Paradigm Wars

Last time I wrote about rectification of names, the importance of using correct terminology and not fooling ourselves with self-proclaimed labels. However important that concept is, on its own it doesn’t move the discussion along – who has never heard of reds being called a misguided and manipulated mob? What good has ever came out of it?

Today I want to present some reasons why it is so, why, despite all the efforts on all sides to communicate with each other, nothing substantial has been ever achieved.

Let’s consider one of the most cliche expressions out there – “paradigm shift”. Ever since MBA and marketing people adopted it, it has turned into one of those meaningless proclamations no one pays attention to. Forget those guys, go back to the original, intended meaning.

About fifty years ago Thomas Kuhn wrote a book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, and he used “paradigm shift” to describe development of science. We all know that scientific theories evolve, that they eventually replace each other, but Kuhn presented some very interesting observations of how it actually happens.

For one thing, paradigm shifts have very little to do with accumulating scientific data and knowledge per se, or with validity of new theories, there’s a lot of human element involved, too, and paradigms describe not just prevailing theories but entire world views that come with them.

When one theory achieves dominance and a paradigm evolves around it, it gives scientists the direction to develop it further, it gives them new problems to solve, it gives them new knowledge to solve these new problems, provides them with tools to solve them, it gives them determination and tenacity and recognition, but, on the other hand, it also restricts the development to certain areas only. It identifies new goals, but also sets limits to what goals can be pursued, it sets boundaries, it sets areas where scientists simply cannot go or even contemplate. It sets rules how to deal with those areas – either dismiss them altogether, discount as simple errors, or postpone for the future consideration. That’s the period of “normal” science.

Eventually some unresolvable problems accumulate and become too obvious and annoying enough to push some “revolutionary” scientists to look for other, unorthodox tools, methodology and theories to try and explain them. They might try something totally new, they might pick up some ideas discarded earlier and turn them around, try whatever works.

Finally, they come up with a completely new theory that explains previously unresolved phenomena, and also explains how previous theory achieved its results without contradicting this new theory. They prove that their new theory is overall better, and so the new paradigm is born. Then they flesh it out with new methods, new tools, new rules, new areas of research, and new areas you are not supposed to even think about.

And then it starts all over again.

The transition from one paradigm to another is not a peaceful time, however, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Take Copernicus, for example. He came up with the idea that Earth rotates around Sun but his calculations were not correct enough to challenge the prevailing Ptolemaic system which still predicted planetary positions better, and no one had taken Copernicus seriously. Then Galileo came up with his telescopes and Jupiter moons, and paid dearly for that, then Kepler, who introduced ecliptic orbits, a whole bunch of other guys helped, too, in the end it was only Newton’s work, some hundred and fifty years later, that enabled Copernicus theory to finally become dominant.

Here we have a combination of religious dogma and a lack of precision in the theory itself that delayed the adoption.

Then there’s example of Darwin who killed the idea of the Creator altogether. Chemists didn’t accept the idea of atoms right away, either, Einstein’s relativity took quite some time to kill off electro-magnetism, Big Bang theory took decades to prove itself and so on.

The interesting observation that Kuhn made was that, as a general rule, proponents of one paradigm do not convert to a new one, they just die out, of natural causes. They are so heavily invested in their own paradigm, as human beings, that conversion becomes practically impossible – remember that paradigm defines them completely. It defines their core beliefs, their values, their methods, ways of thinking, approaches to problems, and the problems themselves, and generally, they have enough material to go on until the end of their natural lives.

New scientists adopt new paradigms, old dogs don’t do new tricks.

It’s not that there’s no communication between adherents of the new and old paradigms, but, Kuhn observed – they just can’t agree on anything. One of the reasons is that their language becomes different. The arguments that old school insists on are irrelevant to the new way, and the arguments that new school uses to prove itself makes no sense to the old guys, as they simply do not share the new methods to prove things and do not even have the vocabulary for that – they were not provided by the old paradigm they grew up with.

Two existing theories become incommensurable – that is you can’t use one paradigm to prove or disprove another, each is good only on its own terms. Each one is practically self-contained, without any overlapping areas, they simply talk past each other.

That was all ages ago, we all naturally assume that now the society and science are far more mature to fall into those old pitfalls. So, let’s take look at some currently ongoing case study and see how it works in the modern age, and there’s nothing better for that than good old fashioned Darwinism.

