Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Perhaps, a Deus Ex Machina

I was taken completely aback when unexpectedly, this evening, His Majesty appeared on television.  This is something we haven't seen for a very long time.  As I was switching channels, I caught him in the middle of a speech.  They were words of great import, spoken slowly and with great deliberation.  The King was speaking about big issues: duty, integrity, and honesty.  At one point, he said, "There are some people in this country who have forgotten to perform their duty," and he exhorted those he was addressing to set an example and "restore peace to the nation."

Now, as I had missed the beginning, I fully expected that the camera would zoom away to show the leaders of the red shirts and the government prostrating themselves at his feet.  Only the camera didn't zoom away and later I figured out through context that the King was addressing a group of judges who had just been appointed and were about to take up their positions.

In the end, I don't think it really matters who was the "official" audience for these words.  The message will clearly be seen as a message to the entire nation.

Last week, General Chavalit, allegedly closely associated with the red shirts and Thaksin, had publicly pleaded that His Majesty come forward and intervene, but his plea came with a thinly disguised threat: that the violence would become uncontrollable.  The King is a constitutional monarch and considered to be above politics, and had he answered the general's request, it would have put him in the untenable position of appearing to take sides in a political dispute.  Chavalit's gesture was widely criticized as putting undue pressure on the monarch — not because he petitioned the King — any citizen may do that — but because he made such a huge public display of doing so. meaning that being seen to have petitioned was the point — not the petition itself.  In fact, this may well have been a crafty plan to prevent His Majesty from saying anything.

If so, the plan has failed because despite the difficulty of his position, a way has still been found for the King to tell the citizens of Thailand that core values like integrity, justice and truthfulness are the means by which peace can be restored.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"And Jupiter aligns with Mars .... o/'"

As news came of a bomb going off at the home of coalition party leader Banharn, I settled down to watch a transvestite beauty contest on Thai television.  A thousand people in white went to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha to perform a ceremony to increase the karmic bank balance of the country, while in the heart of the red shirt camp, more monks were trotted out to perform a ceremony to increase the influence of the planet Jupiter in order to bring them victory in the coming fray.

There's been an outbreak of H1N1 virus amongst the red community, but Dr. Weng has announced that there is no danger because "it is so hot that you just have to cough, and the virus will die on contact with the heat." All this whilst demanding an "Erection in Thirty Days".  I'm not an expert on immunology by I suspect that if there are such viruses knocking around the plaza, they won't be as susceptible to heat stroke as the demonstrators.

It is very interesting to note that in a nationwide poll held by one of the universities, over half the population of Thailand seemed to think that this madness would be "over pretty soon".  Either the common man has a better sense of the body politic than the average pundit, or there's a lot of wishful thinking going around.

Meanwhile, Thaksin has surfaced to deny the rumors of his own death.  Abhisit did not capitulate to the red shirts' "30-day erection" demand, perhaps because, once the T-word came into use, it also created the new dilemma of whether it is permissible for a legitimate government to negotiate with same.  He could not capitulate and they knew that.  It would set a precedent whereby any mob could expect any demand from any minority, whose only requirement would be that they break laws and make a lot of noise.   Yes, the yellow shirts started this trend by seizing the airport and not getting punished.  But the government didn't capitulate to them; the judiciary was what actually gave them what they wanted.  This would be a first.

I watched with some consternation the redshirts' clip in which Dr Weng said (I'm condensing this) "The international community is all on our side.  Ban Ki-Moon has personally accepted our request for UN Peacekeeping Forces, and the only concern is that he may not be able to arrange them in time."  Dr. Weng then proceeded to read the redshirts' letter to the U.N. aloud, in English, as proof of all this.  The audience cheered wildly at inappropriate points, reacting only to Dr. Weng's triumphant tone of voice.  This is because most people in the audience probably don't speak English, and certainly don't understand diplomatic phraseology.  Dr. Weng didn't deign to read Ban Ki-Moon's response, if any.  The demand was already proof of its acceptance.

It's a pity that the red rally speeches don't have English subtitles because the international press would surely have a much deeper understanding of what's happening if they did.  One notes that the well-placed English-language slogans and placards are all the cues the international press picks up.  It has all the subtlety of Woody Allen's "What's Up, Tiger Lily?"

The speech was an ultimate victory of tone over content.  This could be said to be the theme of this entire fiasco of a people's revolution.  As Humpty Dumpty said, "When I want a word means something different, I always pay it extra."  A lesson which Thaksin has surely taken to heart as we begin to reassign definitions to such concepts as "democracy", "majority", and "peace".  (Perhaps he should consider also what happened to Humpty Dumpty.)

When someone emerges who truly  speaks for the values that the redshirts appear to espouse — a fair shake for the poor, equal opportunity, compassionate governance, and the ability to agree to disagree without resorting to grenade launchers — I will be first in line to join their cause.  

For now, though, I would continue to maintain that no one does.  In fact the only person who comes even close to wanting to bring about these noble ideals so touted by the red shirts is — ABHISIT!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Once in a while, I get a letter or email attacking me for my elitist arrogance.  These letters make far-reaching assumptions about who I am, or rather who I ought to be considering my family name and societal status.  For instance, here's one that excoriates me for being an upper-class twit:

Somtow, your condescending, self-satisfied bloviations do more to advance the case for toppling the aristocracy than a hundred hours or Ratchaprasong oration. But at least you have a good reason to fear an egalitarian society - without your royal relatives' patronage, your job at the opera would go to someone far more more talented and better liked.

Or else, they don't know anything about my family and therefore accuse me of some kind of pretension, like this one I just got today:

not favor demagoguery in any form but because I personally know people in the upper echelons of both sides 
 oh fuck off
  "because I personally know people in the upper echelons of both sides "
 don't be so stupid
 typical thai
 social climber
 hi so
   typical fuckin shit thai

Quite poetic, don't you think?

The truth is, I've rarely stated what I ultimately believe in, when it comes to the political situation, because this blog has been about telling my friends what I've seen and heard, the way I see and hear it.  And trying to stay logical.  The problem is that my personal feelings about this matter are not easily to categorize.  But let me try.

In my head, I am for as society that is as egalitarian as it possibly can be, where everyone has the chance to go as far as their talent and ambition can take them.  But in my heart, I am a monarchist, because the familial and societal connections are too strong for me to be otherwise, and because I am enamored of the beauty, historicity, and elegance of the traditional paradigm.

