More thoughts on Burma
Its seems things have taken a nasty turn in Burma. I say that it ‘seems’ because information leaving the country is actually becoming much more scarce, and the military are apparently arresting (maybe even shooting) people for having mobiles, and have shot dead at least one journalist deliberately. Also, because it appears that some soldiers have reneged and begun fighting against the military, which, if it spreads, would be a disaster for pacifism but a victory nonetheless.
(There’s an Emergency Demonstration in London, starting at 11.30am in Trafalgar Square, on Sunday, ending 2pm Battersea Park).
I’m not sure quite what to make of such fighting, other than to say that I’m glad that some people in the military have seen the light. There actions, to my English sensibilities, are reprehensible, but then, I’m not in Burma, nor living under any other military regime. If it results in the fall of the Junta, is this necessarily a good thing? Many violent revolutions lead to new forms of dictatorship, and we cannot be sure that the monks will win through the fighting, and that democracy will flourish.
Sadly, though, it might be that this is the only way to rid Burma of its military dictatorship; pacifist actions normally rely on an appeal to some kind of humanity within their opponents, and this is a regime who’s humanity can probably be weighed in terms of grains of rice. On the other hand, maybe pacifism would have won through in the end, and the bloodshed will almost certainly be higher this way.
Either way, people are dying. Brown is probably correct in saying that over a hundred are dead. So I really can’t decide whether I think shooting back is any worse than expecting everyone to remain peaceful. I really don’t want this to turn into a mass-suicide pact on the part of the population of Burma, which is what it could very easily become.
Talking of Gordon Brown and his sudden interest in a country most British people, let alone Americans, could point to on a map: an email turned up in my inbox several times today, mostly coming from Stop the War groups in various places. A slightly shortened version read like this:
URGENT – ATTEMPT TO BAN STOP THE WAR MARCH
On Monday 8 October the Stop the War Coalition will be marching
from Trafalgar Square to Parliament calling for all troops in Iraq
to be brought home immediately.
After a series of relatively co-operative meetings, the police now
say they have been instructed not to allow the march to take place
and that all demonstrations are banned within a mile of Parliament
whilst in session.
This is a new development which threatens our democratic rights.
When Gordon Brown became prime minister he promised to liberalise
the laws on protest, saying that one of his principles would be,
“civil liberties safeguarded and enhanced”. Government ministers,
including Gordon Brown, have lined up to support the right to
protest in Burma. It is important that these same ministers also
defend the rights of people in this country to protest peacefully.
One has to admit that they have a point: so much for supporting people’s right to protest in other places, but respect people’s right to protest in Britain first. Keeping protesters “at arms length” is simply unacceptable. Democracy is proven by the people’s ability to alter the course of their government’s actions. The concept of “freedom of protest” is that people are free to protest, without state interference. Its not like there aren’t plenty of places which people used protest, such as Parliament Square, right outside Parliament.
To create a situation where protest is purely an art form, where people are allowed to protest ineffectively, in view of the media but away from the corridors of power is simply unacceptable. To then praise protesters in another country shows the arrogance of the British state, always sure of its own righteousness and of others barbarity. If its done beneath a Union Flag, its OK, if its done by an economic rival like China, or a state closely allied thereto, like Burma, it must be condemned.
It shall be interesting to see what stories emerge over the next couple of days. Hopefully it shall serve as a reminder to the people of the world that Democracy is never willingly given by those who hold power, it is something everyone must continuously seek to build up, because as soon as we stop, it will start to unravel again. Hopefully by sometime next week I’ll be writing a happy story about Burma, but right now I’m very wary of any claims I see that the people are winning; knowing how easily it could all go wrong and praying that it all goes right.