A Westerner’s Experience Living in Thailand

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By Adrian Blackburn

Isaan-couple-on-bike

 

Seeing the economic status/conditions of this country, and being able to fit it into the bigger picture that includes all of the world nations, has helped me to better understand the global hierarchy of nations and how individual countries play specific roles within this.

Within this, currency manipulation and separation through cultural identities is key – also the competition point, which is expressed through nationalism.

One of the best tools to keep any nation bonded to maintaining its role in the global hierarchy is nationalism – one of the best forms of control is to have one identify with and begin to love and revere their chains – this obviously applies at the individual level in interpersonal relationships as well. Religion also plays a major role in this as the antidote when the conditions of a nation are adverse, giving all kinds of justifications as to why things are the way they are or false hope that it is all somehow ‘for the better.’

Identifying oneself with impoverishment, destitution and extremely adverse conditions carries with it great psychological implications – usually a degree of shame and a complete lack of self belief and self will – we all know how hard it is to be poor in the west at a social level and the implications this has – now imagine the massive degree of poverty that is standard, normalized and accepted in countries such as this, and how broad and far reaching these conditions are with regard to their effect on the psyche of the individual – conditions that we in the west would be appalled by, as we now see people rioting in the streets due to their living conditions worsening – whereas in countries such as this, it is already standard, accepted. It is fascinating because in this country, the protests and riots you see in the streets are actually the political minority upper-class who are angry about any attempts by ‘corrupt’ politicians to improve the lives of the poor majority lower class – this majority poor lower class simply don’t have the time or resources to gather and form a force to protest or riot, they are too busy surviving (or not even).

So our own lack of awareness to the lives of the impoverished in our own countries in the west are really just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ when you broaden that to a world-scale, and our lack of education and proper media reporting/exposure plays a major role in this – also the fact that as nations who naturally compete according to the laws of economics, this ignorance can also be justified because as long as we are on the winning team, things are fine apparently. If anything, our main priority and inclination is to take advantage of and exploit such conditions, which really something that is done quite extensively.

Language barriers and cultural norms are exacerbated through the competition principle – most racism in the world is not overt but rather implicit, the principle of ‘it is different from me therefore I value it less’. The competition principle – expressed through cultural identity – places the lens through which we tend to judge things that are different and not normal in our own cultures, which is really an unfortunate thing because when you get down to it, you realize that it is all essentially the same stuff – predictable humans behavior based on circumstances/conditions – but just appearing differently because we are coming from different perspectives that are shaped by our conditions – again here economic conditions play the largest defining role.

For instance, in my experience I have noticed the tendency for many foreigners who come here to judge this country – which is quite an easy thing to do, given the conditions here and the issues they create – without ever considering that they themselves have in fact played a role in why things are the way they are in places like this. National borders are really illusory when it is plain fact that the entire world is very directly connected by a global economic system, and of course more indirectly connected through relationships.

When you break down borders and view this as a global issue, you also realize that in fact, what we would call ‘normal middle class’ people in western/developed nations, who we consider as not being rich, are in fact within the top %10 of the worlds richest people – so when people in the west feel disempowered to act and make any change for the better in their world within the mentality of ‘poor little old me, what could I possibly do?’ – understand that there are people in this world – China serves as a great example of this – who live in complete slavery. They get up, work for 18 hours, with short breaks for meals and hygiene upkeep to make sure they are still alive and can work – sleep for 6 hours and then repeat. People who would look at the lives of middle class people like ourselves and think ‘omg, they have 2 or 3 hours of free time to themselves every day and bit of extra money in the bank?’ what a life! I only wish I could ever be so privileged, the things I could do with all that freedom…’

We are also – in the case of Thailand – talking about a nation where certain basic freedoms are not even allowed by the rule of law – for instance while we have free speech in the west – although that is questionable and constantly under duress – this pales in comparison to a nation like this where for instance you literally cannot say any thing negative about the monarchy – you would be thrown in jail.

In the west, our lack of understanding and our inaction comes largely from information control and manipulation, but when we are talking about a country with money and resources through which the individual tends to be more enabled and have more opportunity, ignorance is more of a choice – whereas in Thailand there is a large amount of information control on the internet and in media in general, and again very limiting economic conditions – many people genuinely don’t know what they don’t know and have no way of ever finding out, and thus have very little chance or opportunity of being able to help themselves.

So this really all puts into perspective our self-responsibility and our responsibility to our world as middle-class westerners.

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