Define a Rebel?
The word rebel often has a negative connotation. It might bring to memory those years when you were a “rebellious” teenager. “Sorry, mom. My tongue is already pierced. Nothing you can do about it now.” What about the bigger picture; rebelling against evil or oppression? Many of the most influential people in history were considered rebels: they stood strong in the face of their enemies. Aung San Suu Kyi is one of those people.
Fighting for Burma
I happened upon Suu Kyi’s story while reading through a list written by TIME titled, 16 of history’s most rebellious women. Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest in Burma after she spoke up against the brutal killings of protestors by dictator U Ne Win. Aung started a nonviolent movement for democracy and human rights. She became a source of hope for the Burmese people as she led efforts to establish peace.
Suu Kyi had a very fortunate upbringing. She spent most of her adult life outside of Burma where she graduated from Oxford University and married and had children. However, when her mother fell ill in 1988, she returned to Burma to care for her.
During her stay, the militant government killed thousands of students, monks and other civilians who were on the verge of a massive uprising. In response, Suu Kyi rebelled against the corrupt government rules and established a new democratic party, the National League for Democracy. The NLD ran against the militants and won by a landslide, but Suu Kyi was never put into office. The militants refused it. Instead, they put her under house arrest.
Freedom or Death
While under house arrest, the militant government offered Suu Kyi the chance to go free. The catch? She had to leave Burma. I found it fascinating how eerily similar Suu Kyi’s story is to Socrates’.
Socrates is considered to be one of the fathers of Philosophy. However, in 399 B.C., he was imprisoned and sentenced to death because the government took issue with his philosophies. During his imprisonment, he was given the opportunity to go free. The catch? He had to quit philosophy. Socrates refused. To him, life without philosophy was meaningless. He believed death was superior to living a meaningless existence.
Like Socrates, Suu Kyi opted not to go free. She would rather suffer through a prolonged and unfair prison sentence than go free and give up the fight for the people of Burma.
Suu Kyi was released in 2010. However, while she was imprisoned, the militant government drafted a constitution that basically forbids her from ever becoming president. As you might expect, that hasn’t deterred her at all. She is still fighting for change today.
“I think by now I have made it fairly clear that I am not very happy with the word ‘hope.’ I don’t believe in people just hoping. We work for what we want.”
–Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
I had an interesting thought come to mind as I pondered the story of Suu Kyi. Does our freedom have a catch? It’s not likely any of us will ever find ourselves in the situation Socrates and Suu Kyi were in. However, we are offered freedom from our struggles—with a catch—every day. Let me explain.
How often do you waste your free time mindlessly swiping through Tinder or taking the latest Buzzfeed quiz? Admittedly, I’m as guilty of this as the next millennial no matter how much I hate to say it. I value my future, and I have plenty of productive things that I believe in that I could be doing with my time, but I repeatedly take the road of least resistance—freedom from struggle if you will—and waste away my time. I can take my freedom and be comfortable, or I can forgo that comfort and put in the hard work necessary to bring more meaning into my life (check out Viktor Frankl’s thoughts on that).If you don’t want to live in a comfortable state of complacency, you have to rebel against it.
Anything that takes time and energy away from your goals is the enemy. If you remember back to my opening paragraph, many of the most influential people from history rebelled against an enemy. If it worked for them, it will work for you. Rebel against wasting time or doing what’s easy.
Find whatever it is that is stopping you from becoming who you want to become and rebel against that. Try devoting a little more of your time online to learning from quality posts and videos as opposed to liking all the cat GIFs on Tumblr. Or if you’re really brave, take a social media sabbatical until you finish that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand. I promise you won’t regret it.