Why I Don't Like Thais
The author is an environmentalist and strong believer in animal rights. He splits his time between Africa and S.E. Asia. He believes there was a lot of hyprocrisy in the world wide reaction to the tsunami tragedy of Dec 2004. Some of the views he expresses in this article are controversial and certainly not those of this web site. However, we encourage debate and so are happy to publish alternative opinions.
Why I don't like Thais? Well, here's something that may help. I wrote it soon after the tsunami in response to several people asking me why I seemed to remain aloof from the tragedy. I found it difficult to find the words to express my feelings in a coherent fashion at the time but now I feel more comfortable sharing them - familiarity breeds contentment.
Life in the greatest continent on earth - Africa - is cheap. You can be shot dead for the price of your gold bangle on the streets of most major cities. Nature still rules the land to a large degree there. Malaria, cholera, starvation are very real and death is much more a part of daily life. You can't even have a relaxing root with Raunchy Rosie from Rosettenville after a twelve hour shift down the shaft in Sharpville, without catching a deadly dose. And as for opportunities to extend your life after illness has ravaged your body - "Perhaps another kidney or heart by-pass operation for you sir?" - What, are you joking? Life is cheap and the price in Africa is the lowest in the world. Africans are the lowest class in world politics' caste system - put there and imprisoned there by the western world. These are the people I feel sorry for. This is where I lay my pity for mankind. They are alive, but the west ignores their deathly cries for help.
Now, does that explain my supposed indifference to the tsunami tragedy? Partly. Although I certainly agree strongly with it, my personal views are more complicated.
I'm really fed up with the hypocrisy of the west. How it can pick and choose its just causes depending on the sensationalist nature of the event. I don't buy into it. I don't see why I should join in feeling sorrow for a hand-picked natural disaster, just because the west wants to feel good about itself. The media was whipping up some frenzied, mass outpouring of sorrow and hysteria of common grief. It's like watching a Hollywood movie. The insidious fascination with numbers - now there's 2,167 dead, now 33,264, now 60,000, now 250,000. Why is it so important? Who cares! It's a lot. They just want a sensational story to sell to get more viewers watching. The more gruesome, the better. It's as if they were wishing those numbers to go up.
The Indonesian government was carrying out state-sponsored massacres of the Aceh people before the tsunami came along and finished the job for them. Where was the compassion for these people then, when they were alive? The west turns a blind eye, like it will do when they continue in a month or two's time.
Why the media infatuation with Phuket Island for this tragedy? A few hundred people died here - no big deal in the scheme of this momentous thing. It just so happens that these dead people included some westerners, so their perceived value is higher - more newsworthy. Once Patong was cleaned up after two days, did they show that life is back to normal, and we were getting on with our lives? No, they look for more death and horror. They still show the lie of the old destructive footage, but are not interested in a good news story. This in turn has a negative impact on the tourism industry here, as now they have painted Phuket as a destroyed destination, and are not willing to show the truth, which is that it has recovered. No tourist wants to come here now and this is having the greatest impact of all on the lives of the locals, not the tsunami.
Why does the west get so wrapped up in death like this? If all the victims had died separately and at separate times as most people do, would there be collective grief? No. What's the difference? Where was the collective grief for all the innocent people that died in the Iraq War (or any war), the collective grief for the 30,000 Africans that die every day - yes EVERY DAY - from starvation? 1 dead, 100,000 dead - they are all dead, why all the concern for the dead?! What about the living? What about the 210,000 Africans that are alive RIGHT NOW - that the world CAN SAVE, CAN HELP - but will DIE from starvation NEXT WEEK because the world is apathetic, indifferent and lacks the will to help. Perhaps the cover story is not good enough. Perhaps they should wait until 100,000 die in one day. Better wait a few weeks, because the west views SE Asians as one caste up from Africans anyway.
