Today I took my first day off in more than three months. The hardest part was forcing myself not to think about work before finally being satisfied if I wasn’t stressing about it. Once a month, I tend to succumb to my Westerner tendencies and do something utterly touristy. Today it was heading to Pantip Plaza to buy pirated DVD’s a three dollars a DVD and then to the embarassingly posh Paragon Mall to catch "The Pursuit of Happyness" in a huge Western-style theater.
I feel nostalgic when I see A&W’s in Bangkok. We don’t even have those in Tokyo, Seoul, or Taipei. I saw a Burger King today – the first I’ve seen in Asia outside of the Taiwan International Airport and Korea. My strange moment of the day came as I read "The Satanic Verses" in a Bangkok Burger King surrounded by Midwesterners and Dutch families. At least I felt safer reading there than elsewhere – posession of the book is a punishable offence in Thailand. What that punishment is, I have yet to discover.
I have grown oddly comfortable to haggling. I am to the point where paying the asking price for something would feel strange. I noticed that in Tokyo the last time I was there. I felt like I was getting ripped-off all the time.
I like that you stand in the movie theaters while they play a little reel that shows how much the king works for the Thai people and how much he is loved by them. Both seem to be true from all I have seen.
I find it condecending when foreigners seem to look down on the Thai people’s compassion for the king as being either submission to an oppressive policy, blind nationalism, or the result of manipulative political propaganda. I see the Thai’s near universal (expressed) support for the king to be as valid or deluded as say, European’s belief that America is the antichrist of international politics without bothering to investigate their own country’s role in the state of affairs. It’s just as valid as young, liberal Americas belief that seeing inconsistencies in the American system of government somehow makes them progressive, critical thinkers.
We all have our fantasies built on fantasies built on fantasies that help us feel protected, blameless, or empowered. It is only through the observation of others’ fantasies that we can truly identify our own.
It was good to get away from work. I enjoyed the film a lot for the pacing and Smith’s very human performance. It reminded me a bit of the money-grubbing film trend of the eighties, however. The moment that I related to the most was the protagonist’s realization that he had $21 in his bank account. It reminded me of the day about 10 months ago when I realized that all I had in the bank was $31 Canadian and about $15,000 US in debt.
I’m glad to have pulled myself out of those times. I’m not a multi-millionaire yet and no one’s made a movie about me that money-obsessed Thai twenty-somethings will cheer at, but Smith’s character took 25 full years to manage that, so give me some time.