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[日期:2008-07-28]   [字体: ]


The isolation ward

闭关锁国 (陈继龙 译)

Mar 1st 2007
From The Economist print edition

MOST writing about the benighted[1] land of Burma, dubbed Myanmar by the grotesque[2] junta running it, falls into one of two traps. Either it plumps[3] for simplification, which is pardonable given the justness of its moral outrage. The conflict does indeed come closer than almost any other to one between baddies (the junta) and the followers of a super-goody (the almost-permanently detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi). (1)At the other extreme, some writers become bogged down[4] in the bewildering complexity underneath this simple framework: the tangled[5] skein of ethnic rivalries and grudges that have fuelled one of the world's longest running civil wars, fought by more than a dozen armed insurgencies around Myanmar's borders.

Thant Myint-U's fine book seeks the middle ground. An academic historian and a former United Nations official, Mr Thant accuses the simplifiers of an “ahistorical” approach. (2)He argues, justifiably, that Myanmar is “seen within the prism[6] of the past ten or 20 years, as if three Anglo-Burmese wars, a century of colonial rule, an immensely destructive Japanese invasion and occupation, and five decades of civil war, foreign intervention and Communist insurgency had never happened.”
相比上述两个极端,吴丹敏(Thant Myint-U)的优秀著作则中规中矩。吴丹敏是一位注重理论研究的历史学家,曾在联合国任职。他指责简单化者在对待缅甸历史问题上“一叶障目”。他认为,“这些人的眼里只有过去10年或20年的缅甸,三次英缅战争(Anglo-Burmese wars)、一个世纪的殖民统治、日本人侵占造成的巨大破坏以及长达五十年的内战、外国干涉内政和缅共叛乱,等等这些似乎从未发生过。”

His book is part personal memoir, part history and part polemic[7]. He tells the history of Myanmar from ancient times in an accessible and engaging way. (3)But this is intended also as a contribution to a debate that has raged for nearly two decades among Myanmar's exiled democrats: should the West shun, isolate and bully the generals into engaging with Ms Suu Kyi and her many supporters? Or should it encourage the junta in the hope that, through the blandishments[8] of modernity and economic advancement, it will eventually be coaxed[9] to reform?

Mr Thant is entitled to a hearing. The grandson of U Thant, UN secretary-general in the 1960s, he GREw up in America and Thailand, with summer visits to his ancestral homeland. But when Myanmar's pro-democracy movement was brutally crushed in 1988, and thousands of young people fled to makeshift[10] camps on the Thai border, he joined them for some months.

He has since parted company with the exile movement's pro-isolation orthodoxy. Time has moved on, he points out. Most of Myanmar's population was born after 1988. Thus, those for whom that was a life-defining moment are now in a minority. Isolation has not worked: it is “both counterproductive and dangerous”.

There is much in this argument; and it is easy to share the exasperation he seems to feel with some exiled lobbyists. (4)Some have so lost sight of the ends in pursuing the means that each new government sanction or consumer-boycott-induced withdrawal of a foreign investor is celebrated as a triumph in itself.

Mr Thant, however, skirts three difficulties. First, it is wrong to argue, as he does, that “the difference between the Burmese military regime and its counterparts in South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia is not that [it] has been any more repressive.” Oh yes it has; (5)though it is also true, as he goes on, that “the others trusted the advice of technocrats[11], presided over long periods of economic growth and allowed for the development of civil society.”
然而,有三个问题吴丹敏处理不得当。首先,他和别人一样,认为“缅甸军事政权与韩国(此处可能为North Korea之误——译者按)、泰国、印度尼西亚军事政权的差异并不在于(前者)更专制。”这种观点是不正确的,事实上缅甸军事政权就是特别专制;尽管他接下来也指出,“其他国家采纳专家政治论者的谏言,引领经济长期增长,允许公民社会发展”,确有其事。

Second, isolation has been neither complete nor entirely involuntary. The generals have excluded the world as much as it has shunned them, and have found in China, India and South-East Asia neighbours who are more than ready to deal with them.

Third, unlike many other dictatorships, Myanmar has held an election, and lost it comprehensively. That was a long time ago, in 1990. But nothing that has happened since suggests the winners—Ms Suu Kyi's party—could not repeat the feat if given the chance. So their views, which do not match Mr Thant's, also carry weight.


