2012 Audio for Burma’s Chance for a Better Future
WAMC June 6, 2012
“Burma Gets A Break”
There are a lot of really good things about being a professor, sure the public thinks it’s all those hours we’re supposedly off when were not in the classroom. But of course that’s absurd; those hours are used to get ready for the next class or to grade the exams and papers everyone expects to be returned instantly.
And then of course there are those long vacations people focus on, thinking that professors are off as much as they are given academic schedules. But that’s hardly the case either. I work as hard if not harder when classes are not scheduled than when they are — doing the sort of professional writing and research that is part of every real college professor’s work.
Even now as classes are over I have been working seven days a week preparing a new edition of my annual on East & Southeast Asia published by Rowman and Littlefield each fall.
And let me tell you making it as up to date as possible is exhausting. No, for academics like me the best part of being a professor is all the free books publishers send hoping we will assign zillions of them to our eager students.
Sure, publishers don’t send every sort of book. Just those on subjects the staff think I might assign, which is why a book I got a few days ago sort of bothers me. It’s called
X-Events, The Collapse Of Everything
A book that apparently some publisher’s agent decided I was exactly the right person to give a free copy to. Ok… it’s true I spend a lot of my time dealing with disaster, teaching about wars and revolution, human tragedies like Tiananmen Square in China, disasters like the failed Iranian elections and the recent horrors in Libya and Syria.
I even spent years teaching a course specifically on genocide and more recently the creeping disaster caused by our having disrupted the heat balance of the planet with our prolific burning of heat trapping fossil fuels the climate crisis. And I have been accused of being a disaster monger. Which is why, even I need a break.
And why the last two days have been such a pleasure as I revised my contemporary Asia textbook. Because this year the biggest updating has not been about last year’s Japanese triple horrors, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown but the extraordinary beginning of perhaps new era for the people of Myanmar better known to the world as Burma.
Now understand as I said I rewrite that text every year, have been doing so for decades and every single year I have had to write a continuing tale of woe about how the Burmese people were trapped in the clutches of the brutal military dictatorship that had ruled them for decades.
A regime that could neither successfully operate the economy nor offer its people any relief from its oppression – treating the people like medieval serfs trapped in a form of modern slave labor.
A regime that was willing to murder peacefully demonstrating Buddhist monks in their thousands while incapable of even dealing with the international relief offered the country in the wake of the horrendous hurricane than devastated Burma in 2008.
A regime that was incompetent enough to call an election 1990 and cruel enough to reject the people’s choice when the nation’s democratic heroine, Aung San Suu Kyi daughter of the nation’s founder and eventual Nobel peace prize winner actually won the election, a challenge the junta met with house arrest for Ms. Suu ky
for almost twenty years.
And now over the last year, an extraordinary turn around as the nation’s new albeit still military leaders have apparently decided to turn a corner opening up the country, freeing Aung San Suu Kyi, allowing her to enter the political system while slowly backing off on the harsh controls her people have known so long.
No for once I get to spend my days thinking about something that reflects new hope and I have got to tell you it’s a nice feeling.