Prioritising pleasure above all else

Prioritising pleasure above all else

I once witnessed a restaurant employee walk out on her job in the middle of a busy lunch rush simply because her Western boss commented on the quality of her work, which made her unhappy.

For non-Thais, such a reaction might be beyond normal understanding. But I saw it coming.

Admit it or hate it, a pleasure-based attitude is one of the popular characteristics of Thais, especially the younger generation.

Too frequently, our nation seems to give pleasure (sanook) such importance that we forget responsibility, obligation and morals. 

Sadly, among the most massive exhibitions of Thai-style, pleasure-driven irresponsibility is Songkran.

Speaking as a veteran food journalist, most restaurateurs know that April is the time of the year they have to start hiring new staff to replace those who take leave during the homecoming holiday, but never come back.

Many don't return to work simply because they've carried on the non-stop, booze-influenced parties. A number of them, unfortunately, even lose their lives in alcohol-related traffic accidents. 

I have also been told by some restaurant owners that their staff started their own unofficial celebrations even before Songkran began, by drinking while at work. Of course, they were fired.  

Staff shortage in the restaurant industry during Songkran pales in comparison to what we see in public during the three-day festival.

As always, the time-honoured summer tradition this year brought much devastation, and although the feelings of fun have faded, the wounds and scars caused by people's irresponsibility will long remain.

Despite the fact that Songkran is a National Family Day, it's also a time when many families experience fatal loss. The Ministry of Interior's Road Safety Directing Centre reported that from April 9-15, there were 3,373 road accidents, with 364 deaths and 3,559 injuries.

Almost 50% of the victims were aged between 20-50, and 29% under 20. Alcohol was the number one cause of the accidents.

In and outside of the city, this disgusting level of recklessness was seen at every corner.

People enjoyed the fun-filled festival so much that they didn't care if they were violating the basic rights of others.

Noise pollution, which is a common enough problem in Bangkok, was even more uncontrollable during Songkran.

My house is within a 1km radius of the notorious club scene of RCA, and its late-night events made Songkran a five-day-long nightmare for me. 

To make Songkran the complete, round-the-clock, ear-smashing festival that it is are the street-side participants. These "checkpoints" feature revellers armed with water pistols and stereo systems that play loud music, to which they dance semi-nude and outrageously, under the influence of their substance of choice.

As terrifying as it seems, this violation of privacy and security has become the norm in Thailand, especially during Songkran.  

We have all seemed to forget the core value of this Thai New Year tradition; that water is supposed to be used with respect, as a symbol to wash away bad luck and begin the new year fresh and clean.

Instead, people today tend to treat water as a tool for wild pleasure. Forget small water containers, in this era it's either the high-powered water gun or water hose that rules. Accordingly, during this time a great number of sane citizens, like myself, choose to stay home or even flee the country.

Experience has taught us that we will get wet on the street no matter how we behave. 

I still remember being heavily soaked while riding an open-air bus in the 80s.

Today no matter how far I drive my car away from the water-splashers (and how unfriendly I try to look), I still can't escape the water from their high-powered hoses.

These people don't seem to realise that their actions aren't only annoying, but also seriously violating other people's rights and might cause accidents.

My heart goes out to those who need to conduct their errands on foot.

Now, let's talk about the great waste of water. 

We are always teaching our youngsters to preserve the natural resource, saying that water left dripping from a tap for just a few seconds is a large waste.

But why we are OK with this kind of water abuse?

I'm not against having water fights, if both parties are willing.

But soaking passers-by without their consent is unacceptable and should be banned.

Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Vanniya Sriangura

Senior writer and food columnist of Life

Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist of Life.

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