This is no time for nationalism

This is no time for nationalism

Tragedy is a strange, contradictory thing. It breaks and it binds. It destroys and it builds. It opens and it closes. When an earthquake, or a storm, or a man's gun, or a bomb takes human lives, there is first anger, sadness, confusion. There is fear. There is grief. There is great pain. But this is followed by a period of mourning, and then of consolation, of comfort, of determination and of strength.

We seek fibrous strands of hope that glimmer like silk through cracks in the hard earth, and we mine them out with diligence and with absurd patience. Discovering this renewable yet priceless resource is what humans do best. This generally takes time, months or years, depending on what has occurred. It took approximately one week in Bangkok, after the vicious bombing of Erawan Shrine. Granted, wounds are not yet fully healed, but they seem well on their way, at much too rapid a pace. This is frightening.

There is much to be unsettled by in the wake of the attack, not the least of which is the woefully (or, one shudders to think, wilfully) inept police investigation.

There is also the fact that Prime Minister Prayut called on the police to glean inspiration from US network television drama, Blue Bloods. At best, Thailand's leader was making light of the worst terrorist attack in the country's modern history; at worst, he is a fool.

Most chilling is the crystalline exposure of the fathomless "us versus them" chasm, displayed proudly, like some gore-streaked landmark, in this broken society. There are Thais (good), and there are foreigners (bad).

Within hours, it had been decided that a foreigner carried out the attack, and that he did it with a motive -- to damage tourism in the Kingdom. There is no tangible evidence to support this. Perhaps it is accurate; perhaps it is not. All we have is grainy CCTV footage and the insubstantial word of taxi drivers.

Nevertheless, the country snuggled down into its bed, contented, and it slept peacefully. The crime scene was quickly cleaned and reopened to the public. (The shrine has now been closed for repairs, and will remain so for two weeks -- a significantly longer period than the criminal investigation that took place there.)

The attacker is, in all probability, gone, the police have said. But they know one thing: he is not Thai. No, a Thai would never do something like this. And the public bought it. There is no uproar.

There are no outraged masses. There is no vehement public demand for those in authority to take charge. The Thai people have been spoon-fed a healthy dose of xenophobia and a worrying number have swallowed it down, licked their lips and are, for now, sated.

There is no reason to worry, they seem to think, for the attacker is a stranger, from a shadowed, foreign land. He does not lurk among us. This venomous undercurrent sweeps Thais away, to become lost at sea. All the while a killer, whose shrapnel tore indiscriminately into flesh, remains at large.

Don't be fooled -- the bombing of Erawan Shrine was not an attack on Thais by some external force. It was an attack on people, committed by another person. It is as simple as that. Refuse to see it as such, and you are stupid.

Does this mean all Thais have been duped? Of course not. But does it reveal a jagged fault line that, to the outsider, causes so many Thai citizens to appear brainwashed and complacent? Well, now.

Critiquing that of which you are technically not a part is a tricky matter. You toe a tenuous line, and the moment you are perceived to have crossed it come the shrieks and the cries -- "You will never understand; you couldn't possibly! You are not one of us!"

That is partially true, yes. There are some facets of Thai society on which it is not a foreigner's place to comment. But anyone could have been killed in the bombing. Therefore, it is everyone's business. It is deplorable for the Thai people to take any amount of solace in the idea that this man, a monster who caused the deaths of 20 people and harmed approximately 130 more, might not himself be a Thai. As if a fact so pathetic could change anything, could bring anyone back to life.

The songs you were taught in school, the fantastic legends you've been told about, the historic greatness of your nation -- they don't mean anything at a time like this. Your passport's colour, your place of birth -- they do not by nature make you better, nor do they make you worse, than another man.

With a good heart does not come stock. There are the good among us, and there are the evil. It is the same in every society, in every nation.

Patriotism or blind nationalism, call it what you will. But when this toxicity, foul sludge that it is, washes up on the shores of reality alongside the decaying corpses of the innocent, it has gone too far.

The flag-waving and allusions to antiquated ideas of "Thainess" must stop. Mass murder must be looked upon objectively, without regard to self-serving platitudes of the hive mind.

The attacker's nationality is trivial. His motives are predominantly inconsequential.

What matters is that people are dead.

What matters is that people are dead.

People are dead.

People are dead.

People are dead.


Adam Kohut is the subeditor for Guru magazine of the Bangkok Post.

Adam Kohut

Sub-editor for Guru magazine

Adam Kohut is the sub-editor for Guru magazine of the Bangkok Post.

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