Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Matt Drudge links to a story detailing what I regard as my worst nightmare: A government that has decided to actively violate freedom of speech. No excerpt can do this justice, but here's a taste.
An internet blogger and a writer who disguised an attack on Burma's dictator in the form of a love poem were among dozens of activists sentenced to draconian jail terms as the junta ordered a fresh crackdown on dissidents.That is just the sort of thing I could imagine doing (and have done, but not in a political vein). I suspect that the "alternative" being immorally forced on Saw Wai by his government is: "Your life or your life!" That's what being silent or -- worse, being told to write only what one knows to be ugly and wrong -- is for someone who loves to write. And, now that I think of it, that is the ultimate, though not always so stark, choice any tyranny puts to us, and which gives meaning to the motto, "Live free or die."
Nay Myo Kyaw, 28, who wrote blogs under the name Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years and 6 months in jail by a court in Rangoon. The poet, Saw Wai, received a two-year sentence for an eight-line Valentine's Day verse published in a popular magazine.
Aung Thein, the lawyer for the men, was given four months in prison on Monday for contempt of court during his defence.
Mr Saw Wai’s poem, entitled 14th February, was ostensibly a Valentine's Day verse published in January last year in a weekly magazine. "You have to be in love truly, madly, deeply and then you can call it real love," it read. "Millions of those who know how to love, Laugh and clap those gold-gilded hands."
The first word of each line, however, spelt out a message about the leader of the country's military government: "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe". Mr Saw Wai was charged with harming "public tranquillity". [bold added]
But that's not what got me going. What really got my attention was the following foolishness from the reader comments by one James Beckton of Airstrip One:
Socialism has nothing to do with Burma's situation. The country is run as selfish regime. China supplies regime expertise and equipment while all the big powers including China extract raw materials and profit. The population are treated as a disposable nuisance. Just the same as Congo and Zimbabwe.First of all, given that freedom of speech can and does greatly accelerate the discovery of the truth, which man must have to survive and flourish, to call a regime that suppresses freedom of speech "selfish" borders on the patently absurd. This is not to say that it is unimportant to defend the virtue of selfishness whenever possible, for its opposite, altruism, is what is used to justify socialism and dictatorship, including the poet's very sentence! The rulers of China, Burma, Congo, and Zimbabwe are anything but "selfish".
No, what got my attention was that asinine statement that socialism has "nothing to do with this". Socialism is a political system in which the government owns the means of production (i.e., it fails to recognize the property rights of its citizens to the point of perpetually violating them). As such, it is a species of tyranny and it is one step down the road to Rangoon. (Yes. I know, it's "Yangon" now. And it's no longer the capital. And I bet quite a few Burmese would take colonial status over this any day. So let's do talk about keeping up to date.)
The very idea that a government that violates individual rights in one area (property) will not eventually also do so in another (speech) is folly. In such a case, either the principle that man has rights is unknown or it is already being flouted, and sooner or later, some lowly prole -- I mean, individual human being -- will inconvenience the government by exercising what rights haven't yet been trampled.
I have often spoken of a "dictator fantasy" in which people like this apologist for socialism (or Obama's more fanatical supporters) seem to think that the despot they want in power will rule as he, personally, sees fit. This is clear evidence of a lack of principled thought, and the proliferation of people with this fantasy is a direct result of the prevalence of the philosophical approach of pragmatism.