Cold Economic Realities … for Some

Taking a break from the fields

With the recent economic climate I’ve read countless articles and blog posts lamenting the fate of Thailand’s poor rural class and how they need a helping hand up into the 21st century. Lacking  technology and marketable skills that would bring them closer into the closed rings of Thai society.

I usually don’t make it too far into one of these pieces before I have a good chuckle and move on. When economies crash you don’t read about the poor jumping from windows or being thrown in jail for defrauding the public through massive Ponzi schemes. You hear that their once tough lives will be getting a little tougher and they continue to move ahead the best they can, as they always do.

Fields in Nakom Phanome If the economy were to totally crash tomorrow 95%, or more, of you reading this would not only be devastated but you would also be without shelter and going hungry within 6 months. The truth hurts but lets be honest here, Marketing, banking, human resources and or manufacturing skills aren’t life skills they are just a means to an end. When that end is a disaster in the making  those skills become worthless.

Rural Thai’s grow their own food, build their own houses, work their own land, make their own furniture, baskets and toys. At first glance a westerner may see a poor farming village in Issan and feel bad about the poverty when in fact the Thai’s are looking back knowing full well that without the money the majority of western falang are one calamity from extinction.

Has it become harder for the poorer rural Thai, certainly.  They have to work harder for the same amount of baht they earned before but you won’t hear them complain about it. They don’t have the luxury of time to complain about it,  they have work to do.

Making baskets on the farmAnother huge factor for the poorer rural Thai is community. It means everything to them and they do what they can for each other even when they don’t have enough for themselves. A long time ago the western world was like this but it has since changed into a “each man for himself” mentality and he who has the most gadgets, biggest house and or fastest car wins. Take all those things away and how long will that man last when he can’t build his own shelter, grow his own food or figure out what he needs to do to survive. Technology is great but it has dumbed down the masses.

It doesn’t matter what is happening in Thai politics or the outside world because feeding the family and taking care of your own is what life is about in rural Thailand. Would the rural Thai like more out of life, of course they would. They would also like to be recognized for what they bring to the country, a true stabilizing force.

If the global economy disappears tomorrow you can bet that the rural Thai will still be working their fields and taking care of business without too much worry…what will you be doing?

Me? I’m going Thai, and it’s a good thing because I have some weight to lose…

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Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar
2009-09-07 19:42:20

You make excellent points Talen. I’ve never really thought about it that way.

I’m now reading ‘Letters from Thailand’, where it describes the difference between Thailand and China’s poor (it also has the klong descriptions I was hoping for).

Apparently, when it comes to what they survive off of, the Thai poor are lucky as Thailand is a rich country. The poor in other countries, like China, are not as privileged.

I have been poor so I know I could survive if I’ve had to. I just don’t think I could do it with their good humoured grace. Not without my Laphroaig.
Catherine´s last blog ..Bangkok Photo School: November Courses My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 02:36:28

I have been kind of poor myself at certain times in my life and I would like to think I could survive but I don’t think it would be as well as those Thai’s with their knowledge of working the land.

How is ” Letters from Thailand”? and please tell me more about the klong descriptions Cat.

Comment by MalcolmNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 00:13:17

Talen, without a doube, this is one of the best post I have read in a long time , you make so many right on statements and say things that a lot of people would like to say , but are afraid to even think about, must less write them down on a post . as for me and mine (Ciejay) I realize when I retired in 2003 that we, would not be able to live on my meger SS check ,in America ( I never saved a penny my whole life)and all the mistakes I made during and after my first marriage relieved me of what little I did have. It’s almost like a miracle that I meet and married Ciejay ,and came to Thailand for a visit and , my eyes and heart were open to this country where family , community, food ,shelter, were the most important , and not all that business of keeping up with the Jones and more, more and yes , MORE. I too like you will go with Thai. Malcolm
Malcolm´s last blog .."I’M THE BOSS HERE" My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 02:39:32

Malcolm, I think you and I have a lot in common my friend.

Today I watched CNBC all day as it is a holiday and they had very compelling programming on all day about the economic downfall and those that caused it. Quite a few of those people have committed suicide…those that didn’t aren’t faring well without the money.

It really starts to make you understand that technology, while great, has a very real and dark side that could ultimately be our downfall. We need to learn to lead more simple lives.

