In the name of freedom and democracy
- Published: 7/02/2013 at 08:51 AM
- Online news:
Sex tourism? The country's image? Baa-hum-bug! The fact of life is, if we don't take care of our own daughters, then some old, hairy foreigner will. For that matter, if we don't take care of our own daughters, then some old, hairless Thai will. There are two sides - at least - to every coin.
Better yet, why not equip our daughters with the skills and opportunities to take care of themselves?
That said, I do like the "Saturday Night Live" skit that mocked sex tourism in Thailand. Not only did it have me laugh and laugh and laugh, certainly it would also help to boost Thailand’s sex tourism – from which many people would stand to benefit.
When Culture Minister Sonthaya Khunploem said he wanted the YouTube clip of the parody removed and would have a chat with the US embassy about it, surely he wasn’t being serious. His family runs Pattaya, where his brother is the mayor. Think about it.
What we have here in principle is similar to the controversy over the lese majeste law – New World values clashing with Old World values – freedom and democracy doing battle with consideration (greng-jai) and the respect for sanctity or sacredness.
The Thai culture of the Old World is this. We like to appear as gentlemen and ladies on the street, but we do know that we are all freaks in the bedroom. So be freakish in the bedroom, keep them skeletons locked away in the closet, and everything is fine.
In public, however, we keep up an appearance of that which is considered proper and appropriate, painting an image of beauty and decency. Should anyone attempt to ruin this image, false image though it may be, we shall censor, ban or impose three to five years imprisonment – for the sake of public decency.
Pattaya (Photo by Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai)
Hence, the abundance of prostitutes in this land. But let’s pretend they are not here, even if they stand on the footpaths of Sukhumvit during broad daylight. Hence, we know what we know, we whisper about it behind closed doors, but let’s not go public with it – for the sake of public decency.
This duality of our existence makes Thailand a highly tolerant culture, very open in so many ways – sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and what not – but the culture is also rather reactionary. We let vice flourish and profit from it, but at the same time we feign innocence and pretend otherwise.
So toe the line between being a lady in the street and a freak in the bedroom, and it’s all good. In fact, this used to be how the world worked, not just Thailand. But we live in a different world now. It’s a New World where freedom of speech and freedom of expression are two chapters in the holy scripture called democracy.
In the name of freedom and democracy, we crawl on the pavement to take a snap shot of the crotch of a starlet getting out of a car. She would of course likely not be wearing any knickers, because in this New World knickers are overrated. Then we publish her smooth nakedness in the media. Smoothness is also a chapter in the new holy scripture.
In the name of freedom and democracy, we fly in helicopters and climb tall trees to point our high-power cameras into the private home of someone famous to catch them sunbathing topless. They can be a movie star or the Duchess of Cambridge, it matters not so long as it sells. Capitalism is also a chapter in the new holy scripture.
In the name of freedom and democracy, we drag into the mud what is holy and sacred (including a national or personal image) to millions of people, poke fun and hurl insults, strip them of dignity and decency, stomp their hearts and souls underneath the soles of our high-fashion, brand-name shoes made by children in some developing world sweatshop. Being fashionable is also a chapter in the new holy scripture.
In the name of freedom and democracy, we’ll bomb you back into the Stone Age or blockade you into poverty if you don’t shape up and join the rank and file, opening your natural resources to be pillaged by Fortune 500 companies or the like.
Should you cry, scream and protest, then you are a backward fanatic who hates freedom and democracy. Should you censor, ban or give three to five years imprisonment, then you are a tyrannical feudal fascist who hates freedom and democracy.
Should you strap bombs to your chest and blow up a building then you are an evil terrorist. In this New World, buildings are blown up from the sky by state-of-the-art flying machines, this is civilised. C-4 explosive devices underneath a cheap jacket are simply barbaric and are only used and condoned by those who hate freedom and democracy.
How to bomb the civilised way is also a chapter in the new holy scripture. There’s also a nice graph to explain the difference between innocent civilians and collateral damage.
That said, though subject to abuse and exploitation by man’s greed and self-righteous hypocrisy like any other political-social models, democracy is still the best ideal we have created.
So here is Thailand, in the rank and file of the New World, but yet holding on to Old World values.
The fact of life is New World values will triumph over Old World values. This is not however a matter of good triumphing over evil, metaphysics have nothing to do with it. This is not because the cry of freedom and democracy is somehow inherently righteous and is the universal truth. No, no.
This is only because whether in the Old World or in the New World, there is but one constant we can always rely on: the rich and powerful make the rules. So the cry of freedom and democracy are simply convenient modern replacements for "King and country!" or "God and country!"
And that’s why we ought to laugh, at both the New World and the Old World. Then the former can call us tyrannical feudal fascists, while the latter call us despicable, soulless scoundrels (as well as terrorist sympathisers!).
There are always two sides – at least – to every coin. So everyone should just relax and go find a lady in the street but a freak in the bedroom.
About the author
- Writer: Voranai Vanijaka
Position: Political and Social Commentator