Darwin traveled the world, observed great many animals, checked their hooves and claws and wings, looked at the colors of various butterflies, checked behind the ears, and came up with the idea of evolution through natural selection. That was greatly offensive to many at that time – descending from monkeys? No, thank you – natural human response, but one of the most important points it scored was that it ruled out God the Creator. God had already been banished from the universe, now Darwin killed off his last remaining role as the one who could have created it. That was the final victory and the strongest point for the new, Darwinian paradigm.

It has defined development of biology ever since, the way all new data and new fossil finds are interpreted.

All well, but look what happened a hundred years later, with advent of genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology. Darwin had no idea those little things even existed, he never observed them, yet biologists within Darwin’s paradigm already knew that these completely new areas of science must comply with “evolution through natural selection”. It was not “observe and form a theory” process, it was “make sure your observations fit”.

In the beginning no one made a lot of fuss anyway – people were just too busy trying to find out what those genes and proteins are and how they work. Even today the question of how exactly they could have been developed is simply beyond the scope of current research.

Any disagreement immediately marked one as being a hidden creationist. That is the strongest point of Darwinism, rejection of God, and it’s fully at work. The world is exactly black and white – if you doubt Darwin, you support religion. It’s hard to find a third position, and the fact that many creationists deliberately obscure their position by claiming to be something else, like “intelligent designers”, is not helping. Dissenters are immediately get lumped with those loonies somewhere in Kansas who try to sneak Bible back into schools and go to courts over it.

Nevertheless, just as any paradigm before and after it, evolution through natural selection has collected plenty of problems that it can’t explain adequately. Gaps and missing links between species, lack of fossil evidence, mismatching timings and the like, but I want to give an example from molecular biology that Darwin was completely unaware of.

What you see is a diagram of a flagellum, a sort of a tail sticking out of some bacteria. The bacterium has a motor inside that rotates this “tail” and so it acts as a propelling mechanism. It can change the direction of rotation so that the bacterium can move forward and backwards and so on.

This is one of the most common examples of the so called “Irreducible Complexity”, which means that you can’t make this motor, consisting of some forty parts, in gradual, working steps. You have to get all the components, in exact shape and size, together at once and assemble them in only one particular fashion, otherwise it wouldn’t work.

That flies in the face of natural selection that postulates that evolutionary steps must be gradual and each one must improve the system or it would simply die out.

In bacteria terms it means that adding each component one by one and going through various possible shapes and sizes must improve the system overall at each step otherwise it would be a waste of time, resources and energy and the wasteful specimens would die out in competition instead of evolving.

If an engineer were to design such a motor he would spend a considerable amount of time and go through a considerable amount of failures to eventually produce a working motor that would recoup the investments in the end, but natural selection does not allow for investments and sacrifices. If you add one screw somewhere and the machine doesn’t immediately become better – you’ve wasted a screw, DIE!

It is theoretically possible to describe how to build a motor like this in gradual steps – means you can’t prove that it is impossible, but so far, some fifteen years after it was first publicized, no one still has a slightest idea how to go about that, and there’s absolutely no evidence of any half built motors in bacteria either.

There’s a kind of sting that looks roughly the same and is used to inject poison into other organisms but still no sign of motor, still some thirty parts missing, and some have argued that the need to inject poison, evolutionary speaking, came a lot later than the need to propel yourself in water, and was clearly added later in bacteria that have both functions.

There’s absolutely no chance it could have come out by chance either. There are calculations that give out numbers in range of ten to the hundred power, which, translated into years, (bacteria has a life span of about half an hour) gives us untold trillions and gazillions, and our whole universe is only 14 billion years old. And that is just a small part of one of the simplest life forms, and the stuff it does on molecular level, for example the “machines” used for handling and replicating DNAs folded hundreds of thousands of times in order to fit inside the cell, makes it far more complex that anything our technological progress has ever achieved.

No one would look at models and diagrams of those things and claim to show how they came out through natural selection of trial and error, with each step being better than the previous. It just not the most obvious observation to make, to be generous to the idea, but, being prisoners of Darwinian paradigm, all scientists are obliged to dance around the issue, and those who dare to speak are drawn into taking sides and throwing mean punches at each other, which was probably not their intention in the beginning, but we are all humans…

Consider this opening paragraph of one paradigm prisoner refuting flagella argument.

Almost from the moment The Origin of Species was published in 1859, the opponents of evolution have fought a long, losing battle against their Darwinian foes. Today, like a prizefighter in the late rounds losing badly on points, they’ve placed their hopes in one big punch – a single claim that might smash through the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence to bring Darwin to the canvas once and for all.

