Over his long successful run, Stickman has written some awesome columns-chocked full of new information impossible to get anywhere else and about subjects where only long time connected Expats know the real skinny.
Last weeks wasn’t one of them.
With the announced sale and/or closure of Stickmanbangkok.com, quality is expected to inevitably suffer as the site winds down and the incentive to maintain the brand name diminishes, but this week’s column was a disgrace to all the great Stickman columns of yore and serves as an exemplar of what’s wrong with Stickman, his attitude toward Thailand, life in Thailand, and enjoying and being happy in Thailand.
Facts and philosophy are what’s wrong with this week’s Stickman.
Factually, his characterization of the Thai traffic enforcement system and, the gross over exaggeration of the danger of dealing with Thai policeman when you’re not guilty of anything are waaaay wrong.
Philosophically, the engendered attitude toward living in a foreign culture and country are waaaaay wrong too.
So let’s get right into what Stickman gets wrong and what is wrong about his approach to Thai life.
This quote is an executive summary of Stickman’s facts and views.
It’s a damning indictment on the country as a whole that perhaps the major reason for selling the car was the marked increase in aggressive hassles from men in brown uniforms that drivers face today. When you dread being targeted by police and constantly face accusations for things you never did, it puts you off even using the car.
First factual error, the Western system of traffic enforcement is better than the Thai system.
The Thai traffic enforcement system is rational, consistent, effective, and humane—once you wrap your head around it and ditch your preconceived notion that everything in The World is better than everything in Thailand.
For a person like Stickman who has lived in Thailand for years, speaks Thai fluently, reads Thai, is married to a Thai lady, and who for years spent his workday in close contact with Thais its a bit surprising he is unable to step back and see the forest instead of just individual trees.
Frankly, the Thai system of traffic enforcement is superior to the U.S. system.
In the U.S., hordes of highly paid policeman use expensive high tech equipment and spend their lives mostly enforcing and ticketing infractions that have little relationship to safety and exist mostly as a way for the police department to pay its salaries and put money into local government coffers. In Los Angeles, a common sight is a LAPD traffic officer whose salary and benefits costs taxpayers in excess of $100,000 a year with a brand new BMW motorcycle equipped with a shotgun, handgun, taser, handcuffs, multiple magazines, state of the art radio and laptop computer with a $5,000 laser gun sitting on a side street where there hasn’t been an accident or fatality in years handing out traffic tickets to every car exceeding a speed limit set so low 80% of the cars violate it everyday—– and where effective countermeasures like active laser jamming have been made illegal.
Seat belt laws, cell phone laws, low speed limits, laws about having a dog in your pickup bed, baby seat laws, window tinting regulations, etc. generate millions for local governments and provide policeman ready excuses to engage in what would be otherwise unconstitutional searches of people cars and otherwise unconstitutional interrogations of people going about their lawful business.
In the U.S., any ticket is going to cost you over $100 and, more likely, close to $300. Add on the 10% increase in your insurance for 3 years from the points on your license and, even a minor infraction, will end up costing you almost $1000 — that’s dollars not baht. Multiple tickets will cost you $1,000s in fines, higher insurance, and inconvenience.
In Thailand, breaking the law and getting caught costs 100 THB ($3) in the Issan countryside, 200 THB ($7) in Bangkok, and 400-800 THB in Silom and, maybe on Sukhumvit between Soi 4 and Thonglo. Getting ticketed adds no points, no increase in your insurance, no record kept, and no danger of losing your license. If you keep your wits about you and your temper under control, a traffic stop is equivalent to a stop and go penalty at the local racetrack.
Infrequently, you’ll have to pay for something you haven’t done. On a motorcycle in Bangkok, it’s not keeping to the left side of the road. On the freeways in and around Bangkok, it’s alleged speeding. In the Issan countryside, you’ll never have to pay when your innocent. In all cases, the fine is inconsequential—less than $10.
Hey, you infrequently have to pay large fines for things you haven’t done in the U.S. and you encounter corruption in the U.S. too.
When you are innocent, you can argue if you are polite about it but, once in awhile, even when you’re innocent you’ve got to pay.
Compare the Thai system and the U.S. system and you make the judgment which is more driver friendly and civilized.
My vote goes for the Thai way.
Whatever way you go, running away from Thailand because twice a month you have to pay $20 in traffic fines seems a bit cowardly.
Second, the Stickman claim that Thai police target farang——not just target farang but, actually. go hunting for them.
Last summer I drove 20,000 kilometers all over Northeast and Northwest Thailand. Most of the time, I was flagrantly violating Thai traffic laws by doing twice the posted speed limit, running red lights, making illegal U-turns, parking where I shouldn’t and even driving the wrong way down one way streets.
