I spent one (1) hour last night explaining the difference between discrimination, prejudice and racism to my 10 year old little sister, and how racism (and sexism, and other such oppressions) are institutionalized and not minor or major separate offences but a collection of issues that make a whole and she got it.
White people, if my ten year old sister can get it, you should be able to.
I am tired and empty
like the bones of birds,
mine too are hollow
but unlike those of birds
allowing them to delight in flight
my hollowness leaves me useless,
drags me down
sunken into the choking
thickness and the earth.
I will be reduced to ashes
in my fire
at the core of my pain.
From the dying embers and ashes
I will be born anew,
whole, a phoenix.
Before we can see properly, we must first shed our tears to clear the way.
Ever feel like you have a body you don’t fit into? I don’t mean physically necessarily. I mean you have a kind of restlessness that takes over you and you walk around feeling like you’re pulling, tugging at yourself, trying to find something there that’s supposed to be you. Trying to fill yourself out. Find something that’s missing, or remember something forgotten. Then sometime when you’re running around in the smoke and fog looking for some part of yourself something catches your eye and you go “ah, there I am!” But it happens too quickly and flutters away too fast, melts back into the greyness, and you’re left exactly where you started, running around looking for it again, picking at yourself for the ghost of something that’s supposed to be there and isn’t.
Protests at the Letpadaung mountain range copper mine have been steadily growing over the past two months.
What began as a few dozen farmers in Sagaing Region demonstrating over land grabs and inadequate compensation has quickly escalated into a mass uprising against extractive industries which decimate the environment featuring students and activists from Rangoon and Mandalay.
On Wednesday, the 88 Generation Students arrived in town to mediate between the protesters and local authorities. Specifically, they were calling for the release of three female activists who were still being detained at Monywa Police Station after a dozen were arrested at the town’s Sutaungpyae Pagoda on Monday.
88 Generation Students member Jimmy managed to gain some assurances after meeting Sagaing Region Chief Minister Thar Aye on Wednesday evening. Yet the underlining issue of seized farmland and ecological damage remains unresolved and must be dealt with by Union-level government, according to Thar Aye.
The Chindwin River is a major tributary of Irrawaddy River and runs by misty-blue mountains and charming villages while passing through a region of abundant natural resources and fertile meadows.
“The river runs through intact forests in both the Tamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary and the Hugawng Valley Tiger Reserve, the largest tiger reserve in the world. It sustains vital habitats for a wide array of wildlife, including globally endangered species, tigers, elephants and the endemic Burmese Roof Turtle,” says the Burma Rivers Network NGO.
Yet local people say that waste products from the copper mining plant—occupying around 8,000 acres including 26 villages and several mountains 15 miles west of Monywa—have tainted local wells and will eventually prove disastrous for those living downstream.
“According to our research, some wells in the area are no longer drinkable or usable as the water has a sour and salty flavor,” Han Win Aung, of the Political Prisoners Families Network, told The Irrawaddy this week.
“People have to buy bottled drinking water from Monywa, while others who cannot afford have no choice but to drink the contaminated supply. We’re afraid that if all this waste goes into the Chindwin River it would get worse and the people downstream will be the ones who suffer in the future.”
More villagers joined the farmers’ protests in August after it began to focus on nearby Sabae and Kyay Sin mountains which have been devastated by copper mining with farmland polluted by waste products from the worksite.
The project—a joint venture between Chinese Wan Bao Mining Company and military-owned Union of Myanmar Economics Holding Ltd—has seen growing action including villagers standing in front of company bulldozers to prevent construction.
Wan Bao Mining, a subsidiary of China North Industrial Corporation, an arms manufacturer, bought its 50 percent stake from the Canadian mining company Ivanhoe.
Click on images for captions. (Photos: JPaing / The Irrawaddy.)
MY RELIGION IS NOT A TREND
So they tried (and continue to) take away the power of our religious coverings and erasing their context and empowerment by saying they’re ‘oppressive’ and calling those who wear it backward but when that didn’t work they’re taking away what our coverings stand for by reducing them to nothing but flimsy pieces of see-through cloth portraying it as a trend for them to throw on and off when our identities are often challenged because of what we wear.
And that is how they strip us of our identities. This is how they take away everything that is important to us.
16th September, 2008/ 2012.
