Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Burma, Way After the Fact

I've been reading the New York Review of Books article on the Human Rights Watch report about the crimes committed by the Burmese government against Burmese citizens.

I knew at the time that something extremely bad was happening in Burma. I knew that there were protests and that the military government was repressing them violently, but I didn't know the details.

(Much of what happens in the world I experience like this, as a vague set of images and curt, inaccurate narratives.)

Now that I know the details I am angry and astounded. It's sort of a strange way to react in that the world is full of badness which varies in degree but derives from the same essence, whereby the will and desire of the population is ignored and dissent is punished, in some cases with violence.

But whenever you consider any of these cases, as I've done with the incidents in Burma, and you bracket out the fact that they're not novel, it arouses a tremendous amount of astonishment.

I mean -- people, normal fucking people, gathered in the streets to protest some policy changes. And the government decided to get them to stop by shooting them. They shot students, they shot priests. Paramilitaries ran people over in the street.

How is that human beings arrive at the conclusion that these sorts of actions are a good idea? I realize that's a simplification. There are reasons that people do these things; in fact I think they're obvious. It's just that none of them are any good. There just isn't a case to be made that the benefit of shooting protesters in this sort of situation is worth the cost. (I realize that it's obviously wrong, I'm just trying to point out how there's no way to keep the justifications that government offered for their actions afloat -- the gov't could only offer a cost/benefit justification, since a moral justifications is pretty much a non-starter.)

But my point is that almost nothing, personally or collectively, is worth doing this sort of horrible shit to people -- using machines like guns to tear their bodies apart, to extinguish living beings. That's an obvious statement, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be repeated. In fact, given that it's so easy to be silent about something which is apparent to everyone, it's obviousness might even be a reason to be vigilant about repeating it.

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