With Barak Obama’s recent visit to China and Burma (Myanmar), the situation there has been in the news, and I realized that I knew very little about the this conflicted country – thought we all might benefit by reading some of the words of the most famous Burmese figure. A few weeks ago we talked fear – how it affects us, how it can be a barrier between us and God’s love. So, in this post, we follow up with a speech by Burmese democracy icon and civil rights leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi – on, what else, fear.
Her concept of this idea of freedom from fear has other recent precedent – see FDR’s four freedoms speech and Norman Rockwell’s painting referenced here.
Suu Kyi writes from a position of being both a political leader, yet who has spent a considerable portion of her adult life under house arrest, as a ‘threat’ to peace and stability in Burma (more properly called Myanmar). She spoke these words the year her political party won over 50% of the votes and seats in parliament. Yet, as a result, she was detained under house arrest. While her situation is very different from ours in the US, see what ideas speak to you in her words.
Freedom from Fear speech (1990) excerpt
Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Burmese democracy icon
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. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption:
§ Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves.
§ Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and
§ moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is
§ bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption.
Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched…
The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation’s development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear.
Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.
You can read the whole speech here.
“Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative…” What does our Christian tradition have to say about this?
What do you make of the four ‘a-gati’?
Saints it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. What does this mean to you?
Do you think the US today has a “need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nations development.”?
See you in the library downstairs at 9:15. John