“Walk to the Stars”: A children’s literature with an egalitarian vision of the Thai nation and the world
Most of the time, it is very difficult to start and sustain a meaningful conversation without getting others bored first. For instance, raising a social question of “poverty” or “inequality” can immediately ruin a good time with one’s partner or friends. Truth hurts. Yet, it does not mean ignoring the elephant in the room is the answer either, because taking action is still better than none. The challenge then lies not in finding ways to avoid all the unfortunate events but in paving the right ways to communicate with the public so that they will listen more attentively. Perhaps, fictions can tell facts better than any official reports, because through fictitious characters and events, these made-up stories are relatively relatable, accessible, and enjoyable. In this connection, “Walk to the Stars” aims precisely to serve that purpose.
Written and illustrated by Rubkwan Thammaboosadee, “Walk to the Stars” is a children’s literature based on the research paper under the same title of her brother, Associate Professor Sustarum Thammaboosadee of Thammasat University. It subtly portrays the devastating impacts of a deep economic deprivation and divide on self-formation through various symbolic representations, with the ultimate aim to spread hope for a better, more equal society for Thailand and the world. The book covers the story of a young girl in pursuit of her dream. Like many others born in the City of Dusts, the girl is told that the Stars are places where anything is possible and it is essential to get there to realize one’s dreams. Until then, she will have to hold on to all her wishes and keep them in a “dream-carrier” on her back. A pair of “thick-soled shoes” is also there to protect her feet along the journey. For the girl, the hope is that one day she will be able to do anything as she pleases. “Neither my dreams nor my shoes will drag me down,” she promises to her mother, “I’ll run around everywhere.”
However, after the girl runs into the boy from the Stars, so many questions come across her mind. Why is he not carrying any rucksack with him? What is up with those casual-looking shoes? How is it that his life on the Stars is all so rosy unlike those in the City of Dusts? Initially, she thinks it is simply a matter of hard work and dedication, only to realize later that it is impossible for any individual to ‘walk’ to the Stars, not to mention how the heavy dream-carrier and thick-soled shoes are also burning her out. Even if she could, by the time she got there she might be a little too old to appreciate her time on the Stars. To reach the edge of the universe, therefore, a spaceship is needed, and that in turn would require a collective effort of the society as well. As a result, she changes her mind. Her dream is no longer to enjoy freedom for her own sake but rather to encourage fellow compatriots to throw away their backpacks and take off those metal shoes. Ultimately, she aspires to reach the Stars along with everyone else.
There are three key takeaways from the story. First is the dualism between the City of Dusts and the Stars. This reflects in reality the contrasted aspects of poor and rich societies, rural and urban areas, developed and developing parts of the world, and so on. These are the products of the unjust rules of the existing international system, which in turn needs to be reformed for the wealth of the world to be redistributed more fairly. Second is the representation of “dream-carriers” and “thick-soled shoes.” These can be interpreted as socio-economic constraints, such as poverty and a lack of opportunities in life, which hold people back and prevent them from pursuing their dreams. Moreover, without a level playing field, these dreams are impossible and empty and will come back to destroy those dreamers both physically and mentally in the end. And third is a vision of an egalitarian society. As the girl correctly says, it is crucial to liberate people from their deteriorating living conditions and pave a way for a sustainable and inclusive development—collectively building a spaceship to the Stars rather than individually taking an impossible walk.
For her part, Thailand has placed most priority on multilateral collaboration to materialize the vision of a more egalitarian Thai society and a more equitable world for all. For example, as the Chairperson of BIMSTEC2021-22 and APEC2022, Thailand seeks to enhance the global economic rebound from the pandemic by advocating for the strengthening of connectivities between member countries and member economies of the two respective organizations. In addition, she has also set sustainable development as one of the main agendas for the upcoming summits. The main driver for this transformative change will be the model of Bio-Circular-Green Economy, which focuses on generating eco-friendly growth while leaving no one behind. Furthermore, as a member of the International Law Commission, Thailand also wishes to take part in shaping the rules-based international system in ways that will yield mutual benefits for all parties, notably in areas of digital economy and rising sea level. The ultimate goal is to maintain the balance of things and pass on a sustainable and fair future to the next generation. To make no mistake, these are only stepping stones, and more still needs to be done in the longer term to properly address these social questions. In this sense, Thailand should build upon her success in promoting the Universal Health Coverage scheme and aim for a more ambitious, well-established welfare state that guarantees not only health security but also economic security and social security, among others.
“Walk to the Stars” may appear to be a story only for children at first, but actually it is also for adults who dream of a better world, who wish to help everyone reach the Stars. As the book shows, the first step to getting there is realizing how extreme poverty and inequality are threats to unleashing full human potential. Then, it is necessary to design a new paradigm towards the future of sustainability. For that reason, Thailand has attached utmost importance to ensuring a sustainable path of development, in which no one is left behind, and has sought to participate in multilateral frameworks to foster international cooperation on the issue and help set directions for a fairer international society. Lastly, this great crusade for a better world cannot be achieved simply at the state level. A journey to the Stars would also require public participation and support as well. So, no matter who you are, no matter what languages you speak, no matter what religions you believe in, join us. It is time to ditch our dream-carriers and metal boots. There is a world for us to win. There are Stars for us to reach.