|  December 28, 2012

Fear is one of the few basic universal emotions, from the life-extinguishing fear of death to the nonsensical fear of bright colours (Billy Bob Thornton, of all people, has chromophobia). We live alongside fear. When rational, it is our warning sign, an innate instinct for self preservation, and fear is on our side. When irrational – like my chronic fear of flying – it can be debilitating.

I have had my fair share of fear over the past year or so – personal stuff – and looking back, as I emerge from its encompassing fog, I can see that it was the fear itself that caused me such misery, that exacerbated my distress and affected my judgment, compounding my predicament into an endless loop of misery.

Looking at our country’s politics since the dawn of the millennium, it makes me wonder to what extent these symptoms  – riots, mobs, coups, etc. – are caused by simple fear. Our old, and frayed, vision of a united and smiling nation under the all-encompassing benevolence and beneficence of our Father, His Majesty the King, is no more of a realistic reflection of Thailand today than a faded postcard of girls riding bicycles and holding umbrellas represents the reality of our modern cityscape. Times, things, people, attitudes, the environment and our challenges have, and continue to, evolve. This scares the heebie-jeebies out of some people. And while we huff and puff about the issues du jour, I can’t help but wonder whether we would all benefit from some serious self reflection (unless you happen to have spectrophobia, fear of one’s own reflection) and try to see how many of our outward signs of aggression and rage stem from simple fear.

The corrupt and the greedy fear insignificance or loss of face; the controlling fear powerlessness; the ignorant fear the unknown; the educated fear the ignorant; the haves fear having not and the have-nots fear forever not having. So we lash out. We fight and brawl and pitch tantrums.

In the early 2000s I took a political side, and I demonised, out of fear, the other side: reading media which supported my own beliefs, talking to likeminded people, judging others and closing myself off to any possibility that I could be wrong. I was absolutely terrified that the other side might prevail, thinking that the repercussions would be catastrophic. But I believe that many of us have mellowed over the years, realising that the shades and hues of politics are far more nuanced than black or white, yellow or red. While stubborn politicians refuse to budge or compromise, maybe it is up to us all to show them that we will embrace the other, rather than fear it.

So boo to fear and let’s shoo in some empathy. It sounds much more sabai sabai.

Wishing you all a marvellously happy, healthy, loving and fearless new year.

Citylife this month:

In spite of the peace and love stuff above, for some odd reason we bring you a pretty grim issue! Don Linder writes about the time he spent interviewing and getting to know the Last Executioner of Thailand – not for the squeamish! – and wait until you read Grace Robinson’s account of a Burmese refugee’s journey to Chiang Mai… brrr.

On a happier note, Hilary Cadigan delves into the emerging, and all rather exciting, IT sector in Chiang Mai, cleverly Coining the new word ‘tech-pat’ Jacey Brazen gives us a glimpse into the fascinating world of the illegal and nomadic entrepreneur, Somrak Pongthana introduces us to the city’s punk subculture and I get to check out the mayor’s latest initiative – the Historical Zone.