You can immediately see that’s it’s not going to be about science, the war is about God and religion first and foremost, the truth will be sacrificed, if necessary, for the other side cannot be allowed to win.

You can also see that this guy is never going to give up on his paradigm, no matter what hard and irrefutable evidence you put before him.

So that’s an example of how far the scientific community progressed since modern ages. We don’t burn people at stakes, but sure as hell we won’t provide funding to those religious fanatics hiding under various innocent looking labels who want to destroy our faith in Darwinism.

Faith, make no mistake, as we are asked to believe that despite all the shortcomings in evidence and proof department, eventually all will become clear and properly explained. The world is too complex for us to see right now, but, in the end, Darwin, who had a “revelation” of sorts, will prevail, you just have to believe, work very hard, and don’t get distracted.

Every new paradigm starts with a faith, btw. In the beginning no one can possibly see that the new theory would produce enough positive results to justify itself, they work on faith, and the old school science persevere on faith, too, even when evidence against it keeps multiplying.

The ever present human element.

Isn’t it ironic how God has again become the dividing issue in science. I’m sure Copernicus or Galileo or Bruno were NOT against existence of God per se, but once their theory even suggested that God doesn’t exist in a way the prevailing paradigm had prescribed, all their ideas were summarily rejected.

Nowadays even a remote hint at the existence of God, even by non-religious people, gets a complete and total ban from mainstream science. If someone pleads “I’m for Intelligent Design, not religion” it won’t matter – the damning label has been stuck already, all forms of dissent against Darwinism is pro-God by definition. By definition of Darwinian paradigm, that is.

I’m not speaking in absolute terms, mind you, new paradigms do find ways to prove themselves, they managed even in sixteenth century, so nothing is lost forever, there’s a way forward, though it might not be pleasant for all.

Well, that should round it up nicely for today. Applying this paradigm model to current Thai politics definitely needs another sitting.

Rectification of names

Rectification of names is an ancient Confucian doctrine that, in essence, is calling a spade a spade, only applied to societies. Confucius believed that people masquerading as something else would eventually lead to social disharmony, and, in order for society to succeed, people declaring themselves as such and such should behave accordingly. No bullshitting, so to speak.

It’s what keeps red shirts together here – they know who Thaksin is, for example, who are his favourites, who represents him or anyone else and so on. Politicians can call themselves this and that but, ultimately, people know where their power comes from, what family they belong and whether they have their clan support or not. Samak declaring himself Thaksin’s proxy was a bold move on the surface but in reality he was just practicing “rectification of names”, and everybody knew what the deal was anyway.

Lately there has been a parade of Thaksin proxy wannabes and PTP found itself in turmoil because no one knew who the real proxy was. Finally Thaksin himself had to step in and tell everyone to wait for his decision and so PTP members shouldn’t believe anyone pretending to have any special powers. Rectification of names again.

Well, the world has progressed since Confucius times, he was talking about father and son, the rules and servants. Life wasn’t so complicated in those days. Now we have a whole bunch of new phenomena that requires careful consideration.

So, I have given it a long thought and finally I gave up on things like “benefit of doubt” and possibilities that there is something more than meets the eye. Let’s call a spade a spade.

The problem is that I still don’t know what a proper name should be, for example, for a popular movement that genuinely believes that the cream of the society is rotten and it needs change, that the elites have abused their positions for too long and they must answer to the public, that power and wealth should be returned to people.

What label to put on this movement, which is at the same time bankrolled by the richest segment of the population and led by exactly the same people the movement is rallying against. Nuts?

Nothing else, even remotely respectful, comes to mind. Idiots make mistakes but they are hardly dangerous, the worst kind are the idiots who think they are actually educated and who feel entitled, and are willing to impose their mistakes on you, oblivious to any sense or reason.

This week they will come out and make themselves heard, at midterm American elections.

I was talking about the Tea Party, of course.

If the supposedly better educated Americans can be so hopelessly deceived, I completely gave up on our local red shirts.

It all makes sense, though, if you treat them as Astrorurf – a brand name for artificial grass carpets, artificial grassroots.

Both movements have members really buying into their causes, that’s a fact. Over in the States they are angry at the big and inefficient government, over here they blame the elites instead. They are angry at the elites in the US, too:”The elite’s fear and loathing of the tea party movement is rooted in the recognition that the real change is only now coming,” – Tony Blankley. I’m sure you can find a lot more quotes in the same vein.

This kind of rhetoric is all too familiar.

The Astroturf creators played out on a whole sleigh of these largely dormant sentiments to stir up a real revolution against their current enemies. They saw the opportunity to use the useful idiots to their own ends and they seized it.

