Monthly Archives: May 2016

Some Good News in the World…Aung San Sui Ky

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

In the constant avalanche of bad news which rushes past us at frightening speed, it is sometimes quite easy to miss that some things are going in a good direction. We may briefly glimpse some positive events before they are overshadowed by the next catastrophe.

For example, it was easy to miss the news that a democratically elected government recently emerged in Myanmar (formerly Burma.) It gave Aung San Sui Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy opposition party the job of State Counselor. This deceptively fragile looking woman spent many years of her life under house arrest because of her activism as a dissident. She became an icon when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. It took 21 years before she could deliver her acceptance speech in person in Oslo in 2012. In her place her 2 sons Alexander and Kim traveled to Norway in 1991 to receive the prize on her behalf.

Because Aung San Sui Kyi was married to a British citizen and her 2 children are not Burmese citizens and do not wish to become naturalized, her country’s constitution does not allow her to become President. Therefore she chose a proxy President and named the cabinet members, all loyal to her. Her next step will probably be to try to amend the constitution.

After Aung San Sui Kyi was freed, she announced plans to liberate some 500 political prisoners still behind bars. This lotus looking “iron lady” will oversee the transition of her totalitarian country, for so long ruled by the military, to democratic rule. She is looking for examples at other countries in Latin America who have overthrown military dictatorships and at countries of Eastern Europe who overturned Marxist rule.

Much is expected of her, beginning with improving the lives of the great masses of people who live in great poverty. In addition, the Generals, who are all also businessmen, still control many of the seats in Parliament.

So far she has been silent about the persecution of the Muslim minority in her country and the violation of their civil rights, and that is held against her. Myanmar is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and she must find acceptance in this mostly Muslim organization.

Aung San Sui Kyi has the right credentials for leading Myanmar. Her father was General Aung San who fought for the independence of the country and was assassinated. Her mother was ambassador to India. Her role models are Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. She was probably also inspired by Mandela.

It has taken very long for her liberation and ascension to power. We can only hope that nothing will derail this positive development.

Je Suis Tired of Posturing

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After the killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, a spontaneous expression of popular solidarity erupted in Paris and other cities. The new slogan “Je suis Charlie” was born, perhaps echoing President’s Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” during the Berlin blockade. There was defiance in these expressions. What they were saying was: You cannot stop us. We will continue to target intolerance, evil and stupidity wherever we see it.

What started as a genuine outburst of indignation soon degenerated into a mandatory automatic response. Even John Kerry followed suit. No doubt he was moved and moving when he proclaimed: Je suis un Bruxellois after the massive killings there. He reminded us that after 9/11, a French reporter said “tonight we are all Americans.” Unfortunately this has now become a knee jerk reaction. “Je suis” sayings proliferate like mushrooms after rain. It is also, alas a very selective reaction. Paris and Brussels got their fair share but unless my memory fails me, I recall no such condemnation of the Madrid attack. And no one said: Je suis Tunis or Je suis Ankara. Nor was the Eiffel Tower illuminated for them.

Another sentiment often expressed by European leaders after terrorist acts goes something like this: We will not be afraid. We will live like we did before all this. We will continue to sit at cafe terraces, go to the theater and lead a carefree life. But what is really happening everywhere is:greatly increased security and surveillance, a rise of Right Wing anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment and the spread of fear mongering. Civil rights are being attacked and privacy is in jeopardy. We need only look at the Apple encryption brouhaha after the San Bernardino killings to see this. This is not unusual. It happens every time a people is “at war” and feels vulnerable. It sees spies everywhere. Perhaps some of this is justified but it creates a tense and unhealthy atmosphere. In the meantime the refugee tsunami continues to swell and exacerbates an already shaky equilibrium.

ISIS and Soup

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Our problem in tackling ISIS is that it is not just a piece of land inhabited by enemies of the Western World but an ideology willing to die for its belief that the West must be annihilated.

Recently Avigdor Lieberman, (former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs) called for a full scale rooting out of ISIS…by NATO. Well, Turkey might not be so keen to help.

And as our military experts remind us, taking territory is so much easier than holding it. As Americans well know, it is very hard to know when it is “mission accomplished.” Is it ever? Lieberman’s Trumpian proposal has very real problems.

But how do we deal with a large scale ideological conflict? Didn’t we do that already when we defeated the Communist World? True it took a very long time to achieve and exacted a high price. In addition, although Communism started as an ideal it was quickly transformed into a “pretend” ideology. Its leaders stopped believing in it and used it principally to consolidate their power.

But Communism, though it stirred many people, did not generate the fervor that ISIS has achieved. Did anyone hear of any young communists blowing themselves up shouting “Marx is Great?”

ISIS, in contrast, is attracting and brainwashing young, ignorant, disaffected recruits with promises of a better life in Paradise where they will be greeted and wooed by 72 beautiful virgins. (Young women who become martyrs are not offered an equivalent benefit.)

It seems that we are dealing with a mutation to a new species of humanoids devoid of many of the traits of empathy, generosity and tolerance that mankind has slowly developed.

And so it is difficult not to be pessimistic about our ability to deal with this scourge. What can we offer in response? The imperfections of democratic rule? The greed of capitalism? Nobody has yet invented an anti-jihadist vaccine, and some of these addicts are too far gone for us to reach.

We can only start at the bottom with the very young. See to it that we give them the proper environment to thrive, a good basic education, role models to emulate, opportunities for jobs and social integration. We must make sure that they do not inhabit a parallel world, and live in enclaves where they nurse grievances that evolve into hatred.

We also need to keep stirring the melting pot of the world. It makes a pretty good soup.

Editor’s Note: Simone thrives on your comments. We encourage you to contribute your thoughts.