The ongoing G8
protests have spurred me to take direct action of my own; today, I am drinking Evian, from a bottle which cost me 82 pence from across the road. Every sip tastes of anarchy. I can feel myself, in my own small way, participating in history.
The news reports on the protests formed a kind of subliminal advertising, and The Metro this morning had a handy sidebar on the history of the water as part of their coverage. Apparently Evian's mineral water became famous in the 1700s, after an un-named minor nobel claimed that it helped his kidneys. I have a notion that many people will assume that either buying or boycotting Evian will help the third world, or the protestors, or the G8, or whoever it is they support. I myself do not care about the aforementioned. As Ronald Reagan said about America's mid-80s deficit, those issues are big enough to take care of themselves. As an individual I am powerless. As I bought the Evian I imagined driving past the demonstrators in a big Mercedes and feeling their hate and anger wash over me. And I imagined travelling to the third world, where people are dying of thirst, and handing out Evian t-shirts to the local population.
I have never had mineral water before. I have been sceptical of the substance ever since Perrier started to seep into the national consciousness in the 1980s. It was the stuff that villains in thrillers drink. It has always been my belief that you could achieve a similar result by drinking tapwater whilst licking a stone, or by adding sand to water and drinking the whole lot down in one go (it would clear out your bowels, too). Having now drunk some Evian I am still unimpressed. It tastes like water but it feels as if it has left a residue in my mouth, which is now surprisingly dry. This might be imagined, but it's no less off-putting. This is the end of my Evian experiment. It is not for me.
Meanwhile in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has been put back under house arrest. Petite and lovely, 58 years old but looking much younger, Kyi is an example to us all; by dint of persistence and force of personality she has managed to worry, if not entirely remove, Burma's military government. She is one of the few political people who seems to be genuinely good, without the nasty side that seems to lurk behind most other 'righteous' politicians, the Ken Livingstones, 'Reverend' Jesse Jacksons and Winnie Mandelas of this world. Kyi does not seem like the kind of person who has a hidden agenda, or secret death squads, or who accepts bribes. For all I know she might well be a petty tyrant in the making, but she has hidden it well, and I respect somebody who is so in control of their image. Image is everything in politics. Kyi's husband was an Oxford don who died not long back of cancer, after a long illness, but she couldn't attend his funeral in Britain because the Burmese government wouldn't have let her back into Burma. I don't know what the Burmese government have done to prompt the protests against it, but that's a nasty thing to do. That's bastardly. That makes me mad.
I'm not sure if Aung San Suu Kyi is living proof of my earlier assertion that individuals cannot make a difference, or a sound rebuttal. I am amazed that they haven't killed her yet. One more death isn't going to cause the government to collapse from guilt, and what does it matter to them if there is international condemnation? According to the CIA's world factbook the country has "copper, tin, tungsten, iron" in great quantities, which is why Britain conquered it all those years ago, and as long as they keep the supply coming, we don't care what the government does to its people.
What difference has Aung San Suu Kyi made? She has won a Nobel peace prize and is technically the head of the Burmese State, although the free elections there were ignored by the military, and she has spent most of the last twenty years of her life under house arrest. I hope she has a nice house. The peaceful resistance of Ghandi seems to belong to a bygone age, nowadays; in Sri Lanka, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, many other countries, too many for the world to be safe, armed resistance has worked wonders. If Suu Kyi had an armed wing, a big one, she wouldn't be under house arrest. She'd be hiding, or dead. She'd be like the jihad nightmare of Paul Atreides from 'Dune', a classic sci-fi novel which seems to be coming true in the real world, here and now.
Burma spends roughly £20million on their armed forces every year, enough to buy the used aircraft carrier that's going the rounds on the blogs, some WWII-era warbirds and some machine-guns and bombs (from www.gunsamerica.com, perhaps, but only if you have a Class III certificate) to go on them. Then Burma could easily invade Liberia or one of the other anarchic nations, and the people of Burma would be distracted from their woes.