I began this blog on the 6th of December and haven't reedited the opening to match the actual date. I would like to write something safe, optimistic, and forward-looking, but I find that all I can produce is ambiguity. Within all this, perhaps, we can find a few nuggets of hope.
Yesterday was the 84th birthday of the King of Thailand. To Thais, the Seventh Cycle is a major milestone, a confluence of two magical numbers — the twelve-year cycle of the Asian zodiac and the mystical seven. Every numerological resonance of felicity, fortune, and prosperity is implied in the confluence of those two numbers with the number 9 (as in King Rama IX) which for Thai people, owing to a linguistic coincidence, also represents the word for "progress" or "a step" — meaning forwards.
Yet this day of rejoicing, which Thailand celebrates in a sense as its own birthday as well as the birthday of its monarch, has come at a time of turbulence in our society. It is a time when our national and cultural identity is uncertain and when idealogues of many colors are trying to hijack the agenda. Many hide their true natures under the generic, knee-jerk-generating themes of democracy, love of country, national pride, love of our king, and so on, but in fact all of the above do not preclude us living in a viable twenty-first century pluralistic society.
It has been a time of great personal darkness. I've returned from my first visits to the UK and the USA in years (in one case, decades.) In London and in California, I was compelled to face the fact that I have a powerful sense of belonging to both those cultures and for the first time since my ten-year sojourn in Thailand I have been torn. I believe I'm experiencing a full blown version of those identity crises to which artists are particularly prone, and indeed which often form the very core of our creative impulse.
My personal identity problem however, is a pale echo of the crisis this entire country is facing. I think this country goes through one of these crises about every thirty years.
Instead of worrying about extremists like Mallika or her counterparts on the other side, those radical revolutionaries who want to burn down everything, I think it is worth considering what an average, thinking person in Thailand probably feels.
I think the average person here has great veneration for Thailand's institutions and would strongly want to resist any attempts to destabilize or overthrow them. This hypothetical average Thai person feels, I am sure, that his very identity as a Thai is inextricably woven into a certain cultural fabric and that Thailand's institutions are essential to that fabric. Therefore I feel, along with the average, non-extremist citizen, a great deal of love for this entire system and tend to want to overlook any peccadillos.
I also think that that same average person feels very uncomfortable at the idea that a cancer-ridden old man would be sentenced to twenty years in prison on evidence that is, let's face it, rather flimsy, after being allowed to mount a pathetic defense. Thus, again, as an average, non-extremist citizen, I am alarmed that such a thing could happen in this country, a country which most people living here view as a relatively free and open society.
Maybe the evidence isn't flimsy, but we'll never know, because our paternalistic system deems us not responsible enough to see the evidence and make up our own minds.
As an average citizen, I am alarmed as well at the warlike noises being made by legal societies and by government officials about the need for even more spying on our electronic lives. It looks very frightening and to an outsider it must look like we are rapidly descending into a North-Korea like madness. But read between the lines and it ain't necessarily so.
You see, amid all this censorial rhetoric, which I believe to be largely a posture of self-defense, there seems to a hidden a statement which in its way is utterly revolutionary, and I'll quote the Bangkok Post's reportage on this which states that a certain committee has made the following statement: