I am trying to visualize how many 400,000 is. That's how many Buddhist monks are in Burma. 100,000 of that brotherhood are out marching in protest. They are buttressed daily by tens of thousands of civilians who are linking hands to protect them. In 1988 over 3,000 people were killed during the last uprising against an oppressive regime.
Four days after a government price-hike in fuel (doubled for petrol & diesel, 5 times higher for compressed gas used to power buses), the current protest began on August 19th with 400 people marching on the main city of Rangoon. An already impoverished populace could no longer afford a bus ride home or rice and cooking oil. When some monks were injured in the military response that followed, the religion of 'peace with the universe' got off of its lotus flower and took hostages. They also refused religious services to the military and their families. As their orange-robed social disorder gains a determined momentum, a violent show-down with lurking riot police in armored vehicles is imminent.
I read that Burma's main export is heroine. Like a crack-whore mom, here is a country willing to sacrifice her own children for another fix; specifically close, personal affiliation with the mother of whores and paragon of human rights ~ China. She keeps an elected democratic woman president under house-arrest and rewards anyone who will turn-in a "rebel" neighbor. People disappear, babies starve, the nation suffers. It is hardly a new story. We've heard it before - the ageless lure and corruption of power. The real twist this time is the monks.
Not that religion hasn't inflamed politics - that's a very old story indeed - but Buddhist monks? They are a disciplined lot. "Asceticism" is synonymous with Buddha. So are images of serenely meditating bald men shunning the pollutions of society behind fortress-like monastery walls. Something about this picture doesn't fit, at least at first glance.
I can't think of anything more appropriate than legions of covenanted disciples, who, virtually by their appearance in such astonishing numbers can shout injustice louder than rocks thrown or guns drawn. Hopefully heart-sick Burma will avoid an Armageddon this week; but sacred is more often dismissed for profane, and morality for weakness.
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