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East Is East and West Is West

  • Written by Ishiro
  • June 10th, 2014
  • 6 min read



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Rudyard Kipling's epic poem "The Ballad Of East And West" is a complicated assessment of Colonial attitudes or, more importantly, his personal attitudes toward this subject. But let's just use simplification to analyse the subject as it applies to our interactions with Asia or, more particularly, to Thailand.

I remember my old step-dad, George (a Londoner from Shepherd's Bush), saying these lines from Kipling when I was just a small shaver – and paying little attention to the meaning at that time, as most juveniles do. Little did I know that I would be using those words in an analysis of relationships associated with Thailand (or any other Asian State) way back in those vales of history of my youth – when all of life's wonderful mysteries were yet to be revealed.

George was an amazing man – a child of The Great Depression – who served in a Civilian role for The British Foreign Office in Germany, prior to the rise of The Third Reich, sussing out The Hitler Youth camps – then in India and in Burma during WWII. He spoke German fluently – and I remember many of our friends, when I was growing up in the '50s, were Germans (two were former U-Boat Commanders) from our association with The German Club (Deutscher Turn Verein). I was the rotten proverbial pest – always bothering the players at the skittle alley – but they were good-natured toward me, allowing me to reset the pins and roll back the ball to them down the wooden ball rail.

So, putting this idea of Kipling's into context in our personal relationships with Thais – is it any wonder that we often find the going difficult in sustaining romantic involvement with Thai women. Few of us in The West have had any deep understanding of the Asian psyche before being thrown in at "the deep end" – so it is not surprising that we flounder and, sometimes, sink or drown. Let's face reality – it is hard enough sustaining a relationship within one's own culture, let alone trying to meld two vastly-different cultures to produce a union of "blissful matrimony" <is there any such thing?>. Of course not all of us want "blissful matrimony" in this collision of cultures – some just want a quick screw, thank you very much – and no commitment whatsoever. So, where does that leave us?

It leaves us with Good Thai Girls, Good Bar Girls – and dreadful Farangs <smile>. Well look, that's how they see it. Farangs are "Hansum men" – but they are narkliat (ugly – and at the same time and they can also take on the appearance of an ATM) – well, don't get upset – that's what Natalise called me (narkliat). I didn't get upset – why should you? I figure that anyone who can take on the appearance of an ATM certainly must be ugly. But, if any Thai lady calls you narkliat – you should take that as a compliment – a term of endearment. Most Thai women are good natured – so don't get stroppy.

My friend Loong has been married to a Thai for 17 years now and he is deliriously happy – and he tells me he would do it all over again if he had the opportunity and wouldn't change a thing. I think that's a wonderful testimony – so what's wrong with the rest of us? What are we doing wrong?

As I've said before, I feel that my basic belief is that a man and a woman should stay together for life – not because a piece of paper says they should – but because that is what both of them want. I believe there is nothing more important in this life than a strong relationship – and oh how I wish I'd had the opportunity to say these words to somebody very special in the past.

"Forty-Five Years"

Where the earth shows its bones of wind-broken stone
And the sea and the sky are one
I'm caught out of time, my blood sings with wine
And I'm running naked in the sun
There's God in the trees, I'm weak in the knees
And the sky is a painful blue
I'd like to look around, but Honey, all I see is you.

The summer city lights will soften the night
Til you'd think that the air is clear
And I'm sitting with friends, where forty-five cents
Will buy another glass of beer
He's got something to say, but I'm so far away
That I don't know who I'm talking to
Cause you just walked in the door, and Honey, all I see is you

And I just want to hold you closer than I've ever held anyone before
You say you've been twice a wife and you're through with life
Ah, but Honey, what the hell's it for?
After twenty-three years you'd think I could find
A way to let you know somehow
That I want to see your smiling-face forty-five years from now.

So alone in the lights on stage every night
I've been reaching out to find a friend
Who knows all the words, sings so she's heard
And knows how all the stories end
Maybe after the show she'll ask me to go
Home with her for a drink or two
Now her smile lights her eyes, but Honey, all I see is you

And I just want to hold you closer than I've ever held anyone before
You say you've been twice a wife and you're through with life
Ah, but Honey, what the hell's it for?
After twenty-three years you'd think I could find
A way to let you know somehow
That I want to see your smiling-face forty-five years from now.

And I just want to hold you closer than I've ever held anyone before
You say you've been twice a wife and you're through with life
Ah, but Honey, what the hell's it for?
After twenty-three years you'd think I could find
A way to let you know somehow
That I want to see your smiling-face forty-five years from now.

These words were written by Canadian writer/singer Stan Rogers.

In the previous paragraphs 4 and 5, I wrote a bit of sarcasm/cynicism to inject a bit of humor – but it's not something that I believe. The words by Stan Rogers are what I truly believe. I still believe that a strong relationship is easily created between Farang and Thai, provided that it is something that both persons want – and it can last just as long as any other relationship, no matter what the differences are in culture. Even Kipling came to more or less the same conclusion in dismissing differences in these last four lines of the poem "The Ballad Of East And West".

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!



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