In both cases the movements still work for the ultimate benefit of the richest class and corporations. Over in the US they already control the country and, most importantly, the general population, and the government is the only entity that dares to stand in their way, so it must go. Here in Thailand the situation is very similar, the government and the elites stand in the way of Thaksin’s return.

What is truly remarkable, though, is the ability of those rich cats to control population minds, to impose their ideas and to convince the ordinary folks to even act against their self-interest. They have proved beyond any doubt that propaganda pays. For people who made fortunes by advertising their products, shift to political propaganda was seamless and it is pretty much an established fact of life in the West – politicians are nothing but products who live by the rules of marketing, on all sides.

The traditional concept of “democracy” has become meaningless – all we see is farming voters, developing and nurturing them and weeding out any troublemakers. And then out comes the ultimate product of genetic engineering – Tea Party like grass roots movements that completely identify themselves with corporate agendas.

About a month ago one of their millionaire leaders conceived a donation campaign, asking people to come online and give $10 to American Chamber of Commerce. That was a cruel joke – the board of that organization probably has a lot more money than all these misguided donors combined – Pfizer, Conaco, Lokheed Martin, JP Morgan, Rolls Royce… Poor souls still came out in force and crashed Chamber’s servers. Idiots.

Over here we have red shirts collecting money for the red cause, too. Let’s all help Thaksin come back and establish democracy. Duh.

For those who insist that reds have moved beyond Thaksin – just a couple of weeks ago he personally told PTP meeting that he would direct their election strategy, set up the platform and select the PM candidate. PTP resolved that bringing back Thaksin would be their major issue. As for reds – they will be given the opportunity to run in elections if PTP doesn’t have strong candidates themselves. Just like republicans in the US where they sport quite a few Tea Party candidates on the ballots.

Anyway, debating the merits of either Tea Party of Reds is a waste of time. There’s nothing left to prove there.

So let’s move on.

Of a particular interest in this regard are the PR people who manage the movement. Over in the US it’s all republican machinery through and through. Over here the masterminds stay in shade, with the exception of Amsterdam who represents red shirts internationally. Oh, hold on, officially he is paid by Thaksin, but, of course, there’s no practical difference.

He claims he is not in for the money (duh!), that he is in for the cause. Well, I, for one, believe him, to a degree. I believe he fully supports the cause – corporations and rich people should rule the world. He also supports the modern day methods of slavery – dragging people into electoral process that falls under full control of big money.

A few months ago Amsterdam wrote about “state capture” where a few privileged individuals make all the important decisions while the general public is left with the image of democracy and a notion that they really matter. Amsterdam learned all about it while working in Russia, for one of those privileged few who fell from grace, so he had access to the inside knowledge of how it works. Fine, don’t want to argue about that, but, look at the free world and tell me there’s no “state capture” there.

Take some most important decisions of the past decade and tell me people were consulted. Financial bailouts – no. People were just told that it was necessary, there was no debate. Iraq war – no, people were not asked, they were brainwashed to believe that it was for the right cause. Just these two decisions benefited the corporations to the tune of trillions of dollars. People were left to fight for crumbs like medicare instead, something they should be entitled to anyway, and they were reduced to fighting amongst themselves.

So yeah, I believe Amsterdam fully buys into this kind of democracy – protecting corporate grip on the world and “liberal democracy” as an instrument. He made a career out of that already. Thanks to his alphabetical advantage he is at the top of major donors of Chatham House, one of the most influential European think tanks supported by a long list of biggest corporations. Who is stupid enough to believe their research supports transfer of wealth and power to the poor?

Another famous freedom fighter like that is George Soros. Here in Thailand he was blamed for the 1997 crisis. Eventually people realized that they brought it upon themselves and left the sheep unprotected and Soros just did what the wolves should naturally do – slaughter as much as possible. What I can’t understand is how this wolf, who brought so much destruction and suffering to millions of families, claims to be world biggest human rights campaigner, bankrolling Human Rights Watch.

Last article about him I read was directed at South America’s human rights abusers. Coincidentally it was directed strictly at the governments that fell out of favor with Wester world order – Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil etc. I’m sure they deserved some of the blame but I can’t help myself to think that the underlying reason for his attacks is to put them back in line and pay their dues.

When in comes to Thailand the concern is not so pronounced but it’s still there. Remember when Thais decided to produce generic drugs themselves? In no time a big name PR company came out with full page adverts condemning the move. Then there was talk about proxy ownership – another stick to stir up the hornet’s nest. Thais managed to escape major wrath but the apprehension of possible consequences was palpable.