In my head, my sympathies tend towards the yellow view of society, not because I believe that the poor are too "dumb" to vote, but because I favor the Jeffersonian view that education must be used to evolve society towards equality for democracy to function fully.  But in my heart, I do have a lot of sympathy for the red end of the spectrum.  Not with their leaders, whose agenda is probably completely divorced from the reds' hopes and desires, but with the people themselves, because they have legitimate and important grievances which must be addressed properly if we are to be other than a feudal society behind a veneer of futurism.

In my opinion, these paradoxes are the same ones that cause such conflict in the mind of our prime minister.  Because, as an European-educated, typical British-style liberal, he could probably do more for what the reds really need than any number of Thaksins.  If they really wanted the things they say they want, and if they really understood the way that Abhisit was raised and the values that Europe taught him, the reds should actually make him their prime minister.  (Has any previous government in this country voluntarily paid compensation to all the victims of any kind of political violence, including agreeing to pay for the education of all bereaved children all the way through college?  Of course not.  This is an idea that comes from a western liberal way of thinking and it shows that he has really taken responsibility in the fullest sense of the word — not by some forced abject confession of guilt, but by actually looking after the victims.)  Abhisit is far more on the side of the proletariat than Thaksin's government ever was.  This is not of course true of those around him, nor does it seems to be true of many of the leaders of this "proletariat movement".

Conversely, the Thaksin government, despite many brilliant solutions to the country's problems, became increasingly dictatorial.  They certainly didn't shy away from massacring Muslims, shooting accused (perhaps innocent) drug dealers without a trial to fill a quota (did he compensate their families?), or slapping nuisance lawsuits on members of the press to muzzle them.  The PAD made a grave error in making corruption their main bone of contention because there were so many better bones which the foreign press would have happily gnawed at, whereas corruption charges in this land of rampant corruption can always be met with scepticism.  Thus in a sense, Thaksin was philosophically pretty yellow, although his yellowness was on the "wrong" side of the PAD's fence.

So this has been a war of labels, not of reality.  Words like "democracy" and "terrorism" are bandied about without much regard to their meaning.  Slogans have become substitutes for rational thought.  In fact, it's more true to say it is a war about "mislabelling".

As can be seen in some of the attack mail I receive, even I, your humble blogmeister, have been labelled with opposing labels, and have had to endure the abuse that was directed at the label, not at myself.   You can't wear a swastika and a yellow star at the same time.  Rational people wear neither — unless compelled to do so by some evil power — nor do they blindly pin such labels on others.

Today, the red shirts have offered what they say is a "compromise" to the government; they will give them 30 days to dissolve parliament which means that there are really 90 days, since it will take at least two months to have an election.

The red shirt position is in fact becoming increasingly untenable as this continues because its ostensible aims seem to conflict so much with the massing of grenade launchers, the covering of surveillance cameras with garbage bags, the patent lack of enthusiasm in the city for their cause, and the weirdly changing and contradictory demands made each day.

I do not think that any government which came into being by a legitimate parliamentary process should negotiate about anything at all until the atmosphere has become one of civilized, non-threatening discourse.  If this compromise is not to be mere posturing, it must begin with the voluntary disbanding of the protests to make way for such discourse.

This is as true now as it was when the PAD seized the airport.  The reds must remember that the PAD did not "win" before; the regime was changed by a judicial process, not by a threatening mob.  In a very real sense, the yellow shirts have themselves to blame for the current red shirt situation.  They created an atmosphere where the red shirts became possible.

There are, in fact, understandable reasons why an election should take place pretty soon, because the parliamentary shufflings under the current imperfect constitution have made a lot of people uncomfortable.  But forcing an election sets a very bad precedent.

If the government were in fact to capitulate, there would be, at least temporarily, a relief.  Democracy (the real thing, not the label) will, however, be set aside by this, just as surely as it would be if a coup were to take place.

Friday, April 23, 2010


As I was leaving a rehearsal of "The Marriage of Figaro" this evening, my driver told me that the radio was reporting bombs going off.

I went to Emporium to buy groceries and on my way out, around 10 pm, the iPhone news apps were starting to chime in.

Fie M-79s went off in Silom.  It's a couple of hours later and here's what I can figure out: the first three blasts landed in the same place, basically the roof of the skytrain station.  Two more came later; one in the street beneath the skytrain and the other at a major bank.  Casualties: 1 dead, 75 wounded, a few foreigners.

Who did it?  Police say the trajectories put their origin squarely at a red shirt stage behind the Statue of Rama VI.  The red shirts deny all knowledge.  Conventional wisdom among average Bangkokians has already prejudged them to be the culprits.

A few hours after the blasts, the Silom crowd are back in front of the Dusit, venting their rage at the red shirts.  Bottles and slingshots seem to be the main weapons at this stage.  The TV reporters noted, to our dismay, that the police weren't doing that much about it ... they were still reacting to the M-79 blasts.

The red shirts have been celebrating a civil court injunction handed down today that bars the government from using force to disperse their assembly.  However, the injunction also contained a proviso that it no longer would apply if the assembly was no longer peaceful.  Therefore, as pointed out in the Nation's "breaking news" just now, it no longer applies, and has been withdrawn.  If ever they wanted to claim justification for martial law and mopping up, it would seem they have achieved that.  However, that might well NOT be what they want to claim....

I imagine that in a few hours the spin doctors will all be ready with their versions of this.

After an hour or so of punditry, Jay and I watched the Takacs Quartet playing Bartok No. 6.  It's one of the many DVD's Jay brought back for me from the Burmese border, where dubious DVDs of really great music are available for a dollar each.

We're waiting anxiously for morning.  Trisdee will be here, still covered in volcanic ash.  I'm still not "scared" yet, but that may change.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pseudo-Reds versus the Pseudo-Army

Today, it is all about fakery.

The army says that the bullets on May 10th were fired by fake soldiers who were actually working for the reds.  They say their own bullets were fake.  The reds say that any reds shot anyone, they were fake reds.

The reds say that the stickets in Silom touting Thaksin as president of a new republic are fake red stickets, put up by fake red shirts.   They say that the Silom residents protesting against their presence are fake Silom residents.

They say that the flyers being handed out in Khonkaen demanding that the red shirts get the money they were promised for protesting are actually being handed out by fake red shirts.

The government says that the red shirts' video is a fake video.  The red shirts say that the government's video is fake.  Both videos have the same title.  They are, it seems, mutual fakes.

If both sides are to believed, everything is fake.

May I therefore refer you all to the teachings of the Lord Buddha, who tells us that the entire universe is an illusion.

It may well be that believing it's all fake is the only way to deal with the world.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Silence is Deafening

Four hours ago, it was announced that the red shirts would reveal their invasion plan "within the hour."  Their plan has now been revealed and it is in fact to do nothing.

