February 19, 2005

History, Courage and Patriotism

History, Courage and Patriotism: Distinction and Decision to be Made

By – Saw Kapi

There have been some serious talks lately about the goal of Karen resistance movement and how to achieve it. Some justifiably raised the issue of courage or the need thereof. For many, the "four principles of Saw Ba U Gyi" comprise everything, if we are to achieve our goal. For others, constant self-examination, reasoning and questioning of our goal as well as the means to achieve it would be of paramount importance because we are living in this ever-changing world.

Talking about courage, the sort of courage we applaud must not be based on a sense of insecurity and negativism but reliant on intellect, confidence, nurtured understanding and therefore hope. For that, we first have to overcome ourselves, something in us that easily yield to emotion rather than intellect, and to the cult of negativism rather than positive sentiments. In short, we must not give up thinking, reasoning and questioning ourselves simply because we love our people.

Ours is a history of oppression wherein our people have suffered for centuries. But it does not end there. A solution is needed. The first step to get an answer is to question everything on the way, ourselves as well as others. Even our own history must be scrutinized in the most naked manner. Only then can we learn from it and move forward, and not dwell on it.

One must be proud of the greatness of one's people (or, nation if you wish), but not just in any greatness that is born of blindness and falsehood. We need to build a nation that can be proud of her goodness and strength, a nation that is capable of seeing her own weaknesses and admitting her own shortfalls.

We cannot just believe that everything must be subordinated to a single end. There must be more than one way to skin the cat. If we wish to proceed one step further, or advance a level higher, we will have to engage in a broader politics within this rapidly transforming world, which as they often say, is like shooting a moving target. Thus, we cannot afford to stand still and live in the past.

There are some people in and beyond this forum, who are Karens by birth as well as by choice, but in the opinion of a few, they "do not know or love their own people," and yet those people have done more than what the so-called "principled patriots" ever did for their people. Their love for their people is not based on bragging about patriotism, which often amounts to jingoism. Rather, their prime patriotism is based on their contribution of all kinds, intellectual as well as professional, to the lasting survival and prosperity of the Karen people. To them, I take my hat off; I do solemnly salute them.

Some of us, unfortunately however, have cracked heads, that is, they are unknowingly shortsighted, and do not really know what century they are in. Nor do they understand the kind of adversary they have to deal with; therefore they are even more unbearable than idiots as they started out with dogmatic standpoint and reasons falsely derived therefrom.

Patriotism only by the heart is a matter of convenience, whereas patriotism involving the sacrifice of life is a much bitter choice and thus must be revered. It is good to remind ourselves that patriotism with practical contribution, professional or otherwise, no matter where we live, is reasonable and admirable. A desire to help is only half the glass; an ability to get things done is what our people really need.

Even then, we still need to distinguish between sacrifice and self-glorification, between courage and arrogance, and most importantly, between a generation of the future and followers of the past. Blind patriotism produces propagandas and drags people backward, while reasoned patriots strive to change the order of things and carry the people they love forward. So, we have to decide where we stand today. Our destiny may well be a product of the historical process in which we all have to, or are forced to, make decisions.

With these thoughts in mind, I wish you all a very happy New Year, embracing all, the Karen, Christian and Buddhist era.

Note: Originally written as a note of reminder to the Karenissues, an Online Discussion Forum of Karens the world over, on 11th December 2004.


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