Matamoros, Mexico: Washington, D.C.:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Elegant Revolutionary

Saturday afternoons are a beautiful thing, aren't they?

This will probably be my last calm, relaxing weekend before I head off to post next month. As such, I've decided to take it easy, think about things, catch up on reading, reconnect with old friends, and, of course, do laundry.

I've been a subscriber to TIME magazine for somewhere close to a year now. When I was in college, I was usually able to work through the weekly issues quickly enough that I had finished one by the time the next one arrived. Since I've arrived in The District, though, the issues seem to be piling up faster than I can finish them. So today, I decided to read an issue from two weeks ago that captured my attention as soon as I saw the cover. *At this point, I should probably direct you to the disclaimer found at the bottom of my blog.

I'll admit that, before reading this article, I had known some general information about Aung San Suu Kyi and her peaceful resistance efforts against the Burmese government. I knew she had been imprisoned a few times, and that she spent quite a few years under house arrest. I knew she had been released from said house arrest in November of last year. And I knew that she almost always has flowers in her hair.

But after reading this cover story, I am much more interested in what she's trying to do for the people of Burma. For far too long, an estimated 56 million Burmese people have been living in poverty conditions that they did not bring upon themselves. Their government is entirely driven by a bunch of fat cat military generals whose sole purpose appears to be to keep the people oppressed and impoverished so they can continue to squander the nation's meager wealth.
Roughly 40% of the national budget is spent on the army, while just around 1% each is reserved for health and education. The new capital in Naypyidaw, which means "abode of the kings," was built with billions of dollars, even as nearly a third of Burmese live below the poverty line. For farmers, a hand-to-mouth existence is made worse by routine land seizures and orders to work without pay for the military. Even in Rangoon, power outages are as common as junta informants; both leave the populace in the dark. [TIME]
This makes me sick, really. I'll admit: I don't know what percentage of our national budget is spent on the military versus health and education, but I'd venture a guess to say we have a much better ratio than the Burmese do. I really dislike it when one group of people oppresses another group of people for their own personal benefit, especially when the group being oppressed has little means of fighting back. And that, to me, is where Suu Kyi comes in.

It's ironic that I used the word 'fighting' in that last paragraph. To be honest, fighting is the last thing that Suu Kyi would want. Her entire method is about non-violent resistance. I haven't read many quotes of hers, but I imagine she would say things like, "I don't believe in violence. I don't believe it accomplishes anything. Instead, I will peacefully resist these oppressors until the goal has been reached. However long it may take... however long I must wait. Even if it doesn't come in my lifetime." And you know what? I'm very much in agreement with her. She is an incredibly elegant example to the world of how to be an engaged citizen of a country, even at age 65. She never intended to be this unifying figure of revolution in her country. But I think that, long after she's dead and gone, historians and the Burmese people will remember her for completely revolutionizing their country for the better, without ever having caused an all-too-common outbreak of violence (from her side, at least. The Burmese government has used violence to oppress its people for years.)

There was one other portion of the article that made me stop and think. One paragraph described what life was like for Suu Kyi while under house arrest for roughly 15 of the past 21 years:
For so much of her recent life, Suu Kyi has been sequestered from normal human contact; noble ideas and fine words have kept her company. While under house arrest, she obsessively read books ranging from biographies to spy thrillers. "People think that I had nothing to do [while in detention]," she says. "But I spent five or six hours listening to the radio every day. If you're under house arrest and you miss one item, there's no one there to tell you about it, so I listened very carefully." Even her taste in classical music speaks to her sense of discipline and composure. Mozart, she says, makes her happy, which is all well and good. But she prefers Bach. "He makes me calm," she says. "I need calm in my life." [TIME]
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine all of the things you would have missed if you had been under house arrest, especially in a country like Burma? The article mentions the first time she ever used a cellphone was on the day of her release, November 13, 2010. While that's entirely perplexing on its own, it causes me to think about all of the other technological, societal, and even worldwide advances and occurrences in the last 15 years. There have been major, catastrophically destructive natural disasters. There have been technological developments that are almost innumerable, including shrinking a computer from its former gargantuan sizes to the current 9in. iPad. There have been major milestones like wars, peace accords, the death of Mother Teresa and the election of the first black United States President. It's all truly mind-blowing, really.

But it also makes me wonder about what must have been a beautiful simplicity in her life. Other than the stress of being confined for so long, I can't imagine that she would have lived a very stressful life there at home. No societal pressures to wear the right clothes, drive the right car, or make enough money. I kind of wish my life had that kind of simplicity in it. Don't get me wrong - I love my life thus far. But I really need to create more opportunities for rest, breathing, and enjoying that life to the fullest.

And I suppose maybe that's what I'm doing with this beautiful Saturday afternoon of reflection and relaxation.

Here's hoping that, one day, she will accomplish her life's mission. It makes me contemplate my own life and ask myself, what is my life's mission? What is my driving passion, that one thing that I would be willing to sit in house arrest for years with only a radio, books, and limited human contact?

What about you? What's your passion...and what are you doing about it?

Until next time...peace.

As a completely random post-script, the following music was deeply enjoyed as I wrote this entry: The Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons, and Mandi Mapes.

1 comment:

  1. No tengo mucho tiempo para escribir un comentario largo ahorita como me gustaría pero opino que mismo facebook este comment debería tener no solo el botón de "Me gusta" sino "Me encanta" porque de verdad me encantó lo que has escrito y lo interesante y desafiante de tus preguntas

    I don't have that much time right now to write a long comment (as I would like) but I think there should be not only the "I like it button" that we all know from facebook but one that says "I love it" cause I truly loved what you wrote here. Thanks for giving us something to think about today