|  November 30, 2012

What’s up with our puritanical-pushing politicians?

As cute and young as he may be, our Lord Mayor Tassanai Buranupakorn seems to be as much of a zeitgeist as the tea baggers. He has been on a constant crusade against alcohol since he stepped into office; the latest was lobbying for a ‘dry’ Loy Krathong, not quite as amusing as his attempt to get us to have – oh the irony! – a ‘dry’ Songkran. In fact, our recently departed and hugely popular governor, ML Panadda Diskul, a bright, open-minded and highly educated man, also made it one of his crusades to fight against vice and return social order to Chiang Mai.

We get it, excessive alcohol consumption is not a good thing: doctors tell us, empirical evidence is undisputed and most importantly our own bodies protest vehemently the next morning. But it does get tedious when politicians set themselves up as moral arbiters. I fully support even-handed enforcement of existing laws: drunk driving, underage drinking, pub and bar closing times and narcotics (though I also support changing the laws when it comes to legalising marijuana…but that is for another editorial).

Here are just a few of the wise dictums that the Ministry of Culture – or as social critic Kaewmala amusingly called it in her interview with CityNews earlier this year, Mini-Cult – has given us over the past few years: No spaghetti straps because they show too much skin and are unThai (forgetting that we all walked around with our boobies dangling free in the wind a century ago); censorship of an adaptation of Macbeth – a play every child studies in schools around the world – for having ‘content that causes divisiveness among the people of the nation’ (Phew! That was a close one for Thailand!); suggestion that topless Songkran partiers get punished by being forced to read to kindergarten children (WTF?); and pushing its mind-bogglingly idiotic attempt to create a ‘master plan for safe and constructive media,’ which translates to censoring the internet in favour of local – and easily controlled – media. These types of pronouncements are making the Ministry both redundant and irrelevant. And, frankly, they should be utterly ignored, or better yet, permanently shut down. When asked by what authority the Ministry of Culture passes judgment on morality and Thainess in an interview by CityNews recently, journalist Voranai Vanijaka said, “it’s a combination of inward self vanity plus insecurity and outward simple-minded perceptions of the world.”

When deputy ministers turn up to a parliament debate stinking of whisky, when politicians have a punch-up live on telly, when a massage parlour tycoon wins four seats in the House of Representatives and when politicians’ sons literally get away with murder, they should all simply shut up and step down from their pulpits. We don’t need them to tell us the difference between good and bad; most of us already know it, and most of us recognise that many politicians themselves are fitting examples of the latter. It is the job of our parents, our teachers, our conscience and our society to help us to navigate the deep and cloudy waters of morality.

Since I have seen both the ex governor and the lord mayor drinking wine on numerous occasions at various cocktail dos, I find it slightly on the nose for them to be telling us, like wee school children, to stay dry.

As Bobby Brown (who is certainly no saint) said in my teen years (ok, I am showing my age now), “It’s my prerogative!”

Citylife this month:

Loads of fun content for you this month! We’ve got a full listing of festivals, parties and events to keep you busy all season long. Our readers share the best and the worst of 2012. We meet the apocalypse  head on (brave lot, Citylifers) and give you ideas for throwing an End of World party of your own. We take you to Mae Sariang to go fly fishing, to Laos to shame the American government about cluster bombs and to Krabi, where TAT gave us a free press trip. I interviewed a fascinating man whose radical views on education will, I hope, engender some debate, and most excitingly of all, Citylife welcomes our first ever American deputy editor, Hilary Cadigan, who brings a breath of fresh air to our pages this month.

Have a fabulous holiday season and, unless the Mayans are right, see you in 2013!