News from Myanmar/Burma is either mostly about economics or how some violence has occurred. We hear of conflicts based on perceptions, history, and wars. Trust and respect is difficult to grow and thrive in this environment
Fear and distrust causes violence in many different forms. There cannot be an acceptance of behaviours that result in trauma or learned helplessness. Perhaps the individual threshold towards abuse is higher as it has become more the norm than the exception after years of oppression. This is not a new idea as history shows how oppression can manifest oppressive group behaviours. We need to understand the relationships of economic power, and social power between people within a social group and between groups. Perhaps those who speak for ‘the group’ is not really speaking for ‘the many’ but for ‘the few’ who wish to control the voices of their communities. The silent majority in Myanmar is alive and well, just like us in Canada.
Social justice with its history in religion and philosophy is difficult to define but is viewed as part of our social fabric. The area of social and economic justice has many dimensions and provides a springboard to pursue non-supportive behaviours and injustices within societies, as well as provides a path to help heal both economic and social woes. When authority is diversified then no one becomes accountable for oppressive behaviours that occur in all societies.
Social exclusion will occur when structural process allow for inequalities that arise out of oppression related to race, class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, immigrant status and religion to exist within the social and professional environments; and when the government abdicates its responsibility. Societies must grant women equal rights not only in public spaces but also within the family, and community. Economics and religion cannot be used as an excuse for any denial for equal rights. Civil society is needed to ensure that is not just race/racism is viewed as important but that gender, sexual orientation, as well as class is viewed as part of the complex nature of rights.
Central to the idea of breaking down barriers is creating partnerships with progressive leaders in order for subordinated groups to work with them on problems of exclusion. Pointing fingers has not helped race relations in Canada, and it will not work in Advocacy. Building coalitions and framing the discussion takes energy. Energy comes when we support each other and enlist progressive leaders to the cause.
It is my desire for us in Canada to work together to help bring unity and peace not only in Myanmar/Burma but also in Canada. Advocacy is a big part of this. How can we together help change the dynamics of violence?
Merle A. Jacobs