Published on Monday, 08 July 2013 19:54 Written by Maung Tin Oo (Myaungmya)
It’s a long time I heard mention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's book 'Freedom from Fear' in such an open way. I have seen many articles about the book describing it as a must read but unfortunately the book is not available in bookstalls in Myanmar.
Not long ago it was severe punishment for anyone found with a copy of the book or even a photo of it's cover. Nobody dared own that book openly. Even the photocopy shops refused to make copies fearing repercussions. It was obvious that anyone who wanted to stay in business had to fulfil the desires of dictatorship.
It is important to remind outsiders who have had access to these writings and much more published about our country that during the dictatorship we didn’t have such access. At times we couldn't even read about Aung San, father of our independence.
So it was during a debate between Aung San Suu Kyi and Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung at the World Economic Forum, where the Union Minister told the audience that they should all read 'Freedom from Fear'.
Suu Kyi responded that she was flattered but if he wanted everyone to read it, the government should publish the book. The minister replied that he would and everyone applauded. Watching the debate, I questioned myself.
Is this democracy? Have we really got freedom? Who really wants democracy in Myanmar? Is it Daw Suu? The Union Minister? The President? The international community? But what about the public? Who will take the public into consideration? What will the democracy mean for the common citizen who has been starved of information and knowledge over the years.
Although I thought highly of the debate, and acknowledge that we need to have many more of the same kind, I felt that it was very far removed from from the common citizen.
In Myanmar people have very little experience of the outside world. Far from participating in the debate, they don’t even know how to listen to such things. Myanmar people are not in the habit of accepting opposing views or arguing different positions.
The writing pattern encouraged in government schools supports positive, one-sided stories and does not encourage criticism or questioning. Because of this Myanmar people believe that discussion and questioning are impolite and contrary to Myanmar traditions.
I will tell you a story. Once this writer had to fly to Sittway. Aboard the plane a grandmother was seated beside me. As she took her seat she began reciting Sutta, wishing off evil or harm. As the female flight attendant demonstrated how to put on a life-vest in case of an emergency and how to breath oxygen from the overhead masks my co-passenger exclaimed: "Oh My God! How dare she speak that the plane will crash!"
The grandmothers superstition may seem humorous but it speaks to me of a fear and superstition held by many in our society. A fear that if we speak of things openly, without fear, we will be bound for disaster.
Thus the importance of Suu Kyi's book, which says: "… Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear..."
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is well aware of Myanmar’s cultural traditions.
She highlights that the worst form of fear is that which which pretends to be common sense or even wisdom. That’s right. Our pretence at tradition if often a mask of our fear to think freely, openly. Our fear to respect the most common human dignity that for years has been denied to us.
Our past military rulers have abused Myanmar's traditions for years. They used power under the guise of "tradition" to strike fear and reward servility among the people. The question that one must respect those who are older, superior in rank and wiser is O.K up to a point.
But it’s not right that one has to listen to everything without question or debate. These traditions don’t support the building of a democratic country.So I commend the Union Minister for urging people to read Freedom from Fear. But who will publish it for all to read?
- I Will Tell the Real Truth (17)
- High expectations as Myanmar takes Asean helm
- Corruption in Myanmar: take down the real villains
- Myanmar's turn in the spotlight can have benefits
- Ways for Myanmar to make better headway
- I will tell the real truth (16) - Part (2)
- Leaders have to decide
- I will tell the real truth (16) - Part (1)
- I will tell the real truth (15) ...
- The country surrounded with refugee camps is called …