I was expecting more discretion.
Taxi drivers announced happily that Aung San Suu Kyi was their mother and her father was their father, then whispered conspiratorially about how bad the government was. NLD flags flew and pictures of ‘The Lady’ adorned books and calendars. Tee shirts declared their love for Daw Suu. No one hid their allegiance. I grinned my way around the city, like a school kid delighting in the first snow of the year.
I’d been waiting twenty years to visit this extraordinary country. A rich country bled of its wealth by a fierce regime that murdered thousands of its citizens, a large number students, when they took to the streets to protest against the destruction of the currency and the closing of the universities; a regime who killed doctors carrying out their duties, trying to save lives, monks who marched peacefully were shot, or rounded up and formed part of the many ‘disappeared’. This is the military junta who held free and fair elections, then invalidated the results, killing or imprisoning a generation of political opponents.
I was married to one of those people. One of the many who had taken to the streets to try to bring democracy to their country and had been forced to flee. At just 14 years old, he’d jumped from a train in a hail of bullets and swam through an overflowing river, where bodies of the recently killed floated alongside him, and bullets hit the water all around. I’d been fairly sure that it wouldn’t have been safe for me to go before. I’d had to flee from the border at three in the morning, hustled into a tractor which chugged through the bumpy streets taking me far enough away to catch a bus when the sun brought a feeling of normality back to the world.
But that was twenty years ago, and now, it seemed, things had changed. I stood outside Daw Suu’s house, taking photos as the gate opened. Not much, just a crack, but enough for me to have a chat with her guard. My skin pitted with goosebumps, despite the heat that early morning.
During my stay, I was amazed by the gentleness and strength shown by all manner of people. Probably best shown in the actions of a movie star.
Soon after I arrived, a friend’s brother died in Burma. He collapsed at the airport and was dead before he’d made it to the hospital. My friend arrived the following day and I sat behind her and her mother as they gripped at each other’s arms at the funeral. Stoic, the tears simply brightening their eyes. The father, a frail, dignified man sat next to the coffin as the monks chanted, accompanied by the scores of local people who had packed in to the crematorium. We were enveloped by the gentle chanting that finally caused the tears to spill down my cheeks. I hadn’t known the man but watching that family grieving a fiancé, brother and son with the smells of incense and flowers, the chanting brought a gentle warmth. I didn’t understand why so many people were there. He’d just been on holiday. How had he known so many people?
There is an organisation called Free Funeral Service Society. A movie star, one of Burma’s most famous, set it up after an every-day event that caused him to take stock of his life. A family lost a relative. In Burma the funeral is of great importance. If it isn’t done right, then that person can’t come back for their future lives. They can’t pay their way without the coin in their mouth and they may end up haunting their family as a bad spirit if they aren’t sent over in the right way. The family who lost a relative in that hospital all those years ago had no money. It is expensive to carry a dead body to a crematorium. Who wants to risk a ghost in their car? And it’s expensive to arrange the cremation. They didn’t have the money. So they fled, leaving their deceased relative behind.
In the uprising that took place on 8th August 1988, many people died. Thousands. Too many went unclaimed. Maybe their family didn't realise that they had died, hoping that they’d fled, maybe there was no one left to collect them. They needed to be cremated, but who was there to give them a decent send off.
And so he set up the Free Funeral Service Society. With his money and then donations from around the world, he was able to offer free funerals, though in time he started to realise that many of the people who he was cremating, could have been saved, for want of basic healthcare. So he set up a clinic. And then an education program. I sat in on a lesson where around fifty students listened on as various of their colleagues presented the results on their group discussions about what democracy means and how to fully achieve it. A remarkable lesson in this country where only a few years ago, even saying the name of ‘The Lady’ could send you to prison.
Of course it hadn’t all been plain sailing. A few years ago, during the ‘crimson uprising’ when the monks took to the streets, the movie star and his wife had determined to give drinking water to the monks. This had upset the junta who had set up a court date to try them for this behavior. They didn’t show up in court. They continued working at the FFSS offices and driving bodies to the crematorium in one of the dramatic hearses that they owned. A standard hearse adorned in gold, with a golden roof, much like a temple, golden parasols, and golden dragons. The movie star was not hiding away, but he was not volunteering himself, either. If they wanted to arrest him, they would have to come and get him. So they did and they were sent to prison. Imprisoned for giving drinking water to monks.
When I went along to their offices, this imposing man breezed through the rooms, busy. So much to do. So many people to help. He’d even driven the hearse himself for the foreigner’s funeral. His wife generously gave time to me, delighted that I wanted to know more. They gave me their literature. Their website isn’t yet in English but it has been translated. I took a copy away to help to fine tune it, and discussed volunteering my time for them. Maybe next year. They showed me around. The amazing library with books in Burmese and English, the many training rooms, the clinic which is saving people’s lives. An amazing place. And the day I visited was seven days after the foreigner had died. His family weren’t Buddhist so they wouldn’t know about the ceremony that had to be performed that day. It was alright, they reassured me, they were undertaking the ceremony there. No need to burden the family with extra problems at this time.
