The Great Flood of 2554 (2011)
October 21, 2011
The Great Flood of 2554 continues. I’ve been told that these are the worst floods since before most of us were born, and for me that’s a long, long time ago. As of this writing Bangkok is preparing for the worst. But the Thais seem to be taking it as stoically as possible with the frequently heard quote, usually from some older person standing chest deep in flood waters, “Yes I got it bad. But everyone has it bad. And there are people lots worse off than me.”
This very Thai-like attitude is sometimes view by outsiders as complacency but others see it as the more logical “I’d rather complain about something I could do something about.” The amounts of donations coming in from the public and corporations here and the numbers of selfless volunteering, rescuing of invalids, lifting of sandbags, distributing food and clothes, is the one bright spot in a very overcast and dark situation.
This brings me to one of my pet peeves about living here in Thailand. No. it doesn’t have anything to do with the Thai people, the government, the weather, or the culture. My peeve is about the constant complaining that I hear from the Expats community who live here.
If all you knew about Thailand was what you read in ThaiVisa.com or some of the foreign language newspapers, or what your drinking companion has told you, then you would think that the current government was to blame for the floods. Another group wants to blame the former government. The blame game may have its time but now is probably not it.
Hey, I was sitting here in Chiang Mai when it poured down rain for weeks in a row. That water had to go somewhere and I don’t think that it was the current Prime Minister’s fault that it traveled south towards central Thailand and the Capital. I think gravity might have had something to do with it.
What about the earthen dikes and flood prevention systems that seem to be less than adequate, or deforestation, or the filling in of dams, or corruption? That was probably someone’s fault. Well, the current Prime Minister has been in office for only a few months. I don’t think she had anything to do with building the flood prevention systems or cutting down any trees. Let’s look into those things after the waters recede.
And anyway, how many Third World countries are prepared for a 100 year flood like this one? By definition, this situation isn’t something you see every day. This year there have been terrible floods in Pakistan, South America, and the United States, and even they weren’t as prepared as they would like to have been. Floods happen and Water will go where Water wants to go.
But the Expat complaints go on. “It’s the Red Shirts’ fault.”, “It’s the Yellow Shirts’ fault.”, “The Prime Minister is incompetent.”, “The Government is corrupt.” and the really fun one is “Taksin, the former Prime Minister ousted by a military coup, is to blame.” But when asked the question, “What would you do differently?” there is complete silence.
If you would like to see what I am talking about when I say “complaining” then check out the comments from the latest news story from ThaiVisa. I find it interesting that most Expat commentators seem to be against the current elected government and in favor of the one put in place by the military coup.
I have been following the flood stories on Thai TV and in Thai newspapers and interestingly enough, I haven’t heard them playing the blame game. The stories are about the suffering of the people, and the heroics of those trying to help. The Prime Minister had asked that partisan politics be put aside during these times. Unfortunately, many Expats cannot understand the Prime Minister or the Thai TV news so they haven’t gotten the message and continue looking for someone to blame.
Sadly, complaining is not that unusual for many Expats living here.
I find that there are basically two types of Expats living here in Thailand. There are those who feel that luck, or Karma, has been on their side to have allowed them the opportunity and good fortune to live in a place as hospitable, beautiful, and comfortable as Thailand. I myself love my home country of the United States, but Thailand has become my second home and probably the one where I will spend my final days. There are things I love about living here and lots of things I would want changed. But complaining about my life here is way down on my list of activities that I want to spend my retired years doing.
But there are others who don’t seem to mind spending what time they have left on this planet complaining about it. The complaints heard here in Thailand run the gamut from “The beer is too expensive”, to “All Thais are stupid corrupt people.”, to “Someone is always trying to rip me off.”, to “They just can’t understand my English.” All these complaints I have heard in the last few weeks.
The latest complaint I read was “The Prime Minister is so incompetent that she cried at her last news conference.” Hey, I was crying too. These floods are something to cry about.
Now I am no Pollyanna. There are lots of things I would change. I wish that the sticky rice and mango season were all year-round, and that the hot season wasn’t so hot, and that the cool season lasted longer, and that the rivers didn’t overflow, and that I wasn’t as old as dirt. But I figure that unless my complaining about it will change things and make them better, it’s better to enjoy what Thailand has and hope for the best. Maybe they will genetically modify those mangoes so I could eat them with sticky rice all year long.
For those wishing to contribute to Thai flood relief
If you are living outside of Thailand then contributions will be taken at any Thai consulate.
Inside Thailand you can contribute to the government relief program at any branch of the Krung Thai Bank. Most other banks also have relief programs, as do a number of TV stations.
If you would like to help care for the thousands of stranded dogs and other pets (this happened with Katrina too) you can give to
Kasikorn Bank, Branch Siam Square, Account Number: 026-2-25004-2
Bangkok Bank, Siam Square Branch, Account Number: 152-4-72740-9