1. benighted adj. unenlightened morally or intellectually; ignorant; backward 未开化的; 愚昧无知的; 落後的: benighted savages 未开化的野人.
2. grotesque adj. 1 strangely distorted so as to arouse fear or laughter; fantastic 因变得古怪而可怕或可笑的; 奇形怪状的: tribal dancers wearing grotesque masks 部落中戴着古怪面具的跳舞的人.  2 (art 美术) combining human, animal and plant forms in a fantastic design 奇异风格的(由人、动植物混合组成之图案的).  3 ridiculously exaggerated or unreasonable; absurd 荒谬地夸张的或无理的; 荒唐的: a grotesque distortion of the truth 对事实的无理歪曲 * It's grotesque to expect a person of her experience to work for such little money. 想让有她那样经验的人为这点儿钱工作真是可笑.  4 offensively incongruous 捍格不入的; 极不协调的: the grotesque sight of an old man trying to flirt with a young girl 老头儿极力与少女调情那种离谱的样子.
3. plump v. (phr v) plump (oneself/sb/sth) down (cause sb/sth to) fall or drop suddenly and heavily (使某人[某物])突然而重重地落下: plump down the heavy bags 把重袋子一下子放下 * plump (oneself) down in a chair 一屁股坐到椅子上. plump for sb/sth choose or vote for sb/sth with confidence 有信心地选择或选举某人[某事物]: The committee plumped for the most experienced candidate. 委员会很有把握地选择了那个最有经验的候选人. * The children plumped for a holiday by the sea. 孩子们特别想去海边度假.
4. bog v. (-gg-) (phr v) bog (sth) down (usu passive 通常用于被动语态) (a) (cause sth to) sink into mud or wet ground (使某物)陷入泥沼: The tank (got) bogged down in the mud. 坦克陷入泥沼之中. (b) (fig 比喻) (cause sth to) become stuck and unable to make proGREss (使某物)陷入困境不能前进: Our discussions got bogged down in irrelevant detail. 我们的讨论纠缠在无关紧要的细节上.
5. tangle v.  1 [I, Ip, Tn, Tn.p] ~ (sth) (up) (cause sth to) become twisted into a confused mass (使某物)乱作一团, 绞在一起: Her hair got all tangled up in the barbed wire fence. 她的头发让刺钢丝篱笆都给挂住了.  2 [Ipr] ~ with sb/sth become involved in a quarrel or fightwith sb/sth 与某人吵嘴或打架; 与某事有纠葛: I shouldn'ttangle with Peter -- he's bigger than you. 我不该与彼得纠缠--他比你块头大.
6. prism n. 1 solid geometric shape with ends that are parallel and of the same size and shape, and with sides that are parallelograms 棱柱(体).  2 transparent object of this shape, usu triangular and made of glass, which breaks up ordinary light into the colours of the rainbow 棱柱体透明物; (通常指)棱镜, 三棱镜.
7. polemic n. fml 文)  1 (a) [C] ~ (against/in favour of sth/sb) speech, piece of writing, etc containing very forceful arguments (against or for sth/sb) (反对或赞成某事物[某人]的)慷慨陈词, 辩论文章: He launched into a fierce polemic against the government's policies. 他猛烈地抨击政府的政策. (b) [U] such speeches, pieces of writing, etc 慷慨陈词; 辩论文章: engage in polemic 进行辩论.  2 polemics [pl] art or practice of arguing a case formally and usu forcefully 辩论法; 争辩术.
8. blandishment n. (usu pl 通常作复数) (fml 文) flattering or coaxing words and actions 谄媚或哄骗的言语和行为: She resisted his blandishments. 她把他的甜言蜜语顶了回去.
9. coax v. [Tn, Tn.pr, Cn.t]  1 ~ sb (into/out of (doing) sth) persuade sb gently or gradually 劝诱或哄劝某人: He coaxed her into letting him take her to the cinema. 他哄得她同意带她去看电影. * She coaxed him out of his bad temper. 她循循善诱地劝他改掉坏脾气. * coax a child to take its medicine 哄小孩儿吃药 * (fig 比喻) coax a fire with (ie make it burn by adding) paraffin 加上煤油把火点着.  2 (phr v) coax sth outof/from sb obtain sth from sb by gentle persuasion 用好言好语劝说某人以得到某事物: I had to coax the information out of him. 我得用好话套出他掌握的情况. * She coaxed a smile from the baby. 她哄得婴儿一笑.
10. makeshift n, adj (thing that is) used temporarily until sth better is available (临时的)代用品; 权宜的; 临时凑合的: use an empty crate as a makeshift (table) 把一个空木箱当作临时的桌子.
11. technocrat n. expert inscience, engineering, etc, esp one who favours technocracy 技术专家; (尤指)专家政治论者.

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