The jungle is a state of mind, a place where tooth and claw and the skill in deploying them decide who wins the battle. The reality becomes divided into black and white. Live or die. Kill or be killed. Demonize the enemy. Crank up the hatred of the ‘other.’ Tribal emotions pulse through the veins, hot and raging, until they boil over. Tear gas, water cannon, life rounds, anti-aircraft guns, batons, sharpened bamboo poles are among the weapons reported in the press since the Saturday 10th April confrontation at the Phan Fah Bridge near Democracy Monument in Bangkok. That night, the jungle mind crept out on all fours and pounced, devouring those in its path. It is almost a week since that night of killing and death. It is still sinking in. The mind tries to wrap around the implications of so much death and injury. Head shots. Chest shots.
This morning (Friday 16th April 2010) Thai security forces unsuccessfully tried to arrest red shirt leaders who were located inside a Bangkok hotel. Dramatic photographs and video of one leader escaping is everywhere. He eased over the side of the hotel and with the help of friends, used a rope to lower himself to the ground and waiting red shirted demonstrators. The images are like Spiderman meets 007 who meets Benny Hill as he scales down a hotel wall. It is the kind of image that fuels emotion on both sides. It doesn’t encourage demand. It encourages just the opposite the tendency to see things in terms of winners and losers.
That is jungle mind thinking. Knocking out the other side. Crippling them. Ambushing them. Closing down any discussions or negotiations, setting them aside, because the urge for a more powerful response is beyond rational, analytical thought. It is visceral, from the gut, not the head, not for finding a middle ground, but finding the right battle crowd and the right weapon to drive the other side into defeat.
That is the problem with the jungle state of mind: it lives, breaths and dies on high octane emotions and there is nothing to quicken the heart beat than the crack of rifle shots in the air and men and women running for their lives.
The latest call by the government has been to round up the leaders, and the term ‘terrorists’ has become the favoured description of elements within the Red-shirted demonstration. By designating people who are mingling at the protest sites as terrorists appears to be a justification for harsh actions to disperse the protestors.
So far it is a standoff between the government and the Red shirts as the skirmishes continued in the city streets. The state of the jungle mind, in times of crisis, reverts to a more primitive urges—perhaps it is our default setting at times like this—and among those high charge emotions are revenge. Lives have been lost and from the spiral of events it appears that more lives may be lost before anything approaching stability and order has been restored.
What Thailand needs is someone to calm the jungle mind. To reset the default. To find a trail from the ruin, bodies and destruction, to a place where people can see each other as people, worthy of respect, worthy of listening to, worthy of calling brother and sister. The time for such a time has never been greater. The hallmark of a great leader is to step forward at the time when the jungle mind has gone insane with rage, flailing and engorged on its own blood lust, and to bring sanity back. Will such a person emerge who can tame the jungle mind? That is the question many are asking. No one knows. As once the jungle mind infects millions it is hard to pull them back from the brink. The jungle blood lust calls them in a powerful voice. The way to answer the jungle mindset is not to feed the beast with more emotional fuel.