Like Pavlov's dogs, salivating at the sound of a bell, the Thai army has been running around getting prepared for nothing.  One can only hope that when the real feeding time comes, they won't have been lulled into non-reaction.

Today I'm very depressed because George Scithers died.  This is the guy who found my short stories in the slush pile at Isaac Asimov's Magazine in 1977 or so, encouraged me to keep trying, and finally started publishing me in 1979 with such regularity that I was nominated for the Campbell Award twice (and finally won) without even having a novel out.  When I lived on the east coast I visited him frequently and it was through him that I became friends with many important figures from Isaac Asimov himself all the way down to ... :)  He was a really, really weird guy.  Whenever he bought a story, he would telephone and just say "Yes."  No "Hello, who is this, this is me...."  He once gave me four cover stories in a row.  And I will never forget his phone number: FUCK-415.

I'm also depressed wondering when Trisdee will get home.  I am sure he's burning up with frustration and indeed (to quote Lorenzo da Ponte) "nel petto un Vesuvio."  When I think of all the delicious food that is going uneaten as he languishes in the land of broodjes, I am very disturbed.  Today is the first rehearsal of the Youth Orchestra as well ... and our first flute is stranded somewhere in Europe.

Meanwhile, stickers proclaiming "Thaksin for President" have appeared around Silom.  The redshirts deny putting them up although they certainly resemble other redshirt stickers.  These could be the work of the mysterious "third party", the work of some extreme faction within the red community, or indeed, they could even have been put up by the government to discredit the opposition.  Whoever did it, it merely brings an underlying issue to the surface.  After all, the ostensible issue, the establishment or reestablishment of democracy, was one of the first casualties of this struggle, as evinced by every poll taken by every kind of pollster which puts the support for the redshirt's ostensible demand, the immediate dissolution of parliament, at around 25%.  Whoever put up the stickers is implying that the redshirts' real agenda is far more sweeping than just having another election — to which the government has already agreed, the disagreements being in the details, not the substance. Speculation and rumor are all we feed on.

No matter who did it, this raises the kneejerk index up several notches and may have ineluctably nailed up the coffin of peaceful resolution.  As John Cage knew, silence can be the loudest thing of all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Burning While Rome Fiddles

Since the Inspector Clouseaux-like bungling of the arrest of red shirt leaders a couple of days ago, all on the surface seems pretty quiet.  TNN, one of the all-news stations, hit an all-time low when it spent five or ten minutes analyzing one of the redshirt leaders' new hairdo. It seems he's had a red heart dyed into his thinning pate.

And yet, unlike in Europe, the wind is shifting.  (I await the wind shift in Europe anxiously because Trisdee is coming home and he only as a week to spend in Thailand before he has to go off and conduct again).

It's this quiet time whch is perhaps the critical one, because a deal is going to be made.  Favors are going to be traded.   No matter what happens, the cause of the proletariat will probably not be significantly advanced, because I am sure that their fate is not even on the agenda of any backroom discussions that may be going on.  And that, unfortunately, is the key to understanding what this is all about and why it has happened ... and the thing that the foreign press often misses in its desire to tell a story with a beautiful, Hollywood-ending arc.

Today, the NATION had to print an article denying a CNN suggestion that the anti-red rally photograph in the paper was doctored to make it look bigger.  Yet I've personally seen various crowds, pro and anti, that were often far less impressive than what you see on TV.

To top it all, the yellows had a huge rally on the campus of Rangsit University and they too have presented an ultimatum to the government: get the reds off the streets in 15 days or we'll come marching.

A friend of mine was dining near the red shirt intersection and decided to wander through the red crowd.  He was surprised to discover a few people he knew.  He said, "The view of these people as a seething mass of angry proles plus some elitist manipulating leaders is simplistic to say the least.  There's a few bourgeois idealogues mixed in there—and a smattering of people in the entertainment biz who were startled to see me, didn't really want their identities bruited about."  I want to mention this because we've all, myself included, been prone to stereotyping all the various factions in our desire to paint a pretty (or at least comprehensible) picture.

Pa Daeng went out to protest again last night, but she made dinner before leaving.  It was of course cold by dinnertime, but if a cold supper is the price of democracy, I don't mind paying it.  She came back exhilarated and exhausted.  One of my children also came back from the far north armed with incredible opera DVDs he had purchased from the Burmese border.  Like any true Bangkok boy who's just spent a week in the country, he staggered into the house and demanded Italian food.  The other child is still stuck in volcano ash somewhere in the wilds of Europe.  Like any Thai who's been spending months in Holland, he's going to demand "real food" if he finally makes it here.

I myself am off to give an interview on ASEAN TV this morning ... in which I won't mention politics.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Pa Daeng" - Wise Woman of Bangkok

My maid, known as "Pa Daeng" to everyone in the orchestra, is so illiterate that one day she brought up me a letter addressed to Vanina Sucharitkul, my niece.  I said to her, "It says Vanina, not Somtow."  She said, "Oh, I don't read English."  The envelope was addressed in Thai.

And yet. yesterday she came to the realization that she was one of the politically enfranchised citizens of this country.  She had been watching the red channel, the yellow channel, the state channel, the indy channel.  She comes from a village in Isaan which is redshirt to the max.  She said to me, "I'm going to go and protest." I assumed she would join others of "her kind," but she said, "If you don't mind, I'll take off work this afternoon to join the facebook anti-red protest."

Pa Daeng doesn't have a facebook page, but she knows it's something to do with getting people together. But she watches all the channels, red and non-red.  She has always been my source of infornation on things like how much the reds are getting paid to protest (she told me that an agent skims more than half off the top) and what the mood in her village is.  So, eventually, she made up her own mind, defied her friends, and went off to the Victory Monument to hold up a placard calling for parliament not to be dissolved.

Well, I'm certainly not paying her to do this.  Indeed, I try not to take sides at all, not only because I do not favor demagoguery in any form but because I personally know people in the upper echelons of both sides and I know they are not really as the media have portrayed them.  It is difficult not to take the side of reason, but I try to take a balanced view even of reason, as reason is not one of the laws of nature.  My discussions with her are usually no more political than dinner, the laundry, and so on.

No matter how this turns out, however, it is clear that it has caused people like Pa Daeng to feel empowered.  She now feels that she has a voice and that she has a right to express that voice.  It's right here in this house that democracy is awakening, not in the streets and not in the hearts of those who are simply being paid by one elite to take revenge on another.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Royal Anthem of Siam

A performance by the German American Community Choir of Frankfurt, the Orpheus Choir of Bangkok, and the Siam Philharmonic.

And to all a good fright....

