Letter from Burma
This letter has been sent to me -- and to others -- by a Burmese gentleman. Anyone who is currently or was ever a citizen of the Third World will attest to its essential truth.
Before I go to bed tonight, I will pray hard to Lord Buddha that I will wake up as a Japanese in the morning. All my life, I have been a Burmese and I have always thought that all the human lives have equal values in this world after reading “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. It was a rude awakening for me and I only realized it in the last few days.
Matter of fact, I just learned that a Japanese life is worth more than thousands of Burmese lives. It is evident from the reaction of the Japanese government after a Japanese journalist was killed in Rangoon. The Japanese government has long been aware of the fact that Burmese people go through these abuses at junta’s hand everyday. Summary executions, forced labor, forced relocation, forced conscription of child soldiers and many other atrocities. But Japanese government has been indifferent in their policy of engaging with the military junta and supporting them.
Suddenly, even the Deputy Foreign Minister is going to Burma for an investigation for the death of the Japanese journalist. Please don’t misunderstand me, myself along with all the Burmese appreciate the efforts of Nagai San to expose the living hell that the Burmese live day in day out, to the outside world. Our condolences go to his family. It is sad that an innocent Japanese life had to be lost because the government of Japan had ignored all the facts for decades knowingly.
I will also pray for all the other Burmese to wake up as Japanese tomorrow. Lord Buddha please have mercy on all of us Burmese and let us wake up as Japanese tomorrow.
I thought I should compose a reply.
The hard truth is that no one is going to save you. The UN Declaration of Human Rights is only as good as the Burmese people can make it. Nobody at Turtle Bay will so much as cross the street to enforce it. That the Japanese foreign ministry has taken an momentary interest in Burma is nice, but make no mistake, their focus will be on the fate of the dead Japanese journalist. You will be part of the scenery.
It was to avoid this fate -- the fate of counting for nothing -- that people formed real countries with real governments. In order to protect themselves: "to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them ... to secure these rights ... among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness ... governments are instituted among Men." And thus are the Japanese protected by the Government of Japan, Americans by the United States, Australians by the Commonwealth of Australia and so on. Otherwise they would be as you are, under the mocking protection of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, that is to say, the butt of a cruel joke.
For historical reasons all too well known to you, Burma currently has no real government. Oh, like many other Third World states it has a head of government, a bureaucracy and their excellencies the ambassadors; it has generals and field marshals, with ranks more exalted the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and more medals than Audie Murphy. They have the complete panoply of sovereign majesty; everything but legitimacy derived from the consent of the governed. You have not given the generals who rule your country consent; and yet they govern.
Better yet your rulers are recognized by foreigners even though you know them not. Recognized by the United Nations and ASEAN. Your rulers are loved by other governments in proportion to the degree with which these governments resemble your own. Governments of the Third World have a vested interest in keeping the standards low. You the Burmese must always be worthless so that the citizens of other Third World countries can be equally valueless. The United Nations is a club where tyrants can confer legitimacy upon each other and cover every outrage on the globe with bureaucratic oblivion. This legitimacy is called "national dignity" and the bureacratic smokescreen which accompanies it is called "international law".
You are alone. Still you have yourselves. Whatever sham your government has become you the Burmese are men. Aid may come to you but it would be unwise to count on it. You have nothing but your own manhood to rely upon. On it rests your slender chances for freedom. Upon it depends your dignity. From it shall spring the law. Not international law, drafted over petit fours and coffee in Brussels but law that springs from you. By the consent of the governed.
You will be lonely, but there is no help for it. I would be dishonest if I said that the road to freedom was anything else but long, wearying and full of pain. But I know that is the road that you long to take. "Death and sorrow will be the companions of your journey, hardship your garment, constancy and valor your only shield." That is the path which you will embark upon, because as men you can do no other.
I have no strength of my own to give you and will only say this: may the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord Buddha guide you. And lead you to your home.