By Naw Show Ei Ei Tun
School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
Johns Hopkins University
It's been a privilege to read what's on the mind of my fellow Karen people. I have no single doubt that you all love the Karen people and want to do something for a positive change in whatever way you can. Otherwise, you won't even be reading or participating in this forum.
On the Four Principles, I strongly do think it is a very good thing that we all put the Four Principles on the table and openly discuss about it. I appreciate all those who have boldly shared your thoughts and opinions. Otherwise, we all turn next to our graveyard and find out our revolution is far from reaching its goal before we realized it. Some of us have even got very emotional and anxious as if we were betraying the Karen revolution by critically reviewing the Four Principles. And I acknowledge it is very hard to swallow as many lives have been lost, valuable lands and farms have been taken away, and families have been torn apart. Thankfully, this forum is not a contest of racing who is more faithful or loyal to the Karen people, but to openly discuss with an "open-mind" to explore feasible options and alternatives. I don't want to make any comment on the soundness of the Four Principles and what not, because I just simply do not know enough about it. And I have never read the actual writing of Saw Ba Oo Gyi either. But I just wanted to share some perspectives.
A struggle of such is not only unique to the Karen people. And it is not only among the Karen leaders or only Saw Ba Oo Gyi who came up with a set of principles to initiate and guide a certain revolution. Look around us.
Even "Marxism," the idea of one of the greatest philosophers, political economists and revolutionaries, Karl Marx from Germany, had been so powerful and influential across the globe that it even divided the world apart and turned it into a major Cold War. But finally people do have to all acknowledge that Marxism, no matter how ideal it is as an ideology, does not work as it glorious slogan sounds. Even still, Marx did not leave only four sentences but carefully articulated in an entire book (I cannot remember how many pages). At the same time, now a days "democracy" itself is now facing numerous challenges and uncertainties. If you want to know more, please read the article written by Fareed Zacharia, called "the Rise of Illliberal Democracy."
Let me give you one example of someone who strongly subscribed "his version" of "Marxism": the founding father of today's People's Republic of China (PRC), Mao Zedong. Firmly believing in "Marxist" ideology, Mao tried to implement it in many ways, the two most well-known or perhaps, tragic of which were the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Both of them turned out to be a deadly blunder and put millions of Chinese starved to dead. Mao cut off diplomatic or trade relations with other countries. At Mao's death, his very close colleague and subordinate, Deng Xiaoping, realizing the critical needs of his countrymen on the ground and sensing changes in the global world order, decided to not be immensely ideological as his leader, Mao but to be boldly "pragmatic." As such, he took a sea change policy with the famous slogan "whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mouse" and adopted an Open Door economic policy and began normalizing diplomatic relations with other countries. Was Deng a betrayal of PRC's founding father? Till today, as much as the Chinese leaders and people continue to revere Mao as the great leader of modern China, they also acknowledged and admitted that Mao's policy did not work. These are not my arguments but widely accepted facts of life in the history of China.
Next, please allow me to give another example: a very simplified version of Indonesia's story although it is not precisely analogous to China's story. By discussing very briefly about such as complicated issue, I know I'm risking the danger of being miss-interpreted. Even if it has to be that way, let it be so. Take a look at the founding father of modern Indonesia, Sukarno. On the verge of getting Independence from the Dutch colonial power, President Sukarno came up with the idea of "Five Principles" or "Pancasila" as a recipe for Indonesian nationalism:
1. Belief in the one and only God
2. Just and civilized humanity
3. The unity of Indonesia
4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives
5. Social justice for the whole of the people of Indonesia
Each of the principles and all as a whole sound very good, inclusive and forward-looking. However, when Sukarno become highly ideological about nationalism but paid no attention whatsoever to the economic deprivation of his country at the time, he has no choice but to step down. In fact, he was even put under house arrest. People cared less about the principles on the ivory tower as they were not meeting the brutal needs of the people on the ground. Despite of all, the people of Indonesia till today respect and acknowledge Sukarno as the founding father of modern Indonesia, but not with a blind eye to his weaknesses. His daughter, Megawati, was even elected as the President of the country over thirty years later.
The point of all is that it is nothing wrong with reviewing the Four Principles. Please continue to do so. But please don't loose focus on aiming a better future or a positive change for the war-torn land and war-weary Karen people. But we should try our best not to hold personal grudges upon each other. If not, it will be counter-productive and fruitless. And I am not saying the Four Principles will end up like Marx's ideology or Sukarno's Five Principles as I said I personal don't know enough about it at the moment.
In fact, those who think that critically reviewing the Four Principles isn't a good idea, I would encourage you to come up with a set of arguments and shed some lights on how the Karen can achieve their goals by subscribing and practicing the Four Principles or share an evaluation of how the Karen have achieved their goals so far by doing so. I personally cannot wait to hear what you all have to say and I believe everyone will be benefited from such an analysis.
March 15, 2007
By Naw Show Ei Ei Tun