Indeed, the last time she visited there were no smart phones, no iPads or apps, no GPS. Financial derivatives had not been invented, Spain was still emerging from the Franco era, and “Brics” just looked like a misspelling. The European Union of 27 nations did not exist. The European community was made up of 12 nations.
Yet while Aung San Suu Kyi may have a Rip van Winkle-sized learning curve, many cosmopolitan Europeans believe there is also something essential to learn from The Lady (as she is also known in Myanmar).
“The French and the Europeans admire her because she showed how to turn weakness into strength with a few moral principles unflinchingly declared and held to,” says Karim Emile Bitar a senior fellow at the Institute for International and Strategic Affairs. “That is what technocratic Europe needs more of. She is in the tradition of Gandhi, Mandela, and Havel, a lighthouse in a foggy world … a simple but not simplistic moral clarity. There is something spiritual about her, and Europe needs something ‘spiritual’ today.”
In Oslo this weekend Aung San Suu Kyi will give the 1991 Nobel acceptance speech she was not able to deliver while under house arrest in Myanmar (her son spoke on her behalf). She’ll then travel to Dublin to accept Amnesty International’s “Ambassador of Conscience” title from U2’s Bono, who is reportedly lending his jet to fly her from Oslo. Then she will head to London to address both Houses of Parliament and possibly meet her grandchildren, whom she has never met. At the end of her trip she is slated to come to France, the country in Europe that most speaks of the universal human rights that Aung San Suu Kyi embodies, and that played a key role in lifting sanctions on Myanmar.