Burma: Modernity at Warp Speed

We in America are familiar with how roiling innovation makes work disappear.  Buggy whip makers were once a respectable part of the working class, etc.  But in Burma of the last few years, job after job has begun to disappear — some for the good, of course, but all creating dilemmas of sustenance and shelter for the former practitioners.

…as this country opens to the world, the phone rental business is losing customers quickly, one of a number of antiquated trades that are disappearing from a rapidly modernizing country. Who needs a roadside phone shop when you can now buy a cheap cellphone and call from anywhere you want?

The list of soon-to-be obsolete professions is growing: The typewriter clerks who sit outside courthouses and government offices are losing ground to computers and email. The mimeograph machines and a whole neighborhood of men who manually carve rubber stamps are being replaced by laser printers, scanners and photocopiers.

In every society, professions disappear in the name of progress. But the pace of change in Myanmar, where army generals introduced a form of democracy two years ago, has been compressed into months, not decades.  NY Times

U Say Thu has made rubber stamps on a Yangon street corner for the past decade.

U Say Thu has made rubber stamps on a Yangon street corner for the past decade.

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