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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


Let’s not talk about politics

Posts about the protest in Bangkok fill my Facebook feed, either those taking part, supporting it or opposing it. The other day an older Thai gentleman I know asked me my opinion. I stumbled a bit, not wanting to offend one way or the other and said the phrase I have found usually staves off further discussion, “I believe that peaceful protest is a fundamental right in a democracy”.

The man was not fooled by my diversion and said, “Yes but what do you really think?” I was saved by the arrival of a few other guests at the event and escaped without expressing an opinion. However, as another Thai gentleman pointed out to me, “You have lived here for a long time, you must have opinions.”

Indeed, I do. Everyone does. A friend of mine told me I should say “It’s not my country and I am a guest here,” as a means to fend off the “But what do you really think” question. I don’t really like that answer much, as my Thai friend said, “I must have opinions”. As an American I often hear the opinions of non-Americans on American politics, economy and society. Not being American (and often not having any direct firsthand knowledge) rarely slows these people down from having an opinion much less expressing it. So yes, I do have opinions.

However, another Thai friend pointed out, she is tired of hearing everyone express their opinions all the time. The endless posts on Facebook, the endless conversations and arguments, the disagreements and the acrimony created by those are souring friendships and relationships.

Thailand is a society based on relationships and interconnectedness and the vocal expression of contradictory opinions is not something that people here are really that used to doing unlike North America or Europe where it is part and parcel of our culture and society. So, people here perhaps take it more personally than western folk do since it is not really something they are as comfortable doing.

Instead of talking politics today I am going to switch to another potentially dangerous topic; the weather. The slight warming trend we had there for a week or so was a welcome relief. Regardless of what my friends back in colder climes think, it was darn cold. Well, it just got cold again. I’ve had more than a few contentious discussions with American friends who think I am a wimp. Well, yes I am a wimp when it comes to cold weather but can beat them hands down in coping with hot weather! Regardless, it has been cold here and as I pointed out to my friend back in the U.S., when it gets colder than say 16 C outside, you turn on your central heating.

I have no central heating. In fact, pretty much all I have is a heating pad I normally use for my back when it hurts. My home is wonderfully cool in the summer, breezy, open and well ventilated. It is usually a couple of degrees colder inside than outside. Great in the summer but it makes it pretty darn cold now.

So friends, instead of arguing over politics, perhaps it is better to argue over the relative merits of the cold weather.

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Let’s not talk about politics