Mingalabar from Pyin Oo Lwin,
The Business Management course encourages candidates to think about the capitalist system in the macro as well as the micro. The students obviously learn about the profit motive, limited liability and, of course, shareholder primacy.
Truong is a Vietnamese student imbued with a Buddhist ethos. After reflection, she sees the problems associated with the capitalist system and opines that there is a better way. When asked what would be the basis of her alternative, she says “love”. Americans scoff. Europeans are puzzled. Australians say, “good luck with that”. Other Asians understand. Too idealistic?
flowers with breakfast
Wherever Buddhism has taken root, the people have a different way of thinking about their fellow creatures. The symbol of the heart abounds in these parts. Even the coat hangers have heart shapes moulded into them. On my way to dine at the Happy Restaurant for lunch yesterday, I passed the private school rejoicing under the name of “Mother’s Love”. At the hotel where I am staying, there’s a special sign board informing us that the building was originally built 40 years ago as a school. In part it reads “The guests of Tha Ha Zar Ta Hotel will have the feeling of student at boarder with warm and happy sense. This is the main feature of the Tha Ha Zar Ta Hotel.” As breakfast arrives, so do the flowers.
Across the road is Nice Home, a guest house. In Mandalay, accommodation offerings include Night Sweet Hotel, Golden Dreams Hotel as well as the Ned Kelly Hotel (???).
Some western travellers explain such affectations as the product of naïveté and/or a lack of English causing wonky translations in the signage, thereby affording us occasional mirth via those condescending “Engrish” websites. They are in fact genuine expressions of genuine care.
When these people establish service businesses, they do so with a real sense of serving their fellows. The profit motive is subsidiary to the desire to do the right thing by their guests. That’s why bus companies drop you at your hotel, even when it becomes inconvenient for the driver. That’s why Myanmar people worry when they forget something you asked for. That explains why waiters take it as an insult when you return your plate, or open your own door, or clean your own room. (Your misguided action suggests to them that you believe that they are not doing their job properly.) These are not examples of obsequious servility – as some would have it – but are borne of a different attitude to their fellow humans.
new frontiers of commerce
Globalisation is being driven by big business, crossing and entering new frontiers, searching for more profits. Just like imperialism during the era of colonisation, the attitude is predicated on the notion that westerners have the answers and easterners have it all to learn. Truong’s prescription of an infusion of love into the business equation is evidence of the reverse. It’s idealism like that which changes things for the better. Dear readers, do any of you seriously think we don’t need it?
Tada from Pyin Oo Lwin
Try to pronounce that one!