What is the passion which is so strong we are willing to forego the comforts of a conventional existence? In her Reith lecture Aung San Suu Kyi answers this in one word. But it is a word that makes all other words possible - freedom. And it is a word which has always exacted the price of suffering to uphold, defend, achieve and live in freedom.
This lecture is more than, indeed is nothing like, a scholarly reflection on the concept of freedom. Nor is it primarily autobiography though it is a deeply humane story of the forming and growing of a self that recognised the imperative to be free and to work for the freedom of others. Aung San Suu Kyi speaks of inner freedom, spiritual liberty which is to live in harmony with your own conscience. But the purpose of inner freedom is to work towards the liberation of other people in practical human life, to uphold the basic human rights of others, and to defend the right to live without fear and oppression. To carry on despite fear is a stance of unimaginable courage for us who live in an open democracy, and she speaks with great moral authority and insight about the inner dynamics of conscience, fear, courage and action.
This is an enlightening, ennobling and crucially significant voice speaking from expereince, about those matters without which human life cannot flourish. Humanity, humility and humus are all semantically related - they are morally related too, because out of the humus of humane and humble resistance and protest, grows a moral imperative that cannot finally and ultimately be eliminated by force, whether brute force or sophisticated systems of surveillance and suppression. This woman is a beacon of hope, a moral exemplar of political courage at its higher levels of ethical and humane development. Listening to her lecture is a profound education in political responsibility and moral courage. Incidentally, humour comes from the same semantic range - and the humour and laughter in her interviews and question responses is just one further dimension of this woman who embodies the patience, tenacity and hopefulness of the struggle for the freedom of her people.
You can hear the lecture and discussion here on Radio 4 Iplayer.