While her lecture catalyzed a whole cascade of thought, it was her re-endorsement of non-violent protest that really gripped me. It's not that I've ever engaged in any sort of violent revolution or activism. But my understanding of the purpose of non-violent movements has always stemmed from the idea that the revolution ought to live the ideal it espouses. A revolution born in violence would be an empty one. However, as the years have gone by, I do have to admit that there have been moments when I've wondered if taking arms is sometimes necessary. Are our non-violent actions simply naive expenditures of energy?
However, Suu Kyi reframes non-violence in more than idealist terms. She agrees that non-violence is a longer path that is more difficult. Ultimately, however, it's to everyone's benefit in the long run because the less wounds that are created, the less healing that has to be done and sooner one can return to harmony among dissenting opinions. Her's is a pragmatic argument to avoid the vicious cycle of violence that so many conflicts get locked into.
Though I aspire to be the person who can be motivated solely by ideals, I continue to fall prey to moments of hatred, frustration, and helplessness. Because though I do believe that activists are always partly motivated by justice, at the end of the day it's our own well being that ultimately controls behavior. There is no better example of this than the Occupy Wall Street movement. But now, in those moments of weakness, that Suu Kyi's argument for non-violence still resonates and that excites me.