September 05, 2012 00:00
By Tulsathit Taptim
Disclaimer: Let me be honest from the outset.
There’s a good mixture of truth and untruth in this article – enough to make some of you feel uncomfortable. But like we know already, there are lies that hurt, lies that kill, and lies that are supposed to be “harmless”. Mine, hopefully, are in the last category. They are meant specifically for our embattled finance minister, Kittiratt Na-Ranong, a “white lie” teller with a conscience. He has been under attack from left and right, and thus, I assume, deserves a little encouragement, expressed in a way he himself advocates.
Where do I begin? Of course, there’s speculation that Kittiratt is on his way out, ironically thanks to those who are far greater liars. I just want to tell him that the rumours are bull. Why? Because the logic doesn’t add up. Why would someone (you know who) obsessed with image building like no other sack someone for lying just to protect a collective image of his political camp? You may point out that Kittiratt is not facing the axe because he told lies, but because he has admitted to telling them. This sounds like a clever argument, but it’s not.
If they fire Kittiratt for admitting to lying, this means they will have to get a replacement who also lies, but who will never admit it. This means something like 99 per cent of the world’s population could be Thailand’s finance minister. Everyone is capable of telling a white lie, or of portraying the black ones as white. Problem is, Kittiratt’s replacement will be forced (by the image-conscious patriarch) to lie about the economic picture again, in which case he or she won’t be able to use white-lie claims to protect him/herself. When that replacement minister gets caught later for, say, exaggerating growth figures by about 3 per cent, it’s the government who will suffer a red face.
As we can see, there is no sound justification to remove Kittiratt or make him function only as a deputy prime minister. Moreover, firing him now will bring both contempt and ridicule onto the government. We have already heard calls for constitutional amendments to make it compulsory for every finance minister to undergo a polygraph test or be administered with “truth drugs” before every press conference.
That animals also lie – and they apparently do so without shame – should make Kittiratt feel better. A little Google search and we find plenty of amazing examples. A lab gorilla was caught tearing a steel sink off a wall but, using learned sign language, blamed a cat for it. Capuchin monkeys steal food from their stronger peers by sounding fake danger warnings, sending the latter to run for cover. Male Topi antelopes keep uninterested female counterparts close to them by making warning snorts, which are in effect a lie used to increase their chances of mating.
What else can we say to cheer Kittiratt up? Oh yes, “religious lies”. At least the minister is not telling Thais to kill one another in order to go to heaven. He’s not depicting money as a demonic symbol of greed and yet acting like a bank at which everyone can deposit his “sin”. His lies were apparently well-intended, nothing worse than Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s now-famous “floods are under control” statement.
There are concerns that although he’s the opposite of the “cry wolf” boy, Kittiratt’s lies may have the same consequences. When people no longer trust what he says, real “good news” in the future may come without anyone capitalising on it. What if, critics claim, there’s a real, healthy stock market boom and Kittiratt wants to encourage more investment but it’s taken as just another feelgood remark? Some critics go as far as saying he should be banned from promoting future government bonds.
Kittiratt bashing doesn’t stop there, and all the jokes about his “nose” should be the least of his worries. Absolute pessimists have this scenario where the minister delivers a truthful piece of mildly negative news but his audience presumes he’s only trying to soften the blow, and a massive panic attack ensues. In other words, something as basic as “Banks’ bad debts have increased a little but everybody concerned should start paying attention so the problem won’t worsen” may be enough to send depositors on a withdrawal stampede.
That is not fair, to either Kittiratt or the intelligence of his listeners. Living in a country that has changed its finance minister 14 times since 2001, we surely must have adopted some kind of constructive scepticism about what men in his position have to say. The least we can do is thank Kittiratt for having the decency to remind us to take those words with caution.
Telling a lie is more tiring than telling the truth, because, as they say, one lie leads to another and you have to keep being consistent with previous lies in the process. We should appreciate what Kittiratt has sacrificed and what he will have to go through from now on. Most of all, ending every statement, interview or press conference with “It’s not a lie” or “Seriously” is no fun.