Politics, Religion, and Bargirls in Thailand: Nightlife Blogs Lose the Plot (with Update)

Theravada Buddhists across Southeast Asia have good reason to recoil in horror at the ghastly image that Chris Coles has dreamt up out of a diseased and malevolent imagination, then posted to his blog. Not content to preoccupy himself with dreadful fluorescent images of bargirls and ladyboys in degraded settings, he has decided to paint an image of the Buddha (in heavy-lidded Khmer style no less) rolling his eyes in reaction to Walking Street in Pattaya. That Buddhists everywhere will no doubt find this repugnant to them may abbreviate the media attention Coles’s art has received in conjunction with the release of the short story collection called “Bangkok Noir” and his sparsely attended exhibitions. We have written about this literary and artistic equivalent to masturbation elsewhere.

There are so many reasons why this image is offensive to Thai Buddhists that it would be difficult to know where to begin, really. What it reveals, however, is the depths to which one man (Coles) has descended and from which debased vantage point important character strengths like intuition, good judgement, and cultural sensitivity have all but disappeared. When you spend time in brothels and red light districts in Thailand, it diminishes your capacity for insight and reason, as well as the larger requisite sense of compassion and reverence for a global religion. It may appear humorous on some very sophomoric level to think about the Buddha’s possible (worldly) reaction to the carnival that is Walking Street in Pattaya, but the theological reality is far more complicated than can be rendered in the crude paints and plaster board that Coles employs. Whether the image is intended to shock and dismay, we suppose, is another question completely. It is not very nice, for example, that he has scrawled his name directly onto the face of the Buddha, but anyone with a cursory understanding of Thai Buddhism would realize quite quickly that, like climbing on a Buddha statue, writing one’s name on a Buddha image is a serious no-no. Over time, however, the decision to exhibit this distasteful Buddha image is certainly reflective of the corrosive powers of alcohol, cheap sex, and pharmaceuticals over the faculty of sound judgement which one usually accredits to good artists in general.

"Buddha Visits Walking Street Pattaya 2554" by Chris Coles

That said, and moving on to another dismaying development in the Thai nightlife blogosphere, it appears that Werewolf has shifted his attention toward Thai politics, one of the most dangerous topics for a writer of Thai-related nonsense and especially dangerous on a URL once called “Bargirlsrpeople2”. The vast reading public with even a remote interest in Thailand knows that Thai politics is anything but mundane or boring. Werewolf stumbles head first into the topic, too, with a rather adolescent view that he would vote for Yingluck Shinawatra simply because she is a somewhat attractive Chinese Thai woman. His questionable taste in appearances aside, the path he has chosen is fraught with danger, especially for foreigners living in the kingdom.

Stickman, for example, has always to his credit avoided Thai politics like the plague, and this is a sure testament to his longevity as a Bangkok nightlife writer. In fact, as time goes on and as Stickman considers other options in his life at this juncture, Saphan Loy has to give him an enormous amount of credit for what he has done in writing over the years, as we have been reading his work for the better part of 10 years, and we still tune in every Sunday, almost religiously. He has also successfully weathered all sorts of personal hells and obstacles, and despite Saphan Loy’s occasional teasing as well, he has mostly shrugged off genial criticism as well as the more virulent online attacks from the mentally ill.  We believe that one of the cornerstones of his longterm viability has been his avoidance of certain taboo subjects, like religion and politics most notably. Does this mean that a writer has to ignore these subjects?  Not by any means. However, for the most part, readers of the red light blogs could not care less about these subjects. There is a thin sliver of that market that does care, however, and there are those more qualified writers both Thai and farang who question certain realities in Thailand: we know, because they are generally our own readers as well.

But for someone like Werewolf, a writer once known for his vivid descriptions of spicy “spinners” from the brothel districts of Krung Thep, he is creating a veritable mine-field of problems within his newly refigured and quite dismal blog. We will leave him, of course, to his own devices, but with a strong caution against writing about either Thai domestic politics or Thai royalty as he has done in his most recent post, especially in light of his vividly repellant description of a child shitting on a sidewalk in an earlier post. Context is everything in Thailand and our suggestion would be to find a way to rearrange this kind of writing so as to make an interpretation (like ours) less likely within his English-language readership. For when you write about an impoverished Thai toddler shitting on a dirty sidewalk, you are not only calling attention to something that Thai people would rather (and tend to) ignore. You are also rearranging it, “capturing the image”, and circulating it aroud the world. If in one paragraph, you describe a child shitting on the sidewalk, the next post should be about something else: certainly not Thai politics, and most certainly not Thai royalty. Better yet, we would suggest scrapping the whole mundane project in toto, and returning to your roots. Stick with what you know. In effect, we, that is, the reading public, can use a few more spinners in our lives.

UPDATE: Chris Coles has thankfully removed the offensive image and the egregious accompanying text from the Internet. It is nonetheless still available in cached form here. He has rewritten the blog posting and mercifully removed all references to the Lord Buddha, including the following line:

The visiting Buddha watches and wonders what happened, how his teachings came to this…….

The View from Above

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2 Responses to “Politics, Religion, and Bargirls in Thailand: Nightlife Blogs Lose the Plot (with Update)”

  1. In regard to the idea behind the painting: What would Buddha think and how would he react if he were to see the extreme anti-Buddhist behaviour on display on Walking Street in Pattaya?

    Are you saying that Buddha would not be offended by such a place and such behaviour being lalowed to exist in a supposedly Buddhist country such as Thailand? Or that pointing out that such a place exists in present-day Thailand is somehow ant-Buddhist or offensive to Buddhists?

    As for your faux outrage about the image and the artist’s name, get a grip, it’s a piece of paper with colors. The actual face, like many others used for all kinds of images of Buddhas and otherwise, is probably just some person living in Thailand, not the actual face of the actual Buddha.

    • Nancy,

      Although we are loath to engage in the exercise of imagining the unimaginable, and words like “react”, “offend”, and even “think” are anathema to expressions of Theravadan Buddhist faith, it is self-evident that Lord Buddha would likely see the carnival of desires and attendant “grasping” of illusion that is routinely found not only in places like Southeast Asia, but all around the modern world, as painfully clear evidence of suffering (first and foremost) which leads naturally to an unimaginable (in the human sense) flood of compassion.

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