Opinion: The state will not show mercy to Penguin but the individual can

In his essay “The Undiscovered Self,” Swiss psychologist Carl Jung argued that in order to organize society, there needed to be a de-individualizing of human beings.

A society would not be able to function, Jung argues, if the rules and regulations that govern it were to cater to every individual needs or desire. Society needs to, as Jung infers, cater to the masses in order to be at its most efficient. Doing so, however, makes society also vulnerable to the depravity and dictatorial tendencies of individuals.

“…it is just this banding together and the resultant extinction of the individual personality that makes it succumb so readily to a dictator,” Jung writes.

As Jung goes on to argue, “the most powerful organizations can be maintained only by the greatest ruthlessness of their leaders and the cheapest of slogans.”

The collective Thailand

In Thailand, student-protesters and student-leaders across the country are demonstrating for their right to be individuals and that has brought in into conflict with the organization of society.

There may be political coating and different interests but at the very heart of all the arguments they are making is the argument for individual liberty. Whether they are clamoring for educational or political reform, the binding notion that ties together the different protest groups is the idea that the individual-self has died in Thailand to make way for the state and the manufactured slogans that prop up the nation.

Among those to argue against the Thai mythology and for the individual is Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak who has called for changes to long-taboo norms and the deposition of the individuals that would further that mythos.

For his troubles, he has been arrested for thought crime by the state.

Now as his body withers away after over 40 days of a hunger strike, many people are questioning the government’s lack of compassion.

Parit has had bail denied to him on several occasions. The court rulings always cite the likelihood that he will commit the same crimes and incite “unrest.”

Keep in mind that Thailand is a country where one can run over policemen with Ferraris, commit mass murder on freeways, assassinate political and business opponents and still get bail.

But question the mythologies that prop up the state and the mercy of the state will be found wanting.

What is worse are the cheerleaders advocating for his continued detainment. There are those who have not only bought into the mythology of Thai society but have advocated for the continuance of the nation-state at the expense of the individual, and all his dignities and liberties.

Rather than introspect and consider arguments made by the students, they vociferously defend the status quo as necessary and part of the soul of the nation.

Rather than engage in dialogue that might bring about reconciliation, they choose to retreat into echo chambers reverberating with hatred and suspicion.

Rather than show the mercy inherently present in every individual, they have collectively chosen to sacrifice future generations to cling onto the past.

The state, as it is, cannot show mercy to Parit. That would be catalyzing its own self-destruction.

But the individual can show mercy. To save Parit and his friends, even the most extreme individual must be awakened from their collectivized slumber and forced to introspect and reconcile their hatred.

As Jung once said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” 

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