It's an event!
Teachers, are you looking at bare classroom walls and stacks of planning to do? We're here for you! We will be selling professionally printed, extra large scale versions of our posters at very cheap prices. There will also be free stickers, free food (come early if you want some, it will be tasty) and no event would be complete without cheap drinks.
We're quite honored to have been invited to First Friday at Attic Studios, it is an institution in Bangkok. First Friday happens every month at Attic Studios, attracting students of Art, the art-interested and art-curious. This event will be one night only and we will also be unveiling never-before seen poster designs, extra-fancy framed posters and some Thai language versions of our designs. Join us!
It's never a good feeling when we have to say that we don't know. Being a part of the Thai culture and responding to the events in Thailand is important to us. We had decided to broaden our mission to do more work about advocating for the Humanities as this was a cause of many cultural misunderstandings and an increase in hate speech.
The events in Thailand over the last three weeks have affected every organization that discusses news, culture and the politics of the internet. Some discussions about the current state of affairs in Thailand have been going on quite openly while other websites now appear in Thailand like this:
We're being cautious in the current political climate. There are internet publications and personalities that share a wide array of opinion, news and updates on the current situation. That has never been our role even though we are responsive to current events in Thailand in order to share and create relevant resources. We will not delete any of our past posts, and we are still working on a video about the value of reasonable discussion in politics and other hot issues. We also do not want our website to look like the picture above.
Thailand is well-known as a nation that is welcoming to foreign tourists. Data displayed in the map below from the Washington Post agrees.
Thailand is a great destination for tourists, as it is indeed friendly and it welcomed twenty-two million foreign tourists in 2012 according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Twenty-two million people is an especially sizable amount in a country of sixty six million. The impact of tourism is not seen in all places in Thailand equally, as tourists tend to congregate in specific places that are marketed to them.
Does this mean that Thailand is a tolerant nation? Acceptance of visitors is not the same, as this map below shows, with many countries as well as Thailand.
"Another race," is not defined further on this map as 'race' is a difficult thing to define.
What do you think may account for the different information given by these two maps?
It was bound to happen again. Thursday, in an online 'survey' Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck overtook Adolf Hitler as "The World's Worst Leaders," former Thai PM Abisit was also listed at number thirteen. The survey was from the optins.com, an entertainment site that does not claim to be scientific or news based. This has been restated as a reputable source and disseminated into the political discussion. [Link to the Bangkok Post article at the end of this post.]
No, just no.
We are very opposed to these comparisons being made as they spread ignorance and signal the end of reasonable discussion. We are very pro-reasonable and believe that facts, empathy and understanding History are ways forward for all.
Godwin's Law has faded from popular use on the internet, but it was an informed idea that perhaps needs attention again. Godwin's Law is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1989 which has become an Internet adage. It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." In other words, Godwin put forth the sarcastic observation that, given enough time, all online discussions—regardless of topic or scope—inevitably end up being about Hitler and the Nazis. Godwin's law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread Reductio ad Hitlerum form. The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. [Italicized text from Wikipedia.]
Flip references to Hitler and Nazis also diminish the understanding of the twelve million civilians that died, those that suffered under the Nazis and those that lost their lives on the Western Front during WWII. It is a lesson about the danger of considering any human any less than human and it is one that the World needs to know. Crimes against Humanity still continue today and knowledge is the best and first defense any society has to prevent them.
We are promoting reasonable, empathic discussion and education. Perhaps that isn't as sexy as memes that attract attention or impassioned speeches given to people that already agree. But reasonableness is sugarless, has no trans fats, gluten free and a good value too.
Quick Review: Our Who is Not Hitler video
"I'm very much a humanist. I'm very much politically correct."
Before starting, it is important to mention that RHEA is non-partisan, in Thai politics and in the politics of other nations (unless we're talking about Neo-Nazis, we're totally okay with weighing in about them.) We feel that people can disagree on some political matters and still stand together against bigotry. The disclaimer may be necessary as the term politically correct is often associated with right wing politics, we are just talking about this term specifically.
The term politically correct is often used to mock people or ideas that ask for inclusiveness. It has become so synonymous with hypersensitivity and censoring ideas and it is the go-to word for people feeling the consequences of saying something offensive. Calling something politically correct is often a way to complain about progress being made towards becoming a more inclusive society.
Part of this post has been inspired by the video below. While "Duck Dynasty" is not relevant enough to Thailand to even merit a comment, this discussion gets interesting. We made the word collage above that may be useful to fill in synonyms the next time someone accuses you of being 'PC.'
The 'new' airport in Bangkok was being built when I first arrived in Thailand and a few of my friends from the US and UK here were working on the logistics side of its construction. The project suffered under the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and had numerous problems, and it's not everyday that such a large venture is undertaken.
The people I knew organizing the effort used the traditional plan of working on such a project and came to Thailand uninitiated in Thai culture. First, they planned which phases of construction would take place when, starting with the terminal. The Thai contractors balked at the idea, and the foreign logistics team had no idea why. Working culture in Thailand can also be different than the West as what Westerners may see as giving feedback to a boss may be thought of as disrespectful here. This made it difficult for the foreign team to know what was the objection to starting the project, but eventually it was brought to their attention that the project needed to have a spirit house built first, as the land was believed to be ill-omened. (There are now several spirit houses on the property.)
