The 23 of June fires are built on the hills in a country way up north in Europe. On this, the longest day of the year, dusk comes at 9 pm; it is then time to light the fires. The flames will moments later set fire to the image of an elderly woman, tied to a stake on top of the pyre.
These days the witch will not scream and curse the onlookers, since she is made of straw and dressed in scrap clothes. But in the darker days of the country, thousands of women who dared to distance themselves from the norms of the majority were accused of witchcraft, tortured and killed.
In southern Europe, the inquisitors of the Catholic Church swept the countries accusing non conformists of heresy; in their prisons they tortured and killed in the most bestial ways – to spread fear and to discipline the population.
In the European culture there has always been a strong tendency towards rectification and discipline. There have always been scapegoats, from scientists to Jews and they have been accused of all evils. The powers of today will allow dissidence as long as it is regarded harmless, e.g. modern art, conservative gay sub culture, decadent haute couture or green movements, but will, with the assistance of the ‘silent majority’, try to marginalize those who try to set themselves free of mainstream norms and prejudices in order to master their lives their own way.
Erica Jong writes: “Most people are not free. Freedom in fact, frightens them. They follow patterns set by their parents, enforced by society, by their fear of ‘they say’ and ‘what will they think?’ and by a constant inner dialogue that weighs duty against desire and pronounces duty the winner”.
Of course also envy and hate are factors present. People of the majority often would like to follow the path of those who don’t care what their neighbours might think of them –but they don’t dare. It might therefore be a compensation to punish the ‘witches’ instead. That’s why Lord Jesus once exclaimed: “Let the one who is clean, throw the first stone”.
One of the most valuable and appreciated assets of Thai culture is the tolerance and the genuine acceptance of all things human. Nobody seems to like the role of being the judge of their neighbour.
It is no coincidence or only because of love that so many Europeans settle down in Thailand. They admit that they are also running away from the societal pressure of conformism and grayness in their home countries. It is no coincidence either, that for example the Norwegians, coming from one of the most socially rigid societies in Europe, have formed their ‘Norwegian federation on Esaan’. These many people are grateful towards
the Thai’s, for not always being told by ‘those who knows better’, what to do and what to think.
Meanwhile those in power and those who know better on other peoples behalf, have started to copy the Western conformism. There is a campaign against smoking, there is a ban on alcohol ads, there are more surveillance cameras, also in places where there have been no crimes for the last 40 years. The newspapers and magazines are becoming more and more dull but politically correct.
Seen one by one these initiatives might be good and fair but seen together they limit the individual freedom; in the future there will be less and less space in Thailand for the singers and the dancers, the clowns, the fools and the poets – for those who prefer to be themselves. Thailand will loose its irresistible charm.
But maybe Thai’s will listen to Lord Buddha’s advice: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense”.