Current News

    A Rose By Any Other Name

    Why Their Name Is Actually Important (part
    of The Darkness Visible series)

    Alders Ledge:
    May 9, 2013

    As the campaign of ethnic cleansing drags on in
    Burma the Rohingya continue to suffer from starvation, easily preventable
    diseases, and forced isolation. When the Rohingya do anything that the Burmese
    officials dislike they run the risk of prison time, attacks, and possible
    death. This is all compounded by the fact that according to the government of
    Myanmar there aren’t any Rohingya within Burma to begin with. And it is this
    aspect of the genocide that shows where Burma has the most success at carrying
    out their campaign of ethnic cleansing.
    For a government to “cleanse” their
    country of a given targeted community the end result would be exactly what
    Myanmar’s leaders already claim… the complete absence of the targeted
    community. The act of attacking the very name of a targeted community gives the
    state the power to attack without impunity. It robs the targeted community of
    its very core identity thus breaking apart the unity that arise from ethnic and
    cultural bonds. This allows the wedge to be driven in and permits the state
    leverage against their helpless victims. This is the very reason Burma has set
    out to deny the Rohingya the right to their own name, their own identity.
    This act of “cleansing” a society of a
    targeted community not only robs the peoples of their identity but leaves them
    helpless. A government who is simply attacking its own citizens is clearly
    unable to be stopped (example: Syria). It is only when the government’s attacks
    can be linked to the identified stages of genocide that outside organizations
    can claim ethnic cleansing… or genocide. But if the targeted community
    officially exist, well the term genocide is difficult at best to apply to the
    government’s actions. And complicity to ethnic cleansing is hard to prove if
    there is no ethnic group recognized in the first place.
    In recent months more prominent leaders have come
    out with documents and public addresses that state that all either claim the
    Rohingya are actually “Bengali” or never have existed within Burma
    before. One of the key figures in this long line of government puppets has been
    Aung San Suu Kyi. Or to be more accurate, a spokesperson that spoke to the
    press on her behalf.
    (Source: Global Post http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/myanmar/130501/suu-kyi-no-rohingya)
    Once again the Euro poster child of democracy in
    Burma upheld the myths that Myanmar has been working so hard at establishing in
    world history books. Her statement, given through a spokesperson, coincides
    with the notion that Rohingya are nothing more than Bengali illegal immigrants
    that either established themselves during British rule or swept over the border
    as “economic migrants” (a term popular amongst Chinese leaders when
    talking about North Korean defectors). This once again leaves the world to
    assume that Suu Kyi truly does believe the propaganda her government has
    created or is more than willing to help spread it beyond Burma’s borders.
    However the main theory that Rohingya are
    immigrants or invaders isn’t new. For decades now the Rakhine have been
    spreading myths like this one to discredit and isolate the Rohingya from the
    rest of Burmese society. And in an ethnocentric society, like that of Myanmar,
    the very idea of being an outsider is in ways worse than death itself. Once you
    have been made an outsider in a society that so desperately craves conformity
    you have no right to claim any given identity outside that  which has been
    handed down to you. For the Rohingya this denial of belonging to the Burmese
    society at large has been a tragic reality since the British left.
    For Suu Kyi to come forward with her statements is,
    in a manner of speaking, an attempt on the part of Burma itself to reinforce
    the divide between what it means to be Burmese and what it means to be on the
    outside looking in. It is a divisive step that capitalizes on the fears of
    Rakhine individuals and the Buddhists population of Burma at large. It is the
    step that alienates the Rohingya and at the same time degrades them below the
    level of what it means to be human within Myanmar. In effect, it is the
    marrying of the first stage of genocide (classification) with the third stage
    of genocide (dehumanization). A fact that I would believe an intelligent woman
    such as Suu Kyi could and would understand long before making such damaging
    statements.
    The name, the identity, of any given population is
    a treasure that cannot be measured. However, as ironically as it might seem, it
    is also a commodity that is decisively measured when used as a tool against
    them. Jews, Armenians, Bosnians, and any community who has suffered the tragedy
    of genocide should be able to understand this. But for the rest of the world it
    is a tragic aspect of society that they cannot understand until they see it in
    action. With the Rohingya are sadly showing the world what it means to have the
    most valuable part of your cultural identity used as a weapon against you.
    Enduring a campaign of “begalization” in
    which they are forced to sign away their cultural identity, the Rohingya are
    pleading with the world to keep their name. Those who resist the policies Suu
    Kyi’s words lead to are beaten and tortured. Those who resist their tormentors
    wrath are killed. This is the reality of what it means to be denied the most
    fundamental rights a community would seek to preserve for its individuals.
    If the world was to watch they would see the
    bravery in the humble resistance. By not signing away their culture, the
    Rohingya show courage in ways the rest of the world has yet to show. They are
    already starving as the Burmese refuse them food and water. They are already
    plagued with disease as the government of Myanmar prevents them access to
    medicines. And yet the Rohingya hold onto their name.
    So what does a name mean? Why would anyone risk
    their very existence to keep something we in the Western world are trained to
    overlook?
    Shakespeare romanticized the surname in his classic
    Romeo and Juliet:
    “What is in a name? That which we call a
    rose 
    By any other name would smell so sweet;”
    ~ Juliet
    Our surname is after all the first sense of
    identity that we get beyond ourselves. It is the watermark of our ancestral
    past that links us to generation after generation of people we often idealize.
    That name is a point of personal affection and conflict for so many of us. Yet
    for all the emotions that might boil up within us it is a part of us that most
    of us could never depart from. It simply has that much of a hold on how we
    identify ourselves. 
    The next form of identity we are often stuck with
    is also passed down through generation after generation of ancestors. It too
    has a name. That being the name of our cultural and ancestral past, otherwise
    known as our ethnic heritage. For many in America it can be as simple as our
    skin color. For others it could be as specific as the faith our ancestors
    passed along to us. And for some it is the specific ethnic heritage from where
    our ancestors immigrated from (ie; Irish, German, Chinese, ext). But wherever
    the name comes from, it is part of us. We have proven over time in our
    collective past that is something we are more than willing to fight for. It
    becomes part of us in ways that we don’t realize till it is already too late to
    change. And at the same time the question remains, why should we?
    In that same monologue however Shakespeare gives
    the reader the essence of what drives us to defend that name. He hints at how
    others attack that name, and subsequently us as well. 
     