Once the contractors agreed to build the spirit houses, they also wanted to use standard safety procedures for the workers. Normally many Thais wear open shoes everywhere as the climate is hot and they easily slip off to enter homes and shops where people remove shoes before entering. The safety standards required work boots for the contractors and so the company purchased them. Still, the workers did not wear them. Once again, the people overseeing the project needed feedback to find out why things were not going according to plan. Turns out that the workers (most from rural parts of the North) saw the shoes as formal wear, and did not want to dirty them.
As the project progressed, large numbers of workers were not showing up. The project was already well behind schedule and the logistics people in charge were concerned that people were quitting for unexplained reasons. When the workers that disappeared returned, the bosses were angry and the workers were confused. November is harvest season and in many cases the workers thought it was understood that they would return to help their families, as was done every year. Thankfully at this point the foreigners I know understood that they needed to work within the culture.
When the airport was finally completed, it experienced the normal adjustment period hiccups that are to be expected. This was anticipated... What wasn't was that the airport drew two crowds of tourists. There were the people arriving by plane but a large group of Thais cane to the airport as well. In its early days Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) attracted about 100,000 people coming to picnic. After such a long wait for such a huge project, who can blame them?
The purpose of this story is to illustrate some ways that foreigners need to adjust to the ways of Thailand while here. While we have a clear message to deliver, Thai culture will always prevail in Thailand. It's not to be thought of as an obstacle, but part of the principles of our foundation informing our campaigns. What we seek to do is to bring greater understanding of History and we are in a unique place and position to do so. The World continues to be brought together through the Internet and social media and we would like to see that benefit everyone.
Here's a great video by the No Hate Speech Movement about the World and the Internet:
The swastika originates from the Indus Valley civilization and had briefly been used as a good luck symbol in the West preceding WWII when it was adapted by the Nazi Party. It is a popular misconception that the South Asian symbol always goes counterclockwise although the Nazi Symbol is supposed to be clockwise and at an angle so that the square forms a diamond-like shape. Within South Asia, the symbol is depicted going in either direction and has many variations so the direction of the symbol is not an effective way of discerning them.
This discussion can lead to art history hair-splitting, and the history of these images is a rich one. With just a bit of observation, it is not too difficult to tell which symbols are which and while there is a grey area, that area is extremely small. It is truly a shame that an ancient symbol of good was appropriated by such evil from the rightful owners of the original symbol.
In the photo above, the swastikas are shown going in both directions, mostly clockwise. Now that we've debunked the clockwise vs. counterclockwise issue, let's move on.
While it is true that the symbol is originally Asian in origin, that does not mean that every swastika in Asia is the original. The argument that the symbol is originally Asian is sometimes brought up to justify the use of symbols that are obviously Nazi images. That statement is usually followed by the speaker reveling in their own 'brilliance' thinking that this is a little-known fact. A little knowledge can indeed be a dangerous thing and a complete lack of common sense is downright toxic.
So, let's apply some common sense.
Nazi or Asian?
The first question would be can you see Hitler here? That would make it a Nazi reference.
Nazi or Asian?
Someone might argue that the swastika is going in the opposite direction from the Nazi one and that therefore it is Asian. It is not. On the left are the letters, "NA," and on the left, "ZI," Which is more than explicit enough to spell it out for us. Also of note is the fact that the group that thought this was a good idea is probably unlikely to be good with historical facts and attention to detail.
Context is the biggest indicator of a symbol's intentions. Saying the symbol is always Asian is a red herring used to distract from context, which is a good indicator of BS. Let's have a look at some of the symbols side by side now.
Two of the three of the items above are labeled as Nazi or Hindu, so it is easy to tell the intent. The third is a variant on the Nazi flag pictured right above it. Red, white and black were the typical colors used by the Nazis (which we are trying to reclaim with our graphic design) with the white circle around a black swastika surrounded by red.
This may just be too easy, as they are labeled once again. Eventually, picture searching will become advanced enough to take a photo and then search to find a label for the image. Until then, we'll have to rely less on Google and more on common sense.
Now it's time for a harder one. While the middle image is labeled, the bottom is not. The bottom image has the same coloring and shape motif as the Nazi flag but the seller from Thailand, jirawat cross, pee aood states in the full description, "The word swastika came from the Sanskrit word, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote auspiciousness. It is composed of su- meaning "good, well" and asti "to be". Funny thing is that Wikipedia uses that exact same sentence.
This is an example of the kind of denial we are forced to argue against. Plagiarism from Wikipedia does not make this into another symbol. Ignorance does not make this into another symbol. Denial does not make this into another symbol. As Judge Judy says, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."
It seems that the group of people in Thailand that consider Nazi and Hitler items to be fashion are part of a subculture. That may sound like good news (and it is partly because not everyone is wearing this stuff) but it is harder in some ways to reach out to a smaller more niche group. Globalization and the retro craze have made all sorts of things crossover and things get a bit complicated.
The closest comparison with this subculture would be to punk, as the music and the crossover into art seem similar (disagree? Let us know in the comments!) And so, we're off to study this working theory and this Thai subculture further.
Perhaps with the Worldwide retro fashion craze nothing is dead (even though we're really hoping harem pants are.) Originally, a few of the early punks of the 1970s did wear swastikas on shirts, usually they were handmade and almost all of them were destroyed after the marker fumes wore off and people came to their senses. The one thing the retro craze can't bring back is context, and that is something that gets lost in time and translation.
Our next project is still being researched, and it's on this very subject. While its necessary to give the history and context, we want to lighten things up and make it fun and hopefully reach the people that might be influenced by punk. We're by no means anti-expression nor anti-punk but a good look at meaning and message is necessary.
There is only 'us'
We strongly dislike hate. We want to be rid of 'us and them' thinking. So join in and join us!