The Death Blow
On 7 May, 2014, I witnessed the coup de grâce of the democratic process in Thailand – the final act in a chain of events that has also been "the last straw that broke the camel's back" for me. I no longer believe in Thailand and will not return there again. My sense of honor and integrity will not be compromised by allowing me to be part of a crude charade in accepting something that I believe is wrong. If a man does not stand by his principles, then what does he have?
Bangkok Barry and I share the occasional exchange of e-mails – he is a person I respect for his honest appraisal of how things really are – and for not being afraid to call a spade a spade. Quite often, I have been too tolerant of things that are allowed to happen in LOS – perhaps because of wanting to keep a relatively-low profile and playing the part of the "humble visitor just going with the flow" – or is it more that I purposely put on a set of magic glasses (like those they say Joseph Smith found at Palmyra) and everything was instantly transmogrified into a place wherein everything was wonderful – almost like being in Nirvana (well, not quite). Now don't ask me where my glasses came from – they just appeared on my bedside cabinet one morning – probably dropped there by some Thai Angel. Well, Barry has given me a "Zen Clout" over the side of the head [often administered by a Zen Master (Roshi) to trainee monks (Zennasu)]. It hurts, mind you – but nothing does you any good unless it tastes horrible or it hurts. Didn't your grandmother tell you that? Well, mine did. A very wise Australian Prime Minister once said "Life wasn't meant to be easy". Some people had another name for him, actually – they didn't think he was very wise at all <funny about that – can't imagine why>.
There should be a chart hanging up, at the front in all Thai classrooms – written in very large Thai script – "Black Is Not White" – and the students should be made to repeat that 20 times before the lesson and 20 times after the lesson. Then, there should be a whole period, each day, devoted to understanding how bad it is to perpetuate the practice of "saving face". All of the students should be taught that "saving face" serves no other purpose than to encourage people to lie to each other about how they really feel – but, worse still, it denies people from being told the truth about their incompetence in certain areas or how they could change things to make everything work a whole lot better and more efficiently, so that the whole country could advance along the road to development. A basic lesson that is taught to all children, everywhere else but Asia, is that "It is wrong to tell lies".
It is a very childish practice to engender in children the belief that it is OK to tell lies if it gets you off the hook from being punished – mainly because this childish practice is carried over into adulthood and fostered under the guise of "face". At the front of each Thai classroom, in the period devoted to "saving face", there should also be a large chart hanging up – written in very large Thai script – "Saving Face is telling lies – we should not lie to those for whom we care". It will need to be a bloody big chart, won't it?
Of course, this is never about to happen – because some people like to live in a society that is covered by a veneer of cosy half-truths and distorted appreciation of how the real world functions. It doesn't have to be like this – they could change things – and that shouldn't be too hard for them. They are very good at changing governments and The Constitution – why can't they tell the truth instead of telling porky-pies to each other. My God, they have no sense of compunction in lying to each other – what can the poor Farang / foreigner expect – he's an easy mark – not even part of the tribe (and never will be), so anything goes – and very often does.
So, where does this leave things? Well, for a start, there are signs of change already, although I wouldn't call those signs particularly positive. There is now a new Caretaker Government that is expected to steer the battered old vessel through the turbulent waters of political turmoil – although I will make no secret of the fact that, if I were given the chance, I would not be applying for the position of Master of that vessel. You never know when you are going to be knocked off – or by whom. Well, at least we have The Election to look forward to – or do we? I remember Natalise saying to me once "Everything can change" (a refrain from The Eagles' "New York Minute"). The trouble is that it very often does. So, who wants to run a book on whether The Election will happen or not … come on, there's money to be made here.
All I know is that this is it for me. I will no longer play the game of pretending that everything is hunky-dory – look at the trouble that can get you into. Much better to deal with reality. Sure, I remember how things used to be in Thailand – it was the greatest place to be for so long – if you didn't mind a coup every now and then – but, mostly, it didn't bother the visitors. The girls were great to share time with, the beer was good and the ambience of the place had that aura of mystery. Unfortunately, the big mystery always was trying to guess when the next coup would happen – and that instability has to migrate
to the psyche and generate feelings of impermanence – particularly if you were an ex-pat who retired on a resident visa. One needs a guarantee of stability when getting older – and it is easy to see why so many of the "Old Hands" are leaving the place like rats from a sinking ship. There was a time when my ideal was to live out the rest of my declining years in Thailand – but I'm glad that opportunity didn't happen for me. I don't suffer fools gladly – and I can see so many things that should be fixed but are ignored because nobody speaks up and complains to those who could make those changes.
The principle of "face" has some merits – but, taking it to the extreme is to deny reality and creates a situation where people are conditioned to accept whatever they are told, for fear of upsetting somebody – and that is unhealthy and not good for the nation.
Oh, I can just picture myself coming back in the next life and I'm an archaeologist in the year 9500. We're doing a dig at 13° 45' 0" N/100° 31' 0" E – and what a horrible, muddy hole this is – nothing but mud and swamp for as far as the eye can see.
"Hey, Harry, come and have a look at this – what do you reckon this is?"
"Struth, buggered if I know – looks like some sort of writing – damned if I can understand it though. Do a search on Google" (see, they were good shares to buy).
"Look at this – that's the same sort of writing that we found just now – it says it was an ancient culture that faded away sometime in the 30th century – how odd".
"Does it say what happened?"
"Says something about how they ended up wiping each other out over some crazy political argument that went on for centuries".
"Hrmmpff – doesn't surprise me. Seen plenty of those types fade away into oblivion. What was the place called?"
"Says here it was called Thailand – The Land Of Smiles. Not too bloody much to smile about here now, is there? Says here those co-ordinates are for a place where there was a large city called Bangkok or Krungthep. Well, there's nothing here now but mud flats – and lots of mosquitos".
"C'mon Harry – let's pack this in – these fxxxxxg mosquitos are so bloody fierce, we'll need transfusions if we stay here any longer".
Back in the present:
I'm just one disappointed visitor among many. It was a great ride – but the wheels have fallen off the old cart – and the cartwright has been sacked. There's not too much more to say about it from my point of view – if you get my drift.