Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Astrology – it’s just harmless fun… right?

Not if you live in Burma:

When the junta moved the capital from Rangoon to a malarial town deep in the jungle, it did so because an astrologer warned Senior General Than Shwe of an impending catastrophe that could be averted only by shifting the seat of government.

General Ne Win was the mysticism-obsessed dictator who seized power in 1962 and steered Burma from prosperity to penury; in 1989 he introduced the 45-kyat and 90-kyat banknotes, simply because these were divisible by and added up to nine, his lucky number. He believed this move would also ensure he would live to the lucky age of 90.

Each of the leading clans in the junta has a family astrologer. The army has its own zodiacal experts, but it is a perilous job: astrologers who make negative predictions are liable for arrest and jail.

Gilbert Murray wrote: "The best seed ground for superstition is a society in which the fortunes of men seem to bear practically no relation to their merits or effort." In Burma, the good suffer and the oppressors flourish.