Monday, 15 November 2010

Aung Sun Suu Kyi

is free - for the moment. I do not know whether it will last. I doubt she does either. It seems unlikely. The dutiful daughter who went home to see her dying mother and stayed to try and nurse her dying country must know that the military junta still see her as the biggest threat to their control of the country.
I had a friend who was a dispatch rider in Burma and India during WWII. He somehow lived to tell the tale. He told me Burma was a beautiful country and that the Burmese people had been very kind to him. They did not forget him either. They would remember him from one time to the next as he passed through. He would have made friends anywhere. There would have been no need for a common spoken language. He would have sketched pictures for them to keep.
There was no television in Burma then. It was probably easier to control the population than it is now but also harder to try and indoctrinate them.
It is difficult to estimate the real rate of literacy in Burma. Schooling is supposedly compulsory from 5 to 9 years of age but it is likely some children in rural areas never go to school. Adult literacy rates are said to be around 83% t0 89% and, surprisingly, English is still the most common second language taught in schools. The entire education system is based on a British model but some universities have been closed for years because of the political situation. Burma is short of home trained professionals. Many Burmese refugees have professional training but found it impossible to find work in Burma - or retain their positions if they did find work. I know some who would love to go back but, if they did so, they would be incarcerated or put under house arrest or even be made to quietly "disappear". They feel they can do more here than there.
Aung Sun Suu Kyi may be different. She has, after all, won a Nobel Peace Prize. The junta can place her under house arrest but they know they do not dare to make her quietly "disappear" and that they would be held responsible for an assassination or "accident". They have the population under control - for now - and it is better to leave it that way.
But I believe Aung Sun Suu Kyi understands something the generals of Burma do not understand. It may well be the British who will end up saving Burma. They will do so because they were the ones to introduce English. English is now a universal spoken language. If people speak English and teach English and learn to read English it is almost certain that they will have access to a flow of ideas that nobody can stop.
You can try, as the old South African regime did, to prevent the people you want to control from learning English. You can try, as the old Soviet Union did, to filter those who are permitted to learn English and what they learn. You can try, as the Chinese are now doing, to prevent access to internet sites that tell you things your government does not want you to know - or think about.
In Burma there are attempts to prevent information coming in. The media is heavily controlled and censored. Political activities are severely restricted. There are no libraries as we know them.
Everything would appear to be working in favour of the generals except for one thing. English is still being taught. It would now be impossible to stamp it out. Aung Sun Suu Kyi knows that. I think it will be her weapon of choice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea - will they stop teaching English in schools if they wake up to this idea though? Chris