I became a bookworm since I was very young, and I loved Thai literature. Sprawling epics featuring heroic kings, beautiful princesses, and scintillating battles.
One of my favorite authors was Choom Na Bangchang, who wrote under the penname Lopburi.
I couldn’t put down his epic, เศวตฉัตรน่านเจ้า. I read it in bed. I read it in the car. I read in the classroom. I read it on the toilet.
เศวตฉัตรน่านเจ้า is just one example of many epics by different authors that champion the same theme:
The heroic, Superman-like king. The most handsome man. He’s loved by all women and admired by all men.
The fiercest warrior. He’s undefeated in wars. He will slay thousands when he takes to battle, while his army may suffer only a few casualties.
Alexander the Great has got nothing on him.
He’s an artist and a poet. He has a roster of wives, each one is beautiful, dutiful, devoted, and all of them get along with each other—one happy family.
Thai TV soap operas follow the same tradition.
The hero is handsome, high-society, or high-born. His character is almost flawless. He’s materialistically perfect, meaning rich and good-looking.
The female would either be a helpless and fragile beauty that needs saving. Or a rebellious young girl that needs taming.
He’s the consummate Thai gentleman, who might rape a woman, but it’s okay, he does it out of love, and the woman would fall in love with him anyway.
Why? Because Superman can do no wrong.
The education system teaches us the same theme.
Here’s a direct quote from page 195 of “History of the Thai Nation,” a textbook published by the Ministry of Culture’s Fine Arts Department.
“General 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.”
It’s mythology and fantasy. The keyword is “moral,” and the theme is one man triumphing over everything. Therefore, he must be Superman, and his superpower is moral righteousness. He’s the good guy.
The Thai culture teaches us to believe in Superman, and this belief system is how we view politics.
“Yes! A military coup! General Prayut has saved us from the apocalypse!”
Never mind democracy, human rights, liberty, and equality under the law. Only the good man, Superman, can save Thailand.
When I point to General Prayut’s shortcomings to Thai conservatives, they agree with everything. When I ask how they could still support General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the answer is always the same.
“If not him, then who?”
The mindset and hence the argument is not between feudalism versus humanism. Militarism versus liberty. Authoritarianism versus democracy.
Instead, it’s personality-driven, the good guy versus the bad guy. Good is defined as defending the monarchy institution. Bad is defined as “whatever the good guy says is bad.”
Because if Superman says it, then it must be true.
Hence, the foundation of society is not based on ideologies such as rights, liberty, and equality under the law but cults of personality.
Therefore, our political narrative is a bedtime fairy tale.
There’s a kingdom blessed by the sacred and holy.
There’s a warrior, pure of heart, defending the sacred and holy.
There’s an army of darkness hellbent on overthrowing the sacred and holy.
Only the warrior can save the sacred and holy.
Therefore, support him no matter what.
The consequence of believing in this narrative is feudalism, militarism, and authoritarianism. The political belief that champions one man above all others.
He’s Superman, and only Superman can save us.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m about to say something highly contentious and controversial:
Superman is not real.