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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 11-May-2008
Burma (Myanmar) junta is turning a natural disaster into a criminal catastrophe

Web Log - May, 2008

Burma (Myanmar) junta is turning a natural disaster into a criminal catastrophe

Could it affect the Beijing summer Olympics?

Cyclone Nargis came ashore in Burma (Myanmar) on Saturday, May 3, bringing along a 12-ft high tidal wave that washed over the lowland rice paddies up to 20-25 miles inland in the Irrawaddy delta, killing up to 100,000 people:

Burma - path of cyclone Nargis.  Incredibly, its path was the full length of the most vulnerable regions of the country. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Der Spiegel)</font>
Burma - path of cyclone Nargis. Incredibly, its path was the full length of the most vulnerable regions of the country. (Source: Der Spiegel)

Rangoon (Yangon) is a city of 6 million people, and is Burma's largest city and former capital. There, tree trunks flew through the air, light poles snapped in two, and windows were smashed in most buildings.

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Burma (Myanmar)
American aid ships are ordered to leave Burma's (Myanmar's) waters: Military junta is using cyclone devastation as cover for violent campaign against Karen minority.... (5-Jun-2008)
China requests foreign assistance for earthquake relief - cash only: It's likely that tens of thousands of people were killed on Monday... (12-May-2008)
Burma (Myanmar) junta is turning a natural disaster into a criminal catastrophe: Could it affect the Beijing summer Olympics?... (11-May-2008)
Cyclone Nargis could trigger violence in Burma (Myanmar): Burmese generals are placing obstacles in the way of international aid.... (8-May-2008)
China crushes protests by Buddhist monks in Tibet: The Dalai Lama, exiled in India since 1959, called for calm.... (16-Mar-08)
Burma (Myanmar) demonstrations fizzle after violent government response: Thousands of troops are exerting a massive stranglehold on the streets of Rangoon... (2-Oct-07)
Burma: Growing demonstrations by the "88 Generation" raise fears of new slaughter: At the UN, President Bush announced new sanctions on Burma (Myanmar),... (26-Sep-07)

The fertile Irrawaddy delta region is extremely densely populated. It has (or had) only 5% of Burma's landmass, but almost 50% of its population. Some 60 delta cities and towns, with millions of residents, were washed over by the tidal wave, and disappeared completely, leaving the landscape littered with bodies.

Millions of refugees and residents are packed into cities and towns on higher ground with no available food, and with drinking water polluted by the storm. Infectious diseases are beginning to spread, and the charity Oxfam is saying that as many as 1.5 millions lives are threatened in a potential "public health catastrophe."

I've dwelled on these morbid facts because of the impression those facts are making on the entire international community. If a "public health catastrophe" does occur, then the Burma junta will be held responsible, and that could even extend as far as saying that they're criminally guilty of genocide.

The facts on the ground are horrific, but from the point of view of Generational Dynamics the important issue is what effect they'll have on the attitudes and behaviors of the large masses of people in countries around the world.

Within Burma itself, there will undoubtedly be a great deal of anger. The obvious comparison is to the anger that followed the flooding of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina -- and in that case there was a lot of property damage, but not a huge loss of life.

Nonetheless, as I wrote a few days ago, Burma is about halfway into a generational Unraveling era, and any violence that begins would probably fizzle out fairly quickly. The only thing that would change that is if the cyclone had somehow been fairly selective in the delta in killing most people over 45, thus destroying the generational constellation that existed before the cyclone. There is some evidence that most of the dead are children and elderly, leaving mostly young adults as the survivors behind. However, it's unlikely that will be enough to spur more than brief violence, if any.

Outside of Burma, the anger is likely to grow as well, and it seems to me that there's a good chance that the Burma junta will be charged with genocide. Let's take a look at some of the charges that will be brought:

Nobody is openly accusing the junta of much right now, because the hope is that they'll allow more humanitarian aid in. But once the immediate crisis is over, the level of condemnation will be enormous, especially if the number of deaths keeps rising.

The tsunami that struck southeast Asia in 2004 caused 220,000 deaths. The number of deaths was held down by the quick humanitarian response from America, Europe, other countries, and numerous humanitarian agencies.

Because of the Burmese military junta's purposeful actions, continuing to this day, the junta will be accused of criminal genocide by many human rights groups, and probably by many governments. In fact, it would surprise me if exactly that charge is not brought by the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament.

But let's face it: Nobody really much cares what the Burmese military is accused of. That would be off the front pages very quickly.

The problem is that China is supporting Burma's refusal to allow aid in. China has a policy of "no interference in the internal affairs of another country." China thus rejects international criticism of

as "interference in the internal affairs" of those governments, and not to be permitted. China has repeatedly blocked U.N. Security Council actions condemning violence or genocide in other countries because doing so would "interfere in the internal affairs" of another country.

If a humanitarian catastrophe develops in Burma, with the deaths of a million people or more, then China will receive a good deal of blame.

This week, Beijing blocked a proposal to even have the Security Council briefed on the Burma situation. "We should take full consideration of Myanmar's willingness and sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

If Burma's junta is charged with criminal genocide by blocking aid from reaching cyclone victims, and if China is suspected of having helped Burma block the aid, then China's opponents will have another human rights accusation to wield.

Such accusations could take place prior to or during the summer Olympics, creating a new embarassment for China, and increasing nationalism among the Chinese public.

From time to time, I like to emphasize the role of Chaos Theory in Generational Dynamics. Most people have heard of the concept that a butterfly flapping its wings in China might (or might not) cause a chain of events that would lead to a hurricane in North America.

Well, perhaps some butterfly somewhere flapped its wings and caused cyclone Nargis to blow over Burma. In the worst case scenario we outlined, there might be over a million deaths, charges of genocide for the Burma government, and charges of complicity in genocide for the Chinese government, just as the summer Olympics is approaching.

A little butterfly's flapping wing may be the cause of all that. And yet, "cause" is the wrong word. The right word is "trigger." Generational Dynamics identifies trends that must occur sooner or later, when the right trigger occurs. Thus, the butterfly may have triggered the charges of complicity in genocide for the Chinese government, at the time of the Olympics.

Well, I must be in a weird mood today to have written this somewhat whimsical description of one set of possible consequences of cyclone Nargis. Undoubtedly Burma's ruling military junta is hoping that the furor over the cyclone will just die down and go away. That COULD happen, provided that they abandon their intransigient blocking of foreign aid. As things stand now, it looks like a heck of a lot of people are going to die, and they will be blamed for it. (11-May-2008) Permanent Link
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