Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Time in Burma (George Orwell)

Wisdom Quarterly; George Orwell, "Shooting An Elephant" (
The young Buddhist [novices] were the worst of all. (There are still thousands of adolescent novices in Rangoon, Burma (as1974/
In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people -- the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. 
I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. 
Burmese "priest" (Deepblue66)
No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit [red saliva] betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. 
When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. 
Saffron-clad Buddhist monks, novices, and white-clad lay supporters agitating for change from the authoritarian military dictatorship that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and bankrupted the country during the Saffron Revolution (
The young Buddhist [novices] were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans. 
All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better.
Theoretically -- and secretly, of course -- I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British.

As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos -- all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective.

I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it [i.e., the USA]. All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.

With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts. 
Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty. 
One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. 
It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism -- the real motives for which despotic governments act. More

NEW YORK (RNS) There was a time in his life when Ibrahim Abdallah thought he was the only Muslim-turned-atheist in the world. Then, at a party, he met a fellow Egyptian and former Muslim, and while the other guests danced, they sat and talked. And talked and talked. “I was so happy, and so shocked,” Abdallah, 33, said. “We both felt, ‘I am not the only one.’ It was huge.” Now, several years later, Abdallah is on a mission to create the kind of safe space for questioning Islam and all matters of faith that he wishes he could have had. Last May, he founded “Muslim-ish,” a support group for questioning and former Muslims that meets under the auspices of Manhattan’s Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization.
Jessica "Candy Jones" Wilcox was born into a humble family on New Year’s Eve of 1925. Her father left them when she was three; her mother was critical and cold to her. [As a young girl [she had imaginary friends], chief among them was one named Arlene, who hung around for many years and grew up with Jessica despite being an almost polar opposite of her: Jessica was open and articulate, Arlene was cynical and contemptuous like her mother. Other imaginary friends faded, but Jessica never grew out of Arlene; rather, Arlene grew into Jessica and became a separate personality. Jessica was 16 when she entered the Miss Atlantic City contest, which led to a job at the Miss America Contest, which in turn was her platform to fame and a new name: Candy Jones. During World War II, Candy was one of the world’s most popular pin-up girls. She toured with the USO through the South Pacific in 1944 and 1945, and in the 60’s she may have unwittingly become a secret agent for the CIA, but Candy didn’t know anything about it. The agent was actually her alter ego, Arlene.

SURIN, Thailand, March 8 (UPI) - Thailand accused Cambodia of planting landmines long the countries' shared border at Surin but Cambodia denied the charge, calling it "false and groundless." The allegations came after three Thai soldiers were injured after they stepped on landmines along the border Tuesday, the Bangkok Post reported.

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