Today is the Thai New Year, April 13th.  The streets are supposed to run wild with hilarity and we're all supposed to drown our pasts in torrents of life-giving water.  The mood in Bangkok is somewhat quiet, even glum.  Not surprising considering that, for now at least, the forces of anarchy reign victorious.  I walked out a few times, didn't get wet once.


And now it's the 14th.  You could call it the morning after but it really isn't ... Songkran is the day that stretches, especially if there's a weekend anywhere close.  It won't be over until maybe Monday.

The reds, are of course, crowing over their victories, and are the only people in Bangkok actually enjoying Songkran, but — though they may not think so — they are losing ground in some very important areas.  The government, of course, is hanging by a thread, having had a committee vote to send a 5-year-old financial mishandling case to another committee, which could cause the ruling party to be dissolved ... no time soon, but it puts everyone on edge.

While they've successfully paralysed the city of Bangkok, the reds have finally pissed off the people who have to live here.  The yellow shirts made an official statement: a petition to the government to proclaim martial law, arrest the terrorists, and not to dissolve parliament under any circumstances.  A group of (multicolored shirted) peaceniks is organizing another set of marches to demand that red shirts return home.  Red shirts beat up a taxi driver, disrupted a prayer meeting in which a group of white-shirted meditationists were praying for peace, and generally have been roughing up the populace of Bangkok, who aren't used to this kind of thing since normally in this town you can walk into the roughest neighborhood with impunity.

And, while CNN's cookie-cutter people's revolution had much airplay at first, it is now taken for granted that "someone in black" did all the shooting and grenade-throwing — from the red side of the line.  Yesterday, in the midst of Nattawut's rhetoric about the evil Abhisit, he also tried to explain that these merecenaries were actually government forces, disgruntled with the army, who of their own free will happened to be launching grenades to take out the commanding officers of the Thai army.

What this means is that both sides now actually agree that the army didn't do it, despite the rhetoric.  Abhisit has cleverly said that the reds are innocent and that the "rogue militia" were acting on the orders of a mysterious "third party" ... but it's clear that the citizens of Bangkok make no distinction between the reds and the "third party."

Having won, they believe, the red shirts believe that they can now demand anything they want, and therefore have gone way over the top: immediate parliamentary dissolution this second, Abhisit to go into exile, Abhisit to be arrested and tried for murder, a one-million-baht price on Abhisit's head, and so on.  Their demands are now so absurd that no one takes them seriously, and little by little, the "redshirt jokes" are starting to come out of the woodwork.

If their demand really was simply to dissolve parliament, that demand was in fact already satisfied long before the events of last Saturday; the government's offer to do so in nine months after fixing the constitutional errors that would cause a recurrence of the colored shirt problem was a very good offer.  They even pared it down to six.  In any civilized society that is an amazing concession for a vocal minority to get from a constitutionally legitimate government that is actually doing relatively well in office.

The fact that the government essentially acceded to their bullying, and yet they continue to bully, is convincing the average Bangkok person that dissolution is not their real aim — destabilization is.  And while the average Bangkok person doesn't particularly care what party is in power, he is getting increasingly angry with the disruption of his normal life.  Not just the businessmen who can't get to work, but the street vendors, kids who hang out in Siam Square,

This is in fact becoming sort of kafkaesque.  This evening, a cabinet minister was punched in the head by a red shirt while celebrating Songkran in the provinces.  Meanwhile, a day or so after the street fighting, tourists are flooding back into Khao San road and the hotels there are up to 90% after having dropped to 30%, meaning that perhaps Songkran in that street won't be a dead loss after all.  However, the heart of the city's commercial life, where the five interconnected Malls and a lot of five-star hotels are, is a sea of red; they're not doing anything, but they claim they will tomorrow.

There are really quite a few possible roads towards getting back to normal:  (a) the government declares martial law and the army mops everything up  (b)  the army gets tired of waiting and stages a coup, setting civil rights back 20 years (c) everyone does nothing for a while and it sort of peters out (d) the people of Bangkok take their city back (why not?  There's 13 million people in Bangkok and only about 50,000 red shirts) (d) the reds come back to earth and actually agree to a negotiated settlement instead of continually upping the ante (e) parliament succeeds in ramming through a vote of no confidence and pre-empts the reds' demand for dissolution  (f) parliament fails in ramming through this vote  (g) a real smoking gun is produced from all this footage so that we actually know for a fact who shot whom ...

What I want to say to my friends in other countries is this: there's very little fear here but a lot of grumbling.  Tourism in Bangkok is down, but going strong in all the beach towns and the north.  I'm perfectly safe as are my household, friends, and pets.  Trisdee called me, he's conducting up a storm in Holland, but he'll be home in a few days and he can't wait to join the excitement ... because, after all, this is exciting.  It's real history.  It's an important moment of political awakening for many Thai people who have been lulled into accepting corruption and inequities.  Despite the fact that one or two of Bangkok's hundreds of Starbucks aren't accessible, I wouldn't be anywhere else right now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Myths for Sale

It's a pity that there isn't a news organization that doesn't have something to sell.  I'm getting a lot of furious calls from my friends here who have been watching CNN's bizarrely skewed account of the happenings in Bangkok.  But the news story doesn't surprise me.  The idea that this is Bastille Day, that the disenfranchised peasants are rising up to topple an evil empire, is an idea that fits well into the way western culture has mythologized its own history.

The conception by most people in Bangkok, which is that a gang of illiterate, hired thugs has invaded the city and is in the process of tearing down the country's most cherished institutions, is also a kind of mythologization.

We need myths.  If it were not for myths, I would not have a career as a novelist; indeed, novels wouldn't exist.  The underlying myth can be more important, in the end, than facts, logic, and evidence.  One has only to look at any major established religion to see that.

The mythmakers on both sides are spinning overtime in order to establish their myth as the prevailing one.  It is as divorced from reality as the 4th-century battles over gnosticism and the monophysite heresy.  But that doesn't mean it's not important, because whichever myth wins will become gospel.  (I did not say "truth.")

As I write today, the red shirts have commandeered my street and are about to march past with 2 dead people and a larger number of empty red coffins.  The bodies were stolen from the morgue before proper autopsies could be done, so their value as evidence has been nullified.  We're waiting for autopsies on 11 other people whose bodies were not stolen.  But the autopsy announcement has been delayed for 30 minutes because the doctors cannot agree (reading between the lines).  I would think that, with 2 red shirt doctors on the committee, unanimity is probably unlikely.

