Daily Archives: January 3, 2006

Learning to learn in Thailand

I came to Thailand with a plan for everything in my life and a fiancee in my back pocket to help me carry out those plans. I came here for a resume booster as much as anything else, and I never really saw it as a self-awakening time. I was much too proud to admit that my life wasn’t going the way I liked, that I even needed to learn anything, or that Thailand or it’s people could teach me anything worth learning. How wrong I was, and surprisingly I have avoided becoming a self-seeking, backpack-carrying, two-week tourist and still managed to learn a little. Like the fact that change has to be invited and accepted. You can’t make people change if they don’t want to. People are just people and something innate in them makes them who they are, but when push comes to shove we can chose nurture over nature and make ourselves into something different (sometimes for the better and sometimes not.) I’ve learned that I don’t have to be so demanding (of myself or others!) I don’t have to be so high-maintenence. I don’t have to be what is expected of me and I don’t have to be scared of failure and I certainly don’t have to fear being alone in my life. Although I don’t think I could have learned that last one from Thai culture! I’ve learned that I can conquer other languages and I can be a good student if I try (which isn’t often!) I’ve learned that there are a lot of things in this world that I thought I needed and couldn’t live without, but I can live without and I don’t need (but I may still want.) For the record, lemon meringue pie is available at Siam Paragon in Bangkok. I’ve come to realize that dates and times are so irrelevant. Without environmental and social indicators of those around use, time doesn’t mean much. Holidays really just aren’t holidays without those you love. (When it’s 90-degrees out and no one else cares about Christmas, it’s hard for you to care!) And finally I’ve learned that durian tastes just as bad as it looks! Really, who would eat something that looks like an internal organ that’s set out in the sun for a day or two and smells just as nice?? By the way…I’ve also learned that I don’t need or want a fiancee!

Hmong New Year celebrations

Ethnic Hmong girls walk in a Hmong New Year parade Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006, in Nong Hoi Mai village near Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Hmong, who trace their roots back to China, have large populations in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Contestants in a beauty pageant wait backstage during Hmong New Year celebrations. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

The New Year Killer: a Tsunami of booze

A deadly New Year epidemic
Most people look forward to the new year with renewed hopes, promises and happiness. However, every year, thousands will start the year with a funeral. During the new year holidays, nearly 400 Thais died and more than 2000 injured in road accidents. That’s like entire villages wiped out in days. If this had been a biological disease, people would be all up in arms to get rid of it, at all costs. Just look at the bird flu panic.

However, when the culprit is a social disease that also happens to bring about billions of baht into the Thai economy, then the authorities’ response to the mass deaths is symbolic at best.

How long has alcohol been plaguing Thai society? alcohol-death piechart Since the early ages, countless people fell victim to it. Everyone already knows well ahead that there will be carnage on the roads; everyone knows when it will happen, and why. And yet, year by year, authorities only feed us some feeble response. This year, it was the following: “the government hopes to limit the number of deaths from road accidents during the corresponding period this year to 456.” (IHT Thai Day).

Excuse me? So, if less than five hundred people die, than they declare success? What kind of success is that? For every person who died, there is a grieving family, dozens of ruined lives for each. I’d like to see a government figure visit such a funeral and boast about their ‘success’.

It’s about time the Thai government stop acting as if death by drunkards is an unpreventable disaster like the tsunami; something that can be only anticipated, but not eradicated. This is not so. Unlike a natural disaster, alcohol deaths are completely preventable. A total ban on alcohol production, sale and consumption, combined with severe punishment of the lawbreakers is the only sure-fire way that could cure this persistent plague of Thai society.

Just think about it. The only beneficial use of alcohol is in science – and that alcohol is denatured (made unfit for human consumption). The rest has no useful purpose whatsoever, it’s just a burden on society. Getting rid of it would help Thai society more than some feeble aims and promises every time the carnage comes around.

Wasn’t me!
So, whose hands are stained by the victims’ blood? Stupid idiots who recklessly go ahead and get drunk, despite knowing what happens every year? The system that barely lifts a finger to curb and contain this social disease? Or alcohol producers themselves who also know exactly that their product kills hundreds every year, and yet promote it wherever they can?

A tsunami of booze
But of course they do, because during the rest of the year, they sold “only” 1,972.52 million liters of alcohol, the poor fellas! That volume alone would be enough to cause a tremendous tsunami of booze, but wait! You see, in December they can sell some additional 64.4 million liters of liquor and 166.2 million liters of beer. This extra income is clearly worth hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries, right?

Thailand is among the top five nations when it comes to alcohol consumption. It’s long overdue to get off that list.

(Fact and pic source: IHT Thai Day)