Wednesday, 25 October 2017

I am humanly vain and immoral: A confession of an honest scholar

Source Maungzarni, 22 Oct

I am as vain and immoral as any human. - ZARNI 

​Dear Friends,

​This is a confessional reflection: I am as vain -and even immoral - as anyone. Don't treat me like I am something special, super-human. 

Get this. ​

Back in the days, I remember feeling overcome with rage inside me as world leaders attempted to outdo one another in heaping praise on the 'extraordinary democratic transition' that the generals and ex-generals were undertaking. The American politicians led the choir of World Class Delusions. 

Obama famously urged Dear Leader in N. Korea and Ayatollahs in Iran to behave like Myanmar's old-time crooks and thugs in generals' uniform. 

Ex-General Thein Sein was nominated - and even short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize. ICG in fact picked him to be their man of the hour for the world peace, alongside Brazil's Lulu. Ah, the "pursuit of peace". (For the record, Thein Sein's final legislative act was the Nuremberg-style 4 "National Race and Faith Protection Laws", in the months running up to the 2015 Re-Elections.)

The Burmese nationalists, whether raised in New York City's diaspora or in the heart of the Dry Zone of Burma were completely wild-eyed. Virtually all analysts and scholars, and Burma watchers threw their caution into the wind, and chimed in the political chorus of the day. 

Yangon was Democracy's Saudi Arabia, and Suu Kyi's residence at 54 University Avenue turned from a Must-Drive-By spot in the old colonial city in the Lonely Planet's Myanmar Guide to Mecca for the Rich, the Glamorous, the Powerful and the Ignoble. Hilary and Bill Clinton, Norwegian royals (who were not allowed to see poverty on the bank of the famed Irrawaddy River in my fabled town Mandalay), David Cameron, Angelina Jollie, Kevin Rudd, the widower​-President ​of Benazir Bhutto​, ​the Chinese-Malaysian Bond-woman Datuk Michelle Yeo, Tony Blair and the lesser mortals, all descended on the Lady's residence. 

A kind of a Burmese Robin Island ​pilgrimage. Reserved Royals globally soaked up on the Asian Mandela's halo with as much glee on their faces as the dodgy politicians and empty Hollywood-types did. 

Nations' highest awards were hand-delivered in boutique little ceremonies at 54 University Avenue, when Suu Kyi was too busy to travel receive them. 

Meanwhile, Telenor and other investors wasted no time to move in and striked up multi-billion $ deals with the ex-Generals.

World class journalists didn't get enough interview times with the reformist-duo - the bespectabled ex-General Thein Sein with the barely existent command of English and the Nobel Lady-cum-the-mix of King-Gandhi-and-Mandela. The fawning diplomats did their bed to show their reverence and get a selfie with the Lady. ( I confess. I do have one with her, except that I put it right above our toilet at home - where it belongs - as every guest who has ever been to our house). 

The victory laps! Private jets from the Hollywood-types to Singaporean Prime Minister, occasionally escorted by the likes of Bono. 

This was Burma's - nay, Myanmar's Moment - with the capital M - to shine. Myanmar Spring! 

The country widely, and wildly, considered to be one of two post-WWII countries with the greatest development potentials - the other was the Philippines - after Japan, was now resuming its rightful place: to become the "next Asian tiger". 

The phraseology coming from ​the likes of ​my old - or former - friend Thant Myint-U was ​the transition was "not perfect" because of the 2008 Constitution that placed the military above any democratic process - right, it wasn't "perfect"! - but still incomparably better than what it had been: a text book example of a military dictatorship.

There were a few of us - maybe just me - who were stupid enough to call out on what we knew to be a complete farce, obviously a World Class Farce, worthy of an entry into the Guinness Book of Records - insofar as the pervasive and popular Fairy Tale of the hitherto Dodgy Generals leading these "top down reforms", switching from the "baby steps" to steady strides. 

It was the experience of swimming against the tide, trying to pierce through the thick fog of extraordinary delusions, on the streets, in the chattering classes of New York Times, the Guardian, TIME, BBC, CNN, and all the lesser known media entities, and in the World of Money and Power. 

I have never seen or read anything like what transpired in those 5-long years - from 2010-2015: the various strands of delusions based on shallow or ill-informed descriptions of what my country was, what it was going through, and what the elites and the leaders were doing to lift all boats and to democratize, all jelling into ONE BIG SEA OF MADNESS. 

​As the Burmese saying goes, when every other person around has lost his or her mind it was an utterly stupid act to sound the horn of reason and analysis. 

Alas, a mad man on the margins of power, influence or relevance. A spoiler. A negativist.

Not a Saint myself, I must confess my own pathos, a disease, inside which triggers a cool sense of vindication. Alas, the cliche of "I told you so". 

Sad and pathetic as it is, I do feel a deep sense of satisfaction that I have been right about my own country's worst inhuman tendencies, the utter stupidity of the elites, now civilian and military, that have chronically self-destroy​ed throughout the recorded history of Burma, pre- and post-colonial. 

But in the context where silver-linings are hard to find I pause to pat my own back, now that the democratic transition has gone south completely. And ir-reversibly, certainly not in Suu Kyi's lifetime, considering that she has herself participated in the murder of Buddha in the land where his teachings have been replaced with racism of the most genocidal kind. 

My own indulgence in the vanity as an analyst and scholar may be short-lived - but to deny that there is a part of me that is rotten would be utterly dishonest: I do enjoy being proven right. 

Alas, we are all too humans. I don't put myself above the rest.

I am not afraid to stare into the mirror. 

Now back to my morning cup of coffee! Enjoy your day!


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