Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A few small clarifications

I'm putting these here rather than answering the comments in the comment section because they might easily get lost.

Thank you for the overwhelming response.  Much of it may have been preaching to the choir, but I hope to have made at least a few people get a more realistic picture of all that is going on.  Even in the negative comments, there were many valid points and if I were writing a book about all this, I would also have given them an airing.

There are a couple of things though that might have come from my own haste to get words into the ether that perhaps I should clarify.

Many people are furious because they think I said "there is no gap between rich and poor" or words to that effect.  My assumption was that people had been following this blog, but obviously there are many new readers.  I discussed this issue a few weeks ago.  I said "unbreachable gap" because my point is that such an "unbreachable" gap always existed in the past and that in the past twenty years this gap has become "breachable."  In the tiny period that I lived in Thailand as a child (early 60s) (for about 5 years between the ages of about 7-12) the class structure was in full swing.  The elite were the elite.  The peasants were the peasants.  The gap was unbreachable 40-45 years ago, when I was little.

Now if you grow up believing fervently that the gap is unbreachable, you don't try to breach it.  But now there is a growing middle class and indeed the old elite is getting pushed into the background.  It because it is clearly seen that the gap CAN be breached that the poor have finally been able to see that they can have a real voice.  In that this has happened, I am entirely pro-red, as can be seen if you scroll back far enough in this blog to read my criticism of the yellow shirts' condescension.

I've also been attacked a lot for bringing up the racism issue.  It is, of course, offensive.  And should be.  It is nevertheless a real issue.  I know because I, who left Thailand at the age of six months, never entered the Thai educational system, only learned the language at the age of 8 and only started studying the culture in the 1970s, have had a hard time dealing with this racism myself.  I still cannot entirely dislodge my ingrained feeling in the innate superiority of the culture I was brought up in — Western culture.  I have often been as guilty of this cultural chauvinism as any of my attackers.  I don't think we should rid ourselves of it ... it is part of who we are.  I think we should face it and understand it.

As for those who lecture me about the finer points of the American system: I would remind them that they probably didn't have to take a test to become an American citizen: I did.

I'll gladly confess that it is an overstatement for me to have said the soldiers haven't killed ANYONE at all except in self defense, but that doesn't really undermine my basic premise.   All the accusations of massacring women and children have been in the "When did you stop beating your wife?" vein.  The soldiers have clearly been given instructions to shoot real bullets only in self-defense and they are clearly attempting to do so.

If this were NOT the case, Rajprasong would look like the Amritsar Massacre.  (Remember that?  It was when the British army fired on peaceful, unarmed protesters and killed women and children.)  Amritsar is what they were hoping for. ... that would be a case for a U.N. tribunal.  This is not it.


  1. I live in Bangkok. I think this site is either very busy or more likely being blocked. I had no trouble getting here an hour ago. But now I am using a proxy to access this site.

    People might want to Google on "Vidalia"

  2. I think you best summed it up with words you wrote many years agao "The inquest is falling"

  3. I never post comments, but your expose in Don't blame Dan Rivers is masterful. Why can't the Thai government ever use professional PR tactics to get their point across to Western "Liberals". I am appalled at the crass and rude questions of the BBC World Service to Abhisit recently on Hard Talk and to Korn today. Totally unresearched and crass. The self-important Ms Hassan in a telephone interview asked Korn if he thought Thaksin was behind it all. He replied of course and that evidence came from his telephone comments to the Thai people urging them to bring down the government and offering all kinds of goodies if he returned home. Do you have evidence of these telephone calls, the interviewer asked (sic!!). Korn just laughed - every Thai has heard them, he said. How has the BBC fallen so low. Even Al Jazeera is much more objective. keep up your good work - you say it all so well - HW

  4. Taan Somtow krub, you are my hero! I've been trying to explain to my foreign friends about what is happening in Thailand over the past weeks, and you've summarised everything in such a precise, articulated and well-balanced manner, and it is by far the best account ever written in English on the internet. I hope you don't mind if I pass on your wise words to my friends. Whilst I was in the Viennese opera house, watching 'Manon' (Anna Netrebko) last night, my country was burning. Watching Bangkok burn from another country is nothing but torture; as soon as my mission at the 19th CCPCJ is done, I'll get to go home and be with my loved ones. I just hope that Thailand won't end up like a typical greek tragedy with people only appreciate what they had once they've lost it. We need to get your article published! If they government are too preoccupied with matters on their hands that they overlooks the power of the media, I feel that it is our duty to help clarify to the international media. If there's anything I could help you with, please let me know na krub.

