Who are you? Get out of MY Country

 | Fri 13 Dec 2013 11:27 ICT

I grew up listening to this football chant:

We-ee are Leeds, we’re Leeds, we’re Leeds

We are Leeds, we’re Leeds, we are Lee-eeds,

We’re Leeds, we’re Leeds, we’re Leeds,


Repeat for half a century, or until it sticks

Subjectivity, I, is represented as a football team. Autonomy is supplanted by identity, a collective identity. A collective that works on the dubious reasoning that all is one and one is all, and yet the collective identity is completely detached from all other groups. Other groups, in some cases, such as people from the other side of The Pennines, are collectively identified as scum, or to be more exact, Manchester scum.

This form of tribalism was an escape from the daily grind of stultifying labour and the boredom it inflicted, while offering the disenfranchised a firm meaning for existence other than their vaunted labour value. It was also a vivid reminder of a more primitive past, a past when grunting men protected territories, and were likely less than politically correct friends and lovers.

Man’s primitive instincts, his unwillingness to mature, is mankind’s curse, and though we’ve progressed as a species, primitive instincts are still alive and kicking today – see Bangkok. Men just can’t seem to grow up, and while some women are also possessed by the tribalistic bug, by and large it’s the men who keep our species at war with each other.

There’s something very masculine about WE, a doggish need to be part of the pack, perhaps a biological endowment due to man’s incapability of giving life. He must take life, or at least subjugate life, he must rule and conquer, and he must do it in groups.

It would sound insufficient, and the pack would sound like pansies, if men sang “we like Leeds, we like Leeds, we like Leeds”…because the men need to embody this other idealized, masculine thing, to give meaning to their existence. Women like things… men are things.

If you are Leeds, then you can’t be Manchester – that would be existential heresy.  Although, when England lose, all (Manchester, Leeds, et al.) of them say something like “we were shite last night.”

In England the local, tribal identity becomes, if only for a few nights a year, a national identity. WE are England. This is about as far as we are willing to expand. Continental identity hasn’t had much cause to rear a head, not even under the provocations of the European Union. And a global identify, WE are the World, is extremely unlikely any time soon, unless we get invaded by aliens or suffer a global catastrophe on such a level that mankind looks like it might slip into extinction. It is a childless world, contrasted and divided, without a sincere WE to call its own.

Some people are proud to be British, or American, or wherever they were born. While the line between nationalism – what Einstein called an “infantile disease, the measles of mankind” and patriotism is clear enough, I believe that pride, as they say, always comes before a fall. Nationalism is national hubris, and so is patriotism. National pride is an infantile malady, but it’s hard to give up completely…sports wouldn’t be any fun.

When I left the UK, for good and maybe forever, my kibbutz was home to a bomb shelter bar. On the walls of the bar people wrote their names, and where they came from. Thomas, Denmark. Nancy, France. Jack, Texas. The walls were covered with these signatures and place names. I felt no such obligation to sign. I wasn’t England, and more importantly, England wasn’t mine.

In that kibbutz, people in conversation often became the mythology of their national identity, leaving themselves somewhere in the shadows. It was these people who became walking clichés, and through extolling the merits of their country continuously, they were the most boorish and unattractive people in the kibbutz. National pride is like a defence reflex; it acts as a rock to hide behind when you have nothing better to say. It’s a petty pride, based on nothing more than the biological vagary of being turned from a sperm into a breathing thing due to our parents’ sexual proclivities.

Behind every flag waver there’s an individual waiting to get out.

We recently published a story – it turned out to be the most controversial story we ever wrote – about the teacher who blamed foreigners for many of Thailand’s problems, and subsequently told a foreigner to get out of her country.

What a cause célèbre this topic is, the topic of: “What do they really think of us?”

While this teacher might claim to be some part of they (evidently not the “red buffalo” part), it is our own appropriation of they that is also a problem. There is no they, only him, and her, or just a lot of I’s.

Her country, Thailand. A fairly new place actually, made up of diverse ethnic groups. Her country, “my country” she claimed…I guess that means she is Thailand.

