Readers' Submissions

My Love for Thailand is Superficial – A Different View



Whenever I read one these articles comparing America to Thailand, with the major negatives for America being “oppressive PC” and “infringing on our personal rights”, I try to imagine specific examples the author is writing about. But I always end up dumbfounded. I have asked before (as I will ask this author) for specific examples and I never get a good response. This author, “Texas Based”, mentions Obamacare. But this law only mandates everyone needs health insurance (duh) and that the government will help you buy it through competitive exchanges and rebates. How is that an infringement on personal rights? I think that America has more personal rights than just about any place in the world. Sure, I can’t swing my dick in public, but I can carry a concealed weapon to my son’s baseball game. I really don’t get it.

I can only imagine that TB is one of many who constantly watch Fox News and buy into their vision that America is one step away from going down the spit sink. This doom-and-gloom is mostly based on facts that America is becoming mostly not white, women have equal status, and gays and lesbians are able to marry. Yes, the white male heterosexual in America must accept they are truly equal to everyone else, not more and not less. For many of my right-leaning friends, this doesn’t feel like equality but discrimination. I guess this is a lot like eating crow; no matter how good the wine it is served with it never tastes good.

But I really must take issue with TB’s characterization of Thailand being “PC free”. Nothing could be further from the truth. For someone who is married to Thai woman and has traveled in Thailand beyond the ex-pat enclaves, I find his belief surprising. But let’s be clear about which Thailand I am talking about. We all know that in Nana Plaza or Pattaya, we can strip to our shorts with and walk down the street with a young slut half our age, shouting “Obama is a Kenyan” and nobody will bat an eye. But in “real” Thailand, the rules of society are much more demanding and restrictive.

You cannot own property, only in in controlled condo buildings. You are always at a disadvantage in any Thai court. You are targeted for searches on the street. You cannot lose your temper, ever. Even showing mild disapproval among friends can be considered a major affront. Do you have an opinion on the Yellow – Red political struggle? Please keep it concealed or someone may get really pissed off. When I go out with Thai friends, I know I must wear long pants, collared shirt, and stylist sandals, or comments will come back to my wife. All Thai food I eat is aroi mach, all Thai movies I see are incredible, and all Thai people I meet are jai dee. When asked to pay double the price of admission, I do so with a smile. Some Thai people do speak their mind in public, but you’re a farang and expected to keep your mouth shut and smile. Does this sound like freedom from “PC”?

Compare this to the freedoms I have in America. I can dress as I please (except at work), and express whatever opinion I want in public. I could march the streets of Washington, DC (my fair city) with a sign that says Obama’s father is a baboon, as many have done. Most people wouldn’t care and a few would buy me a beer for doing so. If I were to exercise my personal rights and carry a concealed loaded weapon to a bar, who’s to stop me? Certainly not the cops, because I am not breaking the law. Now I ask you, especially those who have actually tried (or are) living in proper Thai society, who lives under the heel of political correctness more – Americans in America, or Americans in Thailand?

The other topic TB brings up for comparison is corruption. When it comes to people who would accept a bribe or payoff, Thailand has it all over America. But if you look at the broader issue of graft, or money for influence, the American system is light years worse than Thailand. In my opinion, Thai elections and other forms of corruption are bought in an honest way in Thailand. If you want my vote – pay me 200 baht. If you want your cable service early – pay me 1,000 baht. If you want a good judgment in the auto accident you just had, pay me 10,000 baht. Even when Thaksin bought the election in 2001, he did so by promising to give cheap health care to the poor. See where I am going with this – the corrupter is giving some benefit to the corruptee. For many in Thailand, this is a win-win situation all around.

Now consider the American version. Both presidential candidates in the last presidential election raised a billion dollars for their campaigns. The numbers for congressman and senators are less but still significant. Most of this money came from very rich individuals, people who don’t necessarily have the middle class, of which I am a proud member, in their minds when they signed the check. So after these folks are elected, who do you think they are beholden to? Even though we voted for these politicians and may have even given some money, what can we expect in return? Very little I’m afraid. So, if you measure corruption as the distance between the will of the people against the interests of the corrupters, which system is better for the average person? As a recipient of medical care at a government hospital for a very bad foot infection, for which I paid a paltry sum, I think overall Thailand is less corrupt than America. You have no idea how much it pains me to write these words.

Anyway, I respect TB’s views, especially his desire to have his son go to the best schools. But even here, comparisons are not good for my home country. My Thai niece just graduated from a good (not great) university in Thailand and has a relatively good paying job. My son, who went to a similar university in America, got his degree and a good paying job, but owed $50,000 in student loans, in spite of the fact that both his mom and I contributed to his college expenses. If you honestly compare these two people and the quality of life they will have, who is the better? I would like to think my son will eventually come out ahead but is it a certainty? I am not sure these days as it seems the gap between the rich and everyone else widens in America. Is it the same in Thailand?

In the end, comparisons like these need to be considered carefully. Sure, medical services in America are superior to Thailand, but how many have reasonable access to them? American universities are probably the best in the world, but at what cost? Corruption is everywhere but who benefits? Even quality of life, however you might define it, needs to be considered on costs versus benefits. To state so brazenly that America is number one versus the rest of the world, is more cheerleader than fact. What has become more important, is an honest look at the world and what we, as individuals, would like to experience in it.



Stickman's thoughts:

I *LOVE* the paragraph that begins "You cannot own property…", all of which is so true! I personally don't feel that free at all in Thailand and I just think back to the report from a friend who was stopped on Sukhumvit and searched by cops last Friday even when he attempted to exercise his "right" to refuse such an unlawful search!