Do you feel it?
These invisible chains of certain concepts that bind us together in this country, the suppression that weigh us down with guilt, hope, and self-consciousness.
“Have you ever gone through any problems such as political conflicts, moral dilemma, or the difference in cultural beliefs with your families or the adults as one of the youths yourselves? Does it go well?”
“Under the concept of ‘Gratitude’ right?”
“Yes, does it go well or not?”
“Well,” they smirk, “you could guess so.”
Do you know it? Yes, you must know it very well without even realizing it, since it was called “Gratitude” after all.
“Be good, be disciplined, and when you’re growing up don’t forget to make a lot of money for you parents, don’t be such an ungrateful OK?”
“Why should we do something like that?”
What is “Gratitude?”
The question was popping up in my mind for so many years before this article.
Some say that it was the affirmation of goodness, the gifts, the benefits we received in our life. And by that, we could recognize the source of goodness outside of ourselves, we could understand how the world and the higher power generously gives something to you, making you understand further to repay them as much as they give to you as the act of kindness. Some even say that you could transcend to the greater mind or becoming the better person only by realizing the meaning behind this act of receiving and returning generosity to the people in your society.
But does this coin only have a good side like they said?
Does this gratitude only bring up good things to our society, especially in this land of absurdity and archaic culture called Thailand?
I refused that point, or at least seeing some flaw in this explanation, and so, that was the reason for this project, to clarify the meaning behind the concept of gratitude in our country by the one whose living under this norm, the youths. Because from my point of view, the concept of gratitude in Thailand is very twisted. It wants you to be a good boy and girl to your family without questioning anything at all due to the authority that they gave birth to you. It taught you to obey the higher force in the rank of society to flee away from any troubles. It does want your opinion nor caring about your choice, and that is very cruel, especially since most adults believe in this norm, using it as the excuse to do these and those to their children.
I have come up with these questions for my interviewees.
First, have you ever gone through any problems such as political conflicts, moral dilemmas, or the difference in cultural beliefs with your families or the adults as one of the youths yourselves? Does it go well? Does anyone bring up the concept of gratitude to shut your arguments down?
Second, recently, more and more children and youths are trying to call out the injustice they have suffered in our country by the hands of the adults, from the topic of education, economy, domestic violence, etc. These movements are widely spreading throughout our society and might be considered as the ungrateful action toward the seniority in our country. So, do you support them? Do any subjects they are raising could be related to your life?
Then, I go out, finding my friends and fellow youths to answer these questions. I know that some are just like me, the anti-old-believed that turn away their face whenever some adults bring up their arguments in this topic, but that was not enough. I need to be more than that. I need to learn more about a lot of reasons from many people around me to make this project as much accurate as possible. I need someone that not merely rejects the concept of gratitude, but that certain one must understand it well enough to make his/her standards on this topic and if it possible, could criticize the society and the concept of gratitude with their grounding knowledge from his/her experiences, by that, even some might consider gratitude to be a good thing, I could learn their point of view and understand them more and more.
Here are the answers of the first question from there presentative sample.
“Well, I admit that it put some pressure on me, but it doesn’t bother me that much.”
Chanyeol (pseudonym) said in his interview, he looks sincere with his words, but something seems a bit odd with his expression.
It seems a little bit stiff.
“I need to repay them, my parents, I could not imagine how I could afford a lot of things they were giving to me back even with all my life, but I need to figure it out, right? That is how I am thinking about gratitude, it is not a duty, but a choice that I appreciate to do.”
“So, you don’t have any conflict with them?”
“Yes…except about my gender preference in the same sex, I guess”
He then told me about how he could not come out of the closet with his family. He does not think that they could accept the truth and might be disappointed with him. He wants to be a good son in the eyes of his parents to repay all the best things to them.
His breath is shorting after a little pause.
“I could not let them down, at least in this present.”
Talk about a good guy’s problem, Chanyeol might be the best example in this case.
“Do you love them? Your parents.”
“Of course, but it was very uncomfortable there”
There is a sigh after that sentence. Nam Sing(pseudonym) looks away from me to the darkness outside the window and chuckles in an unhumorous tone, perhaps to the past scenario of her argument with her family.
“They always said about how much they love me,” my interviewee turns her face back to me again, slowly, “But when I said or done somethings wronged in their opinion, they will not hesitate to use this so-called ‘love and gratitude’ to beat me in any arguments, mockery my opinions, told me to be a good girl that will never disappoint them or doing any ungrateful deeds. I do love them, very much. But it was so cramped and numbed to live with them like that” she then sighs again.
“When you talk with them, it’s just like your energy got absorbed.”
“My father is a big boomer, he doesn’t really understand the political changes nor cultural progress in our time, well, at least my mother is different.”
Regina George (pseudonym) said in his interview with a little shrug.
