Ajarn Street

Thailand: PC free haven or politically incorrect harbour?

Isn't Thailand's penchant for the inappropriate part of its appeal?

I entered the Tesco Lotus today. I wanted to freshen things up, minty-freshen things up that is. I was there for toothpaste, and by Zeus' eyes there are a lot of options.

Even in the humble local Lotus Express nearest my home in Chiang Rai. After years of using that brown herbal concoction so widely available, I wanted something wedding-dress white this time, if not for the good of my teeth, then for the benefit of my bristles. Choices, choices.

And there it was, winking shamelessly at me from its place beside a wall of ubiquitous Colgate, Darlie.

Now Darlie is an interesting brand. The more wizened among us will recall its former branding as the less politically-correct, ‘Darkie.' Back then the packaging was emblazoned with the logo of a midnight minstrel blessed with a shiny set of pristine gnashers.

And although the name has been changed (Darlie's Chinese name still manages to translate as ‘black person!'), and the man on the box is of indeterminable racial origin, there is still something a little off about the branding. Especially in these ethnic origin-gender identity-sexual orientation sensitive times.

Colgate, who has acquired the company that makes Darlie, recognises this themselves. It only sells the product in some Asian countries and has no plans to sell it elsewhere, a tacit acknowledgement of this ‘offness'.

But isn't that part of the beauty of Thailand? Its...ermmm...penchant for the ‘inappropriate.'

Who can forget the palaver over the high school students dressed in Nazi regalia? Or prevent an involuntary cringe at the parading of dwarves on weekend TV?

It's even infectious. Nana stalwarts will recall that the Irish owner of the now defunct Finnegan's Bar even employed a dwarf in leprechaun attire to beckon customers in. A kind of Nana-fied, living, breathing maneki-neko.

I have only been here ten and half years, so my knowledge of the Thai mind is superficial, at best. My cultural conditioning still causes me to take offence, albeit a well-hidden offence, when I am occasionally poked in the belly and told how fat I have become.

It does, however, help give me that little push needed to get my lazy, middle-aged arse back to gym, so it's not all bad. Vanity can be a great motivator. So is this disregard for the sensitivities of others a good thing? Healthy even?

Honesty can be as refreshing as a good oral hygiene routine, and at most it happens two or three times a day too. It has value in that it allows us to perceive others in an unfiltered way. We get to see the world as it is. To face the reality of the moment, undiluted and unadulterated, and this is necessary for us to improve upon that reality.

The problems can arise when the mirror is held up, when that honesty is reciprocated. The most blunt among us can often be the most sensitive. Reality is a two way street and we don't all drive on the same side of the road.

Much of what is often dismissed as over-sensitive, politically correct, namby-pampy pandering comes from a good place. Words are weapons. Look at the how language is used to dehumanise the enemy around the world: from Black Americans being dismissed as ‘apes,' justifying their enslavement, to the Hutu hate radio labeling the Tutsis as ‘cockroaches' before the Rwandan genocide.

Sure, these are extreme examples, and there is a spectrum of course. But the point is clear, language can be used to demean, to deprive, or to destroy, and the movement that forces us to give consideration to the power of our words has been instrumental in creating a more welcoming world for the marginalised.

So, while I endeavour not to ‘think too much' about all this, I don't want to be thought of as a buffalo either. So what are your thoughts, Ajarn aficionados? Thailand: PC Free Haven or Politically-Incorrect Harbour?

Shane Mac Donnchaidh

Author profile: When not engaged in torturing the blank page as a freelance writer, Shane Mac Donnchaidh also teaches at a Thai university. He has published a wide array of fiction and non-fiction. In his spare time, Shane enjoys BJJ, beer and books.


He can be contacted at macdonnchaidh (AT) gmail (DOT) com


OK guys, once again can we put a stop to all the online insults and mud-slinging?
I think I'll have to put this in big bold letters on the homepage.

By Philip (ajarn.com), Samut Prakarn (30th September 2015)

@ Mark Newman

As you will note from your own quotation, 'appropriate' has been place inside inverted commas. Let me help you out with a guide to its usage here from the oul interweb:

"They are placed around a word or phrase to indicate that it is not used in the fashion that the writer would personally use it."

