If I were a hopeless optimist, only seeing the beauty in this world and the good in everyone, then I could make the following statements:
- Thaksin Shinawatra was the most talented political leader Thailand have ever had.
- Abhisit Vejjajiva was the most educated political leader Thailand have ever had.
- General Prayuth Chan-ocha saved Thailand in time of crisis.
- Suthep Thuagsuban led the people to fight against corruption.
- Jatuporn Prompan led the people to fight for democracy.
- Natawut Saikua led the people to fight for democracy.
I may say the intentions of all six gentlemen are pure and honorable. They truly want to do well for Thailand. But the reality that we see every day is that every time each of these gentlemen utter a word that becomes news, the good people of Thailand have an epileptic fit.
Thailand may find some sort of unity in criticizing a celebrity love triangle, but as soon as any of the six gentlemen become news, society is fragmented into two sides. We lob hell, fire and brimstone at one another. Furthermore, if ever someone aim to agitate, society may very well once again degenerate into mob violence, as we have seen time and time again in over a decade of Thailand’s political divide.
Therefore, these six gentlemen should retire from politics and from public life. There might be more than these six, but these six make for a good start.
Democracy stands on the principle of freedom. As such, differences and diversities are the norm. Discussions, debates and even arguments are encouraged. But differences and divisions aren’t the same. The former is a matter of discussion and exchanging ideas, even if at times we can be quite stubborn and emotional about things. The latter is a matter that leads to fragmentation and chaos. A nation divided against itself.
If one were to pore through books on the history of Rome, one might find tens, if not hundreds, of reasons as to why the western half of the empire fell. Every single reason certainly played a contributing factor. All the reasons combined together yielded the sum of an orgiastic mess of failures.
In his book, Fall of the Roman Empire, Michael Grant gave a summation of 13 interacting tensions that led to the fall of the western half of the empire:
The generals against the state. The people against the army. The poor against the state. The rich against the state. The middle class against the state. The people against the bureaucrats. The people against the emperor. Ally against ally. Race against race. Drop-outs against society. The state against free belief. Complacency against self-help. The other world against this world.
Thirteen different interacting tensions, but one common theme “against”. Specifically, a nation (or empire) divided against itself.
Thailand is not Rome, not by any stretch of imagination. But Rome and Thailand, as well as every country ever created since the dawn of the human civilizations, are the same in its basic structure: these are human organizations.
As with any human organization, a decline and eventual fall starts with the organization being divided against itself. In today’s world, we are witnessing this theme, from the most developed western countries to a struggling nation like Thailand.
What would be the point of history if we don’t learn from it?
Thailand today is the people against the people. The people against the bureaucrats. The state against the people. The military against the politicians. The people against the military. The poor against the elites. The elites against the poor. Tradition against change. Control against freedom. Most specific to this essay, cult of personality against cult of personality.
The list may go on and on. But one theme remains the same, the word “against” in the context of one nation.
There are many reasons to explain Thailand’s division. Everyone has his or her pet theory. But like as not, one important reason is the love and hate the Thai people have for these six gentlemen, and the cults of personality they have created. The love and hate that brought about chaos and violence. The love and hate that see a nation divided to this very day.
If national reconciliation is the goal, then perhaps we ought to thank the six gentlemen for all the goods they have intended. But more urgently, we must ask these six gentlemen to make an important personal sacrifice for the future of our country. This sacrifice is to retire from politics and public life, to earnestly retired, and not even to play the wizard behind the curtain.
Obviously, as things stand, they are not going to give up on politics. Wealth, power and pride, these are rather irresistible things. But if we the people realize the need for the six gentlemen to turn in their badges and hang up their gloves, we may eventually pressure them to do so… one voice at a time, until we reach of sum of millions and tens of millions.
Then we can move on to better things in life.
Whether the retirement of these six gentlemen (spoiler alert – they won’t) would be a good thing could be debated, particularly by those in the thrall of one or the other of them. What cannot be seriously debated is the central theme of this article: Thailand as a nation divided against itself.
Great article. Well said.
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Well said, well written, original thought. I like it.