    From your admirer

  5. Following the stiuation from Japan - in general, the coverage here is much more nuanced than that I am reading in the American media and on BBC.

    The Japanese news on TV Asahi last night showed footage of a journalist following soldiers in - quite different from the footage I have seen on the Western media. It was clear that the soldiers were not indiscriminately firing - though machine guns can send out a lot of bullets in a hurry. There were a couple times when it was clear that the soldiers were being shot at.

    I wonder why the Japanese correspondent was allowed to follow the soldiers - and also why I haven't seen any such footage from the Western media.

    I also looked your point about the language barrier - this occurred to me several days ago. the same happens here in Japan - some correspondent is sent over with no or little Japanese language ability and starts pontificating on Japanese culture. Can't the Western media find bilingual people to work for them in Asia?

  6. The mainstream network news in the US (ABC, CBS, NBC) began reporting the story on the nightly news only when the stagecraft turned violent. 60 second stories without commentary or analysis. The Red Shirts are poor and from the North, affiliated with Thaksin. They rejected Prime Minister Abhisit's generous peace, and are unyielding, so he has taken to calling them terrorists. My Thai friends who have been keeping me up to date via the internet have said the same.

    The NY Times took the story to page 1 when the general was shot in the presence of its reporter. Otherwise, it would have remained compartmentalized.

    I haven't seen CNN, BC, or Al Jazeera coverage.

    I don't think the Western media has motives. Maybe the mad lib narrative can be regarded as institutionally racist, but it is clearly true that the West is not competent to report on Thailand. It does so anyway because it has pictures and video that will make them feel professionally relevant and their bosses happy because those of us watching don't click Next.

    I know a little bit from travels, study, and friends. I know the chronology of political events beginning around 2006. I get that city life is materially different from rural life. I'm not speaking here of class difference, which is an unbreachable gap in Thailand (no judgment -- it is what it is). City people live in apartments with some type of a/c and pay a relatively princely sum to eat food they did not grow. Rural people live in houses without plumbing and eat quite well themselves for a lot less. But if you are young or old, you are more vulnerable to die from illness.

    A survey of hundreds suggests to me that most rural people are indifferent or accepting of the difference; some covet a different life; and a few will speak of a social cause.

    I have been told by people who I know to speak only truthfully that there are genuine activists and malcontents among the Red Shirts, but it is also a paid operation. I have heard that many who signed up are not getting paid what they were promised and that Red Shirt bosses who recruited them had tricked them into handing over IDs for "safe keeping" and would not let them leave with their IDs when the demonstrations turned into more than they had bargained for. I think a journalist should investigate that and report on it.

    While Thaksin was popular in the rural areas, it wasn't because the Thaksin administration did things for them. It was because he mixed money and propaganda in the streets around election time.

    Today it looks like the government will be able to restore order in Thailand. But it feels like Thailand will remain as stable as 2006-20010 (or more so probably) -- if the people do not trust the government. Majority in the US right now do not trust the government. We also are in deep trouble because of it. I watched an interview with the PM of Singapore on Charlie Rose recently and he remarked that his #1 responsibility was to not breach the trust of the people because nothing can be done without it. It's a good first principle.

    Stay safe.

  7. Oh, I should have given the link to the interview with Prime Minister Loong. It demonstrates what you say about the difficulties of the West and Asia having a conversation. Charlie Rose is one of the nicer, more intelligent hosts. He sees greatness and cleverness and reason to celebrate everywhere.

    But in this clip, it's painful as he flails with leading questions, trying to get PM Loong to participate in prepared threads on China, India, and democracy.

    CHARLIE ROSE: How do you measure your commitment to democracy?

    LEE HSIEN LOONG: I think we measure it by the legitimacy of the
    government and by the results, how Singapore works and whether Singaporeans
    are able to have a better life.

