Recently I have been learning about and fascinated by Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights activist and politician from Burma (now Myanmar). Suu Kyi has spent 15 years in total under house arrest by the military-junta who have had government control since 1962. She was released in 2010 and was able to physically accept her Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 1992 while imprisoned. This woman, known simply as “The Lady” in Burma, both frustrates and mesmerizes me.
After watching her Nobel acceptance speech, I was left disappointed. It was like I had an itch that was left unscratched. I pressed play and sat back in anticipation for the moment where her voice broke and the pain of the past 21 years would come flooding forward. I was practically weeping for her while I waited for her to join me. I waited and waited as she spoke of the seven sufferings, her experiences and her undying hope of a peaceful world.
I waited for the moment where she displayed that maybe it all was worth it, if only just for this honourable prize of a lifetime. The moment where she thought of her children, now grown, that she had missed out on while imprisoned in Burma. Or her late husband, whom she couldn’t say goodbye to when he died in England in 1999. All I wanted was one sweet tear.
The speech was good, excellent in fact. But no tears were shed. Not one crack of her strong but delicate voice. No emotion, just poise, elegance and passion.
The itch that is still itching is my overstimulated love of emotion and drama, and I was expecting a lot of it while watching this speech. But all I got was an extremely humble woman with a stiff upper lip, who believes her life purpose is to see her homeland Burma as a free country after being under military rule for the past 50 years.
No fuss. No drama. Just a woman on a mission.
These days with media and social networking, we are constantly displaying ourselves. Looking for affirmation. Creating drama. Yet one woman sat inside her home for 15 of 21 years and played piano, meditated and peacefully opposed the oppression of the military. She is a quiet and demure social activist in character, but she means business. She will not rest until there is peace. Her country comes first and sadly this has meant her family has come second, of which I am sure there are repercussions. And I think that’s what keeps her grounded; she had to sacrifice a lot and though she may not regret her choices, she isn’t completely proud either.
There’s a Hollywood film about Suu Kyi, called “The Lady”. I’ve added it to my Lovefilm rent list but after watching the trailer, I’m afraid it’s been “Hollywood-ified”. Her life has been made into a tear jerking motion film, when she doesn’t see it that way. I know she doesn’t, after listening to her on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs, as she politely corrected the host any time her situation was presented as sad or unfortunate.
Anyone could argue that it is dramatic, that it’s a tragedy. But Aung San Suu Kyi will go to her grave saying is that she has made a choice every day for the past 24 years to fight for her country’s freedom, whatever the cost. There’s no tragedy, just her choice, and those are her very words from an interview. Simple.
I am both inspired and perplexed by this woman and what we can learn from her. The itch is still there, as someone that thinks family should come first and can’t completely understand her decisions, because I don’t have a whole country depending on me for freedom. It doesn’t mean for a second that I don’t respect her.
My middle name is Drama-Queen and our generation feed off heightened emotions. But Aung San Suu Kyi is the perfect example of someone who has put her head down and got on with it. Maybe we need to do the same, whatever we are doing or working on or believing for. Whether we are trying to save the world or our friend or ourselves, we should just get on with it. Without making a hoo-ha or trying to draw attention to ourselves or our good deeds, and without updating our Facebook status or Twitter feed. Just do it.
But before you do, make sure you share this post with your friends on social media, yeah?!
Where do you stand, on either Aung San Suu Kyi or my view of our drama loving culture? Do you think we could learn from this woman?