12 April 2009

More People Power in Thailand?

The latest news from Thailand as I came home from my Easter visits was that the beleaguered government was finally taking steps to crack down on the "Red Shirt" protesters after a turbulent weekend best illustrated by this clip from an English-language al-Jazeera report.

Scenes like this leave me ambivalent. I don't think politics should come down to this kind of mob tactics as a rule, but when I see people on the streets like this, I feel more certain that those people care about the fate of their country, and that they feel some personally responsibility for the political future, than I do about most Americans. Perhaps this is unfair to my own people, and I should give more credit to individual deliberations than collective demonstrations, but my hunch is that a healthy political order has room for both and requires different emphases depending on different circumstances. There may well be times when the people have to get together, physically as well as intellectually, and make a public statement that can't be mistaken. I don't know if this is such a time in Thailand -- in fact, I have my doubts. But I'm not ready to say there can never be such a moment, either there or here. So let's keep watching and figure it out for ourselves.

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