Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Day After The Day After Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday, & the Day After That; Freeing Her is Not a Moral Imperative; It is an Existential Imperative

In a hand-written letter smuggled out of Burma and passed to The Independent, U Win Tin writes: "I want to repeat and echo her own words - 'please use your liberty to promote ours'. I want to add more to it. Please bring more and more liberty to us, to our country, Burma. We are starving for it and we are waiting for someone or some institutions or some countries to bring it to us." Andrew Buncombe, Independent/UK, 6-18-10

The Day After The Day After Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday, & the Day After That ... Freeing Her is Not a Moral Imperative; It is an Existential Imperative

By Richard Power

So Aung San Suu Kyi's 65th birthday has come and gone.

This winner of the Noble Peace Prize and the Sakharov Prize remains under house arrest.

Her birthday has evolved into an annual day of global protest against her oppressors.

One of the most poignant protests was organized by Amnesty/UK:

In Burma, any political meeting of more than five people is illegal. Amnesty UK will mark both of these facts by having a series of "flash mobs" in Hagley (Worcestershire), Birmingham, Bath and Manchester, where groups of six or more will gather at 1pm to wish Aung San a happy birthday by wearing masks of her face. Guardian, 6-19-10

(Toward the end of this post, I have embedded a You Tube video of another poignant protest, from the Philippines.)

Such actions mean much more to the spiritual life of the human race than another letter to Aung San Suu Kyi from another U.S. President, accompanied by yet another call for her release. Blah blah blah.

Now if POTUS had written a letter to the Board of Directors of Chevron on Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday, and demanded that they cease enabling the Burmese Junta by doing business with it, and then called up Sarkosy and told him to demand the same of Total, there might have been a disturbance in the force.

But, of course, human rights is, all too often, only a chess piece on the geopolitical and natural resource game board. Played when convenient, and ignored when inconvenient. The rest of the time our official "concern" usually amounts to little more than hollow rhetoric. Well, all of this "realpolitik" has caught up with us. Now all of us (at least those of us who don't have our eyes wide shut) are staring into the gaping jaws of a hydra-headed monster borne of our own compromises.

BP's ecocide in the Gulf has gone on for 60 days, as of this post; and there is no end in sight. (BTW, last year's Timor Sea spill needed five relief wells drilled before they hit the mark.) The deeper meaning and full extent of the catastrophe (perhaps global) have not yet been acknowledged from on high.

Remember the incomprehensible devastation wrought in the Haitian earthquake? It was just six months ago. That catastrophe is open-ended, & yet, here in Babylon it seems like distant memory.

(And mark my words, before this is all over there will be a lot more understanding of the oneness of all life, as we learn that geology and climatology have a lot more to do with each other than cautious intellects are, as of yet, willing to admit, even to themselves.)

It did not have to be this way.

If we had valued human rights and sustainability more over the last thirty years, if we had been willing to fight for them (and not necessarily with force of arms), instead of all to often against them, we would not only have less human rights atrocities and environmental catastrophes to cope with, we would also have less economic woes, and less national security threats to cope with.

We have done this to ourselves, and to each other.

And, yes, it is difficult to accept where it is that we have arrived.

Consider this remarkable headline for in the Huffington Post: Five Lessons from Congo for Afghanistan Mining

The recent report that Afghanistan has mineral deposits worth $1 trillion has led several writers to make a broad comparison to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Conflict in that country, which is blamed for killing more than 5 million people, is fueled in significant part by the illicit trade in minerals worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. It's worth delving into the less obvious links between mineral resources and instability in eastern Congo to illustrate the potentially grave effects of a gold, lithium, or niobium rush in Afghanistan. David Sulliven (Enough Project), Huffington Post, 6-18-10

The BP ecocide in the Gulf of Mexico began on Earth Day (5-2-10). So like Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday, we will all be able to commemorate it easily on our calendars.

But what of the day after the birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi? And that day after the day after? And what of the month after Earth Day 2010? And the month after the month after Earth Day 2010? And what about the year after Haitian earthquake struck (January 2010)? And what about the year after the year after the year that it struck?

What will become of us all? The political establishment and the mainstream news media is so craven that BP, Massey and Goldman Sachs and their ilk are "free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise ..."

Our governance is ass-backwards, our priorities are upside, our wealth has already been re-distributed -- TO the few FROM the many.

Aung San Suu Kyi's significance as a symbol has increased exponentially, because the story of Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer the story of a brave, enlightened dissident in defiance resistance to an oppressive regime far away, it is the story of all of us. The only problem is that most of us just have not come to grips with it yet.

Aung San Suu Kyi's struggle should be our struggle not because it is moral imperative, but because it is an existential imperative. Her life is our life, her challenge is our challenge, her danger is our danger.

With each passing year that Aung San Suu Kyi is still in detention, events marking her birthday have become increasingly poignant. However, if the birthday of the world’s most famous prisoner of conscience is to be meaningful for human rights in Burma this year, governments worldwide must end their glib rhetoric about free and fair elections in the country and call for the three freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association to be firmly at the centre of the elections.
Haider Kikabhoy, Telegraph/UK, 6-19-10

And what shall we do in addition to agitating for the deliverance of Aung San Suu Kyi and the suffering people of Burma?

Well, the manifestion will vary from from nation to nation, region to region, community to community, and individual life to individual life, depending upon temperament and circumstances; but the essential truth of that manifestation will be the same for everyone everywhere.

And in this current news cycle, I suggest that essence is best epitomized by the women of the Miskito Miskitu Indian Mairinka Asla Takanka (MIMAT):

Seven years ago, in the isolated Honduran region of Mosquitia, on the Caribbean coast, a group of women, mostly single mothers, elderly or widowed, overcame their fear and timidity -- thanks in part to a waste recycling project.
They decided to break from the "machismo" of the local culture and organised themselves ... MIMAT took on the clean-up of the largest lagoon in the area and the streets of the six municipalities that make up eastern Mosquitia ... They also classify, pack and ship the garbage to a private company that has agreed to purchase the material.
"The husbands are angry about the revolution we are creating, because the Miskito woman is no longer submissive ..."
IPS, 6-18-10

I encourage you to follow the story of the Gulf eco-catastrophe in the writings of Julia Whitty, who is doing some terrific work for Mother Jones. Follow her tweets (

I also encourage you to find out why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love: go to or Google "Bill McKibben" for the answer.

The Philippines lends its voice to global cry for release of Aung Suu Kyi

Richard Power's True North on the Pathless Path: Toward 21st Century Spirituality is available from

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available from

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