Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Gangs of Bangkok in Primary Colours

I was mildly worried I might have overstepped the mark with this visual at the height of the latest coup, mid-curfew, but it was alright on the night. It's basically just a plea for us all to get along, while enjoying musicals and Korean novelty acts. Read the original Palm Oil column for Coconuts.co here: http://bangkok.coconuts.co/2014/06/04/palm-oil-flash-mobbed-gangs-bangkok

MAFIA, I'VE JUST MET A GIRL NAMED MAFIA ...    Insta-Art © Jason Gagliardi
When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way 
From your first cigarette to your last dying day”
West Side Story
You have never been in love, until you've seen the sunlight thrown over smashed human bone” - Morrissey  
Here is an interesting fact you might not know: the English term "mob," which has now become an honorary Thai word by dint of repetition and its monosyllabic allure, comes from the Latin phrase mobile vulgus, or “the fickle crowd.”
Mobile vulgus. It sounds more like the scientific classification for a particularly obnoxious, pimply and aggressive sub-species of adolescent to be found roaming the teenage wastelands of nocturnal Bangkok. The sort of yaba-smoking, engine-revving, gun-toting, gang-banging, Line-sticker-sending sext-pests and Darwin Award recipients-in-waiting you might find in the cinderblock tenements of Din Daeng or the drug-ravaged shantytowns of Khlong Toey or the bling-bling clubs of Ekkamai.
You can almost hear the David Attenborough narration: “Ah yes, and now we see mobile vulgus in his natural habitat. Observe the gaudy plumage, which the male uses to attract the opposite sex and appear larger and more intimidating to his enemies. If we are lucky, we might even see a flock of them perform their mating dance. Aeons have passed since the first caveman speared his neighbour, stole his dinosaur steak and clubbed his wife, and yet, seemingly, no time at all...”
The sort of misspent youth and wasted young who could put the “gang” in Gangnam Style. Oh, wait. They already did. Ekkamai, home of the Eastern Bus Terminal, went West Side Story in 2012 when two gangs dining in the same restaurant began to taunt and challenge each other with increasingly aggressive versions of South Korean pop blob Psy's smash hit.
The impromptu dance-off escalated into an argument and then a beat-down, leading to reprisals later the same morning, with more than 50 bullets fired into an upmarket Ekkamai neighbourhood from a carbine and an 11mm pistol. No one was injured and police said the two gangs had a history of confrontation and arrests would be made.
Insiders say tempers flared when two of the gyrating gangsters manque attempted to recreate the Gangnam Style video's “creepy pelvic-thrusting guy in blond wig in the lift” and “frustrated lecher wanting to grab Korean babe's bum” scenes too close to the leaders of the rival gang.
Gangnam Style is satire intended to poke fun at a nouveau-riche enclave of Seoul where the denizens “dress classy and dance cheesy,” as Psy put it recently. His gift for physical comedy married to a bouncy beat and some signature dance moves sent the tune viral.
From the horse-stance dance to horse-heads in the bed, the allure of power and control, not to mention money, girls, drugs and the elaborate semiotics of gangster handshakes, finger signs and fist bumps, is all but irresistible to disenfranchised teens.
But how can we expect our youth to resist such temptations when all around them the so-called adults and pillars of society and political leaders are doing the same thing on a much grander scale? The parallels between gang mentality and the recent Mobs That Ate Bangkok are clear, as is the cult-like appeal. There is the offer of money, the promise of power, revenge and eventual salvation, not to mention freedom from having to think for yourself.
One shared characteristic of the gang-banger, the red-faced mob ruler ranting from his stage and the genocidal ethnic cleansing dictator of a nation is the refusal to seek compromise and the pig-headed pursuit of victory which demands the total annihilation of the opposing parties.
As things threatened to spiral into serious violence in Bangkok in the weeks and months leading up to the latest coup, rational and educated grown-ups could only shake their heads at the level to which political discourse had sunk. It was the Jets and the Sharks, the Montagues and the Capulets, the Bloods and the Crips.
This was stone age stuff; Thaksin the Barbarian versus Suthep Thaugsa-Doom, snake cults and snake oil salesmen, each side hell bent on crushing their enemies, seeing them driven before them and hearing the lamentation of their women. Didn't they heed the lesson of Beat It, in which a moonwalking Michael Jackson warns aspiring gang-bangers of the one irreducible truism of thug life: “No one wants to be defeated.”
Take a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy, or the hapless Hunger Games three-fingered saluter being manhandled into a moving taxi in broad daylight in downtown Asoke.
Oh man, look at those cavemen go.  

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