Abhisit's announcements have been in every case away from mythologization and in the direction of common sense and the realistic.  This is why people think he is weak.  Today, he did use the t-word for the first time.  And the footage, much of it from the media, including international media, would seem to back up the idea that there is a Machiavellian, third interpretation of the facts that has some chance of being true.  That interpretation is that in order to manipulate the situation towards bloodshed and to ensure chaos, someone has embedded "ronin" amongst the redshirts who were charged with making that bloodshed happen no matter what.  In other words, terrorism.

Conspiracy theorists will be delighted to learn that whereas a Reuters journalist was killed, it is also Reuters footage that apparently shows armed people working from the red shirt side.  Here is the link:
http://www.tannetwork.tv/tan/ViewData.aspx?DataID=1027768  The footage was shot by whom?  By the same journalist killed by a clean and professional bullet through the chest.  So — stray bullet, or martyrdom to the cause of truth in journalism?

One channel reporting on the autopsies mentioned something about how some of the victims appeared to have been shot in the back, though no other channel mentioned this.  The actually press had no sound, only a voiceover.  This could mean the red shirts were running away (though from the footage it seems unlikely) or that embedded mercenaries didn't care about hitting their own people.

I think this is too complex a theory for the average joe to get passionate about.  Therefore, even it is true (and some pundits' analyses of all the footage are pretty convincing) it cannot sell as well as the idea of innocents storming the Bastille, or hooligans desecrating all that is Thai.

Abhisit's only chance to sell the story is make it, too, a myth.  And the myth most readily available, I would submit, is the myth of the trickster — Loki, in Scandinavia, and any number of names in the Native American mythos.  He would have to succeed in identifying Thaksin as the "trickster" figure in the story.

His worst enemy is his own intelligence and powers of reason.  They make him think that others, too, are reasonable.  He thinks that people have only to be shown the evidence, and they will change.  It won't happen.  If evidence were all that mattered, religion wouldn't exist.  We want to feel bigger than ourselves, to belong to a huge story, a collective destiny.

Many people in Bangkok are probably praying for a coup.  That is one of the worst things that could happen, though whether it's worse than anarchy is arguable.  I personally would pray for a return to the democratic process, which will not happen as long as people in rural areas haven't been taught what that process is.

As one of my colleagues said to me today, "Democracy will work in this country, as soon as everyone can read and write."  I'm afraid that is the root of the problem.  I pray for the day when people are too well-informed to be led astray, and too well-off to be bought.  Fix this first, and a proper democracy will follow.

Then again,  what is a proper democracy?  In classical Athens, there was a proper democracy.  Everyone could vote.  Well ... as long as you weren't a slave, a woman, or from out of town!  Is this the model we want?  Thomas Jefferson knew well that uneducated people might screw things up.  That's why the U.S. has the electoral college ... it's a holdover from a time when most people couldn't read and write.  Should we go with that model?  Britain has no written constitution.  Maybe that's the way to go: no more referendums or endless amendments.

Still, everyone can agree on one thing.  The Roman Empire was not a democracy — though the Republic was, in its way.  But when we look at how Imperial Rome operated, what do we find are its two pillars?  The Army, and the Mob.  Well, here we are!   Should we go with that model?   Why not?  It lasted longer than Thailand has, so far.

And now, the Conspiracy Theories....

Today, a relative lull.  The red shirts presented a petition to one of the coalition parties to try to pressure him to withdraw from the coalition.  (Did they get the idea from my blog?)  They also tried to bully the press, and seized some TV equipment for a while.  They were filmed covering up the surveillance cameras in the contested areas with trash bags, though if they're doing nothing wrong, one wonders why they'd want to hide it.  (The same with shooing the press.)  Tomorrow, they announced, they will parade two corpses which they stole from the hospital morgue around the streets of Bangkok.  It will be a bizarre sort of "victory parade" since they believe that, once people have been killed, they have proved that Abhisit's government is an evil dictatorship.  Other facts, like the four soldiers dead of bullet wounds, or the colonel blown up by a bomb, can be ignored.  The sin of selectivity besets both sides, but most people in Bangkok seem to feel that the reds' amnesia is more egregious.  I know this from walking around in a middle class (not high society) mall this afternoon and eavesdropping on people's conversations.  If Bangkok alone were to decide the election, it would be a rout.

Television has punditry on every channel, and few facts.  Every bit of the press footage is being looked at by everyone, and interpreted in every possible way.  There is enough footage to fit every theory.

Still, there are a few nuggets emerging that everyone does seem to agree on, and which feed the conspiracy frenzy....

There seem to have been bullets from AK-47s ... not army issue ... I think the Thai army mostly buys American.  Same problem with the grenades.

The colonel directing the army's actions last night was killed early on by a bomb.  In fact, all the army's leaders got "taken out" quite quickly.  How did they know?

A member of the orchestra has a close friend whose house was right next to the fracas in Phan Faa.  He relates that two soldiers fled and hid out in his house.  These soldiers insisted that the reds had hired out-of-town soldiers of their own and embedded them, with weapons, amongst themselves.

A question that perplexes me is this: if the soldiers were in fact ordered to kill red shirts, why didn't they just mow them down?  The haphazardness of the red deaths points to something unplanned and unexpected.  But the precision of the soldiers' casualties (ie their commanders) suggests something less random.

People are calling it a civil war, but I'm not sure it is.  In a war, both sides are trying to kill the other.  The goal of this battle, for the government, was not to hurt anyone yet still get them to stop occupying the business district.  The goal for the reds was to get someone to shoot so as to gain the moral upper hand.

Neither party really got what it wanted.  Somehow, the government did end up killing people.  But the reds also lost the moral high ground by not exhibiting any "non-violence" tactics at all.  Perhaps Dr. Weng should have shown a video of Gandhi; the reds would have seen that one sure-fire tactic for regime change is to just lie down and take it, for nothing moves people so much as bleeding heaps of people willing to be hurt for their beliefs.

It's been a quiet day and there's been a lot of reflecting and perhaps even self-recrimination.  But with tomorrow's corpse parade, the lines may well harden again.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wrath of the Gods, Part III

Tonight, we do not have so much a state of emergency as an emergency of state.  It is a day that began with an evil omen with three possible interpretations, and ended up with eleven dead people and absolutely no progress. 28 soldiers are being held as hostages.  Which means that we have left the realm of peaceful protest and entered the rocky territory of terrorism.

Many months ago, Thaksin gave an interview to the foreign media in which he self-righteously proclaimed that Thailand was a failed state.  At the time, that statement seemed ridiculous: the present government, which bears no real relationship with the coup that dislodged him, was moving successfully, if tentatively, toward fixing the economy, and was continuing, even improving on, the pro-rural-poor policies which were among the more positive aspects of Thaksin's rule.  (He is demonized by some and deified by others; the reality is far more complex ... if he has to be mythologized, it should not be as a god or demon, but as the tragic hero who begins his journey with every divine blessing and falls victim to his own hubris.)

