The United Nations, overcoming its customary pusillanimity, has drawn on what remains of its moral capital to condemn these crimes, declaring the Rohingya the world′s most persecuted minority. For those inclined to see and remember, the situation in Rakhine State recalls the ethnic cleansing that occurred in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the even worse massacres in Rwanda in the same decade.
But many are not inclined to see. Because the Rohingya′s persecutors, by restricting access to journalists and photographers, have denied their victims a face and because the Rohingya are Muslims at a bad time to be Muslim, nearly the entire world is turning a blind eye.
″Unused knowledge and a passion for ignorance″
Confronted with this tragedy foretold, the world should meditate on what my late friend, the philosopher Jean-Francois Revel, called unused knowledge and the passion for ignorance.
We should curse the naivete that led many, including me, to sanctify the ″Lady of Rangoon″, Aung San Suu Kyi, herself the subject of a film, this one intended to be hagiographic but, in hindsight, appalling. Since becoming Myanmar′s de facto leader last year, Suu Kyi has abandoned the Rohingya to their fate.
Suu Kyi seemed to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize that she won in 1991, when she appeared to be the reincarnation in one body of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. But from the moment when she solemnly assured the world that she had seen nothing in Sittwe, that nothing had happened in the rest of Rakhine State and that the string of alarming reports to the contrary was just the ″tip of an iceberg of disinformation″, her Nobel Prize became an alibi.
The Rohingya are the latest cohort of the existentially naked: people dispossessed of everything (including their own death), shut out of the human community and thus stripped of rights. They are the people Hannah Arendt predicted would become fixtures of humanity′s future, living (or living dead) reproaches to hollow declarations of human rights.
© Project Syndicate 2017