"Buddhist Nation", My arse! : On Bama "Buddhist" Nationalism

Almost 70 years after independence from the White Man (the British Raj), Myanmar is rudderless. It is rudderless, intellectually and ideologically.

The result is all kinds of 'democracy promoters' and 'capacity builders' from all corners of the world are coming in with their remedial and half-baked 'social science' ideas, ignoring the advice the late C.Wright Mills half centuries ago warned social scientists against:  pretend to have scientific knowledge about society and human inhabitants and sell equally pseudo-scientific and ideologically driven policy makers their own pet pseudo-scientific policy advice and ideas.

These 'global gurus' are building even 'centers of excellence' in higher education in a country where most people, young and old, have not been encouraged or taught to THINK - just simply THINK!

So, you can't blame these charlatans and 'democracy and economy' quacks of all stripes and colours, who come in for their own hidden agendas, corporate, personal and neo-Liberal.

The main problem of course is this:ideas are not coming from the 'natives', neither the mainstream political party of the NLD, nor the much-touted '88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group' (of George Soros).

Worse still, the face and the brain of this group are once again proving themselves to be racist and ethno-nationalist chauvinists.

In contrast, as early as 1945, Aung San offered far more fresh, forward-thinking and non-racist ideas and vision than all of the men and women have ever done as a group of dissidents.

Unlike the cream of Burma's crop, including his daughter, the late Aung San NEVER studied in foreign 'world class' universities.

Nor did he consider siting in colonial jail - or for that matter, nor would he Burmese dictatorship's jails - a worthwhile choice.

He made sure he spend not a single hour in police custody or Class A political prisoners' cells in colonial Insein jail in his 10 years in politics in Rangoon.

He was truly a self-made man. And yet his intellectual power was tremendous: he formulated non-racial, civic, secular and inclusive NATIONALISM - the only version that is viable - for the country in 1947.

Aung San foresaw the need for a regional group - such as ASEAN - about 20 years before any "Southeast Asian" leaders pursued it.

All was buried along with his body in the fall of 1947.

Generations of Burmese growing up bowing to Aung San's pictures and posters on every 19 July - 10:30 am, to commemorate the assassination of AS and his colleagues.

Many put his pictures on their t-shirts or hang big banners of his mug on their house walls.

But not many seem to have any clue as to what Aung San stood and fought for: civic, secular, non-discriminatory, non-ethnic, nationalism that defines "Bu-mi-pu-tra' or "Tai-yin-Thar" as anyone whose umbilical chord was buried in Burma!

The same thing can be said about self-described "Buddhists" in Burma who don't know what Buddha Dharma really is, hence up in arms about 'protecting Buddhism and defending "Buddhist nation" from the impending attack by "Islam"!

Because Buddhist philosophy is not sufficiently internalized - nor human rights for that matter - the Burmese public becomes susceptible to potent strains of neo-fascist nationalism with a very strong racial and ethno-religious component.

As Thailand's highly respected Buddhist thinker Ajan Sulak Sivaraksa put it, Buddhism is about extinguishing Ego - the illusions of Ego - and nations and nation-states are about "Extended Egos". 

Nationalism and Buddhism are incommensurate, utterly irreconciliable.

So, my fellow Buddhists, "Buddhist nation", my arse!

And Aung San would say, "Amen"!

© Maungzarni.com

Dr. Maung Zarni is a noted exile, commentator, and expert on Burmese affairs. He is currently a visiting fellow with Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, the London School of Economics and Political Science.


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