The Audacity of Farang, Pt. 2

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Yawn . . . I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but honestly, didn’t really have the energy to do it. I guess I don’t really have it in me to be one of those everyday bloggers. Probably my day-to-day is not that interesting to anyone other than myself. Not even myself, sometimes. But, as the tourist season has descended on Thailand, I’ve become increasingly annoyed to the point I needed to say a few things.

A few people seem to have read some of this blog, and I’ve been happy to know that I’ve been of assistance to a couple of people making the transition to life in Bangkok. But some months back I also received some critiques/comments that were predictable and uninspiring to respond to, but illuminating of some of the larger problems of the expat and tourist mentality here. And even more broadly, problems of our humanity.

I will not post those comments, because I have no interest in using this blog as a place to argue over the “normality” of prostitution or other wrongs in Thailand. There are plenty of blogs and websites where farang can, and do, blather on convincing themselves of the acceptability of the life they live here and their treatment of Thai women and Thai culture. I will give no forum to that. Call me a Stalinist, call me unfair, or ignore this blog. Wait. PLEASE IGNORE THIS BLOG. I know that my views are not those of the majority of expats in Thailand. If this blog makes you uncomfortable or feeling like you need to justify your life here and your treatment of Thai women, than move along. I have a hard enough time avoiding the scumbags in my real life, and I have no interest in debating them here.

That being said, this type of foreign trash makes an all too common argument that goes something like, “Thais had prostitution long before any farang came, most prostitution is conducted by Thai men, poor families push their daughters into becoming prostitutes, poor Thais don’t care what their daughters (or sons) are doing as long as it’s bringing in money, prostitution is just part of ‘Thai culture,’ “etc. Can’t change it, so might as well get your kicks. If you came to the United States in 1800, I suppose you would say, “I’m against slavery, but it’s part of the culture here, so . . . I guess I could use a few niggers to help me out.” The normalization of the exploitation of Thai women is disgusting, but unfortunately all too common amongst the foreigners here. You may be blind to what you are doing, but many Thai are not. Did foreigners bring prostitution to Thailand? No. Do foreigners enable and feed off of prostitution? Do they help to support  a system that perpetuates prostitution? Yes, yes, yes. Are there some strong, sensible, financed, well educated, intelligent women that choose sex-work as a profession in our world? Sure. Is that the case with 99.9% of the sex workers in Thailand? No. No Thai family wants their daughter working in a strip club or coyote bar. No Thai woman with a decent education and/or job possibilities would choose to be a hooker. And those are two problems put on the Thai government, not you farang. A decent education and jobs. Many farang complain about how corrupt, inefficient, and undemocratic the Thai government is, true no doubt, but would you really want to see a government that provided for its people? That created an education system where real teachers assured Thai students were made aware of the exploitative history of the West and particularly of Western white supremacist regimes in SEA? Where young Thai students were taught about global movements for social justice and gender equality? Nah, I don’t think you want that. Might stop girls from working in bars to be used by Western AND Thai trash. Might cause girls from Isaan and throughout Thailand to say I’m black and proud. Might cause more young Thai males to direct their violence at you rather than each other. Fighting over liberation, not libations. You sure you farang do-gooders really support an independent and strong Thailand? I think not.

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I will not go into the details of my own life here, but I didn’t come to Thailand for girls, to party, or for a life-changing makeover. Sure, my experience in Thailand has, and does have an impact on how I see things, and living in a new culture away from the States has of course opened me up in new ways. But at the same time I am much the same person. I was not a fat, ugly, ignorant, or morally void person back in the States. I was not a failure in relationships with Western women that needed to find a place where women in desperate need might overlook my physical and/or mental deficiencies. I am still a person that dedicates much of their life and work to understanding and fighting oppression based on race, ethnicity, gender, or class. And despite black presidents and female prime ministers, people of color, from Boston to Benghazi, from Beirut to Bangkok, are still inordinately struggling with the legacies of white supremacy, colonialism, gender inequality, and the exploitation of the working classes.

