musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Thai Rak Thai’

Dan Simmons and his ‘Flashback’ predictions

The new Dan Simmons novel Flashback, is a fascinating, wild, and disturbing tale, set in the USA — bouncing between Denver and Los Angeles — in the year 2036. As the back cover blurb states: “Terrorism and ultra-violence plague a once powerful society, whose only escape is to numb itself on flashback; a euphoric yet cripplingly addictive regression drug.”

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In this novel, set barely two decades in the future, the US is being governed by Japanese, American armed forces are fighting in China —- on the side of Japan, most sports stadiums (such as Coors Field in Denver) have been turned into federal prisons, shopping malls have become glorified housing projects, Texas has declared its independence, most commuters now ride bikes to work, and basically all hell is breaking loose around the country.  And those are only a few of the outlandish scenarios in this novel. But the more the chapters pass, you start to wonder: will any of this stuff really come true?

Toward the end of the book, on page 482, there is an out-of-the-blue reference to Thailand in one chapter. One of the characters has fallen ill and is given medical treatment by a Thai doctor living in Denver. Here’s an excerpt:

Dr. Tak’s real name was Sudaret Jatisripitak but everyone in the mall called him Dr. Tak. He’d fled from Thailand during their last “Thai Rak Thai” (Thais Love Thais) revolution that had killed a fifth of the nation’s population and found that he could make a decent living, without being medically certified in the United States, simply by giving black market medical care to the few thousand residents of the Cherry Creek Mall Condominiums.

The scary thing is that the writer’s prediction of a fifth of Thailand’s population perishing in a Thai Rak Thai battle isn’t so far-fetched. Judging from the last Red Shirt “protest” — which was more akin to a state of siege as Red Shirt hoodlums set up camps and held central Bangkok hostage for nearly three months — an even more bloody confrontation isn’t that remote a possibility. The colored-shirt political divide here in the kingdom is as entrenched as it ever was, with no signs that unity anywhere in sight.

 While Flashback is a very entertaining and thought provoking novel, there is also a disturbing right-wing slant to some parts of the book. Take this passage, where a Japanese mafia character is lecturing an American detective who he has hired to investigate the murder of his son:

“More than twenty years ago,” said Nakamura, “a group of my fellow Nipponese businessmen and myself watched as your new young president gave a speech from Cairo that flattered the Islamic world — a bloc of Islamic nations that had not yet coalesced into today’s Global Caliphate — and praised them with obvious historical distortions of their won imagined grandeur. This president began the process of totally rewriting history and contemporary reality with an eye toward praising radical Islam into loving him and your country. The name for this form of foreign policy, whenever it is used with forces of fascism, is appeasement.

This president and your country soon followed this self-mockery of a foreign policy with ever more blatant and useless appeasement, attempts at becoming a social democracy when European social democracies were beginning to collapse from debt and the burden of their entitlement programs, unilateral disarmament, withdrawal from the world stage, a betrayal of old allies, a rapid and deliberate surrendering of America’s position as a superpower, and a total retreat from international responsibilities that the United States of America had long taken seriously.”

Doesn’t sound like an Obama fan, does he? As with most right-wing arguments, they attempt to grossly simplify a complicated situation, conveniently leaving out certain facts and details. The previous tirade, for example, neglects to mention the global destruction caused by decades of American imperialism and economic blackmail (read any book by John Perkins for details on America’s alarming practices). The USA is definitely not some sort of benign, innocent party in the war on terrorism.

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On the other hand, I think Western leaders HAVE shamefully tried to appease the radical Islamic element far too much, absurdly referring to Islam as a “great religion,” for example. Does anyone seriously think that most Westerners, Christians in particular, have the slightest understanding of, or respect for Islam? Bush, Cheney, Clinton, Obama, take your pick; they all speak with forked tongues. And conversely, why should any other sane individual on the planet have any respect for the loony right-wing Christians who go around trying to force their warped “morals” and bizarre doctrine on others? It’s all wrong. I remain puzzled when politicians and “concerned citizens” make pleas for religious freedom. Why should there be such “freedom” when it’s so obvious that most devout followers of religions all over the world have an extremely radical agenda with no tolerance for those who don’t believe the same as they do, all of which contributes to further hate and bloodshed. Which leads to the question: whose intolerance is justified?

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Primary Politics

In the New York Times last week, columnist Frank Bruni provided readers with a deliciously cutting analysis of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his flip-floppy tendency of changing — or adjusting — his position on various issues:

 

But if Romney nabs the nomination, his malleability may be an asset, allowing Obama-soured voters to talk themselves into him. After all, a creature without passionate conviction doesn’t cling to extremes. He surveys the scenery and makes sure his outfit doesn’t clash.

 

That hits the nail on the head! Looking at the dysfunctional field of freakish candidates for president in the Republican Party this year, most of whom are religious nuts from the far right wing, Romney is considered by most pundits to be the “most electable.” He certainly has the best hair. But amongst that motley crew, Jon Huntsman appears to be the most sane and intelligent of the bunch. Of course “sane and intelligent” are hardly apt descriptions for most politicians nowadays, and certainly no indicator of electability. Money still talks, and makes all the difference in the outcome. Americans may like to crow about their “free and fair” democratic process, but the reality is that elections are all still governed — and won — by big money.

 

Here in Thailand, the political scene is equally weird and warped, the participants more akin to the revolving cast in a bad TV soap opera. This year will see former politicians from the disbanded Thai Rak Thai party worm their way back into greasy grid when their five-year ban from politics expires;  although that ban didn’t stop many of them from operating from the sidelines as very active advisors, or acting as “persons of influence” in recent years.

 

Just last week an MP from Thailand’s Democrat Party was charged with murdering a rival politician from the Pheua Thai Party (they prefer to now spell it Pheu, which is as idiotic as their policies). This being Thailand, however, the murder suspect has used his MP status to avoid arrest and has failed to respond to two court orders demanding that he furnish two pieces of evidence in the case — those being his pickup truck and a Glock gun. When investigators when to the MP’s home on Sunday, the suspect’s mother told them that her son wasn’t at home and “did not wish to receive” the court order. Oh, to have such options!

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/273457/police-step-up-pressure-on-khanchit

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/opinion/mitt-the-paisley-tiger.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

 

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