Expat bloggers in Thailand, social responsibility

Media priorities have been under the spotlight in recent weeks. The blood and gore in Thai Rath-style tabloids never fail to catch the eye. Sex scandals with a hint of perversion are always good for a scoop; or failing that how about some cute photos of a panda cub to divert the masses.

The proud Chiang Mai dad - or is the mum - can anyone tell? (Click on pic for full-size images)

The bottom line though is that the media gives us pretty much what we want. And apparently what most of us want is to escape, through cheap thrills and titillation, fantasy and sick voyeurism. As long as we are spoon-fed a diet of trivia, we don't have to face some of the more uncomfortable, starker realities.

A surging flood of visual data batters the senses daily, so that processing it all productively is impossible. We take refuge in the superficial, barricade ourselves within our comfort zones.

Politicians, economic interest groups with the power and influence of small nations, are complicit in this dumbing down. I wonder if we're still capable of the great revolutionary movements of a just a few decades ago. It would mean missing a few episodes of our favourite soap.

And in the meantime we carry on lapping up photos of panda cubs and David Carradine. If it's taken you thirty seconds to skim through this blog, then another ten children will have died from the consequences of poverty. We spend 1.4 trillion USD on arms annually. Then there's cosmetics, and pet food, and.. and...

This is no virtual reality game, there won't be an escape button to press, once climate change becomes unstoppable. Someone 'twittered' today that he heard a couple of farangs complaining about the Thais using too many plastic bags. Yet it seems to have escaped the notice of the American tourists concerned that they had just flown halfway across the world for their vacation in the Land of Smiles. A mammoth-sized carbon footprint that would take a boat-load of plastic bags to fill.

We have developed a social conscience that seems to be limited to putting our rubbish into the right recycling bins, as if somehow that's going to make a significant difference. It's all a big con, to sell us the feel good factor. The real problems carry on snowballing while we switch on to Britain's Got Talent, weep over Susan Boyle, and coo over sweet little panda cubs.

I suppose ignorance is some excuse for those who rarely leave their environment, except perhaps for a carbon copy foreign version in the Costa del Sol, Tenerife, Cyprus, spending a fortnight arguing over sun loungers with the Germans. The expats (Pattaya version excluded) living in developing nations such as Thailand can't get away with it so easily. We see the kind of desperation that so many people, living hand to mouth, experience daily throughout their lives. And far, far worse in the likes of Burma (above photo).

Just thinking aloud. Perhaps we expat bloggers could be doing more to raise consciousness on certain issues, however uncomfortable they may be?

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17 comments:

Mike said...

Peter very thought provoking. The comment regarding plastic bags caught the eye because in the past I have complained about this aspect of Thai life.

Not so much because of carbon emissions but more because the country is strewn with litter.

I naively thought I had left that behind in the dustbin that passes for some areas of the UK countryside.

As for raising consciousness on Thai issues. Well there seems to be a fine line between awareness raising and posts that are seen to knock our host country. But I do agree that we collectively could do more.
Unfortunately personally my journalistic skills are not that great.

Village Farang said...

Good luck! As far as I can see our fellow bloggers are too busy lacing their blog, titles and bodies, with titillating keywords to attract as many mindless and voyeuristic hits as possible. Then they complain about how distorted the keyword searches are on their blogs and make another list of all those offending keywords to attract those they missed the first time around.

That is just the bloggers. The readers are even worse. Flitting here and there looking for stuff they can't print in traditional media.

You seem determined to save the world, where as I am uncertain, that the world is worth saving. Perhaps the best thing for the planet is a sixth mass extinction. Maybe the next time around the world will come up with a better mix, without us.

hobby said...

I understanyd your sentiments, but rather than raising consciousness/awareness of the problems, I think its the solutions that need the real emphasis (and concrete action plans formulated).

However its easier said than done, as even here in Australia we have a sub group living in third world conditions - various things have been tried to resolve the problem, and IMO the lack of progress has not been due to a lack of will of the people trying to help.

Various things have been tried over the years, sometimes at great expense and although mistakes have been made, I still get the feeling that certain groups will always find an excuse or a scapegoat.

It actually reminds me a little of the Thai situation, where the monarchy is the fashioanable scapegoat for all the country's ills (especially amongst certain anthropologists:), yet I suspect things would not have been any better (and possibly worse) if the monarchy was not there.

The FrogBlogger said...

Suppose I found the morbid fascination with Carradine, alongside the chorus of oohs and aahs over panda cubs, a bit much. It'll pass :-)

Mike, you're right, there's a lot of litter dumped around the countryside, the streams and streets. Just thought it rather ironic, environmental concern from those plane-hopping around the world. Raising consciousness? I don't know how serious I was, my crusading days are mostly behind me. But I find that expats here, even if they are a mixed bunch, tend to be a knowledgeable, insightful lot, at least those that don't spend all their time in the sex soi's of Sukhomvit. And a picture is worth a thousand words, when we can't find them.

