|Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at Irrawaddy Literary Festival 2014|
|"Human Trafficking" - Duncan Jepson, Caroline Moorehead, Wendy Law-Yone & Nu Nu Kyi|
But perhaps the only reason I was supposed to be there in Mandalay, Myanmar on February 15th, 2014 was to hear author (a Chinese born writer whose work is banned in China), Jung Chang, who grew up in communist China tell an auditorium packed full of Myanmar citizens still just wading in the water of a recently opened society that when she was a girl she wanted to be a wrier. "When I was a child," she said, "I wanted to be a writer, but I couldn't even say to myself I wanted to be a writer." She could not even dream it. She recalled police coming to her home when she was sixteen and taking a story she had written and shoving pages down a toilet for fear of being caught. The question was raised if writers who grew up in totalitarian states have a certain responsibility and I couldn't help but wonder about my responsibility as a writer who has only ever known a free and democratic existence. Sometimes it takes a long journey to hear what we already know. This same author added that her favorite literary hero was the boy in Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes -that all it takes to be a hero is to stand up and state what is right before us.
|"Where China Meets India" Session with Thant Myint U and Louis de Bernieres|
She danced around the Buddhism and Muslim conflict scorching villages along the country's borders, especially in Rakhine State, but when asked about what she wants for her country, she said, "What I want are people who understand if they want to be a part of a peaceful, prosperous country, they have to be a part of the struggle." Simply put: struggle as solution. Then what is involved in the struggle? When asked about what characterizes an enemy of democracy, she first defined democracy as "a respect for human beings and human rights." When Dame Bakewell suggested the notion that "wealth disparity is an enemy of democracy," a thought that never occurred to me before, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi agreed. To recognize the wealth disparity in the United States as something dangerous, something beyond the republican/democrat discourse, but something inherently toxic and threatening to the principles of the country made it more urgent than I have understood it.
For the first time in maybe ever, I thought of my writing, this writing, as neither successful or unsuccessful, good or bad. I saw it as a small duty, and a personal one. There is a reason I feel compelled to string together a bunch of nouns and adjectives and verbs and because of that I have to keep writing, even if I never make a cent from it, and simply because I can. It's not about who is listening, but rather am I talking? Am I writing as loud as possible? In the words of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, "A certain amount of noise in one's life is necessary.