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.