I drove through numerous police road blocks including the ones on the most heavily traveled highways in and out of Bangkok to Korat, Pattaya, and Ching Mai and didn’t pay a single fine.
I was stopped only two of three times and when I was stopped, the policeman asked for my license and when a valid Thai license was produced I was waved through.
During these 3 months, I paid zero money to policeman outside of Bangkok.
My experience is far, far, far from what Stickman describes and reading his column I wonder if we are talking about the same country.
I don’t know where Stickman drives or how he drives, but his contention that a white face is an automatic infraction doesn’t match reality.
On the motorcycle in Bangkok last summer, I was stopped 2 or 3 times in 3 months of daily driving. Each time the drill was pretty much the same, the policeman asked for my license.. When this was produced, he asked for my tax stamp. When this was produced he asked to see a copy of my registration. When this was produced he waved me through. Notice that I respect Thai laws by obeying all the paperwork requirements just like I do in the U.S.
Once in awhile, it is clear that the police just want some money. On the motorcycle, the policeman will claim that you didn’t keep to the left. Since “left” is not defined this is an indefensible charge. On these occasions, I give the policeman 100 or 200 THB and he’s happy.
Frankly, giving the policeman $3 is hardly a momentous event in my day. My daily cuppa at Starbucks costs about the same.
Getting your panties in a bunch and running back to New Zealand because you have to pay a $3 fine once a month hardly seems rational and anything, even if it is morally wrong, anything where the consequence is a $3 fine can’t really be that wrong.
Every time I have been pulled over in a Bangkok police motorcycle roadblock, the police were pulling over everyone and everyone was paying. It was equal opportunity corruption.
Reservation girls target farang. Thai traffic policemen don’t.
Third, the claim that Thai police will take you to jail for no reason, charge you with a serious crime you haven’t committed, and make you pay an enormous fine for your freedom.
I’ve been waved over a couple of times in the wee hours of the morning with a scantily clad girl on the back of my motorcycle. Both times, the police made the girl empty her purse and felt up her breasts and vagina (through her clothing) looking for drugs and simply asked for my license. Each time when nothing was found we were on our way within 5 minutes.
I’ve also been through numerous drunk driver roadblocks. Again, the policeman took a look, smelled my breath, decided I was obviously not drunk and waved me through.
Never have I had any problems with false accusations or anything more serious than a small fine.
I put it to you that you are in more danger in the U.S.
Innocent people constantly get shot and killed in the U.S. during routine traffic stops because they didn’t want to kiss the policeman’s ass or didn’t show the proper “respect”.
U.S. police are corrupt too.
In fact, traffic police corruption has cost me waaaaaaay more in the U.S. than in Thailand.
My theory is that the farang accounts you read on the internet, including Stickman’s, stem from Western drivers who get pulled over or go through a roadblock, don’t understand what is happening, get on their high horse and start yelling, screaming, and protesting and start a pissing contest with the policeman.
Most of the time, they are guilty of something like drunk driving or speeding and try to bluster and bluff their way through by putting up an aggressive confrontational front and hope that the policeman will back down.
The other times, they are not guilty of anything but are drunk or high, don’t keep their cool, and end up putting themselves in a pickle.
These guys are idiots because the proper way to handle the situation where you are guilty is just pay the fine. It simple, straightforward, takes care of the problem, its cheap and, frankly, it’s justice being served. You broke the law so own up to your words and action and pay the penalty.
Don’t make the policeman beat around the bush, just offer him a reasonable amount.
Even if you are guilty of something like drunk driving which, in The World, would end up costing you $1,000’s of dollars of legal fees and fines, result in a permanent criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life, prevent you from being hired by most large corporations in the U.S., and make you waste the next 10 weekends in an orange jumpsuit picking up trash by the side of the highway, the worst that will happen to you in Thailand is you will give up a little money.
If you keep your wits about you and offer to pay the fine on the spot, you won’t even get arrested and spend a night in jail.
If you get pulled over for something serious and you are guilty, offer to pay right there. If you don’t have much money on you, ask to go to an ATM to get some.
Most of the time, the money you pay will be less than what you will have to pay later and, after all, you are guilty and the lower on the organizational chart you settle the less you pay.
Try to pay the officer directly. If that doesn’t work try to pay the officer in charge on the scene. If you are taken back to the police station pay the supervisor there.
A couple of hundred dollars and just going home with the incident behind you is waaaaay less than the what you pay and the consequences of being caught doing the exact same thing in The World.
Which brings us to Stickman’s philosophy on living in a foreign country.
