7. Interdependence orientation
The background of the helpful Thais.
Taken from: Suntaree Komin, Psychology of the Thai People: Values and Behavioral Patterns, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), Bangkok 1991, ISBN 974-85744-8-2, pp. 1-2. References and tables are available in the original. Typing errors edited.
This value orientation reflects more of the community collaboration spirits, and in a sense the value of co-existence and interdependence. The findings of the Thai Value study particularly this value, has helped shed some light on the long-time dispute over the “loosely-structured” model of the Thai society, especially those analyses that applied to the rural society, which portray villagers as having vaguely defined rights and duties as well as the “less closely woven” labour exchange systems. To this, a number of ethnographers like Tambia (1970) and Mizuno (1971) who, although did not reject the “loose structure” characterization after all, argued that in their studies of certain communities in the Northeast, there are collective activities organized by the villagers to build community needed common properties like a temple or a water reservoir, etc. The point of “unstructure” or “structure”, or “short-term” or “long-term” will lead to endless discussions and theoretical arguments of terms used as appeared in the book that contained the peak of the controversy (Dieter-Evers, 1969). Regardless of the dispute, what is clear is that collaborative behaviour is a dominant behavioural patter one can observe in the rural community. Cooperation in rice agriculture by members of the village is nothing new in Thailand. This is succinctly reflected through the value priorities of the rural Thai, where the two highest discrepancy values that distinguished the rural Thai from the urban Thai are the religious value and the community-oriented value of Brotherhood spirit in helping one another and for being Interdependent and mutually helpful (See cognitive world of the urban and the rural Thai in the earlier section).
The value of helping one another basically motivates the cooperative behaviours in the community, and reinforces the sense of neighbourhood. The Thai rural community, like many other peasant societies, in which neighbourhood relations, whether informally or formally defined, have been recognized as important social structural features (See Potter, Diaz, and Foster, 1967), be it the traditional pre-revolutionary Chinese village (Yang, 1945), the Mexican and Philippine villages, or the recent account of a Spanish village (Brandes, 1973). Neighbours help in times of crisis situations when a family falls ill, suffers a death, or has a wedding, and they bind their relationship through reciprocal services and assistance and exchanges of food, etc. Likewise, relations between neighbouring households in Thai villages are very close. Since they tend to have adjacent fields, they walk to word in the fields and return together. They cooperate in maintaining the small irrigation canals that water their fields, and have to agree on plans to share water. They help one another throughout the cycle of rice-growing, from planting to harvesting. In other spheres, they also cooperate in house-building, as well as in the psychologically and culturally important events like life crisis, serious illnesses, births, ordinations, and funerals. Although literature of many other peasant societies has shown that the large-scale commercialized agriculture tends to result in the weakening of traditional forms of cooperative labour exchange as it becomes a business for profit instead of a way of life, the present researcher holds that if other aspects of rural community life don not change, then the value for interdependence and mutual help and cooperative behavioural patterns will remain a dominant characteristics of the rural cognitive orientation and rural behavioural pattern.
This other-oriented community value of interdependence and mutual help enhances the value of co-existence. Coupled with the higher order values of “ego”, “smooth interpersonal relationship” and the “flexibility”, these values help to facilitate the co-existence of different ethnic groups in Thailand. Better still, they help to make Thailand the rare example of successful assimilation of ethnic groups like Muslims and Chinese, saving Thailand from the painful experience of ethnic conflicts and unrests. The proposition that this community cooperative value, particularly in the sphere of social and cultural activities, help to facilitate ethnic assimilation, has been supported by the research findings of Wannaprasert (Wannaprasert et al., 1982) who found that more social activities oriented traditions (i.e. marriage, circumcision rite, Mohammed’s Birthday, entering monkhood ceremony) created higher level of social integration between Thai-Buddhists and Thai-Muslims in three Southern Thai provinces. Although interdependence orientation of helping each other is a dominant rural community value which might help stimulate neighbours to participate in different cultural and religious events, basically it also requires the “flexibility” value orientation of the Thai not to shun off other cultural group, that make cultural assimilation successful.