Having been born into a democracy and having lived under a socialist dictatorship later, I can understand my former countrymen rejoicing recently because of parliamentary by-elections. These elections were won by the opposition party which is led by a woman who was a classmate of mine as well as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a prisoner of conscience..
High hopes and optimism were the hallmarks of the day because this small freedom of being allowed to go to vote for a candidate of one’s choice has eluded the populace for fifty years. In spite of recent events, full democracy and a small measure of freedom that came together cannot be taken for granted since a full 25% of the parliamentary seats are assigned to unelected representatives of the armed forces and a huge majority of the government’s own political arm occupy elected seats.
Recently a colleague from the old country asked whether political repression and poverty go hand in hand and my answer to that is a strong affirmative. On a personal scale I know first hand that in my native country that is the case.
When we gained independence from the British in 1948 we were known commonly amongst that crop of newly independent nations as “most likely to succeed.” It kept true to its promise while democracy was the system of the day and a socialist-army coup d’etat swiftly put an end to the whole dream as political, economic and social repression was instituted. Over those early years we watched the rest of Asia march along the road to economic progress while we became stragglers on that road.
There are reasons why we were voted “most likely to succeed” and one of those is because there was an abundance of natural resources like teak wood forests, mineral lead, silver, tin, gold, copper, nickel, antimony and precious gemstones like the famous rubies, petroleum and natural gas. We were exporters of rice and was self-sufficient in foodstuff as well as having a well-trained civil service and a thriving higher education system.
I was recently–since the relaxation of overt oppression– watching a documentary produced by an Australian TV journalist when she commented that it was once the richest nation in Asia and I agreed with her. But now it is one of the poorest in the world after fifty years of totalitarian socialist governance.
Malnutrition and food riots were occurring a few years before I emigrated and those riots cleverly were converted by the government into a full-blown racial riots with loss of life and property. That of course is the way some governments choose to handle explosive unpopularity and unfortunately the socialist chose to do so, during those days.
I have a lesson in this message to my readers that we in the USA may be given a dose of that same medicine in the days to come as economic difficulties continue to dog us: Racial and class warfare rhetoric is being used daily and fills our print and broadcast media.
The USA has dropped in the Index of Economic Freedom published annually from higher positions to tenth place in 2012. if one studies the rankings most of the nations with a high index usually are those nations which has prosperity and are desirable countries to do business as well as live in. Burma stood at 173 out of 179 rankings with North Korea closing out the list. I really don’t think that there is an argument at all when I supported the notion that political oppression and poverty are soul-mates bound together and inseparable.
A few days ago I read a report that Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the house, said that she agrees to Democrats wanting to amend the first amendment. Now, this is the epitome of cojones to even have the temerity to speak out loud–even if it is just to abridge the freedom of speech rights of corporations following the Citizens United decision by the Supreme court.
The political left has always looked upon that decision with loathing but a constitutional amendment to curtail a principal element of our Bill of Rights? When our Founding Fathers sacrificed their blood and guts to give it to us and protected by more than two centuries of more blood and guts.
Once we let the camel into the tent there is no way of getting it to go away and this is one lesson that we can learn from the Arabs, who should know about camels and despots. Do we really want to go back to the days of tyranny and oppression when many nations of this world are trying to get out; maybe not all the way but at least they are beginning to walk towards where we are.
They want to be like us here, why do we want to be like them?
The irony of this whole situation is– during these few years– all indications are that we are slowly walking or sliding towards them. I am not deluded, I can assure you of that.
ADDENDUM: Since i wrote this piece, a late change occurred in my native land where the main opposition NLD which won the by elections mentioned above, overwhelmingly, decided not to attend parliament because of certain constitutional disagreements weighted in favor of the government.