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The Thailand you’ve always known – Part 2

May 23, 2010 2 comments

Regarding my AUA Thai Program Blog, The Thailand you’ve always known, a friend commented, “The following article takes a VERY different perspective. I hope your perspective is the right one.

Time will tell. (No pun intended.)” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1990640,00.html

Interestingly, I don’t find what I am saying to be at odds with the Times article above.  Typical of most non-Thai views it regards the issues the surround the conflicts as things that must be corrected. Issues like freedom of speech, institutions, military, etc. The problem here is that these institutions exist because they are still needed. To abolish them for the sake of Western styled democracy would be suicidal for Thailand. The present government appears to know this.

Thailand’s majority have historically viewed government as ‘masters’ – ‘elder’ government if you will. In most democracies, the government exists to represent, indeed serve the people. If this becomes the case in Thailand, it will require a major value shift, and one that Thai people are not likely to make soon. (see Elders below) If the comparison can be made, and I think it’s a fair comparison, the majority of Thailand politically is comparable to children growing up. They have needed and still do need their parents.

Have the parents become institutionalized? Of course.

Is that holding back some things? Of course.

Is that adding stability to the country? Yes, and No.

In order for the Thai majority to take the reigns of government they must win the confidence of the parents. This will not happen by the sort of demonstrations that have just occurred. It must happen in a united way. Nearly every Thai/family owned business as well as many Thai run, non-family businesses I know of are like a microcosm of the country in this regard. And there seem to no end of cases where the parents did in fact, turn over the control to the 30 and 40 year old children, only to have the business destroyed in a very few years.

The institutions and government that many are so quick to criticize are the very thing maintaining stability here. While the damage done last week is undoubtedly the most costly in terms of dollars, in terms of lives, it was extremely low. This points to the true values of the Thai and is something that most developed countries could learn a great deal from. Businesses will be rebuilt, money will be made again, and when it comes down to it, the real hardships from it all will rest on the poor who like teenagers in rebellion, are gaining a foothold in the political process. They’re just not there yet. I for one, want to see that growth continue – but I don’t think it would be wise for it to happen overnight. What won’t be recovered are the lives which have been lost. Most of these deaths seem to be caused neither by the government nor the redshirts who are seeking a voice, but by a few who are apparently using all sides as fronts to gain power. This too, is a product of transition from the old ways to democratic government, which can only move forward through education, and increased maturity of the majority – a growth process which takes time.

Elders

One of the great underlying values of the Thai is that of honoring the elder. This lies as as deeply as any value the Thai hold, and is one of the obstacles to a Western style democracy. Rightly so.

Historically, it has always been the family elders who have had the final say. The social fabric was held together by this. As larger governments have emerged, this is still the case. The fact is, the majority of the people still look to age as deserving the final say and this cuts across every faction in the demonstrations. One can only begin to imagine the internal conflict in the hearts and minds of many Thai at the moment.  (In addition to age, wealth has also had it’s place in offering respect. Perhaps the greatest thing that Thaksin did for Thailand was help the Thai see that riches is not a good reason to necessarily respect a person or give them more credit that others with less means. I’d guess that never again will Thais readily be influenced heavily by a candidate’s wealth.) The upshot of this is that as elders involved in politics, it’s important to listen and go along with what they say. This underlies the institutions that are in question and is one of the redshirts major issues.

As I said previously, I think that this is a balance for Thais to determine. Ssecondly, it’s a balance that can only be found over time. For those of us who live here and have been taken with the charms of this people, let’s give them the space and time to find that balance. Let’s also understand together that this place is everything it is because of the values of the Thai people.

Read Part 1 at : http://auathai.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/the-thailand-you-have-always-known/

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What’s Good with Thaksin, the Redshirts, and the Yellowshirts?

April 13, 2010 2 comments

Key: [TIG = This is Good]

Nearly every news report I read, blog, tweet, or comment from a friend, decries what’s happening with the RedShirt demonstrations and conflicts surrounding it. I for one seem to see things a bit differently.  I think much of all this is good stuff!

People write about the past, quoting a bit of history, a date, or a person’s name.  No doubt this establishes credibility for them as a writer or reporter.  But what of the big picture.

