Myanmar's Violence, Hatred: Fear vs Fearlessness

"Aung San Suu Kyi [purple dress, says] "Attacks on Muslims, Not Ethnic Cleansing" (BBC News Interview, posted Oct.24, 2013] go to:

For a long time I have followed the oppositional leadership struggles of a political leader who espouses (Buddhist-based) fearlessness in much of her writing and speeches, of which she also won a Nobel Peace Prize for. She has always said that until we manage fear well, individually and collectively, including a healthy rule of law and democracy, there will be no real peace in her own country Myanmar (formerly Burma) or anywhere else for that matter. So, in that light I have written about her as one of the important leaders today of the Fearlessness Movement. 

In the last four or five years, and since she was released from house-arrest (for many years) to be in the public and run as head of the opposition party again, now she is being severely criticized by many in her own country and in the world, due to her seeming inability to stop what some call "ethnic cleansing" (referring to Muslims being targeted in this mostly Buddhist country). She has herself given a BBC interview on this topic (2013), which I recommend, as the interviewer pressures her to admit something she is not willing to admit nor agrees with the interviewers perspective. I am interested in this debate and how she handles it, and especially how she talks about "fear" and its role in this ethnic conflict in her country (which, could apply most anywhere with such conflicts, hatred and violence). I quote the poignant part of this interview below, and note how the interviewer pretty much disregards the impact of "fear" and wants to talk about disproportionate "numbers of victims" (especially on the Muslim side) as Kyi tries to emphasize a deeper issue--and ultimately, it is build social mistrust chronically because of the problem (I believe she would agree) from decades of dictatorship ruling in her country, and the violence between the two religions is really a symptom of this deeper Fear Problem. Here is her response (an excerpt): 

KYI : "The [radicalization of religion, violence, and ethnic hatred] problems arose last year, and I think this is due to fear on both sides, and this is what the world needs to understand, that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims [victims], but on the side of the Buddhists [victims] as well.... There's fear on both sides and this is what is leading to all these troubles..."

When Kyi is asked about all the "friends" who abandoned her during her coming out as a political leader over 25 years ago, she is gracious to accept this betrayal, and disassociation because of the danger of aligning with her, and she says, "... you cannot expect people to be brave and outspoken all the time." As much as I understand her position, I truly was disappointed in this interview clip that she did not teach about what fearlessness is... no, it wasn't even mentioned, as it should be, and as is core to the best of Buddhist teachings. Now, on the other hand, if you investigate what is going on in Myanmar today, there are conflicts between Buddhist senior monks and leaders, as to how to fight back against what is a perception (true or not, fear-based or not) of radical Islamic movements in Myanmar. I think this whole situation politically, religiously, culturally, in this country is one to watch in the future as it unfolds, because therein is a story of what happens when fear meets fearlessness, and the true Buddhists involved are going to be challenged by the Buddhist teachings of fearlessness--so, will they actually give in to fear and not utilize the teachings of fearlessness as their spiritual leader and others leaders have taught for millenium. This is a good test case for the world to watch. I encourage all, Buddhists included, to pay attention and return to the basics of the path of fearlessness, albeit, recognizing that fear(s) are going to increase in Myanmar but everywhere in the world. The spirit of the Fearlessness Movement must not be abandoned. I think general immature ("traditionalist" and "tribal") versions of ethnocentric consciousness (largely fear-based in "protectionism" of cultural and religious identities and institutions) will be showing up, and showing this consciousness is non-adaptive to a globalizing 21st century world.  

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  • And here is a debate in Canadian government on the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar given by Elizabeth May of the Green Party. What can be done by foreign governments to address this crisis?

  • Although I do not feel qualified to assess what is really going on in Myanmar, now or in its decades of existence under a military dictatorship, one has to be cautious to not overly focus on Kyi and her political opposition (which has virtually no political power in the normal channels of the country) and give most attention to analyzing larger forces at work and how best to unravel what has been unleashed in this latest horror of killings. That said, I'm also thinking, as with any "political leader" there are so many consequences for one's actions and they are caught in a system of which is hard to understand unless you walk in their shoes. When Kyi was for so long not in official office in the country but under house arrest, I believe she was much more effective in promoting nonviolence via fearlessness. But once she was elected some years ago, she seems to have become trapped in another kind of prison and perhaps like all "politicians" virtually they are corrupted and I could add several to that list from around the world, including our own Canadian PM. What I do know from my early study of Kyi's philosophy and writings, she is well aware of how "it is not power that corrupts but fear" as she wrote in her famous essay in the early 1990s. Yet, indeed, how times have changed. 

  • Here is a link to an interview with a Nobel Laureate from Bangladesh speaking about the letter written by over a dozen other Nobel prize winners and how Aung San Suu Kyi is showing a face they have never seen before. She is denying the genocide stating she does not know why they are leaving and that there is nothing wrong with what it going on and has stopped any foreign visitors from entering Burma.

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  • As I look at the ethnic cleansing of WW II,  I watched the video that plays right after the one you posted showing another side that reminds me of Trump and his statement that there were good people on both sides [at Charlottesville] and not condemning the white supremacist protest. In that she [Aung San Suu Kyi] says there is fear on both sides and that makes the displacement of these people something that does not need to be addressed by her. Her silence and non acknowledgment and non action is disturbing.

    Media and politics, quite the cocktail to interpret.

  • I feel very connected to this issue, because for whatever karmic reasons, I am connected to three men who would count the Burmese meditation tradition as central to their own wisdom.  I have written to Ken [Wilber] about this being a good case study for application of Integral Buddhism since it is a case that might "wake up" the west around the need to include both "waking up" and "growing up", and to help the postmodern Western Buddhists move into integral space.  That said, it is all i can do to keep my own shorts up, so to speak, in that I am not teaching integral meditation yet in my meditation facilitation at work.  I didn't hear back from Ken yet on it.

  • My 33 yr old daughter (Vanessa) suggested there is a "genocide" going on in Myanmar, and she too feels disturbed, but mostly is questioning whether there is a justified disillusionment about the heroic leader Aung San Suu Kyi there. Vanessa wrote me (and sent me the video link): 

    "I haven't been following it super closely, but I would say Aung San Sui Kyi definitely deserves some of the criticism for not speaking out on how her government is treating the minority Muslim population. Recently, hundreds of thousands have been fleeing to Bangladesh as a result of violence by government forces and Aung San hasn't spoken against any of it. There is a deep divide between the Buddhist and Muslim populations in Burma." 
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