The most dangerous individuals are those who can rally people to wondrous achievement or horrible atrocity. The most extreme and easy example is Adolf Hitler. Maybe if he hadn’t gone “Hmm… how about them Jews?” or said, “You know, that Poland over there…,” then he might have gone down as a great leader rather than mass murderer.
But here’s the thing, while Hitler had the ability to lead the German people out of ruin and despair to achieve redemption and prosperity, with the very same ability he was also able to convince many of them into believing (or at least turn a blind eye to) that committing atrocities was necessary for a righteous purpose.
At a much more kindergarten level when compared to Hitler is this:
When one listened to a protest leader onstage wax poetic about democracy, one understood why the followers cheered. When the leader talked of returning power to the people, one understood the applause. But when the speech turned into burning and destruction, one might be perplexed as to why the cheers and applause continued.
Likewise, when a protest leader spoke of fighting corruption, one understood the cheers and applause. But when the speech called for violence and sabotaging a democratic election, one may wondered why the people continued to clap and blow their whistles.
In both scenarios, why did the people not go, “Wait a second, you tricky son-of-a-gun, you…”
But if one understands political psychology, one realizes that when a leader has the people hypnotized, they can be led up the stairway to heaven or down the path to destruction.
Currently in Thailand, the most popular topic this side of Karakade is no longer undeclared luxury watches or a murdered panther, but the younger generation setting out to replace the older. Sparking this conversation is 39-year-old Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of the multi-billion-baht Thai Summit Group clan. He has recently declared for politics and is leading a new party, aptly named Future Forward.
It’s too early in the game to assess Thanathorn, other than that he’s saying all the right things – democracy, rule of law, equality, amending the constitution and the need for the younger generation to take the torch and lead the country – and he’s saying them with passion and sincerity. There have been cheers and applause all around, from those people who agree with such values.
But here’s the thing, Thanathorn has already received death threats. One by a retired police general, no less. Albeit it was via a now-deleted Facebook post, but the sentiment of the backlash against Thanathorn is very much evident. Many of the older generation and puu yai in society, as well as popular conservative columnists and talking heads – people with influence and followers – are speaking out against him.
“Do not dismiss the older generation, and their past contributions.”
[Cheer on, there are merits to this statement.]
“Respect history and tradition, and those who built and defended this country.”
[Clap away, there’s truth in this.]
“Don’t touch the monarchy! Don’t you dare be a traitor! You’ll burn in hell!”
[Wait. Hold on. How did we get there?]
Without dwelling on the details during these sensitive times, there’s than enough evidence in modern Thai history in general and current political conflicts in particular as to why we should “not go there.”
If you hate freedom and democracy, you have the democratic right to debate so. If you think the younger generation are a bunch of spoiled brats full of cow manure, you have the freedom to argue so.
The monarchy is not involved in politics. The monarchy is the most respected institution in the kingdom, with laws upholding its sacredness and the entirety of the armed forces sworn to its protection.
If anyone should continue to bring the monarchy into political conflicts, then let there be no cheers or applause, but instead let wisdom and common sense prevail. Let everyone say, “Stop it.”