Another year, 2021, is drawing to a close. It’s time to take stock on how we led our life – at least for me. It’s been a very difficult year for most of us due to COVID-19 and It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know someone who lost a person due to the virus. But this article is not about that.
For some it’s been an auto-pilot life for decades or most of their life. They chose, or allowed themselves, to be directed if not dictated by societal values, office, religion or family expectations. This must be the road more travelled. Life is short and brutish enough, why even bother to make it even more difficult and ask ourselves why we are here or the meaning of life and come up with our own answer.
The other road is less travelled and more inconvenient if not problematic – they ask themselves what’s the point and meaning of this ephemeral life?
Are we briefly here on earth just to fulfill the expectations of our family, loved ones, peers, organization, religion or values dictated by the society?
Or is it all of the above.
We can become more acutely aware of the constraints imposed upon us by the time and space we inhabit. This is the real-world matrix. No one gets to choose which era and society we’re born into and the two factors greatly influence us.
Era wise, there was a time when slavery was legal and normal. Some of the ‘highly-admired’ founding fathers of the Land of Liberty, or the United States, were slave owners. Slavery is no longer acceptable today, although some working conditions may pass for a legal modern-day slavery. Another example: more and more people are now questioning the morality of meat eating and one can see a trend toward more humane slaughtering of animals for food. This year saw Britain moving toward a possible ban of boiling lobster alive under a new animal welfare act because it is “unnecessarily cruel”. That may have been unthinkable just half a century ago. Undeniably, the age we inhabit influences what we think as moral or immoral, kind or cruel, right or wrong – acceptable or not.
One day, in a distant future, and hopefully a not too distant-future, meat eating may be considered cruel and morally indefensible – like we treat racism and slavery today.
Here in Thailand, in 2021 and for many years, if not many decades to come, some will continue to struggle for genuine freedom of expression and press freedom, something already taken for granted in many western democratic societies. As a result, a considerable chunk of my adult life, for example, have been preoccupied with understanding censorship and self-censorship and advocating for these fundamental lives already achieved in some societies. (After finishing this column I will answer 87 questions to help the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders assess Thailand’s state of press freedom for their annual global ranking and report.)
Sometimes I wish I could spend my time doing something else if not for the concerns I have for Thai society and its future. This is what I mean when I say the space and time we are in influence what we do or consider a priority.
Consider another example, many Thais were overjoyed and celebrated on Wednesday night as the Thai national football squad cruised through a 4-0 victory against Indonesia in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup. It seems the most natural thing to feel and do but there’s nothing natural about it at all. Thais celebrate simply because they were born Thai – something virtually all didn’t get a chance to choose. If I happened to have been born an Indonesian, my feelings would have been the opposite. Such is the influence or the space, or society, we’re born into.
The real-world matrix is real. Will you take the red pill and start questioning many assumptions and values you have taken for granted including your agency and free will? Or will you stick with the blue pill and march on into 2022 without reflexivity because it’s too cumbersome otherwise.
No matter what you choose, I wish you a Happy 2022. And this is not from Neo or Mr Anderson.