Another interesting aspect is New Mandala’s campaign on the internet. Mandala is not just a fancy asian word, it’s distribution of power, the power pyramid, and the relationships between various players and parts. Traditionally in Thailand it culminates at the King at the top who answers to Gods but in the old days Thailand was answerable to China, too.

The problem with this arrangement is that modern corporations don’t have a major say, they are granted permissions but not ultimate control, and “liberal democracy” has no place in it either, hence the need for New Mandala. New power center should be the West and its values and practices, its freedoms and elections.

Unfortunately, people over at New Mandala are not sophisticated enough to slip these ideas without challenging the traditional structure. Americans were far more skillful at that for the last part of the 20th century. New Mandala people instead went into a full attack mode, centering on Thai monarchy and going after elites in general.

For a while I thought I should give them a shot and see if there’s anything more behind their project – after all they all claim to support freedom of speech and look so nice and friendly.

Well, that didn’t last long. Those who read this blog surely remember “What you don’t see on New Mandala” entry a year ago. That had quite an effect on them as they had to admit to some sort of moderation. At first they said they censored my posts because I was talking too much. I thought I’d comply and they’d let me comment there. Nah, didn’t work.

They simply won’t allow anything that undermines their agenda of imposing democracy on uncivilized Thai natives. They allow dissent about as much as Christian preachers talk about atheism – it’s fine to talk about it as long as it stays defeated. They need it there to ridicule it, not to consider it with an open mind.

When they eventually stopped accepting any of my posts on New Mandala this time (it was back in August) there was public campaign to weed out anyone suspected of being me. “Are you StanGin disguise?” was the popular question there for a while.

There was this one comment, about Amsterdam’s White Paper, where, after reasoning that it’s not worth reading as it would contain to many lies and half truths by definition, I gave it a shot and right there, in the very first paragraph, Amsterdam stated that at the time of the coup Thaksin was properly and democratically elected, apparently as the winner of 2006 elections.

As soon as I pointed out that gross inaccuracy the hell broke loose and no one else but Andrew Walker himself stepped in and said that he won’t allow anymore “pointless” debates with Stan G.

In a way he was right – all debates on New Mandala are pointless, as someone noticed in another thread that was labeled as a great discussion – where’s the discussion, you all agree with each other?

I was thinking about writing “What you don’t see on New Mandala part 2” and include some of the banned posts but I don’t see the point – they were banned for advocating a different point of view. Interestingly, the original premise of New Mandala was to facilitate new looks at Thailand and South East Asia, or something alone those lines. Do they believe in it? I think they do, they just don’t realize they don’t live by it anymore.

I don’t believe they notice how incredibly condescending and insensitive they are to Asians. There was this strange post of some photoshopped work of some south asian woman carrying a huge can of Coke on her head and a huge hamburger in her hand. All the comments were about asking permission to use the image in some classes, but who they were asking permission from? The dude who photoshopped this poor woman? Not a single soul paused and thought that the woman in the picture has a name and a family and pride in her way of life. She was just an object that doesn’t matter to them, South East Asia scholars.

Speaking of their scholars – about a year ago they had a series of video interviews on Thai political situation. The last episode was particularly telling. Three of their students started the talk by saying they don’t know what was going on with red protests because of the censorship.

Well, the red protests were probably the best covered violent protest in human history. There were hundreds of journalists covering everything from every possible angle. Hundreds of people with mobile phones snapping pictures and videos. There were hours and hours of video footage on Youtube. As soon as something had become the point of interest, some one would come up with video evidence for it. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people online discussing every possible turn.

And there they were, three ANU students, claiming ignorance due to censorship. No, it’s not censorship, it’s lobotomy they’ve undergone while studying there. They just have to repeat this familiar NM party line. Funny thing, I believe they were also taught that they were independent and critical thinkers.

I believe Nick and Andrew are also fully convinced that they are fair and open minded and independent and what not – they themselves had been conditioned this way. They can’t step out of this box – they don’t even notice the box exists, and that’s their ultimate failure as intellectuals.

Recently Walker has got captivated by various graphs. God knows how many of them were completely meaningless, only exposing his ignorance on the matter. Not that there were wrong, but there was simply too much information that was missing that no intelligent person would dare to come up with any definite conclusions. Many people pointed various gaps, sometimes he just lashed at them, sometimes he would simply move on and produce another useless graph.

