My Cultural Madness
Originally I wanted to talk (yet) more about the issues of Thai / Farang relationships and the nonsense we as foreign guests put up with in order to maintain the peace while in the kingdom. Upon reflection I've realized that it's all been said before and your site has provided thousands of examples. I'd like to address the core issues instead.
As humans on this planet we suffer from common diseases of the mind and irrational thought processes that are called blind patriotism, cultural bias and indoctrination. We tend to be superstitious and quick to jump to conclusions about people based on stereotypes.
First, let's start with my pigeon hole-ling.
I was born in July on a small island in Canada called Prince Edward Island. I know this only because my mother told me, so I'll take her word for it. If I was raised an orphan, the accuracy of my heritage wouldn't be quite as certain.
Much of my early childhood was spent watching mostly American TV shows and movies because at that time Canadian broadcasting was limited to a few uninteresting channels. So I knew more about the American way of life, their history and politics than I did about the piece of red dirt with some imaginary lines on a map that I was squeezed out on.
In school I was taught all the prejudice of my teachers and the curriculum they were given to indoctrinate me into the Canadian way of group think.
Because my astrological sign is Cancer, I tended to be drawn in the direction that Cancer kids are told to think about themselves and I tended to like other Cancer children better than I did the Aries or Scorpio kids.
In kindergarten we were taught about colors and letters and numbers. I was told that my favorite color was blue and that the girls' was pink. I rather liked pink roses but I was gently nudged into thinking that was somehow wrong for me to think like this because I went number 1 with a penis and not a vagina.
Every other schoolmate was the same color and born in close proximity. We were told that our piece of dirt was also number 1. We were all Irish or Scottish, Catholic or Protestant with not much variation.
The only difference was that sometimes my friends' parents were not born on our piece of dirt and that somehow they were not quite as special as us. Some parents would talk bad about these people because they sometimes spoke different languages and believed in a different god than what we were told to believe was the only one.
Often I wasn't allowed to play with certain kids because their shade of skin color wasn't the same die lot as mine. Or that their parents ate food that wasn't what we ate at home. My parents didn't want me getting any crazy ideas that their way of cooking, speaking and praying and obeying wasn't special, I guess.
When I was 9 years old the best hockey team on my piece of mud was playing against these other terrible people who were the same color as us, and the only way we could tell they were the enemy was the color of the clothes they wore and their flag. Both teams really liked the color red, so I learned to dislike their variation on the red theme. It was strongly suggested that we should hate people born in a country called Russia.
All the kids in my school were herded into the gymnasium where the janitor had placed a 24-inch TV on top of a 6-foot stand on wheels. I'm not using the metric system for fear that some readers from the 3 countries in the world that don't use this standardized measuring system might not feel special, and you know who you are.
For 3 hours 400 kids sat and fidgeted on that cold gym floor while all the teachers sat in chairs around the parameter telling us to be quiet and not make a noise if the Russians shot a black disc into a net and instead encouraged us to lose our shit if the Canadians did. We were told that hockey was what Canadians did best and this was a very important cultural event, because if we didn't win, it meant that Russians were more special then us and their way of doing everything must also be the correct shit.
My class was placed near the middle of the gym because it was more important for Kindergarten and grade 1 kids to see the TV screen or they hadn't been indoctrinated as fully as the grade 8 kids that lined the back wall. When our team won, there was a roar from the teachers and all the other kids that played hockey and had more than a clue to what happened. The only way I knew we won was because I was told this blasted through a load speaker, because I certainly hadn't seen anything on the TV that I could decipher as more than colored images moving around. I would have to take their word for it that we won. And thank goodness, I heard that Russian is a really hard language to learn. And they used different letters from us.
From that day on, everything changed for the boys that excelled at hockey. They were given special treatment and were allowed to show up late for class if they happened to be late from an early morning practice. The kids that didn't particularly enjoy playing hockey were looked down upon and there were rumors that some of the boys that didn't play might not go number 1 with a penis. The little hockey stars wore special jackets that told everybody what piece of dirt they belonged to and their importance. When they didn't do well with school work, teachers seemed to get amnesia and let it slide.
For quite a few years after that a hockey madness took over the minds of almost every person I knew. Even people that could care less about this game because rabid flag waving fans. And if you didn't wear the ribbons of your local team, you were a suspected commie.
