Going mad in March, with fear of tragedy

Going mad in March, with fear of tragedy

The March heat is driving people crazy. Each week, news headlines just get weirder, as if we were madmen who subscribe to the newsletter of our madhouse. Don’t tell me you never experience that moment when a headline is so absurd, so improbable that you believe − I mean, really believe for many seconds or minutes — that you’re reading one of those satirical publications or websites that peddles mockery and exaggeration. Only it’s not. It’s real. And if madness is defined by the inability to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fantastical, we’re all going down that path, led by the smiling Pied Piper in uniform.

Take a random jab into the pool.

“PM suggests a solution for expensive price of lime: grow your own in a pot.” – Note that this is not Yingluck Shinawatra speaking, though if it had been, the vultures would’ve dragged her guts out. Dear Leader has a sense of humour. Only that sometimes, what begins as comedy ends as tragedy. For now, laugh.

“PM’s education reform: students should learn welding to benefit the high-speed train projects.” − Note that this is, again, not Yingluck Shinawatra, the queen of gaffes. The logic of that sentence is beyond me, but of course the fathomless wisdom of the Titanic captain is always beyond all of us third-class passengers. Not to mention that, if things go as planned, we’re going to have one of the shortest high-speed train routes in the world, around 200 kilometres from Bangkok to Hua Hin. Again, about the welding, he might have said it in jest. So what’re you waiting for? Laugh.

“Underboobs selfies are not allowed in Thailand”. — Note that, who else, this comes from the MiniCult and its boob patrol squad. I was sure it was a joke, a killer send-up, a brain-twisting gag, I mean, underboobs wasn’t even a word last week, so how could I overstand it? But then the international media, from The Guardian to Reuters and The Mirror, took it so seriously while the pictures of topless nymphs that once graced the Culture Ministry’s website (not any more) suddenly popped up everywhere. With Songkran coming, expect more warnings regarding prodigal liquid and female bodily exposure.

“Lottery tickets to sell at 80 baht in six months.” − Note that this is very funny, and that it is a do-or-die national problem. Whoever solves it, I’ll vote for him and his family members forever (unless there’s no more election). The labyrinth of lottery price was the first reality test of the coup makers when they took power last year − and when they thought it would be so easy to just order the price down. It wasn’t, and after months of war-room strategising, the possible solution from the government is to bring back the cursed online vending machines (the case against the equipment importers is still in court, ha) as well as to distribute lottery tickets at convenience stores. Expect protests from small and disabled vendors, unless protests and unhappiness aren’t lawful at this point.

“12 National Reform Council members appointed relatives as aides.” − Note that this is the NRC, not the already under-fire NLA, the National Legislative Assembly, a congregation of handpicked saints, who have been caught red-handed with nepotism just last month. Isn’t it absurd that since their friends got called out recently, and that nepotism is what reform was about in the first place, yet some NRC members still have the nerve to think they’d get away with it? I guess good people can explain away everything. I read this headline seven times before realising it wasn’t a spoof. Madness is contagious, and shamelessness too.

“Democrats and Pheu Thai agree that the new constitution needs referendum.” — Note that when self-serving politicians agree on something, what they’re up against is more formidable, or more self-serving (see above). The appointment of senators, the possibility of an unelected PM, and the confusing electoral methodology are at the centre of the debate on the new charter, and while the PM is still ambivalent over whether there will be a referendum − or if it will be a signed-sealed-delivered tie-me-down package − this rare unity between two political rivals is something we should celebrate.

“Military didn’t detain witness of 2010 shooting in Wat Pathum Wanaram.” — Note that this headline is fine in itself, except that a day later, the coup spokesperson did a 180-degree turn to admit that, yes, the military did detain Nattathida Meewangpla, a nurse who was caught in the hail of bullets. Worse, they’ve turned her from a court witness into a defendant against the dreaded and uncontestable lese majeste law. Laugh, cry? In the madhouse carousel we’re living in, what begins as absurdity sometimes ends as cruelty.

Kong Rithdee is Deputy Life Editor, Bangkok Post.

Kong Rithdee

Former Life Editor

Kong 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.

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