However, a government that can't control a mob that bombs government buildings, takes over major thoroughfares, and answers rubber bullets with an AK-47 and exploding gas tanks is, by every practical measure, a failure.

We're not talking moral failure, or right and wrong, here.  Abhisit's government is by no means morally bankrupt.  Other governments we have had would not have used rubber bullets.  Thaksin's government had no compunction about the extrajudicial murder of accused drug dealers in order to fulfill a "drug war" quota, or of shooting at crowds of people as long as they were Muslim and in a distant province.  We're talking failure as in dysfunctional.

I thought the pundits would be all over this morning's omen — a Buddha image, a copy of Thailand's most sacred object, the Emerald Buddha, brought to the Rajprasong area demonstration and set up in a place of honour, tumbled to the ground and broke into two pieces just as they came to arrest some red shirt leaders.  However, apart from this news being tucked away in the NATION's iPhone news app, I never saw anyone else mention it publicly.   There has been plenty of private mention, though.

I see 3 interpretations: (a) The Buddha is angry at the red shirts and no longer wishes to protect them (b) the Buddha is angry at the government for trying to arrest the leaders  (c) The Buddha image represents the sacred wholeness of this country which is now irreparably broken.  As a novelist and a poet, I find the third interpretation to be the most powerful.

It's now about eleven thirty pm and the battles have calmed down, but there is no resolution.  The most disturbing event of the day is a non-event.  The Prime Minister did not appear on television to report on the day's events as he has promised to do each day.  Many in this town are complaining bitterly about how this would have been dealt with in the "good old days".

Speculation is therefore rife that, behind the scenes, Something Big may be going on.  The paper, this morning, said that "certain important parties" wanted this conflict to end.

I seriously do not think that dissolving the Parliament will solve things.  The population of Bangkok is now so fed up with the marauding mob that it's conceivable that an election held tomorrow would not go the way the red shirts had in mind.  And if it did, the yellow shirts would be back.

Maybe we need a more radical solution.  For example, instead of dissolving parliament, why not dissolve Thailand?  Not the country ... the word.

Many people of my parents's generation might agree that Thailand was born under an unlucky star, and that if we became Siam again, it would symbolically and astrologically heal the country.

It's not just the name, you see.  Siam was a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society.  The name Thailand was chosen in a jingoistic time, and basically exalts the dominant ethnos of this diverse country and turns everyone else into a second-class citizen.  It's a very nationalistic name if you happen to belong to that ethnos, but if you're a member of a hill tribe, or a Muslim, it makes you wonder if you really belong.  In fact, thinking of this country as the Country of the Ethnically Thai Peoples is the psychological block that prevents hill tribe members who have lived here for generations from being able to get  a passport.

Could not the idea of reaching out, of inclusivity, be re-awakened by the simple act of changing back the name?  And wouldn't this reconnect modern Thais with their history so that the land and its past are all woven from the same cloth?  And wouldn't tourists finally realize that this is not Taiwan?

Okay, it's a stupid idea, what's in a name and all that.  But in this country, when you have a run of bad luck, you cure it by getting an astrologer to change your name.  It might also work with entire nations.

If I think of a more practical solution, I'll be sure to tell you.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine who is a member of parliament sent me a message that in the Suan Benjkiti at 9 am tomorrow there is going to be a gathering of the "silent majority" who have had enough and want to take the country back.  "From whom?" one might ask.  If one only knew....

If you live on Sukhumvit, check that meeting out.  The note says "shirts can be of any color."

Addendum:  No, I'm wrong: Abhisit DID appear on TV after all, much, much later.  He said they would get to the bottom of the deaths.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Wrath of the Gods - Part II

As we all know, the heavens opened up to wash away the blood hurled at the prime minister's doorstep last week.

Today, as arrest warrants were delivered (or at least attempted to be delivered), a venerated replica of the Emerald Budda statue, brought along to the red shirt demonstration as a iconic focus point, fell to the ground and split in two.

The red shirts were so horrified at this omen that they prevented photos from being taken, but the news just managed to get into The Nation's breaking news.

I don't know whether such an event — involving no armed forces or throngs storming TV stations, will even be a blip on CNN — but I imagine that all the talk amongst the general Thai public is going to be about what this means, and whether it's a bad omen for the government or for the opposition.

Do you remember when the oracle of Delphi prophesied that "a great victory would be won" but didn't say by whom?

I can already see the rival schools of religious punditry sharpening their rhetoric.  On the one hand, this could mean that Heaven is dismayed at the government daring to break up the forces of righteousness.   On the other, it could be a symbol to the reds that they have gone too far.  It is also clear that some will say this portends the splitting apart of the entire nation, if the Buddha symbolizes wholeness, unity, and concord.

This is the morning when the religious celebration of Songkraan has already begun.  In temples and shrines, images of Buddha will being washed.  The thirteenth is the "official" Songkraan, but many ceremonies start this morning.

How the splitting of the image will be spun is going to be a major undercurrent of how this all plays out.  Of course, the key players may never confess to the foreign press that they are influenced by something as superstitious as an omen, so it might never make it to CNN.

Friday, April 9, 2010

And now: Rossini

Well, here's a litle video:

To show you that life in Bangkok goes on despite policewomen and monks slugging it out in front of the mall.

This concert went far better than it had any right to ... considering everything that was stacked up against it, including the fact that it almost got cancelled the day before.

Please enjoy this little excerpt.  A DVD will soon be available.

Shaolin Monks versus the Amazon Fuzz

So it's the third day of the state of non-emergency.  The demonstrators raided a TV station and got their station turned back on (I think ... my satellite isn't showing it, but the news claims it is back on the air.)  The army demonstrated a profound grasp of Humane Crowd Control 101 by throwing canisters of tear gas into the wind, thus feeling their opponents' pain in a touchingly messiah-like fashion.

The crowd then rushed back to the Corner of the Five Shopping Malls and set up a human shield of monks so as to scare off the policewomen who were in the front line of the army's defense.   Buddhist monks may not, even accidentally, touch a female.  However, it is my understanding that Thai women don't really have to swear an oath not to touch a monk; the rule only applies in one direction.  Who, therefore, will flee whom?  Which impiety will be more gross?

