The rainbow of pluralism

  The rainbow of pluralism

I have edited and adapted to the Myanmar context from the original letter to Malaysiakini by Yeo Yang Poh

I hope Malaysiakini and  Yeo Yang Poh could understand and forgive for this. They should even be proud that they could contribute a very good letter for the fellow Myanmar/Burmese citizens.

YEO YANG POH is an advocate and solicitor, and the immediate past president of the Malaysian Bar.

Like birth, race is, for all of us, a matter of fact in which we have no choice.

This simple, neutral fact of nature, however, weaves such a painful web of complexity, once it passes through the maladjusted looms of the human eyes, hearts, and minds.

Far from being a distinction without a difference, race has provided the ugly excuse for_

  • discrimination,
  • prejudice,
  • fear
  • and hatred.
  • In the worst circumstances, the boisterous looms of race churn out bales of cloth soaked with human blood.

Just as_

  • many sins are committed in the false name of God,
  • much evil has been perpetrated under the mischievous pretence of championing a race.

Why has it come to be so?

It is rooted_

  • in the perceived need for human beings to compete for limited resources, initially
  • to meet one’s need
  • and, later, one’s greed
  • (or, more accurately, the greed of those in power).
  • Banding together of persons increases their strength in the tussle for resources.
  • Race became, and remains, one of the most convenient criteria to be used for rival groupings.

It takes little time for the leaders and the upper echelon of the pack, who have the most to gain in the economic and political game, to realise that the easiest way for them to retain support and control is to provide justification for discrimination

  • (‘this is our land’),
  • entrench prejudices (‘they are inferior’),
  • instill fear in the followers (‘they will rob you of what you have’),
  • and sublimely encourage hatred (‘their children will trample all over yours’).

So it snowballs.

  • By painting other races as an ominous threat to the well-being of one’s own race,
  • one can instantly become the champion of a cause,
  • the hero who offers to save his race from humiliation.

This cunning but cowardly man in a superman suit_

  • lights fires
  • so that he can ride in each time for the staged rescue.
  • As time goes by, this pattern is institutionalised, exploiting the weakness and vulnerability in the psyche of a mixed populace.

The fake angels

Such are some of the troubles of our multi-polar and terribly disturbed world, and of the difficulties faced by many pluralistic societies, MYANMAR/BURMA among them.

While we never celebrate our togetherness as Myanmar or Burmese, one of the most patriotic things we may usefully do is to examine our successes and failures, ask ourselves honestly how much of the ills described above have befallen our own society, and urgently seek better ways forward from now on. This must include a candid re-examination of our race-based system of Military Government Policies discriminating on MIXED BLOODED PEOPLE e.g. Burmese Muslims and Burmese Chinese.

How may we do that?

Racial differences_

  • do not need to lead down the path of discord and conflict,
  • notwithstanding the long periods of political propaganda that have duped a lot of us into thinking otherwise.
  • Race may be a fact about which we have no choice,
  • but what we would do with this fact is a matter very much of choice.
  • We have suffered long and hard, because more often than not the wrong choices, urged on by power mongers, had been made.

We may begin by realising that_

  • racial differences are never the real enemy.
  • The culprit is the inequities in the distribution of resources within a society, regardless of race.

Harmonious race relations will be achieved by_

  • building a fair and equitable society
  • in which resources are applied and distributed in accordance with need, ability and effort;
  • rather than for satisfaction of greed, manipulation or corruption.

The politics of race, and the fake angels who sing that lone tune, must be exposed for what they really are:

  • persons too selfish
  • or too incompetent to provide for all,
  • and too weak to govern except by_
  • o dividing
  • o and ruling.

We must wake up to the fact that we belong to one race, the human race.

One much-touted approach to avoid racial prejudice and combat discrimination is_

  • to build a culture of colour-blindness.
  • See not the skin colours of persons,
  • or see beyond their colours.
  • requires one to ignore the obvious differences that one’s senses perceive,
  • and to act as if those differences do not exist.
  • acknowledges and accepts racial differences as a positive enrichment of the diversities of our world.
  • No basis or excuse for discrimination,
  • but for non-discrimination
  • and mutual appreciation.

Unity forged, not forced

  • Instead of being colour-blind,
  • we should be colour-appreciative.

In other words, we learn, understand, accept and appreciate the differences that exist among various races; and know that the world is better and richer for it.

  • A rainbow is beautiful precisely because it is not single-coloured.
  • And none of its colours could, nor should, claim a larger share of its glory.

By the same token,

  • integration, when not entirely voluntary, is not the best solution for a plural society.
  • A better approach is to embrace plurality.
  • Pluralism is the silver lining for the world’s future, as it is for Myanmar’s.
  • Pluralism is_
  • o not to be merely tolerated
  • o or accepted.
  • o It should be embraced.

Sixty years ago, Burmese of all races united to free themselves from colonialism.

  • Sixty years hence, we face new challenges in a globalising world.
  • Failure to adequately meet these challenges will enslave all of us, regardless of race, as much as colonialism would have.
  • To meet these challenges, unity is essential.
  • 1. But unity requires equality.
  • 2. Unity cannot be coerced.
  • It has to be forged, not forced.
  • If people feel less than united, it does not help calling them unpatriotic or disruptive.
  • It is usually due to the presence of inequity.
  • Examine the causes, and effect change.

There is such a lot to do, and so much to change within ourselves.

Let us reject race-based politics in Military Government, Ethnic Minorities and all the opposition Groups including NLD.

Let us_

  • embrace equality amidst pluralism,
  • and be colour-appreciative,

so that the next 60 years will be far better than the last.

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