With that kind of “academic” work I’m not surprised that he pushes the brand of democracy that doesn’t stand a chance in any proper university. On the other hand, if universities are so progressive and anti big money, why doesn’t it translate into real leadership? I guess once people outgrow their idealism they decide to partake rather than fight.

Amsterdam started out with Marxism himself. Now he makes a living off the biggest capitalists. Our local revolutionaries from 70s haven’t fared much better, as they make living off Thaksin’s movement.

At least be honest and declare what you stand for. I don’t think Thailand would reject their model outright, Thais always find ways to incorporate whatever new ideas they find. As I said, Americans knew how to do that fifty years ago. Maybe they just had people a lot smarter than Walker and Farelly advising them on how to take over Thailand.

Now that Americans are on the way out, Australians would never stand a chance, not with this sorry bunch leading the effort.

Red strategy

William Barnes has an exceptional piece in Asia Times with quotes from “Therdpoum Chaidee, a former communist and colleague of key protest leaders”.

While we have no shortage or anti-red articles this one presents the inside view of the red strategy. It is unclear what role this particular person has in the current campaign but he had received the same maoist revolutionary training as forefront red leaders like Weng and Jaran.

Here’s the collection of his quotes, I’ve changed the order and added some emphasis here and there:

The tactic is to keep saying that you are a peace-loving people.

But at the same time:

The revolution walks on two legs. One political leg and one army leg. Violence is the essential ingredient in the mix.

“The people who are the real planners, not the people up on stage making protest speeches, these people probably keep a very low profile, but they must calculate that aggression is vital, … Aggression paralyzes and divides opponents. This is what we were taught, this is how a smaller force can defeat overwhelming power. The message was: divide and conquer.”

The five tactics they learned for unseating a government included: divide your enemies; form a united front; use provocative violence; secure the loyalty of people inside the ruling regime; and, finally, win over the army.

The many factions folded into the united front [UDD] organization are not told what the real strategy is because they might not agree and they might not act their part convincingly,”

“The red shirt people have been told over and over that greedy people in authority have denied them justice and their fair share. They have been pumped full of toy-town leftism and told to hate every institution that has held this country together. I worry that the bitterness and hatred produced by this propaganda now runs so deep it will cause tension and problems for a long time,”

“Many of them are now absolutely convinced that Thaksin was the best leader in Thai history, that he was a kind and generous man who holds the solution to all their problems. They don’t need a program – they just need a new Thai state with Thaksin in charge. It has become very emotional – as it was designed to be,”

This bit is from Barnes: The red shirts consist of many passive supporters, many active ones and, now, a hand-picked core of “professional revolutionaries” chosen for their loyalty and street smarts, according to Therdpoum. Behind them are many “deep secrets and hidden messages” that are revealed to only a privileged few in the movement, while an even smaller number know the entire strategy, he claimed.

Here is my favorite part:

Old communists know that when it comes to revolution, ignorance is much more powerful than knowledge

This is Barnes’ paraphrase again: Therdpoum believes that the UDD’s sincere left-wing members are using Thaksin and anticipate the opportunity to eventually dump his personal agenda in favor of the establishment of a more socialist society.

This stuff is amazing. I, personally, would have never dared to accuse reds of these subversive tactics, giving them a benefit of doubt. Now, however, it’s in the open and so reds are a fair game in this regard. It still hinges on Therdpoum’s credibility but, as far as Occam’s Razor principle is concerned – it fits perfectly, far better than any other attempt to justify red actions by “New wave cyber army” – term from the link provided by Hobby.

Does Abhisit have legitimacy?

I think the question of Abhisit’s legitimacy needs to be addressed, considering how often it is used by his opponents, and Hobby, too.

The world has 10 kinds of people, those who know binary and those who don’t.

But even if we accept only binary answers to the question we still get plenty of opinions and it all depends on who we ask.

Yes, if we ask 14 million who voted for Democrats
No, if we ask 14 million who voted for PTP
Yes, if we ask another 7 million who voted for neither and have their MP in government.
No, if we ask those who opposed the coup
Yes, if we ask those who agreed with it
No, if we ask those prefer Thaksin
Yes, if we ask those who abhor Thaksin

That’s enough of people. Let’s talk abstracts.

Yes, if you go by current law books
No, if you reject the current constitution as illegal

Yes, if you say he is the product of the same parliament that elected Samak and Somchai before him
No, if you say he had help from outside the parliament
Yes, if you say his opponents had outside help, too

No, if you say that after PPP dissolution a new mandate should be obtained
Yes, if you say that MPs are still the same and by-elections filled the empty seats

No, if you expect the PM to be the leader of the biggest party
Yes, if you expect the PM to get most votes in parliament

That’s getting boring. Let’s talk what is the practical meaning of “legitimacy”, beyond the binary.

