Thais Follow Plato; Westerners Follow Aristotle


For a while I have been a little mystified by the importance so many Thai people place on the concept of unity and on the meaning they place on the concept of ‘unity.’ As a westerner, we are much more comfortable with the concepts of individuality and diverse sets of the population rubbing along together in one way or another. Then, a chance remark on the radio made it clear: Thai society is informed by a Platonic understanding of the world.

Here is what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to say about Plato’s Republic  (in part):

“Plato’s work has been criticized as static and class bound, reflecting the moral and aesthetic assumptions of an elite in a slave-owning civilization and bound by the narrow limits of the city-state. The work is indeed a classic example of a philosopher’s vivisection of society, imposing by relatively humane means the rule of a high-minded minority.

Plato is thus indirectly the pioneer of modern beliefs that only a party organization, inspired by correct and “scientific” doctrines, formulated by the written word and interpreted by authority, can rightly guide the state. His rulers would form an elite, not responsible to the mass of the people. Thus, in spite of his high moral purpose, he has been called an enemy of the open society and the father of totalitarian lies. But he is also an anatomist of the evils of unbridled appetite and political corruption and insists on the need to use public power to moral ends.”

This is a very apt description of the conservative Thai approach to society. Plato is said to have been influenced by Indian thought and, presumably, that has been transmitted to Thai society via Buddhist thought and Sanskrit (or Pali) texts.

By contrast, we of the west are more commonly Aristotelians in thought, being more concerned with issues of reason, logic and the potentialities of individuals. No doubt this distinction has been obvious to many all along but it did just suddenly strike me.

Congratulations to the Cambodian people on their celebration of 55 years of autonomy.

Judges Obeying Their Nature Is No Story


It is the nature of a dog, as Aristotle observed, to bark. It is not surprising, therefore, that it is the nature of a right wing judge to make decisions in line with their beliefs. Hence, having recently written the junta’s constitution, the judges of the Constitutional Court have ruled that democratically-elected Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej must resign because of his TV cookery show, since they deemed him to be an employee of a corporation and, hence, subject to conflict of interest issues.

Coalition MPs have promised to back Khun Samak for re-nomination but the press is still in a ferment for secret plots and conspiracies and who is it going to be next? As ever, ‘academics’ and ‘business executives’ have been found to claim that Samak must never return – in fact, three have been found to support this claim, one of whom is a faculty member of the dismal science at Chulalongkorn University and whose opinion may be judged accordingly. Having spent some time interviewing international business executives, I can reveal that they never stop complaining about one thing or another.

The Bangkok Post gets itself into a bit of a twist by trying to claim that a 0.3% drop in the SET yesterday was caused by fear of the return of Khun Samak to PM. Does that also explain this morning’s decline – or is it loss of confidence in the market because we no longer appear to have a Prime Minister – or is some international factor responsible – or is the movement of a stock exchange subject to an enormously wide range of factors many of which cannot be accurately predicted?

From a personal point of view and setting aside all the important issues, this all does reduce the psychological stress that I and my colleagues, who also work for one of Khun Thaksin’s institutions, for the rest of the world to start to realize what is going on here. Cheap jibes in the press are not the sticks and stones which may break my bones of course but they can have an effect on morale. For that reason, I was also quite pleased to see the Abu Dhabi guys take over at Man City.