Buckets of Blood by Barbara Nadel

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Disturbing scenes from Bangkok this week with mass protests aimed at forcing the current government to hold new elections. As yet, thank God, there has been little in the way of violence, but one aspect of this protest that did catch my eye was the use of the protesters blood. Symbolising the protesters perception of a country so desperate it is willing to bleed for a general election I can see what they were doing and why. But still my toes curled when I saw footage of young people hurling buckets of the blood they had collected at the prime ministers residence.

To be clear, I know very little about Thai politics and so my balking at the protesters actions had nothing to do with any political stance I might take on their plight. It had everything to do with the blood. Again, to be clear, I am in no way squeamish. I worked in hospitals for many years and have been on wards where fresh, dripping blood has stained the walls. My objection, if that is the right word, to it is what it means psychologically for most people and for me and many others physically too.

I remember back in the dim and distant past when I was a psychology student, we studied a series of social psychology experiments that had been carried out in the USA in the late 1970s. These included studies on ‘helping behaviour’ in other words what does and does not determine whether people help others in distress. Negative factors when it came to helping were drunkenness or obvious drug addiction of the distressed person. To get involved would carry with it too high a cost for intervention to be ‘worth it’. True altruism may or may not exist, I don’t know, but according to most social psychologists it is rather unlikely. However, one of the most ‘high cost’ scenarios when assessing whether to help another in distress was the presence of blood. This was a huge no no, carrying with it fears about disease, about the unpleasantness of its texture and about the ancient taboos that still surround blood to this day. Even the latest craze for sexy blood sucking vampires is undercut with disgust. We only like the pretty vampires who want to reform, give up the blood and get nice jobs in insurance companies. The wild, red-eyed bitey types make us hide under the duvet and reach for the garlic. So blood is a problem for human beings and watching it being chucked around is not comfortable even if we agree with the reasons for it.

Personally, I have a problem with blood because I am a bleeder. This means that I bleed more copiously and for longer than most people. I am not a haemophiliac and the bleeding does stop eventually but I do have some tough times with this and suffer from frequent bouts of anaemia. I have to have a troublesome back tooth extracted at the dentist today prior to having a nice new implant inserted in the gap, and I must admit that I am scared. My dentist will of course do everything that he can to limit the bleeding, but I know I will come home looking like Dracula with thirty tissues stuffed into my livid red mouth. Laying down a lot will be the order of the afternoon which means that I will flop down on the sofa with yet more tissues in my mouth, furious at my own ‘weakness’ because I really should be working. But there’s nothing I can do. The bleeding will stop eventually and I will get over it. But I don’t think that if there is more footage of the Bangkok protesters slinging buckets of blood around on TV tonight, I will be watching. I think I may do the thing people usually do when blood is on the metaphorical carpet and pass on by, flick the button on the remote control and tune in to good old comfortable ‘Antiques Roadshow’.

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