And Betting On That Nation's Future
I went to Burma/Myanmar with questions about what I would find. A military dictatorship seized control of this Southeast Asian nation a half century ago and closed themselves off to the rest of the world.
I knew about the British colonial period, WWII, Aung San telling the British to leave, the coup d'état by the military, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the 88 Generation Students Group efforts to return Myanmar to an independent and democratic country. I did not know what the life of a local person living in Myanmar was like nor what foreigners would face when traveling within the tourist triangle. I have traveled in several different police states over the years and understood what the travelers and especially the locals faced. I merely assumed that it would be like E. Germany decades ago back in the 1960s.
Myanmar is emerging from a third world agrarian society into an industrial society. Interestingly, it is also on the edge of the new and emerging society of the information revolution. Go to any small town or village, and you can see a horse pulling a cart, motor cycles, and large semi all on the same road. Myanmar straddles the past while it is in the present and prepares for the future.
That is fascinating, but the people are the most polite and caring people that I have ever visited in any part of the world. They care about you and want to help in any way. They are truly happy that you are in their country visiting and learning about Myanmar.
Aside from people of Myanmar's impressive hospitality, they are extremely hard working. The average income in Myanmar is a little less than $100 a month. Having said that, they work hard at providing for themselves and their families. They do not go around with a chip on their shoulder. They look to tomorrow to provide a better life, but in the meantime, they work hard.
Tin, one of our guides who was fluent in English and history of Myanmar, wanted my spin on what I had seen in his country. I responded to him that Myanmar is caught between the past and present while going through labor pains of a society about which they are not prepared. Myanmar is very much like a newborn child in a delivery room of a hospital. It is going through the birth pains like all children...the birth process, bright lights, loud noises, uncertainty, hunger, and vast amounts of confusion.
While being unprepared for this reality, I had dealt with Scotland's trying also to become a fully functional human being as they debate leaving their mother, England. In my writings, I wrote about the parallels between Scotland's struggles and America's efforts to gain independence also from Britain. It is interesting that Scotland, America, and Myanmar wanted the British to go home.
I knew what to expect when I went to Scotland in the spring of 2013, because my family several generations ago came from Scotland, and I had done post-graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh the late 60s. Therefore, I could relate and understand what they were facing, and I could address various issues with some sort of knowledge base. Having said that, I did not have any of the emotional, intellectual, or Weltanschauung regarding Myanmar.
While I had nearly a month during winter break from teaching this year, that limited timeframe is not the comparable to what I had with Scotland. Therefore, I went to Myanmar to learn and experience their society. What I got was a vast amount of first impressions of what the birth pains are like for the people of Myanmar.
Parents all know that birth pain for the mother and child are limited when it comes to the amount of time of delivery and birth. However, the pains of birth of a new nation take much more time...even decades or more. One of the advantages of having one's own children and grandchildren is that you understand the pain and suffering that the infant must endure to become fully a mature adult.
Another advantage of old age is that one has had the benefit of seeing the world. I have been to all the continents and several dozen countries scattered all over the globe. Therefore, I have seen various countries in their natal period and through their various stages until maturity. I entered Myanmar with certain apprehensions related to the fear that countries endure during their natal period.
Let me tell you, I left Myanmar with hope for their future. While they have been dealt, from a Westerner's Weltanschauung, a very bad hand especially in the past half century, they have faced it without much fear and trembling, which is truly remarkable. They recognized that they cannot change the past, but they do realize that by facing the present, they can change their futures.
I have no doubts that they will. However, I do wish that all Scotland would learn from Myanmar's guts and determination as the Scots also face the 21st century attempting to be an independent nation once again after three centuries of English parliamentary control.
Myanmar will do so with steadfast determination to survive quite like a newborn infant. With that survival mentality, they will get past the pains and problems that a newborn nation faces. Maybe the people of Myanmar can teach the Scot's who are also suffering the problems associated with birth. In Scotland, this contagion is called the cringe...the Scottish cringe. Myanmar knows something about suffering. Nevertheless, the people of Myanmar have dealt with great suffering. Nonetheless, they will survive to become a free nation. What needs to be addressed is that Myanmar has faced and is still facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The hand dealt them by the British colonial period and the military dictatorship was not fair...but they faced the British and are facing squarely a nondemocratic government.
In addition, the people of Myanmar are not stewing in their juices and complaining while fearing to act. They feed themselves, care for their family, and work for a new day. They know that their birth from the past into the future will not occur overnight. However, what is interesting to see and experience firsthand is that they function with the reality that many may not live to see the new nation mature into a free and egalitarian one. Nonetheless, that reality does not limit their efforts...whether they experience the new nation of Myanmar or not is not the issue. The issue is that Myanmar will see it in the future.
There is one fatherly and grandfatherly piece of advice that I can give the people of Myanmar, I know birth and newborn's pain is scary. However, my pains, as one who celebrated his 71st birthday just after my return from Myanmar, are not limited to the birth process and the first few years. Those pains will continue and not end. Every period in a human's life has its set of problems. The people of Myanmar know very well about the pains of birth, but as you mature as a nation, other pains will emerge. It has happened with every nation of the world. Face those pains as you have faced the birthing pains, and your future will surely be bright. I know that it is possible for a nation to move from one age to the next without undue worry and concerns. I also know that the people of Myanmar will do it.
Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.