    CHARLIE ROSE: Is it Jeffersonian democracy?

    LEE HSIEN LOONG: I don’t -- we don’t measure ourselves by an American
    model to how -- to what extent we approximate you. The countries which
    approximate you most closely in Asia, probably the Philippines, operates
    very differently from American democracy.

    So we’re not trying to approximate you. We are trying to find a
    formula which works for Singapore.

  8. Great work! I was delighted to find your site today and stunned to find such well written articles that lay our the situation so well. Wonderful. I'm also in Bangkok and had no issues at all accessing the site.

  9. Well I'll be goddamned. George Orwell is reincarnated and he's Thai.


  10. PR from CRES is showing everyday.

  11. Hi Khun Somtow, again, another good response! Thanks!

  12. I agree that many Americans especially those of my generation (age 60+) including those with good "critical thinking" ability are still dismissive of Asians, all the more remarkable when comparative achievement post WW2 is considered. Obvious to me when I take my Thai wife back, but they seem unconscious of the many slights they make. So your racism thoughts have legs.

    ON the other side many Thai who consider themselves educated are unaware of their own prejudice agianst Isan and especially Laos. Visit Vietiane and see the behavior of the Thai tourists. I guess everyone wants to look down on someone.

    Perhaps you've discussed this but it seems to me that the Confucian educated class in BKK are generally deficient on matters of history. Few know for example the events of 1932 to 48 or so. I don't know whether Thai history of any depth is even taught in Thailand. Taking a look at comparative situations such as Diem's Vietnam in the late 1960s, Italy in the 1946-1975 period, or the Russian revolution would help people to undersatnd the drift of things and perhaps allow for some constructive thinking and planning when the shouting is over, which we can hope will be soon.

  13. Daniel, that's a great post, thank you!

  14. George Orwell? Hmm ... well, he and I did go to the same school.

  15. Khun Somtow,
    Thank you, thank you - all well said. I'm American and I've lived in Bangkok for 2 years. I am regularly appalled and embarrassed by my farang friend blatant racism toward Thais. Even to so called Thai "friends". I love this country and it hurts to see it torn apart.

    Take care.

  16. Jack, I think this is a very good point. I've played the "racism card", much to the ire of some, because I want to jolt people into a bit of self-examination. The anti Isaan prejudice that you speak of is a very important element in all this and — just like the prejudice I've discussed — is at its most perniciious when people are least aware of it. Racism is really part of the human condition ... it may even be a genetically coded thing, something that allows us to protect "our own group". If we suppress it, it's still there underneath. Better to acknowledge the darkness within and try to understand it.

  17. On the racism thing... Yeah the west has some ingrained racism. Its not anything overt like "those stupid Thais don't know how to be democratic". Its just that they keep Thais in a separate compartment from themselves.

    Even speaking to westerners living in Thailand, who really should know better, they talk to and about Thai people different than other Westerners. "The Thais like this" or "the Thais do that". Not speaking against the Thai people but at the same time holding them at a distance. The Thais are always "the other".

    And that mindset colours everything. Every democracy has some questionable moments from time to time, yet when its a western government people don't instantly assume that such an event automatically makes the country undemocratic, and everyone in that country fighting against the government automatically fighting for democracy.

    When its a western government we see them as "one of us" and we immediately question how things got to a point where democracy is under threat in one of "our countries". You dig deeper and find the whole story. Because "our countries" are always democratic.

    But if its a non-western country we're more likely to generalise. Thaksin was in power, there was a coup and he got kicked out of the country. Now people are protesting the government and wanting Thaksin back. We accept that "other countries" aren't always democratic. Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, they're usually military dictatorships over there, right? And these redshirt guys say they want democracy and they like this Thaksin guy, so Thaksin is pro-democratic and the Thai government is a military dictatorship like all the rest.

    Most western people have the white man's burden thing going on where we want all those poor countries out there to be democratic (so you can be like us!).

    So... we jump to conclusions think that redshirts are being oppressed by the military, Thaksin was forced into exile because he's pro-democracy. No need to dig further, thats how it usually goes in all of "those countries".

