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Home > Politics

The Thai Coup: So What Else Is On?

24 September 2006

Much is often made by commentators about the alarming levels of desensitisation we have acquired, having been consistently exposed to such a numbing glut of horrific imagery. In fact, so much has been made of it and so often, we're quite desensitised to it. Yawn. Anyway, one of the little-discussed side effects of all this mental and spiritual anaesthesia has made itself known this week, in the shape of Conor Bracken, an Irish tourist in Thailand. Endearingly, he told the Telegraph that 'it's almost not exciting enough. Some colleagues of mine went down to the tanks - some of them with their children - and the soldiers smiled and posed for photographs.'

Isn't that sweet, though? 'Almost not exciting enough.' Well, it's true that a politely-undertaken bloodless coup isn't much on a socking great tsunami, thrills-wise. Not to suggest that Mr Bracken actually craved flying heads, crashing buildings and revolutionaries waving bedraggled government limbs aloft, but he might have hit on something. Isn't that sort of what we expect from such major news? Don't we detect a certain slumped, slack-jawed disinterest on the part of our newscasters when faced with massive headline news that doesn't really seem as *newsy* as it ought for its size? Don't we feel weirdly, perversely, shamefully short-changed? Where are the bodies? Where is the screaming? Where is the gloriously cinematic man on a galloping horse racing through a square, trailing a voluminous swatch of the flame-red fabric of freedom? Where, we ask, is the *outrage*?

Other tourists interviewed by the Telegraph were similarly nonplussed by the mundanity of the coup, noticing little difference other than a happy crackdown on bars closing early. (We stand and shout, 'Hail our new leaders, whomsoever they may be and however dastardly they become once they've tasted the sweet ambrosia of power! D'y'want another JD and coke?') But then, tellingly, they move on to discuss tourism. A guesthouse owner expresses his concerns, and a tour operator says that everything's fine and tourists aren't fleeing, and nor is there any need for them to. But he didn't need to say any of that, really, because the article itself might as well have been called 'Everything totally schmoolio in Thai paradise'. If this is indeed the case, then it's a rare example of a newspaper making heavy insinuations to something of a noble end. Thailand's tourist industry doesn't need any more knocks, and reliant as it is on Western holidaymakers making holiday there, it'll probably be quite pleased to have the Telegraph's help.

None of this alters the uneasy truth, though, that the world is a bit disappointed by all this blithering civilised behaviour. The trouble is that TTEOSE blew the main fuse in terms of international, televisual excitement - literally, if you think of 'excitement' in more general terms and not only in its positive sense (that would make us sicker than we'd ever admit to being). Unconsciously, some part of us yearns for a singular shocking image whenever something bad happens somewhere. The reason for that is the stuff of very big and very serious theses. It could be that it's the only way we can jolt ourselves into relating to the lives being played out on the same screens on which we watch our crappy soap operas; we might want to punish ourselves for our fat, snug, cosseted Western lives, feeling that the only thing we can do to pay for our comfort is drink deep of natural and man-made disasters. Or we might just be overgrown children who are innocently fascinated with horror. (The fact that traffic jams tend to occur on the other side of the motorway to big accidents would bear that out. Vile helpless rubberneckers, the lot of us.) In any case, if the Thai coup had been a new season drama, the nation would have thrown a chip at the screen and gone 'Where in the blue fuck is the new series of "Shameless"?'

Of course any coup creates instability, and we may yet get our sexy, super-hot action. The military, fluttering their lids cutely, say they're going to hand over power in a fortnight; but that's only to someone of their choosing, and in the meantime you're not allowed to convene for political discussion or... well, you won't be allowed any of those delicious fishcakes, that's for sure. But perhaps in the meantime lessons may be learned, and a better world achieved. Now that we see there isn't necessarily a pressing need for drama in order for news to be made, can't we all try and calm down a smidge? Let's throw away those pithy, yet rather mean-spirited 'John Reid will pay!' placards, and go for something a bit less incendiary, like: 'I disagree quite strongly with John Reid's ideas on tackling terrorism in the community, but I will sit quietly and listen to him, and then if I remain unconvinced, I shall write a strongly-worded letter to him, containing no actual threats of death, because those only feed the view that our religion is brimful of beheadingness, and none of us want that'.

We feel quite chilled out now. It's like being in Thailand.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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