Submitted on Thu, 27 Jun 2013 - 12:33 PM
One emerging aspect of Thai political polarisation since 2006, or even slightly earlier, is that many people no longer hesitate to spell out their different political opinions.
Gone are the desires to save face and maintain an ersatz sense of consensus.
That leaves a challenge, however: how to live with differing political opinions without hating those who think otherwise, wanting to shut them up, even wanting to harm them.
Three recent incidents well illustrate how serious the challenge can be for people on both sides of the political divide.
First, there is the killing of anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activist and stock-market investor Akeyuth Anchanbutr. Those who observed discussions on the Internet on the topic could not fail to notice the numerous sarcastic remarks and 'delight' taken by some of Akeyuth's opponents regarding his untimely and gruesome death.
Some red shirts not only felt Akeyuth deserved to die, they even posted harsh comments on his Facebook page. Others made fun of the fact Akeyuth had recruited his driver and alleged murderer on the Internet. Then there's the inhumane and unsympathetic jokes about inviting others to take 'a ride' to Phatthalung, where Akeyuth's naked body was discovered.
When one can take satisfaction at joking about the death of others who merely see politics in a different light, a bit of that person's humanity is probably gone.
The second case in point was the recent attack by Chiang Mai red shirts on anti-government and anti-Thaksin white-mask protesters in the North. Here's a blatant example of Chiang Mai reds' failure to respect the rights of those who think differently about the Yingluck administration and Thaksin. There is no justification whatsoever for these red shirts to approach white-mask protesters and instigate violence. Chiang Mai reds could have let the anti-government protesters have their say while peacefully holding a parallel pro-government rally at another venue.
When anti-government protesters retreated to another venue purportedly privately owned, red shirts harassed and attacked them and forced them; to disperse. While some white-mask protesters responded by using force, the blame is squarely on Chiang Mai reds, who started it all.
Last but not least is a call by some anti-government protesters to not buy any goods or services provided by pro-government red shirts. This mentality reminds me of the Jews who had to carry a tag identifying themselves as such in Nazi Germany. Political hatred must be deeply consuming people if wherever they go, they must first try to verify if a certain product or service belongs to red shirts or others holding differing political views.
The truth is, it's almost impossible for the production and service chain to 'purify' workers into belonging to only one political group.
Many companies employ staff from different walks of life who naturally hold various political opinions - and it would be disastrous to not just the Thai economy, but to Thailand, if we allowed such actions to "segregate" our society.
Such political intolerance must be roundly condemned, and the challenge is for reasonable people to cultivate political tolerance without hatred.
If we allow political hatred to consume us and reduce the humanity in us - and it appears to be happening - we will eventually turn Thailand into a fascist society, no matter which side prevails. Those who think differently and are not in power will have no place to stand in a dignified manner without fear.
Today you may boycott goods and services from those from the opposite camp. Tomorrow you may sever ties with friends and family members who think differently on politics. And the day after, you may surprisingly find yourself promoting hate speech and violence against your political opponent.
I hope this is not the way Thai society wants to go.