Toon Bodyslam and his (non-)political lesson

opinion December 30, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

3,485 Viewed

Rock star shows pure hearts can get things done 

The year 2017 is ending with a lot of uncertainties, domestically and abroad. There have been positives, but it’s hard to find a positive that’s not politicised. The accomplishment of rock star Toon Bodyslam is among the most outstanding, non-politicised highlights of the year, which would otherwise have concluded mired in divisive issues related to Thai politics.

His charity run, which started in southernmost Thailand in early November and has just finished in at its northernmost point, raised more than Bt1.1 billion. The money will buy a few hospitals across the nation better equipment. The marathon was amazing, proving that Artiwara Kongmalai, Toon’s real name, is as athletically gifted as he is musically talented. But more amazing is the pure idea behind it and the manner in which Toon’s dream was achieved.

Toon had this idea of utilising his fame and body in a noble way. He has accomplished it because his compatriots bought it wholeheartedly, helping make his campaign dramatically successful. The fever that surrounded his undertaking from start to finish may lead to some criticism, but the bottom line is that it’s been proved possible that ordinary guys on the street – Toon and his fans, in this case – can tackle and solve an important issue.

Some say equipping hospitals with the best tools available is the government’s job, not a task for ordinary citizens. We elect governments to provide the best healthcare, say the cynics, and this fundamental concept of politics should not be blurred. The truth, however, is that politics can demonise good deeds and downplay bad ones, and politicians will never help if they get nothing in return.

Toon’s sincerity and humility contributed to the fever, but more than that, his success has taught the powers-that-be a valuable lesson. Political mobilisation might well raise the same amount of money or even more, but it would require a public-relations campaign on a grand scale. Toon has fulfilled his agenda without having to coerce anyone. Everyone who got involved was attracted by a strong sense of sacrifice, of sharing.

Another lesson coming out of the Toon marathon is that we must acknowledge other people’s deeds. He was always awkward amid showers of praise, repeatedly pointing out that his run would soon end, whereas the work of doctors and nurses never does – and they’re the ones who deserve praise. If such an attitude were prevalent in politics, the world would be a much better place.

The fever is unlikely to fix Thailand’s political polarisation. The divisiveness has come to a point where the rivals never seem to do any good. But that doesn’t mean Thai politics is different from politics elsewhere. It’s common around the world for people to do good deeds only if it helps them win or retain power – and they’ll do bad deeds too, if that will help them.

While it’s unlikely to change the political status quo in Thailand, the fever offered proof that a pure, non-political agenda deeply touches ordinary people. Toon is a phenomenon at the moment, reminding us all that there are good deeds called for by good conscience and there are good deeds of a different sort dictated by political necessities. When such a phenomenon becomes the norm, his success will have been completed.