Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Waiting for the Barbarians ... to Leave?

Cavafy's poem is particularly significant today, especially the last lines....

kai tora ti tha genoume khoris barbarous?
oi anthropoi autoi isan mia kapoia lysis.

-- and now, what is to become of us without barbarians?  These people were a kind of solution --

Today, the prime minister has set a deadline.  The red shirts demanded that Suthep turn himself in; he did so, and they demanded that he turn himself into someone else.  Elsewhere I've said that this is essentially saying that he shouldn't have gone to the principal's office but to the janitor's closet.  It is a meaningless condition.

Although I suspect that most red shirt leaders are as tired of all this as everyone else, and would welcome an end, it is clear that their puppetmaster(s) have another agenda.

The deadline is in EIGHT MINUTES.  Is this exciting or what?

Unfortunately, the question of whether the protesters will leave, be forced out, or be horribly slaughtered is no longer that significant.  

The real issue is whether the underlying problems will be solved.

The educational abyss is the first one.  It is because of this abyss that we see a similar power change in the UK, with a less-than-majority party forming a coaltion to put an Old Etonian in No. 10 in a period where parliamentary corruption has been front page news for ages, without angry peasants seizing Picadilly Circus or taking over Harrods.  

The educational gap leads to the ignorance gap, the brainwashability gap, the employablity gap, the wealth gap and, ultimately, the class gap.

Well, if certain people have their way I'll probably be first in line for the gulag, so I await this countdown....


  1. yes "a kind of solution" or perhaps part of a solution which even now "slouches toward Bethlehem to be born". My analysis:

    "I suspect that much of the confusion in the reports on the situation in Thailand is coming from commentators who cannot speak or understand the Thai language. So much of their analysis is simply a list of cliches copied from others. Where is the good investigative research on any of the people involved here, or on the political history in the country over the past twenty years?

    This is not fundamentally a "poor" vs "rich" class war. While there are certainly elements of this it is entirely too superficial an analysis and simply caters to western preconceptions about who the "good guys' and 'bad guys' might be.

    It is more correctly part of a phenomenon which is occurring all over China and South East Asia at the moment: - the massive growth of a vast new middle class - people who were once poor during the last century, but who now have access to more money, consumer goods, education, health care, mobility and entertainment than they have ever had in any previous time in their history. All across Asia the growth of this demographic is radically changing the political structure and threatening an old feudal society which has always depended on 'patronage' and corruption for its power.

    Thailand's rural population, like the Philippines is and has been ruled by local "oligarchs", powerful families, mafia thugs, police chiefs and village chiefs at least since 1938 when it first became a military dictatorship under Marshal Phibul. These people are terrified of progressive democratic changes in society. But such changes are inevitable as more and more people join the expanding middle classes.

    The current revolt has been precipitated by the oligarchs - the corrupt feudal families. Thaksin is their hero - and because each fiefdom controls its own group of rural people they have been able to make it look like (to the naive foreign press) a large crowd is clamouring for democracy. But it is their intense focus on violence that gives them away entirely. They have a powerful military wing who have no qualms about putting their own protesters in harm's way in order to lay blame on the government. They have been clamouring for bloodletting since the beginning of this protest. They are fighting back tooth and nail against democracy, education, the welfare state (attacks on hospitals) and in particular the rule of law."

  2. The path towards genuine representative democracy is always beset by those "progressives" whose actual intent is communism or any of its first cousins that puts the "revolutionaries" in control with the rest of the population being their slaves - while telling the people they are "free" and have been "liberated".

    Even when a democracy comes peacefully from a monarchy or similar sort of rule, there are still always people who seek to use that freedom to change their country towards communism etc, same story, them and their lackeys on top, everyone else serving them.

    Bhutan is currently sitting on that edge as the monarchy is attempting to create a representative democracy. Already the communists, sorry, "progressives" are active there. It's the same old lies that sort of people have always told the under-educated.

    Even here in the USA it's slipping that way, though peacefully through our own ignorance. Our country was born of a violent rebellion against despotic rule, but a rebellion into freedom rather than just a shift of despotic rulers. That has never sat well with the wanna-be rulers and they've spent the past 200 plus years chipping away at freedom, accelerating rapidly since the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Google "National Industrial Recovery Act" and the "National Firearms Act of 1934".

    Thailand, observe the communists and their useful idiots. They've rather conveniently donned the appropriate color. Learn from history and don't allow them to drag your country down the same road so many others have gone before or are getting started on.

  3. I enjoyed reading your analysis. You had several good points, such as the one about the fault of the Yellow Shirts in building their international image around corruption rather than freedom of the press. On that issue, however, you must keep in mind that the Yellow Shirts were not only building an image abroad but also domestically, and they probably thought that corruption was a more powerful frame for mobilization, especially among the middle class that you speak of, than one based on human rights and press freedom.

    I am not Thai, although I have lived in Thailand for a long time. I often hear urban Thai elites and people from the middle class talk about rural life as if it is something they have authoritative knowledge of what rural Thais experience, what they think, or what motivates them. While I admit that as a Westerner I am much further from knowing the rural Thai experience than any Thai due to language and cultural barriers, I think that Thai urban middle class and elites too readily claim to know the experience of the village poor. You do not fall into this trap...mainly because you don't even bring them into your analysis. What role, if any, do these rural poor people play in this conflict?

    In terms of your own preconceptions, I think you could be a little more forthcoming in acknowledging your biases. You should also challenge them otherwise acknowledgment is useless.

  4. "The educational gap leads to the ignorance gap, the brainwashability gap, the employablity gap, the wealth gap and, ultimately, the class gap."

    And no-one ever talks about it! Last year there was a scheme proudly publicised by the Ministry of Education whereby a few top students from upcountry schools were brought to Bangkok for the privilege of spending 6 months at a government school here. There was not one comment that I saw that suggested that it was a little strange that there is this huge gap in the quality of education between schools in the same government system in Bangkok and outside Bangkok. It was just implicitly accepted.

    Your paragraph is an admirable summary. I would only add that the situation is further exacerbated by the inability of many Bangkok residents, some with very good educations, to understand that "stupid" and "uneducated" have two different meanings.