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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 23-Dec-2010
23-Dec-10 News -- Thailand lifts state of emergency, but clamps down in other ways

Web Log - December, 2010

23-Dec-10 News -- Thailand lifts state of emergency, but clamps down in other ways

South Koreans' sentiments toward North Korea changing

Thailand lifts state of emergency, but clamps down in other ways

On Sunday, 10,000 red-shirted protesters from the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) crowded into a major intersection in central Bangkok, according to Bangkok Post.

Thailand's red-shirt protests (Bangkok Post)
Thailand's red-shirt protests (Bangkok Post)

They were commemorating the 91 protesters that were killed and hundreds injured in the protests of last May that ended when the Thai army ran tanks through their barricades and assaulted them with live ammunition, and after the most radical elements of the protestors retaliated by burning down shopping centers and the stock exchange. (See "24-May-10 News -- Les Miserables of Thailand at a turning point.")

Sunday's protests were peaceful, a change from the defiance of last spring's protests, and the Thai government felt that the security police were sufficiently in control to end the harsh state of emergency that had been in effect for 8 months, and to release some of the hundreds of protesters who had been arrested, according to Reuters.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, none of this political chaos is particularly surprising. This is a generational Awakening era in Thailand, like America and Europe in the 1960s. And, like America and Europe in the 1960s, there is a "generation gap" separating political views of young and old, causing massive street protests.

However, there is absolutely no chance of a civil war, as some people fear. A civil war cannot occur during a generational Awakening era or, if one begins, it will fizzle quickly. We've seen this in other Awakening era countries that I've reported on over the last few years, including Lebanon, Iraq and Iran.

Thailand's Awakening era confrontation pits two ethnic groups against each other. Businesses in Bangkok are dominated by fair-skinned Thai-Chinese élites in a market-dominant minority.

The "red shirt" protestors represent the vast majority, the poor dark-skinned laborers, mainly from farms in Thailand's northeast, but who have migrated to Bangkok in recent years, where they take low-paying jobs as servants.

The rural group won a political victory in 2001, when Thaksin Shinawatra, born in the north of Thailand, became Prime Minister, but was deposed by a military coup in 2006, after a financial scandal. The coup is thought to have been sponsored by the élites who were looking for a reason to restore power to the Thai-Chinese group.

However, the political power of the rural groups did not end until 2008, when a massive protest by "yellow-shirted" protestors caused the government to collapse.

So the yellow-shirt protestors, representing the élite, had their victory in 2008, and the red-shirt protestors, representing the rural groups, attempted to exact their revenge last spring. However, that attempt ended in disastrous defeat, whose consequences will be felt for years.

With much of the world in a generational Crisis era, it's natural to talk a lot about war, but Thailand is in a generational Awakening era, when a civil war is impossible, or if one starts (as happened in 2006 in Iraq) it fizzles quickly.

In many ways, there's a special delight in studying Awakening eras, those spectacular times of new ideas and new revolutions that appear midway between two crisis wars. Important Awakening eras in world history include the golden age of ancient Greece, the ministry of Jesus Christ, and the life of Mohammed and birth of Islam. (See Generational Dynamics: Great Awakenings in World History.)

While Crisis wars pit two sides militarily against one another along a "vertical" fault line along ethnic or geographical differences, an Awakening era conflict is a political battle fought along a "horizontal" fault line separating the generations who survived the previous crisis war from the generation growing up after the war.

The older generations, the survivors of the previous crisis war, devote their lives to doing everything possible to guarantee that no such war will ever occur again, and they create oppresive institutions and impose austere social rules to enforce that guarantee.

The younger generations rebel agains those austere rules, creating a "generation gap" and a political conflict. The younger generation usually wins that conflict as, for example, when the younger generation forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. The younger generation almost always "wins" that conflict since, after all, the older generations die first.

However, it's very dangerous for a country if the older generation "wins" the Awakening era conflict, and that's what has happened in Thailand. In this case, the generational conflict turns into an ethnic fault line conflict that leads to continued violence and to civil war decades later. We already saw that last spring.

