Self worth is something that is hard to describe, especially in an oppressive environment with no end in sight to the abuse. Even worse is when the world is allowed to look in through a picture window and witness the horror that is a life in chains, only to look on with astonishment, without being able to directly interact. It was the same predicament that Billy Pilgrim found himself on Tralfamadore as a human exhibit in a zoo. Billy Pilgrim had the dignity of being unstuck in time and understanding the non-linear nature of the fourth dimension which is time, much like a Time Lord would.
Be it a symptom of post-traumatic stress or a true awakening, Slaughterhouse-Five protagonist Billy Pilgrim's Tralfamadore exhibition exposes how we, as a collective society, view the exceptional figures in the world. We view them as larger-than-life dolls, playthings that live out our fantasies like shadow play on the wall before bed time as a child. The tralfamadorians were hands off in their approach to enslaving Billy Pilgrim and locking him up with Montana Wildhack, where they copulated for their intergalactic onlookers and spawned a child. In a way, the existence of the tralfamadorians did not matter to the narrative Pilgrim spun.
Whether it was escapism, a protest against free will or a way to mentally write off infidelity, Buakaw Por Pramuk is not behind the glass window, us peering into his dysfunctional life with a beautiful porn actress birthing children like Billy Pilgrim was. Buakaw, like Pilgrim, was changed by the battle scars from war and society, with his inability to escape suffocating him into accepting a fate less fitting for someone of his stature. If you watch Kickboxing for Muay Thai, Buakaw Por Pramuk is a hero, a truly exceptional person whose fame and abilities are something to marvel at. Be it you kicking the pads at a gym with a poster of him on the wall or channeling his attitude and style into your mundane daily tasks, if you know Buakaw you know his influence.
We find ourselves with nearly unlimited access to the lows that Buakaw has had to fall to over the past few years to continue fighting, to continue entertaining us from behind that glass window. Claims of verbal abuse, sleeping on a floor with other fighters, stuck in a contract of indentured servitude which he quite simply cannot understand the terms of and other injustices plague the nak muay. Some will claim the look of horror and exhaustion on the face of Buakaw is from a threat from the heads of Por Pramuk, or the powerful men who control gambling over the art of thai boxing, while others are content with looking the other way because of tradition.
The question of awareness can be haunting at times. Pilgrim simply said “so it goes” to relieve the guilt and the shame of his existence as he either constructed or lived out his fantasy, waking-nightmare life. Buakaw packed his stuff and went to where no one could find him while Por Pramuk gym told the world he was breaking his contract, ignoring his duties while riding around in his BMW and not calling his sister. So it goes. The idea of questioning his awareness when he signed his life away comes into play, the question of was he truly sentient at that point, or merely a child looking for a future?
Do you, the fan continue to watch Buakaw fight if he is forced to return to Por Pramuk, do you talk about it being a shame while still never missing a fight? If so, what is that saying about the medium, the viewer, the promoter and everyone else involved? Society as a whole can suck the exceptional dry, as Western society has seen with the endless barrage of nipple slips, upskirts and drunken babbling that is bought, sold and consumed on a daily basis under the pretense of news, but the participants at some point were willing. The art, the medium and the audience does not matter when the story remains the same across the board; this site that you are reading is operated under the same pretenses of being at-will slavery with a surprisingly low upside to run--yet here it is, here this story is and here this writer is. So it goes.
If Billy Pilgrim’s infidelity, poor-parenting and meager life were made exceptional, with him finding ways to cope with the weight of crushing reality, a similar view needs to be taken in the case of Buakaw. Telling the world of his misfortune, to cry for him, was his way of becoming unstuck in time, of taking control over a situation with no hope or visible upside. It was his way of pounding on the glass, getting the unencumbered viewer emotionally involved in his narrative and giving them a decision to make or at least something to talk about. The case that he has found himself in no longer suits him, and the matter of willingness or not no longer fits into his equation as an exceptional figure. Whomever is in control, it is clear that even that control is an illusion because the narrative is being re-written and for right now, there is no outcome in sight. So it goes.