Monday, October 08, 2007

Third World backwater names

Jonathan writes:
Guess I disagree with you about "Myanmar", tried to comment on your post but have forgotten my Blogger password again ... so I'll comment on your thoughts in an update to a recent post of mine about Myanmar, er, Burma and just pass on a few thoughts here.

My question is: Didn't we start calling "Russia" the "USSR" and/or the "Soviet Union" after the commie thugs took it over from the Romanov thugs? Why do you treat "Burma"/"Myanmar" as a special case? Your methodology seems to be that if a junta takes over, they are not to be encouraged by us "falling in line" with their preference. IMHO, Might Does Not Make Right, But Sometimes Causes Efficient Temporary Conformity. I also note that we referred to Nazi Germany as "The Third Reich" in newsreels and history books, basically because that's what it was. I see no reason why we can't harbor a "good feeling fondness" for all things Burma, like the Burma Road, Burma Shave, etc. and simply face reality by harboring a "bad feeling revulsion" while calling it Myanmar. If the junta is overthrown, we can call it Burma again.

"Many Americans are not familiar with the word Myanmar'" was what First Lady Laura Bush said last week when she was asked to reflect on the current situation therein. I understand the nostalgic sentiment, as well as wanting to use lingo that more, rather than less, folks understand. However, Mrs. Bush came off looking like a real piker when she told the reporter how recently she learned about Aung San Suu Kyi. Mrs. Bush said that she learned about the Nobel Laureate "a few years ago" when one of her (Mrs. Bush's) cousins, or similar relatives, had become active in some sort of international social work. And I thought: Wow. I first read or heard news coverage about Suu Kyi's imprisonment about twelve years ago, evidently she's been under detention for over fifteen years. If folks who are comparative newbies when it comes to the recent historic problems in "Burma" want to tell me what to call it, I think they need to sharpen their pencils and show more than a recent passing familiarity with the case of Suu Kyi.

Like, we don't refer to the country of "Tibet" anymore, do we? When we speak of Tibet now, it's either as a geographic region only, or are speaking of a time when Tibet was still an independent country or an autonomous region.
No self-respecting country would want to call itself a name like Myanmar anyway. It makes them sound like a Third World backwater. The name sounds as if it wants to join a club with Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Kampuchea, Timor-Leste, and Zimbabwe. Would you want to vacation in any of those places?

Besides, we don't necessarily adopt the names of our enemies. There is a country that calls itself Democratic People's Republic of Korea. We call it North Korea.

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