Nobody likes crises. They suck big time—our health, our jobs, our businesses, our finances, and maybe even our very lives are affected.
From global pandemics like COVID-19 (aka the novel Coronavirus), terrorist bombings, environmental disasters, to financial downturns, crises are Black Swan events (ie “unknown unknowns”) that are both unpredictable AND disastrous. Unfortunately, such catastrophic events are likely to be more common in our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world.
My family and I went for a short break recently in Bangkok during the New Year’s Eve and New Year period. Probably one of the few holidays that we will remember for a long time but not for the reasons you imagine.
Everybody who has been following the news will know that this was the exact same period of time when nine bombs went off recently hours before the countdown in Bangkok. This led to an outcry amongst the politicians, especially ousted Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who violently objected to being linked to this. There is now a big debate going on about who was responsible for this spate of violence, with at least many believing that it was not the work of the Southern Muslim insurgents whom Thaksin tried hard to quell.
While we were there on NYE, we heard from the locals that the countdown party at Central World Plaza just a stone’s throw away from our service apartment at Centrepoint Langsuan was cancelled. The reason? Nine bombings calculated to sour the mood for New Year celebrations in one of Southeast Asia’s most happening party city.
Hotel front office staff, taxi drivers, restaurant owners and the like were chatting about it like it was just part and parcel of their everyday lives. According to one cab driver, “this is just part of life in Bangkok. No problem.” No wonder, considering how many hoaxes and bombings take place here regularly.
On that night itself, we were celebrating our first New Year’s Eve away from Singapore at a fancy Italian restaurant along swanky Langsuan Road (just a short walk from our service apartment). Amidst chasing after my son Ethan, having a few sips of wine (and later beer in the apartment room), and enjoying the huge T-bone steak in from of me, we were mostly nonchalant to the acts of terrorism. We even saw the fireworks going off in a few places, at Chao Phraya River and the urban city centre while sipping beer and watching movie reruns. It was only later as we gradually found about the extent of the damage that we sobered up a little.