The textbook is the cage that enslaves the mind and the soul. Bow in servitude. Obey without question. Fear the punishment.
The textbook can be the actual book, or cultural values and social norms
Case in point:
On 22 March, the Facebook Page Community of MorChor (Chiang Mai University) posted a live video that went viral.
The scene was an outdoor art display.
The Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts led a group of staff wearing yellow shirts. Of course, they had to wear yellow shirts.
She led the staff to confiscate students’ art pieces. They shoved the works into trash bags and threw them into the back of a truck.
The students protested, telling them what they are doing is theft and is illegal.
Then, art professor Ajarn Thasnai Sethaseree showed up to give the Faculty staff a verbal beat down and chased them away.
“Art is no one’s slave,” he yelled at the people in yellow shirts.
“Art has suffered enough shame because of those who do not love liberty.”
The hashtag #ทัศนัยปราบมาร (Thasnai defeats the demons) then top trended on Twitter.
But immediately there was a pushback by Thailand’s conservatives. We are talking about teachers, professors, and professionals. Supposedly educated people.
The main argument is this:
What the students were displaying was not art, and therefore, should not be treated and protected as art.
Art should be beautiful and inspirational. Art should create harmony and positivity.
Art should be respectful and not create hatred and division.
Art must not be against the doctrine of nation, religion, and king. Art must not be political.
Here’s an example of an art piece from the Chiang Mai University incident.
Here’s another example.
Therefore, the conservatives argue, these are not art, they are trash and should be treated as such.
Those students, being smartasses that they are, then created this work.
So what can we take away from this?
There’s a group of people trying to monopolize the definition of art.
Put it in a cage. Surround it with barbwires and containers. Guard it with water cannon trucks and riot police armed with batons, tear gas, and shotguns with rubber bullets.
Anything that falls outside the cage is not art.
This means that anything that’s not in the textbook, as stamped and approved by the powers-that-be, is considered trash and has no place in Thai society.
In other societies, they may say art has no boundaries. There’s political art, satirical art, erotic art, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Picasso painted the 1954 Woman Pissing. Tasteful or not, it’s an art and it’s Picasso.
Normal Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With from 1964. It went against the established social norm of the time, but it was a political art and it’s Norman Rockwell.
Art has no boundaries, but not so in Thailand. In Thailand, art must be by the textbook, beautiful and harmonious, respectful of social order.
You see, saying something is bad art or good art is a matter of taste and of opinion that everyone is entitled to.
But to monopolize the definition of art and ban or censor anything that doesn’t fall into your definition, that is the mentality of someone who sees the purpose of education as training slaves.
Stay in the cage, which is the textbook, stamped and approved by the powers-that-be. Do not deviate. Do not question. Bow in servitude. Fear the punishment.
The incident at Chiang Mai University is but one symptom of the disease that plagues Thailand. The Fascist Syndrome that aims to enslave the mind and soul.
Here’s an example of textbook education.
In 2015, the Ministry of Culture’s Fine Arts Department published the book, “History of the Thai Nation,” at the order of the junta government.
Here’s a quote from page 195 of the book:
“Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as Prime Minister has carried out a policy of reforming the country, reforming politics to be truly a democracy, eliminating corruption and using moral principles to lead the country to be truly a democracy.”
I rest my case.