For example, Thaksin was and perhaps still is among the wealthiest people in the world. Was he corrupt? Have you ever heard of a Thai politician who wasn’t? I don’t mean to malign anyone here, but it seems to me that corruption, power, and control have been the domain of Thai government for all of modern recorded history.  I can’t imagine making a shift from the past that is to an non-corrupt form of government overnight.   Anyway, my understanding of how Thais want things to work, is that corruption is nowhere near over!  Did Thaksin take corruption to new levels? Sure – he had the means to do so.  Want him back? No way. I think the guy’s dangerous. But to his credit (motives aside) he is the first rich, politician that I know of who really engaged the poor majority. [TIG]

Honestly, the attitude of the past by those in political power has always been to ignore the poor, until election time, or until the poor needed something so badly they had to close down roads to get attention.  By the way, this is something that is historically common all over the provinces – so when these guys came to Bangkok, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine what the outcome might be – the RedShirts may have never been much engaged in the politics before now, but they are certainly experienced in demonstrations that involve road closures.  So Thaksin, among the list of other accomplishments, can be credited with single-handedly (a hand quite full of money) engaging the masses of poorer people in the democratic process.  I imagine that using 300 Baht gifts to these guys before election won’t have the same effect as it always has in the past! [TIG] Ah, you say, he paid all of these people and that’s the reason they’re involved.  Realizing that this has always been common practice, It’d imagine that the stakes have been raised so high by now that the practice will have to dissappear! [TIG]

Many people have decried the demonstrations of the RedShirts.  Why? Frankly, it’s been very disruptive. Having never been really engaged in democratic proceedings before, they now have something they want to say. [TIG] The fact that they could perhaps go about it in a better way to my way of thinking is of much lesser importance that the fact that they’re finally involved.  Come on everyone.  This is the majority of the population by a long shot – and they have never gotten involved before now. You must ask yourself why haven’t they?  So now the RedShirts have started a course in politics and democracy, and are paying tuition. [TIG]

So does anyone want these guys running the country? No! But they need to be involved, and it may be important to recognize that it is largely those who are opposed to the RedShirts, who have been historically all too happy to leave the “poor uneducated farmers on the farm where they belong!”

So now the poor are speaking up!  I say [TIG]!

We who are from places where democratic processes are more established and governments are more stable, fail to remember our own histories.  The riots, the uprisings, the debates that ended in bloodshed – all seem to be a part of our own histories.  In fact, for the sort of changes that have happened and need to continue, few people have died. [TIG] Few of us have experienced such happy demonstrations as have been the majority of the RedShirt activity.  The spirit has largely been that of a football game! Where else but in Thailand do people have such a fun time demonstrating? [TIG]. Sure there are a few how are holding grudges, and they may be pulling more strings that is obvious to the casual onlooker – but again, it’s always been like this and won’t change overnight. I imagine that if this was the USA, there would have been less than 1/2 the demonstrators and over twice the deaths. So… [TIG]

As in most of life, it’s not really about who’s right or who’s wrong.  So when people want to talk about this person did this, or that person did that, Or use words like corruption, vote-buying, or vested interests, I want to say to everyone, take a step back and look at the big picture! While I don’t want to see the country being run by puppets of Thaksin, (and this is something to disallow) for the first time that I’m aware of, there is finally a real cross-section of people who are involved in the political process. [TIG] Will elections be dramatically different from the past? Probably not. But the more varied and involved the people are, the more representative the government must become. And the more elections will be about ideas rather than about power.

And This Is Good.



Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts – How will this end?

March 14, 2010 Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but if you’re in Thailand, you’re probably getting asked this question as much as I am.  Most of the people I know don’t really define themselves as either Red or Yellow.  Most of the people I know, wish that we could just have nice, quiet coups without all the publicity, which by every account, has hurt Thailand considerably.  It’s not that people don’t care that business interests are suffering – it’s more like there simply seems to be no way forward that’s positive.

As in other places in the world, the whole situation lacks real leadership and direction.  (Perhaps in this sense, the government is truly representative of the people.)  Or perhaps, and I think more likely, this situation needs a different sort of solution, one that cannot really be provided by politics.

