Turning the Crisis into an Opportunity

How can we turn the incumbent crisis into an opportunity? In Buddhism, the right view is most important and it can be attained only to a skillful means or Upaya Kusala.  One shall acquire such a right view when one is able to understand the suffering of society, its causes, how it ceases and the ways through which the cease of suffering can be achieved.

Many accuse the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) as creating an unrest, the ramification of which cannot be felt just at the Government House where it has been laying siege to, not just around the Makhawan Bridge, but in many places throughout the country.

The next question to ask is whether PAD’s action can be justified or not. Then we have to ask also if the government and its majority votes have been justified or not.  Based on electoral system, the current House of Representatives and the government have been formed democratically. But in essence, the foundation of governance rests on ethics. The first House Speaker of this House of Representatives was removed from his post due to his grave breaches of the laws and the Prime Minister was also unseated by his illegal actions, not to mention other criminal cases he has to face. Other Ministers and Members of the Parliament have dubious characters and even the outgoing PM used to state in public that he functioned as a puppet to the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who had wrecked the country.

If PAD’s action cannot be justified, how could an increase number of people join them over the past 100 days? It is also a good sign that the labour movements which had been quite weak have become stronger. The student movements which had been shattered since after the 1976 uprising have also come out to join the PAD. Isn’t this such a vitally important sign? Having said that we have to acknowledge many weaknesses of the PAD, too.  The PAD’s five key leaders and other leading members have been acting arrogantly. While hailing themselves as the right faction, they are ready to stump on other parties and blame them so unjustly.

Derogative terms and false information have been put out by them against their opponents. Worse, they even cunningly rely on the dreadful feudalist and nationalist values to perpetuate their cause while ignoring plights of the majority poor who suffer such as the Assembly of the Poor and other truly nonviolent civil society movements such as those in Udornthani, Ubonratchathani, Prachuab Kirikhan, etc. As PAD claims nonviolence as the basis to advance their cause, it is rightful for other groups to peacefully push forward their goals, be it the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or National Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (NDAD). But all has to refrain from violence, physically and verbally, and shall train their mind toward the peaceful path.

The PAD and other factions should heed to the criticisms and their own conscience. They should change their attitude and become less arrogant as well as should  express themselves creatively. Their missions should be to expose corrupt practices of the elitists and mainstream media and education which have made us all succumb to the new imperialisms such as USA and China. The elitists also join hand with multinational corporations, Thaksinomics and the Crown Property Bureau.

PAD’s ASTV can be an important alternative medium to instill alternative education to arouse conscience of the middle class to understand the grassroots people so that they all heed to dhammic socialism and ecology. This is a possible hope and this will be more poignant than the demand for a national interim government. The “New Politics” cannot be mulled by just a few people, but have to be developed from our traditional wisdom which had been destroyed by modern education since the reign of King Rama V.

He also destroyed our traditional democratic foundation which was inspired by the Sangha or monastic community which has illuminated the genuine form of democracy and contributed immensely to our economy, politics and culture. The secular kingdom began to reign over the monastic order since King Rama V and that was the beginning of a contemporary crisis where Thai people were subjugated by monarchism and the West. Those who refused to obey the autocracy which linked to western imperialism were accused of being insurgents, including the uprising groups in Ubonratchathani, Phrae, and Pattani.

Those in Bangkok who refused to yield to the system were either jailed or removed from government positions such as Thainwan,  Kraisri  Pleng, Narin Klung and the Bangkok Era 130 faction who tried to end absolute monarchy in 1912. In Bangkok Era 150, Mr. Pridi Banomyong was able to lead the civilian to join the military leader to replace the ancient regime by people’s sovereignty here at this point on 24th June 1932. The former abbot of Wat Mahathat, Phra Assabha Thero, affirmed that the revolution was meant that for the first time transform the plebs, the serves to become pround citizens or owners of their country.

Pridi did not just seek equality under the law, but cultural and economic equity as well. The University of Moral and Political Sciences (Thammasat)   was founded to grow democratic seeds in society. During the discussion with the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu Pridi agreed with the venerable that dhammic socialism must be built based on the Sangha model and powers should be devolved to other regions among those who speak and observe different languages and religions. In such a manner, people in the Deep South or in the Northeast shall not feel inferior to those in the Central Plain.  This peaceful and nonviolent approach has been trampled on by the unjust forces since the 1947 coup and we had been more and more under the hegemony the American imperialism and the multinational corporations.

Here at this point on 24th June 1932, The Revolutionary Party declared their six principles;1. National sovereignty, politically, judicially, economically, etc. shall be upheld2. National security shall be maintained and any assault shall be kept to its minimum.3. Economic prosperity of the people shall be maintained and the new government shall ensure employment of all people through laying down the national economic plan to prevent hunger among people.4. All citizen shall stand equal (contrast to the extreme privileges being bestowed on some members of the royal family).5. All citizens’ liberties and freedom shall be ensured as long as it does not contravene with the four above principles.6. Every citizen shall be promoted to attain the highest education possible.Isn’t it sad that the six principles are not reflected in the current ruling class, and not resonated in education institutions or mainstream media and the current education simply intends to subjugate people making them succumb to the sheer forces of capitalism, consumerism and feudalism? To overcome the contemporary crises, the six principles have to be applied appropriately. To come to terms with the dominating paradigms, one needs to steadfastly hinge on truth and nonviolence.

Sila means normal and to restore social normality, gaps between the rich and the poor and exploitations have to be eradicated. And this has to be done through Samadhi or peaceful and tranquil mind. The less selfish one is, the more one can be humble. Then, other people and other sentient beings are not taken as our enemies, but greed, hatred and delusion inside us all. Guided by the right attitude, the wisdom shall emerge and shed light on the truth that we all are interdependent and thus shall be kind to each other to make possible peace in the world. Wisdom is the light that quells darkness including fear and selfishness.

It shall breed in us the moral courage to challenge any immoral powers. Wanida Tantiwittayapitak, a friend of ours and part of the civil society movement and advisor to the Assembly of the Poor, just departed from us to another world. She fought along with the poor peacefully and showed no hatred toward the oppressors and those exploiting the poor. In final moments of her life, she had ample time to contemplate on mindfulness to cultivate her own peace and other beings’ peacefulness.Her word was striking; “At last good shall overcome evil and truth shall prevail over falsehood, should we be patient enough.” The Buddha advises us that patience is the most important element for practice.Let’s us pray and extend our loving kindness to the PAD and other factions, emanate our love to every member in the cabinet and those inside and outside the House of Parliament, government officers, business communities and all people as well as those in the emerging multinational companies and imperialism. Let us refrain from holding anger and grudges against others and be united to dismantle the unjust social structure through truth and nonviolence.

Sulak Sivaraksa spoke on 16th September 2008 in front of the Equestrian King Rama V Monument at the mark declaring the dawn of democracy on 24th June 1932, Bangkok  Published in Bangkok Post, Thursday, September 18, 2008. Page 11