A country full of guardians and rebels but not values

opinion April 21, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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In the end politics and idealism will have to be put to one side if Thais are to get over the current divide

Thailand’s problem is we have too many “Guardians of democracy” and too few people to really “observe” democracy. The anti-government movement is “guarding democracy” and so is the pro-government network, which is organising “counter-rallies” to protect a “democratically-elected” administration which is facing a possible Constitution Court knock-out.
We also have too many “rebels”. The embattled government has branded its opponents camping on the streets “rebels” and, rather ironically, some pro-government activists have worked themselves into a rebellion mode by saying they wanted to “separate” the country. The separation talks were taken seriously by the military but played down by the government as merely sarcastic and reflective of political frustration.
These are bad signs. When a country has masses proclaiming themselves as “guards” or willing “rebels”, many things happen. Rules of law are no longer held sacred. Opinions of the opposite side become something that faces contempt at best and clampdown at worst. Lives are important only when they are lives of those who share your ideology.
It usually begins this way. Idealism gets political activists started, making them think they fight for an ideology. They want to “guard” something meaningful or “rebel against” something bad. Most of the times they will end up unknowingly destroying the ideology that used to drive them. “Democracy activists” will stop listening to opposing opinions. “Guardians of democracy” will cross many lines doing their jobs, doing whatever deemed necessary including relying on undemocratic methods.
In Thailand, democracy has been “guarded”, but not really understood. The delicate balance between the importance of ballot boxes and the necessity of having effective measures to keep the winners emerging from the ballot boxes has never been protected. The 1997 “People’s Constitution” sought to foster that delicate balance, but we all know what happened to it.
Idealistic fights can lead to liberation, or they will just liberate unlawful acts like firing at citizens’ homes or setting off explosives at political gatherings. In Thailand, there is too much romanticism and too little sensibility, which is why romaticism often crosses the line and become fanaticism.
Everybody needs to take a step back and look at themselves in the mirror. The right and wrong in politics are slippery, but they have overshadowed everything. Thais are treating them as the ultimate truth which shall be protected at whatever costs. The result is, Thais have become a nation of questionable moral values. One death matters more than another. One injury is more painful than another. One road blockade or besiege of a state agency is more acceptable than another.
We need to ask ourselves why a country flooded with “guardians” and “rebels” are losing the real sense of what is truly good and truly bad. A question that is getting louder and louder is whether we are not ideologically that different, but are driven more by egos. Are we fighting for values, or are we just trying to avoid being wrong? And no, fostering values and claiming to be right are not the same thing. True fights for values sometimes involve admitting your own mistakes.
Politics can tell us to a certain extent what is right and wrong, but to know what is right and wrong ultimately, pol?itics must be put aside. In other words, we can guard something to a certain extent, but in the end, what needs the most guarding is our own conscience. We can rebel against something to a certain extent, but we must be careful not to make it a rebellion against our own moral values.  

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