Importance of moving on amid our grief
It has been two weeks now since the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. For many of us, everything is still surreal wherein time is no factor. Since that fateful afternoon, the whole nation has turned black. "You'll no longer see what you have seen, but what you haven't seen before," someone wrote on his Facebook post. This is precisely the case.
There's no measuring how great this loss is for the nation. Politics, economy and society have all appeared the same as everyone's daily life. What was felt most immediately is through our optic sense. In just the flick of an eye, the world has become black and white -- passengers on public transport, all the TV channels, all the newspapers and all the websites. Go to a department store's IT section and you no longer see gaudy TV screens on display but hear sombre music instead.
On the second day of mourning, someone on the street glanced at me with contempt for wearing white. The look was a flash of anger quickly followed probably by a sense of realisation that white was okay. Little did I realise that was just a foreshadowing of a bigger thing we would see in our day-to-day lives -- the uniformity of mourning colour.
Such uniformity is at its height at Sanam Luang where a sea of mourners have gathered to pay their respects to our late King. It serves as a testimony to how loved and revered the King is. It fills me with pride to be part of this nation. The gathering was at its peak, so far, last Saturday when hundreds of thousands of people joined a group singing the Royal Anthem to honour the King throughout the day.
Kaona Pongpipat is a writer for the Life section, Bangkok Post.
Yet along with pride, a sense of shame lurks. Before long, we started to wonder where this uniformity is taking us. An image of a man wearing a green t-shirt, plastered with a sign on the back written:"This shirt is black, I love nai luang," had gone viral. Then, a social media outburst was made against a black-clad celebrity who -- while distributing free food at Sanam Luang -- was seen wearing bright red nail polish.
One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.
The rule of colour then turned into rules of etiquette on how one should express their feelings. Social sanctions, deemed by some as witch-hunts, have grown against those making improper remarks. An angry Phuket mob turned up at the house of a woman accused of insulting the late King. Then, a lady with a mental illness was slapped in the face in Bangkok, followed by an assault against a man in Chon Buri who was forced to prostrate in front of the King's image and apologise for his insensitive remark.
All these acts beg the question of what exactly respect is. Is it the appearance of things, the deed done, or a deep-seated sentiment? Strictly all of them, some would say.
By asserting that, they have inadvertently and ironically twisted its real value. It was a commendable effort by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to play down the growing tensions over mourning colours and quickly denouncing the use of violence.
Bereavement on such a magnitude was certainly a shock to the whole nation. Coming to terms with this reality can understandably take a long time with a prolonged period for grieving. Yet, Gen Prayut recently told us there wouldn't be politics during this mourning period (without giving a specific time frame). This doesn't make sense at all. Isn't the next sensible step for the country to take things in one's stride and move on?
The tragedy has hit us all, but perhaps the hardest hit are to those in the entertainment industry. According to the state's announcement, all entertainment events should be halted for a month, and future plans should be considered on a case-by-case basis based on appropriateness. That's the tricky part. Concert organisers have cancelled their planned events for the rest of the year while putting off those scheduled for early next year.
Will things really return to normalcy again after a month of the mourning period if many still hold the mindset of using social sanctions against those who act or say things inappropriately? If you are a low-paid musician, it'll be unfair to think that you are in a joyful mood just because you have to work and your job happens to be in the entertainment industry.
As time goes by, it's worthwhile to note how our eyes grow more accustomed to the dull tones, and our grief makes us all become more perceptive to any behaviour we deem out of line.
Moving on is not a sign of disrespect. It's a process of growing up and understanding maybe all else besides our feelings inside are merely shapes of things.
Writer for the Life section
Kaona Pongpipat is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.