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.


  1. This post is very honest, I like it. Especially when you write
    "I am a monarchist, because the familial and societal connections are too strong for me to be otherwise".
    Not everyone would admit that, kudos to you.
    About the accusations of being an elitarian prick and a hateful self-serving, arrogant show-off, well... who cares. I mean, I, for one, am perfectly aware of often being hateful and sometimes even a pretentious smart ass, and I live with it quite well, so maybe you can do the same.
    I also agree with many of the things you wrote, but then, I have a few questions:

    - Education: the Democrats, according to your opinion, have done a pretty good job. Are you sure? I mean: it's good that people now don't have to pay for their education, but that doesn't amount to much, if you consider that the quality of Thai schooling is normally quite low. For example, the history Thai students learn at school is really far from being balanced and accurate. Maybe that's the kind of reform that is badly needed.

    - Still about the Democrats, and your comparisons with Thaksin, TRT and all its reincarnations: it is true that Shinawatra was becoming more and more of an authoritarian leader, but can you frankly say that the current government fared much better, in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of the press? Think of all the lèse majesté cases, the censoring/blocking of thousands of websites and, lately, the blocking of the opposition's radios, TVs, websites etc. Isn't that a bit shameful for a "democratic party"?

    - Respect for human rights: admittedly, Thaksin set some pretty high standards in terms of indifference (and often outright disregard) for this matter. But are the Democrats to be praised for, say, sending Thai troops to die (and, in the process, kill) at the Cambodian border for a temple that has sat in Cambodia for some 50 years under a Thailand-signed treaty, just in order to divert public opinion from the real problems and fuel up sentiments of ultranationalism? Results: casualties on both sides of the border, and more mutual hatred between the two countries' populations.
    I don't believe Abhisit is happy about these things. If I were him, though, I would refuse to be a Prime Minister at such conditions.

    - What do you think about the latest land tax reform? In my opinion it is the best thing this government has done so far. Of course it will also be the first law to sink if (or rather, "when") the government falls.

    - One last thing about the "Pa Daeng" blog. Overall, I liked what you wrote, but I can't help feeling a bit weird about the ugly pic you've chosen (can't you just change it?) and honestly, one or two bits in the post do sound fairly condescending, albeit safely within the limits imposed by common sense and respect. But that's just my opinion.

    Thank you for contributing to a free exchange of thoughts and ideas through your very interesting blog.

  2. The points you've made about education, human rights and so on are all very valid. I also agree that it's very unlikely that Abhisit is comfortable with the situation. But as I'm sure you know, political power always comes at some cost to one's integrity. It's not about whether; it's about how much.

    In terms of education, it's a mess. But in the Thaksin adminstration, I was briefly on a committee that had to do with innovative ways of teaching extraordinarily gifted kids. The idea of this was great, but every time I actually tried to do something practical, is was thwarted at every turn, whereas 200,000 baht chairs for a new office were approved without batting an eyelid. In the present administration, I asked for the cost of one of those chairs to run a weekend camp about music and science, one in which (among other things) I used the music of Charles Ives as a practical demonstration of the special theory of relativity. I can only go on personal experience, but I felt that people were far more open to actually doing something in a small way. The bigger picture is still pretty bleak.

    Pa Daeng won't stay still to pose for a better picture. That is the only one I have on my computer, and I've been trying to get a better one for days. She keeps saying it's fine.

  3. Learn from the history of our fellow brothers in the US. Remember their struggle the civil war ,remember the KKK, Panthers, the 60th. Remember their road to democracy.

    Look at you and me, our own lives is a journey and progress. One should not be judged as good or evil based on a single action or incident.

    In the same way, our democracy must be given time to mature. And time is what we, the Thai people needs to discover our own sense of democracy.

    Thais are learning for the first time in the history of our nation to take sides, to make choices and to see the consequences of that choice. We are learning, learning to cope with our own ego, learning to express our views. As inappropriate as the situation may be, we will find a way. We will come out of this one way or another, and we learn to rebuilt our nation again- together with mutual respect in diversity.