What is Thai, anyway?
The few area that we can look at is the ‘Thai’ in our culture is normatively lying in the area that can be describe as our ‘past’ or ‘traditional’ culture and our ‘present’ or ‘contemporary’ culture.
And if we dig deeper in the area of the ‘past’, we could possibly find more and more of the past that we called ‘Thai’ is not actually originated from the geographical locality. Some of our inherit culture could be trace back to several origins, such as India, China or even Cambodia. ‘Thai’ seems to be such an adaptive culture in nature that improvise lots of good deeds from others and adopted as our own. The more we deny this, the more we will get away from the source of being ‘Thai’.
But it will not look good for us to say so that we don’t have such an originality.
But then look again at our ‘present’. Those famous expression of our contemporary culture never lies in straightforward tradition. From the domain of contemporary Thai (only if Thai accept the presence of such a notion), the view of ‘Thai’ from a foreign view had never been about ‘Traditional’. Art, Food, Design, Architecture or Hospitality; these disciplines that became contemporary success had never been about the notion of Thai as a domain of traditional.
But we have been so embraced by our past. Living in the past and traditional of Thai is romantic and beautiful. We are cherished by the past and traditional and we are empowered by them but only as a context. Once we try to go back and live in those context, we are nothing more that an inauthentic imitation. And it had never take us anywhere. Only when we embraced the ‘past’ as our context and we create our ‘present’ from the ‘future’ possibility, then ‘Thai’ will exists in a successful contemporary domain.
So the question of ‘What is Thai?’ has been nothing but nothing.
‘Thai’ is just a meaning we gave. Just a word. And we can assign the meaning to everything that will give us the possible future. And similar to all the languages, it is just a tool that we make things work: A tool for describing the past as much for the tool we create the future. In a way that we use the language to create the future, that language will spontaneously create our present.
We can only create our ‘present’ Thai once we understand the meaning of Thai as a language to the notion of ‘past’ and ‘future’ under the circumstance of the language. As a result, we could then possibility answer ‘What is Thai?’ from the rational that worth the effort. ‘Thai’ is not a culture to the eyes or for the ears. It is only can be explained through experience.