Thursday, April 16, 2009

The old is dying and the new cannot be born

*All Photos Copyright*
Thai troops clearing the city of Red Shirt protesters on Tuesday morning (April 14th) about two blocks from Government House.

Tyrell Haberkorn, at Open Democracy writes:

"Thailand's disorder might be seen in terms of a longer view, where many of its people - under great economic pressures, and amid rooted structures of power - are seeking a transformation in the underlying social and political relations of rule."

She also quotes Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks:

"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appears."

Not only are the week's violent clashes between soldiers and Red Shirts - or the violence unleashed 4 months ago by the Yellow Shirts - morbid symptoms of this crisis but the real morbidity has been the ugly politics that have been used to justify the violent trajectories that both Reds and Yellows are on.

Ugly symptoms like the Yellow Shirts bigoted suggestion that the rural poor should be disenfranchised of their democratic rights because they 'to stupid' or too 'easily bought'.

Or the complete lack of journalistic impartiality that not only spawned the vile propaganda machine ASTV but also infects the whole profession. The English language papers, and in particular The Nation, which have long given up professional ethics are now moving into dangerous territory in which they are have not simply taken sides but are inciting hatred and fanning the flames of violence.

Or, and most importantly, the break down of the rule of law. Not only is it being applied unevenly - leaving Yellow Shirt criminals free to further incite violence - but it has failed to draw a clear distinction between legitimate democratic protest and mob violence. Both Red and Yellow are guilty but the state is at fault. Applying the law evenly is essential but so is dealing with every criminal trespass upon the law. Go to a protest fine - carry a weapon, attack the Prime Minister, or take over government buildings and you should get arrested.

But these morbid symptoms, as Gramsci suggests, are the ugly manifestations of an epic struggle playing itself out on the streets of Bangkok, across the provinces, and dividing the nation which is at the precipice of change.

While Abhisit has pulled his government back from the brink of collapse and the Red Shirts have been cleared from the streets, Pandora's box has been opened.

The old power structures that have created one of the highest Gini coefficients, that is often simplified as a discrepancy between the largely urban rich and the largely rural poor, have been dragged out into the harsh light of day and publicly challenged.

There is no going back from this. Change - in the form of a full blown revolution, in a negotiated settlement, or in a myriad of forms - now has momentum.

Calm has returned, but this is an interregnum and no one knows how long it will last.

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