Everyone seems to want democracy – but everyone it would seem, realizes what with the social, educational, and class differences among the constituents, a representative government is unlikely.  Not to over-simplify things, but it’s not dissimilar to an imagined representative process where the majority of the voters were 16 year olds, while the minority were 70 year olds.  The minority has held the reigns of power (i.e. money) and all of a sudden, the 16 year olds have found their voice.  Among his many other successes and failures, Thaksin gave the kids a voice.

The problem as I see it is this: While we may hope that the Red Shirts will slowly lose their ability to gather together, and Thaksin may lose his ability to support them, this is a dangerous game to play.  Ideas don’t die so easily.  Sooner or later, new leaders emerge.

It’s not hard to see that the present powers that be, don’t really represent the poor and less well-educated of the country. (notice I’m not saying repressed.) [In their own view, Thaksin was the first major politician to extend a ‘helping hand’ to the poor majority.  We could all debate whether his motives were to help the poor or not, and whether what he did actually helped anything – many families have become destitute because of the loans that couldn’t be repaid.]  But as a scenario, is there any leader among the Red Shirts including Thaksin, who could possibly bring together a government which is representative of the business and economic interests of the nation?  (notice I’m not saying majority.)  [And here lies the democracy problem.  Who possibly favors allowing the 16 year olds to control finance, foreign policy, national security, etc.?]

We currently have two ways of seeing things, that are held apart from each other by virture of education, knowledge, and experience.  If there was some way to educate, and bring the majority of Thai people up to the levels of the Yellow Shirts, democracy might work better. By levels, I don’t mean higher in any moral sense, simply more advanced due to broader experience, opportunity, education, money, etc.  This is the vital difference between the young and the old.  Thailand doesn’t do retirement very well.  We value our aged.  But this can also be extremely stifling.  And on occasion, splits occur.

What is needed here is a bridge, or better yet, many bridges that will span the gaps between the Red and Yellow factions.  Today, Thonburi is nearly non-existent as a unique and different place from Bangkok – it has been so integrated mainly due to the bridges across the Chao Phraya River.   But where the bridges might come from in order to span the gaps between the Red and Yellow is anyone’s guess, but they must ideally be built from the power base to the disenfranchised – and here too, leadership appears to be lacking.

Thinking out loud, I wonder if business people, all of who suffer from the current state of dysfunction, could develop a plan to make the needed bridges.  While a return on investment in the poorer communities may not make great business sense, it makes great social sense.  It might also do wonders to alleviate the political divide that is costing business so much today.

I imagine people commenting at this point – something down the lines of how long such a strategy would take and how expensive it would be.  I agree, it could only happen little by little over a period of time, before the lasting results would be understood completely, but I also know that this problem of Red and Yellow isn’t going to end with the demonstrations this weekend – and frankly, from the business perspective, it’s costing too much already.

Last year I visited Taiwan.  I spoke with friends about the tensions between the mainland and their country.  Those tensions are lessening, little by little, because of investment between the countries.  If the Thai government created incentives for businessmen to invest in the poorer communities, much could happen quickly.  It wouldn’t take too long before the knowledge and experience would be there in a way that everyone could finally wear new shirts with new colors.  Then, and not before, will Thailand find the means to a representative government.

We have so much to learn

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

“We’ve come to believe that the core capacity needed to access the field of the future is presence. We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one’s preconceptions and historical ways of making sense. We came to see the importance of letting go of old identities and the need to control and, as Salk said, making choices to serve the evolution of life. Ultimately, we came to see all these aspects of presence as leading to a state of “letting come,” of consciously participating in a larger field for change…   In the end, we concluded that understanding presence and the possibilities of larger fields for change can come only from many perspectives-from the emerging science of living systems, from the creative arts, from profound organizational change experiences, and from direct contact with the generative capacities of nature. Virtually all indigenous or native cultures have regarded nature or the universe or Mother Earth as the ultimate teacher. At few points in history has the need to rediscover this teacher been greater.”

— by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski & Betty Sue Flowers

This blog is represents the views and opinions of David – only and is not necessarily representative of any organization or affiliate.

Democracy

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

Democracy fails, not because it doesn’t work at all, but because it instills individualism without responsibility. Only when individuals realize that the personal needs of others are also their own responsibility will we see a system of government emerge that makes more sense. Rather than every man for himself, it will be every life for the life of all.