Let Them Eat Twinkies

The working class and peasants of Thailand were protesting a system that had repeatedly disenfranchised them, most notably in the ouster of populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Streaming in from the provinces, these men, women and children set up camp in the heart of commercial Bangkok. Disrupting business as usual, they had specific demands. After two months, they were finally routed by troops and armored cars, but not before they could torch Central World, one of the biggest shopping malls on earth, and the Thai Stock Exchange. Through all this popular discontent then bloody crackdown, there was not a peep from Washington, but there’s no surprise, really. Whatever its rhetoric, the U.S. has always backed business interests over human or worker’s rights. Our labor history is proof enough of this.

When Washington does get into a tizzy over a protest overseas, one can assume that it has a hidden agenda, as in regime change, for example. One may also surmise shenanigans from our C.I.A. After the Iranian election of 2009, Washington was frothy with indignation, yet after the Mexican vote in 2006, it looked the other way, though that was right next door. Millions of Mexicans supported Lopez Obrador, including 100,000 who filled Zocalo Square for his unofficial swearing in. Our media, predictably, paid almost no attention. Lopez who? All you need to know about this dude is that he was anti-NAFTA, which meant that Obrador was against big business, apple pie, baseball and probably your grandma. A Commie scumbag, in short.

Washington doesn’t dig small time Commies. It hangs with real Reds. That’s why China is our biggest trading partner. Big business prefers a hard line regime, whether left or right, because it foregoes unions, ensuring cheap labor. Without worries about safety and environmental standards, profits will swell. A non-democratic government also can’t be voted out, which translates into “stability” in empire linguistics.

What’s so bad about NAFTA anyway? Isn’t that “free trade”? It meant we got to dump our subsidized corn onto the Mexican market, bankrupting their farmers, forcing many to sweat inside American owned maquilladoras along the border, until these shut down, leading a bunch to cross into the U.S., where they became the main workforce of our housing bubble. This influx hurt working Americans, of course, including a schmuck like me who house painted for nine years, but it was great for business, and that’s all that mattered from the perspective of Washington and Wall Street.

And why do we subsidize corn? Because it benefits Coke, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc. Our livestock are stuffed with almost nothing but corn and corn syrup has become ubiquitous in this land of 30% obesity, highest in the known and probably unknown universe. Maize welfare also fattens Monsanto, maker of Agent Orange, PCBs and rBGH growth hormones, among other toxic goodies.

Current news item: Haitian farmers are threatening to burn 60,000 seed sacks donated by Monsanto. Haiti, one must remember, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, where the most destitute sometimes resort to consuming mud pies. In 2008, Mexico returned a shipment of U.S. beef after too much copper was discovered in the meat, but this copper fortified beef was promptly sold to American shoppers. Isn’t Mexico an increasingly lawless land where drug gangs run rampant? They still have enough sense, however, to respect what goes into their bodies, just like the Haitians, who would rather eat mud than Monsanto, apparently. Who could blame them?

It’s no secret that food in very poor societies is often exceptional, at least to Americans, since we’re so far removed from what’s natural or even sane. We even feed our cattle chicken poop, for Gaia’s sake. The next time you’re in a Third World country, boil an egg just to marvel at that bright orange yolk. Their secret? They don’t resort to factory farming.

Sometimes I wonder if the relative complacency of our working class comes from the fact that most of us have ready access to cheap grub? I mean, just two hours of minimum wage grunting will earn me a tub of Frankenstein chicken, some green stuff and a gallon of fizz. After a dessert Twinkie or two, or maybe ten, I just don’t feel like penning a protest poem or joining the local militia.

Unlike the Thai resistance, recent American protests are more about goofy display than power struggle. Our marches are parades that accomplish nothing. Tired of that, we heckle. In the last Thai election for their House of Representatives, seven different parties won seats. This is not at all unusual for any country other than America. With two parties that serve the same military industrial complex, our elections are more about style than substance, but of course you know that already. As Jesse Ventura observed, our political establishment is no different than professional wrestling.

Failing to connect the dots, many working class Americans are venting their anger at illegal immigrants, when both groups are victims of the same power elites. Our borders have not been porous because of charity or ineptitude, but by design. All bosses, whether CEO or pimp, want the cheapest labor, wouldn’t you? If they can’t get it from down the street, they’ll go to the end of the world, or let the world come in. This ruthless logic of capital has gone global thanks to the availability of cheap oil, but this pipeline is finally wheezing out, and in a horrific mess, too, as is clear. Minimize cost, maximize profit, squeeze, deceive, wreck entire societies at will or through negligence, and should things get too dicey, the cabana boys and girls inside the Beltway will bail you out. Cabinet is in session!

