Everything Used to Be Named Something Else, No?

The background history of Myanmar (Burma)Elections in Myanmar have been in our news recently — in fact, their first open national election in a quarter century. Depending how they turn out (something that will be evident by the time this post hits tomorrow, presumably), Myanmar might be in our news even more, especially since their constitution currently outlaws the frontrunner from even serving as president.

But what I find interesting is how (like the above graphic), every time it is reported in our news, we hear something like:

Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma…

Now, in 1989 the then military government that took over changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar (a change that represents all sorts of things, among which are class differences), something that clearly not everyone agrees with to this day, at home and abroad — evidenced in the persistent need on the part of some to mark the fact of the new by continually reminding us of the old.

It’s a classic passive-aggressive move, really, making plain that the contest is hardly old news — like changing your name when you get married but then having someone continually remind you of what your name used to be…, no doubt as a sign of their disagreement with your decision.

And yes, it’s easy to imagine lots to disagree with, given how the name was changed.

So it’s a strategy to prevent (aka to undermine) the naturalization of the new.

What’s the issue? Well, here’s a statement from the BBC (click it to visit the page):

Should it be Burma or Myanmar?It amounts to an ardent UK royalist referring to Canada and the U.S. as “the countries formerly known as British North America,” no?

So what’s in a name? Apparently a great deal, at least when it comes to geo-politics.

How long this opposition strategy will be used, given that the name change was 25 years ago, is the interesting question, I think — a question whose answer might become a little clearer all depending who gets elected, perhaps.

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