A remarkable organization, staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, that is doing so much good and is reflecting many of the positive changes that are now occurring in Myanmar, an amazing country that maybe, just maybe, is finding it’s way through to democracy.
Let me start with reckognizing the great art of writing. I am really impressed with much of what I read on other blogs here. You do not stop to amaze me. The great detail you explain, the explicit expressions you manage and the great stories you tell... Wow!
I could only dream of writing something like that. I would be very happy if I could just do a little story telling. But I must admit that I am best at scientific explanations and arguments, which is also very essential when writing an international popular science book - but not enough.
I have come to the conclusion that if the book is to get through and reach a broader audience it must be written - at least partly - as story telling and with examples of great detail. One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, is journalist and write almost only in examples - whole chapters about each example. I would never be able to do that. He is, by the way, considered one of the 100 most influential persons in the World!
The idea that came out of these thoughts is that the perfect setup for an international popular science book would be combination of scientist and writer, e.g. an economist and a jornalist or writer. That is why I am searching for a good writer that would consider popular science a great challenge.
The ambition of the project is to write an international book with examples from most of the World, that introduces an innovative idea to society development and sets a new agenda for politicians and grass-roots in the Western World. The economic theory behind is based on simplicity and the huge ressouces that are bound in heavy bureaucracy, unneccesary rules, excessive administration and too many special arrangements.
I know that non-fiction is not the greatest area of interest at The Word Cloud, so besides your thoughts on the co-writing setup I have suggested, I would also like to hear about other communities, e.g. journalist communities, that you may know of.
Thank you in advance for taking an interest in this subject.
Walking for a good time, pacing down the front line
Listening to the old friend, down there at the late end
don't you hear what they say?
Memories of black and white, a sweet summer's strife
At the end of July
August yawning, September's dawning
don't you cry
"Baby, your face is so grey;
You're sure that you don't want to stay?"
Seven little tears ran down your face
Three little winces escape your lips
You continue your race ad roll your hips
"Where will you go, oh, where have you been?
Trying to escape it but yet in between
Good and Bad."
Stay in bed with the devil, sleep with an Angel
October is near
"November and December, don't you remember:
I was the one who dried your tears."
The taste o' salt remains; twenty little stains
there on my pillow
where you have laid down your head.
"Johnny, oh Johnny, where have you been?
All I remember is the taste of your skin.
All I remember is the colour of your eyes
and I all I will dream of are your hushed lies; your ghost that is haunting me
here, in this room of July Memory."
Walking from a good time, lost at the front line
"Johnny, I told you:
there to the dark your should not go.
But I am not your best friend, I am just your dead end.
And my words never will do.
Mother, please forgive me; Father, please redeem me
from this woe."
Hear this song of snow in the air
The symphony of the wind playing with your hair
The smile on your face-- such poetry
The shine in your eyes-- such malady
"If I could only be
what you have seen in me."
Reality on the otherhand?
Wet, dreary and wind which topples you with a single step out of the door.
Is it getting too much to hope for a nice summers day in Britain? Maybe it's because the world itself seems to be collapsing at a rapid rate from this 'global warming' issue.
How these greenhouse gases weren't noticed before they suddenly began to take affect is clearly humanities of effort to make change unless they absolutely have too.
We're a lazy bunch that is true.
We use cars instead of walking, we use trains instead of taking an extended journey to enjoy the landscape. Bikes, for most, cause too much of a sweat to make an appearence for say work or a meeting. We complain about getting dirt on our shoes or hicking a hill, we say we appreciate a photograph of a glorious mountain but we'd never actually go there.
I can't lie and say I'm different to this.
All I can say however, is that I'm really beginning to feel everything is being done for us in terms of our recent technology. Its like we are constantly being pampered like children given whatever we ask for or solving whatever we claim to be too much of a strain for us. They mask it by saying 'its for the good of man kind'.
Can we really do anything for ourselves anymore?
We prefer to use email to chat to our friends who live nearby, such as Facebook rather than just taking the time to go over. We use our phones for entertainment instead of going out to participate in something active.
At least the young of the society do, the older generations are bogged down with work and stress of keeping a steady income as the pressure slowly takes over our lives sourly.
In a few words, this is my opinion on how society as a whole is deteriorating to a mundane lifestyle of routine and expectation. Before long, with technologys development we could find ourselves cut off from others without a need to leave the saftey of our homes, its power so greatly influencing.
I’m not sure I want to get old. I have two and a half examples for you.
My mother died in 2007. She had had a crap life all in all. From about the age of 35 she began to develop arthritis. Throughout her life she gradually got worse, but never actually yielded to it. Worked until retirement and never gave in to things like stair lifts and wheelchairs even though the stairs were a 10 minute challenge. Never wanted a bungalow, etc etc. Then the drugs she had been taking for years for arthritis exhibited their side effect and caused a heart/lung infection that eventually debilitated her until even she had to admit that she must go to hospital.
