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.

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