Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Accident on the Bangkok Subway

It was bound to happen. In a culture where the ability to think clearly and independently is almost non-existent, the possibilities for a fuck-up in a complex, technology-based system are infinite. Upon reflection, it isn't surprising that the early weeks were error free while everyone was keyed up and determined to do a good job as the plaudits were flowing and the media cameras were clicking. Six months down the rail and already the monotony of routine has set in. Still, pointing to such a minor disaster as this as a true indicator of a collective cultural character while catastrophes in other nations are just one-offs, isn't completely fair. has been interesting to watch the post-collision narrative play out on this one. Immediately following the crash on Monday, the standard line that was thrown out and quickly repeated by many was "computer malfunction." This response was possible for 2 reasons. Of course there could have been some truth to it, or as part of what is a common trait of Thais, do whatever necessary to shift the blame for your own fuck-up. The logical result of this gutlessness is blaming the vast modern subway system of which those employees working within are probably scared shitless.

The screeching sounds heard a few hours later were the cogs in the skulls of the handful of semi-intelligent assholes at the top. It dawned on someone that if word got out that the computer system was faulty on a multi-billion dollar system that took 10 years to build, then there may develop a slight aversion amongst the public to travel on the new subway.

The story-line was quickly changed and advanced by PM Thaksin to "it was an incompetent driver." It seems incompetence may have been in the air as apparently passengers remained trapped in the train hammering to get out as staff scurried about for up to 20 minutes to find the keys...

Anything any government official says here is completely and utterly worthless and it can be assumed it is a lie. If the same cunts staffing the same government agency encountered the same fuck-up every day for 10 thousand years the assholes would never figure out that coming clean and trying to solve the problem is the best route to take. As well as providing the public with the truth that would instill a sense of confidence that those at the top may have a shred of competence, it would also instruct those citizens as to what course of action is best for them.

So, what the government says regarding this situation, as with everything, is meaningless. Of course, the supposed facts coming out could be true but it's better to look at any reported information as just an insane tale from the mouths of timid, colluding fools. If it were a contrived effort to stave off the inevitable truth that a more all encompassing incompetence once again ruled, the ham-fisted concoction still employs aspects that they would naturally expect to be part of any such mishap and thus included so as to appear plausible.

Namely the complete inability to think independently. This quote from an article from The Nation sums it up (again whether it is truth or fiction is irrelevant):

"The driver told the control room that he had released the B09 brake, and one official at the centre repeated what he had said without considering whether it was the correct thing to do," Prapat said.

"They worked like parrots – just repeating what others said without thinking about whether it was the correct procedure."

After a number of years here, I realize that the default reaction of most Thais when presented with a situation that is out of the ordinary, i.e. an impending fuck-up, is instead of taking precious seconds to think and respond, they will seek out input from someone else. In my experience, almost without exception, they trust anyone but themselves in any given situation. They are desperate to be told what to do so as to eliminate the need for thinking.

I know...I started this piece with the claim that it's good to avoid generalizations and we should look at the details of each situation. It's all speculation at the moment as my default reaction upon hearing about something like this is that a cover-up is taking place. The secondary batch of things being reported do seem to have a ring of truth. However, as I said, any fabrication would likely include such an angle, as abandoning of personal reactions and desperately seeking help from others or the mindless carrying out of insanely inappropriate orders guaranteed to cause mayhem are not uncommon here. It has likely occurred with many Thais in different situations and is therefore a familiar part of such tragedies.

"Where ignorance reigns, life is lost," is an apt truism that is proven time and again though thankfully nobody perished this time around. Unlike most traffic accidents involving a reckless bus driver who "fled the scene on foot," "was seen high-tailing it away from the accident," "sprinted into a nearby field," "was observed bug-eyed and yipping like a scared dog as he legged it down the street while injured and maimed passengers begged for help," at least this option was not available as the driver of the train in question was pinned inside.