Aung San Suu Kyi: Freedom From Fear


Aung San Suu Kyi is a visionary. Her political and philosophical views and her own beliefs as a Theravada Buddhist with the depth and knowledge gained through her intellectual interests have made her into a global symbol of resistance. OBV's Berny Torre examines what lessons we can learn from her magnificent example.

The daughter of the father of modern-day Burma's return to her native country galvanised the hope for democracy. She was placed under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years by the Burmese government because it viewed her as someone "likely to undermine the community peace and stability" of the country. Inspired by the non-violent political protests of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Suu Kyi made huge personal sacrifices for her beliefs in peaceful democratic reform of the then military state of Burma. Her decision to stay her course under house arrest in the face of pressure to leave from the ruling regime, barred from her terminally ill husband and growing children is an example to us all of incredible moral strength.

We may take pride in the close connections she has with Britain. She completed her BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford, and her PhD in SOAS, University of London and gave birth to her two sons in London before leaving to tend for her ailing mother but later lead the democratic movement in Burma.

Taking a wider context, the ongoing story of Burma's democratic reform can help us to look at the similarities and differences between our countries, to look for parallels and applications and take a wider perspective when considering our current affairs. Exemplifying the links, Suu Kyi's philosophies have applications reaching our country and, relevant to under-represented sections of society.

Speakng about her beliefs she said,

Government leaders are amazing… so often it seems they are the last to know what the people want.

She added,

It is undeniably easier to ignore the hardships of those who are too weak to demand their rights than respond sensitively to their needs. To care is to accept responsibility, to dare to act in accordance with the dictum that the ruler is the strength of the helpless.

We too in the UK have an ongoing story of our democratic rights and Burma's recent example may serve to remind us of our own popular movements as well as the champions who made the sacrifices to give us our current freedoms.

Personally, I was struck by the idea that when Aung San Suu Kyi made her moral stand, she inspired the spirit of solidarity from a countless number of people across the globe.

One of her most famous speeches was "Freedom From Fear", which began:

It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.

Ultimately, though fear can initially inhibit action, it can also be a catalyst for change and the lesson for me from this visionary leader, is that despite our fears, we must be the authors of our own destiny.

Berny Torre