The new generation loves moso! (moso?)
Along the side of the Skytrain snaking through Bangkok is emblazoned the message: “Mindfulness + Rationality = Immunity.” On an ad panel inside, cartoon figures with skin tones ranging from black through blue to green wear T-shirts with slogans like “I’ve got immunity,” or “It’s easy,” and spout speech-bubbles announcing “New-generation people love moso.” On television, the prime minister, looking so shiny with optimism that he almost overcomes his natural reserve, tells us “I believe this will help make the country secure and the people happy in a sustainable way.”
On first sight of the “Mindfulness + Rationality = Immunity” train, Chang Noi honestly thought this was something about swine flu—a campaign urging us all to act sensibly and ward off this threatening disease. But it’s not. This is a campaign by the Internal Security Operation Command of the army. It’s one of several such public campaigns that have popped up in recent weeks. It is supported under the billion baht of public money which government voted to ISOC after the Songkran troubles.
But what is it all about? What is “moso”? A pop group? A brand of candy? A new music channel? Google tells us moso is a type of bamboo, a hotel chain in Vanuatu, a town in Italy, and a university in Missouri.
Both the television and Skytrain ads point to a website, www.mosothai.com. The home page on the site does not overcome the bewilderment. The heading is about a “Project for Sustainable Thinking.” The multicolour cartoon figures are there again, proclaiming on their T-shirts and speech-bubbles how much they love moso, but there’s no hint about who or what moso is. Burrowing down a tab on “Background of the campaign,” there is finally an explanation. It translates as follows.
In the first word, “mo” comes from “Moderation” which means adequacy — not too much, not too little, just right. “So” comes from “Society.”
So when “mo” and “so” are joined up, it means a society of moderation where people live their lives just right.
And who are moso people?
Moso people means the new generation of society who live their lives in this just-right way, upholding the principle of moderation.
Being someone of rationality, having immunity in thinking and living according to the sufficiency economy philosophy of HM the King.
Being moso is not difficult….
First off, we must all understand “moderation” in living. It’s easy. Just do everything just right, know the limits of our own ability, don’t overdo anything, know how to use more “rationality”, study what is too much or too little, and weigh up the good and bad points with clarity. And when we have both thinking that is “moderation” added together with enough “rationality”, these two will give us “immunity” against the obstructions and manifold problems which confront us. And importantly, we must have knowledge and ethics as well.
It’s guaranteed that if we can all apply these three principles to solve our critical problems, and if we pass this message on for people around to try also, whatever obstructions or economic problems arrive in whatever form, just having a heart of sufficiency, knowing how to measure ourselves and solve problems with rationality, and be cautious for the sake of immunity, our society will have thinking that is sustainable, and be able to overcome various problems in the best way.
But why does the “new generation” love moso so much? The rest of the site gives some clues, but not many. There are puffs of support from pop personalities, including the serial endorser, Ad Carabao, but he spoils it by sporting a massive Jatukam Ramathep amulet which suggests he is looking elsewhere for his “immunity.” There’s another TV ad with pop personalities, shot in moody black-and-white, mouthing the above script; and yet another with a TV presenter and a group of happy peasants in a field. On the web-board, many have contributed exactly the same comment: “This is a good campaign.”
The army has long put out PR on its own importance. After the 2006 coup, it poured men and money into a campaign to influence the hearts and minds of the Thaksinite north and northeast. This moso campaign represents a new frontier—an attempt to influence society as a whole through public media. The campaign seems to be aimed primarily at urban youth. The website has the pastel colours, Japanese-style graphics, and flashing gizmos that characterize Thai teen web-boards and the like. The multicolour cartoon ads and the pop endorsements are straining for hipness. The cuteness of the “mo-so” mnemonic and the use of English are probably meant to have trend appeal.
It’s ambitious, but what chance does it have of working?
This is advertising. An ad has to tell people what the product is and why they should want it. To be successful, an ad usually needs to be single-minded and clear. Does this campaign have these basic qualities? Is it about sufficiency, or the moderation society, or sustainable thinking? In the minds of the originators, these may be all aspects of the same thing. But for the consumer, this is confusing.
The use of English is hip, but is also a barrier to easy understanding. What exactly is a “moderation society” in English anyway? It’s hardly a term in everyday international use. Is Ad’s lifestyle (chopper motorbikes, cockfighting, concerts that dissolve into brawls) a guide to moderation? How many people understand the Thai word used for “immunity” , a technical medical term that most people would never use in their lifetime. Even the word for “rationality” has a slightly academic feel. Is this the language of the streets. The arithmetic of “Mindfulness + Rationality = Immunity” is also not so easy to compute.
Most of all, does the campaign have a compelling reason for the consumer to buy? To put it simply, what’s in it for me? What’s in it for the people who have not been acting so moderately lately?