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He's tracking our deteriorating social scape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America. Read other articles by Linh.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. brianct said on May 22nd, 2010 at 6:26pm #

    that theres been no comment from washington and that the MSM misreports if it reportesd the issue at all is no surprise…Thailand is a military dictatorship in the service of capitalism.
    had this happened in Iran or Venezuela…yud have no end of freporting and political invective from both parties

  2. Rehmat said on May 22nd, 2010 at 6:44pm #

    The Red-shirts support billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who was convicted of corruption, murder and dictorial rule while living in exile in Dubai. The Yellow-shirts are the supporters of the current prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the military coup in 2006 which dumped Thaksin. The military coup of September 19, 2006 – brought General Sondhi (a Muslim General incharge of military operation in Southern Thailand) who was about to be replaced by Thaksin’s cousin Chaiyasit Shinawatra as Army commander.


  3. linhdinh99 said on May 22nd, 2010 at 7:27pm #

    The Bangkok Post, hardly a radical newspaper, comments on the the Reds:

    For the reds, nothing has changed. They rioted then and now in April 2009 and May 2010. Their grievances remain unaddressed. What they see as injustice, including their systematic disenfranchisement through the judicial dissolutions of their poll-winning parties not once but twice, the banning of their politicians, and the street-based ouster of their elected governments in 2008, persists. Will these claims of injustice be accommodated by the pro-Abhisit coalition? If not, will the reds come to Bangkok in rage again? Or will they resort to underground activities, including an overtly armed insurgency, and establish their own Thailand away from Bangkok in enclaves of the North and Northeast?

    Andrew Lam, an American writer, also explains:


    For too long the city of Bangkok has floated in a kind of First World wealth – replete with sky trains, high rises, luxury condos and marbled mega malls – while its rural populace stayed stilted in the mud of Third World poverty. If anything, the greatest fiction the Land of a Thousand Smiles has managed to tell itself and the rest of the world is that it is a bona fide democracy. But what’s behind that infamous smile is an ancient feudal system that’s been built on the roan backs of peasants for a millennium.

    More important, that system relied on the lower class’s continual servitude and, in some way, their acceptance of a deeply embedded caste system in which reverence for the king, who is accorded god-like status, translated to the reverence for all folks in higher social strata. The caste and status consciousness, as construed by a simplified if misunderstood religious idea in which past karmic debts sent one to a permanent level of society, is so deeply ingrained that it is reflected in the Thai language itself.

    However, that old superior-inferior fiction is eroding and eroding fast. In the last decade or so, what was once remote and rural has been integrated with the rest of the world, thanks in large part to the distribution of electricity to even the most remote areas – provided from sparsely populated Laos next door with its mega hydroelectric dams – which brought TV, radio and Internet and the cheap and ubiquitous cell phones, information being the true form of democracy. Those who once lived in isolated thatched huts are thus highly aware of the wide urban-rural gap, and they possess a deep and growing sense of injustice, which in turn undermined the status quo.

    More important, it’s a populace that has become increasingly politicized, thanks chiefly to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A populist and a multibillionaire, Thaksin introduced effective policies that alleviated rural poverty by half in four years, and, equally enticing, implemented universal health care.

    Born in the northern province of Chiang Mai, he also did something else that was unprecedented: He gave the long-suffering rural population visions for upward mobility and shared governance that broke the karmic yoke.

    That didn’t sit well with the Bangkok power elite. Not only does it threaten to rewrite the old social order, it threatens to undermine Thailand’s very narrative of itself, its framework, and they reacted. Despite the fact that Thaksin won his second election in a landslide in 2005 with the largest voter turnout in Thailand’s history, they ousted him while he was traveling overseas with a military coup in 2006 and froze his assets. He was found guilty of corruption in absentia.

    In December 2007, a pro-Thaksin prime minister was popularly elected to office in the general election. His victory was met by massive protests, this time by protesters wearing yellow shirts who disagreed with the election, claiming fraud. Members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the “yellow shirts” chose the color to honor Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

    Representing a more urban population – in many ways the educated and white-collar class – they blocked the airport for days and stranded nearly 250,000 tourists. The constitutional court, under pressure to get the country moving again, agreed with the yellow shirts and disqualified the pro-Thaksin prime minister.

    Ever since then the Thai government has been busy clamping down on the media, harassing independent journalists, and shutting down Internet websites. But it’s all too late. Thaksin – perceived by some as the devil himself and by others as a national hero – is indeed a divisive character but he cracked open Pandora’s box, and the anger and rage that sparked and flew could no longer be contained.

  4. brianct said on May 22nd, 2010 at 7:28pm #

    ‘The next time you’re in a Third World country, boil an egg just to marvel at that bright orange yolk. Their secret? They don’t resort to factory farming.’

    not quite true..the Bird flu ‘epidemic’ was used by its creators, factory farms to push thru ‘reforms’ to oust local backyard chicken farmers.