Sunday, February 03, 2008

Burma: Unity essential to survival

I have been asked to republish this excellent article by Goldie Shwe in The Art Of Patience Free Burma Many thanks to Jeg

In Burma, where the only authority comes from the gun-toting junta and their cronies, it is unsurprising that most people just mind their own business and get on with their daily struggle to live. It is unwise to be conspicuous under the eyes of the junta gunmen and assorted thugs, unless you relish imprisonment under the slightest pretext.

So how on earth have the people of Taunggok (Rakhine State), about 50 miles north of Thandwe (Ngapali) managed not only to make faces at the all-powerful junta gunmen but also to play cat and mouse with them?

While most people are too frightened to even look straight into the eyes of the daughter or son of the nasty 'militocracy' shopping in a big super store, Taunggok openly challenges the thugs over unbelievable stupidity in so badly mis-managing the country. It expressed the displeasure of the corrupt officials' mis-management and the force labour. While most cities and towns in Burma are still nursing the wounds inflicted by junta during the last September protest, people of Taunggok managed to plan and gathered around for fresh and renewed demonstrations. When this was forced to abandon, they started the poster war.

Where do they get the courage from? How do they manage to display this never-say-die attitudes? The answer is quite simple. They just stick to basics and apply their animal instincts in dealing with the predators of the obscenely powerful junta. The severely repressed residents of Taunggok have worked out that when you are so far from the top of the feeding chain, you must be united to survive against the shamelessly violent enemies - the junta.

Recently, researchers have discovered how vast flocks of starlings stay together when under attack by predators, never leaving any of their number isolated and vulnerable. Each starling constantly tracks seven others as they fly, to be instantly responsive to changes of direction. Cohesion may be threatened under attack, but the flock can regroup very quickly ready for the next threat.

Taunggok is doing exactly just that with the people united. Just like the starlings, they look out for each other and stick together. It is not easy to stick up a poster in the middle of the town, infested by patrolling security gunmen, without a team to support and watch out for you.

When there is a petition, everyone wants to sign and there is no hesitation to show unity and solidarity, either in print or in person. When it was agreed that it was time to demonstrate, they managed to form a group of about 200, again in the town centre. When two youths decided to go out on their own to shout out democracy slogans, many people watched them anxiously to report the situation and just like the starlings, they regrouped again very quickly.

This apparently simple starling-like behaviour has been puzzling and confusing for mono-dimensional junta. Why don't they disperse or be disloyal to each other as in some of the larger towns and cities? Why? Because the people of Taunggok have the firm belief that the only way to improve their lives is to win democratic freedoms. And for this, they understand that they have to be united, and behave as a close knit community, so that corrupt 'local authorities' cannot threaten or frighten them. Just as the starlings know their predators, the brave people of Taunggok know theirs is the junta and its cronies and corrupt followers, who can snatch them anytime to gain favour with the murdering 'authorities'. Like the starlings, they will not leave a member isolated and vulnerable.

Taunggok was seized by security troops on 17 January but people are still planning to demonstrate as soon as they have a chance. It means that the junta has to deploy many of its soldier-thugs, probably more than the population of the town itself. If every town in Burma follows the example of the courage of Taunggok, using and applying the same simply method - Starlings' Theory : keeping track of your own kind, to protect each other -what kind of effect and benefit the country will get ?

a) The people will feel the strength which comes from unity. Knowing that your life is more secure in the hands of your fellows will begin to increase resolve and strength.

b) The Junta would be faced with a physically and mentally tiring task. They may have the second biggest army (first if you count the newly recruited baby soldiers) in Asia but there is at least 50 Burmese people to every soldier/thug.

Public ridicule an extension of the internet campaign is what the junta should attract. The ridiculous strutting soldier/thugs, whose only military 'honours' have been 'won' in abusing, violating and killing their own people, have to be seen by the Burmese for what they are.

Taunggok has proved that unity and solidarity is strength. It is equally important to recognise and identify the enemy quickly so that you can deal with them. These simple and crucial lessons from the 'Starlings' Theory' appear to be working very well with people of Taunggok and so it could across Burma.