Remembering 88: Voices of a new generation

Beth Macdonald

Aug 8, 2008 (DVB), The 88 Generation is a group proud of its accomplishments in the uprising on 8 August 1988, and equally proud of the backing it enjoys from a nation’s people.

It is a pride that sometimes verges on the brink of exclusivity, as the 88 Generation is both conscious and protective of its unique experience , but according to some, this is a perspective that needs fine-tuning. "It is outdated," says one woman, a member and organiser of an organisation for Burmese women based in Thailand, who declined to have her name published.

Hailing from the generation of children during the 88 revolution , she was 12 at the time , she takes offense to the commonly-held misconception that she, and others her age, are too far removed from 8-8-88 to feel its weight.

"They all remember," she says, "but the main problem is that they will never ask our opinion, and what we think." The typical reaction of the older generation demonstrator: "Oh, you are so young. Do you know about 8-8-88?"

But she does know about 8-8-88. Her own memories are representative of a different generation’s experience.

"In our township, many, many big crowds, they came over and they demonstrated, even my family, We [looked] to other townships, like Rangoon and Mandalay , and we had to wait and listen: What was happening today? How many people died? Who else? What about Aung San Suu Kyi?"

But for the present, she asserts, the problem is one of perspective. "It’s like, they had the demonstrations and they founded the 88 group," she says. "They think that we are not the 88 group, and we were too young at that time." Even the media, she says, possesses a similar mentality: "The media will never remember us. They will interview old men who [they believe] really have experience."

This underestimation of the younger generation is reminiscent of another prevailing mentality, she is quick to point out , that women are not political, and should abstain from political involvement. Though the former is a far lesser affront than the latter, there are parallels between the two, revealing a disparity of opinion between the estimator and the underestimated. As a young woman, she has borne the brunt of both attitudes. And the two were at their worst during the 1988 uprising, she says.

"My auntie went to the demonstration , lots of women came! But in the history books, or in documentation, they will not mention women. In our history, even during the colonial times, women participated to fight the British, but they were not mentioned in the books, They think we cannot be involved in politics or the things that they do."

When asked to whom she was referring , the government, or men , she clarified: "I think, men."

She applauds the strength of her generation’s women, who, she confirms, are well equipped to handle Burma's issues. Comparing the demonstrations of August 1988 and of September 2007, she points out one noticeable difference: "Last September, the demonstrations [of the Saffron Revolution] happened, there were no men, but all women who led the demonstrations: Mie Mie, Nilar Thein, Naw Ohn Hla. Now, we can say that we women participated in the demonstration, and that we women participate in politics. It’s evidence

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