Empowering Burmese

imageIris and  I are still in Mandalay Myanmar. I admire what Iris is doing here. She is so very commited to giving that little bit of herself that can make a difference to other human beings. Now that Myanmar doors are open, philanthropic efforts have begun, most often not separate from a western capitalist agenda. Some doctors will come to Myanmar, often bringing cameras and media with them emphasising the numbers and good deeds that they have helped with and the money they have collected; appealing for more money. At one clinic here an American doctor arranged to come in to do three days of cataract surgery with his documentary team and then he flew out. To do this the clinic had to suspend an already established service that was doing ninety cataracts a day. Any complications were left for the team that was there prior to his intervention. Its not that it is bad thing to do but the question is how helpful is it. Often the help that is provided has much to do with the needs of the donator; to feel good about donating and to have proof that their money is making a difference. There can be quite gap between this and what others actually need.
Iris has come to realize the importance of a different, more intimate, connecting way of working with people in developing countries. It is her fifth year coming here and it has involved coming to know and empower local doctors through individual relationships with aspiring surgeons who do not have access to the teaching skills that she possesses. We are in the process of supporting a clinic here where Iris can train doctors to perform cataract operations. For a number of years she has been offering services, training  a few doctors  in Vitro retinal surgery a skill that is near absent in Myanmar.



Iris and I are now in Mandalay staying in the city centre. It is very hot, dry and dusty. Iris is working long hours in conditions that are at times un hygenic added to a challenge of a language barrier and primitive equipment to train the staff. It can get quite frustrating and draining for her at times. But the people here are kind and generous, humble and simple and they have been so left in the dark by decisions that their poltitical government of the past made. In the past there was a tendency to monitor outgoing posts. I am still somewhat suspicious although I have nothing but good things to say about Myanmar people and how the military has allowed for change. They may have had good reasons to do what they have done in the past. I would not want Myanmar to become like many western countries or as well to be dominated by the influence of China. But there is a need to allow change to occur however of a quality that addresses humanistic needs. Hopefully the country can move forward and address some of the infra structure and health care problems of the country with their new governament and we can do our little bit to support that.

From Slavloj Zizek  “Trouble in Paradise”

I would rather live in poverty with nothing to my name than live as those whose wealth holds the promise of an easy-going dolce vita without real  daring or subterfuge, only the humdrum hypocrisy of the respectable classes. It is the capitalist dynamics which are boring, offering more of the same in the guise of constant change, and that the struggle for emancipation is still the most daring of all ventures.