She beat the infection, but not the clostridium difficile they gave her while she was in there and after two whole months in the hospital, she just died. I thought long and hard about what I had seen, the cleaning practices, the way that the nurses and other staff were not following the hygiene regimen they were supposed to. I forced an investigation, which found that I had seen non of the things that I had seen, because they said so and I had no proof. So, what do you do? For a while I freely confess various nuclear options crossed my mind. But what good would it do? So I gave it to the BBC. I think it did eventually contribute to their motivation to investigate a hospital, but not that one. But what the hell. She died a shitty way and I can’t undo that.
Then there’s my wife’s mother. We roll up on a Sunday morning to take her out to lunch. We found her on the floor in her bedroom and three days later she dies. Heart attack. At the time she was being pursued by a debt collection company chasing debts incurred by a young woman of about 25 years, living some 40 miles away with a similar name. This scum were acting on behalf of a national energy company, who I will not name in deference to the site. The practice is called factoring.
As we went through her papers, alerted to this by a neighbour, the afternoon after we found her there was a whole series of correspondence leading up to a notice of bailiffs to seize goods to the value of some time in the coming week. It took me two days to get these low life bastards to back off and I know some heavy lawyers. What chance does a frail old lady in her eighties have? As to why she didn’t ask for my help before. Parents don’t think their children, even “married to their daughter” children can do anything they can’t, it seems.
In the end they never did admit any fault although I forced them into a written apology and a substantial contribution to charity. I also caused them to lose their contract with said national energy company, which gave me some satisfaction but probably just threw some uninvolved employees out of work. If you ever come across such a company hiding behind the Data Protection Act, then assume they are up to no good, attack with all your force immediately.
The half? My father had a minor sore on his ankle 3 months ago. Somehow, in the doctor’s surgery most likely, he seems to have acquired an MRSA infection and it's still active. Thus far he still has his foot. He’s in his eighties, too proud to let me help and what can I do anyway?
Overall, it seems life can be a bitch and then you die. Perhaps my father in law got it right. Worked flat out until retirement: Retired: 6 weeks later, he dropped down, dead as a hammer.
There's another quote which I love too taken from a poster that was up in an office I used to work in. it read:
Small people talk about other people
Average people talk about things
Great people talk about ideas
If that is the case then I am sometimes a great person but I have to admit I do love to talk about people. I mean we all do though don't we? Especially as I am a woman. We love it! ;0)
As a writer I HAVE to be interested in people and what makes them tick and I am sure you will relate to this too. The meaning of the word gossip has changed over the centuries from it's original definition of "kindred relation" to empty talk. Now the Oxford English Dictionary definition of gossip is casual conversation OR unsubstantiated reports about other people. Therefore I would say that the former is human nature-we all talk about other people and the latter is the bad thing. So gossip I think is only a good thing if we're not maligning people or spreading rumours. I've probably just stated the obvious I know but maybe we all need to be reminded from time to time about what is acceptable gossip and what is not.
Some people dream of fame but I'm so glad I am not as I think I would be having nervous breakdowns every day with the amount of gossip you get in today's media.I think that is an utter scandal in itself and people like the paparattzi and gossip columnists should bow their heads in utter shame making a living out of other people's misery. It's worse than it's ever been.
As long as gossip isn't malicious or maligning it can be a good thing surely. For example I really want to have a gossip about one set of neighbours on my Close to another! The reason being that one set of neighbours are being utterly grumpy sods with us these days. They've suddenly gone from being really nice to really grumpy and almost shunning me and my partner. I've tried the proper route by talking to them direct but to no avail. Now if I were to talk to the neighbours on the other side about them I may discover something useful like Bob and Linda are grumpy sods because Bob lost his job or someone in their family died. That way I would understand what is going on and I wouldn't want to gossip about them anymore!!!!
Anyway I guess I'll keep on gossiping (in the "interested in people" sort of way) because if I didn't I don't think I would have much to write about!
"Hell is other people" John Paul Sartre once said and when it comes to malicious gossip they are. But I think just talking about other people generally isn't so "small" after all.
'Til next time,
The mass passive agressive,
and the chessive cats come get
the beasts off your chests, it's
the best play we wreckon, to
wreck on, and the fish - is always dished from the Harb's, and
even the Arabs catered the crabs, and the fish with their pond
frogs, fragme(a)nted from the Budweisers alliance, and rivers
stem, one can phlegm that a bit of cod could be a lady's...
squeaky squid go for quids down the markets of the stalls of all dreadfalls, then, night falls for the fishers of man to go to the liquid land and go commit murder, kill the inno's of cent, so the men, are meant to get quids for their squids, and such, for not much more than the cents they are worth, and worth life, deadicy to the creatures, that cannot keep from the cruels of these people.
We need people politics in the mermaidal odd'yssea's, and to take pictures of these, evidencies and send them to provinces, to avoid new eras of whale dick in chewing gum, foie gras from out the swamps grass, crocodile bags in vogue mags and on wags. One dolphin fin wags, and Asda chop it off and sell it live for a low 'rock bottom' price. It makes you know why, the rocks are heavy.
Once, the crime within sea is seen for what it is, heavy eyes will open wide and maybe see it for what it is. Not a sapphire scented, salted boiled fish but a bit of human being, or some sort of being, better than a human, and for it to be alive, and to keep being alive, it needs to be before extinctivity comes into more activity.