16 November 2010

the world is watching

I'm celebrating the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, a truly remarkable woman, and hoping that it may eventually lead to the democratisation of Burma which has been ruled by a military government for over a generation.

Regimes have to be terribly brutal to repress citizens' freedoms and those that do it have to do it with ruthless violence because, if people want anything, they want not to be oppressed by government and they want freedom of speech and the right to associate freely and a place in the sun to grow.

Regimes that deny this can persist for generations, but only at the cost of much pain and suffering and by suppressing oposition and maintaining an iron grip on power. Most regimes that do it seem to fall apart eventually, either because of internal conflicts and rivalries within the regime, or because the people rise up and seek to throw out the oppressive rulers, whether peacefully, as Aung San wishes, but often with violent confrontation.

In releasing Aung San therefore, the Burmese regime has taken a big risk, or perhaps sufficient numbers of its leaders have had a change of heart. I don't know. I hope for the latter.

The hard religious right wing in America that campaign for, what is in effect, a theocracy - a government run on biblical principles, the christian equivalent of sharia law - with punishments of like kind for adultery and homosexuality and so forth, should be wary of what they ask for, because if they wish to do that, they will have to do it with a similar brutality, ruthlessness and violence that characterises the Talibans, the North Koreas, the Irans, Chinas and other such oppressive and dictatorial regimes of this world.

If America relinquishes its separation of church and state for a move towards the above, it is in deep trouble - for a people who have tasted secular democratic government will not relinquish it lightly or without a fight - and in the end, it is only such a government that can actually defend religious freedoms for all.

May your freedom last long, Aung San, and may your people soon taste of it too. The World is Watching.

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