Despite attempts by Thailand’s elites to cast ordinary Thais as docile, obedient, and uninterested in politics, evidence of resistance to exploitation and domination in the region pre-dates the formation of the Thai state. The popular uprising that spread across Thailand starting in July 2020 traces its lineage back to the Red Shirt political movement that emerged in 2006, resistance to the 1991 military coup, the coordinated student, labor, and peasant struggles of the 1970s, and the Siamese Revolution of 1932 before that. While Thailand was never formally colonized, it was still economically dominated by the British imperial system since being pried opened to British foreign trade with the signing of the Bowring Treaty of 1855. The organizers of the Siamese Revolution ended the absolute monarchy and put Thailand on a path towards economic nationalism and modernization; the political ideology of the organizers was not monolithic, however, and the party would eventually split into civilian and military factions. The military faction along with its royalist supporters would ultimately win the dispute, excising any mention of a welfare state or land reform from the new constitution and ushering in fifteen years of authoritarian rule that outlawed communism. Post-World War II prosperity brought with it a more liberal mood and Marxist ideas gained traction in urban Thai society. Progressive political parties, trade unions, literary movements, and the publication of original Thai socialist ideas – as well as translations of Marxist works in other languages – multiplied from 1946 to 1957. These once-banned ideas inspired a generation of student activists, many of whom would go on to organize protests right up until they were banned yet again by another military coup in 1958.Continue reading “History of the Thai pro-democracy movement”
If the original inhabitants of the Americas were given the choice 500 years ago, do you think they would have chosen to keep on living their lives as they had been, or would they choose small pox, genocide, boarding schools, and being forced off the land? If the African humans that were enslaved in the Americas were given a voice back in the late 17th century , do you think they would have voted for freedom or to protect the rich white men that “owned” them? If the 21st century citizens of the USA had the opportunity to fund a robust public health infrastructure – including universal healthcare and a fully-funded, science-based, national-level plan for dealing with a pandemic – do you think the majority of people would choose public health or would they choose to cut the funding and cancel the research while cutting taxes on the rich?Continue reading “Show me what democracy looks like 👀”
First round of feedback is in! Making structural changes and building out some of the intimacy that I only hinted at in the first draft. Check back for updates!
I grew up in a union family and both of my grandfathers went on to work blue-collar union jobs when they came home from World War II. They started their families during “the good old days” – the years after World War II when the US built a huge middle class that the majority of Americans were part of. If you were not an aristocrat graced with old family money, you worked with your hands in a factory or a field before the Great Depression hit in late 1929. Unable to find work during the depression, my nineteen-year-old grandfather enlisted in the military in 1938 and served for four years in the Phillippines. He came home in 1942 and got a job working as a mechanic for International Harvester, later joining the civilian effort as a mechanic at Camp Kilmer. He owned a simple house where he and my grandmother raised four children. He only had an eighth grade education. My Pop-pop arrived in the US at the age of four from Kingston, Jamaica aboard the ship Abangarez. He was drafted and was awarded a Silver Star at The Battle of Anzio in 1944. He returned home and got a job at the Bristol Myers Squibb factory, raising three children with my grandmother in the simple row homes near the factory. Both of my grandfathers were union members – a Teamster and a Machinist. Continue reading “The greatest generation loved affirmative action”
I’m writing this as a distraction from checking in on the election results. It’s mostly directed at educated white liberals who insist on seeing this close election as evidence that 50% of the population are racists. I am arguing for greater compassion and empathy, and meeting people where they are at cuz calling someone a racist on the internet doesn’t actually have a material effect in the world, but shaming and ostracizing a person we decide is racist does. Racial and economic justice are not incompatible – they are inseparable! And unless our imagination stops at inclusion – a few more scholarships, a handful more vouchers – we need to talk more effectively about class and listen more effectively to the ways class is experienced at the intersection of all our identities – no matter who wins this election. I’m not interested in proving a theory, but I welcome thoughtful questions, comments, and discussion. Continue reading “Shame and the liberals”
Thailand had a very different strategy from the US for managing Covid-19, as well as a spectacularly different outcome. I lived in Northern Thailand from mid-March of this year until late-September, watching the country of my birth and the home of my closest connections mortally fumble as life in my adopted country started to get back to normal. I want the American reader to observe how Thailand responded to Covid-19 and what it was like to live through such measures – not to critique the Trump Administration so much as to dispense with the fiction that hundreds of thousands of deaths were inevitable no matter who was leading the country. Indeed, Thailand is a “democratic dictatorship” with its own dubiously-elected conservative strongman at the helm, but even he yielded to the scientists and public health officers when it came to managing a pandemic. Did these strict – yet ultimately triumphant – measures hurt the Thai economy? Absolutely. But in the context of a *global* pandemic, there isn’t an economy that remains unimpacted. Now a third wave of Covid washes over the US, provoking a discordant patchwork of just-in-time lockdown measures that can only slow the bleeding while delivering blow after blow to the economy, from the micro to the macro. What would it have been like if the US had a plan before Covid even reached our doorstep? If the border-neutral fields of epidemiology and public health had not been drawn into the morass of partisan politics – both through funding cuts and a cynical rejection of science’s apparent “liberal bias”? If we all decided to take this one for the team back in March – knowing that some would have to make greater sacrifices, but that no person would be forced onto the street by eviction or foreclosure or medical bills. What would it have been like if American culture valued all human lives, and not just the unborn or those considered to be economically productive? We cannot know for sure, but it is my hope that by looking at Thailand’s response in parallel to the US response, the reader will be able to think critically about these questions. Continue reading “What it feels like to flatten the curve”