VF, yes plenty of that going on, but I read a lot of good and thoughtful blogs here too. Political and social campaigners amongst the bloggers are often first with the uncensored news and in some countries, taking considerable risks at least with their liberty. Sympathise with your more cynical perspective on humanity - the world has known no more destructive parasite. At least the others exist more or less in a state of symbiosis. Still - I have four kids, so I'm not about to give up, just yet.

Hobby, watched an interesting series on the indigenous Australians on a cable Australian channel in Chiang Mai last year, a real eye opener for a Brit. Take your point, though I think that raising awareness and solutions are two sides of the same coin. You're right though, there's a lack of motivation, people are more concerned about themselves - understandable really.

Catherine said...

'Just thinking aloud. Perhaps we expat bloggers could be doing more to raise consciousness on certain issues, however uncomfortable they may be?'

Pete, I am one of those who believes deep down, that while each vote might not count for anything, our collective voices do.

'Raising consciousness? I don't know how serious I was, my crusading days are mostly behind me.'

Mine aren't. And somehow I don't believe yours are either :-)

'Still - I have four kids, so I'm not about to give up, just yet.'

Definitely something to fight for then.

The FrogBlogger said...

Catherine, can just picture you as a crusader. Just beware of using the term if you ever start on the topic of Islamists and terrorism ;-) (Who was Bush's speech writer? Was it a condition of the job that his IQ didn't exceed that of his President? :-)

The FrogBlogger said...

PS on a lighter note, is that the male panda? Someone on Twitter commented that its nether regions looked remarkably like a panda face :-)

Catherine said...

Pete, after 9 years in a muslim country, I know just what to avoid.

For starters: any font that looks like a cross, shaking with my left hand, talking about drinking beer in front of their mother (but usually not their fathers), and... the list is just too long.

As for the crusades... I'll tell you later :-)

Mr. Nighttime said...

What was it they gave the masses in Rome? Bread and circuses? This is not a new idea, just an updated and modern version of that sentiment. I think though, as the saying goes, charity begins at home, and perhaps that's where one's focus should be, if one wants to really make a difference by actions, not just deeds.

There is however, a favorite quote of mine from Joseph Campbell: "If you really want to make a difference in the world, what you're going to need to do is to teach others how to live in it."

The FrogBlogger said...

Nice sentiment Mr. N, but in that case I think we'd better send our teachers back to school, most of the pupils aren't making the grade!

You're right there's not much new in the methods of controlling the population; the problem today is that the dumbed-down masses are doing a helluva lot more damage than they did in Roman times.

Anonymous said...

I think we could definitely draw attention to many things and I've seen that done...as far as actually changing things though I don't see it happening.

It never ceases to amaze me in Issan how clean the homes are but then you walk outside and trash is strewn around the home and nobody cares.

The love affair with cheap plastic bags is absolutely amazing and what would happen if none was offered for your coke with the obligatory 3 plastic straws to go along with it.

There always exists the possibility though...

The FrogBlogger said...

Anon how true - spotless homes, clean children and clothes, yet so much rubbish strewn around. It's all the Americans' fault (again). If they hadn't invented Coke, Thailand would be rubbish free ;-)

(Just to explain, coca cola is sometimes sold by a vendor poured straight into a plastic bag, from which you drink with a straw...)

Martyn said...

Coke in a bag, that should get the search engines running overdrive in South America, wish I'd penned that one (sorry Village Farang).

Rubbish, we moan if its left scattered about and we moan if they burn it. 10 years ago in the LOS villages I quite often had a little difficulty breathing come evening time due to the amount of rubbish being burnt in open fires. Fast forward to today and Wilai's village has refuse collectors pick up the trash twice a week and all for a cost of 10 baht a month. My breathing is fine and there's very little tip smoke. Maybe progress is being made but at a gentle pace. Perhaps I'd better join in and cut my cigarettes down from 50 to 40 a day.

The FrogBlogger said...

Martyn - I thought it was bad in Thailand until I went to Myanmar. I took a long trip by tuk-tuk for a couple of days a few years back, on an early trip to Thailand, and the stink from the river alongside the road where we stopped to eat was so bad I was gagging. Clogged with rubbish and junk, who knows what is dumped/poured into it. Shouldn't think it's improved much, things seem to be going from bad to worse in Burma.

Same in Chiang Mai, the streets are pretty clear these days, refuse collectors seem to come by most nights to take away the bags of rubbish.

Joy said...

Why Nam-som? I mean, why drowning yr sorrows in Nam-som??:-)

The FrogBlogger said...

Hi Joy, haw did you manage that? Because you've answered another (more recent) blog! anyway, the reason is that on the day I blogged it was a 'Buddha Day', with sales of alcohol forbidden. So I was having a nam som and a nam sapolot day instead :-) ... not that I ever drink much anyway!

Joy said...

Now I got it haha:-) Sorry for posting on the wrong thread!! hehehe :-)
BTW, keep me posted abt yr good news, okay?:-) I can feel that 'love is in the air" (around u hehehe):-)