|  September 27, 2010

We are all editors: not all thoughts tumble freely out of our mouths…well, for the most part, and for most people anyway. We self edit, holding back offence, mockery or verbosity. We either do it for the sake of others or our own
As a society we also edit. En masse, we decide to turn the unacceptable into law and the unwelcome into a code of morality. It is an organic method of editing which each society has created according to its own characteristics, beliefs and historical context. The problems arise when editing is dictated. That is what is so wonderful about the English language, unlike some languages which have governing bodies, English has become the world’s lingua franca simply because it absorbs, it adapts, it adopts, it decays, it lets die and it is flexible: it allows dissent. When a government doesn’t allow such freedom, when it doesn’t reflect the organic needs and growth of a society, it is akin to when the editor refuses the input of the writers and denies the needs of the readership. As an overzealous editor can kill a piece, national editing can kill peace. (The editor in me has to, however, reiterate that I am not condoning nor encouraging bad writing and grammar – heaven forbid!)

While there are definite no nos in language, which create a framework for writers to follow, guidelines must be pushed, nudged and played with to allow for creativity. If Shakespeare, and even Palin (wink wink), can buck the rule of grammar and the written word, then society too must be open enough to allow for creative dialogue.

By now you probably know what I am getting at: lese majeste laws and the censorship of media. What government must understand is that critiquing and questioning may allow elements of danger to propagate, but it will also foster parlay, which, in the long run, can only be beneficial in the strengthening, remolding, and betterment of society and the nation as a whole.

The irony is that we are in the age of new media. Hands up if you have ever written an email, blog, Facebook or Twitter update or sent an SMS in haste and to your regret and chagrin. I’d put my hand up if I wasn’t typing. In this age of new media and instant gratification, forty editors with forty keyboards can’t sweep away all the errors or fact check all mistakes. As much as the government or conservative minds wish to clamp down on our individual thoughts and radical opinions, surely they must realise that that horse left the stable a long long time ago. (You see, I can even mix my metaphors if I want to!)

With formal media we have layers of editing; we ferret, we write, we confirm, we rewrite, we double check and we finally present a thoroughly edited piece for your perusal. With new media, impulses often go unchecked; this is both dangerous and liberating. The possibilities of new media are yet incomprehensible to us; its power unharnessed.

The government, in its effort to stomp down on radical or subversive elements, is attempting to blanket us all in digital darkness, to edit what we read, and what we are exposed to. But don’t they know that they are like an obsolete editor, hands firmly gripped on his ballpoint pen, attempting to tackle the instant, massive, all encompassing spread of the elusive fabric that is new media?

While we must continue to self edit, individually and as a society, but we must also continue to write, to talk, to question, to discuss. It is the duty of the government to leave these channels of conversation open. After all, who else is there to refudiate and, ahem…endorsify, the wrongs and rights in society but our very selves?

Citylife this month:

After a few light issues, we are tackling some rather somber and alarming subjects this month. Our new intern from Denmark, Robin Petré, has taken a close look at the city plan, focusing on unchecked building and the activism surrounding the Chang Khian area. James Austin Farrell writes about the cultural and social ramifications of Chiang Mai’s unchecked urban development and I look into the fall, and attempt to resuscitate, our very own Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, in face of economic hardship and a myriad of other problems. We have also invited four of Chiang Mai’s architects to feature their favourite buildings in Chiang Mai in hopes of inspiring other architects to create a more pleasing urban landscape.

P.S. My editorial picture this month is taken on Tha Pae Road, which, along with Chang Klan Road, has had all their wires buried…a great, though costly, improvement.