Saturday, December 17, 2011

To All Extremists

Rhetoric is ratcheting. A big-time general and a big-time parliamentary bigwig have both stated publicly that those who dislike the law should leave the country.  Now, I never realized that "disliking" something was in fact illegal.  In fact, "sinning in one's heart" may or may not be offensive to God, but laws against thinking are neither viable nor enforceable.

Acting on one's thoughts in another matter.  But in between the total freedom of thought and the constrained freedom of action, there is an area which seems quite murky, and that is speech.  While I still can, I would like to use my rapidly declining freedom to address the extremists of every color who seem to want to hijack our national discourse.

I would like to appeal to the ultra-extremists of both stripes in this country.  Both of you are strident but minuscule minorities in a country in which most people truly believe in the Middle Way, which is the very core of Buddhist philosophy.

To the ultra-royalists who would enforce extreme penalties for the slightest infractions of the letter of the law, completely ignoring the purpose for which that law was created, I would say this:

You may legislate obedience, but never love.  We live in a country in which a genuine and almost limitless love for their revered institutions exists in the vast majority of the public.  This love did not come into being because of any law.  Your desire to enforce that love, however good your intentions are, has the potential to gnaw away at the very thing you want to preserve.

No one will dispute your desire to protect the things which most people in this country fervently believe in.  No one will mind if genuine threats or attacks are severely punished.

But your Orwellian idea of putting an electronic spy in every home and of inflicting major penalties for dubious. politically trumped up, or ill-substantiated infractions is an idea that will clearly have the opposite effect from the one you intend.

Please take a look at the history of Siam and remind yourself that our monarchs have often been at the forefront of progressive thinking.  Remember that it was King Chulalongkorn who abolished compulsory prostration.  And remember most of all the content of our present king's birthday speech in 2005.  The speech showed that he is a true visionary and really sees the big picture.

If you truly love your king, please listen to him, and have the courage to implement his wise and far-seeing advice.

Otherwise, you might want to move to country that more closely approximates your view of how things should be run.  I refer of course to North Korea.

To those extremists on the other side, the ultra-revolutionaries who would sweep away everything we hold dear and substitute a completely egalitarian society ... those extremists whom the other extremists see on every street corner, but which I suspect are relatively rare ... I would say this.  Get real.  It doesn't work.  History has shown us over and over again that it doesn't work.

There have been a number of populist revolutions against monarchic systems — against Louis XVI and the Czar of Russia and so on.  In every case, well meaning ideas that sounded wonderful when expounded by philosophers foundered on the realities of human nature.  Such revolutions resulted, not in utopia, but in reigns of terror in which nasty dictators seized power and bloodbaths ensued.

On the other hand, the constitutional monarchies of Western Europe, which took a lot of time to develop, have emerged as some of the more successful democracies in our history.

If your desire is a more perfect democracy, I implore you to work within the democratic process.  Otherwise, you might want to move to a country which more closely resembles the kind of place that Thailand would be if you were actually to have your way and sweep everything aside.  I refer, of course, to North Korea.

As I have said before, the Middle Way is the cornerstone of Buddhist philosophy.  When I look around me, I see that most people here have an enduring love for our institutions, and a distaste for extreme positions.  I agree with the government that excessive discussions of LM reform and/or bomb threats are detrimental to tourism and to the country's international image.  I myself am hosting hundreds of choristers from Europe in July, who are flying here at their own expense in order to enjoy our country and to have a good time collaborating with our artists.  Some have expressed worry.  I've had to do a lot of damage control, reassuring people that this is still the lush, friendly paradise of their fantasies.

The path to reconciliation is through the center of the jungle ... sneaking around the issues is not a short cut.  To find the light we must face, acknowledge, and forgive our own inner darkness.

The extremists of both sides have one thing in common.  If we were actually to implement their plan of action in full, there would be no need for them to move to North Korea.  This country would be North Korea.

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