Here, in Beijing, in the company of my wife Ting Ting, the past ten days have for me been full of a bitter, muffled anger eating away from within at the duty I feel to be reasonable, to try to see both sides, to tread the middle ground.
Against the dull swallowing of the hourly updates, the frenetic news-checking, the explicit photographs now choked off by the junta, there was what I knew of Burma to hold onto, a Burma of beauty and tranquility, of innocence forced upon a whole generation, and a miraculous faith held high but never shown off.
When I wrote Cycles of the Sun in 2001, it was naïve, perhaps, to think that the “resilience, strength, and humor” that sustained them before could do so forever. But it is just that which needs to hold them together now, as the utter moral vacuum in which Burma’s leadership exists is finally bared for all to see.
We have both cried in helplessness at what has happened, at the whirlwind of ineffectiveness generated by stern-faced diplomats, at the thought of what will happen to the people I met, at the hypocrisy of one of our governments, and the inaction and platitudes of the other, and at a world so anxious to point fingers anywhere but at its own collective failure.
But as tears flow from a dead space inside, I also know what I need to sustain me. It is a memory now, but it is likely to be the finest sight I will ever remember: arrayed before the world in peace, thousands of Burmese Buddhist monks leading their people in daily mass prayers for change.
What they chose to do was unspeakably brave, and does more than just honor the spirit of Gandhi’s “satyagraha” or non-violent resistance. No one could disagree it was time. After finally saying “enough is enough,” each and every person who demonstrated in peace, who made his or her voice heard without violating the dharma, each of them honors our humanity, and becomes principle incarnate. In a world so full of violence without sense, they are examples for us all.
Nothing can stand up to such rightness for long. Every sacrifice made by a monk, a monastery, or a bystander, of their lives or livelihoods, becomes a brick removed from the wall that is imprisoning them.
Never again will the generals re-gild the great golden glory of Shwedagon Pagoda in the hopes that the Sangha will legitimize their continuing rape of Burma. Nyapidaw is hollow, and it will soon fall.
Jay Dunn, Beijing, China
September 30th, 2007
Humanitarian Issues and Cultural Tradition Worldwide
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT COPYRIGHT JAY DUNN 2008