    As a western person, let me say I'm sorry for our ignorance. And I'm even more sorry that we can't come to grips with our low-level racism when thinking about other countries. Admitting we are a bit racist is hard, because being a racist is the worst thing you can be in the West. We live in denial of it so the problem never gets examined.

  18. Andrew, thank you for this. Many of the attacks on my post have said "You're just another fucking Thai making the tired old excuse that we dumb farangs can't possibly understand you." My post said nothing of the kind. In fact, I was attempting to provide at least ONE way by which a farang CAN understand: by looking past certain ingrained preconceptions. And of course, the assumption in that accusation is that only a "fucking Thai" would say this. People who know me also know that I'm an American citizen (as well as Thai) and have only spent a small part of my life in Asia.

  19. So, what should the government do now? I'm most intrigued by your observation that the unrest is about the rise of the middle class. I would be most intrigued with your answer.

    But, when you answer also please hold yourself to the same standard you would want in a thoughtful CNN piece. I say this because I thought that each of your 15 points in your previous post could have been more fair, more complete, and more nuanced.

    I ask this as an admitted Western racist and arrogant member of the middle class.

  20. Andrew have another read of Mr Somtow's comment above yours. The West does not have the monopoly on racism and ignorance.

    How about spending a couple of minutes doing a meditation on the similarities of all humans, hair on the head (maybe), hair on the body, nails, teeth and skin

  21. So, what should the Thai government do now? I ask in light of your observation that the unrest is about the rise of the middle class.

  22. This blog is just the biggest pile of morally relativist rubbish this side of the Iraq War. The ideas and intellectual reasoning are inconsistent, incoherent and based in nothing more than this self-constructed pseudo intellectuals mis-interpretations. Som Tow you have acquired the status of the Fukiyama of the Thai blogging world. Well done.

    For a start there is NOTHING at all factual in this blog.

    Dan Rivers had ON FILM Thai soldiers MURDERING people. ON. FILM.

    Dan didn't theorise those deaths on a blog while sitting at his PC in N. Thailand.

    He went out with his film crew onto the streets and filmed it.

    This "he is foreigner he doesn't understand Thailand" line is as spurious as it is idiotic.

    The upshot of this blog is that only Thais can make a call on what Thais do to each other or how they are perceived.

    The other upshot is that only those foreigners who accept the dominant representation of Thailand understand it.

    Now, I know plenty of Thais who don't get it.

    100 of 1000s of them.

    Like it or not, agree with them or not, those Thais don't buy the dominant line on what is Thai. In fact, they LOATHE it.

    And as for your spurious appalling moral relativism - what say you about Apartheid? The Holocaust? Iran? China? Anywhere else in the world?

    Or, are you going to argue that to comment on those things is wrong and racist?

    And as 60 Thai citizens lie dead on the streets of Bangkok your chosen blog subject is.... Dan Rivers.


    Hope you enjoyed the massacre as much as your cheerleaders did.

  23. As for Racism what do you think about the blatant racism directed at central Thais towards Isaan people?

    Why are you only allowing positive comments on this blog? Seems that you can't take an argument.

  24. Why are you painting Thais as the victims of Western racism while Thais are murdering each other on the street?

    Seems a bit of an odd line to take on all this.

    Shouldn't you be more concerned with the very obvious Thai on Thai racism?

    The hill peoples of N. Thailand are treated like dogs by wealthy rightwing Bangkok Thais - as are Isaan people.

  25. I too think you're right about the racism, though "cultural elitism" might be a better term for the sub-clinical cases.

    That said, the Thai government does need to a robust PR department, with no shortage of English-speaking, Western educated bilingual staff (don't ask me where to find these people, I don't know). NOT because Western opinion or culture or thinking is necessarily important if you're not a Westerner; but because Western media is, in its own special way, an international hazard (think in terms of risk management). Particularly hazardous is the English-speaking media (and here you see my own elitism creeping in: look, says I, even our media is more influential and therefore frightening and therefore important than other media).

    Once an idea gets passed around, nobody can predict what might happen. Economies are sunk, international organizations cry out, celebrities shave their heads, peacekeepers are deployed, social structures are torn up by their roots and devoured by ravenous... well I won't dramatize but the point is that governments need some protections against hazardous circumstances, and international media attention falls into that category.

