Lois Wood is a teenager who sleeps for up to 44 days at a time. But hers isn't a sleeping beauty fairytale; rather it's a nightmarish story.
In a "zombie-like trance", as described by the Daily Mail, she would bang her head against the wall, attack her family and raid the refrigerator. Sometimes she acts like a babbling toddler, sometimes a violent drunkard, but at all times she remains asleep.
Doctors say she suffers from Kleine-Levin syndrome, a neurological condition that starts during adolescence, involving long hours of sleep where the sufferer becomes irritable, displays childlike behaviour, is disorientated and hungry for excessive amounts of food.
According to the report, Lois is one of more than 1,000 people worldwide who suffer from this disorder, commonly known as Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. There is no cure.
If, however, Lois were in Thailand, we would know exactly the cause and the cure.
She's possessed by a ghost spirit. The treatment includes chanting by Buddhist monks, rituals by Brahma priests and the magic of a mor phee (literally, ghost doctor). There would be the burning of incense, offerings to animist gods and whippings. After 44 days she would be considered cured.
Therein lays the cultural DNA that differentiates a science-based society from a superstitious society.
The purpose of any government is order and control, as opposed to the absence of government, which is chaos and anarchy. We picture the modern world to be a science-based one, where society is the product of reason. In this respect, logic has deduced that democracy is the best control method for any society, given the scientific understanding of human nature.
Through reason, we understand that a democratic government is the best model for keeping the people satisfied. General elections grant them the illusion they actually have a real say in the management of the country.
By affording the people civil rights and liberty, they become content with the ruling regime and make little trouble to upset the status quo other than maybe holding protests, organising petitions and complaining on internet forums.
We understand the marriage of democracy and capitalism provides the best opportunities for the people to dream and strive to fulfil their desires, a nicer way to describe greed. They desire to be free and happy, both of which, as much as we hate to admit it, depend on having money _ lots of it. Even if no one is ever completely free or happy, a new Ferrari helps to pass the time.
Put consumerism in a menage a trois with capitalism and democracy, and the people are also kept subdued with reality TV, big matches on the weekend and planning that holiday to Thailand.
The political and economic oligarchy then have a free hand in running things, ensuring order and control, while providing the people with the illusion of freedom, toys to play with and the necessity of making money.
The science-based society may go through an economic crisis every decade or so, but the status quo remains.
If Thailand is slow and reluctant to embrace this most progressive government model, one reason is ... well, we don't base our cultural thinking on reason. Though we love the money bit, we still base our cultural thinking on faith, magic and superstition _ the baggage of the feudal world.
While someone like Henry Kissinger is considered to be at the apex of political advisers in the modern science-based world, in Thailand that distinction goes to Warin Buawiratlert, nicknamed Mor Warin, the "fortune-teller to the coup council".
It was Mor Warin who in 2010 predicted that Thailand's next prime minister's name would begin with the letter "P" _ sure he was half wrong with Yingluck, but he was also half right because her nickname is "Poo". As well, if the luxury cars of politicians line up in front of a particular house on Vibhavadi Road, it is because the lady of the house _ Puangpeth Chunla-eiat _ reputedly performs the most potent of holy rituals to the gods and the spirits.
In a science-based society, Dion Warwick's psychic network only enjoyed the patronage of a tiny number of desperate souls, who were laughed at by the majority. But here soothsayers like Mor Chang and Mor Luck are millionaire national celebrities, respected and sought after by society.
A few years ago the yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy blinded holy statues and shrines at Government House before they stormed in, successfully. They used female sanitary napkins to rub the foot of the monument of King Rama V to ward off the black magic of the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
The UDD later smashed cooking pots in front of King Taksin's monument and performed rituals at the statue of King Naresuan. The smearing of blood at Government House, Democrat Party headquarters and Abhisit Vejjajiva's residence weren't meant to be vulgar displays of civil disobedience. Rather, they were acts of black magic carried out to cast curses and ill fortune upon the enemy, and two years later, it looks to be working quite well.
If Thaksin Shinawatra believes in his own destiny, no doubt he has several logical reasons, but it could also be because a famous monk once prophesied that he would be ousted in a military coup in 2006, but would return to glory once again.
Before the opening of any business, there must be the ritual ceremony of monks chanting, incense burning and offerings to the gods and spirits.
Everyone in the company sits in solemn reverence, palms together, including the sweaty expats in suits doing their best to give the impression they are thinking globally, but acting locally. Please also note the holy shrines in front of just about every building.
In a science-based society, inequality and social hierarchy are based on cash, assets and portfolios. In the superstitious society, inequality and social hierarchy are based on heavenly mandates and hereditary privileges.
Hence the genetic makeup of the two different societies helps to explain attitudes and behaviours in the areas of politics, justice, defence, education, family and everything in between.
But, of course, no science-based society is totally free of magic and superstition, and Thailand isn't an entirely superstitious society either.
Slowly and reluctantly we are adopting more scientific notions. Capitalism and consumerism are easier to adopt than democracy, however.
Thai society is at a crossroads. On one hand, Bangkok has more Facebook users than any other city in the world _ 12.79 million as of February this year, according to Socialbakers.
But still, even educated Bangkokians believe that buying fish and birds and releasing them will guarantee good fortune. And everyone believes ghosts are real.
Democracy is a product of scientific reasoning _ deducing that the best method to control the populace is to keep it pacified with the illusion of freedom while enslaved by consumerism and occupied with making money.
Thailand's quasi-democratic, quasi-feudal model reveals a society caught between science and magic, enslaved by consumerism and superstition, busied with making money, but enjoying the illusion of freedom much less.
We have a hard time embracing the notions of civil rights and liberty because of our heavy reliance on faith.
The world will never be explainable seen through either a purely scientific or superstitious filter _ it's a matter of which way the scale is tipping towards. At the same time, though, Lois Woods and over 1,000 people worldwide won't be cured of Sleeping Beauty Syndrome any time soon, if ever, whether through modern science or superstition.
For the symptoms of irritability, childishness, disorientation and the hunger for more, always more, that afflict mankind _ sometimes we are babbling toddlers, sometimes we are violent drunkards _ democracy might be the better treatment, but it certainly is no cure for the disease of man.
But then, if there were a cure there would be no fun, would there?
Desire is named as the source of all suffering in the Buddhist tradition. Similarly, greed is called one of the seven deadly sins in the Christian tradition. Desire, greed, whatever you want to call it, is well exploited in a science-based society to keep the people under control and in order, in the name of democracy.
It's the best government model/control method man has yet created, and it was done through the process of reasoning, not faith.
Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at email@example.com.
About the author
- Writer: Voranai Vanijaka
Position: Political and Social Commentator