Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi: The Voice of Hope -- Conversations with Alan Clements

By Alan Clements
Seven Stories Press, November 30, 1996, $20.95

The first of this two-part interview can be found here.

The final question that Alan Clements asked Aung San Suu Kyi in the making of their book, The Voice of Hope was: “On the chance that you are re-arrested and held incommunicado, may I invite you to speak to those of us in the world who wish to support you and your people’s aspirations for democracy and freedom?”

To which Aung San Suu Kyi replied: “It’s very simple. You must not forget that the people of Burma want democracy. Whatever the authorities may say, it is a fact that the people want democracy and they do not want an authoritarian regime that deprives them of their basic human rights. The world should do everything possible to bring about the kind of political system that the majority of the people of Burma want and for which so many people have sacrificed themselves. Burma should be helped at a time when help is needed. And one day we hope to be ourselves in a position to help others in need.”

Clements now elaborates on Aung San Suu Kyi’s vision and the role of people all over the world in relation to Burma in the second part of our interview:

Noreen Mae Ritsema: What can be done to support Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of her country who aspire for democracy and freedom?

Alan Clements: To everyone who has assisted Burma in her courageous quest for freedom over the years, this is the time to reignite our efforts. Although Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, 2,200 political prisoners remain behind bars living in brutal conditions and many millions of ordinary citizens live like slaves and prisoners in their own country. We cannot forget them.

Again, although Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, she does not consider herself free. She made this point just days after her release, stating: “If my people are not free, how can you say I’m free? We are not free. Either we are all free together or we are all not free together.”

Let us not be lulled into any form of passivity. Artists, musicians, authors, intellectuals, activists, teachers, world leaders, spiritual and religious leaders, mothers, fathers, students, our men and women in uniform, Buddhists worldwide must unite — everyone who cares about the future of freedom and global human rights can enter Burma’s revolution of the heart and find their own unique and creative expressions of support for Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for open dialogue and reconciliation with all parties in her country, the military, the democratic forces and the ethnic nationalities. She is asking for our renewed support. Let us give it to her and her people, now!

Clearly, she cannot do it alone. The people of Burma cannot do it alone. We all need each other. She is offering each of us the rare privilege of entering her country’s peaceful revolution and making it our own, both in supporting the people of Burma in their greatest moment of need as well as bringing the principles of their revolution into our very hearts, homes and communities worldwide.

Let me end by saying, Aung San Suu Kyi has come to symbolize the preciousness of freedom and human rights both in Burma and globally. By and large, people the world over are becoming increasingly aware of climate change and the catastrophic effect of carbon emissions within in our atmosphere. Some climate experts have gone as far as saying that the situation has gone from critical to irreversible. Even if this is true, we are compelled by conscience and compassion to keep on working with as much awareness and conscience as possible. We can’t give up. To the contrary, this is the time to re-enchant any sense of negativity or cynicism and cease wasting such vital human energy on in-action.

We all know that the atmospheric pollution created in Beijing dramatically affects the air quality in Toronto. By and large, we all know that we are intimately interconnected at this point, alive within a biosphere where there is no thing that exists outside of this vast network of systems upon systems. No one is an island.

But on a planetary scale, a human rights violation in one part of the world and its negative effect on our own personal freedom is super-challenging to know and feel, on any visceral level, that is. What would it take to actually feel the pain of a Buddhist nun in a prison cell in Tibet who at this moment is being beaten by a Chinese soldier? How can we evolve consciousness to such an extent to emotionally feel the impact of that violation within the heart of any man or woman or child in Vancouver or Paris or Berlin as if it were happening to us? And isn’t that the evolutionary challenge that we face today? To actually feel our undivided wholeness? If so, this requires a radical shift in perception.

We are called upon to challenge the membrane within consciousness that gives the appearance of separation, whether it be in the form of nationalism, tribalism, racism, sectarianism or any other form of disconnect. And the goal is to feel each other as one life, breathing and living within the one body and mind.

Aung San Suu Kyi represents that evolutionary edge, where individual freedom and global human rights merge into a global unified experience of life. In other words, I am not free, unless you are free. That is the Aung San Suu Kyi that I came to know.

May our collective efforts help to bring her voice of hope and freedom to the world. That is, until such time, either by video satellite phone or in person, Aung San Suu Kyi is allowed to address the honourable members of the United Nations General Assembly and we get to hear in her own words what she wants us to know about her country’s peaceful revolution and how we can assist Burma’s radical transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

Let us rise up together, put our hope into action, support Aung San Suu Kyi and her people’s revolution of the spirit, and together, create a future to believe in.

Alan Clements has released a new book called A Future to Believe In   which acts as a guide to putting into action lessons from The Voice of Hope.

A few dollars is a small price to pay for news for the rest of us. Please donate to rabble today.

Noreen Mae Ritsema

Noreen Mae Ritsema is the books and blogging intern for She works as the Features Editor for the Manitoban and is the Poetry Editor for the Journal of Integrated Studies. She has written...