Recalling The 2014 Protests in Bangkok
I had just finished my gig at the financial services company, where my then-boss and mentor had relocated to Vietnam to pursue her dreams of world domination. My stock market investments were doing well, life was good, and I was looking for opportunities to invest in Thailand. Then the protesting began.
The initial rallies were triggered when the then-prime minister hinted at attempting to get her exiled brother (and also ex-prime minister) back into Thailand. What ensued was a protest of grandiose proportions.
Swarms of people from all over the country piled into Bangkok, decked out in either red or yellow (depending on which side they supported), and proceeded to camp out in all major districts of the city. Rather than finding a place that would be non-disruptive, they protested in large commercial areas whilst leaving behind mountains of litter at the base of office buildings. The protesters would set up their makeshift tents in the middle of the streets, and no one was able to get to work. It felt as if all commerce in the city came to a complete standstill – and lasted for a whole 6 months. I remember a friend who owned a spa in the area debating whether or not it was worthwhile keeping the business open, as her customers couldn’t even get through the damn entrance.
The protesters gave zero fucks. Their political views could not be altered and they would see to it that their demands of the prime minister stepping down were met. Things started to get violent and I remember hearing the story of a protester throwing a makeshift hand grenade into a throng of people, killing a mother and her 2 kids.
I can still remember the uncertainty I felt living through those times. There were days I would be taking a casual stroll to the nearby shopping mall, when I would be interrupted by a machine-gun mounted bullet proof hummer zipping by at 100kmh. It was not so much the danger of my life at risk, but rather the dying confidence in the government to get their shit together that was worrying. It seemed like the economy would never recover. Precious time was being wasted, and all for what?
It started to come to a climax when a bomb went off at a popular religious shrine. Many were hurt or killed, and apparently it was some douchebag foreigners that did it. I saw pictures of the aftermath from a friend that was there on site. Not something I’d like to see again.
Fast forward a few years later, the prime minister is out (although the political situation hasn’t really changed – the fucking army is in charge now and is corrupt as shit), but the people are happy, the economy is in full boom, and the middle class is growing at an unprecedented pace. Merchants are raising prices and taxi drivers are back to ripping off tourists for sport.
The point I wanted to get across is, why the fuck do people do this shit? As business people, we can never rely on government to do anything right- that is a given. We can only rely on our own ability to generate results, and hope that the government lets us do our thing without interfering. It is businesses, not government, that ultimately create jobs and whatever those government hacks decide to do is more or less beyond our control. Worrying about government and picking political sides will drive us to the point of insanity, all for nothing, when we could be contributing to a cause elsewhere and building an empire.
What I see today in the United States reminds me much of what I saw back then in Bangkok. People ripping monuments out of the ground, lighting shit on fire, screaming “this is hate, fucking, free” (whatever that means), and uniting people across the country for all the wrong reasons. Emotionally fueled movements only lead to more heated disputes and violence, ultimately leading to one large circle jerk of wasted time.
Eventually, all of this instability will come to an end, the economy will resume its pace, and only those protesting are worse off than where they started (as Google machine learning algorithms match their faces to their social media profiles and send it to their employers). All we can do as business people is look for opportunity in volatile times and try to put together a plan for coming out ahead when the dust is settled.
*Note: for the above reason, I remain 100% bullish on the US stock markets.