Chapter Fifteen

Turning Fear into an Advantage Instead of a Disadvantage

A Case Study of Thailand

Let’s take the Thai people. I’d lived in Thailand for a few years, back in the 1960s, and I’d been back quite a few times in the years since. I thought I knew the Thai people pretty well, and I had great respect and admiration for them. In particular, I respected them for their capacity to persevere in times of adversity and smile when things got difficult.

When everyone else is getting all pessimistic, that’s usually when it is time to turn optimistic.

Something that people tend to forget is that during times of panic, adversity often brings out the best in people. And, by the same token, prosperity often brings out the worst in people.

Within a matter of months, not years, after the Asian financial crisis, I could see the progress that the Thai people and the formerly stagnant Thai government had made to set things right. It takes a major blowout for tectonic plates to shift.

The boiling point had come when the embattled prime minister seriously suggested that the economy could be saved by opening up more Thai restaurants and popularizing Thai kickboxing.

It took just a few serious protests in Bangkok—mounted not by disgruntled leftists and radicals, but by sober, dark-suited businesspeople, middle-class people feeling the pinch and getting hopping mad about it—to suddenly result in a new government and a new, more respected prime minister. The king had stepped in and started ...

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