December 07, 2007

Game Over

The junta is firmly back in control, and international "efforts" to bring change to Burma has failed, according to the New York Times, and it's hard to argue. The junta toyed with the NLD and waited out the international indignation, all the while being enabled by ASEAN. And the crackdown was bloodier than reported (of course) according to Human Rights Watch. Now, back to business. Rubies, anyone?

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Mouse's picture

I wish I could say I was shocked or surprised by this, but I'm not. Perhaps I've grown too cynical.

Dave's picture

Game over?

That leads me to wonder - for who, exactly?

The junta was never out of control, and it was never really likely that a few mass protests were going to topple a regime that has weathered similar bursts of public outcry as well as international condemnation for decades. It is worth reporting about countries and international organizations that are going back to a 'business-as-usual' attitude, but if significance of what has happened and what is happening in Burma rests on whether the junta has been severely weakened or forced from power, there was never really any meaning at all to what has transpired. I do not believe that this is so.

Many stories grab the public consciousness in large part because they are entertainment. They may be gruesome, sad, heart-rending entertainment, but it's the excitement of drama that helps get headlines and breaking news flashes for stories such as the protests in Burma. When the immediate drama is over, so is the story. This is similar to the aftermath of aftermath of Katrina, in which the drama of rescuing survivors, finding dead bodies, and surreal shots of massive devastation faded from regular coverage. People still continued to suffer and die, and they do today, as a result of Katrina but these events lack the thrill of the original story. There are many great journalists who still try to put out stories about the ongoing after effects of Katrina, but it lacks the same punch and ratings pull - it's "old news".

When these stories are "hot", look how fast governments and their representatives rush to make statements and vow to pursue policies for human rights and relief efforts, but when the story goes lukewarm or cold, it is sadly that case that such efforts also frequently go cold. Real and lasting change and aid takes time. It's dull. It's got no pop. No angle of shock or outrage. For many such efforts become just another cause on a clever bumper sticker.

Ironically, last night I came across a relevant editorial ad while flipping through various magazines which read:

"Whatever the outcome of the struggle between the Burmese people and the military regime that has been ruling them may be, Tikkun wants to express our profound admiration and solidarity for the courage that the Burmese people have already shown. While the media have presented the beginning of this struggle as a spontaneous uprising and have been quick to declare a 'victory' for the current dictators because the streets are quiet, they have missed the point. Having studied the success of other movements, the monks and students have embraced the strategies of nonviolent struggle. They realize that short term victories are less important than the long term ability of the struggle to awaken the people's longing for a world based on nonviolence and caring for each other. It's not over. The world's conscience has been touched by the images and stories of saffron-clad monks facing armed troops. Burma and the world will never be quite the same. In the long run, nonviolence succeeds even when it fails while violence fails even when it succeeds."

Even more auspicious was the fact that this publication had an article about Buddhism and battling good and evil, with the bottom line (as I read it) being that the duality of "us and them" is the same trap for everyone no matter which side you are on, which requires us then to embrace (if not support or endorse all the actions of) both "sides" in a conflict in seeking a lasting resolution for peace - that is, we should be wary of aligning ourselves strictly with the oppressed in a position defined as being "against" the oppressors. Short of the kind of regime change the current US administration has attempted to popularize (which doesn't exactly seem to bring peace or stability), any meaningful solution to the "Burma problem" will require the participation of the junta and the monks, just as a solution to the "Tibet problem" cannot be feasible if it does not include the active participation of the Chinese government.

Game on? ;o)