Pride is a common thread that runs through Thai culture. I’ve seen the pride of ethnicity, culture, food, and nature in a handful of interactions this past week. In the Hmong village, the village leader spoke of his community with great love and conviction. He praised their ability to peacefully coexist within a religiously diverse space, their sustainable agricultural practices that pave the way for other hill tribes, and the impenetrable bond that allows the youth to study in the city but then feel moved to return. Shamefully, I must admit that when I was walking around the village I felt impressed but also very sure I wouldn’t want to reside there. HOWEVER, I also came to the realization that the people in this community CHOOSE to live here.
This situation reminds me of a book I read last semester called “The Art of Being Ungoverned”. The book discusses the hill tribes residing in the mountains of Southeast Asia and challenges the narrative that they are the “forgotten” ones who were skipped by modernity and civilization. Instead, the author recounts the agricultural practices, choice of crops, and reliance on spoken languages to actively resist the state and it’s imposed practices. Basically, the communities living on the periphery actively chose to resist “civilization” because the conditions under state law (poverty, indentured servitude, disease, pollution) hindered their freedom and decreased their quality of life. They have the option to live in the cities and in “modernity” but choose not to. THIS is why the immense pride voiced by the Hmong village leader cries not for our pity of their perhaps antiquated technologies and way of life but of praise to their ability to lively freely.
(This may have been a tangent)