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Chiang Mai Citylife > Articles > Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask

My heart weeps. My heart weeps because human ideals and traditions have been replaced with consumerism and greed. 

We live in a world where success is shown through appearance. Often someone’s success can be shown through their possessions, for example we often associate someone with a sports car as being successful and wealthy. Society has given rise to unhealthy spending habits. We have been encouraged by society not to be humbled and honest, but to wear a mask of power and wealth to attempt to fool people into thinking we are of importance. I can’t help but think that we have brought this upon ourselves, with so much importance being placed on fashion and celebrities. It was inevitable that our emphasis on appearance would later backfire on us. I have personally recently experienced this form of consumerism and greed in my home country, the country of Thailand.

I am a Thai citizen and Thailand is the country where I was born and raised. I am currently living in Chiang Mai, but I was born in a little village in the northeastern part of Thailand. My little rural village holds a dear place in my heart. It was my birthplace and many of my family and friends still live there. It is a unique little town an outsider may see as a barren strip of land, but I see it as much more. I just love it when my parents take me to visit my hometown. It is a great opportunity for me to meet my friends and family and escape from the fast-paced and monotonous city life. I always have great fun playing with the children there. The difference in ethnicity and economic situation was never any sort of friction in our relationship. That’s why I look forward to visiting my hometown again next year; even though I know something strange is taking place in my village. The cause of the strangeness is due to the development and modernisation. 

There has been enormous development and modernisation in my village. The farmers now have cars, motorcycles and impressive-looking tractors, and now many farmers have even made extensions to their homes. Some overly ambitious farmers have even started constructing excessive houses.

I think that the development in my little rural village is great and could play a huge part in making the village more successful in the future, but the manner in which they obtained this development is saddening. Farmers are now in huge debt because they want to purchase a new motorcycle or car or make their houses look more extravagant. A drought or a strong wind would kill all their crops and force the farmers into even greater debt; their financial situation is very fragile. The people in the rural areas are longing to be like their city counterparts and they are gladly willing to go into huge debt because they want to wear the mask. Sadly enough, this is not the only way in which farmers wear the mask.

Last year when I visited my little village, I was stunned when I overheard my aunts bragging about their children’s wages and successes. At one point they were even having a debate about which child was the most successful. This both shocked and saddened me; my cousins are really pleasant people. It is really horrible that my aunts are using their children as a source of ego and fame to add to their mask. The majority of my family are farmers. When their children are old enough, they help with the back-breaking farm work. Some later go on to university and live successful lives. They had to work extremely hard to get to the position that they are now and I find it very depressing that my aunts used their children as an item, because they are a lot more than mask makers for their mothers.

There has been so much change in rural Thailand, but the change is tiny when compared to the city. I have been living in Chiang Mai for over 15 years now and there has been so much change and development that has taken place in this short space of time. I was shocked when my father told me that when he first came to Chiang Mai there was only one supermarket in Chiang Mai. Now, there are many more living communities than there are have ever been, more and more restaurants are opening and now there are three mega-malls undergoing construction at the same time.   

The amount of development has been just amazing. However, the development worries me. I am worried because the fantastic development and construction has brought along consumerism and greed with it. Even more people are trying to put on that despicable mask. These very people hope and pray that others will think highly of them once they are fooled by their fancy cars and golden watches, but there is actually more than meets the eye.

The things that actually lie deep beneath the wonderful layers of that gleaming golden mask are shallowness and debt. It’s true, according to the Bangkok Post, in just the last four years the household debt has risen by a staggering 12.8 percent. I find it extremely saddening that people are willing to go into debt just in order to get a taste of that mask. 

My heart sheds a tear because of personal experience I know that the best quality of the city and rural people is not their newfound wealth, but the human qualities, which they have shared with me. Everybody is so gracious and nice to me every time I go anywhere. The city people always help me whenever I am confused and the rural people always make me feel a part of their community. They make me feel welcome every time I visit and I think that this quality of theirs is much more than a car or anything else that money can buy.  

I have written about problems that exist in Thailand, but this problem is a global problem. I hope that everybody that reads this takes my words into consideration. All the countries in the world have such beautiful customs, traditions and teachings. I am genuinely very fortunate to be a part of something this remarkable. The truth is, the awful mask is unnecessary. I believe that kindness from within will speak more about success than the mask ever will. This is because this type of success is much more significant than wealth and power; it is the type of success that comes from the heart.

I know that most people in the world have this beautiful quality. So, please all of you that are wearing that mask out there, I beg that you don’t let it grow and become permanent. If we take off that mask and stop pretending we are what we are not, then our kindness and traditions will bring us much more success than our possessions. Take off that mask so we can preserve our society and make it more beautiful for the next generation to come.