Myanmar Tai Yin Thar: The Cancerous National Idea
Tai Yin Thar is one big fictional idea that has long poisoned "the Burmese Mind", alongside the anti-intellectual racist view of Buddhist-Host versus Non-Buddhist-Guests of Myanmar.
Myanmar's popular and official thinking about ethnic identity is stuck in the fixed, blood-based notion of "race" that emerged out of the pseudo-scientific notion of 'races' imported to the colonies by the European colonizers.
The Nazi Genocide of the people of Jewish ancestry was one most tragic consequence of such blood-based, fixed notion originating out of the militarily and technologically advanced Western Europe in the 19th.
Empirically speaking, there are no Tai Yin Thar in Burma nor are there blood-based, fixed and pure identities in Burma - or for that matter, any nation-states.
The origin of Burma is a contested, unfinished and unsettled narrative, all groups claiming from having migrated from somewhere else, outside today's borders of Burma or Myanmar.
As such it is utterly stupid, delusional and counter-productive to continue using both the term "Tai Yin Thar" and the narrative that embraces uncritically the hierarchy of 'national races' (for instance, Bama is implicitly assumed superior to the Shan, the Kachin, etc. in terms of the Bama's contributions to building the Union of Burma).
The Bama suffer from this superiority complex as a national mental disease. Aung San Suu Kyi is not immune from this cancer herself as she shares the Tatmadaw's institutionalized "Big Brother" mentality and the Bama-centric/racist history according to which it is essentially the Bama Buddhists who have built the Union.
Similarly, it is also utterly counter-productive to promote the racist view that the non-Buddhists are "guests" in Burma and Buddists are "hosts" as is popularized by fork-tongued snake Sitagu "monk" - who would have been catalogued under the category of 64-Kalars, were he alive in AD1400.
The idea of Tai Yin Tha is among the most poisonous ideologies harmful to the crucial task of building a multi-ethnic and multi-faith nation where migration, both external and internal/domestic, has been on-going for centuries.
The current controversy over the term Rohingya is in part Government-manufactured/-instigated and in part rooted in the Old World's fixed idea of racial/ethnic identity as something based on 'blood'.
In both the real world and theoretically driven academic/research work, the idea of 'blood-based' racial identity is rejected as a farce; there simply is no immutable 'race' and 'ethnicity' on this earth.
The old Orientalist Anthropology catalogued and thus helped legitimize the hierarchy of races, with savages, tribes, civilized races, etc. at the bottom of this civilizational hierarchy while the top spots were occupied by White colonizing identities - for instance, English, French, German, etc.
The belief in the racial/ethnic "purity" and "superiority" of a particular group pervades European colonial administrations - and colonial societies, both colonized and colonizing. Heard of "White Only Clubs" "Class", etc.?
With no exception, all colonial systems were systems of apartheid; every aspect of colonial administration and society was racist and built on racist thoughts, deeds and paradigms. The differences were in the degree, not in kind.
Nazism and what the Nazi did were only the worst version among Racisms.
Independence of formerly colonized societies - such as Myanmar or Malaysia - did NOT dismantle the old racist thinking and racist practices. Post-independence nations after WWII retain the racist thoughts and ideas that were embedded in the old colonial administrations, practices including cataloguing peoples within the new national borders along racist lines.
Upon independence, Burmese nationalists who replaced the old British masters as Lords of the new country, simply morphed into a new crop of racially minded and racist rulers.
In that sense, political independence did not signify progress - either ideologically, culturally, societally or intellectually.
In place of White-skinned racist colonizers, the Burmese, or those who identified themselves as Burmese (such as Ne Win and his gang of military leaders with Chinese ancestry) became new Brown- and/or Yellow-sgkinned coloniers, sitting at the top of the new ethnic hierarchy.
Despite the bogus separation between ethnic identity and political identity, served up by White-racist "experts", for instance, the likes of Jacque Leider from Luxumberg, the fact that all ethnic and racial identity has a significant element of voluntary political group identification.
Common language, regional dialect, visible hues of skin colour, bio-physical features, shared religions, geographic regions, etc. may serve as 'ethnic markers', but they do NOT determine nor do they override the voluntary identification or choice of identity as 'ethnic group'.
For instance, Rakhine and Bama languages share many linguistic similarities and both groups generally are Buddhists. Not all Burmese are Buddhists nor the Rakhine.
But - this is a big BUT - neither Rakhine nor Bama people will ever accept collapsing of their group identities as 'Rakhine' or 'Bama'. Rakhine have their own "ethnic" or "political" consciousness and group history, entirely separate from the Burmese consciousness and political history.
By the same token, the 'blood" does NOT mean anything in terms of ethnic or group identity or consciousness.
Millions of Burmese in what generally called "Upper Burma" or A-nyar have Mon ancestry, based on their family oral history: The Mon of the Lower Burma were scattered all throughout Burma for centuries. And no Burmese in Upper Burma with mixed Mon ancestral background - including myself and my extended family of dozens of relatives - would ever choose to identify ourselves as "Mon". A
This applies to anyone with any combination of ethnic identities - Burmese-Karen, Karen-Shan, Mon-Rakhine, etc.
By the same token, millions of those who identify themselves as Burmese - Burmese Muslim, Burmese Christians, Burmese Buddhists, etc. have Kalar (Indian sub-continental groups), Tayoke (Chinese) , European, African, etc. "blood" - or more, mixed ancestral backgrounds. Nonetheless, many choose to call themselves as "Burmese" "Bama" "Burman" "Myanmar".
Because of the elastic and shifting regional and national boundaries of Burma under different local and colonial administrations throughout the recorded histories of Burma, spanning centuries, ethnic/racial identities emerge, disappear, re-emerge, are re-made and invented, depending on the waves of migration, political and military histories, economic patterns, etc.
Just as the boundaries of Burma and the regions that make up Burma - or more accurately, clusters of kingdoms that existed in the country which we call Burma today - are ever changing, over time, so are the total number of ethnic groups, their names, their relative positions of influence, wealth and power.
(Just across Burma's western borders, there were no Bangladeshi until 1973, and there were no Pakistanis until August 1947 - the year of partitioning of Indian sub-continent.)
That is why, in AD1400, the Bama court came up with its tally and catalogue of "races" living within the Kingdom - "101 races".
There were no Kokant, no Wa or Lawa, no Jing Hpaw or no Naga in that '101 races' listed in the Royal Orders of the Old Burmese Court going back to the 14th century. And yet they are all considered "Tai Yin Thar" in Myanmar today, in 2016.
In AD1800, the British colonial censuses listed over 30 'races' (30?).
In the post-independence era, the number of races in Burma was different from that of the British colonial censuses.
Then, in 1970s, the education deputy minister and geologist Dr Nyi Nyi came up with a different tally.
And yet another tally during the Burmese Socialist Program Party dictatorship of General Ne Win: 135 national races.
Sandwiched between the combined genocidal force of the Tatmadaw and the racist Rakhine Buddhists or the Rakhine Kalar, to borrow the term recorded in the Royal Orders of Burmese Court, AND the international community that observe the Rohingya's group right to self-identify, the Aung San Suu Kyi government is grappling with the explosive issue of what to call officially the Rohingya - "Muslims from Rakhine state" because it has ruled out calling them either Rohingya or Bengali.
When a national society wraps itself around a flag of religion and swallow and internalise the blood-based notion of 'race' and 'ethnicity' nothing - absolutely nothing - positive will result.
Quite the contrary, a dark, and Nazi-like future awaits for the public in Burma. That is stemming from the delusion of Tai Yin Thar and Buddhist Host-versus-non-Buddhist Guests.