Essential Question #1: Is Larkin justified in suggesting that Myanmar today resembles an Orwellian totalitarian state?

Step 1: Join the U.S. Campaign for Burma
Step 2: View the Burma: It Can't Wait Myanmar Celebrity Campaign PSA Montage
Step 3: Read the 2010 Amnesty International Report on Burma
Step 4: Compare the AI Report to the CIA World Factbook Report on Burma
Step 5: Compare both these reports to the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Union of Myanmar
Step 6: Read BBC magazine article entitled: "Should it be Burma or Myanmar?"
Step 7: View testimony by Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, on the U.S. Policy Toward Burma
Step 8: Subscribe to blog 88 Generation Students (Exile)

Essential Question #2: Do Burmese Days, Animal Farm and 1984 form a coherent political trilogy with uniform authorial intent as Larkin's Orwell Book Club suggests?

Can you find George Orwell in this picture of the Police Mess Burma circa 1920 from the archives of University College London?
Police_Mess_Burma.jpg

What do you suspect a former policeman might write about a police state? Could a person with this particular vantage point be in Larkin's words "a prophet"?

Consider the Top Ten Most Depressing Quotes from Orwell's 1984 and these specific police related Orwellian quotes
1. "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever."
2. "Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
3. "Do anything to me! You've been starving me for weeks. Finish it off and let me die here. Shoot me. Hang me. Sentence me to twenty-five years. Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is and I'll tell you anything you want. I don't care who it is or what you do to them. I've got a wife and three children. The biggest of them isn't six years old. You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I'll stand by and watch it. But not room 101!"

Do you believe that Orwell's worldview was that of a former weapon of a police state?

Essential Question #3: How do we reconcile Larkin's conjecture and Orwell's self-assessment in Why I Write

Step 1: Read this review of Larkin's book from curledup
Step 2: Compare the independent review to the publisher's advertisement for Larkin's book
Step 3: Listen to this 2006 NPR interview of Emma Larkin by Steve Inskeep for Morning Edition

In 1940, in his essay "The Lion and the Unicorn", Orwell wrote during the bombing of London by the Nazis

"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.
They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are 'only doing their duty', as the saying goes. Most of them I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil."

In the essay, Orwell draws a distinction between Hitler's evil and lesser injustices in Britain. He concludes that England could not follow Germany's path because of the "all-important English trait: the respect for constitutionalism and legality, the belief in "the law" as something above the Sate and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate incorruptible". Consequently, in England, Orwell cannot imagine "party rallies...Youth Movements...coloured shirts...Jew-baiting....'spontaneous' demonstrations....or a Gestapo." He asks the rhetorical question "Where are the rubber truncheons, where is the castor oil?' [the torturer's tools]

It stands to reason that while Orwell would have known much about the police state because of his work as a BBC correspondent, he would have known still more as a policeman in British controlled Burma. His 1931 essay "A Hanging", Orwell confesses at winessing the hanging of a hindu in Burma
"It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working--bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming-- all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live...He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone..."

Larkin argues that the 1988 student protest where over 3,000 were shot or bludgeoned to death by government soldiers on the 8th day of the 8th month is evidence that state sponsored violence permeates Burma. The fact that the military chose to rename itself (State Law and Order Restoration Council) and the country (Myanmar) echoes the political manipulation of language that Orwell anticipated in his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language." The fact that Animal Farm and 1984 are banned books even today in Burma/Myanmar suggests that Orwell's "five boring years within the sound of bugles" [his phrase for his time as a police officer in Burma] suggests that military junta has an aversion to tales of totalitarianism that ring true.