‘CULTURAL cringe,’ a phrase first coined by Australians as a way of distancing themselves from the UK and establishing their own, unique identity, is a concept that Asia should take note of. China is probably the worst offender in the way it slavishly reproduces almost anything from the West, including ludicrous recreations of English villages. Equally cringeworthy is Macau’s interpretation of a European Christmas, with fake snow and carol-singing. In Thailand, meanwhile, developers build housing estates that copy traditional architectural designs from France and Italy, usually with a foreign-sounding title. Why can’t Asia be more original and creative? It’s a culturally rich region with plenty to be proud of. Let’s use this enormous resource instead of aping others.
IN the past, harmony was a word often used to describe the Thai way of life. People worked together for the benefit of the country as a whole. Clearly, that’s not the case today. Greed, ambition and corruption are not unknown here, but in recent years they’ve been taken to a much higher and more dangerous level. Far more still unites Thailand than divides it. Those responsible for the current turmoil – and we all know who they are – should back off immediately, and permanently, for the sake of the nation.
SOMETHING alarming and disturbing happened in our offices recently. We were visited by two young girls from England, both 18 years old and here in Thailand at the start of a three-month backpacking holiday around Southeast Asia. They made contact with us via mutual friends in the UK. The girls were dressed in the de rigeur outfits of backpackers – very short cut down jeans and voluminous t-shirts, and not much else. Their massive rucksacks must have weighed a back-breaking 30kg. They looked even younger than their tender age, fragile and frighteningly innocent; their enthusiasm for the trip they were about to embark upon was not in doubt, however. The girls told us excitedly about their itinerary – buses to the islands of southern Thailand and New Year’s Eve at the notorious full moon party on Ko Phangan. Apart from us, they had no other contacts in Thailand. Only one of them had a mobile. Neither of them had been to Asia before.