Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Mandate of Heaven
Well ... the red shirts SHOULD have reached my house last night; being on Thai time, they are only just arriving now. However, the delay has been a severe miscalculation. It's now raining cats and dogs. Thunder, too. So, any blood thrown at the gates of the prime minister's house will be washed away by an act of god.
The clear implication, if you analyze this according to the animistic world view, in which every rock and stone and drop of water has consciousness, is that heaven itself is negating any spell which the red shirts might want to cast on the home of my fellow Old Etonian. And, as I frequently have to tell people, animism is the basic fabric of Thai religion, and this is true whether they profess to be Buddhist or Catholic. (Sometime I must tell the story of my former Muslim housekeeper, who claims to become possessed by Hindu gods from time to time.)
Now, please understand the unique symbolism for Thailand of this image. H.M. The King of Thailand holds a recognized international patent on a rain-making technology. In popular imagery, his "barami" is often seen as the rain that soothes the parched earth.
In the Hindu cosmology of divine kingship, which the Thais took over from the more ancient Khmer culture and which became inextricably woven into the fabric of Buddhism, an earthly kingdom is a reflection of a heavenly one. (This is also how the Byzantine Empire was run.)
There is therefore no escaping the fact that this rainfall will be widely perceived as the judgment of heaven, and that the fact that the red shirts were several hours late to perform their ceremony and encountered this rain is simply a matter of karma.
This is a country in which magic still works. There's reality, and there's truth. They are not always the same thing.
Then again, maybe they'll wait out the rain; I can hear them chanting right now. If they wait long enough, of course, the rites can proceed and and they'll all be dry....
More time has gone by and it now appears that they did succeed in getting some blood on the door, plus throwing a few bags on the roof.
They are now, apparently, on their way to protest at the American Embassy, having decided that the U.S. government didn't play fair when they warned the Thai government about some plot they had heard from somewhere ... I don't know, they tapped someone's phone or something....
I received a warning in my email from the U.S. Embassy saying that they might be protesting on the 17th, so it seems that once again, no one is paying much attention to schedules....