|  September 26, 2012

I am a sucker for US presidential elections. The drama, the high jinks, the slick spins, the porky pies, the hanky-panky, the erudite analyses, the gut-clenching transformative moments and the marvelous regularity of appalling snafus makes for sensational entertainment.

I am a liberal, and were I to hold American citizenship, there is no doubt that I would be a democrat. It is not because of some vaguely energising notion of hope or change, or the sheer thrill of Obama that would swing my vote – though there would definitely be some swaying – it is simple ideology. I believe that religion is a personal matter not to be imposed upon others; I believe women have the rights to control their bodies; I believe that government, with the help of our taxes, is obliged to help society’s neediest, in fact I believe that society must provide a safety net for those at their most vulnerable; I don’t believe that large corporations are the answers to our future economy, and I do believe that these big naughty giants need to be scrutinised and regulated; I believe that global warming exists and that we are already decades behind schedule in not only facing up to, but combating, it; I believe that the world must work together to disarm and make peace, not invest in more weapons; I believe that drugs should be decriminalised; I believe in rehabilitation over penalisation; I believe that my gay friends deserve all the rights I take for granted; I believe that while the US has shown leadership in the world, its hubris has led to some atrocities which must be acknowledged and accepted into the national psyche – and yes, learn that apologising is not a sign of weakness, but of strength – and I believe that a government that is opposed to all this is not only not my cup of tea, but can even be dangerous.

But that’s just me.

The wide variety of causes and agendas, the ideological complexities and subtleties, the multitude of priorities and needs of improbably-large numbers of voter clusters, makes for dynamic and multifaceted debate. Of course, with the Super PACs, private donations and lobbyists slated to spend well over six billion dollars this election cycle (Yikes! This American dream is pang.), it is not all about ideology. At the root of and lurking behind all politics is money. But let’s go back to the voters and leave the politicians in their bog.

Here in Thailand, we have had our fair share of drama, high jinks, slick spins, porky pies, hanky-panky, even erudite analyses, gut-clenching transformative moments and the marvelously regularity of appalling snafus which also has made for fabulous entertainment over the past decade. What I think we are still sadly lacking in our political-sphere is ideology-based debate. We are not talking enough about things which really should matter to us: systemic corruption, education reform, degradation of the environment, immigration laws, the vile patronage system, future – and ethics -of energy source, sexual equality, crime and punishment, LGBT rights, prison reform, the on-again-and-oh-election-is-over-so-off-again war on drugs, human trafficking and illegal labour, neighbourly relations, freedom of press…these are the issues which should get us all whipped up into a tizzy. Yet we are simply painting each side with one large bristly brushstroke and generally extending our digits to our piggy banks demanding, ‘me want more, me want more’…without actually saying what we believe in, what we feel that we can contribute and in what shape is this elusive ‘more’ to be delivered – and where on earth is it to come from?

So, while I am entertainingly aghast at some of the dirt being dug up, piled upon and breezily aired in the 2012 presidential campaign, I think that we have a lot to learn from American voters’ priorities. What are our passions, our beliefs? What guides us and how do we view our place in the world? Also how do we wish the world to interact with us? Step back from petty politics for a moment and maybe spend some moments thinking about what truly matters to us as an individual and as a society. Maybe we will find that we have a hell of a lot more in common than we thought…

Citylife this month:

Intern season is over, so it is just Grace Robinson and I this month bringing you a dollop of interviews with fascinating expats and Thais such as Ben Svasti Thompson, the British Honorary Consul, Matthew Baird, an environmental lawyer and Dr. Sarawut Srisakuna CEO of Chiang Mai Night Safari. Grace has also done some digging into the hot topic which is the new city zoning plan, threatening to be implemented any day now, as well as talking to local entrepreneur Lamorna Cheesman of Studio Naenna about slow fashion. Sticking with the Brit theme, we dig up some great pub grub recommendations for you and our photo editor Boontawee Russameenin has featured a few British fads that are beloved to Thais. Finally, I spent a marvellelous half a day painting an elephant and will introduce you to the new Elephant Parade House opening this October.