The repression of the monastic community in Myammar by the ruling nmilitary junta is, from the perspctive of most Westerners, an act of political brutality. But, for the people of Myammar it is much more than that. It is an attempt, much like the Chinese Cultural Revolution or the reign of terror in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, an attempt to brutally reshape the cultural foundations of a society.
The people of Myammar, to whom I will refer from here on by the more familiar term of Burmese, have very strong roots in the principles of\ Buddhism. According to figures quoted in Shaken Traditions: The Crushing of Myanmar’s Monks – New York Times, something lke 10% of the population is a monk. Monks are revered and respected in Burmese culture. It is much like the respect and esteem given to saints in early Christian communities. To attack one monk is bad, but to brutally attack thousands of them is horrific.
For the last 20 years, the Buddhist monks have been the only major segment of Burmese society to criticize the Burmese government. And they do it peacefully!! The monks do not fight back. They may flee, but then who wouldn’t? Tthey do not resort to violence, even in self-defense. This is a root tenet of Buffhism and it may very well be the psychological explanation for the government’s reaction to these demonstrations. A government controlled by military men would have real problems with a population committed to a religion that preaches – and practices – non-violence.
What bothers me the most about this situation is the reaction, or more truthfully, the lack of a reaction, by Western governments, and most especially, the United States. Is it because they are Buddhists rather than Christians? Is it because Myammar does not have anything like oil that we really want?
George Bush is always touting American moral ideals to justify the war in Iraq or his saber-rattling at Iran and North Korea. Hey George, why not put your “high moral principles” into action for the people of Myammar? Or are you really as hypocritical as I think you are?