Last week's paper reported that southeast Asia's biggest trading group, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, had granted observer status to Burma. This is a major breakthrough for the military regime running that sad country, and full participating membership will probably follow.
When I read about this, I thought of all the students imprisoned and executed, of the trampling of the Burmese constitution, and of the brave fighters who have fought their jungle war for decades against the brutal and repressive government in Rangoon. Why do the good guys always loose out to the people with money?
At this late stage in my life I should understand that it's cash, not ideals or moral principles, that make the world go round. But I still get angry when American and the rest of the world defers to China, or ASEAN courts Burma, all for gold. Along with the gold, by the way, comes the homogenization of the planet. National boundaries and ancient cultures crumble before the onslaught of Western commercialism. Madonna and MTV from pole to pole - the New World Order in the guise of Disney and McDonald's.
More to the point of Wolf Age, soldiers are hired to speed and protect this process. Some of them wear uniforms in the American military, which has become the action arm of the multinational elite. Others are mercenaries hired to safeguard oil installations against the locals. The natives, of course, are labeled "communist insurgents" or "terrorists," and lots of well-meaning Americans never look beyond the labels provided by the media.
The struggle is between blood and gold. On the one hand are peoples trying to preserve their culture, resources, environment, and independence. They are short on money, so they can't influence governments or pay soldiers to fight for them. However, they have guts and their cohesion as a people, a folk, on their side. Arrayed against them is the might of big business and big government, which cares for nothing but profits. Since they have millions of dollars at their disposal, they can sway national policy, control the media, and recruit soldiers - either the national army itself or mercenaries - to shoot locals who try to stop what they call "development."
Blood against gold. Warriors - real warriors - know instinctively which side they must be on. After all, the corporate and internationalist forces that are raping Burma and the Amazon are no friends of ours, as the briefest glance at television advertising will quickly confirm.
Gold is lovely and desirable, and I wish I had more of it - but blood is freedom and life!