This is the first week of January and we have all heard what this year has in store for us from many fortune tellers of various different guises. Many people must have brought tiger emulates, statues, jade tiger bangles for luck. Must be careful as not only is this year the year of the tiger, it’s the year of a night tiger, hunting for preys. Nothing like being told what lies ahead especially bad news hey.
Perhaps this explains one of Thais national traits that of being nonchalant. Nothing can get at us. We just let things be and get on with our lives as we already know the outcome and if we don’t know, well we can consult the professional fortune tellers of course. Failing that just sing this well known mantra,
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be, …..
Being in Thailand of course this gets changed slightly,
Mai Pen Rai, Mai PenRai. Mai Pen Rai, Mai PenRai …
(Before someone accused me of mistranslating, most Thais will translate this phrase as “Never Mind!”)
Let me give you an example,
2010 Mayan prediction says the world will end this year. Shock horrors, mass prayers.
Thais say: Oh is that so, mai pen rai. Shall we party to celebrate?
Many first time visitors to Thailand will be charmed by this “Mai Pen Rai” attitude as it opposes the western conditionings of “Pen Rai” as in everything matters and matters to the extreme. We Thais are so calm, relaxed, just look at us forever smiling. How sweet we are! What a quaint race, … (ahem, ahem, ahem … )
That is until they decide to live in this country, this state will really grate on their nerves driving some to intellectual frenzy, turning them into fulltime bloggers. I can mention a few names of course but feel that we need to0 respect their privacy.
Why do they react that way? Because we Thais are so good at not getting to the point or let alone make one. That will make most non Thais wearied and tired of trying to guess what we are hinting at. No matter how hard you try to get to know us, trying to find out what we think, how we feel on important subjects. We just smile and hide our faces. It’s like peeling onions to find that there are nothing in the middle and the peeling makes you cry!
OK some of you might say that isn’t true any more because last two years have seen the colours debates. But try this, go and ask the little people why they swear allegiance to one colour and not the other then see if you get a rational answer. Or better still try listening to the big wigs and decipher what they say. It all sounds good right but mostly devoid of meanings.
Many suggests that Mai Pen Rai attitude is born out of the Buddhist philosophical attitude of not grasping or holding but I think that makes it too simplistic. The Buddha never taught irresponsibilities but the opposite. Letting go is something that happens as a phenomenon is fully understood right to the cause therefore no need to make an issue. To Buddhist practitioners, letting go is not an avoidance but more confrontation. Needless to say that Buddhist wisdom is like a double edge sword when applies wrongly cuts deeply.
Some might say that it’s all to do with that well known pop grpup the Beatles and that infamous song of theirs which somehow mass hypnotised Thai state of consciousness. Only jesting! But this seemed to be our theme song with the lyric reverently recited as a personal mantra in public.
Jesting aside, perhaps we should take the persona of the Chinese tiger and start to growl instead of smile when things really hit us hard. Perhaps we should show our true feelings instead of suppressing or saving this for a private audience. Mai Pen Rai then can be a state that we arrived at and felt instead of becoming something we uttered out of the sake of politeness and good breeding.
Yes some Thais are truly forgiving and practice “Mai Pen Rai” philosophy and mean it. But the majority is who I’m addressing here.
This year things will start to Pen Rai and we should start to make efforts to show that it really does matter. My New Year resolution for our beloved country and for all who lives here. Lets adopt the tiger trait by sensitive to our surroundings and be vigilant!