Thursday, 21 September 2017



Hard to be a goddess. Too much to live up to. Should you fail, your votaries will spit on you and drag you into the mud. The lot of Myanmar’s former human rights goddess, Aung San Suu Kyi. Ruthless ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya Muslims violates the rights of man but Suu Kyi ignores it. Nay, she refuses to condemn it. ‘Fake news’, she calls it. Definitely a poor deity.

Fact: the lady doesn’t like Muslims. She let the cat out of the bag as she moaned: ‘Nobody told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim!’ after being nailed by BBC’s Mishal Husein. Of course, there is no moral obligation to like a particular religion. I don’t care for Unitarians – a bloodless, heretical non-Christian sect – but would I wish to have them persecuted, raped and driven into exile? No. Suu Kyi’s dislike of Muslims has nasty, lethal consequences, alas.

The lady and her Army are Buddhists. Some marvel at that. Isn’t Buddhism a religion of peace and compassion? Indeed. The teachings of Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha, the Awakened One, contain not an atom of hatred or violence towards ‘enemies’. Followers may fall short, however. Buddhist monks in Japan could be fierce fighters in their country’s aggressive wars. And Zen, insofar as it is a revolt against social conventions, can infringe moral rules, too. I recall a Zen woman in Rome showing indifference at car accident victims. Sadism? Or the hardness of an unsentimental ethics?

Myanmar’s Buddhist generals appear to nurse a similar, callous contempt for the suffering of the wretched Rohingya refugees. On being questioned about his soldiers raping Muslim women an officer grinningly reply: ‘Just look at those women. How ugly they are. Do you think any man would want to rape them?’

Human rights, her opposition to the military government, earned Aung San Suu Kyi boundless adulation in the West, as well as that coveted goal of do-gooders, the Nobel Peace Prize. But human rights ideology isn’t free from contradictions. Life is the most basic right of man, a right without which all other rights seem pointless. Yet HR advocates give not a jot for the rights of the unborn, destroyed by the millions in abortion! Further, HR are used by Western powers to impose dubious practices on African and third world countries, unwilling to cowtow to the Moloch of an alien secular culture. Evidently, the god of human rights is a pretty cracked idol.

There is no reason to be surprised at Buddhists’ failures to obey their Master’s doctrines. The Buddha, like Christ, never founded a state, a political entity with a government, bureaucracy, all that. Had he done so, he would have been forced to realise that compassion – maybe the noblest virtue - must have limits. And so has peace. If you are tasked to defend the lives of your people, you must be willing to take other lives. Use force. Have armies. Policemen. Prisons. Raise taxes. And so on. Sad truth but the truth.

Aung San Suu Kyi is now a bit frail, but when young she displayed the sweet, pretty looks typical of many South Asian women. I suspect it contributed to her popularity among Western media. Yet I read that her father founded the Communist Party of Burma. Interesting. Because communism’s record in human rights is less than glowing. In fact, communism is perhaps the biggest failed god of modernity. Its idol was smashed in Russia and Eastern Europe over the corpse of millions of innocent victims. Although communists like the lady’s father claimed to combat British colonialism, the ideology they served was probably far more murderous. Wrong to impute to the children the fathers’ guilt but…could there be a dark connection at work there?

So the lady has tumbled down from her high pedestal. Too bad. Human beings, however pseudo-heroic, are like that. Imperfect. Maybe the ancient Greeks were wise to make their gods flawed. Physically as well as morally. A reflection of their human worshippers. (The blacksmith god, Vulcan, was a cripple, for example.) Deities that could fall in love, be jealous, kidnap mortals, rape, kill…the lot. In theory they served justice but when Jupiter stole a shepherd boy up into Olympus to serve as his catamite, what justice was there in that?

Human rights – the current gods of the West - are failed divinities. Would religious states be a solution? In a discussion at Abrar House on the plight of the Rohingyas, speaker Jamal Harwood argued that Muslims will never be safe until there is an Amir, a Commander of the Faithful, or a Caliph, to guarantee their protection. Islamic state needed, in other words. The classic Hizb al-Tahrir position. Sadly, the crumbling Middle East ‘Islamic state’, ISIS, hardly commends the idea. (Another broken idol.) ISIS not really Islamic? Discuss. Regardless, you are back to the harsh realities on running a polity. The Caliph, however pious, necessarily would have to enact choices often based not on faith but on Realpolitik. The history of the medieval Popes offers sobering lessons.

God rules majestically in Heaven. On earth ex-human goddesses like the Burmese lady are no alternatives.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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