Tag: Burma

On the road to Mandalay?

Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

What are the ethical issues involved in visiting a country whose government has been accused of committing atrocities against its own people? We’re not talking China here, although its persecution of the Uighurs is outrageous. Then, there’s Myanmar.

In 2016, ten international travel companies offered sailings on the Irrawaddy, which flows north to south through the heart of Myanmar, from its source in the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. The cruises were running at close to full capacity but the boom didn’t last long. Unrest involving a Muslim-minority group, the Rohingya, erupted in a region called Rakhine and more than 500,000 Rohingya have since fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Terms such as “ethnic cleansing” were used to describe the alleged atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military and the country became a political pariah. As for the Burmese people, they’re said to among the most welcoming in Asia and street crime is almost non-existent in Myanmar. Each traveller must make in informed decision before visiting Myanmar, or China, for that matter.


Marx and Mass and Moguls and Myanmar

Tuesday, 18 August, 2015 0 Comments

When he was a hard-left Labour activist and a militant atheist, the young(er) Tim Stanley saw life as a class struggle and believed that salvation could only come through revolution. That was then. And now? In the Catholic Herald, the historian and journalist explains his epiphany in “Why I became a Catholic“. Snippet:

“I’ve abandoned Marxism (a whole other complicated story) in part because I’ve realised that you can’t save this world by trying to tell others what to do. Politics is impotent compared to a kind word or a helping hand. Not that I’ve become a saint over the past 10 years — on the contrary, I’m more conscious of my failings. When you become a Catholic you find lots of new ways of feeling guilty.”

Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics is the title of Tim Stanley’s latest book. In it, he argues that the film industry has “helped to forge a culture that is obsessed with celebrity and spectacle.” George Clooney and Matt Damon may be big at the box office but this does not make them experts on domestic or international affairs.

Stanley’s analysis of the West Wing phenomenon is funny and frightening. The series is “a Bible for liberal reformers the world over”, he says, pointing out its writers “are all former Capitol Hill staff, many of Obama’s staff are huge fans, and the character of Matt Santos was actually based on Obama when he was still an unknown Illinois politician.” Most terrifying of all, however, is the fact that when Myanmar (Burma) was transitioning from military rule, “its new government learned how to run a democracy by watching West Wing DVDs.” General elections are scheduled for Burma on 8 November, but the Wall Street Journal has spotted clouds on the horizon: “Myanmar Military Strengthens Grip Over Ruling Party as Election Nears” it reported recently. Looks like the West Wing did not unduly impress the colonels.


Shaw’s last words

Thursday, 7 November, 2013 0 Comments

Maurice Collis was born in Dublin in 1889 and went to Rugby School and then to the University of Oxford, where he studied history. He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1911 and was posted to Burma, rising to the position of district magistrate in Rangoon in 1929. He returned to England in 1934 and wrote more than 20 books, including volumes of autobiography, travel writing, novels, histories, three plays and a diary. He died in 1973. This is a classic dinner party recollection:

7 November 1953: [dining with Lord and Lady Astor] She [Lady Astor] told of her famous visit to Moscow with Bernard Shaw during the war. The things she said straight out to Stalin were staggering.
‘Your regime is no different from the Czars’.
‘Why?
‘Because you dispose of your opposition without trial.’
Stalin laughed. ‘Of course.’

Shaw She also spoke of Bernard Shaw’s last illness. ‘I went to see him the day before he died. I sat by him stroking his head. He was quite clear. Suddenly he said. “That reminds me,” and told me this story. “Lord X gave a great party to all the local gentry. As they were about to eat, the butler came in and said to him, ‘Excuse me, your lordship, but Mr So & So is in bed with your wife.’ At this, Lord X, rising in his place, said to the company: ‘Go home, go home. There is a man in bed with my wife. The party is cancelled. Off you go.’ The guests, much disappointed, for there were quantities of drink, began to disperse. The butler came in again, and spoke to his lordship. He got up. ‘Don’t go, don’t go. The man has apologised.'” Those were G.B.S.’s last words.’

The story was well received. If it was not Shaw’s last words, it might well have been.” Maurice Collis

November 2013 marks the centennial of the birth of Albert Camus, who once said, “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.” Tomorrow, here, the diarist and philosopher Camus ponders the social networking aspect of lozenges.