By Chet Yarbrough
The Hidden History of Burma (Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century)
By: Thant Myint-U
Narrated by: Assaf Cohen
Author, Thant Myint-U, is the son of the former secretary-general of the UN, U Thant (1961-1971). His circle of acquaintances ranges from Presidents to diplomats to people on the street.
U Thant (Secretary-General of the United Nations 1961-1971, died in 1974 at the age of 65.)
Thant Myint-U’s report on Burma (aka today’s Myanmar) reveals a capitalist’s “canary in a coal mine”. “The Hidden History of Burma” reveals what can happen in capitalist countries that ignore the rising gap between rich and poor.
Like canaries, all people are not the same.
Thant Myint-U resurrects the reputation of Aung Suu Kyi, a leader of conscience. He exposes Myanmar’s 2021 military revolution and its unfair trial of Burma’s storied and unfairly maligned national patriot. Thant Myint-U’s history implies no leader of conscience could withstand the inept Burmese government’s management of human diversity that led to the accusation of Rohingya genocide in 2020.
Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese politician, diplomat, author and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize Laureat. She is the daughter of Aung San, the Father of Independent Burma.)
Aung San (Burmese politician, Father of Burma independence from British rule, assassinated six months before independence granted.)
All capitalist economies are threatened by human greed when capitalism is unregulated. Capitalism falters when it fails to provide an adequate safety net to its citizens. When countries fail to offer an opportunity to acquire the basic needs of life, the poor disproportionately die. When the poor are not treated equitably by society, they have two choices. One is to bare unfair treatment and die. The other is to fight unfair treatment and die. (Note that is not to suggest hand-outs but to suggest hand-ups to jobs, income, and opportunity.)
Human nature compels a turn to God when one feels out of control.
One reason the Islamic religion is the fastest growing religion in the world is because many Muslims are poor. They live in countries where governments fail to treat diversity as a strength, not a burden.
Burma’s return to military autocracy is shown by Thant Myint-U to be a consequence of the gap between rich and poor, largely caused by an unregulated capitalist economy. Lack of capitalist regulation in autocracies or democracies make the rich richer and the poor poorer, the twain do meet but mostly in conflict.
Democracy is a form of government that can offer a voice to diversity. When democracy fails to respond to that voice, it risks revolution, and its consequence-autocracy. In “The Hidden History of Burma, Thant Myint-U shows Myanmar’s government is not listening to the voices of diversity.
There is a lesson for America in the story of Burma. The gap between rich and poor is rising. American Democratic capitalism is listening but struggling with its response. America does not have the history of Burma, but government leaders can learn something from Burma’s inept reaction to diversity.