    “Tis’ but thy name that is my enemy;”

    ~Juliet 

    We aren’t built to separate ourselves from the
    names that are passed down to us. It is part of human nature to cling to the
    identities we are given from the first breath we take. From those waking
    moments when we first become aware of who we are and from where we came we find
    ourselves attached to those parts of our own identity. They are parts of our
    worth. They are what defines how we see ourselves and how we imagine others see
    us. So when asked to “refuse our father, and deny thy name” we find
    ourselves dumbfounded. The most alien of concepts is that of altering our
    identity to fit the desires of another person (even more alien when it is a
    faceless figure such as the state). 
    For the Rohingya this must be one of the many
    reasons they find strength to fight for their name… their culture. At the
    very least I have to imagine that it is a driving motivation, for it is the
    best way I can describe it; how I can rationalize it. 
    In the same monologue Shakespeare’s words lead us
    to a major motivator behind ethnic cleansing. For countries such as Burma it is
    the name that becomes the enemy. When they are able to isolate the targeted
    community it becomes the name and not the human being that is subjected to
    death. By destroying the name of a culture, a community, the attacker can
    justify their actions without rationalizing their hate. It is that devastating
    relationship between the first and third stages of genocide that must be made
    for a government to tolerate the actions it first inspired. 
    For this reason alone perhaps Shakespeare had no
    other way to end his classic play but in tragedy. We aren’t capable of making
    that leap from our identity to betrayal so easily. And that is exactly what it
    is for those who are faced with this wretched decision. For them it is a
    betrayal to their own identity. It goes against the long heritage they have
    with their fathers and their father’s fathers. It is a point in time where they
    are asked to deny their ancestors and take up the facade someone else would forced
    upon them. It is the cleansing of their name and purges them of some amount of
    self worth. 
    “A glooming peace this morning with it brings;

    The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head;

    Go hence, to have more talk of these sad
    thing…”

    If you would like to help you can follow the link
    below and read and sign the petition. Show your support to allow the Rohingya
    to keep their identity and help fight the Burmese campaign of cultural
    extermination. 
    Petition created by +Jamila Hanan