For those interested in a literary treatment, a good example is Victor Hugo's great novel, Les Misérables, describing the failed uprising of students that occurred in Paris in 1832. This uprising occurred toward the end of the generational Awakening era in France, following the French Revolution. It led to the bloody Paris Commune civil war in 1871.

Likewise, the recent violent protests in Bangkok occurred towards the end of a generational Awakening era, following Thailand's last crisis war, the spillover from the "killing fields" civil war of Cambodia that ended in 1979.

In the spirit of the holiday season, we'll play a little music for you -- the video of Michael Ball in Les Misérables, singing "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," describing the tremendous sadness his character feels, surrounded by the ghosts of the students who were killed in the 1832 uprising in Paris:

The tremendous sadness of this song must convey exactly how the red shirt protestors of Thailand feel today, having had all their hopes and dreams destroyed, and having gained nothing.

It's worth taking a moment to look at the mathematics of the situation. The size of the Thai laboring class is about three times the size of the Thai-Chinese élite class. This means that the laboring class is going to win elections, and it also means that wealth is going to be transferred from the élites to the laborers. This is going to make the élites unhappy, and they'll find ways to maintain power by force.

That in fact is what the government has already done, and what they'll continue to do. Indeed, an editorial in the Bangkok Post points out that ending the state of emergency did nothing to improve democracy and freedom of speech for the protesters.

The red-shirts will not stand for this situation. Sunday's protest was peaceful and sad. But the sadness will turn to anger, and don't be surprised to see more violent confrontations between the red shirts and the Thai army in 2011 and beyond.

Word of the year

A couple of days ago we reported on China's choice for "Character of the Year."

China's netizens voted for "zhang" as "Character of the Year." Zhang is the Chinese character used to describe a rapid price rise, indicating that people are dissatisfied with inflation and soaring house prices, according to Sify. Zhang was followed in popularity by characters meaning resentment, gray, demolish and death, respectively. These choices indicate a great deal of dissatisfaction with many aspects of life in China.

The German Language Society has chosen Wutbürger, or “enraged citizen,” as the most important German word of 2010, reflecting the street protests of the year, according to Local (Germany). Runners up included protest words "Stuttgart 21" and schottern, Sarrazin-Gen, referring to the controversy over immigrants, and two internet words, Cyberkrieg and Wikileaks.

Merriam-Webster's word of the year was "austerity," according to the Washington Post. Runners-up were pragmatic, moratorium, socialism, bigot, and doppleganger.

Additional links

North Korea's November 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, killing four South Koreans, has sharply changed the sentiment of many South Koreans. The previous sentiment of hope for peace and cooperation between North and South Korea has been lost. CNN

The number of foreclosures fell in the third quarter because of challenges to mortgage paperwork created during the frenzy of the real estate bubble. (See "22-Oct-10 News -- Foreclosure mess turns into a major crisis.") More and more delinquent homeowners are challenging the bank's standing to foreclose because of deficient paperwork, and more and more judges are taking the side of the delinquent homeowners. However, the number of delinquent mortgages is still increasing, and this paperwork problem only delays the inevitable foreclosure. USA Today

The iconic image of the Baby Boom generation during the 1960s Awakening era is of an exuberant, long-haired, rebellious young adult. However, the Boomers have become the glumest and most pessimistic generation, about their own lives and the lives of their children. Pew Research

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and Muslims in Indonesia are a lot more moderate than Muslims in the Middle East. This is because Indonesian Muslims have sought knowledge and inspiration from Middle East Muslims, but they've adapted the teaching to their local culture. S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

With xenophobia between ethnic Russians and North Caucasus Muslims growing to dangerous levels, Russian officials are talking about the possibility of letting some of the Caucasus provinces become independent republics. It's claimed that this would have numerous advantages, including the reduction of xenophobia and violence between Muslims and ethnic Russians, but from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this change would not have any real effect. Eurasia Review

As the euro crisis deepens, many Europeans are turning against Germany, blaming the crisis on Chancellor Angela Merkel's rigid course, and accusing her of betraying the European project. Spiegel

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Dec-10 News -- Thailand lifts state of emergency, but clamps down in other ways thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Dec-2010) Permanent Link
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