Sunday, 1 October 2017

A father's grief in Rakhine.

The father here (see picture) is crying over his three children who had drowned just metres from the coast in rough waters. His family was escaping from the chaos in the Northern Rakhine state to seek refuge in Bangladesh.

I read that yesterday morning. And while the father was sobbing over the death of his three children, I was standing in my bedroom looking over mine.

My three children were sound asleep, covered in blanket, and possibly dreaming away in their sweet slumber.

Their lives could not have been more different from the lives of the children who were uprooted from their home, made to travel miles up north, in harsh terrains and merciless weather conditions, deprived of food, shelter and water, and thrown into small boats sailing up against torrential rains and storms, just to make it to the other side of an uncertain future.

Most of them didn't make it. Many drowned, especially children. 23 people were confirmed dead and more than 60 were missing.

The world has called on the Myanmar's junta government to stop the humanitarian crisis that has been going on for months, if not years.

Todate, half a million Rohingya Muslims have poured into Bangladesh in just last month alone, and they were believed to be fleeing from the junta's retaliatory reaction to the alleged violent uprising of Rohingya's rebels.

Whether it is ethnic cleansing of an ethnic minority or an internal rebellion that the military is clamping down, one commentator said that "the situation has spiralled into the world's fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare." (UN Chief Antonia Guterres).

As I look at the picture of the father crying his heart out for his kids, I think that heartbreaking image just about sums up the crisis in one word: helplessness.

And if the world of billions would to be arraigned and squeezed into the witness box before a court of collective guilt, and a charge is read out to them (or to all), it would still be the same one word that hangs in the dead calmness of the court room: helplessness.

While our collective indignation and ire are raised, and words of condemnation are delivered, with demurrals and denials, rebuttals and retorts flying across international boundaries, the reality that still remains unchanged is the inhumane persecution of the targeted minority, the voiceless cries for help, and the rising death toll.

To those in charge, those who hold power, it is just a dip in the chart, a digit on the stats, and a price to pay for stability and peace. You just can't make scramble eggs without cracking some eggshells, right?

Good intention and earnest efforts expended by various countries to help aside, what is wrong with the system has nothing to do with religious rituals, political ideologies, karma, or kismet. But it has everything to do with freedom.

If history has taught us anything, it is captured in the words of Socrates when he said that "the most aggravated form of tyranny arises out of the most extreme form of liberty."

And the tyranny of many (revolution) can arise out of the noblest aim of democracy just as the tyranny of a few (oligarchy) can arise out of the trusteeship of Plato's philosopher king.

Therefore, the greatest good and harm that humanity can create and exact come from the same source, that is, absolute freedom and power. In other words, when you put them together, you get a tragedy of Acton-esque horror “for even great men are almost always bad men”.

Of course, all this means nothing to those who are readily and blindly sacrificed in a mad man's pursuit to preserve his power and freedom. And to the father who had just lost his three children, no amount of explanation, or attempts to do so with eloquence and flourish, matters a pipsqueak to him.

He like the world is completely helpless to change his fate and the fate of many that currently hangs in the tenuous balance of life and death.

No bravado of ideals, clarion call of triumphalist action, or glowing charisma of cultist leader can change the mortal destiny of the unknown, the disenfranchised and the dispensable, who exists in the majority, being oppressed and decimated by brutal regimes whose hold of power is absolute and whose freedom to act accounts to no one but himself.

At such time, even God is silent.

He may shake his head in anger and disapproval and warn about an impending judgment coming either in the tyrant's lifetime or in the long suffering eternity that awaits; however, this is unfortunately not going to stop a tyrant's freedom to act with impunity. Neither will it cause much a dent to his ambition on earth to rule with absolute power.

As historian Will Durant wrote: "Civilisation is a fragile bungalow precariously poised on a live volcano of barbarism."

And when the volcano of human rapacious desires erupt, it takes with it the souls of those who stand in its way for its force is blind, its sweep is indiscriminate and its rage is random.

Alas, if I end my thoughts now, I end it on a note of quiet resignation. As I look at my motionless children sleeping in the security of their bedroom, I've to admit that what I share in common with the father in agony is the love we have for our children.

But what is so tragically different between us is that mine have a future. And mine have a future because we happen to be born at different places under different governments. He in Rakhine State and I in the Republic of Singapore.

And if the role between us had been reversed, then the last thing I would be doing is to sit here to write about it and pretend that I understand the mindless evil ways of men because I would be burying my children with a grieving heart and finding strength to carry on with my life without them.

Indeed, what matters most at such time is to find the hope to move on and I sincerely wish that for him and the many others who have to struggle to survive from one day to the other, and from one unspeakable peril to another. God, please have mercy...

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