I believe that the Voice of America's headline, "Thai troops use force to quell protests," is a typical example of how the west reinterprets the world according to its own history.  What actually seems to have happened is that the protesters forcefully broke through a police barricade to try to get the TV station to reconnect their channel.  Talk about hogging the remote!  The Thai troops did attempt to use force, but they haven't had quite the experience of beating up the lower classes as, say, the LAPD.  (Yes, in the old days of genuine fascism and real coups, the Thai army knew a thing or two about attacking defenseless peasants, but most of these guys weren't even born then.)  Naturally, they bungled it, throwing the tear gas against the wind and getting it all over themselves.  What a bunch of schlimazels!

I'll let you know as soon as the standoff ends.  It must get worse before it get's better.  To paraphrase John Wayne, "Never send a woman to do a monk's job."

Emergency! Emergency! Zzzzz.....

Yes, we're in the second day of a official State of Emergency, but I don't see any tanks, tear gas, M-16s, or much commotion at all, really.  Indeed I spent the day having a very pleasant visit with the folks at ASEAN TV, a new channel which is going to beamed into homes everywhere and on which we will, it seems, have some kind of weekly presence starting in about two weeks.

Let's talk democracy for a moment.  As I understand it, one of the most important principles of democracy is that when you lose, you wait your turn.  Now, I've been looking at a lot of figures and percentages published by various pollsters and newspapers, and what emerges is a picture very different from that promulgated by the red shirts or, for that matter, by some of the foreign press who are trying to make this look like Bastille Day.

Most polls show that about 20% of people asked want the red shirts' agenda: an immediate dissolution of Parliament.  40%-45%, however, want this government to stay in office till the very end of its term.  The rest are, as they say. "somewhere in between".  Today, the Bangkok Post published a rather more alarming poll: 60% of its respondents think the army should just disperse the demonstrators, and only 39% think they shouldn't.

This 20% is a very interesting figure because in the televised "peace talks", Dr. Weng made the following curious point: "If you have five children, and one of them cries for attention, naturally any parent would cater to the crying child's need above those of the others."  He made these remarks before the 20% figure was published, I think.

This is true, of course.  Anyone who has several kids knows that when one of them is crying, you might well temporarily relegate the others to the background while dealing with that kid's problem.  That is true, of course, but it's not democracy.  In an actual democracy, the kids would vote, and the crying one would be out of luck.

So, late tonight. Abhisit appears on TV to explain the non-state of non-emergency, and was he says is a masterpiece of subtle and complex reasoning, full of the sorts of things that make a politician a politician.  "I'm not planning to disperse the mob," he says, "merely move them somewhere else where they won't disrupt the daily life of the city."  He has learned from Bill Clinton how to say "that depends on what is is."  And he is right, of course.  The state of emergency gives him the legal cover to do whatever the hell he likes, and if he doesn't send in the marines, he will be lauded for his restraint; if he does, the average person in Bangkok will just be pleased that their access to Starbucks has been returned.

Tonight, at the corner 7-11, I saw four women in pink shirts.  "Oh, how nice," I said, "you must be members of the pro-peace party."  Somewhat horrified, the lady at the counter said, "No, we just like pink."

My friends in other countries keep emailing me to ask me whether I've been killed yet, but of course that isn't really how we do things in Thailand.  Nevertheless, there's a rumor out that we should all be careful after midnight.  Jay and I were having some late night Italian food near the main street corner and when we went to the supermarket we did see a lot of red shirts zooming by in their pickups, chanting slogans through megaphones.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Probably not the right moment for our Prime Minister to behave like a gentleman; the red shirts are now using the old "briar patch" trick to get the police to look in the wrong direction, and they even managed to lock some of the police up in the park.  There are grenades and bombs all over the place, though they tend not to work very well or miss their targets.   A mother had to be rescued by cops when the red shirts wouldn't let her take her daughter to the hospital and the people of Bangkok are starting to boo the red shirts as they go by, meaning that altercations and perhaps violence might happen quite soon.

Many of the people I know are starting to wax nostalgic about the days of Field Marshall This and That and fantasize about the good old days when the army could go around shooting people on sight.  (Those, that is, who are old enough to remember what a real dictatorship was like.) But really, turning the clock back is a silly idea; the miserable failure of the 2006 coup to accomplish anything — good or bad — is ample proof of that.

It's almost 2 am and rumors are flying thick and fast.

By tomorrow, farce may well have crossed the line into tragedy.  But at least there'll be another "rap" from the endlessly inventive Purakhanda.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's a Rap!

I'm afraid that Purakhanda has been at it again ... two raps in two days!  There must be nothing to do out there in the wastelands of Europe except for combing through the internet finding amusing things to edit.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Easter Message

As an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, I might as well send an easter message to my throngs of disciples, which may one day reach double digits.

Though generally thought of as a Christian celebration, Easter has roots that go all the way back to Neolithic times.  The myth of the God-King who is killed, renews the earth, and comes back to life in three days is part of the very fabric of our culture.  The story is as old as agriculture itself; in its earliest forms it's usually explicitly a corn-god or other vegetation god, ripped in pieces by wild women, perhaps, or sacrificed by being flayed alive ... whether it's Tammuz, Xipe Totec, or Jesus, the basic story doesn't change that much.  A heroic demi-god comes down to earth, allows himself to be brutally slain, and the blood-sacrifice fertilizes and renews the earth.  Easter bunnies (which are actually of course, March hares, symbols of fecundity) and Easter eggs are all part of the pagan ritual that became inextricably intertwined with St. Paul's brilliant and cosmic realignment of events in a remote province of the Roman Empire.  It's a pity that some of the more fun elements, like the traditional spring orgy, have been sanitized away, but perhaps it's just as well, since we're all into safe sex these days.

This is a roundabout way of saying that on Easter, regardless of one's religion, it might be good to think of things like renewal, rebirth, and resurrection.  In Thailand, Songkraan is approaching.  The splashing of water also symbolizes fertility, hope, and fresh beginnings.  We are a day past Easter Sunday and a week from the annual ritual of cleansing and renewal.   Yet Bangkok is paralysed by gridlock and the prime minister is showing remarkable restraint ... a level of restraint which is causing some residents of Bangkok to wax nostalgic about coups and things.  This is therefore dangerous.

My anonymous colleague "Khlui Marana" has recently posted this interesting "rap" on Youtube.  It is of course a highly entertaining reductio ad absurdum of some of the Good Doctor's more ludicrous claims.  But it made me think.

I've always liked Dr. Weng.  Ten years ago, when he and worked together on the World Peace concert after the 9/11 catastrophe, I found him to be idealistic, passionate, and highly sympathetic.  How could he therefore believe that the Code of Hammurabi espouses democratic and peaceful demonstrations against the government, or that the British system of government tolerates massive demonstrations that clog main thoroughfares?  Or that Abhisit intends to slay the red shirts in a fascist bloodbath?  These are all words that came out of his mouth during the peace negotiations.