Thailand is a wonderful country.Thai history and culture are fascinating. Thais can be some of the kindest, most open, and generous people. But there are also bad Thais that are ultra-materialistic, could care less about their brothers and sisters living in poverty, and care nothing about the exploitation and sexualization of their young women. But too many farang that come here have the idea that these things are just part of “Thai culture.” They were like that before “we” came and it will be like that forever. Well, it may be like that forever. But not because it is a part of Thai culture, per se, but because it is a problem of our human experience. An experience that is still being shaped by the continuing struggle for racial and gender equality, for political democratization.

Oh, and by the way, Thais are people of color. Yes, they have their own history of whitening, but not in the same way western white folks mean. White farang have benefitted from this for sure, but don’t get it twisted, in the color scheme you invented, even the most-palest skinned Thai girl is an “other “in your world. Good for a sex holiday or a wife-prop to make you think you have any use remaining in this country. But we know. From American slum to Thai slum, we know.

Whether you are blind to the fact or not, farang in Thailand, you are choosing a side. One day you will be judged by god, karma, the universe, a firing squad, or whatever it is you believe in.

Until then, keep your idiocy away from me and fuck off.

With that off my chest, I will eat yam plaa dook fuu, listen to the new MBV, and try to remember there are good people in the world.

The Audacity of Farang, pt.1

Forget culture shock. Forget homesickness. Forget language barrier. The most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with in Thailand is seeing the daily display of vulgar exploitation by foreign men.

This is not a discussion of prostitution, per se, in Thailand. That is another debate, and one which, like the profession, is likely to go on forever. What is disturbing in Thailand is the ability of the farang mind to normalize the john-hooker relationship into something that is presentable to the rest of society. It’s bad enough the extent to which prostitution exists in places like Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy, and Patpong, but foreigners, young and old alike, feel no shame in bringing their obviously paid for partners to any and every corner of the country. Malls, restaurants, resorts, beaches, condos, parks, normal Thai neighborhoods, wats! Would you take a prostitute you picked up in Los Angeles, London, Sydney, or wherever you came from, and parade her around town? I think not. You would be worried about the social ramifications, glares, and perhaps even a beating if, say, a white man picked up an 18 yr old prostitute in Harlem and went around the neighborhood hand-in-hand. But this is the “Land of Smiles” you say. “Thais have that Buddhist ‘live and let live’ philosophy, so they don’t care. Thai people look at us and say, ‘oh, nice farang are helping our downtrodden women out of poverty.'” No, no, no. They see what you are doing and they do care.

Listen. No one wants to see that shit! Thai people do not like you. Thai people do not like your audacity in throwing prostitution in their face. They do not like that a poverty exists that causes their women to think they need to choose the most disgusting, ignorant, uncultured farang in order to survive. Trust me. Go beyond the areas where people live off of sex tourist money and cater to the “white man’s playground” view of Thailand. Go beyond that. Go beyond the hi-so Thai and bourgeois expat areas like Thonglor and Ekamai, where sexpats are criticized by the “better class” but the same status markers of money and whiteness apply. Go past all that, and you will find that the majority of Thai people, and a small number of decent expats and tourists, don’t like you, and don’t want to see you and your mockery of the country.

And this is perhaps the saddest part of this whole situation. Thais present you with a country and a culture that is so beautiful, where if you are kind and gentle you will get that returned ten-fold. A culture where people will not call you out on your vulgar displays of farang ignorance like not learning any Thai even after living here for years, being incredibly rude and talking to people like shit, failing to learn the basic principles of respect in the foreign culture you’re visiting, and lax immigration laws that allow worthless farang to stay in the country for decades with nothing to offer but further exploitation. But what do you return to the Thais? You flaunt prostitution and barely veiled pedophilia because you know no one will call you out. This is the double-edged sword of Thai hospitality. It’s a wonderful thing, but also creates the opening for foreigners to take advantage without fear of retaliation. If you ask me, more cold stares, harsh words, and maybe even a handful of beatdowns might put a little fear into the sexpats and encourage them to keep their activities in the red light districts and out of the rest of Thai society. But that’s just me . . .

The scenes depicted here are so common in Bangkok and throughout the country, that I seriously considered leaving after a few months, despite the fact that I was really falling in love with the rest of Thailand. Fortunately a move out of the expat/tourist ghetto of Sukhumvit and into an outlying area of the city not infested with foreigners limited my exposure to all this. At least to a somewhat bearable level.

The struggle continues.