The call went out across the globe, and this libertarian stood up. The people and monks of Burma had the courage to resist the criminal junta dominating their lives, and for that they are being jailed, tortured and murdered. They have no arms and no money, and they must be so scared. But what matters is the they persevere, and that example inspired me.
So, I went online, found a rally – THE rally – and took to the streets of Toronto. We grouped in front of the Chinese Consulate, so that our chants would echo through the halls of East Asia’s Evil Empire. The organizers were a mixed bag, mostly socialist, but that wasn’t important. On this day, I didn’t care if I had to sit through an NDP or Amnesty International speech calling for ‘solidarity’ and ‘less talk and more action from Ottawa.’ I knew why I was there: people are dying. People are dying, right now, for their freedom. People are dying miserable, cold, silent deaths because they know that living as slaves is worse than no life at all.
For those who don’t follow closely current events, here is a synopsis: the military of the former state of Burma toppled their civilian government in 1962. Ever since, there has been a cycle of rapprochement and crackdown. In 1988, student groups rose up in protest against their slavery. They were brutally crushed. Since then, the populace has remained largely docile – frozen by fear as in many totalitarian states. With much of the population starving, and the military junta getting rich off of corporatist deals with the Chinese and Indian Empires, a recent cut in fuel subsidies was judged too much to bear. The revered Buddhist Monks of Burma rose up to demand an apology and a return to the rule of law. Brave civilians formed human chains to protect the marching monks from the junta’s batons and bullets. Alas, human will cannot repel bullets when the shooters have iron hearts. The crackdown has begun again…
We, the relatively free, often hear these stories from parts of the world that never embraced liberty. The most conscientious among us may pause, reflect, and feel sorrow for the foreigners’ plight. But we often do nothing. Now, I’m not going to go on a paternalist rant about how awful everyone is for sitting by. If you really think about it, there’s little one can do short of giving up one’s life to wage battle in the jungles of Southeast Asia. I applaud that, but we are not duty-bound to that. I do not believe calling for your military to intervene absolves you either; in fact, it perhaps indicts you as the same type of person as General Than Shwe. The soldiers serving your state pledged to defend you, your territory, themselves, and their families. To order them into someone else’s affairs undermines the foundation of self-government.
So, what can you do?, I asked myself. I can speak, to ensure that the Burmese do not suffer in vain or in silence. That’s what these rallies are about. Children often say that if the Holocaust were happening today, they would do something to stop it. Yet, all around I see the complacency and conformism that allow such atrocities. I decided the important thing was to do something positive and to be as vocal as possible. I went on behalf of the Ontario Libertarian Party. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with people with whom I would normally disagree. There was a great turnout that night, and we made an impact in the general consciousness. Evidence comes by way of the Toronto Star, which interviewed your author about his reasons for attending. While Ms. Surya Bhattacharya didn’t mention my oft-iterated support for the Ontario Libertarian Party, she quoted accurately my true reason for attending: “I wanted to march to show support for the monks and for the pursuit of political liberty.”
Libertarians are the most ethical people on the planet. We have mulled over ethical systems until we found pure justice: that every person owns himself, that every person deserves to pursue life as he sees fit, and that every person deserves to retain the fruits of his labor. We all believe it, but we seem the least motivated of all parties to realize our ideals in the real world. Why are the socialists in charge of the most important movements against war and tyranny? They are tyrants themselves! Regardless, we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all that will champion freedom, in whatever way they can. People are standing up to one of the least libertarian regimes on Earth. They’re doing the work for us, making the sacrifices for us; shouldn’t we join them? I’ll see you there.