What the Code of Hammurabi actually says is that if a man makes a false accusation against another man, the man accused shall leap into a river.  If he drowns, the accuser gets to keep the dead man's house.  If, however, the river-god should prove his innocence by not swallowing him up, then the accuser shall be put to death and the accused will inherit his house.  It also says that if a man falsely accuse another of a capital offence and he is proved innocent, the accuser will himself be put to death.

Therefore, according to Hammurabi, Abhisit is home free, unless he somehow missed having swimming lessons at Eton.

As for the British system tolerating massive protests, I can't imagine the police sitting by idle if a seething mass of irate Tories were to try to close down the City of Westminster.  We probably need to set up our own designated Hyde Parks.

This kind of easily disproved and overblown rhetoric is not very helpful when it comes to solving Thailand's very real problems.  In the end, the red shirt movement has lost all the ground it gained when it appeared with the prime minister in a calm discussion of real issues on national television.

When I was about seven years old, there was a vast gap in what was essentially a two-class society.  In our home, and the homes of everyone I knew, servants crawled around on the floor and did not look directly at their masters' faces.   They were paid 100 baht a month and never had holidays.   There have, in fact, been enormous changes since then.  This was, after all about a half century ago.  Thailand's growing pains have been about the growing awareness and empowerment of the middle classes.  When the elites were a remote, alien race, and there was absolutely no concept of social advancement, there was stability.  It is the existence of upward mobility in the new society that incenses the non-upwardly mobile.  And the problem can only be solved by extending the ladder all the way down, and teaching people how to climb aboard on their own steam, not via handouts.

There are still two Thailands, but it's overly simplistic to think of them as rich versus poor, or elite versus proletariat, or even as city versus country.  In the end, the two Thailands are probably really Educated and Uneducated.  That is the heart of the problem, and where all our tax baht can be most wisely spent.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My Growing Shirt Collection

Last night I conducted the Rossini in purple, because I wished to show my affection for HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn whose birthday it was.  The concert went far better than expected: a standing ovation ... one gentleman in the audience said he wept three times ... and a wonderful after-party in the half-circle room.  The orchestra, whom I get prouder of every day, was assured and idiomatic.

Today, I was so tired that I slept all day.  When I woke up, the red shirts were blocking access to the city's finest shopping malls — they really got Bangkokians where it hurts — forcing the middle classes to go without Starbucks.  Their rhetoric has become more strident and they seem to have basically lost most of the ground they gained by appearing so reasonable on TV.  Perhaps it's because Thaksin, from whom they had seemed so ready to be divorced when they met with the prime minister, phoned in from some country or other.  Perhaps it's because shirts of other colors started their own protests.   It must also be rather galling that the TV punditry, in channel after channel that I flicked through, seems overwhelmingly to favor putting a lid on the rallies and placing them within civilized constraints, and that various polls conducted by universities show only 25% of the population of the country to be in sympathy with their demands.

Then there's the daily bombs; none of them ever hurts anyone much, and the red shirts deny all connection and have even ejected some more pro-violence elements from their membership, but they cannot help but cause people to suspect something underhanded ... either sabotage by the reds or propaganda-inducing self-sabotage by the government, or some other even more Machiavellian theory.

It is a good thing that the crowds have not been dispersed by the police — the time doesn't quite seem appropriate — but at some point, the people of the city are just going to become too inconvenienced.  At that point, something drastic may happen.  Today, the driver took the day off because there was no point in driving anywhere anyway.

The Bangkok Opera's concert season is already affected since our April 20th Italian Gala is having to be postponed.  Today, the kids' string quartet couldn't come and rehearse their Schubert because the roads were too clogged.  And of course, I have to avoid wearing half the clothes in my wardrobe in case there's a color that offends someone ... thank god I'm taking more drugs and going back to sleep soon.

As I write these words, a police deadline for the demonstrators to disperse has come and gone without anything happening.  The mysterious "Khlui Marana" is working on a "Weng Rap" from an undisclosed location.  

As I have vowed to take a two-week vacation (a working one) I believe that what I am actually going to do this week is to attempt to finally finish my opera, The Silent Prince....  Today, however, I am preparing myself for this daunting task by watching a lot of TV punditry, alternating with episodes of Star Trek — Enterprise, a show I missed when I de-immigrated, but recently arrived here in a massive box with dozens of DVDs in it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Little Poem

by S.P.

I said to Dr. W— last night,
“I’ve got severe thrombosis,
and anti-clotting pills won’t work —
What is your diagnosis?”

“What’s caused the gore to clog your veins
is upper-class derision;
Just shed a pint or two: you’ll end
society’s division.”

“But Dr. W—!” I cried in pain,
My stomach won’t stop aching!
My stools are tough as cinder blocks!
What pills should I be taking?”

“You can’t digest the biased media’s
Brown-nosing the state,
But if your turds have hardened thus,
Throw them at someone’s gate.”

“I thought I saw a million proles
in some hallucination
Being whipped to death by savage troops —
What’s the right medication?”

“Don’t worry.  Trust your inner eye:
Be not by truth enticed:
As I was saying to Napoleon,
‘Hi, I’m Jesus Christ.’”

...and now the Pink Shirts....

Well, Thais do have a love of uniforms.  University students take great pride in all looking alike (can you imagine students at Berkeley agreeing to wear a uniform?) and at my local bank, all the tellers have pretty purple outfits so that sometimes I feel more like I'm on a plane than trying to cash a check.

So it comes as no surprise that the anti-red, anti-yellow, anti-blue, anti-demonstration demonstrators will all turn up in PINK shirts this Saturday, much to the chagrin of the people's liberation front.

The choice of pink is rather special for me, even though I don't like it much.  You see, I was born on a Tuesday.  In Thailand, every day has its own color and there was a time when in the royal court, it was actually compulsory to wear the official color of the day.  So I could pretend they were all wearing it my honour, but in fact the color is a tribute to a far higher entity.

Although the red shirts gained much from appearing on the same stage as the government and being seen to state their case on nationwide television, some of their gains are being wiped away by a sort of demagogic truculence, and by the fact that other factions in other shirts are popping up everywhere, somewhat belying the idea that there is a sort of unified Vox Populi of whom the reds are the anointed spokespersons.  The yellows have been making pronouncements, and then there were the business suits, and now the pinks.  I am holding out for purple because that's the official color of the Bangkok Opera ...

... and, of course, the color of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, whose birthday is today and in whose honour we're performing the Rossini tonight....

A very happy birthday to her royal highness....