Andrew MacGregor Marshall recently commented, including the clause, “…what is going on in contemporary Thailand.” It was a good citation to the upheaval taking place at various levels in Thai society as a result of a maturing – albeit hardly mature in the classical sense – segment of Thai society that recognizes the fallacies of the past and the futility of dogmatism. Many of this new group are activists, publicly denouncing what they see as unjust laws and social values not so much out of being “bad Thais” as their detractors would claim but more so being people of frustrated conscience and ideals who have seen the hypocrisy and foolhardiness in established values that promote cyborg allegiance.
The old group is maintaining that “Resistance is futile,” and the reformers are saying “If you feel this way then keep it to yourselves and your group but don’t keep trying to force us into your convoluted idea of what loyalty and being a Thai means.”
Contemporary Thailand is caught in a kind of time warp/Black Hole where mighty forces are struggling to control everything around them in the traditional manner of sucking it into the dark and not letting in any light. It has worked for over half a millennium and those indoctrinated with the perpetual mindset that “as-was shall always-be.” They then also cajole their fellows by inculcating the idea that status quo is Thai, it is desirable, it is independent, it is good, it is what Thai culture is and needs. Cajole, of course, means 1.a): to persuade with flattery or gentle urging especially in the face of reluctance: coax <had to cajole them into going, b): to obtain from someone by gentle persuasion <cajoled money from his parents>, 2. to deceive with soothing words or false promises.” This should ring a few bells. “Ah, so that’s what’s going on!” Several state machinations to cajole the Thai public include that special kind of Thai flattery about being handsome and smart and loyal and worthy but only if you behave like a good Thai is expected to behave. Cajole in the Thai context also involves deceiving with persuasion, not so gentle as in the definition. The Thai persuasion method involves steel-trap legislation and social conditioning that forces independent thought to go into remission and copy-cat mimicry to take over – mimicry, by the way, that closely matches the state-mandated teachings, public reminders and wise leadership coaxing that serves the purpose.
As far as false promises are concerned, that would be bad enough. But to start out with false premises (a friend used to say that “If you accept the basic premise there is no problem.”) and compound them with compulsory false teachings, reinforced by law and social pressure groups – as well as backed with police and military – well, these have nothing to do with any government that represents itself as a democracy.
Most Thais naturally, and I daresay most foreigners naturally as well, love Thailand. Hardly anyone who visits the country goes away not wanting to return, much less not wanting to stay. There fruit tree is always ripe and low enough to be easily plucked, and while the weather is damned hot there’s lots of air conditioning and beer and ladies, wonderful food and great places to go…sure, why not just forget this other crap and let sleeping dogs lie?
Andrew M. Marshall was only one of many who took the conscience road. It’s not as easy as they tout it, and certainly not as irresponsible as it is put up to be. The latest litmus demonstration of this proposition appears to be Edward Snowden who, having worked under contract to the NSA, decided that Americans deserve a lot better and less intrusive treatment from their government than they were getting and grabbed the bull by the horns. He is now in Hong Kong providing food for thought to Americans, and of course, others around the world, who are watching their freedoms disappear in the wake of technology in the wrong hands – repressive governments and greedy corporations.
One of the aspects of life in our contemporary world, whether in Thailand or across the world to the United States and anyplace in-between, is the harshness of reality and opportunism that so many take advantage of – versus the impact it all has on you and me. Free speech, for example, is not under assault just from the post-9/11 era American state, but from global governments and rulers who have seen the benefit of lack of accountability, the advantage of lack of transparency, the positive returns of apathy and public ignorance. It is not a mistake. Our leaders, no matter what the country, have had their eyes opened by appreciating the reality of control of media, of orchestrating public opinion, of having recourse to armed merchants who, usually in the name of loyalty and national security, quash demonstrations and expression of viable viewpoints that could gain a wider audience.
Fathering a different ethic, perhaps more accurately THE OLD ETHIC, is becoming harder and harder as time goes by. Population increases, loss of basic moral and ethical values grows, and the necessity to resort increasingly often to force, violence and if need be, lethal compulsion, becomes the contemporary way of handling issues.
A great deal is wrong today, and recruiting well-meaning people who have their heads screwed on right and know that the public interest is not just also in their own interest but that it is the noble interest, is a serious challenge. Old fictional tales of the world gone amuck are suddenly reality at our doorstep and fiction becomes nonfiction.
Individual orientation in this kind of contemporary world is what governments are striving to achieve. It is also what, in this kind of contemporary world, that we who care must fight against. The fight will be long and difficult.