The vicious cycle of abuse (by Myanmar & Rakhine), Musings By MARINA MAHATHIR
All abuse is about power, because you never abuse people who have more power than you.
I sometimes wonder if this sort of learned behaviour is also true of not just individuals but also groups of people, even entire communities. That, if, as a community people have been abused for a long time, they thus learn that violence is the only way power is manifested.
Therefore they then have a tendency to show their power over weaker communities in the only way they have ever seen it done, through violence.
I was reading an article about how the advent of the Internet in Myanmar has led to a lot of racist commentary by the majority ethnic Myanmars towards the many minority ethnic groups that also exist in that country. (There are 135 distinct ethnic groups recognised by the Myanmar government.)
The Rohingyas, who live in the remote northeastern parts of the country bordering Bangladesh and who are Muslim, seem to be the target of most of the racist remarks.
Some of the remarks are truly appalling and lacking in humanity.
Some may see this as proof that the Internet is not a good thing. But I think that the Internet only allowed what was already there to come out in the open.
The acrimony towards the minority groups have always been there; now there is a relatively “safe” outlet that allows such hatred to surface.
I was puzzled why people who had been oppressed by their own leaders for so long could express such hatred for those who are even weaker than them. Should they not be more empathetic instead?
Then I realised, that much like abused children who group to be abusive adults, an oppressed population also learns the same lessons about power.
The only way for them to express what little power they have is of course towards those who are in an even worse state than them.
Most of the Myanmar population is poor. And they have all suffered from decades of repression by their leaders, which led to deterioration of the entire country.
You can find older Myanmars who speak perfect English but nowadays, young Myanmars hardly speak it at all.
I met some Myanmar journalists who told me that while they may now have press freedom, they actually have very few journalists to make use of that freedom.
The first batch of trained journalists only graduated last year.
Thus in an environment where people have only ever known violence as the manifestation of power, they will, in the absence of education and exposure to different ways of being, become violent towards those they have some power over.
Hence, their attitudes towards the most vulnerable people in their country come out in the worst ways.
I wonder where else this learned behaviour can be seen?
If you think of colonialism as generally a form of violence by a powerful country towards weaker countries or peoples, then you have to wonder if, even after becoming independent, those countries have imbibed the notion that the only way to show power is in the same way that their abusers, the colonial powers, used them.
And this power, just as before, is used towards those weaker than them, within and without.
Not being a psychologist, I don’t know the answer to that.
But sometimes the pattern of behaviour can be strikingly similar to that of an abused child.