Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Maybe Myanmar?

In the last week or so, monks have taken to the streets to challenge the government of Burma. The impetus for these protests was economic: the government raised the price of diesel oil by 500%. The underlying cause is an oppressive military government. The monks haven't brought about change in Burma yet, but it is encouraging to see people fighting against corrupt governments and illegitimate elections.

It would be more encouraging to see American people fighting against corrupt governments and illegitimate elections ... namely their own. A revolution is probably out of the question, but I'm not sure that revolutionary change isn't needed. We have an antiquated electoral system that no longer operates to provide accurate or adequate representation for most Americans. Economic and social inequalities are as or more extreme than ever before. The reality is that we have a caste system here in America that is every bit as real as the caste system present in India. In America, we are mired in a unfortunate situations in Iraq and Afghanistan (yes we're still there), caused by inadequate preparation, more than adequate hubris, and startling ignorance of the political dynamics of the part of the world in question, and soon to be exacerbated by a lack of imagination, sense of responsibility, and ability to address war weariness on the part of the American people with anything other than talk of immediate withdrawal. Oh, we also have a mortgage mess. And don't forget environmental irresponsibility, a frighteningly powerful and connected Christian Evangelical movement, a woefully inadequate public school system, medicine dictated by insurance companies, and more than enough hopelessness to fuel a revolution. America is sick. It is as far from the ideal set forward at independence as it has ever been. Unfortunately, it is a durable system. Americans often continue to insist that our country is the greatest, and as evidence they inevitable invoke the f-word: freedom. We are free here in the USA. We can do whatever we want. We can become whatever we want. We are free to believe whatever we want, even if it has absolutely no basis in fact. We are even free to believe that American prosperity will include us. For most, however, the truth is that prosperity will never be a part of their American experience. They will always, however, be aware of the possibility for wild success. How could any of us not be aware of it. We are informed of the American dream at every turn. And most of us buy in. I had pictures of Lamborghinis on my walls. This dream, and the riches and recognition it promises, has proven enough to justify many many 'temporary' injustices. All it is now is sacrosanct enough to avoid real scrutiny. The United States is a super power, but it is an old and sick one that exaggerates its successes, tries to forget it's defeats, and is slowly watching its strengths ebb away.

Americans need someone to take to the streets here. Someone who has the standing of the monks in Burma. It will be an unpopular and uphill fight, but we need it. So, good luck to the monks, and to my fellow disenchanted Americans, all I can leave you with is "maybe Myanamar."

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