Suppose the answer is “yes” and so Abhisit has the legitimacy.

Is his legitimacy equal that of Thaksin whose party once obtained some 75% of parliamentary seats? No.
Does he need an equal amount of legitimacy to the PM? No.

Suppose the answer is “no” and so Abhisit has no legitimacy.

Does it mean he has enough legitimacy to sign some paperwork related to day-to-day work of the government? Yes.
Does it mean he has enough legitimacy to negotiate with the reds on the solution to the crisis? Yes.
Does it mean he has enough legitimacy to run the country before the negotiated dissolution, if there’s a deal? Yes.
Does it mean he has enough legitimacy to represent the country in international forums like Asean? Yes.

Let’s now consider how his legitimacy changes over time for each of the above categories? Or maybe not, you get the point.

I’d just say that he has more legitimacy now, after running the country for a year and four months, than last year in the run up to Songkran. His legitimacy will grow if he survives this Songkran, and it will diminish as the election day draws nearer.

Only for some hard core opponents his legitimacy, if he ever had any in their eyes, waned even further over this period.

Ok, now how about changing opinions and perception of his legitimacy over time? Or, better yet, how about changing perception of his legitimacy in the process of a debate?

Do you see how a simple question: “Does Abhisit have legitimacy” brings out unlimited possibilities of answers, even if rounded to a yes/no choice.

To sum it up, a simple “he has no legitimacy” is a throwaway line that doesn’t deserve any attention unless the exact meaning, purpose, perspective, and usefulness to the discussion are clear. From experience and observations, most of the time it gets ignored.


Never a manc said so much to so many that means so little

Ripped from Ricky Gervais show, which is a series of pointless conversation between Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant, and a little round-headed buffoon that is Karl Pilkington…

Now where would you put it? This headstone is round but maybe that was only for the show.

How’s that fair?

Just to quickly reiterate some points about Thaksin’s reaction.

What he did, both in business and in politics, was par for the course, only better. He wasn’t the first one to marry and bribe his way up, and he certainly had the abilities that probably justified giving him an advantage over less fortunate peers.

He wasn’t the first one to go into politics to take care of business. In the beginning he even had better motivations than most, he really wanted to change the country. And he was clearly better than his rivals at their own game, from buying the votes to buying MPs, and he certainly didn’t invent the process. He didn’t invent the phrase “kin muang” either – everybody was practically entitled to providing for himself when in politics.

He beat his opponents fair and square by their own rules.

Why is this injustice, then?

I think he missed a couple of crucial points. First, not everybody was in politics to enrich themselves. It might be true for politicians, no one expected much from them anyway, but Thaksin tried to be something more than just an average, off the mill, greedy bastard, and so he had to be judged by different criteria. He came in with a business mentality but tried to claim a place among rulers and kings, and for rulers and kings principles and personal sacrifices are far more important than greed.

To claim a place in that league one must dedicate himself to serving the country, and one must be honest and true to himself and his own words. That’s how this kind of people acquire “baramee”, that special influence over ordinary folk.

Thaksin failed miserably in that test, he was a cheating, lying bastard whose words only contaminated the sacred atmosphere. He should have stayed where he belonged, he had a good thing going, just didn’t know when to stop.

Another point that he missed is that in the 90s middle classes and elites changed the rules of the game, they demanded better, cleaner politics, and they had Democrats with Chuan and Abhisit as examples. While everybody else mutually agreed that buying people off and shooting your opponents was a fair game, Chuan’s Democrats didn’t. Chuan was absolutely, squeaky clean and he was a living proof that politicians can and should abide by the rule of law.

Well, traditionally, there was no such thing as a rule of law in Thailand, not in absolute sense, certainly not in a sense that everyone is equal before the law. There was a law of karma and the rulers were meant to enforce it, but that law does not have absolute, clear boundaries of what is right and what is wrong.

On a practical level “wrong” is defined as upsetting others. If no one is visibly upset, there’s no “wrong”. Practically speaking, there was no such thing as “absolute wrong”, there were always leeways and loopholes and walkarounds for the absolute rules that made them impractical and open to all kinds of abuse.

