By JIM ANDREWS
The barber smiled and raised his neatly trimmed eyebrows as he settled his youthful customer in the chair.
“That’s a nice shirt you’ve got on,” he said with just a hint of sarcasm.
“It’s my team’s new strip,” said the young man. “We’re putting together a side for the planned new league. I’ve come straight from training.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” said the barber. “I thought that perhaps you were making a political statement.”
“Me? How?” was the perplexed reply.
“It’s a nice shade of red,” said the barber. “A provocative red, I’d say, if this were Bangkok. Perhaps if I were a Thai barber, I’d refuse to cut your hair. Or perhaps cut something else…”
“Now I’m with you,” said the customer. “We’re calling ourselves the Reds, but it’s no political statement. You want to see my underpants? They’re yellow. Hey, and I’m wearing blue socks. I’m the very picture of political compromise.”
“You’re a disgrace, that’s what,” said the barber.
The barber stepped back and looked with mock severity at the young man. “In Thailand, they make it easy to determine political allegiance. It’s all color-coded. A brilliant idea. It could be copied here. But chaps like you are messing up the system. You’re red on the outside, yellow where it really matters—and you hop around in blue socks. How are we to tell where you belong politically?”
“But this isn’t Thailand,” the young man protested. “It’s Burma. You can’t color-code the political scene here.”
“My dear boy,” said the barber. “It’s color-coded already.”
“That’s news to me,” replied the young man. “How?”
“Let me ask you a question first,” said the barber. “What primary color is missing from the political scene in Thailand?”
His customer pondered a while, as the barber snipped nonchalantly away. “Just a minute, I’ll get there. Let’s see—red, blue, yellow. I’ve got it! Green’s the answer.”
“You’ve got it, indeed,” beamed the barber. “Green is the answer. Well done!”
But the barber’s customer was still puzzled. “So how is green an important color in the Burmese political spectrum? Where’s the Green Party? A fat chance such a movement would have, anyway, against a government that has turned the country into a waste land.”
“Now there you’re wrong,” said the barber. “Green is a very important color on the Burmese political stage.”
“Explain, please,” demanded his customer.
“What color does Than Shwe and the rest of his mob wear? What color do their troops wear? Green, dear boy, green.”
“But…” his young customer was about to interject.
“No buts about it,” said the barber firmly. “Green identifies our common enemy. It’s Than Shwe’s very own color code.”