During the next 16 days, the Nobel laureate will visit Norway, Ireland, Britain, and France. But she arrives at a somewhat distressed time for Europe, which hasn’t seen a lot of good news of late. It is a time of austerity, of diminished dreams and ideals, of a return to national interests – and where Greek elections Sunday could further propel a fraying of Europe’s post-war idea of openness and togetherness. Regardless, Aung San Suu Kyi has said since her arrival that she has a great deal to learn from a Europe that she has not visited since before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
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).