  26. Thank you for your view of the situation in Thailand. I am sympathic with the red shirts, but I'm not convinced they have taken the best road in their quest for change. The emails I have received from Thai friends in the middle-class indicate the rift between the classes has deepened. It is painful for me to see what is happening in the Thailand I love. I can only hope that things settle down soon. If not, everyone will suffer for a very long time.

  27. Keep up the good work, enjoy reading your articles.
    The future looks pretty bleak though after all the burnin'& lootin'...

    Finally, do yourself a favour, don't allow anonymous comments!

  28. So where do we go from here? History is not predictable but some knowledge of it opens the mind to possibilities, for better or worse. How about Italy 1945 after an even greater trauma? From Wikipedia:

    Italian Republic (after 1945)

    The First Republic (1946-1992)

    In 1946, King Victor Emmanuel III's son, Umberto II, was forced to abdicate. Italy became a Republic after the result of a popular referendum held on June 2, 1946, a day celebrated since as Republic Day. This was the first election in Italy allowing women to vote.[50] The Republican Constitution was approved and came into force on January 1, 1948.

    Under the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947, the eastern border area was annexed by Yugoslavia. In 1954, the free territory of Trieste was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia. In 1949, Italy became an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan. Moreover, Italy became a member of the European Economic Community, which later transformed into the European Union (EU). In 1950s and 1960s the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth.

    Italy faced political instability in the 1970s, which ended in the 1980s. Known as the Years of Lead, this period was characterized by widespread social conflicts and terrorist acts carried out by extra-parliamentary movements. The assassination of the leader of the Christian Democracy (DC), Aldo Moro, led to the end of a "historic compromise" between the DC and the Communist Party (PCI). In the 1980s, for the first time, two governments were managed by a republican and a socialist (Bettino Craxi) rather than by a member of DC.

  29. Dear Khun Somtow,

    Thanks for taking the time to address these comments.

    I can see your point on the 'unbreachable gap between rich and poor'. My mom who is in her 70's still has that mentality of peasantry and patronage, although she is full of kindness. I however constantly feel the urge to go out and champion a people's revolution where every person is given equal opportunity to quality education and infrastructure, so that the poor can understand that they can empower themselves in ways other than associating themselves with the rich and powerful by serving them on their knees.

    Back to our subject, I can see this psychological drive to breach the social classes affecting the lower-middle class and above now, but I definitely can't see it in the poor. When I say poor, I mean blue-collar workers like construction workers, farmers, street vendors, motorbike drivers, laborers, etc... My assumption is that they realize their future is pretty bleak no matter how hard they work, which is why when the Red Shirt leaders show any semblance of light for them, they follow. I agree that there is a growing middle class, but I think the poor especially the rural poor (if not the rural community altogether) are still very much controlled by this dated elite/peasantry/patronage mindset.

    I was born in the late 70's so I'm not in position to make an assessment on this, but I also feel that it was easier for my parents generation to 'make it' up the income ladder. Maybe it was because back then we lived in an agrarian or industrial society, so people pretty much started on the same competitive footing (unless you were an elite/royalty of course), whereas in today's age, if you're not part of the information revolution or already sitting on piles on cash, you're kind of stuck. I hear stories of how friends' parents started by selling noodles or fruit then progressed to own stable businesses with steady cash flows. I can't imagine that happening today.

    Forgive me for harping on this point and straying off the initial subject of foreign media bias. I just feel very strongly about this inequality in our society and believe it to be the root cause of the mess that Thailand is in today. It should be clearly and openly acknowledged, and implying that the situation now is better than what it was 20 years ago just doesn't help.

    On a side note, I am one of your new readers, so please excuse me if I've missed an article where you have already addressed this issue. What would be really useful to us new fans are links to the old blog posts that you mentioned in this sentence "I discussed this issue a few weeks ago."

    Many, many thanks.

