Following Orwell in Burma
Author: Ken van Tibes
Publisher: BoD – Books on Demand
I am going to Burma, God knows how often I have been there already, but I keep returning, for it is full of charming people, because it is mysterious and difficult to figure out, because its mountains are marvellous and its temples are splendid, and because many of my role models have been there. Before I depart, my realpolitiker guardian angel (can realpolitik be reconciled with angels?) slips a note with the keywords under my nose: dictatorship and civil war; a Babel-like entanglement of languages; incurable belief in superstition; exaggerated religiosity (which is as close to real Buddhism as Voodoo to Christianity); only we count, us the men!; and a mask with an unwipeable smile on the faces. From this instruction manual I easily memorise what I have already experienced myself on the Balkan, but I forget the rest more and more, as I am taken over by the magic of the journey and my belief that West and East think similarly. As often as I tend to be proven wrong about the latter, I recall Parkinson’s best-selling classic and in it the chapter which compares the British and the Chinese method how to choose among the applicants. I have read the text several times, until I realised: you cannot decide, no matter whether your method is Asian or European, it is the almighty who does so instead of you. This is a country where the people who own nothing donate thick golden coats to the temples, fill the caves with thousands of splendid statues and keep the spirits (who are organised by "profession" and should look out for all of us) happy with little gifts. And this is the country where everyday life and high politics are both determined by fortune-tellers and perhaps this is why the mutual killing does not stop since the last World War. But it is also a place where wonders happen constantly and the most eagerly awaited one, peace, is definitely going to arrive ... But when? In the evening, at a quiet monastery in Mandalay, when the sun was disappearing behind the mountains (like a stage performance), I dreamt of the large bells accompanying the scene with their music. Not far from me a barefooted, haggard figure wrapped in a purple robe was praying and glancing at me. Suddenly it raised itself and at this moment the bells began sounding. The old monk had read my thoughts, – I thought -, and as a thank you I gave him a piece of chocolate. Deeply moved he shoved a collection of blue beads on a black string into my hand, prayer beads. So that we could keep praying together for the desired peace?