On a more selfish note, I don't care for those dead anyway. Why should I? They are not my friends, they are not my family. There are two issues here - one is I don't care for dead people, the other is I don't care for Asian people. Dead people are just, well, dead people to me. How would you rather have them die? Everyone dies. I have no special affinity for these Asian people either. I care for my own circle of dear ones. Don't tell me I should care for others, please! Spare me that bullshit. They don't care for me or you. I've spent six years in SE Asia and I know that they wouldn't help me or you if I was dying at the side of the road. In fact, they'd take the opportunity to steal your wallet. The Thai police had to station officers at the morgues from Day 2 to stop people stealing valuables off the corpses. If all these 150,000 people had died of old age, or cancer or been murdered by the military authorities, would anyone care? No. So, what's the difference? What about the 50 or so people that died in Venezuala from, say, heart attacks on that very same day? Feel sorry for them too?
Let's take a look for a second at some of the countries involved shall we - one country (India) that imprisons millions of it's own people to a life of abject poverty and squalor in the name of subservient religion, one military dictatorship (Burma) that oppresses its own people's right to speak out and oppose government, locking up dissenters, two countries that rule with a military iron fist (Sri Lanka and Indonesia), squashing dead any calls for independence, whilst stealing all the local people's taxes for its own personal bank accounts, and one country of lying, stealing, cheating, racists, that will sell its children for the price of a cup of tea, and murders its own Muslim people. These are some of the countries that suffered most. Their own fellow citizens and rulers don't feel sorry for them when they are alive, why should I feel sorrow for them when they are dead? Why greave for their dead? Why not greave for their living? It's this apathy that really gets me.
The majority of Thais that died on the beach in Phuket? Let's take a look at the people that frequent the beaches at that time in the morning. We have illegal jetski and deckchair vendors that threaten the government with violence if they try to remove them. They will kill you if you set up in competition with them. They are mafia-type street thugs. Then we have the tuk-tuk drivers that extort and cheat money from tourists. Get into a car or motorbike accident with these wonderful people and you will end up in hospital, even if you were unharmed in the accident. The whole of Patong's tuk-tuk drivers would come and delight in kicking you down and smashing your teeth in regardless of who caused the accident. I'm sorry, I don't feel any sorrow for the death of those people. Then, there's the load of dead fisherman and destroyed fishing boats. Am I supposed to feel sorry for people that are destroying my livelihood, my passion, my world, my environment? And then the foreign media called for aid to rebuild their boats / death squads! What a farce!
Don't get me wrong, I'm not wishing death on anyone, I just don't feel sorry for them. If I lived for one hundred years, they'd never lift one finger to help me. I respect people that respect me.
I am a naturalist. I believe in nature. What about all those animals that were imprisoned in cages or shackled to trees destined for a life of suffering, torture and maltreatment, that drowned and died and couldn't help themselves? That is also a legacy of this disaster. The dead people were also responsible for the death of all those animals too. Who thinks and feels sorry for them? Man has no greater right to inhabit this earth than any other living thing, and it should have a duty to allow animals a right to cohabit on a fair and reasonable basis too. Last year, hundreds of millions of chickens were massacred in Asia. Why? Because chicken farmers provide miserable, squalid, disease-infested, overcrowded and intolerable living conditions for the birds. They don't keep them or feed them properly. The birds get sick, 12 Thais die, so the whole chicken population is exterminated! I find this horrific, coming from nations that have a religion that treats all animals equal. Animals are kept here in truly appalling conditions that just wouldn't be allowed in the west. But yet the west still happily buys the meat from Asia - out of sight, out of mind, just don't tell the public!
Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not happy for the suffering and death caused, but humanitarian causes don't turn me on. There are enough people out there that care. I'd rather care for the animals of this earth that deserve our support and that don't have a voice - they aren't destroying our world.
It is my greatest desire that the west leaves helping Africa out for such a long time, that maybe when it does finally lift itself off the fetid, rotten and squalid floor of human suffering, that we will have learnt from all the mistakes of the west and will be able to build a land and people free from the evils of mankind, and a wildlife untouched and unthreatened by encroachment where nature can prosper on an equal footing (quite some wish!).
Asian chicken farmers provide unfit, disease-infested, overcrowded living conditions for birds, and they don't feed them properly. Birds get sick, a handful of people die, so the whole chicken population is exterminated! Millions of healthy chickens are massacred. This is horrific. How can we be so conceited?
Animals are kept in conditions that wouldn't be allowed in the West. But yet the West still buys meat from Asia. The public are kept unaware of this.
Mankind has no greater right to this earth than other animals. We have a duty to allow animals to cohabit on an equal basis.