Comment by MikeNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 02:16:14

What an interesting post. Quite thought provoking. I guess the same could be said about many Asian countries or at least their rural farming communities.

I know damn well that if someone pulled the plug I would struggle to survive. Not that I have always been comfortable in the wealth stakes but I have never had to play the role of hunter gatherer.
Mike´s last blog ..Thailand Land of Smiles-LOS My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 02:41:39

I think you are spot on Mike about this being true of most Asian countries. But I wonder as time goes on what technological progress will do to those countries and if they will become more like the west.

I see Thailand like it is America in the early 19th century. So much to look forward too and yet people were still sensible…unlike today.

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 11:35:33

Talen an excellent post. Thai village communities really are a complete world in their own. If you completely cut off the outside world then they would like you say survive and survive without any real pain. Water from the skies, fish from the river, rice worked from the fields and vegetable and salad grown from the land, served in baskets woven by elderly village hands. Survival.

If you were down to your last 100 baht then the streets of Pattaya or Bangkok would be a hell of a lot more lonely place to be than the red dust soi’s of a Thai country village. Maybe you would have to let the Chang wagon in once and a while but I bet there wouldn’t be much else that needed to get through.
Martyn´s last blog ..Amazing Thailand – The Bin Man My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-09-08 18:28:25

Martyn, I agree that Pattaya or Bangkok is a bad place to be poor even for Thai’s. The crime rate in Pattaya is up with more theft going on which is a direct sign of the bad times.

Comment by craig ZabranskyNo Gravatar
2009-09-14 16:28:11

Interesting and true. This past summer I spent hours on the beach in Bali watching seaweed farmers work. Not even 2-3 Bintang (the local pilsner) allowed me to understand the farming methods, but something not was not lost on me. They were not as worried as the hotel managers and employers that relied on the tourists.

Bali reminded me a lot of Thailand. Spirituality in a land of smiles. In fact, I can recall a specific conversation I had with a taxi driver. He told me, not to worry “it’s all right, it’s ok”

Glad I found this post and blog. I look forward to learning more aobut Thailand….

stay adventurous,
craig Zabransky´s last blog ..StayAdventurous: Clijsters, great moment for Moms everywhere, congrats on the W. And the young Dane did well too. Great match. #USOpen. My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-11-18 08:05:29

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Bali. I’m glad you found the blog as well…now I’m off to check out yours.

Comment by ChuckWowNo Gravatar
2009-11-18 05:26:55


Obviously, I have to agree with you, but, this post begs the question – what do you do for a living ?

I work in a highly technical field that pays fairly well and allows me to travel quite extensively. Based on this blog I can only assume you are in the same boat.

Have you had an epiphany ? Are you going to turn your back on the society that enabled you to find your true calling ?

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-11-18 08:03:57

I am…or should I say I was in the same boat until the economic downturn saw me downsized. But even before that happened I was already turning my back on the society that allowed me to discover Thailand.

Over the past few years I have been making sure that I can be self sustainable in my own right so when I do turn my back completely it will be covered.

Comment by ChuckWowNo Gravatar
2009-11-19 04:12:05

I apologize for sounding too critical.

It’s just that I feel privileged to be able to do what I do – fly around the world and find a place and a lifestyle that I prefer to what I have at home. Something the rural Thai people can only dream of doing.

The society that created me, with all its faults, is the one that has enabled me to do all of this. Even when I become a full time ex-pat I will never turn my back on it.

BTW – Bernie Madoff is just a piker when compared to the world’s largest Ponzi scheme – the stock exchange. Just my two cents.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-11-19 04:49:36

Chuck, I’m with you…Yes the American society created me and empowered me to be able to travel and find Thailand. I would never turn my back on that either…but.

The great thing about growing up in this society is that I can take what I’ve learned and use that from anywhere in the world. The world has changed and as much as I hate the terminology we have become a global community.

I know I can use the skills I have learned anywhere in the world so why limit myself to one country. Obviously I would be limited from working in certain skill sets in Thailand but I can still use Thailand as a home base.

The internet, while still in it’s infancy, is starting to become more viable in the scheme of things as well. Leveraging the internet can be not only profitable but also very satisfying in terms of work and it can be done anywhere you can find a connection.

I agree completely that the stock exchange is a huge ponzi scheme but still not as huge as the Federal Reserve that empowers it.

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