( Sunday 1/10/07)
Armed only with love, tranquility and commendable hope for peace and solidarit for all sentient beings, the Buddhist monks of Myanmar are on the march…For the last two weeks the streets of Rangoon and other urban hubs of the tropical South East Asian nation, have been awash with saffron robed skinheads who are making a brave stand against the despotic military junta who have ruled with an iron fist since 1962.
The last time there were major protests in the country was 1990 when the pro-democracy party was legitimately voted into power by the people. The losing anti-democracy posse(the goons with the guns) had the military at their command, and rather than show humility in the face of defeat, opted to declare themselves the victors….The denizens revolted but the uprising was ruthlessly crushed. Thousands died as the junta confirmed their position as unchallengeable rulers.
During the 19 years that followed, the international community has increasingly frowned upon and isolated the bloodthirsty regime through sanctions and bullish rhetoric. As if to root their authority as deeply as possible in the Myanaman psyche, a new capital was created and the country’s name was changed to Burma. Life was made bearable for the army, whilst the civilians were raped of their Rights.
Any form of dissent is crushed, the media is tightly controlled and opposition party members are routinely imprisoned…In effect the country is characterized by a complete and all pervading lack of democracy. It is no surprise that a recent survey by Transparency International awarded Burma the dubious honour of World’s most Corrupt Country (shared with Somalia, which hasn’t had a semblance of organized government since 1991).
Poverty is rife in modern-day Burma, though there are considerable natural resources, in the shape of off-shore gas and oil, just itching to be exploited. Despite the lack of international trading partners the military junta has continued to reign supreme. But last month, in late August of this year, when they decided to double the cost of fuel, they went too far. They squeezed too hard. Adding a couple of pennies onto the cost of a litre of unleaded petrol in the UK may ultimately result in job-losses but if Gordon Brown decided to double it to 1.80 (ish) per litre, there would be riots on the streets, blockades at the ports, lynch mobs heading towards 10 Downing Street with murderous intent.
We are protected in this country. To a degree. A degree which is gradually being eroded by powermongers hell-bent on turning this nation into a police state. But in comparison to Burma, we have it easy…Because if I take to the streets to march in protest at the decisions of my government, they won’t shoot me (though this may change in the next decade).
Bearing in mind the thousands of people slaughtered in ’88, going up against the Burmese Military Junta has been for many years a path only for those who are so close to expiration, so lacking the means of survival, that they are propelled by self preservation instincts to face the forces responsible for their dilemma.
The Buddhist monks are revered in Burma. They offer alternative routes to education for the poverty stricken and regularly pour their energies into spiritual routines which are aimed at benefiting society as a whole. While the most committed Monks make up only a small portion of the population (500,000/ 47,000,000) a staggering 90% of Burmese folk are Buddhists with most civilians spending at least some time in their lives amongst the Buddhist communities.
The monks march has been about Democracy. It was about bringing an end to the oppressive rule of a group of crazy Generals who are whipping the people of Burma to the brink of starvation and hopelessness. Up to 100,000 saffron robed monks were defiantly walking the streets over these last few weeks. The World has seen them. Their goal of highlighting to the World the plight of their countrymen has been achieved but the reaction, in terms of Action and Aid, while sympathetic, has been on the whole reserved and muted. As I write this, the sum total action of the UN amounts to sending an representative to the region who has yet to be afforded the pleasure of meeting with the ruling Generals…
Although some restraint was shown in the early days of the recent attempts at revolution, the government has now cracked down hard on the peace loving spiritual gurus and their supporters. A handful of people have been shot, several monasteries have been smashed to pieces and the word from the Ministry of Religious Affairs is chilling
““If the monks go against the rules and regulations in the authority of Buddhist teachings, we will take action under the existing law, the protest marches in the streets are just a tactic that was systematically plotted from outside the country…’ (The Times)
It is unclear how many protestors, monks or otherwise, have been killed or imprisoned (official figures released by the Burmese government cannot be trusted) but it is increasingly clear that something very heavy has put a stop to the public outcry of despair.
Already the story has been moved off the list of headlines of the major news syndicates, with more pressing issues like the Conservatives plans to slash inheritance tax in the UK taking it’s place…So has the March of the Monks actually made a difference??? To those with a heart and mind who have read of the events; Yes. But not to the people in power around the globe who can actually make decisions which could improve the situation.
While our army is spread out across the World fighting illegal wars for all the Wrong reasons, there are plenty of places like Burma, which are screaming out for help in their True Quests for liberation and democracy. Yet our government ignores them. This calls to mind the Palestinian elections of last year in which Hamas were put in power only to have the American government refuse to recognize them as the country’s leaders. Bush demanded democratic elections, saw them, but didn’t like the winners. If he, and Gordon Brown (or former fuck-buddy Tony Blair) were really interested in Democracy, Liberation, saving lives instead of taking lives; then our combined armed forces would be in Sudan, Somalia, Burma, and North Korea…If some of my taxes were going towards actually helping people around the globe, I would be far happier paying them, and also far more supportive of the government which runs the show where I currently exist.
The Monks March has taught us nothing other than: You cannot fight bullets and batons with Love and Peace. You can try, but you will lose every-time.
If I think about that too deeply I quickly reach the conclusion that while I personally try to adopt bits and pieces of the Buddhist doctrine in my day to day life, there is simply far too much scum on the planet- willing to skin me alive- making a full-time effort at understanding and adopting the core spiritual teachings anything but a road to ruin…So the best policy seems to be: Strive for compassion for all living beings, spread good vibrations whenever possible, avoid Scum, and be ready to Fight tooth and claw for Survival.