You can take a Thai out of Thailand, but you can’t take Thailand out of a Thai

Not that Thailand is horrible, there are many wonderful things. But there’s a piece of cultural baggage that we carry: the belief in inequality ingrained into our mindset.

The Poo Yai/Poo Noi Syndrome (Social Superior/Social Inferior) that’s more widespread than COVID-19.

Take a Stanford University graduate with a Ph.D. and a Master of Science in Law. One might think with these degrees also comes the belief in human equality. One would be wrong.

Doctor Jade Donavanik is a legal scholar and former adviser to the Constitution Drafting Committee. By all accounts, he’s a consummate gentleman who offers calm and reasoned debates, even if one disagrees with the reasoning. He’s a go-to person for when journalists want a quote to support the traditional establishment.

Recently, Doctor Jade’s quote from a 2015 television interview by Thai PBS, just a year after the military coup, circulated social media, from the Facebook Page of Professor Kasian Tejapira, Professor of Political Science at Thammasat University.

Here’s a translation:

“If the elites continue to be the elites, there would be no problem. But the problem in Thailand is that those not born into the elite class try to become one. This partly leads to corruption because if you don’t corrupt, there’s no way you can become an elite because you never had any titles. As I have said, in Thai politics, if the elites act as the elites and try to reach the other segments, talk with all classes, then there will be solutions. But if commoners want to be elites, which is happening in society, problems will continue to persist.”

The benevolent ruler/dictator. The enlightened elites/oligarch. These are the dreams of such a mindset. The reality is the two uncles/generals and 250 senators.

Needless to say, Doctor Jade is not alone in this belief. We are well familiar with the stages of the whistle-blowing PDRC movement where they argued for the one-person-one-vote system for provincials but one-person-three-votes for Bangkokians. Why? Because somehow, they assume Bangkokians are more educated and qualified.

This mindset exists among the most affluent people in society, those who have western education. The very same people who believe in freedom and equality, but only for everywhere else in the world.

The same people who champion #blacklivesmatter, #stopasianhates, and #metoo. They are feminists, environmentalists, and all the other -ists that are so fashionable nowadays. But when it comes to Thailand, they believe in exceptionalism. That exceptionalism is inequality.

Nonetheless, there’s a silver lining. Such belief may prevail among the baby boomers, but it is much less in Generation Y and even less in Millenials and those younger. The last generation that stands strong for inequality is Generation X. Why?

The answer is social conditioning. The baby boomers and Generation X grew up in the Cold War Era and are indoctrinated since young into the Poo Yai/Poo Noi Syndrome. The rest grow up in the Global/Social Media Era, a different world context, indoctrination has less effect on them.

Many have asked, will Thailand ever change? The answer is, by the law of social evolution, of course, Thailand will change. But like that other cultural baggage (always late for everything), we are taking our sweet-ass time.

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