But as most things in life, people eventually lost interest and 99.99% of every hockey playing boy I knew, didn't make it to the highest levels of the game and were left with only some cheap tin trophy's to remember how special they once were. I still often see these glory years awards in the basements proudly displayed.
For almost 40 years Canadians viewed 1972 as their proudest moment, until the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.
I happened to be living in Vancouver and working as a courier at the time and one of our clients was VANOC who had placed a bid to host this Olympics. On a daily basis I found myself shuffling paper and commemorative pins around by the thousands until the day finally came that we won the bid and indeed Vancouver would be hosting it's biggest spectacle to reach our dirt. On that day the president of VANOC gave me a very special pin that only 200 had been made up and on it were the words, "We Won".
Wow, we won.
Who won? Was I a winner? Ahh shucks fellas it was nothing. I wasn't even aware I had done anything special to be included in the winners circle.
After that day and every single day leading up to Vancouver's biggest party ever, we were hammered with a barrage of patriotism the likes I've never seen since my childhood. The radio wouldn't let us forget for a minute that in 2010 all Canadians would again be special and number 1 in the eyes of the world.
But not everyone was on board and agreed we should host an Olympics, especially in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn. Detractors from everywhere came out of the woodwork and claimed that we couldn't afford it and what was the point of spending billions and what was in it for the average Canadian?
So the news media started to interview the average Canadian. But they were still not quite convinced at that point and didn't call themselves just Canadians, but instead broke it down to more geographically specific labels such as African-Canadian, German/Canadian, Native/First Nation Canadian etc. It wasn't until after Canada went on to set a record for the most gold medals at any Winter Olympics(or G20 Olympics) that they finally felt comfortable enough to get rid of the hyphenation.
After the win, there was no question as to whether the billions spent was worth it. What price do you put on the extreme morale boast of a nation that comes from this type of positive exposure to the rest of the world? All Canadians were proud to be Canadians and especially beat the nation to our south that has a population 10 times our own.
I often wonder why I feel proud when one of my countrymen does something extraordinary and the rest of the world takes notice. Because with this line of reasoning, should I feel ashamed if a Canadian that I never met does something horrific?
When a great Canadian singer writes a hit song or an athlete breaks a world record, do other countries look at me and say, I must be just as great because I was born on the same part of the map as the great person?
And when some maniac from my country does something so heinous every civilized nation on the planet agrees, should I be considered cut from the same cloth and painted with the same brush as them?
If my city's football team wins a championship, does every other city consider me a champion of football and should be hoisted on shoulders and driven around on parade floats?
Should I be proud that every time an African does something amazing and stand up and cheer because at one point we all came from the DNA of a man and women popped out on this hunk of boiling hot muck?
I think not.
It's time now to get back to my origins of this letter to Stick.
Lately I've been extremely frustrated with my Thai girlfriend. Based on what I've written, maybe some of you can guess why. If not, let me elaborate.
She is a kind and caring person and if she doesn't see my points on the way certain things should be done, she often soon comes around, except if it has anything to do with Thailand and its culture, rules and laws. That is carved in stone and isn't up for debate or philosophical discussion.
Her argument always seems to end or go around in a circle that I must obey and listen to her points because this is the Thai way. Not the irrational premenstrual syndrome way, but the Thai way. Not the logical, Socratic way but the Thai way.
It's always the Thai way or the highway with her.
I'm not going to get into specifics because by Thai law I'm forbidden to speak my mind on what I find to be the absolutely ridiculous and every quest of Thailand already knows too well what I'm speaking about. Hush, hush, wink, wink.
Instead I would like to save a lot of rational gentlemen from losing their shit and doing something they might regret.
Might I suggest…Give your wives and girlfriends a break and cut them some slack. They like every other nation on earth consider themselves number 1 and it's not their fault. Save yourselves from that pain of walking around in circles and beating your head against a wall or bloody knuckles from punching holes in doors to get your points across in dramatic fashion.
Until the time comes when all the lines on all the maps disappear from our view and we all think as one mind, nothing is going to change. Some Greek I think said, "Half of all wisdom is just putting up with fools", and pretending to dignify their shit.
Of course it doesn't make any sense to ban porn, believe in ghosts, listen blindly to anyone in an orange sheet or believe everything you are told from childhood to be universal facts, however, if you want to get your favorite parts of being in Thailand and having a relationship with the Thai people, you have to bite your tongue and play dumb most of the time. Save your sanity, go and watch your favorite football team and remember, you are already a winner for being here, even if really, you aren't.