Absolutism is fashionable

Absolutism is fashionable

So many people are willing to give away their personal freedom, while at the same time telling others to shut up and bow down. Indeed, absolutism is making a comeback.

But really, it never went away. There are always people taking up its cause, in one form or another, whether we called it fascism, dictatorship or absolute rule.

Look at Western democracies, actual fascist parties contesting elections and fascist movements that are ever alive and active. Then there are those political parties that called themselves by any other name, though with fascist policies all the same.

In Thailand, absolute rule is once again fashionable. But really, it never went away in the first place.

The affinity with absolute rule is quite understandable. After all, through some 7,000 years of human civilisations, absolute rule has been the main driver of societies, with very few exceptions here and there.

It wasn’t but in the past century that democracy became en vogue.

Absolute rule of course has its benefits, otherwise human civilisations wouldn’t have thrived, survived and lasted all these millennia. Under a capable absolute ruler, things get done quickly and efficiently, and societies benefit greatly.

If that capable absolute ruler is also a benevolent dude then, by golly, society has hit the jackpot. The Golden Age, if you will. That’s why there are absolute rulers remembered by history as "the great", "the magnificent" and the like.

But if the absolute ruler is incompetent, well then society truly suffers. If the absolute ruler is a Caligula-esque despot, then things will get mucked up absolutely.

It’s not like we can vote the dude out in four years’ time.

There isn’t a parliament to call for a censor debate or a senate to impeach him. We would be stuck with him until the day he dies.

Perhaps, a palace eunuch would poison him, like in Ancient China, or the praetorian guards would murder him, like in Ancient Rome, or maybe a mass uprising and send him to the guillotine. Things tend to get quite bloody with absolute rule.

Back to the present, it’s understandable really. People are so enthusiastic with the absolute rule of the general who’s currently in charge of Thailand.

The yearning for the general to fix present problems and the belief that he will make things right and then return to democracy.

It’s basic social psychology, which has less to do with the general himself, but much more to do with the mental and emotional psyche of the people.

Take the past 10 years, add to it frustrations and uncertainties, take it to the power of chaos and anarchy.

Then multiply it by the BIG future uncertainty (you know, that one) smacking us upside the head but no one can talk about it publicly.

This is the equation where the people would cry out: "Dude, somebody please save us! We need a hero!"

To some, heroic names are the like of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra, Jatuporn Prompan, Nattawut Saikuar and Arisman Pongruengrong.

To others, heroic names include Suthep Thaugsuban, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang.

Today, the name is Prayuth Chan-ocha and there are millions supporting his absolute power, because they have complete faith that the general will do the right things for Thailand and then return to democracy.

He will stomp corruption under his boots, introduce policies that will drive Thailand towards the ranks of developed countries and implement reforms to turn Thailand into a mature and healthy democracy.

This complete faith is given without knowing much about the general himself.

It is given, even while knowing the track record of the Thai military: Fancy budgets, questionable purchases, coups and crackdowns, business activities on the side and more generals than in most other countries.

This faith is given so completely that if anyone offers criticism or even a bit of caution, they are told by those supporters to shut up.

When absolutism is en vogue, the intolerance of others’ opinions is well practised by ordinary citizens.

But here’s a caution, don’t be so enthusiastic to give away your personal freedom.

In addition, don’t be so eager to rid your own fellow citizens of his or her personal freedom.

If the general aims to be an awesome absolute ruler, he would appreciate this point, and so should the people who support his absolute rule.

Email Voranai Vanijaka at voranai@gmail.com.

Voranai Vanijaka

Bangkok Post columnist

Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.

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