- For Teachers
I have to write an essay about the 'shadow state' of Burmese government by describing 3 aspects that show the gap between their appearance and reality. I'm using the book "Finding George Orwell in Burma" by Emma Larkin. So please help me to check my grammar and may be shorten it and cross out any information you think that is unnecessary. Thank you so much for your help!
Emma Larkin, the author of the book ‘Finding George Orwell in Burma’ brought us through a journal in Burma while she was trying to finish Orwell incomplete book. George Orwell was a nineteen years old British boy when he moved to Burma to join the British Imperial Police Force. After five years, he left Burma and soon became a famous writer. Unfortunately, he could not finish his book before he died so Emma tried to fill out the rest of Orwell’s incomplete book. She decided to travel to Burma to explore the country itself and also to reveal the clandestine truth of the government with the help of a Burmese author who was referred as “the prophet”. A military dictatorship government was revealed from its ‘shadow state’. It formed and deformed the society so that it can operate as a shadow state. There are three aspects dominated by appearances that were in contrast with the reality of how things actually operated. They are education, the military and Judicial and Penal system.
Burma was “once renowned for its high literacy rates and educational standards” (pg.191). The society was well educated before the British came and took over Burma as their colony. Burmese love to read books because they had the motivation to learn new thing “Everywhere you go you see people reading” (pg.8) which was adopted from their culture. As in their religion “the Buddha himself encourage questioning and thinking” (pg.193). Burmese people were eager to learn and think creatively. But that was before the British were there. However, it appeared to be way better when Emma was in Burma. Almost 100% of student in Burma graduated from their university. This sounds like a ‘heaven’ for education which expressed the excellence result of management of the government. Tha Win Kyi, a university teacher in Moulmein said “All students who attended the exam have passed” (pg.195). But all of those good examples were just a cover for the dubious activities of the government. In reality, “Our education system is absolutely going to the dogs…it’s just getting worse and worse” (pg.191) said Tha Win Kyi. Nothing was taught in the schools and students were just “learn their lessons by heart. Everything is memorized…” (pg.191). This system forced them to memorized everything even when they did not understood what they were being taught about. After graduated from the university only a “few of the English-literature graduates actually spoke any English” (pg.195). Tha Win Kyi tutored “a final-year geography major who didn’t even know where Canada was” (pg.194). Students were not encouraged to ask questions and they dared not to answer questions given by their teacher. But there was no way to fail the final exam unless the student was absent or handed in a blank sheet. Teachers showed the exam questions before hand and answered all of them in class. When students finished the exam, even if the answers were wrong they still passed because of bribe attached into the exam paper. Teachers needed that money so they will let their students passed. As reality “few people have any faith left in our education system” (pg.196) said Tha Win Kyi. The reason behind all this “wilful destruction” (pg.191) was because the government did not want any young generation Burmese to think different from them. This ‘lost generation’ must not be too smart and not required to be creative so that it will be easier for the government to handle them later. This helped them to reduce a critical amount of burden and unnecessary riot or revolution from young Burmese.
Second from the aspects list was military. The contemporary Burma was ruled under a military dictatorship which mean military had a big influence on the society and the country. As the new government took over the country in 1988, Burmese’s hopes were enhanced with numerous promises. The new government was called State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). However they were not an official government yet because no election was organized. This was a good chance for the SLORC to show Burmese people about their ability to be the leader of the country. They promised “to let the people choose their own government and organized a general election” (pg.15). The SLORC tried to appear in the best shape in front of the public all the time. In a national event like the Arm Forces Day, the parade “took place within the shadow of the golden bell-shaped spire of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Hundreds of soldiers in dress uniform marched in perfect unison across the wide parade ground of Resistance Park” (pg.165). All those good appearance and actions made by the SLORC were perfect example of an outstanding government with excellence leader. However, that was just the outward of the government. What was really happened contrasted with the reality. They broke their promise of letting the people to choose their own by the general election by “ignored the results and continued to rule” (pg.16). They cheated during the election by “arresting thousands of its supporters” (pg.16). SLORC rival party was the National League for Democracy (NLD). NLD’s leader Aung San SUU Kyi was house arrested by them. National security was bad and civilian life was at threat but SLORC covered it up and acted like nothing was happened. On the Armed Forces Day “a bomb had exploded near the Sule Pagoda, a well-attended pagoda located next to Rangoon’s City Hall. Two bystanders had been killed, and others had been injured” (pg.164). But what surprised Burmese later was “there was no mention of the bombs, but there was a lot of coverage of the Armed Forces Day Parade” (pg.165). Earlier that day, Emma tried to get through the crowd to watch the soldiers marching but everything was covered by the army. People could only hear their boots stomping on the ground. But what shocked the whole nation was the mass massacre of 8-8-88. Thousands of people were killed during the uprising. After that the SLORC tried to do everything to make this event faded away by renamed streets, cities, towns. They wanted 8-8-88 “can only be remembered secretly, behind closed doors” (pg.16). They wanted to look good to Burmese and to other countries.
Judicial and Penal system was last on the aspects list. This was the law of the country and the government enacted those laws and regulations to keep the country peaceful and safe. Police was the most common representative from the government. They always greet people with a nice attitude “allow us to help you” (pg.98). There was almost no crime in Burma. The government did their job well on censored all the crime news because “the generals simply don’t want to see anything bad about their country in print” (pg.127). Reality was reversed from what appeared on the outlook. “Violent crime in Burma had risen at an alarming rate” (pg.90). Police had never done their job unless “you give them money first” (pg.98). They had developed a mask that made foreigner or even Burmese believed that the police force were honest and enforcing the law strictly. “Corruption was rampant among magistrates and criminals who were caught were seldom convicted” (pg.91). People could see it clearly but no want could have done anything. Anyone who wanted to write anything against the government will be sent to jail. These absurd activities of the government contrary from what they said. The reason behind this was the same as the last two aspects. They wanted to control Burmese people and limited them from all sources of information that will affect government’s image.
All of these aspects reflected the reality situation in Burma. The government carefully hid the truth which made it stay in the ‘shadow state”. They wanted to keep everything under control so that their power will be perpetuate by showing people these false appearance and kept them prevalent. These aspects also helped them to prevent riot, revolution or uprising from Burmese or anti-government group. Nobody will question them about the well-being of the country when all these aspects existing. Foreigner will assumed that Burma was stable and grew constantly under this military dictatorship.