Readers' Submissions

Generalizations Regarding Harry’s Generalizations




This is an open letter to Harry, aka, the curmudgeon of Hua Hin, in response to his painstaking parsing of my last article, “Why I Would Never Marry a Westerner: Lack of Anything”. If you haven’t read his articles on this subject, I suggest you wait until you either have a lot of time on your hands or suddenly develop a deep-seated masochism. Otherwise, I would give these a miss as I desperately wanted to so myself, except they were about me.

So Harry, I guess I really got under your skin as you must have spent an incredible amount of time parsing my words and then adding your own snarky comments. You would think that after working so hard on this project, you at least would get what I wrote correct. Instead, you got a lot of it wrong, like I am actually a friend of Nam’s, and Patpong does have a night market popular with non-mongering tourists. Still, that didn’t stop you from calling me an outright liar (porkies – thanks for the translation, who would have guessed?) It was a long and winding shout of “Get off my lawn!” from bitter old sourpuss who obviously has nothing better to do. And as for my wife holding a gun to my head, the only reason she would do that is if she found out I had written about her friends in a public forum. I will not bore you with a similar parsing of your articles, as I really do have better things to do. Instead, let’s look more closely at this idea that Thai people have no intellectual curiosity.

First, I wonder where Simon found this definition of “intellectual curiosity” which is "the ambition to find out more than just surface data and question why something happens or what information you are receiving". This is somewhat narrow, because if you google the term you will find broader definitions like "a term used to describe one’s desire to invest time and energy into learning more about a person, place, thing or concept." And if you think about it, except for people who are brain impaired (no offense, Harry), this is a trait not only of all humans but for most of the higher mammals as well. I think Simon’s definition is purposefully narrow because without it, he can’t really make his case that Thai people lack intellectual curiosity. And I think what he is really saying is that Thai people are not interested in subjects he thinks are important. A bit arrogant, wouldn’t you say, Harry? Maybe Thai people think he is stupid because he wai’s the waitress. I suspect that with big differences in culture comes different ideas about what’s important in life.

Now back to you and your screed about my article. Up until you went off the deep end, I actually liked reading about your observations of Thailand. Whether I agree with them or not, these kind of personal experience stories are always interesting to me. And I appreciate that you call your observations “generalizations” because how one person views something could be totally different from another’s. You might see a sun rise and declare the sun revolves around the earth, while I say the earth goes around the sun. One opinion is personal observation with no real thought behind it, while the other is based on solid scientific fact that has been vetted by qualified scientists. I use this analogy for a reason because your observation that Thai people have a limited amount of intellectual curiosity does not stand up to the facts.

So, what are the facts? First, the nonsense about Thai inferiority has been around for as long as western man has been in Thailand. I have read some of the earliest writings of Europeans in Thailand. They were mystified by Thai ways and thought them a backward people, ripe for colonization. What the Europeans didn’t know, because like you they assumed the Thais are simpletons, was that the Thais were watching them as well. Only unlike the Europeans, they correctly saw them for what they were: greedy barbarians lusting for more colonies. Besides being slowly surrounded – the British in China, Burma, and Malaysia while the French occupied all of Indochina (that’s Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia for you Harry), the Thais also correctly assessed they didn’t have the modern armaments to repel a western army. So they cleverly played the British and French off one another while trading for modern weapons. Once they had the ability to put up a good defense, the British and the French realized their mistake and instead of fighting what would have been a huge war far from their native shores, they declared Thailand to be neutral territory. Thus did Thailand become the only SE Asian state to avoid colonial rule.

This survival instinct kicked in again when on Dec. 8, 1941, (that’s the day after Pearl Harbor, Harry) Thailand was invaded by Japanese forces just south of Prachuap, and they demanded to use Thailand as a base to attack Malaysia and Burma. Realizing they could not resist this superior force, the Thais agreed and allowed their country to be ruled by proxy (avoiding a full occupation). In the meantime, they were secretly organizing a small but effective insurgency supported by the British and America forces. After the war, they mended fences with the west and become close allies with America. During the Vietnam War, Thailand sent just enough troops to keep the America happy. You should read, "In Buddha's Company" the book about Thailand's role in the Vietnam War. You would read that the Thai troops, unlike the Americans, easily adapted to their new surroundings and made friends with the local Vietnamese villagers. As a result, the VC rarely surprised them.

I’ll stop my history lesson there Harry, unless you want to pay me to be your tutor. But looking at these facts, does this sound like a people lacking in intellectual curiosity? In fact, I believe there is an amazing resiliency to the Thai people that should not be overlooked. Ah, another definition to consider. Resiliency: “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” How do people become resilient? By wandering around asking stupid questions? Or maybe there is an innate intelligence to the Thai people, not easily understood by western people (especially those who mostly hang out in the ex-pat ghettos of Thailand, right Harry?) regarding a curiosity for all things important for survival. Thais may have little interest in Pythagoras's theorem but they can be pretty damn smart when it comes to surviving the challenges of living in a 3rd world country. Don’t you agree? Oh yeah, you have never been poor in a 3rd world country. No worries; a few more Thai girlfriends and you will be.

Well, that pretty much debunks most of what you wrote last week, right? But what I’m really concerned with is how you came by these “generalizations”. You seem to speak basic Thai but not fluently. Is that why you live in the farang areas of Thailand? The Thai people who service you speak a little English, just enough to help you with basic needs. After a while, it seems you decided their simple questions and answers are result of a lack of “intellectual curiosity”. Correct?. Yet you also lack the ability to speak to them beyond a 9 year old child. Have you had many deep conversations with a 9 year child before, Harry? Oh yeah, there was that girl from Singapore who was so much smarter than Thai people. But isn’t English the Singapore national language? So she would naturally be able to communicate at a high level, right? But really this whole disrespect of the Thais happened after your unfortunate marriage to a dragon-lady. I feel for you Harry, but you know what? I had a similar Thai girlfriend once and it didn’t end well either. But I didn’t blame an entire country for the sins of one person. Are you still grinding you teeth over your ex-wife? Is that why you now think Thai people are lying connivers? Well guess what? They think you are shallow and only interested in booze and sex with whores. What a lovely symbiotic relationship this is; each dependent on the other and each despising the other. Is it any wonder you may soon grow tired of this insular world you created and decide Thailand is no longer the land of your dreams? I hear a lot of disgruntled ex-pat’s are moving to Angeles City. I wonder if Filipino girls also lack intellectual curiosity?

Yeah, it’s hard to understand the real Thailand when you spend most of your time in the unreal ex-pat areas where life is perverse version of life in your home country. Only here, you don’t understand the culture or the language and all your girlfriends are rented by the hour. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. If that’s what you like, then more power to you. But hopefully, you do realize it’s a small, small part of a much greater and more interesting Thailand. Does that interest you Harry? I have been to these parts of Thailand and met the people who live there, and I can tell you it is ten times the experience you will ever have in any ex-pat ghetto in Thailand. Oh well, to each his own.

Harry, if you want to continue our little discussion without boring the rest of Stick’s audience, you’ll notice my email on the bottom of this page. Feel free to use it