Saturday, September 29, 2007

People in the streets

“Small robbers are put in prison; a great robber becomes a feudal lord” -Man Guo De

Yesterday the golden spire of Shwedegon Pagoda was shrouded in tear gas. Mothers woke to the news that their sons had disappeared before dawn. The streets of Yangon were silent under the crush of the State Peace and Development Council’s heavy boot, clubs ready to bash a monk over the back or make a student scream in terror as she ran against the constraint of her mandatory ankle-length skirt.

A few years ago I stayed for a few days within a few steps of Sule Pagoda talking late into the night with an old Burmese sailor who told stories of Malacca and Abu Dhabi. I ate fish paste smeared rice and glanced through the latest news from America: Reader’s Digests from 1974. The cars on the streets were from the 1950’s, before trade with the West was frozen, the buses even older – artifacts from the day’s when George Orwell was a cop in Mandalay. I chewed beetle nut until I was dizzy and tried to understand what it was like to live in forced isolation from the rest of the world, under the watchful eye of plain-skirted police officers who made sure your education was limited to Than Shwe’s version of reality. People lived hand to mouth and often that hand was empty.

It’s hard to know what to feel when we read of tens of thousands of people marching like “’religious storm troopers” according to the New York Times. The soldiers of Myanmar have little to gain from direct democratic action – they will not concede without bullets and death. As one of the world’s leading exporters of opium and sex slaves, Myanmar is impervious to President Bush’s new and improved trade embargos, the market is too strong, and China’s desire for human dignity too weak. Than Shwe’s daughter will keep wearing so many diamonds she has to struggle to hold her head up straight, as if she is a Padong woman without her rings. The protests seem to be an effort in futility, like a fish flailing around desperate for air. It seems like the people of Burma don’t have a prayer.

Or do they? I know they have mine.


Click here for a video of Than Shwe's daughter

2 Comments:

Blogger Meredith said...

They had our prayers too in our morning service here in Chiang Mai. Val talked about what is happening probably only 8 hours drive from here, and several prayed. ~MIL

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Doyle said...

Wow, that video's sumthin, we are planning to take a trip into Burma while we are in Thailand.

12:49 PM  

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