the new burma


That struggle was for democracy: for choice, human rights, and basic freedoms—ideas all the more enthralling for having always been denied. But fundamentally, that struggle had always been rooted in the granular. From underground or under the chronic scrutiny of intelligence agents and informers, Thar and Nigel and Suu Kyi and dissidents across Burma’s pro-democracy movement had fought through the darkest years of military rule for a thousand daily practicalities: to earn a degree without bribing an examiner, to have electricity, to keep the rice paddy land that your family had tilled for generations, to hold an identity card if you happened not to be part of the Buddhist majority, or, if you were, to scrap the system that required one in the first place. They wanted—they believed—they had a right to assemble in groups of more than five; to use the word “nightmare” if they chose to in the lyrics of their songs; to paste a poster on a wall and not face prison for the privilege. Their concerns, the concerns of Burma’s “most passionate dissidents,” Suu Kyi had written recently, reflected “the sense of freedom as something concrete that has to be gained through practical work, not just as a concept to be captured through philosophical argument.”

more from Delphine Schrank at VQR here.