Oaxaca versus Burma

October 2nd, 2007 – BrownFemiPower writes: I’ve been following what is going on over in Burma very closely. I haven’t been able to write a detail post because of my hectic schedule–and I’m still not able to. But even so, I can’t help but notice the difference in the reaction to Burma in blogland (and the real world) from the reaction to Oaxaca. It’s really kind of bothered me, but I haven’t known what to say or think about it.

The basic differences boil down to–mainstream liberal/progressive blogs pay no attention to either area at all. I don’t expect much else, frankly.

However, in the second and third tiered blogging world, Burma has definitely become a topic to discuss. Feministe, Pandagon, Amptoons, Feministing have all had at least one post up, and I have seen lots of coverage on smaller blogs.

And in the real world–it’s been the same. Celebrities, radical, progressive, and liberal left organizations have all put out words of support, and for once in its damn existence, the George Bush regime is supporting the people.

Oaxaca, on the other hand (a complicated situation, but basically, the people are calling for the same adherence to social justice and human rights that the monks/people of Burma are)–and most bloggers didn’t cover it, or if they did, it was 2 or 3 months after many of the horrific events in Oaxaca had happened and [email protected] were rotting away in prison (they still are, by the way).

Then I read this post by Kai, and I started to understand, at least in part, what is going on. Kai states:

Admittedly, post-colonial politics in Burma are complex and must be approached with some caution. Whenever the US power structure — from the corporate media to the federal government to the Big NGOs — latches onto a foreign political movement in the name of democracy and freedom, it should obviously be understood that the US public is being played and there are likely a number of nefarious hidden agendas in motion. Unfortunately these days too many (US) Americans are, well, suckers. For example, it seems to me that most Americans still haven’t figured out the basic fact that (in my view) the Vietnam War was actually about China. To some extent, so is Burma. Nevertheless, I unequivocally support the Buddhist monks’ uprising in the face of fuel and rice crises; their demands for sufficient food, clothing, and shelter for all citizens; and their right to dissent and resist. This situation has been brewing since 1988 and I think it’s getting to be about that time when something’s gonna give. If not this time, maybe next time; when things finally come crashing down, I can only hope that they fall in good directions and that as few people as possible get hurt.

I agree with Kai. I do think he forgot to mention something though–I think that in the U.S. there is a fascination with Buddhism that I don’t really know how to understand at this point. In Ann Arbor, there’s a whole group of white people “from the 60s” who call themselves hippies and Buddhists and really, just drive me to distraction, although I’m not really sure why. I appreciate Buddhism a lot, and frankly, I’d like to *be* Buddhist. But there’s something in the way that I see Ann Arbor hippies use Buddhism that makes me very trepidatious about studying Buddhism.

And I don’t think this weird relationship with Buddhism is something specific to Ann Arbor. You see a lot of the same dynamic with Hollywood’s fascination with Tibet and Buddhist practices Everybody from Jim Carey to REM has called for peace in Burma–and who can forget pretty boy Brad Pitt’s movie about Tibet?

It’s enough to make me wonder–would people give a shit about Oaxaca if they were all a bunch of Buddhists instead of Catholics?

I think Westerners are fascinated with the idea that somewhere out there, somebody has “the answer”. The East is often presented (in racist harmful ways) as having “the answer.” Even more specifically, old wrinkly Asian men are presented (in racist and harmful ways) as having “the answers” (karate kid anyone?). But while all these old wrinkly Asian men are busy spreading The Answer to us Westerners, they’re families are being slaughtered, and they are being imprisoned in their own temples or carted off to god knows where by soldiers and mercenaries.

I think that all of us really need to question the willingness of so many of us (including the president and condi rice) to support the Burmese people–but not, say, the Jersey Seven, the people of Oaxaca, the people of Darfur, the people of Sudan, etc etc etc. What is going on here? How does our own racism make us want to ’save’ some people and not others?

What’s up with that?

I have no answers. But I think it’s really important to consider.