Thursday, September 27, 2007

Burma and the Press

(681 words)

As of this writing (Thursday, September 27) a nonviolent movement is reaching its crisis in Burma. In 1988 over 3,000 students were killed — massacred would not be too strong a word — when they protested the military takeover of their country. Their courageous, charismatic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, though she had faced down rifle squads in at least one critical confrontation (superbly dramatized in Beyond Rangoon, with Patricia Arquette), and won an overwhelming electoral victory to boot, was not able to prevail over the regime, which has kept her under house arrest and basically pillaged the country for these nineteen years.

Commentators are noting, correctly, several features of the uprising today: it is a massive, disciplined outpouring — the photographs of tens of thousands of red-robed monks and nuns filling avenues for as far as the eye can see are nothing short of inspiring. It relies on the immense prestige of religious orders in that predominantly Buddhist country. And — among other differences between now and 1988 — the world is watching.

But how closely? We who follow nonviolence have to point out what the mainstream media are missing in this “saffron revolution,” as they have missed in most episodes of nonviolence that have been accumulating with increasing frequency in this post-Gandhian world. 1) They mis-characterize this movement as ‘spontaneous,’ while in reality it has been well-planned for months. More to the point, it has not, like Athena, ‘sprung from the head of Zeus’. ...

...(for the full unpublished text, email

Michael N. Nagler is Emeritus, English, UC-Berkeley. He has written several books on nonviolence and taught Gandhian nonviolence for many years.

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