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  • Writer's pictureHu Eliot Young

Myanmar (an allegory perhaps)

Here's something for you if you've got insomnia. Cheers, Hu

How strange and surreal to be sipping sodas at the Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, turning the pages of Orwell's 'Burmese Days', a forerunner of sorts to his opus, '1984' while a new and improved form of double speak, called 'alternate facts' insidiously infiltrates the lexicon of the sanctimonious and insufferable political pontificators in our neighbour to the south.

How strange and surreal to be riding high over the ancient Hindu temple site of Bagan at dawn, in a hot air balloon while on the other side of the big pond, aka the Pacific, a bloviated blowhard (the words of that great political commentator, George Will) spews hot air and vitriol and struts and frets his way across the stage in his hour of imperious conflagration, as his sycophants clap and cheer, "yes sir" and "of course sir!", oblivious and unable to call out the emperor for wearing no clothes.

The said emperor/puppetmaster pirouettes on a dime but can't take the time to think before he speaks and, when given a golden opportunity before the (for once) Super Bowl to speak for all of America instead of only his buddies, blows the opportunity like so many others. Yes, l'esprit de l'escalier is not his forte but how could he not (if he were truly interested in being a president for ALL of America) have leapt at the opportunity when asked whom he was pulling for to win the game, not been diplomatic enough or astute enough to comment that it would be great for Atlanta (and all of the South) to emerge victorious (having never won the game in the first 50 years), almost as if it were a victory against oppression. Why couldn't he have added, that conversely, it would truly raise the Patriots to the standard bearers for the pantheon of greatness if they were to win.

No, instead, he talked about his personal friendships with those great emissaries of trust and honour, Bellichek and Brady and Kraft. Then, when his team (remember he opined they would win by eight... my gawd, brings back memories of good ol' Biff from Back to the Future)... fell behind by a score of 21-0, he fled his watchtower at that haven of universal suffrage, Mar-O-Lago (Sea by the Lake?) or whatever dumbass name it's called, because we all know he doesn't back "losers" and he had to get his whiney ass out of there lest he be associated with the apparent losers of the game. How triumphant an occasion he was able to turn into nada.

Meanwhile, back in Myanmar... in the hot air balloon next to mine, was the Noble Peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose job description under the Myanmar army commandante/generals is the understated "state counsellor".  Accompanying her was the crown princess of Bhutan. While marvelling at the respect accorded by the Myanmar citizens to their charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent over twenty years under house arrest and was detained and unable to spend time with her young family, CNN and YouTube carried tales from the Trumpster, trumpeting how many sacrifices he had to "make", not in the military or of the magnitude of Mother Teresa, say, but in that peculiar, self absorbed cocoon cartoon land, the ivory (err... gaudy gold) tower of tremendousness, where soever he happeneth to be-eth. How serendipitous and so real it was to be visiting the Anandara temple when coincidentally, Aung and the crown princess came in, passing within arm's length.

The 71 year old Aung and the 70 year old Trumpster will each have their own reward in due course as will the rest of us. The spectacle of multiple executive ie Imperial Orders signed while the Trumpster has one syncophant, his VP Pence, clapping eternally by his side while another syncophant holds the Trumpster's hand affectionately in an aberration of brotherly love, is satirically reminiscent of what one would expect to see from the lunatic running (into the ground) North Korea. Interesting that both "leaders" have the craziest haircuts or "do's" (read "do-nots.")

Meanwhile, I continue my saunter around Southeast Asia leaving Myanmar for Borobudur, Java. The contentment of the people of Myanmar, has been palpable and genuine. The novelty of tourists with their abbreviated timelines has not worn them down. Yet. Deference given to foreigners seems a manifest destiny and the stoicism and patience of the Mon, Shan and other ethnic groups in Myanmar seems part of their Buddhist approach to life. There are pagodas or stupas with shrines on every hilltop in the countryside and the cities have one in every corner.

Ditto for the people of Java. To think that 1,200 year ago, majestic temples and shrines of the magnitude of Prambanen near Jogjakarta and Borobudur, Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites respectively, were being built. It says something about the cultural mosaic that a province of Indonesia, Java, could be the epicentre of such compatibility. All, in a nation where 80% of the population is identified with Islam. And a tourist such as I, can be approached by significant numbers of young students every half hour, all of them hoping to engage in conversation in English, a language which could enhance rather than obstruct approachability and understanding. But no, a travel ban in the neighbour to the South will preclude that possibility. Oh shortsightedness, hath thou no end?

The false narratives, the alternate truths, a world caving in upon itself...

Signing off...

From Quito to Kyoto: a journey in search of the spirit.

From the churches and colonial capitals of Spanish America to the temples, pagodas and shrines of Southeast Asia.

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