On Saturday morning, hopping into the Honda Civic and driving out of the little soi of my slum neighbourhood, there was quite a traffic jam. Congested, standing still, on Witthayu Road up ahead there was a parade of trucks and motorbikes with their signature red shirts and flying the red banners.
One banner on the side of a truck declared that they were looking for a particular "murderer of the people".
Frustrated and being stalled from spending hard earned money on material things I do not need in the mega centre of capitalism that is the Siam area, like the good democratic consumer that I am, I rolled down the window.
Just before I shouted, "Dudes, you got the wrong neighbourhood. You want to go to Sukhumvit soi 31. It’s the other way," my better sense prevailed. I’ve been told enough times that I look like red-shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) co-leader Nattawut Saikuar, albeit slim and more dashing, with a finer sense of style. I was afraid that the red-shirt supporters would mistake the identity and take my words too literally.
Bless their hearts, but some of them are known to take words too literally.
So half an hour later, and still nowhere near Siam (I live t0 minutes away), I gave up on my plan for soulless consumerism and made a U-turn for home.
Sunday morning, logging on to Facebook, as any dutiful consumer of the cyber age would, I saw many status updates about joining the Pitak Siam rally (which features elements of the yellow shirts, the multi-colour shirts, Santi Asoke and new faces) at the Royal Turf Club.
I was tempted to suggest that there won’t be much impact, try staging a rally in a public area, like Suvarnabhumi airport instead. But then my better sense again prevailed.
Bless their hearts, but some of them are also known to take words too literally, especially those applauding a proponent of a military coup.
Now that I’ve effectively mocked the working class and the middle class alike, we are ready to get to the point.
We don’t have to agree on each other’s politics. You can yell "murderers". You can cry "terrorists". You can shout on about how much you love or hate so and so. But there is this deal millions of Bangkokians and other Thais have made with the government. Not just this government, but every government in this democracy, battered and bruised, flawed and full of holes though our democracy may be.
The deal is: We get up in the morning. We go to work, even if often late. We pay taxes. We vote. We abide by the law, well generally anyway because, seriously, an 80kph speed limit on the motorway, come on.
In return, we get to simply live our lives, as deep and meaningful as we want, or as shallow and superficial as we wish – usually it’s a bit of both. We would like to be able to do this free of abuse and intimidation.
That’s the deal we make in a democracy, the right to simply be free and enjoy life. That’s why we choose this system of government over the others – even if spending two minutes talking to the average voter would have us shudder in horror.
And if we find a cause worth fighting for, we will speak up, we will have a referendum, we will march and we will protest. What we will not do is trample on the rights of other people, because that would make us hypocrites.
According to news reports, both Pitak Siam and the UDD are now promising to match each other protest for protest, rally for rally and fanatic for fanatic.
This political conflict has long ceased to be about a cause, not that it was ever about any causes, least of all democracy, just about grabbing power.
It has become merely huffing and puffing, posturing and intimidating, a violent clash like the one on Tuesday, Sept 25, and the possibility of more.
The competition is which side has more fans, can click more "like" buttons, can write more derogatory posts, can yell louder, can flex bigger muscles, can intimidate better and can throw a meaner punch.
This is not gangnam style. This is gangster style.
Meanwhile, the traditional elite and the merchant elite are watching their respective pawns at work from their mansions, cognac in hand and cigar between the lips, chuckling about how hatred is such a wonderful tool to rouse the people.
Fine. Good. Hold concerts. Sing songs. Make speeches. Speak on your television. Scream into your radio. Write in your newspapers and blogs. Go to a Pantip forum and have at it. There are so many civilized ways to make your voices heard.
Better yet, rent the National Stadium and select the 10 angriest and most hateful from each side.
Have a steel-cage, smackdown, royal rumble match. I’ll do the fight commentating for free. That’s how generous and loving of mankind I am.
Perhaps Bongkot ‘’Tak’’ Khongmalai (that wonder of biological engineering) might agree to be the ring girl as one last charitable work before her wedding to the founder of Total Access Communication (Dtac).
We’ll have VIP boxes for the traditional elite and the merchant elite, gulping down cognac and rolling cigars between their chubby fingers adorned with gold rings, high-fiving and cheering on – knowing that no matter which side wins in the cage, they will be the true winners who run things anyway.
At the end of it, I will bellow at the VIP boxes, "Are you not entertained!" like Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator.
So do as you please democratically, dear protesters, but don’t infringe on my right to live my life, however meaningful, however superficial. Normally I would just call the police, who are supposed to protect my rights. But they aren’t always reliable. So it’s a good thing I get paid to complain, it’s therapeutic.
When you yell about putting thousands, or tens of thousands or even a million onto the streets, it’s a campaign of intimidation. When you occupy and take over and fight in the streets, you strip others of their rights.
The rights of the people who perhaps believe the only way to cure the ills of this country is not through anger and abuse, hatred and intimidation, nor righteous indignation – but through education, which of course doesn't have the same sexy ring to it, not like "murderers" or "terrorists" or "the institution".