Friday, October 05, 2007

My Last Conversation With Aung San Suu Kyi

By John Pilger, on Znet:
As the people of Burma rise up again, we have had a rare sighting of Aung San Suu Kyi. There she stood, at the back gate of her lakeside home in Rangoon, where she is under house arrest. She looked very thin. For years, people would brave the roadblocks just to pass by her house and be reassured by the sound of her playing the piano. She told me she would lie awake listening for voices outside and to the thumping of her heart. "I found it difficult to breathe lying on my back after I became ill, she said."

That was a decade ago. Stealing into her house, as I did then, required all the ingenuity of the Burmese underground. My film-making partner David Munro and I were greeted by her assistant, Win Htein, who had spent six years in prison, five of them in solitary confinement. Yet his face was open and his handshake warm. He led us into the house, a stately pile fallen on hard times. The garden with its ragged palms falls down to Inya Lake and to a trip wire, a reminder that this was the prison of a woman elected by a landslide in 1990, a democratic act extinguished by generals in ludicrous uniforms.

It's sort of hard to read or listen to an interview with Aung San Suu Kyi and not fall just a little bit in love. She has distinguished herself as one of the great heroic figures of our time, although she is quick to dismiss it:
"People I've spoken to regard you as something of a saint, a miracle worker."

"I'm not a saint and you'd better tell the world that!" "Where are your sinful qualities, then?"

"Er, I've got a short temper."

"What happened to your piano?"

"You mean when the string broke? In this climate pianos do deteriorate and some of the keys were getting stuck, so I broke a string because I was pumping the pedal too hard."

"You lost it ... you exploded?"

"I did."

"It's a very moving scene. Here you are, all alone, and you get so angry you break the piano."

"I told you, I have a hot temper."

I tend to disagree with hero worship, since it discounts the daily struggles of the people. But a hero provides an entry point, an interviewable spokesperson, and 30-second sound bytes that drive today's media. Put simply, a hero gets on TV. And a hero can more easily be emulated. Aung San Suu Kyi may not be a saint, but she is indeed a hero, and so are the monks, the Karen, and other regular people in Burma. Their people power faces the immense military power of the junta; we in the West could certainly learn from them.

... no matter the regime's physical power, in the end they can't stop the people; they can't stop freedom. We shall have our time.

Read the rest of the article here


TomCat said...

What most of us don't know is that Condi Rice's Chevron has an exemption from US trade sanctions against Burma. Were it not for Bush continuing to allow that relationship, the junta's finances would dry up.

Red Jenny said...

Well, I think there's a lot more going on than that (China and Russia also finance the Junta) but it certainly doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

Canadian businesses are in there too...and yes, there is a lot going on. What is China up to? And Thailand?

Ryan said...

Hey Jenny, I've been stalking your blog for a few months now, and thought I'd let you know you do a bang-up job and are one of my daily stops. Keep up the good work!

TomCat said...

RJ, while China and Russia also finance the junta, shutting down Chevron's operation there would shut down their natural gas exports, which provide them with more revenue than other sources combined.

Dark Daughta said...

Hi again,
Thanks for this post, as well. What sprang to mind for me was that old axiom about making a martyr when the powers that be kill a high level, well loved revolutionary.

In the case of Nelson Mandela, I think those in control of South Africa during apartheid realized that he would be of more use to them alive and able to "unify" the country, making room for the corporate economic interests of the powerful white racist minority while mollifying the oppressed, furious, defiant Black majority by putting one of their beloved leaders so long in prison in the big house with a rubber stamp of sorts in his hand.

It was a strategic, triumphant, sad, surface win/"win" sort of situation that folks are watching the result of right now.

So, I see this woman, I think of Mandela, of the polish union leader...googling...back in a sec...proper name spelling Lech Walesa who also came from fighting the power, to becoming part of the power...

I see her and have an inkling of how this crisis might be "solved" ways that do not question power, but instead finds a way to leave it undisturbed while the people dance on their own graves, celebrating the big "change".

Pink wine, anyone?