No, you don't have to develop an inferiority complex if you haven't been "invited" for a special session known as "attitude adjustment" with one of the officers assigned by the National Peace and Order Council.
These sessions were more exciting soon after the May 22 coup. You went in groups. You had company. You got to stay overnight and food was plentiful. You could even get the military guards to buy you dishes from your favourite restaurants. And before it was over, you got to sign some papers to ensure everything was put in black and white.
Last week, those privileged enough to attend the closed-door discourse were treated to a shorter version. It was a one-day affair and participants didn’t get the full menu. What’s worse, the attendees were invited on a one-on-one basis. You couldn’t consult your friends. You couldn’t get enough partners to launch a card game. And that sense of secrecy so important to raising your self-esteem just vanished into thin air.
I don’t really know what happened in those sessions that were supposed to “adjust” your “attitude”. And I am not sure who was adjusting whose attitude. But the obvious result was quite astounding. Without exception, the five to six former politicians who were invited to take part left the sessions without any bitter reaction – in total contrast to the statements they had made just before they were honoured with the invitations.
I noticed that most of them were smiling when they left the rooms where the exchange of opinion was supposed to have taken place. And they all made positive statements about the meetings. You can’t exactly say they were transformed by the experience, but you can certainly assume that they had arrived at some sort of an understanding.
Now, whether their “attitude” has been “adjusted” or not is another story. I wasn’t surprised that no reporters asked about the taste of the coffee or tea served. But I was really upset that they didn’t ask them whether their “attitude” had been “adjusted” after the conversations, some of which lasted a good three hours. A lot of opinion must have been delivered, although it has yet to be established whether it was via a one-way lecture or a lively, genuine two-way exchange of frank opinions.
One might presume, under the circumstances, that the host was supposed to convince the guest to change his attitude towards the powers-that-be. But considering the fact that most of the former politicians invited to these special meetings were all quite articulate about their beliefs, it is also possible that the reverse might have taken place. Hence the appearance of happy faces all around.
By all accounts, the discussions took place under a very friendly, civil and respectful atmosphere. No, you can’t expect both sides of the table to be in total agreement, especially over politics. But they both wanted to show that there was no animosity towards each other despite their divergent public positions.
I was not privy to the private conversations. But this being Thai politics, it’s safe to assume that the exchange might have begun with apologetic disclaimers from both sides along these lines:
Host: I am sorry to have to invite you to this “adjusting your attitude” session. It’s an order from the boss. I have nothing personal against you, I am not going to tell you to stop talking and I am not saying you should change your thoughts about politics. It’s just that the boss would like you to cooperate by not talking about politics that could be divisive. Of course, I respect your freedom to speak. I am just following the boss’s order to invite your for a quiet talk. Please understand me. I am only doing my job.
Guest: Don’t worry. I understand your position perfectly. In fact, I sympathise with you all the way. I know you guys have a tough time trying to save this country from chaos. I have nothing against you. But you see, you have to understand me too. If I keep quiet for too long, those people I used to impress with my political rhetoric might forget me. Besides, I have a boss to please. He has been asking why I have been so quiet. So, if I say something that isn’t quite positive about your boss, please tell him it was just my way of staying relevant with my side of the story. Otherwise, they might dump me once and for all – and that would be the end of me. So, please sympathise with me.
I don’t think the host and the guest actually hugged each other – or even cried together. But I am sure they left the meeting with an “adjusted attitude” and both returned to their quarters declaring victory.