When history becomes just a hazy dream
Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present (tada!) controls the past. In summary, the military, like quantum physicists or mad sorcerers, controls time: The past, present, future, ad infinitum.
Through their coups, their fantasies and their laws, they control history -- meaning the things that have happened or they want us to believe have happened. They also want to control the making of history -- history as work in progress -- meaning the shifting of glaciers and governments, the removal of memory and the manufacturing of dreams. Through the new 20-year national strategy bill, they also want to control the laying of future laws that will govern our life until eternity.
The past is not perfect. Neither is the present. But the future must be. The past usually means the past 85 years.
Much has been pondered about the missing plaque marking the 1932 Siamese Revolution. The erasing of history, an elusive heist, a voodoo ritual? Take your pick, for it looks like the burglary of the artefact is going down as one of the greatest puzzles of modern times. The sorcerers know they can't change the past, even with chicken blood or powerful mantras, so they feel a need to change the record of the past -- the imperfect past written by the revolutionaries who transformed the country into a constitutional monarchy.
The government, usually a know-it-all entity, is mum. But they can't shirk responsibility, unless that appears to be in agreement with such a brazen act of historical sabotage.
With the new plaque discreetly put in place of the original one, a palimpsest of history is being constructed before our eyes by the hand that appears firm, inexorable, invisible. So invisible that even the CCTV cameras (which only function when you're speeding) lost all trace of what happened. The ghost did it. Again.
The past dealt with, now the military can conflate the present and the future. At least a year or 15 months more to the election, the present is secure. With Section 44 still in use despite the new constitution being promulgated, anything can be thwarted. Even the constitution drafters said that the panacea of S44 is necessary to "solve problems" -- in that case why not make it permanent, The One Law, like The One Ring treasured by Gollum because it gives a pretense of security in the depths of his dark cave?
On Thursday the National Legislative Assembly accepted the 20-year national strategy bill (the vote was 196-0 – what a scoreline, I thought I was watching Barcelona playing a local youth club). This bill is one of the several mandated by the new charter, a cog in the wheel that will ensure the machinery of the non-parliamentary powers in a post-election period that will certainly bring in untrustworthy politicians who will object the purchasing of new submarines and tanks.
Anyway, the 20-year national strategy bill will chart a blueprint of sustainable development based on good governance. The national strategy committee will be headed by the prime minister and also include the supreme commander, chiefs of the army, navy and air force, the national police chief, the permanent secretary for defence, along with experts in trade, tourism and economics.
So, in short, the bureaucracy that hasn't been updated for 150 years will be in charge of writing our future -- the global future so mercurial and flammable, driven by technology, diversity, new ideologies and all-round uncertainty. The future that has little room for those who don't adapt. Those who believe they can control the future when in fact all they are doing is recycling the past, or a distorted image of the glorious past.
Looking at what lies ahead is wise. Controlling it isn't, especially not by amateur futurologists gazing into their clouded crystal ball.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam assures us that the 20-year plan won't undermine future governments to have their own ideas. He also said, however, that compliance to this central strategy will be enforced through warnings and coercion.
The mark of dictatorship is when someone controls our life and our choice -- that's harder now because modern dictatorship still operates under capitalism, a system that values choice.
So it's true dictatorship when someone attempts to control the concept of time -- the mad aspiration to rule history and lay siege to the past, present and future while preventing us, the true holders of destiny, from writing our own parts. The clock is ticking but time is frozen. It's not, as they often say, Orwell's 1984.
This is a dystopian sci-fi, a country beyond Brave New World.
Kong Rithdee is Life Editor, Bangkok Post.
Bangkok Post columnist
Kong Rithdee is a Bangkok Post columnist. He has written about films for 18 years with the Bangkok Post and other publications, and is one of the most prominent writers on cinema in the region.