Quarterly Reflection: July – September 2019

These past three months have been fun. My initial goal for 2019 was to design my day-to-day with discipline, developing habits and skills which will be beneficial for my future goals. Writing these quarterly reflections is one of my self-assigned commitments. Admittedly, I struggled to complete the first two entries in a timely manner. They often “leaked and spilled” into next portion. However, I am proud to say that this third part of 2019 is delivered on schedule, albeit with fewer featured articles. It also provides an opportunity for me to reflect on writing reflections. (Metaception!)

A major issue is that these reflections always take a lot of time to finish. I have never been a swift writer. Typing is not a hindrance, but my mind wades through constant wars over the simplest things. What do I really want to say? Did I actually make clear and concise a statement or am I just stating my position in a vague, overly symbolic manner? Why does it matter if I say this? How much of myself do I actually want to reveal? Is this a fair thing to say? Am I being too snarky in how I express myself? What does saying it like this says about me? And do I even want to be that person?

I usually operate by stashing articles and media links for future revisit. It’s rare that I stumble across something, bookmark links in blog post, then type out a reflection immediately. There are obviously downsides. It’s easy to lose track of thought. Often times I can’t pinpoint exactly what I think about featured subjects. I get lost in train of thought, then it becomes apparent how uncohesive these thoughts are, all jambled. Then I simply can’t write anymore. Every word costs much more effort — not only time but also mental state and self esteem. This so-called phenomenon surfaced a few years earlier, preluded by disillusionment in my own ability. At least, it seems to be improving gradually.

I am also concerned about overexpression. (Is that a word?) Right now when the blog is visited by practically nobody but my most loyal stalkers, it doesn’t mentally tax too much. Writing reflections is more like an outlet for venting on topics that I struggle to find relevant audience in my close circle of friends. It’s too easy to veer a little too snarky if I think nobody is listening. It’s not like my writing could affect anybody’s mind. But I remember many occasions I wish people would express their worldview differently — on an equal ground with their audience. Not putting oneself on a pedestal and turn away certain audience with opposite views. This is not so much a compassionate stance, but a practical one. If you really believe in something, shouldn’t you want those with differing views to genuinely see your perspective? I start blogging because it’s an outlet for self expression. But it’s more important that expression results in connectedness, not alienation. Effective empathy requires not only sincere expression, but also practicality at reaching out. At times, it’s too tempting to be only the former.

Game

I usually have a few nitpicks with casual, relaxing games. They tend to veer a little too simplistic in terms of graphics. Or they are overly short and can be completed within a few hours. Eastshade’s artists obviously put their heart and soul into the worldmaking, it’s your graphic cards that could pose an issue. And while you can technically complete the game within a few hours, you wouldn’t want to. It’s a game where it’s actually more emotionally rewarding to explore than to complete quests.

I was struck by just how rare it is to actually play something like this. Open-world is usually a format reserved for first-person battle or survival games. It’s not often that I get to play a game where player isn’t driven by in-game objectives or “winning”. Rather, you get more value by taking it down a notch and taking in the atmosphere. Maybe I’m just too tamed for this, but considering that gaming is a popular form of escapism, I am surprised that a lot of them seem to increase stress rather than the opposite. I can definitely see the appeal of puzzle-solving, strategy-driven, time-sensitive gameplay but isn’t it a bit too demanding after a long day of work? Or do most of us have a mind-numbing job that leaves us longing for mental stimulation by the day’s end?

A side note: you can actually adjust the camera focal length in the game settings. As a fan of wide-angle shooting, this ostensibly minor change drastically improves my gameplay experience. Another side note: this game could be a useful tool for learning image composition, especially if you don’t have a camera.

Culture & Politics

  • THAILAND’S CONTROVERSIAL IMMIGRATION LAWS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES at the Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand
This video is set to started at 33:05 for clarification, but Q&A (53:00) specifically pertains to my commentary.

There is an article at Bangkok Post here, which sums up major discussion points. However, I recommend full viewing, as it demonstrates how Thailand can be perceived so negatively on an international scale.

The junta prime minister, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, has consistently struggled with public perception concerning his (lack of) efficiency and competence, and his appointees here are showing why. Some farangs may be chalking the issue up to a language barrier. However, as a native Thai speaker, I can attest that this dismissive attitude is quite representative of how they have addressed domestic and international outcries.

This “debate” did little to ease the suspicion among expats that TM30 is yet another ploy to collect extra pocket money. That aside, the most troubling part is how they rationalize it. Pitfalls and shortcomings have gone unaccounted. Note how Gen. Patipat keeps describing how the web-based submission platform is intended to work, after people are telling him how it is not working. At times, the blame is shifted toward the users (e.g. for not submitting documents properly, despite that the complaint is the unresponsiveness after submitting applications). But the most infuriating part is what I often encounter during conflicts with fellow Thais. It’s the get-out-of-jail-free card for being “the good guy” (khon dee/คนดี).

While “good” is a concept that objectively exists in all cultures, its meanings are subjective to the culture it belongs. In Thai culture, being “good” is a highly personalistic. Among its many qualities is a good intention, but not necessarily a good result. Any shortcomings, any pitfalls — dismissed by insisting upon good intentions. Amusingly, I am reminded of Max Weber’s fear that capitalistic bureaucracy will lead to overrationalization. That people will submit to it blindlessly because of its efficiency. “Khon dee” bureaucracy somehow results in a highly stratified society sans the efficiency, yet still demands blind submission due to its authority. It’s the downside of a ironically self-focused culture that thrives on downplaying not only the self, but the personal experiences of others.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha answers a question during a talk at the Asia Society in New York on Wednesday. (Photo from @ThaigovSpokesman Facebook account)

Years ago I remember being annoyed by a moment in this React clip. It shows a group of Youtubers reacting to a Thai music video. At one point, a (notably half-Thai) Youtuber remarks on how she’s glad to see that “people in Thailand are watching Youtube.” Can you imagine if a half-German, or half-Spain, or half-Australian say such thing? Thailand may not be Singapore-level developed, but it’s also far from being a deadlocked country with little contact with other nations. Especially considering tremendous role that western nations have played in Thailand’s modernization and globalization. Same goes for many other countries in the region. Yet somehow there still remains a perception that technology plays little part in people’s lives.

It’s even worse when our own prime minister is the one perpetuating the myth, which swiftly spawns numerous satirical cartoons. It’s baffling, considering how fake news is painted as a top national issue. Threats were made to journalists “who would not report the truth.” Yet in 2019, the junta-chief-now-prime-minister declares to international audience how a majority of Thais don’t use Google. Maybe, in celebration of Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha deserves the honor of being crowned the example of what not to do. All measured by his own standards.

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