As people woke up to the news coming out from Boston, my Facebook became inundated with messages of support, of worry, and of grief. Where last night’s timeline had been filled with banal trivialities and pictures of food, laughter and fun, this morning’s postings reflected a group of friends that seemingly had close ties to the city.
The funny thing here is that many, if not most, of my friends live in Bangkok. The city of Boston is literally on the other side of the globe yet many that contributed to the inundation of my wall acted as if it were their home town that was attacked by yet-to-be-named terrorists. On the surface of things, it is a very noble and egalitarian notion. That one would empathize so heavily with a city whose populace is so removed speaks of a human quality that should be cherished above all else. After all one of the few times that communities become close knit and more human is in the midst of a tragedy, which on reflection is quite regrettable.
But if one were to peer through the fog of panic and grief the realization that many of the Thai upper middle class, which I am loathed to describe myself apart of, identify more with a city thousands of miles away than their home country becomes apparent. For many my friends and many others like them, Boston is a city that is familiar to them in their youth. Many have spent time in her intellectual bosom as New England is dotted with the most prestigious schools in the United States. Many more identify with western culture instead of their own, adopting, practicing, even basking in the lack of filial obligations that comes with being a 21st century Thai.
The disconnect to the homeland is not always a bad thing. Many nations have developed under the stewardship of those educated overseas. The ‘ruling class’ here, if there is such a thing, is dotted with degrees from BU, Yale, Harvard, Northeastern, Amherst etc. and with it comes the importation of new ideas. But a disconnect from the homeland is also worrying for two reasons.
The first and most obvious one is that Thailand has played host to an insurgency since the middle of the last decade. Every week another death or two occurs, another bomb or three goes off and we rarely hear about it. Yet when it comes to an event millions of miles away suddenly everyone is aware and everyone is up in arms. It is frustrating that a group that views itself as the self appointed leaders of a country take so little notice of their stead. These are our politicians, our business leaders, the upper echelon of various NGOs and agencies but they would pay more lip service to an act of terrorism in another country then those that happen regularly at their doorstep.
The second reason this is worrying is that people on my timeline seem generally disturbed by the horrific images of the casualties in Boston. People bloodied by bomb blasts and distraught husband and wives make their way around my timeline with captions that empathizes with the horrors. These images of the aftermath in Boston that are being passed around, the same ones that have received numerous shares are absolutely horrific and we should be reminded what it is good and free men around the world must fight against all the time. But perhaps the more horrific thing is that the same images from home that are refreshed on an almost weekly basis no longer receive any comments or shares.