I read about the protests in Bangkok last week. Monocle described it as something surprisingly predictable for Thailand: there apparently has been talk of another change of power in the country for months, and a possible window of opportunity would be on the 14th of October, when pro-democracy activists planned to take to the streets to commemorate a violent crackdown of student-led protests 47 years ago. The thinking was, those protests - and the inevitable counter-protest - would escalate into clashes, which would result in the military intervening.
Well, the protests did happen. I haven't paid attention to it - I have been on busiest season for the past three weeks, which explains the lack of entries - but I have seen some photos on social media, about Bangkok's main thoroughfares filled with protesters calling for reforms and a change of leadership. I also vaguely know of a state of emergency being imposed, and an online streaming channel being shut down, but again, it has been my busiest season. It usually happens for a week in September, but, well, this so-called new normal means a change of formats, and with even more things falling on my demoralized shoulders... but I digress.
But still, I have seen some photos on social media, and I remember this one post from an acquaintance (I think it's safe to say that) say that phrase I've learned to hate.
There are many reasons why I dislike that line, but in this instance, I found myself particularly incensed. I quickly understood what the acquaintance meant. The Thais can go out on the streets and call for change. Why can't Filipinos? Why can't we depose this dictator from power and install someone who'll actually do something good for a change?
And that isn't the first time I've seen those sentiments. When the protests in Hong Kong were picking up, I saw someone say the very same thing. When the Taiwanese made a point to stand up to aggression from the Chinese, I saw someone say the very same thing. Any potentially inspiring image - as long as it involves masses of people clogging up a street - will always result in at least one person I follow online to openly opine that, maybe, maybe we should do this too. Besides, aren't we all fed up with what our leadership has been doing, how it has mishandled what matters to us and how it has prioritized their own interests? Shouldn't we be getting really angry right about now?
I've asked that same question, to be honest, especially in the early months of this definitely-a-lockdown, when some started connecting the dots between the reluctance of the government to impose a ban on Chinese nationals from entering the country - out of a fear of offending the country it's busy wooing - and the uncontrollable (and arguably still ongoing) rise in cases. Between that, and the seeming prioritization of consolidating power, the rope is certainly being stretched far enough to potentially break. There have been demonstrations, but for the most part they have been limited by physical distancing guidelines, the coronavirus being waved about as something to fear rather than something to live with. But, well, people remain angry, or at least some of the people on my feeds, the ones who invoke people to "wake up" on a daily basis, the ones who can only wish "sana all".
Then I realize what they're really trying to say. They want others to be angry on their behalf. They want others to march the streets on their behalf. They want others to risk their lives on their behalf.
To that, I answer: why the fuck won't you do it yourself?
Is it because it's too inconvenient? Now, I'm not a guy who would go protesting on the streets, because it really just isn't my thing. (That explains all the paragraphs I've written these past few years.) Perhaps you can say I'm on the "it's inconvenient" side. (Berate me. Go ahead. I'll kill myself once you do.) But, if you really are passionate about this, if you really feel strongly about this, and if you are confident that you're not alone, then why not go out to the streets yourself?
Is it because you're afraid that you don't really have that many people behind you? I mean, your social media feeds say one thing, and that probably includes disbelief of a 91% approval rate during a pandemic this government continued to flub miserably at, or something. That's the problem with demanding people wake up to your viewpoint: you will always, perhaps almost always, fail to recognize that it's you who hasn't woken up to theirs. Not that you have to subscribe to it. You just have to understand it, recognize it, perhaps appreciate it. No. Anyone who flashes that fist emoji must be stupid, and anyone who fights against everything that means is not. Anyone who believes the same thing as you has to be on the right side of history.
I don't know where I'm going with this. I mean, I did come off my busiest season, and to be honest, that isn't really over yet. But it just feels disingenuous, at the very least, to believe that many people believe what you believe, and at the same time hope that they they express their anger publicly - and no, online doesn't count - on your behalf. And yes, these things will always mean polarization before it even became a buzzword of political discourse these past few years - weren't we this polarized twenty years ago? - but this time feels different, because the weapons have changed, and the targets have changed, and it all feels a bit more fundamental than before.
But ultimately, you know that you're just as guilty of what you accuse your diametrical opposites of doing - staying in comfortable echo chambers, reinforcing your own opinions, refusing to acknowledge any nuances. No matter how much you say you stand for what's right, you know, deep down inside, that the battle has long been lost and everything you stand for means nothing. And if we're all to be honest, that's actually the case, isn't it?