marcel barang

A short lecture on politics, Thai-style

In English, Reading matters on 19/03/2010 at 11:19 am

 The master (politician) said it best, half a century ago.

‘…Tell me, Ort, what is this new thing that has come and interfered … You call it “politics”. What is “politics”? I’ve never heard of it. You must teach me…’ Phloi raised her hand and stroked her own brow as if to wipe away obscurity and then went on saying in a low voice, ‘I’m very old, Ort … much too old! I don’t know what anyone is up to. You must tell me, Ort, so that I can adjust properly. Please tell me what this “politics” is about. How do they go about it?’

‘It’s very hard to say, my darling mother,’ Ort said in a low voice as if he too was talking to himself. ‘I don’t know how to explain it properly. Before, there was no such thing as politics. Everybody went about doing the work they had to do. Whoever had a duty performed it. Whatever views they held were within the frame of their work. Like Own: before, if he thought about something it was military matters; An thought about legal matters. There was no way the two of them would disagree, because the ideas they had were in different fields. But nowadays, the scope of both Own and An’s thinking has grown much wider, which is that they have opinions regarding public affairs, the common good. As the two of them think about the same matter, not different matters as before, if their thoughts are the same that’s good, but if they are different, it creates problems, as you have just seen. If you want me to define politics for you, I can’t tell you, because politics is too extensive a field to be defined in just a few words. I can only tell you that, on the positive side, politics broadens people’s perspectives, makes them high-minded, gives them perseverance, resistance to sorrow and readiness to sacrifice their own happiness to reach the goals they think are correct. It makes them feel their lives have meaning, they are their own masters, they are able to control themselves. Seen in a positive way, politics is something very good. But if you look at it negatively, politics is terrifying, because it makes people fight and kill each other, fathers quarrel with their children, husbands row with their wives, brothers and sisters are waging war. Politics brings strife between people which may lead to being on bad terms and vindictive for a lifetime. Sometimes, politics brings you lots of friends but at times it may make you lose them all, perhaps lose all property, be sent to jail or even lose your life.’

‘But when they know it’s a bad thing, why do they insist on having it?’ Phloi asked dubiously.

‘When it’s time for it to come, it comes by itself. Nobody looks for it and nobody can prevent it,’ Ort answered and then heaved a sigh. ‘Politics is like people: it shall grow up and change. If it doesn’t today, then some other day for sure. What worries me is that when it comes round like now, it brings trouble to many people.’

‘Why does it have to be like that, Ort?’

‘Do you remember, Mother, once when I was still little?’ Ort said and then looked ahead as if he could see into the past. ‘I called you over to have a look at the pond near our house because that day the fish were jumping and wriggling all over it. You told me it was because the tide was rising and the water was new so the fish were rejoicing, but before long some people came along with seines and swings and caught plenty of them. What I remember you can compare with what is happening now: the new politics is like new water, many will rejoice and if they are not careful will find themselves in danger like those fish in the pond.’

‘An did tell me once that we must be careful now because we were still at what he called a turning point,’ Phloi said as it suddenly came back to her.

‘An is right,’ Ort said. ‘But I am still worried about that turning point of his. I can’t think of how long it’ll take, tens or hundreds of years perhaps, before we are past that turning point and start walking straight. I only know that as long as we are caught up in it, there will be people left by the wayside.’

‘Never mind those,’ Phloi stated firmly. ‘I’m only concerned about you, my children.’

‘And I only about you, Mother.’

From ‘Book 3: Third Reign’ of Four Reigns by Kukrit Pramoj, 1954


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