The Year of Living Degenerately
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, September 25, 2017
Magazine

BOOK REVIEW

The Year of Living Degenerately


By David Scott Mathieson JUNE, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.6


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An Australian journalist revels in the pleasures open to foreigners living in the “hardship posting” of Rangoon

 

Land of a Thousand Eyes: The subtle pleasures of everyday life in Myanmar, by Peter Olszewski, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005. P253

I finally figured out what the Burmese military propaganda tag “internal destructive element” really is. It’s an Australian journalist. Peter Olszewski’s memoirs, Land of a Thousand Eyes, is an account of how a western expatriate wallowed for a year in the privileged lifestyle enjoyed by the elite who cling round an authoritarian political system.

 

Olszewski, a former editor of Australian Playboy, founder of the Australian Marijuana Party, and a self-styled Gonzo rock journalist, moves through the expatriate and local elites scene of Rangoon with the moral immunity enjoyed by many foreigners who frivolously retain their freedoms at the expense of a people largely deprived of  rights.

 

Olszewski worked in Burma during 2003-2004 as a media trainer for The Myanmar Times, the semi-official weekly newspaper run by fellow-Australian Ross Dunkley. The author casts Dunkley as a foul-mouthed publishing pioneer, and his newspaper as a significant factor in nudging the country towards a more open future. In a recent interview in Australia where he justified the role of The Myanmar Times, Olszewski stated that “it doesn’t get told what to say, it gets told what not to say.” This is even more cowardly than subservience to censorship: it is active collaboration with a system of censorship.

 

The author knew all this before he went to Burma, of course, and it didn’t bother him.



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