Human beings have been on earth for probably 200,000 years now. Ever since, we started settling together as communities we’ve had a multitude of problems with taking care of our own species. Then, we had the idea of having kings and queens, and then governments. We still do not understand or agree upon providing our species the basic rights and needs. In today’s world, it is crucial for all of us to explore what freedom means to us. We need to understand the complex meanings of democracy, dissidence, terrorism, and ‘foreign policies’. The 2011 Reith Lectures invited Aung San Suu Kyi, the General Secretary of National League for Democracy in Burma and Eliza (Baroness) Manningham-Buller, former Director General of MI5 (the British internal security service) to explore this through their work and struggles.
Aung San Suu Kyi‘s lectures were recorded secretly at her house and smuggled out of Burma to inaugurate the 2011 Reith Lectures series ‘Securing Freedom’. She speaks on the politics of dissent, freedom and un-freedom, violence and non-violence, NLD’s work in Burma, revolution, and many things that influenced her work. She says, “the struggle to survive under oppression and the passion to be the master of one’s own fate and the captain of one’s own soul is common to all races.”
Baroness Manningham-Buller reflects on 9/11, the War on Terror, the role of security and intelligence services, and foreign policy in three lectures that closed the ‘Securing Freedom’ series. She says in one of her lectures, “Look at Northern Ireland, where former terrorists are in government. We should welcome this, not damn it. Look at many of our former colonies, whose first leaders had been imprisoned by us for terrorism. Look at Mandela and the ANC which used terror tactics when it was in exile….. Not all terrorists are evil although their acts are. Nor are they all pathologically violent. A few are but many are not and have their own rationale, not ours, for what they do.”
*Who is Reith?
On 20th July, 1889, to George and Adah who were already in their forties, their last and youngest son, John Charles Walsham Reith was born. Busy with the churches, his parents had to leave this baby to the nurses to be brought up. Later, he inadvertently joined a girl’s school where he had to learn sewing and singing. In the autumn of 1896 he moved to the Glasgow Academy, where though his academic reputation was exceptional, he earned the reputation of a bully, being nicknamed as Lord Walsham. When he was fifteen, he was requested to leave the academy for all the fear the 6 feet 6 in. Lord had inflicted in the younger boys. With a suggestion from his brother, who was a vicar, he joined a boarding school 300 miles away, where he was the only Prebysterian and Scot. He attempted to run away on a bicycle, before he decided to settle down and enjoy the school cadet training corps. But when he wanted to go to university, his father had a better idea. He wanted Reith to learn a trade and become an engineer. He apprenticed grueling hours at Hyde Park Locomotive Works and as soon as it ended he left to London, against his father’s advice.
He worked in a variety of firms wanting to quit, until one day he changed his life by applying for an advertisement in The Morning Post for the position of a general manager for the British Broadcasting Company. The company which was being set up by a consortium of British radio manufacturers to produce programmes that could be heard on their wireless sets, took this amateur a bit of wriggling to get into. He became the company’s first general manager in 1922, and its first director general when it become the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1927. He always stood to his ideal that broadcasting was primarily to educate, inform and entertain. He “maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life” of Britain. In 1948, the BBC inaugurated the Reith Lectures to mark this man’s historic contribution to the field of public service broadcasting. Read more about him here>>
- Aung San Suu Kyi : Burma’s Steps Towards Democracy are ‘Real’ (ibtimes.com)
- Former MI5 head: Torture is ‘wrong and never justified’ (lexdih.wordpress.com)
- Aung San Suu Kyi: the 2011 Reith Lectures (cruciality.wordpress.com)
- Why India needs democracy (indialawyers.wordpress.com)