Seen in the US, Scotland, and Myanmar

One of the things that drives me up the wall is dishonesty especially when it comes to the world of politics. While not addressing social issues, a façade of American expectionalism is employed. Those on the right dance around about how great America is while complaining about healthcare reform, not do anything about income disparity, avoiding dealing with sexism, push for more voter suppression, and diss the notion of climate change. There is no scientific or psychological data out there arguing against any of those issues from healthcare reform to climate change. The naysayers replace evidence with a mask of American expectionalism, which is as an emotional rallying point for the radical right. At what precisely are we exceptional? We certainly are not exceptional on any of those social issues like sexism.

In the past year, I traveled to Scotland last spring to research the Scottish independence movement, which will come to a vote on September 18, 2014. The opposition campaign has the slogan, Better Together, which is blatantly dishonest. Nearly a century ago, the British Empire consisted of 20% of the world's population and 25% of the earth's landmass. However, what little remains of the British Empire is Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, a section of Antarctica, and a dozen small islands scattered around the world.

It is apparent that no country excluding a dozen or so small island wanted to remain under British domination. America and every other former colony wanted autonomy and freedom. They all have gone their separate ways. Scotland will vote to get out of the UK, and Wales and N. Ireland are not ready for independence, but they do want home rule. However, they will watch what happens in Scotland in less than 6-months. While the slogan against Scottish independence is Better Together, the question is who is better together...not the Scots. The British are suffering from the Churchillian Cringe.

During the past fifty-years, I have spent about two years of my adult life living, studying, and traveling overseas. I have enjoyed the journey. I have never visited any country that was not a wondrous experience. I learned a great deal and benefitted from all the places to which I have traveled. I wish that I could travel to even more countries.

I recently returned from Myanmar/Burma at the beginning of this year. Of all the countries that I have traveled, I learned more and benefitted the most from Myanmar. Myanmar started near the bottom of the barrel economically and politically in the world of nations, but they are working their way out. They had been a British colony since 1824 until General Aung San toward the British to leave, which they did in 1948.

The British came...

British land in Rangoon in May 1824

British land in Rangoon in May 1824

And the British left...

General Aung San and Clement Attlee in January 1947

General Aung San and Clement Attlee in January 1947

Scotland needs to do the same. Myanmar started to emerge from British colonial rule and began their naivety like all nations including America not sure how to progress. We, as a new nation, stumbled for several years just after the American Revolution. However, like the US, Burma also stumbled. Then in 1962 there was a coup d'état by the military, which seized power and closed off that South East Asian nation from the rest of the world for much of the last half of the 20th century. Myanmar in Southeast Asia and Albania in Europe both became closed off during roughly that time period. Myanmar lived in its own little shell isolated between India and Thailand. Myanmar started again to join the rest of the other countries of the world in the last handful of year.

I spent nearly a month in Myanmar recently. I went there to learn and to see, which I did. However, my initial drive to see and understand Myanmar was something from which I would benefit. It would provide a broader knowledge base for my writing and teaching. Nevertheless, while I went there to learn for my personal use, the greatest lesson that I learned was about the people of Myanmar.

I am glad that I gained so much knowledge and hands on experience during my time in Myanmar, but the people of Myanmar's efforts impressed me. Because of that learning, I promised Min Ko Naing and others that I will do what I can to help them as they work to become a modern nation. I am fully aware that I am a halfway around the world and have no political power, but I do have the Internet and my webpage.

Aside from their friendliness and interest in foreigners, what is the one greatest thing that the people of Myanmar have going for them? PAIN.

Interestingly, in comparison to the US and Scotland, it is one of the thing that both of those countries do not have at a sufficient level - pain. Hence, no pain, no gain. The greater the pain, the greater the gain. Not everything in America or Scotland is perfect and much upon which needs to be improved.

For example, women in America need to quit wasting time sitting around and doing nothing to get equality with men. They need to stand up and demand it. Yet, with a majority of the population in America being women, they still are not equal. Women will not get to equality unless they demand it. However, they apparently are not feeling that pain badly enough to act even though they are in a numeric majority of the population.

Myanmar's GNP and average wage earners income is extremely low in comparison to the rest of the world. This is due in large part to the military dictatorship of the past half century. Nonetheless, the people are not sitting around and merely complaining. They are working to improve their lives and that of their country.

Cleaning fish

When I went to Myanmar, I wanted to interview two people for my website: Min Ko Naing and Aung San Suu Kyi. I was able to contact Min Ko Naing and interviewed him, but both he and Aung San Suu Kyi spent more time in prison or under house arrest than I spent in college, graduate, and post-graduate school. In addition to those two leaders, many of the 88 Generation also spent much time in prison or were killed by the military government. Min Ko Naing invited me to their Independence Day luncheon. They are still working for human rights without reference to the cost they have had and still might have to pay.

Al and Ann at freedom lunch

In addition to the protest leaders, I saw regular people who worked extremely hard for very small wages...while still smiling. Whether they themselves benefit from their labors or not, they are working for the betterment of their children and their children's children. It was an amazing thing for an American to see firsthand. They are committed to change and not merely to complaining.

Women selling vegetables

Man with tools

Women cutting sugar cane

Confucius said two things that best describe what I saw in the people of Myanmar. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." The people that I met understand that statement and have begun their journey. In addition, Confucius also advised us, "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." Again, the people that I met while in Myanmar also understand the value of moving regardless of what stands in their way time wise.

Yangon freedom rally

Since my return to the States from Myanmar, Ukraine has gotten into the headlines. They have been where Myanmar was. They got some freedom, and then Czar Putin has interfered. The parallels between Myanmar and Ukraine are quite interesting. The people of Ukraine have felt the pain and have responded. It will not be an easy road for the people of either Myanmar or Ukraine. However, the alternative of doing nothing is far worse. I know that the people of Myanmar are exceptional; I have seen and talked to them. It is also obvious the Ukrainians are also. The road for both countries will be difficult and hard, but they are honest and moving in the correct direction.

 The Ukrainians want freedom and are not fearful of fighting for it.

The Ukrainians want freedom and are not fearful of fighting for it.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

Scottish independence: Yes campaign

Scottish independence flag

Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.

Ukraine flag

Ukraine flag

Visit the Ukraine page to read more about this topic.



Visit the Confucius page to read more about this topic.