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Suu Kyi – Aristotle’s tragic heroine?

Suu Kyi – Aristotle’s tragic heroine?

2017-09-29T23:37:44+05:00 Agha Baqir

It is very hard to determine the ratio the persons once conferred with the attributes of a hero, eventually turning out to be villains in the end. In such cases, the people or the organizations seemed to have erred or miscalculated in their estimation of such heroes. In other cases, once emerged as a hero, he maintains his merits till the end and dies out to be a hero. In some other cases, the hero is, somehow, unable to maintain his characteristics and vanishes from the society – forgotten or, perhaps, deserted. Whereas, few heroes, as we also witness in the classical movies, fall to the ground due to some flaw, mistake, negligence or even by circumstances but at the end of the day, they turn out to be successful in lifting themselves up as the true heroes are expected to.

The sky has definitely seen committees responsible for granting heroic awards to the individuals for their meritorious works for humanity and peace, desperately erred or influenced by certain personal and political motives in many cases. The Nobel Peace Prize committee of the United Nations, for instance, has erred in making decisions which out rightly sounded surprising and even unacceptable to the people at large and what to talk of our national awards attributing committees. The award of Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger was one of its most glaring errors. Barack Obama’s Peace Award in 2009 was, perhaps, another such example where people were not sure whether he had done anything to deserve except to continue in the Afghan and other wars and making some good speeches for peace or for merely raising a voice for and not securing the release of prisoners of Guantanamo Bay.

Human Rights Watch and AFP report that before the outbreak of current human rights violations in Myanmar, “Rohingya women and girls as young as 13 were raped by the soldiers.” and that a husband left behind his 20 year old wife with two kids for not running away with him and “letting it happen”.

Such violations are being perpetrated in the land where a women and once truly a great leader, is the de facto ruler of the country. Aung Sung Suu Kyi, the State Councillor, was also awarded Nobel Peace prize for her untiring services to fight for peace against the military regime that she has now become a subservient to. The current military intervention has resulted into massive migration of the Rohingya population into Bangladesh. Allegations are denied but there is certainly something that has gone badly wrong. Suu Kyi owes ultimate responsibility and explanation for this grim disproportionate reaction.

Contrarily, she has denied the narratives of such violations as being ‘exaggerated’, denied access to the UN Human Rights Commission to the affected areas, gone deaf ear to the Secretary General of UN and on protests from Pakistan equated Kashmir situation with that of Rohingyas being supported by some terrorist elements, as it is allegedly being done in Kashmir at the behest of Pakistan.

There might be certain grievances but it is never expected from heroic stature of Suu Kyi’s  to deny or even justify such violations being committed even against the ‘good’ Rohingyas in the name of ‘bad’ Rohingyas, if any.

The question arises, why has she turned out be villainous instead of heroic with the passage of time? Whether, she fell under the category of the legends in whose case the UN Nobel Prize awarding committee had erred in estimation of the nominees? Or, she was amongst those who fail to maintain their heroic characteristics for a longer period of time and are likely to fall in the end as a villain in negation to the maxim of ‘once a hero, always a hero?’ Or, whether she is just like an Aristotelian hero who suffers a downfall due to his inbuilt weakness  called ‘Hamartia’ as identified by Aristotle in his ‘tragic hero’ in a type of story called tragedy.

Suu Kyi’s biographer, Peter Popham, authoring two books on her ‘The Lady and the Peacock’ and ‘The Lady and the Generals’ believes that her case is different from those of Henry Kissinger’s and Obama’s. He “never doubted that her selection in 1991 was the deserved and canny.” Undoubtedly, she had thrown herself heart and soul into Burma’s struggle for democracy, challenging General Ne Win and his colleagues with courage and self-confidence until they put her into a long detention for 15 years. She bluntly wrote essays on Burma’s much needed transformation which esteemed her in the ranks of the 20th century’s great heroes and heroines by getting her the peace prize in absentia. She was a great inspiration for her people, nay, for the nations contesting bestial military rule through the decades.

Critics are divergent upon the explanations to Suu Kyi’s mum response to the current situation. One group of critics believes that as a Burmese Buddhist, she is compelled to join her co-religionists in their aversion to Islam. Beyond any doubt, Buddhist preachers never lagged behind from identifying Islam as Buddhism’s historic enemy.

The other group of critics maintains that she is groomed in a liberal academic and multicultural environment of Oxford University, England for 20 years having even Pakistani and other Hindu Muslim South Asians, leading Muslim writers like Maung Thaw Ka, amongst her best friends, such kind of bigotry against any ethnic community on the religious grounds could never be expected from her.

For yet another group, including her biographer Peter Popham, there is a very simple explanation to her conduct. This group believes that her decision in December 2011 by succumbing to the Hillary Clinton’s influence to join the parliament at the cost of surrender, to abide by Burma’s constitution tailored by its army was beginning of her tragic flaw. Superimposed, the compromised constitution secured for the military a massive share of three strategic ministries in parliament including interior, defence and the border affairs, and above all, the right to shut down democracy and revert to ‘junta tyranny’ at the generals’ arbitrary and whimsical control as and when they aspired. Undoubtedly, she brought about massive political and economic reforms to the credit of her nation in the wake of Suu Kyi’s visit to USA for liberalizations of bilateral relations.

This group believes that it was her tragic error. She turns out to be one of the most powerful civilian in the government but also extremely unfortunate, with no mandate to override the decisions upon crucial issues such as the Rakhine. Instead of challenging the military, she is alleged to be its poodle, puppet and hand paw now. The army is responsible for the misdeeds, but actually to her discredit.

She is left with a little choice but to become an Aristotelian tragic heroine. Her tragic flaws are subservience to army, being in state of limbo to boldly come up for the Rohingyas as humans and not as Muslims, and being adamant instead of admitting her inability to offer a strong voice for the innocent humans as a human activist. She can opt to become an Aristotelian tragic heroine and evoke pity and fear for her in the audience by committing suicide like primitive heroes - which the modern audience of today would never wish her to do - in admission of her guilt for betraying the people who awarded her unprecedented respect and honour, or by curing her tragic flaw of error of judgment in joining army’s constitution by admitting that it was her mistake.

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