Watching Western entertainment and mass media while living in the East, reassures me that we still live in a widely (and wildly) divergent world.
Hollywood movies and Western TV seem especially full of what I will call ‘absolute’ morality. Just last night there were two movies and a TV drama which all featured characters whose husbands or wives had cheated on them. One wife was in therapy, one husband killed his wife and her lover, and yet another husband (whose wife cheated on him with his best friend and colleague) divorced his wife, and never forgave his best friend for the affair.
Later that same night, a truly dreadful American teen-sex comedy, used as late-night filler by the network, featured a teenage boy whose greatest angst in life was that he loved his teen girlfriend and she wasn’t ‘ready for sex’. An endless and mindless eternity was spent exploring the guilt he was supposed to feel at putting his physical needs ahead of ‘valuing’ his girlfriend’s decision. The climax, if you’ll pardon the pun, was his long awaited, very public confession that she was ‘the most important thing’ and that he’d been bad, bad, bad, for even considering taking the ‘guilt-free pass’ she had offered him to sow his wild oats with another girl, (if he could find one of sufficiently low IQ.).
All this, when viewed from the perspective of living in the East, is unintentionally hilarious and makes me feel more than a little sad for Westerners. Asia, due to various cultural differences, (not the least of which being the simple abundance of people) has a far more fluid attitude to the sharing of pleasures. I know many Thais, both male and female, who are ‘butterfly’ and this is openly admitted to their friends and lovers. Karaoke bars are on every corner of my hometown where simple pleasures such as affection and inebriation can be attained, while singing along to the tunes of Isaan’s famous ‘Mor-Lam’ music. Last weekend a waitress in a local bar announced, within minutes of my pulling up a barstool, that she wanted me as her boyfriend. Judging by her face, her awe-inspiring figure and the confidence with which she claimed me, I would not have been her only ‘fan’…
Whence then, cometh this disparity between ‘death before dishonour’ in the Western mindset, and ‘up to you’ in the daily life of countries such as Thailand? And “does anybody really know what time it is, and do they really care?” The relationships are fluid and sometimes fleeting. Often a lover will come back to you months after a break up. Sometimes not. Girls with whom you’ve been intimate will get together and calmly discuss you, as they might a plate of food they’ve enjoyed. Never have I been viewed as breaking some unwritten rule (as I’ve felt in the West) in choosing my own lifestyle, partners, and making my own decisions.
It seems to me, that for all their scientific advancements, supercilious flag-waving pride and moral piety, the Western governments and media are missing out on what makes a truly happy life. Not access to pre-chewed food, manufactured ‘pop-sensations’ and blind faith in democracy (whatever that is), but the ability of the individual to make legitimate lifestyle choices, according to his or her own wants, needs and moral values.
One Western film I did enjoy recently was ‘Rocky Balboa’, the story of a man pursuing his chosen path, making his own decisions and taking the consequences. He creates close and honest relationships, sticks it to da man when necessary, and makes a valid point about the pursuit of happiness when he harangues the boxing big-wigs for standing in the way of his dream. If not harming others, who amongst us has the right to deny the individual’s pursuit of happiness?
Cue ‘Rocky’ theme. Fade to black.