Appearances rool, OK! What Ellie likes to call the Cosmetic Imperative. For example, the women construction workers in Thailand who wear long-sleeved shirts buttoned up and balaclava masks under broad-brimmed bamboo hats — better all sweated up than turned “black” in the sun. Not that you’d ever find Jack working construction, with or without a mask. But it’s same-same if you’re expecting a bit of street violence. You see these things are going to go down anyway, so you’d might as well look your best for the occasion. Right? And there’s another of Ellie’s laws: “There’s no instinct more primal, in Thailand, than the urge to look good.” Not even the survival instinct, it seems.
From my POV here, about 55 years in the future, your time, I could tell you what happens with the current troubles in Thailand. But I don’t expect it would do much good. Because whatever I tell you, it won’t change a darned thing.
One trouble with popular movements. They can feel just great to these people — it’s easy to get all pumped up with solidarity when everybody’s wearing the same colors. It’s much like belonging to a football fan club. Unfortunately, that’s pretty quick to turn to bad feelings against any group sportingdifferent colors. All you need then is to tack this onto a sense of injustice and inequality. As my Ellie says, at that point you get moral outrage, righteous indignation and gosh knows what breaking out around nearly any issue you like. And almost anything can set if off. Once that happens, it escalates — it takes on a life of its own. Before you know it, it’s like the whole society has gone crazy.
Part of the problem is that the people are led to believe their problems can be fixed right up. A few political and social and economic reforms, and Bob’s your uncle. And the so-called leaders who manipulate the mobs depend on these notions.
Realistically, of course, we live our lives in a kind of tension between what is, at any given time, what should be. We always live between some times when things just seem to get worse and worse, and other times when they appear to get better. They never seem to go all the way to heck, though, and they sure never get perfect. They swing one way, and then they swing back again, and we have to get on with living our lives in the situations between. Making the best of things as best we can. So you get a new leader and another party wins an election, and it’s all, “Yo! This way to the land of hope and glory.” Then that goes to heck, and the people head out into the streets again to demand another change of government, and some other route to the Promised Land.
There are always people happy to oblige, it seems, and so it goes. Year after year, government after government, and protest after protest. And guess what? You still get injustices and inequalities and a few people ruling the roost at the expense of the many. In what’s coming up locally, some of the faces at the top may change, but from the POV of those at the bottom that may not make a whole lot of difference, when it comes down to it.
Just one word of advice from the future: Holding your breath till stability sets in is only going to add a touch of blue to all the red and yellow you’ve already got out there in Bangkok. And keep your eyes peeled for larger-scale instances of the Cosmic Imperative.
“Now, don’t go waxing oracular,” says Ellie, and I don’t believe this is anything like waxing a car, something we don’t have here in Aeolia, in any case. But while I’m at it: One big player in current events is coming to a time he’ll wish he hadn’t got what he wished for. There, the oracular’s all shiny and clean.