  30. When I started reading this piece I thought you were being naive. Now that I'm finished reading it, I can't even give you that. If people were to use just your "information" before writing their reports, they will be as biased as Dan Rivers except at the other end of the spectrum. All of the items you mentioned are either wrong or devoid of the larger context. To mention just 3:

    - the new constitution may have more checks and balances but what did it loose?;

    - the coup that ousted Thaksin was of course completely illegal, but none of the people who carried it out are in the present government. Sure but there is a clear link between them

    - -- this country already has democracy. Are you serious? Where are the democratic institutions? Why there is no separation between the government and the army? Why every time there has been a problem with a government the solution has been to reach for external institutions mainly the military

    Perhaps YOU should start getting your information right before preaching to others

  31. It looks to me like, as ever, people read what they want to read (etc.) and pick the fights that they are itching to pick.

    One of your detractors called you a "moral relativist". Not having "got" that from the first read, I went back and read again. It looks like he or she built up a straw man to tear down. Not that your greatest fans seem to read you any more carefully either.

    What it seems you are doing here is attempting to engage in a genuine dialogue -- one that really needs to be had. I come from a culture that values dialogue (from Plato onward) -- not that we're very good at it. But it is patently silly not to recognize that Thailand's traditions aren't the same as mine. Nor do they significantly share in the so-called "western" ideal of egalitarianism -- not that we're very good at that either.

    Acknowledging that "traditions" aren't real people, I would hope it is fair to say that there are actual real people in both cultures that seem to differ most in their approach to "respecting human dignity": The westerner struggles toward the ideal of egalitarianism, the easterner struggles away from Brahmanism. But it appears to me anyway that they are both going in the same direction. A genuine dialogue (not a heated debate) might bear something like that out.

    However, there is a unique obstacle to dialogue here: Real people who are poor in Thailand have voices of less value. I believe I am describing a system called "sakdina" -- do correct me if I am wrong. A dialogue is necessarily between equals. I wonder where most "westerners" fit in that system.

    Out of curiosity, Mr. Somtow, is your detractor above correct? Do you not believe in a universal ethics?

  32. Back to the racism issue - right wing Thais are incredibly racist to Indians, Burmese, Cambodians yet, for some bizarre and obscure reason, because you have some chip on your shoulder that your hiso status meant nothing in the USA, you conclude that Westerners are racist when they criticise the Thai army using sniper squads to issue headshots to unarmed Thai civilians.

    You sir are a dissembling, discredited charlatan.

  33. @ScottW

    I would contend, based on Somtow's arguments, not only does he believe things like universal human rights are some kind of weird racist concoction but that such rights are a threat to the myth-building central to maintaining dominance by the Thai elite.

    The biggest problem with this kind of moral relativism is that it cuts many ways. Intellectually, philosophically and culturally.

    It's very clear Somtow suffers, personally, from a lack of focused values. He can barely work out whether he is Thai (or even what kind of Thai - rightwing demagogue or pseudo hiso liberal), American or whatever.

    Instead of attempting to protect even the most basic human rights of other Thais - to life, to freedom of expression, to equality - instead Somtow attacks Dan Rivers. For being racist.

    It's so absurd and revolting that Somtow's credibility as a worthwhile thinker needs to struck down.

    He is, in short, an apologist for a massacre.

    And by doing so has blood on his hands.

    But hey, maybe I'm being racist?

    The ultimate conclusion of Somtow's twisted thinking is that everyone should just respect massacres, genocide, female genital mutilation, the Taliban throwing acid in schoolgirls' faces, death squads in Central America, Apartheid etc because no-one, ultimately, can understand anyone else's culture. And if you comment on it you are being racist.

    What say you Somtow? Where do you stand on the Taliban throwing acid in schoolgirls' faces? I mean, you've put yourself in the position where if you say that is wrong you're being racist.

  34. You just need to read the pro government / anti outsider / anti red shirt / xenophobic comments here, twitter, facebook, to really fear for the people of Thailand.

    Is it possible for Thailand to be introspective?

  35. @Anonamous detractor above:

    Re: "I would contend, based on Somtow's arguments, not only does he believe"

    From where do you draw your conclusions? Are you able to shelve your anger long enough to carefully read another person's words and try to understand from their perspective?

    Your third paragraph describes "being Thai" and "being American" as values, but they are not. They are cultural identities. Many people have more than one cultural identity, and I fail to see how that is bad or undesirable.

    In the next paragraph, you accuse him of complicity in the deaths of Thai people, a conclusion you could not possibly have drawn from any of his writing here. If you disagree, please reference a specific line; the onus is on you, the accuser.

    It won't be necessary for me to pick apart the rest of your statements. However, I want to tell you something that I hope you evaluate rationally. It is this: If you allow yourself this kind of imprecision in language and reasoning, you will be easy to enrage, easy to manipulate, and most likely live in the shadow of the will of others, whether you know it or not. I do not wish that fate on anyone.

    Rhetorically, it is more empowering to empathize from a position of strength than to refute from a position of weakness. Best regards.

  36. Robert your contribution makes little sense perhaps you could try again in plain English. The odd thing is you acuse the previous poster of "imprecision in language and reasoning"

  37. @Anonymous
    Your criticism of my comment is vague. Saying it "makes little sense" provides no information about what you did or did not understand. The term "plain English" is ambiguous too. I think most English-speaking people who tried would understand me. However, to facilitate communication between us, I can recommend the following steps:

    1. You may inform me of your preferred regional vernacular of the English language. I will do my best to conform.

    2. If it suits you, you may specify a style guide. Examples include MLA, Chicago, APA, Strunk and White, etc. I can then use the guide of your choice to inform my writing and format any citations.

    3. You may specify a maximum number of syllables. Please select an integer greater than or equal to one. If you select the number one, I will allow myself multiple syllables only for names and citations.

    I hope this will help us to establish a meaningful dialog.

  38. By the way, regarding the Dan Rivers video:
    Based on what I was able to see, I do not think the wounded Thai man or the reporter "should" have been shot. Whether they were being targeted or were victims of stray fire, I have no way of knowing. The use of force is a very unfortunate thing to come to. I hate it. But both sides were using force. There is video of the Thai army being fired on as well, and not just with firecrackers. Then there are all the burned buildings; I can only be thankful that no residential high-rises were burned. Also, I don't have any criticism of Dan Rivers (I haven't watched CNN enough to form an opinion one way or another). There, you have all my a priori's and can decide if you still want to criticize my language and reasoning.

  39. There you go again Robert. I guess you just can't help it.

    Okay, you said "third paragraph describes "being Thai" and "being American" as values" but it doesn't say that. Then "In the next paragraph, you accuse him of complicity in the deaths of Thai people" - the next paragraph starts "Instead of attempting to protect". Where does it accuse Somtow of "complicity in the deaths of Thai people"?

    "Rhetorically, it is more empowering to empathize from a position of strength than to refute from a position of weakness" is pure gobbledegook.

  40. Robert Beverly doesn't seem to need any help defending his ideas, but just to say he isn't alone:


    >Where does it accuse Somtow of "complicity in the
    >deaths of Thai people"?

    >>He is, in short, an apologist for a massacre.
    >>And by doing so has blood on his hands.

    That seems pretty clear to me that someone is accusing Somtow of being complicit of something.

    Also, Somtow is Thai and American. He isn't "confused." You can be confused about what T-shirt to wear in the morning, or what to eat for dinner. But for someone who is comfortable in two cultures, it isn't called confusion, it's called being bicultural. A pretty normal state of affairs for a lot of people. The confusion comes from those who think identity is singular and fixed rather than plural and fluid.

  41. @XinJeisan, well put, and thank you. Just knowing that there is another rational person out there has made my day.

    @Anonymous, I've done what I could to establish a dialog with you, but failed. For that, I am sorry. Since meaningful communication has proved impossible, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  42. Robert If rational people are so few and far between possibly you need to reassess you idea of what rational is?

    XinJeisan perhaps you could enlighten me as to what Roberts ideas are? It seemed to me that he was just interested in trying to discredit another posters contribution by using pseudo intellectual gobbledegook.

    What did originally catch my attention in Robert’s first post was this: “If you allow yourself this kind of imprecision in language and reasoning” which seemed highly ironic.

    Disclaimer: I am in no way connected with S P Somtow and in fact have never even met him.

  43. @Anonymous: if it makes you happy, read my sentence as "yet another" rational person. I have known many rational people, but finding new rational people is still nice.

  44. IMO..."Anonymous" is Dan Rivers and his bruised ego.