Now that's out of the way, I won't bother to deal with your completely unwarranted assumptions, as I don't care about your opinion.

Just to make clear, as you're the second 'overly eager' (see what I did there, Mark), response here, the piece was meant to be about a discussion of whether or not there should be a place for measuring our language more carefully. It was not intended to be read as a searing critique of all things Thai, and I don't believe it comes across as such with an objective read.

I get the feeling that some people read to be offended, and interpret things in a way to fulfil that need. The irony is that being non-PC is like the new PC, for the good of your stress levels take a deep breath, you'll be alright.

By Shane, Chiang Rai (30th September 2015)

"Its...ermmm...penchant for the ‘inappropriate.'"

Inappropriate to whom? Certainly not Thais and certainly not me.
You have to be a very sensitive kind of lefty, knicker wetter to take any kind of offense at the brand names of toothpaste people can buy.

I find it inappropriate that pious Western writers like to point out that everything that Thailand does that doesn't align with their crackpot notions of 'self censorship' are labeled as 'inappropriate.'

It makes sense to me that a black face advertises toothpaste as their teeth show up really white and bright when framed by a black face.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (30th September 2015)

Well written Shane.

By barri, kentucky (28th September 2015)

Wow, out of all the places to find an insane rant from a Putinist shill, I did not expect to see something like this on a random English teacher's blog post about toothpaste. The toothpaste itself seems to have agitated the troll even more than the racism, just look at all those bizarre fantasies about international armies of teeth!

Yes, yes, dear, you shall prevail, and Thailand shall be torn by WWIII because it's pro-Russian and the Rockefeller Illuminaty are trying to turn them all into Russophobes so that they can be defeated by ISIS. But don't worry, Thailand shall win and stand strong by Russia's side (it has racist toothpaste, after all, it shares our core values). And then we shall all bleach our teeth with Motherland-Chinese waters (along with Batman) and bite ISIS to death.

I guess this is a perfect example of the difference between harmless off-colour jokes one might see in silly ads all over Thailand and neurotic fashist indoctrination that makes people believe that the CIA is trying to destroy them (but thankfully the paragons of racism all over the world are going to save their asses).

By JustPassing, Moscow, Russia (26th September 2015)

Agreed on both counts Urban Man, though my focus wasn't entirely on teaching.

I sometimes times think the name of the language is a misnomer, especially given the language's history and current position as a global language. I have certainly met people from countries not traditionally described as 'English-speaking' who have a better grasp of the language than many native speakers. I guess, like much in life, the lure of convenient categorization is too much to resist.

By Shane, Chiang Rai (26th September 2015)

How many of the fascist foreign immigrants in Thailand keeps their pants on and their teeth white?

Corto Maltese didn't know how to wipe his mouth properly after brushing his teeth when he traveled the world, he had the dirtiest mouth out of all of you combined.

You and your Western ideals are becoming a thing of the past. The longer you hold on trying to save what you believe in, the harder it will be to let go.

PC Bullshit has no place in this world, as Vladimir Putin stated at one of his meetings. So did various other anti-war mongering nations who like to keep their teeth clean.

What is politically incorrect, is the fact that Western powers have been smearing there ideals onto smaller nations for financial gain and economic investments.

What is politically correct, is the fact that the West is getting it's PC Bullshit ass kicked. I guess that the joker never had the time to prepare for a very real revolution. Batman never even saw what was coming, because he was too busy brushing his teeth.

Refugees were attempting to invade Europe and Russia so that they could use their water to brush their teeth, though they never expected that there were certain countries and leaders who were way ahead of their plans.

Every single Western policy has been revealed to new rising powers, this includes the ones that haven't been mentioned. It even includes the dangers and warnings of brushing your teeth with someone else's toothbrush and water.

Sit back and enjoy the ride you western idiots. This is not an Elton John prank. This is a revolution. Is it politically correct when you feel the need to brush your teeth in light of the distortion of history, conspiracy theories and the igniting of a Corto Maltese revolution? In this case, anything politically correct becomes irrelevant, just like the West.

