not deny that the vast majority of Thai prostitutes serving the farang market do so of their own free will and that by entering the profession are given an opportunity to enrich their own lives (in monetary terms) and also those of their families. I believe in freedom of choice and accept the principles of risk and reward, so I respect the decision of any girl wishing to become a prostitute. That being said, I wonder how many young Thai girls, fresh off the farm, have the level of maturity needed to understand the risks they are running and thus are in a position to make an informed choice? To be fair to Korski, I accept that for many bargirls and their customers, prostitution is a ‘win win’ scenario!
Another hot topic of conversation on the Stickman site is the relevant merits of Western versus Thai women. Depending on their preference, some submitters have chosen to condemn all women from one or other of these backgrounds based on the negative traits demonstrated by a sub-group of these females. Given that neither a fat, feminist man-hater; nor a venal, lying whore is likely to make an ideal partner; I’m unclear as to where this discussion takes us! The reality is that these behaviours are not shared by the majority of women originating from either racial group! In stating this I do accept that there is an obesity problem in the West, and that if your definition of ‘fat’ is weighing more than 100 pounds, then the majority of Western women do fall into this category! I also accept that family and employment law, especially in the US and UK, is biased in favour of women!
Considering now Stickman’s writers’ in terms of the way in which they choose to express themselves, I believe it is valid to discriminate between contributors based on their chosen writing style. Some writers will choose to adopt a single preferred style to which they will always adhere, whilst others may switch from one style to another according to their mood and the subject matter they wish to address. I have identified six distinct writing styles. Some of you may disagree with my suggestions, whilst others will identify additional styles that I have failed to consider!
The Diarist describes an activity in which he has directly participated, and that might be considered to be part of his normal routine or lifestyle. The writer is not seeking to make a point other than to describe what he has done, which he believes will interest and inform the reader. When done well, these submissions are some of the most interesting posted on Stick’s website. They provide an insight into normal or real life within the region. Sawadee2000 is a master of this type of submission. I recommend reading Chilling and Grilling. Hans Meier’s West African trip reports provide further excellent examples.
The Journalist adopts a reporting style, sometimes, although not always expressing an opinion. The Journalist may not necessarily have any personal involvement in the events he describes – indeed he may write in the third-party. The key difference between the Diarist and the Journalist is that the Diarist describes what he has participated in, where as the Journalist describes what he has observed or researched.
The Auto Biographer
The Auto Biographer describes a significant or atypical event in his life – the sort of thing that might be included in a candid autobiography. The ‘bargirl done me wrong’ stories provide a good example of the auto biographical style.
The Essayist explores a subject or topic on a theoretical or academic basis, although he may use real life experiences to illustrate or justify the points he makes. The Essayist will not necessarily present a balanced argument, but is very likely to express personal opinions, and, or, conclusions.
The Correspondent writes in response to another’s submission. He may write to offer support, advice, criticism and sometimes barely veiled abuse. The Correspondent may also add to, or develop a theme that someone else has initiated. A year ago, the heated response to ‘The Loser’s Paradise’ allegedly written by a half Chinese girl (immortalised as HCG) ably demonstrates The Correspondents’ craft.
The Creative Writer
The Creative Writer deals in fiction. Typically, he will apply a Thai context to qualify his tale for publication on the Stickman website. The Creative Writer’s primary objectives are self expression and entertainment, although sometimes a writer may choose to impart a serious message through the medium of fiction. Mega’s recent 12 part series, 'Fear and Loathing in Pattaya’, offers up a good example of the Creative Writer’s skill.
And then there is Dana…
Dana is a writer par excellence; a legend and totally unique. I guess he is a bit like marmite – you either love him or you hate him. Most Stickmanites’ I think admire him. I’m sure that many of us eagerly anticipate reading – Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 1,000!
I never imagined the readers' submissions section of the site would become so popular and it is nice to see that a decade on this section of the site is still so well supported!