Over the past few days lots has been talked about violence, guns, laws, extremists and religion. Not only in the US where one of the deadliest mass shootings in history took place but all around the globe due to increasing, terrible incidents. Be it attacks in Syria, bombings in Turkey or, as mentioned, shootings in the US. The world seems to go crazy and, looking at current (and politicians runnings for that position) leaders of different countries, each and everyone seems fine with and continues to spread hate, fear and talks of retribution and ‘us’ against ‘them’.
I recently wrote a very short comment here on my-thai.org about how I feel that nobody really seems to care about what’s happening out there and was (and still am) quite angry with how lots of people just seem to accept it (just look at the latest interview of Stephen Colbert with Bill O’Reiley who says ‘you ‘can’t prevent those shootings’ and something similar to ‘..back then everybody had a gun. Everybody! That’s how we got our independence. See a guy in a red jacket, bam, shoot him. Independence..”) and even to embrace it.
Now when taking some time and thinking about why people are afraid of different cultures and religions – of basically anything that is different to them, I realized something. I do had lots of stereotypes. Obviously I didn’t hate anyone, even though I’m from Germany my name is not Drumpf. To be honest I even considered myself to be ‘pretty open minded’ and to not have any stereotypes at all. Everybody is equal is what I always said and thought I believed in. However when moving to Bangkok and getting to know way more different cultures than ever before (and I lived in other melting pots such as Berlin and Sydney, so I didn’t hide in some small Bavarian town for my whole life) I realized I did have stereotypes. Not that kind of ‘oh my god, all Muslims want to kill us’ but rather ‘Oh, those people (be it people of a certain religion, cultural space, ethnicity, or whatever might define a certain in-group) are doing and behaving like XYZ but that’s ok with me, I don’t mind’.
The assumption that someone who, for some reason, belongs to whatever group that might be, behaves in a certain way is proof that I did have stereotypes attached to those groups and quite frankly, it bothered me. The first step towards becoming a better self is, luckily, to realize that something is wrong, right?
Now after realizing that, it’s much easier to talk about some differences and behaviors. One of the more ‘funny’ things I experienced at first was that I would be the odd one out coming from the west and looking totally different than everybody else (super white, obviously). That’s funny because back home we learn not to discriminate by the color of ones skin and I think we’re taking that quite serious but stereotypes in regards to certain religions etc. are still present. Here now it was completely different. People from all walks of life and different religions (Islam, Buddhism, Christianity) would all share their interest and / or disbelief in pointing out that I’m white (Farang!). This especially held true when spending time in Northeastern Thailand or in the South like in Hat Yai where stereotypes are more present due to the lack of ‘real’ interaction with people from abroad. This showed me that you can have stereotypes without actually realizing of having them.
As time passed I eventually would arrive in a state of mind that most of my friends who grew up here already were in. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what believe you have. We’re all in this together.
Especially ever since moving to Bangkok and developing a circle of friends, co-workers, work partners, etc. with lots of different beliefs, cultural background and ethnicities first and foremost we are friends, partners, and so on. Not only does it not matter whether or not your Christians, Muslim or Buddhist, it’s never an issue or a topic to be thought of. I don’t think about what kind of religion or faith my team mate has when we do sports.
It is through all those experiences that I can say that living in Bangkok changed my life, my mind, my thoughts. And that is certainly something purely positive. I do publish my fair share of critical comments here on my-thai.org and elsewhere but this mind opening experience is something worth more than pretty much anything else and makes all those minor issues worth dealing with. On the bigger picture they don’t even seem to be issues then anymore.
Even though governments, borders and beliefs may try to divide us, we’re all in this together and, as Lin-Manuel Miranda put it so eloquently in his Tony acceptance speech: “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.”
Having that said, I just watched a video that tells a similar story. If you got a few minutes, check it out and tell me you don’t feel moved in one way or the other.