Adhering to the hackneyed approach of many racists, she wrote that she was worried about foreigners taking jobs, and even drinking her water. She is likely someone who hasn’t yet greatly profited from Thailand opening up to foreign business, the boost in tourism, and to manifest this, the exploitation of cheap labour. It’s ironic really, that it’s always the most disenfranchised who claim ownership of a country. Ironic, but nationalistic fervour of the poorer classes is the most common thing under the sun. This is because in exchange for their penury and lack of freedoms, they get the country, or they are made to think they get the country.

Can a country be evenly distributed between everyone with citizenship? Are there such things as full-bloods and half-bloods? Does that mean my friend’s half Thai child has more right to be here than his hardworking, tax-paying, socially minded father?

The ajarn’s remarks were myopic, and blinded by rage, but her anger didn’t just ferment in a vacuum.

While a minority of people make money from the exploitation of cheap foreign labour, from developing every nook and cranny of this city, and from selling off bits of Thailand to foreign investors and corporations, it is other minorities that take the blame for the consequences of this. It’s hardly ever the business elite, the oligarchs, the ones who made the decisions to sell out their country, who are questioned for their expropriation of something that isn’t rightfully theirs.

This is because most people are held under a mythological spell, the spirit of nationalism, and so fail to see the catalyst of their problems, which is the institution they support, not the minorities on the fringes. It is being drunk on mythology, and a lack of studied analysis, that makes many of the people, including the aforementioned woman, irrational, bitter, and to some extent, inhuman.

A culture of individualism has to be nurtured into society, so that each person – while working within a community that they support, while adhering to rational, democratic, social contracts – also becomes capable of criticism and making intelligent political decisions.

WE must become I, and then I must then again accept that it can’t live happily outside of WE. To weaken WE, we have to rewrite the education system, Thailand’s fundamental problem, or one of them.

Parts of Thailand, including Chiang Mai, are on the precipice of experiencing a culture of minority hatred. What you heard from the ajarn, about people hating foreigners, and that there are many people who feel this way, is probably true. You’ll likely see more hatred when borders are more porous in the near future, and more expats make this place their home, when household debt grows under the pressure of brand coercion, when traffic congestion becomes unbearable, and the distribution of wealth experiences wider gaps. There are limited jobs, limited resources, and those who struggle, those who feel they are rightful owners of Thailand, are the people who will vent the most anger. Except, as always, they will choose the wrong foe, and make minorities the scapegoat for their hardships and unhappiness.

We are the world. If we are anything, then we are the world. A country is just something you need to grow out of.

If the ajarn, or anyone else with nationalistic fervor, can explain how hatred towards a group of people helps lessen pain and suffering (theirs, or others), then I’d like to hear their reasoning. If problems arise (such as overpopulation, or loss of jobs, or traffic congestion) due to immigration then shouldn’t we attack immigration policies, or business development policies? The problems are never racial; they’re always political and economic.

I don’t think Thailand is anyone’s personal property, just as I have absolutely no divine right to England’s soil. If you love your country, then become an asset, and that shouldn’t entail your partisan loyalty to any group or party. Your love might better be served if you become more functional and less reactionary, and always, always question everything.

This sounds very corny. It’s hard to write about a better world without writing yourself into your own grave. I guess in the mode of Miss World I’m about to advocate world peace

The individual must flourish. The colors must meld into one, but that can’t happen if people remain under the spell of their education, damaged at a young age by petty provincial ignorance.

An individual should be a global citizen, but certainly not part of a Brave New World (order), in a world tied down to one impeachable bank, or inviolable politic. I’m taking about a self-realized, politically aware citizen that is proud perhaps only that he was born of pure coincidence, luck. For the sake of humanity he must recognize other individuals and allow them their autonomy, respect their freedom, and always be ready to diminish the generalizations they’ve made about them.

What we witnessed at times during the thousands of comments on our site and on Thaivisa following the racist ajarn story, was a reactionary racism, i.e. “typical Thais”, “Thais are like this”, etc., and not much analysis of why people might feel this way in the first place. This is why I published the story, so we might consider her sentiments – although I’ve come under fire for stirring negative emotions and been accused of “toilet journalism”.

As one human to another, survivalists, likely looking for the same things, I think we must arm ourselves against the rhetoric and corruption of those who profit from our being manipulated. We must always maintain a sense of community spirit, and not lose sight of an ideal mutual condition that can exist between us.


James Austin Farrell