March 18, 2010
Something interest happened this week in Thailand that I think says a lot about the country and its people.
For the last several months… well, years, actually… a large group of organized protesters has stepped up its calls for the current government of Thailand to step down. The group is known as the “Red Shirts” for the uniform they wear, and their top priority is to have open and fair elections to select a new government.
Over the last few months, the Red Shirts have grown more vocal, staging massive protests and rallies across the country. Their latest move was devilishly clever, in my opinion.
In the last few days, group organizers mobilized about 40,000 Red Shirt volunteers to stand in the blazing Bangkok heat, roll up their sleeves, and give blood… not for some natural disaster relief effort, though. Just to make a point, and a bloody one at that.
In this case, the Red Shirts collected about 300 Liters of blood and dumped it in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Bangkok… as my local friends have told me, now the PM must wade through a river filled with the blood of Thai people on his way to work.
I really admire the creativity. I could only imagine the media effect this would have in the United States if an antiwar group did the same thing at the White House.
Even moreso, though, I was struck by the peaceful nature of the protest, especially with such a strongly symbolic gesture.
You see, Thais are an extremely peaceful people. They have been fighting against one corrupt government or another as long as anyone can remember… but despite their passion for freedom, their rallies remain peaceful.
When the Red Shirts descended on the Prime Minister’s residence, it was tightly guarded with police and military forces. The guards let them through, they dumped the blood, said a few words for the press, and dispersed.
I think in a lot of other places, the energy of the situation would have turned violent quickly. In Thailand, it was peaceful and respectful, and I think this says a lot about the country and culture.
Fundamentally, Thailand is an incredibly safe place to live exactly for this reason… its people are peaceful, and not just for catchy slogans or tourism campaigns. In fact, if you want to get the best idea about the true nature of a culture, look for situations like this when the country is going through a tough time.
In Thailand, the river of blood episode comes on the back of two years worth of extreme economic uncertainty and political instability. This is far from Thailand’s finest hour… yet the situation is still completely nonviolent, a clear indication of the Thai people’s temperament.
Another example is what’s happening in Chile. Rocked by a series of historically powerful earthquakes and aftershocks, the country has been dealt a seriously bad hand lately. And yet, in their darkest hour, despite the difficult conditions without food or power, Chileans still conduct themselves in a non-violent, civilized way.
Mainstream media sources, always on the lookout for guns and violence, paint a different picture of both countries. Even if they have to make up facts, they want people to believe that Thailand is about to descend into chaos, and that Chile is already there.
It’s not true. Chile and Thailand are both going through some challenges at the moment, but the civilized and non-violent actions of the people are demonstrative of how truly safe both countries are, even during difficult times.
If conditions in the world happen to turn truly sour, I would have no problem calling Chile or Thailand home because both cultures have already been tested by adversity.
See the video of what I’m talking about here: