Say it isn’t so

Usually Connecting the Dots does not cite opinion pieces of journalists news worthy. However in this case, this very well written piece talks about Thai self denial that is so obvious to others living in the Kingdom. This self denial contributes to Thailand’s much slower than average pace in fixing things that are clearly wrong.

Perhaps all of this is Thailand’s version of political correctness by saying things that sound nice but are so bent from the truth, a black hole would be hard pressed to bend light that far. However it is the underlying trait that is the topic of this post.

Ex-pats that live in Thailand bring with them wonderful and frequently common sense ideas that will help to make Thailand a little better, one small piece at a time. Some are significant and some fairly minor. Perhaps the most common frequently cited problem that is ignored is Thailand’s education system. Foreign teachers often have tears in their eyes when they fail a student because they have not yet grasped the basic concepts required to be prosperous in life. The tears do not come from the failing, the tears come from seeing the student getting passed ahead no matter what knowing full well it is a recipe for a hard life.

This self indulgence and self sabotaging behavior to simply put fresh paint on junk and not fix it is perhaps one of Thai pride’s Achilles heel. But perhaps this behavior is part of what makes Thailand so wonderful and a low stress place to visit or live. The ‘Don’t worry about it’ attitude does have a way of taking the edge off the stress and self created nightmares of western living and obsessive political correctness.

The bottom line, ‘It is what it is.’, and for what it is worth, Welcome to Thailand the land of smiles.

Quoting The Bangkok Post;

Open your eyes to the real Samak
Samak Sundaravej was in life, and in death, a man of consequences – a prominent voice in Thailand’s political landscape for 40 years. Since his passing on Nov 24, eulogy after eulogy has praised Samak’s life, as a man and as a politician – his dedication, his honesty, his tireless work and even his colourful nature – most of which does the man and this country a disservice.

A society cannot progress into the future if it doesn’t learn from its history. But if history is full of flowery embellishments that read more like a romance novel than historical fact, then a society will be lost in its own self-delusions.

Sadly, studying history in Thailand is mostly just that, glorified delusions: in classes, in books, in the entertainment mediums and in eulogies.

As the saying goes, the truth shall set you free. The learning process is just that, to seek the truth so that we can free ourselves from the shackles of lies and deceptions, to be freed of delusions.

So if we were to study the history of Samak Sundaravej, let’s not be delusional about it.

Some honour Samak for achieving the ultimate goal of a politician: to become a prime minister. But should we honour anyone for reasons of vanity? Or should we honour him for being a good prime minister? If indeed he was a good prime minister? You, dear readers, be the judge.

Some honour Samak for being a colourful politician. But should we honour any politician for being sharp-tongued and profane, for having earned the nickname ”Dog Mouth?” Or should we honour him if his colourful behaviour actually translated into tangible benefits for the country? If indeed he made any benefits for the country. You, dear readers, be the judge.

Some honour Samak for his contributions to the country. But one would also like to learn might wonder what actual contributions he made for the good of the country in his 40 years in politics. You, dear readers, be the judge and consider the following findings.

According to the latest Suan Dusit Poll, 34.88% of the survey say Samak’s greatest accomplishment in his 40 years in politics was hosting his TV cooking show Chim Pai Bon Pai (Tasting & Complaining). His second greatest accomplishment, with 19.77%, was ”solving” Bangkok’s traffic problems with countdown clocks on traffic lights and ring roads.

Those are the findings from the sample group of the people of Thailand. Would you consider these as great accomplishments for a man 40 years in politics and once prime minister? You, dear readers, make of it as you will.

It is considered inappropriate to speak any less than praise for any man who has passed away, let alone a prominent politician. But Samak was, and still is, a man of consequence: past, present and future. Because he has impacts in the history and future of Thailand, we must awake our senses and censure him in our wisdom, not be kowtowed by blind traditions, so that we may be the better judge of the man and of our country and society.

When all is said and done, we do not harbor ill will against Samak, but we love and want better things for Thai land. Therefore we must judge the man truthfully, because we do not want to repeat the same mistakes in the future.

We salute his outspokenness, his courage to speak from the heart, even if we don’t always agree with what he said.

But we must always remember that, as a right-wing politician, he ran a campaign against pro-democracy student activists and supported the violent crackdown on their activities which led to the October 6, 1976 massacre.

We must always remember that while he was honest in the way of not mincing words, and spoke from the heart, he also went on CNN as prime minister of Thailand and lied, saying that only one person died in the October 6, 1976, massacre. We must remember because these are the things we do not want for our future.

We admire the loyalty he has for his beliefs, because loyalty is a worthy value regardless of whether or not we agree with his beliefs. But we must always remember the corruption scandals in which he was involved, namely the fire truck procurement scandals when he was Bangkok governor. We must always remember that in his brief stint as interior minister during the military-backed government of 1992, he justified the slaughter of pro-democracy demonstrators. We must remember because these are the things we do not want for our future.

We adore him for he was a rare politician who had the ability to reach the hearts and minds of the people. But we must always remember his vengeful venom against anyone who dared disagree with him, which was a character trait perhaps of a feudal lord, but unbecoming of a democratic leader in modern times. Last year, a female Thai reporter asked about rumours of infighting within his party to which Samak retorted: ”If I ask you did you have sex with anybody last night, will you answer me?” We must remember because these are the things we do not want for our future.

This isn’t a eulogy for Samak Sundaravej, but a sermon on what we should take from his life and death because the history of his life intertwined with that of Thai politics and society and hence, Thailand as a nation.

The only way to recognise where we are now is to understand how we got here, to understand our past. For if we don’t understand our past, how then can we make sense of our present state? If we cannot make sense of our present, how then can we build our future?

Samak was a man, flawed and imperfect, not unlike the rest of us. But we must not fool ourselves in the memory of the man, simply because tradition dictates what is appropriate.

We must remember him for what he was and what he had done. We must learn from the historical lesson of Samak Sundaravej.

Samak, the man, could perhaps be a great friend to anyone, a wonderful family man even. We should make a decision about Samak the politician, however: Is this what we want for the future of Thailand? This is why we must remember.

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