As Amanda Marcotte points out, there isn't much we American bloggers can do to affect the situation in Burma from the safety and comfort of our computer terminals. It's not a call-your-congressman or send-a-check kind of issue. But I don't think that "impotence" (to use Marcotte's term) is reason to ignore the story. Blogging is also about bearing witness, inspiring others, developing one's world view, and gaining knowledge of the world around us. There is some power in that. It's like my favorite newscaster once said,
I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say: 'I'm a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!'
And so do the lives of the Burmese people.
There is, however, something that those of us who live in the western world can do: pressure the corporations that do business with Burma and keep the military junta in funds. According to The Burma Campaign UK, those companies include Abercrombie & Kent, Chevron, Daewoo, Nippon Oil, Schlumberger, Siemens, Suzuki, and Total. Popular pressure on large corporations and the institutions which held their stock helped bring about an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa; a similar strategy might work in Burma.
The last word on this today comes courtesy of Mike the Mad Biologist, who has this moving take on how the real courage demonstrated on the streets of Rangoon differs from the Hollywood fantasy variety:
The foreground [of this photo] speaks for itself, but if you look at the upper left background, you'll see an advertisement for the movie 300. To my mind, 300 represents a juvenile, fantastical crusade for freedom from dictatorship. But unlike 300, most struggles against dictatorships and juntas during the last century have not involved smashing things, bellowing, and rippling abdominals, but ordinary people, who simply possess a dreadful hope that, despite all the murderous evidence to the contrary, human decency and the justice of which we can conceive will prevail over unethically-wielded might. Too often, this has not been the case, and there has been a dreadful and bloody price.
Yet the people of Myanmar still march, only armed with the conviction that their government is unjust and that it can be changed through non-violent means. They are awe-inspiring and humbling, not only for their courage, but for their steadfast commitment to dignity in the face of indignity.