is getting somewhere fast
BANGKOK: Being in a country that venerates monks, it was weird hearing
of the attacks on Buddhist clergy in the Sri Lankan parliament.
Already the Taxi drivers are asking me if I come from a country
in which Buddhist monks are routinely roughed-up. Just joking. No
they don't know about it, but I dread the day they would because
then they would probably rough me up.
pontificate about Sri Lanka from this neck of the woods would be
rather audacious. But suffice to say that with reference to the
parliament roughing up, Buddhist monks will never be subject to
any such indignity in this country. The King here is God and the
monks come a close next in the social hierarchy.
conjures up various images, not least among them being that it's
a sin city. But these appendages do not do justice to the real face
of Bangkok. Bangkok absorbs Westernization like a blotting paper.
But apparently this country, which never came under the colonial-yoke,
does not entertain any qualms about what we from a colonized milieu
see as Westernization overdone.
reason is that there are no Gunadasa Amarasekera's here –
no offense meant at all to the author of Jathika Chinthanaya. But
in Gunadasa Amarasekera's words, Bangkok will be incorrigibly thuppahi.
It is a cultural hybrid that's very self effacing though. Bangkokians
feel no embarrassment about swearing by Western clothes including
power suits and jeans at all times of day for women. Apparently
this has been so ever since a dictator here way back in the 30’s
issued an edict that all women should wear slacks as that's the
only path to progress.
there was no reflex action against that kind of an edict that would
have invited anarchy in Sri Lanka. The explanation is that Bangkok
has no self-consciousness about Westernization because it was a
country that was never colonized. Resistance therefore the way we
know it or the way India knows it was never part of the ferment
here. Westernization is seen as part of the natural development
of the Thai ethos; its seen as technology transfer or a mere case
of culture swapping.
also does not have its collective conscience bothered by Westernization
essentially because Japan similarly sees itself as a country which
was not under the colonial yoke - this discounting the period of
American occupation post WW2. So from Visa card advertisements to
Mac Donald Coca Cola and the whole gamut of Western – particularly
American – cultural godheads proliferating Bangkok's urban
landscape, it is a bit queer to see Bangkok maintain its cultural
Bangkoikians feel too much credit has been lent to the West anyway
for these things. They see the West as not having a lien on Western
attire for instance; notwithstanding that they are following a 30’s
dictator’s whim when they don the trouser even today. But
you could say that they are more pragmatic about these maters here.
is an "almost dragon'' country. The economy is approaching
the levels of the successful South Asian dragons, which means that
the mindset here is to go with the production and consumer ethos
of the liberal and neo-liberal economies. Culture and thuppahism
can be ignored.
the argument of thuppahism cannot be lightly dismissed. Despite
the fact that Bangkok has a notoriously tourist dependent culture,
some of which is fuelled of course by the sex industry, the Thais
insist they are less thuppahi than most economies including those
post-colonial ones such as Sri Lanka and India. The evidence they
say is out there to see. In Thailand they speak Thai exclusively
- and if that's the case, can anyone seriously argue that Thailand
is more Westernized and hybridized than some other Asian country
such as Sri Lanka which still suffers from a colonial hangover of
not being able to discard the Englishman's English even for purposes
it's also good to see that Thailand is no Singapore. There is the
urge to defend the freedom of expression here. A programme lampooning
Prime Minister Takshin Sinawathra was headed for trouble the moment
it was launched here last week. The man who plays Sinawathra's son
suffers from Down's Syndrome and therefore the government's apologists
argued that it was in bad taste. The police allegedly harassed the
producer of the show.
the show goes on - and even if it's taken off at least the level
of the fight here is vibrant. You couldn't imagine such spunk in
Singapore. Thais would argue that they have real freedom and not
the ersatz variety, which obtains in America for instance. They
would say that there is no need in Thailand to conform to the dominant
agenda of the mainstream. Here, they say, you can be eccentric,
as you want to be. That's probably true but social tensions are
inevitable as the country moves perilously close towards Dragon
economy status. In a month or so Thailand will commission its first
is in addition to the highly efficient Skytrain system that connects
vital points in the city. But even as Thailand keeps knocking on
the door of Developed Nation status, there is rebellion brewing
in the South of the country. The version here is that it's a part
of the global clash of cultures –Muslim ferment resulting
from Osama Bin Laden's emergence as the arch villain in the international
that's to ignore the fact that the Muslim disenchantment in the
South has been around for ages. This is partly fuelled by dissatisfaction
resulting from poverty in the South. It has more to do with baksheesh
and Bhat than Bin Laden.
this way Thailand is a country that has its plate full with its
emerging status as an economic powerhouse with social irritants
that accompany such progress. But definitely it's a country that's
moving somewhere – not one that one suspects is getting nowhere
fast as Sri Lanka is at least at the current time. The country has
a Prime Minister to fit the bill.
Thailand is hybrid/thhupahi Takshin must be the King of the Thuupahi.
He doles out money - and believes in the lucre even as he is filthy
rich. Book stores carry Thakshin recommended reading – all
about corporate management. He is in a mighty hurry and so is Thailand.