Today marked the fourth anniversary of my moving to the US. I remember when we came out we waited and waited and waited to be picked up by my uncle/grandfather for HOURS and eventually a few hours later I wandered back into the airport to find a phone booth or something to call and make sure they knew the time/terminal right and spotted my grandfather by one of the columns and it turned out that my uncle left him there because they couldn’t find us and he had to go back to work and so we told him and he came back four hours later and it was around this time- about 8 at night- we got to this house. And I fell asleep in the car, as as far as first moments in the US went it was pretty much a weird sleep deprived dream. And I remember when I was younger I always had this hope that one day when we moved into a house it would be one with secret passages and stuff and so when we got here I convinced myself there was a secret room or something- I’d done the same thing with the last house we’d moved into- and was really disappointed in the morning when I couldn’t find the secret place and was told it didn’t exist AND couldn’t find my way around. So I spent the first day reorienting myself from the dream-state ‘memory’ of the map of the house.
I still don’t consider this place home and don’t think I ever will. But in some strange way I’ve gotten used to being here and I’m not entirely sure I could imagine myself somewhere else right now. It wouldn’t be the same. And I certainly wouldn’t be the same.
And I use that term often and never mean it to mean funny-haha, but it’s funny when you realize you trust someone wholly and completely without any terms or bounds and that person isn’t your sister or parent of child I suppose, or someone like that. And you realize I’ve been so used to just not trusting people anymore that it’s a a bit odd to realize that you do trust people again. Odd like you want to poke at it and go “oh, what’s this here?” because it’s been there a while and you just haven’t noticed.
It’s odd and sweet and warm, warm like the warm soup the kind your mother makes when you have a cold because it tastes really good and not hospital soup, warm like the bubbly warm of the smile you have in the dark on peaceful nights when no one can see you or tell what what you’re thinking and you feel safe in that. A particularly sweet warmth when they trust you too, regardless of how they feel about you and maybe they don’t feel the same way about you as you wish they would but that’s okay too because it doesn’t change that you trust them or that they’ve somehow become a safe place and all of it just creeped up on you and you couldn’t do anything to stop it because you told yourself you wouldn’t trust anyone anymore and then you did and you realize you don’t really mind because you can’t think of a better person to trust.
And when things are okay it reminds me of how amazing people are for sticking through with me to that point. Because they didn’t have to. But did anyway.
A generation of street artists have risen in the streets of Yangon where graffiti has become a new form of expression, drawing inspiration from underground Burmese hip hop and punk scenes in the city. The walls and streets of the city of six million people provide many canvases, particularly Kaba Aye Pagoda Road with its high traffic and thus, option for high visibility for these artists.
Certain images have become highly symbolic. The artist Aung’s winged television set [above], often accompanied with the words “FOR UR RIGHT” protest media censorship and has spread through the city. That of a washing machine next to initials of well known banks refers to their role in money laundering.
Graffiti of an electrical socket trailing a wire, usually accompanied by the slogan “Plug the city”, became common in Yangon in May, when frustration over chronic power shortages led to nationwide protests.
“We didn’t do it on the people’s behalf, but because we ourselves were affected by the lack of electricity,” says Twotwenty, 27, the pseudonym for a member of the collective Yangon Street Art, known by its plump, multicolored tag “YSA”.
Only 25 percent of Myanmar’s 60-million population has access to the national grid, according to the World Bank.
Like critics of graffiti everywhere, ordinary residents of the already run-down city find it hard to distinguish between street art and vandalism. “Most people don’t know much about this art and the owners of the places where we graffiti are still very sensitive about this,” said Aung.
So far, he says, no street artists have been jailed, although some have been briefly detained and let off with warnings.
Graffiti artists also fought a paint war against an unpopular Yangon mayor. A brigadier general in the army, Aung Thein Linn won a seat for the junta-created Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in a fraudulent 2010 election.
By way of protest, street artists defiantly tagged the wall of his official residence on Kaba Aye Pagoda Road.
“All of us try to draw on this wall,” says Aung. “It’s painted over the next day.”
Aung Thein Linn was replaced as mayor last year by another retired brigadier-general, and the graffiti war on the residence wall continues.
Another coveted target is the Yangon mansion of self-styled billionaire Tay Za, a U.S.-sanctioned business crony of the former junta. But its walls, which hide a fleet of top-end sports cars, remain unsullied.
“A security guard is always watching,” explains Aung.
The 50 or so artists in the city all have an unwritten code of conduct- schools, hospitals, and religious places including pagodas, temples, churches and mosques are kept free of graffiti. As the artist Twotwenty says; “We may be regarded as destroyers, but […] We don’t destroy these places, we destroy places we don’t like, the places that were taken by force.” A reclaiming of public property for the people again, a reclamation of their right to voice their dissent.