It is impossible to read Daniel Combs’ excellent Until the World Shatters without reflecting on the current crisis unfolding in Myanmar. The book was released in March this year, just a few weeks after the military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, detained the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with elected National League of Democracy (NLD) political leaders, on charges of electoral fraud. In response, huge numbers of ordinary Myanmar people joined the countrywide civil disobedience movement, refusing to work in order to disrupt the economy and halt the flow of funds to the junta. Their peaceful protests have been met with a disproportionate level of violence. To date, over 700 protestors have been killed and more than 5000 detained. Yet the movement continues, albeit on a smaller scale.
As I watch the news and read the social feeds from friends and colleagues in Myanmar (when their internet is working), what strikes me over and over again is the role of the young in leading this struggle. Women and men, mostly in their twenties, organise protests over social media and put themselves on the frontline to face police bullets. In recent weeks, they have been “going into the forest”, a euphemism for joining the People’s Defence Force. They have seen what their parents and grandparents endured during the worst years of the junta. They lived through Myanmar’s transformative liberalisation. They know only too well that if the coup succeeds, they will lose everything.