restricted access Dr Maung Maung and Travel
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309 Section IV DR MAUNG MAUNG AND TRAVEL Dr Maung Maung was a keen observer of the world around him. He took great delight in the varieties of the human species and the differences in the environments in which they lived. His London Diary, published in 1952,1 immediately upon his return from his two year stint in London, was the first work in his many writings which evoked another place and the lessons he learned from the humanity that he observed there. But many of his writings that one would not necessarily classify as travel writing strongly evoke place and time. Equally, much of what one would describe as Dr Maung Maung’s travel writings also indicated his approach to life and learning. He was continually open to new ideas and new thoughts; until the end of his days he was always open to novel ways of looking at issues. His openness to life and change is nicely captured in this excerpt from the London Diary: I came to England prepared to find fault with everything English; curiosity brought me but it verged on the hostile. I could not help that because I came from a country which was under British rule for about a century.… The White Man enjoyed the privileges which were denied to their Asian colleagues; much higher pay than the Burmese — native 04 DrMaung.indd 309 2/28/08 2:29:51 PM 310 DR MAUNG MAUNG: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot — civil servant of the same status; and the Burmese who enjoyed equal status with Englishmen were few. The English civil servants and the executives of commercial firms gathered in the evenings in their exclusive clubs and played bridge and cards, or drank their beer, or, wearing their correct evening dress, danced in the sweltering heat of the Rangoon summer night. … In that unnatural atmosphere I grew up. In that world of privilege and class I learned to distrust and dislike the English who strutted and swaggered in their gymkhana sipping their gin and juice.2 The only Englishmen I could bring myself to like and respect was the principal of my college and my professors: I respected them because every young Burmese, at least in my days, were taught to revere his teachers. … Thus I came to England curious to find out about the people I did not like nor trust. I was curious but was resolved to go about my quest with my mind as open as I could have it: it was not easy to have an open mind, but I tried. My quest has, in a way, disappointed me. I have not found the English people I would have wanted to find, the people who could justify my unfriendly feelings toward them; who could give peace to my conscience by convincing me that my prejudices against them had been well-founded. I have discovered that the ordinary English man and woman are kind and eager to help, that although they are shy and reserved they always respond warmly to friendship, that they are always willing to befriend, that they are honest and can be trusted. The average Englishman is not over-fond of empire. He has been told that the backward peoples need looking after and that empire is the White Man’s burden which only his heart impels him to bear. Maybe there is some truth in that, but surely not the whole truth, but the Englishman was told the tale and he believed. It was not his fault.3 While the election atmosphere he observed in England in the early 1950s, and described in the London Diary,4 may no longer exist in our age of media saturation and declining standards of journalistic ethics, for his period Dr Maung Maung was able to evoke, as a good political scientist in the tradition of Montesquieu and de Tocqueville, the essence of the phenomenon he was describing in a comparative manner, thus making the unknown knowable to his readers. As we shall see later in the section of Dr Maung Maung’s constitutional writings, the comparative method was crucial not only in his travel writing, but also in his legal analyses. 04 DrMaung.indd 310 2/28/08 2:29:51 PM Dr Maung Maung and Travel 311 Despite Dr Maung Maung’s frequent trips around his beloved Myanmar, alluded to in a number of essays,5 the essay on Mandalay reprinted here6 is the only one of his writings dedicated to...


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Subject Headings

  • Burma -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Maung Maung, U, 1925-1994.
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