Meditation is supposedly good for the mind. But the salutary effects were hard to detect after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey returned from a meditation trip to Burma, aka Myanmar.
On Saturday, Dorsey chronicled, in an 18-tweet thread, his recent birthday trip to Burma, where he completed 10 days of silent meditation. The thread included charming photographs of his tiny room, where he foreswore “devices, reading, writing, physical exercise, music, intoxicants, meat, talking.” Even “eye contact with others” was off limits.
There were also pictures of the sidewalk where Dorsey strolled for “45 minutes every day”; a photo of him clad in black, barefoot on a wooden porch; a tweet extolling the merits of meditation paired with the Apple Watch’s biometric-tracking feature.
It was the richly dumb, humble-bragging kind of Twitter thread many jet-setters like Dorsey are prone to: “Imagine sitting on a concrete floor cross-legged for an hour without moving. Pain arises in the legs in about 30-45 minutes. One’s natural reaction is to change the posture to avoid the pain. What if, instead of moving, one observed the pain and decided to remain still through it.”
But one tweet stood out from the rest and raised eyebrows among those familiar with human-rights reality in Asia: “The people are full of joy and the food is amazing.”
I’m guessing he thought the people were joyful because he was on a silent meditation and couldn’t ask anyone questions. Before venturing such observations, it would have behooved Dorsey to imagine and meditate on things outside his own supremely serene mind.
Imagine running for your life, and just when you think you’ve reached safety (in this case, Bangladesh), you discover the border is covered with land mines. Imagine homes and villages being burned down.
Imagine being shot at. Imagine being burned alive. Imagine seeing children beheaded. Imagine young girls being sex-trafficked. And imagine your government standing idly by while the country’s military commits all of these atrocities.
That’s the reality of Burma.
As Human Rights Watch media director Andrew Stroehlein said, “I’m no expert on meditation, but is it supposed to make you so self-obsessed that you forget to mention you’re in a country where the military has committed mass killings and mass rape, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, in one of today’s biggest humanitarian disasters?”
It’s clear from Jack’s Twitter thread that his Vipassana — the practice that was supposed to teach him how to “know thyself” as a “way to understand . . . everything” — wasn’t the smashing success he’d like us to think it was.
Maybe Dorsey could take a moment and observe the pain of the more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims, a long-persecuted minority in the Buddhist-majority country, who’ve fled the Burmese military’s 2017 crackdown in the Rakhine state. Doctors Without Borders has estimated the death toll to be more than 10,000. And the UN Human Rights Council, which set up a fact-finding mission in March 2017, came back in August with a report concluding what everyone who cared already knew: We have a genocide on our hands.
In its report, the UN denounced top Burmese military generals for leading atrocities that “amount to the gravest crimes under international law” and called for the junta to be tried for crimes against humanity and genocide.
The State Department also conducted a similar mission, though for some reason refused to call the ethnic cleansing by its name. But in a joint news conference last month with Burma’s figurehead civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Vice President Mike Pence called her to account, telling her the savagery “is without excuse.”
She, that once-crusader for democracy with a Nobel on her shelves, responded: “We understand our country better than any other country does.” Well, her government and the freshly meditated and enlightened Jack Dorsey, that is.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, considering that Twitter is, in the main, a cesspool of ignorance. But maybe after this week Dorsey will give up promoting tourism to Myanmar and take up Twitter user David Thompson-Brusstar on his suggestion to consider “an indefinite silent meditation.”