The proper attitude toward being in Thailand is to think of it as a game.
First, be thankful there actually exists this wonderful place full of things waaaay different than anything you’ve experienced before, that will yield up wonderful unforgettable experiences, never dreamed of adventures, and is covered in a swarm of beautiful, both physically and spiritually, women predisposed toward loving you.
Second, be thankful that you actually have the time, the money, and the good fortune to be able to spend a portion or your life there. Most guys are stuck in dead end jobs, doing uninteresting work they have no interest in, getting paid shit and pissing way their lives grinding out a subsistence life and life style. Be thankful you’re not them.
Third, realize that all the wonderful things are not going to fall from heaven and land in your lap while you are sitting by the pool getting a tan. You have to go out and find them and, also, you have to figure out how to get them. Sort of like the Sword and the Stone. The Sword is sitting there embedded in the stone and you can only have it if you figure out the puzzle.
So the proper philosophy for living in Thailand is, in the immortal words of Wayne from Wayne’s World —– Game On!
Win, lose,or draw, be thankful you have a seat at table, chips in front of you, and get dealt in.
Who could ask for anything more or not be happy with the situation?
The answer is Stickman and all the other Cheap Charlie, bitch and moaners, and the Haters who seem to have nothing better to do than fill the comment sections of the blogs with their jealousy, hatred, and, general dissatisfaction, with the lives they have chosen.
If all you do is sit around getting jealous at what the other guy has and bitching and moaning about what you don’t have, you’ll end up like Stickman —— giving up in defeat.
Think about these two philosophies and make your own decision about which is best.
This comment by an Anonymous Expat sums it up:
I’m not interested in getting into an exhaustive, point by point battle over this issue, but it has always fascinated me that mild-mannered Kenny is so disliked by the Thailand ex-pat community, even on the days when he posted on the Mango site and didn’t have his own site, he was always disliked on a gut level, and I think that says something about the Thai ex-pat community, that pretty much everyone, including you, dislike him.
I would almost use Kenny as a litmus test for what sort of ex-pat you are dealing with – if you like Kenny, you are one kind of guy with probably one set of attitudes towards Thai people and Thailand, if you hate him, you are another. It’s almost like the way you can tell a huge amount about a person and his attitude towards success and achievement by wether he is anti-American or not.
I’ll tell you partially why I seem to be more emotionally involved in this than would appear normal for someone who had no involvement in the affair. I came to Thailand a bright eyed young man and had tons of good experiences. I begin reading the blogs on Thailand and became poisoned by their bitter mentality and became bitter myself – it didn’t matter that nothing they said really matched my experience, that my interactions with Thai people were so much more positive, at the end of the day I was a newbie, things were confusing and uncertain and could be explained all sorts of ways, and the Old Guard spoke with authority.
I began to hate Thai people and Thailand based on the supposedly wise and canny revelations of the Old Guard on what’s supposedly really behind the Thai smile and similar nonsense, and my happiness in Thailand turned to bile, based almost entirely on what I read. I know, I know, it’s my fault that I allowed myself to be so easily led, and that’s true, it is, but what can I say I was young and was looking for wisdom from the people who had been in country for longer, and I trusted what I read online more than what I actually experienced and my own judgement. I also personally know several people, young guys, who became bitter and hateful and poisoned about Thai people based on reading the Thai blogs, when their own experiences never matched what they read online.
It took me a while to regain my independence of judgement and realize that something is seriously wrong with the Thailand ex-pat community, and that they poison the country for countless people. This all may sound very silly, but I think it is far more serious than it might seem, and a huge portion of the Thai ex-pat comm is quite literally ruined by immersion in the Thai blog scene.
Kenny was something completely different – a guy who was not bitter and who had a positive take on things and tried to figure them out. I suddenly felt that my own relative success and fun living in Thailand and interacting with Thais was not a fluke but might be the norm for a normal person. I felt more sane, no longer such a standout in my attitude towards Thailand.
But at the end of the day Kenny was jumping into a pond populated by a particular kind of fish, and I don’t think he ever got over his amazement at what kind of fish he suddenly found himself amongst, but the fish certainly didn’t want him disturbing their pond.
And that’s cool. It’s all over now at any rate. The Thai ex-pat community is what it is and will never be anything different, and I understand and accept that now, and why it has to be that way, why Thailand draws these kinds of people, and why no one should challenge the world which these people have built for themselves, however fictional.
The Kenny crowd and the Mango, Stickman, whatever crowd really should not be mixing, that is the truth at the end of the day – the one will simply be amazed and the other will be infuriated. They are two separate mentalities that should not come together.