1997 constitution put an abrupt end to all of that that. It became absolutely wrong for a politician to buy votes, even if both sides of the transaction were perfectly happy, it became absolutely wrong to run a business and govern the country at the same time, even if your particular solution was to everyone’s agreement and benefit, like excise tax change for AIS. It became absolutely wrong to have “conflict of interest”. So many things had become wrong. Yeah, those liberals enforcing their ideals on a largely feudal country like Thailand…

So, naturally, those who still lived by the old rules, under the old patronage system, couldn’t possibly see what Thaksin’s transgressions were. They applied the same old logic – if it doesn’t hurt anybody, how could it be “wrong”?

The reaction among those who bought into the liberal project was completely different – it is wrong, wrong, wrong. End of discussion.

And here we come to a point of little hypocrisy, because both elites and middle classes never actually lived what they preached. They had ideals they aspired to but their personal lives were never even close. Bribes, from traffic policemen to school administrators to government officials were still the norm. Why did they demand any better from Thaksin? Well, initially they didn’t.

They gave Thaksin a lot of the usual leeway but their patience ended when Thaksin crossed the line between what is socially acceptable and what is not.

Having little vices on the side is acceptable, part of the Buddhist “middle way” solution. Declaring these vices as new virtues is not. Lots of people are engaged in various shady activities, including Surayud and his forest home, but they keep them quiet, as a source of shame, and this attitude only strengthens the contrast between vice and virtue.

When Thaksin tweaked national policies to help out his phone and satellite businesses it was acceptable. When he came back form Singapore and declared that he had nothing to do with the sale and it was his kids decision, that was a slap in the face. What was expected is being mumbling and apologetic and pleading, not daring everyone to accept his lies at the face value. That wasn’t the first time either, airport scanners scandal being probably the first that really caught public attention, and there were a lot more to come.

Thaksin misjudged those reactions from the public, misjudged them fair and square. He didn’t get it at all, he didn’t try to correct it, he didn’t try to find a mutually acceptable solution. In hindsight, if he’d agreed to give 25% of Shin sale profits to charity, as was proposed by Chamlong, he could have made permanent peace with PAD now and then, in early 2006, would have certainly worked out cheaper for him and less traumatic for the country, but he didn’t. He didn’t see that people have changed, the rules have changed, and that he himself was outdated. It was a natural thing for him to reject when he thought of himself “think new act new” all along, but if he’d got it then, it could have saved all of us a lot of trouble.

But, being easy on the country as it could have, we wouldn’t have learned the lessons from the fraudulent elections, coup, military incompetence in running the country, street protests, double standards, ammart and so on. Those lessons can’t be bought, they have to be lived through, and that only underlines the old lesson – everything happens for a reason, and usually a good one.

And another thing – Thailand paid for them rather cheaply, by historical standards.

Reds, The King, and King’s men

It is well known that for some red shirts Thaksin has become the most important person, but what about the rest? What about reds who insist on holding the King in the highest regard yet demand the purge of “ammart”?

It is an interesting case of immature love, as in “love me love my dog”.

Reds sort of know but don’t yet realize that the “ammart” cannot exist without the King, that they are barging into a very complex web of relationships. Their level of understanding of these relationships is only on the second stage, according to Perry. I was looking for some better known taxonomy of understanding but Perry’s second stage fits rather well.

The true authorities are right, the others are frauds

There are seven more steps to go to the last one:

Believe own values, respect others, be ready to learn

Leaving taxonomy aside for a moment, people like Prem or Surayud were directly appointed by the King himself, when reds rally for their removal they are, indeed, indirectly issuing demands to the King himself, and they are indirectly holding him responsible for all the crimes they attribute to their enemies.

These reds are ready to embrace the King but not his choices. I suppose the most dedicated among them feel that their love runs very deep, yet they don’t see how other people, especially their enemies, can feel the same way, they don’t see this love as a unifying feature and can’t share it yet.

Two factors counterbalance each other here and tear their souls apart – institutionally instilled love and respect for the monarchy on one side and relentless red propaganda on the other. Individually people would be forced to eventually make a choice, and this weekend we shall see how many seriously fell for the propaganda and decided to act on their new found feelings.

Generally, reds as a group, have already separated themselves from the mainstream society, living with different ideology, pursuing different goals, listening to different media. This weekend we will see how many of them turned real hardcore. For now they are clearly in a minority but the nature of Thai society is such that any power attracts followers, no matter how it was obtained.

If reds can make a big statement they’ll automatically gain more support among the silent majority, just by the virtue of accomplishing something, no matter what it is.

Back to taxonomy – reds really really need to elevate themselves close to that last level. So far they have zero respect or tolerance for others, without it they can’t “win” in any sense, even if they somehow muster really big numbers.