Sunday, May 11, 2008


I have nothing terribly interesting or original to say about the recent catastrophe in Myanmar, the frightening death toll of 28,000 as a result of the typhoon, and the hysteric efforts of the Burmese government to prevent international rescue and aid to make contact with its suffering people. An opinion piece on the New York Times voices a temptation to "invade" Myanmar in order to save the victims. While my conservative side says that there is no way we can import democracy by a military invasion, and that a form of authority imposed by a foreign power will not receive the populist support that is the point of democracy, how can we understand the kind of isolationism of these repressive regimes, whose reaction under crisis can only be compared to a dysfunctional family who would rather see to its own ruins than open itself to the aid of social workers?

I am not for "invasion" (I doubt that it is the right word to use here), but I wonder if there is not something to be said about external mediation. We do not occupy the earth alone, and when we suffer, we need to be able to ask others for help. After all, Germany's acceptance of the Marshall Plan is a sign of the reconciliation of the western European nation-states, isn't it? To be able to accept help from others is a form of humility and the beginning of peace-making with the outside world. The parents in the Indian reservations in Canada have been known to call upon Canadian social workers to take away their children before they all get drugged on gasoline fumes, which is a gesture of grace in an abysmal situation. The current behavior of the Burmese government, however, can only be seen as heart-chilling. It is only to be expected that a government that has no love for its own people would hate not only its neighbors but the entire world.

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