January 22, 2014 00:00
By Tulsathit Taptim
Dear Thai people. It's me, Democracy, again. It's been a long time since I last wrote you but let's cut to the chase. Your demand - for me to either respect your vote or respect your tax - is a bit too much. Can I just stand to the side for a while? I\
You guys definitely have divided opinions about me. Don’t think of me as rude, but can you please sort out your in-house trouble first? Contrary to what many think, I’m no magic pill. In other words, I can’t go up to a brawling crowd and say “Hey, Democracy’s here. Stop what you’re doing and adore me.” It doesn’t work that way.
I’d rather steer clear of the street battle. Just to save myself, you know. If I get in there and “respect your tax”, the “vote” camp will call me a fake. And vice versa if I present myself and “respect your vote”. It’s a no-win situation. Not that I mind being called a fake that much, though. More than anything, I just don’t want to waste my time.
Obviously, none of you guys wants to be on the receiving end of a lecture, but here are some tips. Both “vote” and “tax” are important. Without “vote”, I can’t exist. But what on earth will you vote for if there’s no money for the winners of the vote to spend? Democracy needs money. Democracy, in fact, boils down to you entrusting somebody else to spend your money.
Do you get it, my dear Thai friends? If you are fighting for me, at least try to understand my mechanism. If “vote” is my heart, then “tax” is my brain. You’ve got to pay equal respect to both things. Don’t ask me how. You have to figure that out by yourselves. As I told you, I can’t make people who are throwing everything at each other stop and admire me. The people must stop by themselves so they can “oooh and ahhh” over me.
Do you know what my nightmare is? It’s when my name pops up all over the place in a nation at war with itself. When a country begins festering with organisations named Democracy this or Democratic that, it’s time to pack your stuff and build a bunker. To many, I’m little more than a shield. They love to use me as a bullet-proof vest and come out all guns blazing.
Thailand has this old saying about blind men trying to tell what an elephant looks like by touching just a part of it. You guys might consider the possibility that your ancestors came up with that with today’s conflict in mind. I am the elephant, and unless you touch every part of me, you will never know what I’m actually all about.
I’m based on the belief that the common good will help us make it through. “Many heads are better than one”, they say. So, how can we utilise or exercise the common good? Through the ballot box, of course. If 70 out of 100 people think a man is great, he’s supposed to be great.
But I’m also based on the belief that the 30 per cent might be right and/or proved to be right in the future. That’s why I need checks and balances. It’s not “Democracy” if elected politicians use their mandate as a springboard to a holocaust. It’s “Democracy” if a “minority” manages to block that kind of usage of “mandate”.
The holocaust example is extreme, but I just want to draw your attention to the fact that vote alone cannot complete me. What about “tax”, then? Trust me, my friends in the tax camp, you’d rather vote to pick your tax spenders than have armed men come to your doors, summarily take away what you earn and spend it with wild abandon.
You’ll have to find a middle ground. It’s tricky, but you’ll have to, because the bottom line is that if you do it one extreme way or the other, what you’ll get will not be me. It will be something else that looks almost like me but with a monster inside.
If I seem to be leaning toward one camp more than the other, it’s not my intention. I understand the Washington Post but I also understand its critics. To the Washington Post’s haters: one day you will cherish the media’s right to make your blood boil. To the Washington Post’s admirers: if you decry or belittle attempts to criticise it, you don’t understand me like you think you do.
Remember, my Thai friends, “respect” works both ways, meaning you have to respect me for me to respect you. And by “respect”, I mean total respect. You can’t be selective about me. You have to take the whole package or leave it.