“She understood well about the thoughts of her son and the newly norm of the youths, she also told me to better take care of myself instead of focusing on repaying family’s deeds, but my father, on the contrary, once told me himself about the debt that I own them to grow up ‘till this day thanks to his effort, the debt that I must repaid one they when my parents turn old.”
“I don’t want to be told like that. Well, normal people will not like that too. He also talking about how I should marry someone and have a kid in the future and doing a job that could afford a stable income. I had known well about their worries, but didn't he want to hear about my thoughts?”
Regina expressed a lot on the topic about free choice of youths that got overlooked by their family and the adults in our society. He believed that every child and youths have their rights to do anything they want in the boundary of laws without worrying with the suppression of the gratitude and their family’s influence. If anyone wants to repay them, just do, but to force them to do with the power of seniority is wrong, indeed.
“Yes, gratitude could be the power that helps people overcome many obstacles in their lives by thinking about the effort their families put on them, but at the same times it is the pressure. I think that people in our country are intentionally sharpening to obey the power above them by some ‘institute’ without questioning due to many elements, such as the feeling of guilt to argue against the elder that come from the Buddhism in Thailand, the seniority that run down in our system from the highest to the lowest groups of people, and the excuse that the older known best.” He then sips a bottle of water after ending his long speech.
“The gratitude in our society works just like that, no more reasoning, no more words. The only conclusion is from the adult’s judgement and how docile we act.” I said in return.
“But that doesn’t mean we should accept those norms in our generation.” He concluded.
So, lets me ask again, does this gratitude only bring up good things to our society?
Before going to the second part of my interview, I got an interesting point from Regina, it was about the word ‘institute’ that he refers to in his speech.
Recently, throughout the internet, there were a lot of opinions about many cultures from the past and how we, as the people in this country, consider changing some norms to suit the tastes of the younger generation that will be the future of our country and the descendant of the past. Among many topics, the hottest subject was about the rising of democracy needs and how the institute of kingship should reform themselves to be a great example of its people instead of siding with the morale-questioning government. All my interviewees suggest some elements to be reform and support the youth sin this trend, a lot of them, unintentionally, referred to the problem of the institute too.
Thinking back to how the institute of kings played their cards in our country. I just see the same pattern of gratitude here and there. From the top of society, our king and royal blood are showing their might by spreading their love to all the people that want to worship them, but for the other side, they punish them, making the unbelievers suffered from the injustice’s law, that is the way they ‘love’ us, the way they want to compromise with the bad children in their eyes. And this way of love is running down throughout all the communities in our country, to beat the children, making them feel guilty for their actions, and disciplined them before they could argue with the older to maintain the order of seniority in this country by using all of the reasons in the world to achieve this goal.
“So, about the second question, Mr. Chanyeol, what do you think about it?”
“I need to remind you of the importance of education, especially for children and youths. I suspect that the government and the institute are involved in this matter. We could clearly see how they want us to be much more docile by degrading the quality of our education by many means like shorting the education fund throughout the country. That is unacceptable.”
“For me,” Riam (pseudonym) said, and then winking tome “The movement that children and youths take in this time is very effective. It opens the path to express the real problems they met each day instead of just letting it go like the adults told them to do. This could be the revolution of our society, to put down the weight of gratitude and debate with each other by our point and reasons to solve the real problem”
“I just want the adults to hear our voices more, at least they should try.” Nam Sing said
“I want to talk to my family without getting myself into the fight, I want to hug them, talk with them about everything in my life, but I can't. They just don’t listen.”
“Stop using the old solution.” back to our Regina
“They (adults) could temporarily prevent us from speaking the truth out loud, they could use excuses about how much they worried about our well-being and all, about our safety, and about our future. But they could not prevent the wind of changes from the newer generation. We are going forward every day, and the concept of ‘Thai gratitude’ is nothing but the fossil in this country, they must accept these facts.”
All of them are good, especially for their answers in this topic. I want to give more space for the other attendants, but we must stand on the fact that it is impossible to bring more people into this article.
So, let me conclude, shall we?
“So, you are supporting them, right? To fight with the concept of the false gratitude in our country that using the guilt and karma to force children to obey the adults, to standing with the new generation in this time, to supporting the free choice that once catch away by your families and to tried making a new norm in our society, is it correct?”
“Yes, I (plural) believed in that statement.”
Yes, so do I.
I believed that to be a good child to your family, you do not need to force yourself nor receive any command for them. You could “choose” to do that by your free will, and if you do not want to, just let them be. It is not wrong at all, do not let religion nor anybody judge you if you have your own reason. Just go forward, fighting for your own freedom, speaking your thoughts out loud, making them (adults) hear your reasons without any excuses left by the progressing of time and the norm of your generation.
You are not ungrateful to your parents, you are loving them in a new way, and it is cool, keep it up!
Even if they do not understand now, they will eventually understand by the passing of time and your efforts.
That is not a hollow promise. It is the truth; I could guarantee that at least.