Your ideals have become insolvent and there is truly no more space for it on this planet. Be sure to expect a different kind of global revolution in the near future.

For the likes of justice. Patriotism, selflessness and sacrifices will be made, so that future generations will be aware of what the 'Western" definitions behind Politically Correct actually means and why is there a need for it to be capitalized?

Is it because it is part of a global capitalism scheme? Or is it because it derived from fascist ideologies which were in fact motivated by the Rockefeller foundation after Rockefeller didn't brush it's teeth for almost a century?

This is what happens when the West thinks it can rule the world and the education industry. You expose yourself and the entire rainbow with it.

Go and gather all the politically correct writers, editors and journalists that you can gather. How about a mass masked-man march instead?

It's time we have ourselves a total Fallout. Batman won't be here to save the day, because he will be bleaching his teeth with Russian and Chinese water.

"The pen is truly mightier than the sword."
- The Joker, Batman 1989.


In such cases, the focus goes onto education as a whole on a global scale. According to the UN, political correctness has no more relevance.

It has become politically invalid to brush one's teeth after consumption of too much corruption. In the future, the new labels on all toothpastes might warn; "Illegal to apply if involved with PC Bullshit, please request the advice of your lawyer before attempting to brush your teeth"

The economic and financial support to ISIS of Western powers in Thailand, will cause ASEAN to collapse. Anything goes. This seems to be a politically correct statement.

Times have changed
And we've often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
If today
Any shock they should try to stem
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.
Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes.
If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If old hymns you like,
If bare limbs you like,
If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like,
Why, nobody will oppose.
When ev"ry night the set that"s smart is in-
Truding at nudist parties in
Anything goes.

When Missus Ned McLean (God bless her)
Can get Russian reds to "yes" her,
Then I suppose
Anything goes.
When Rockefeller still can hoard enough money to let Max Gordon
Produce his shows,
Anything goes.
The world has gone mad today
And good's bad today,
And black's white today,
And day's night today,
And that gent today
You gave a cent today
Once had several chateaux.
When folks who still can ride in jitneys
Find out Vanderbilts and Whitneys
Lack baby clothes,
Anything goes.

When Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction
Instruct Anna Sten in diction,
Then Anna shows
Anything goes.
When you hear that Lady Mendl standing up
Now turns a handspring landing up-
On her toes,
Anything goes.
Just think of those shocks you've got
And those knocks you've got
And those blues you've got
From that news you've got
And those pains you've got
(If any brains you've got)
From those little radios.
So Missus R., with all her trimmings,
Can broadcast a bed from Simmons
'Cause Franklin knows
Anything goes.

*Above mentioned should be made illegal in accordance with international laws.

Imagine if the Internet suddenly decides to ban the use of all trademarked names, including people as individuals, without their prior confirmation. Now that would be a global catastrophe. The authenticity of Thailand's education is already about to revolve into something beautiful. All thanks to Western powers. It gave us enough motivation to make a stand and support the education of South-East Asia.

I mean, who would ever expect Russia to begin lecturing Thailand on Internet security? It's odd isn't it. Russia's leader is also a military commander. There seems to be somewhat of a connection between, oh no, it can't be. Impossible? Nothing is impossible. Nothing is real, everything is permitted. Take a leap of faith and you can achieve anything.

Thailand is the most unpredictable country in the world. What happened to the education industry in Beijing in 2008? It was a gigantic disaster. China shut down it's entire country for almost 3 to 4 months, because there were terrorists lurking inside China and the Chinese finally listened to Russia and decided to brush it's teeth. A few weeks later Viktor Bout was arrested in Bangkok. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Life in the hot seat has it's perks, though when tragedy strikes no one is there to prevent it.

The TPP is politically incorrect. So are Western policy makers within the walls of South-East Asia, which is in close range of China and Russia. Thailand will end up in the middle of a fight soon.


By Corto Maltese, Moscow (25th September 2015)

Let's mention the elephants in the room, which are, 1) Teacher pay is largely determined based on skin color and the country of your passport, and, 2) Age discrimination is a given.

By UrbanMan, Incognito (24th September 2015)

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