The Voice of Hope
By Aung San Suu Kyi with Alan Clements
CLEMENTS: Daw Suu, here in your country, speaking the truth is regarded as a
punishable crime against the state if that truth is unacceptable to the authorities. But
why is "truth" so threatening?
AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Because the power of truth is great indeed. And this is very
frightening to some people. Truth is a powerful weapon. People may not think so but it is
very powerful. And truth - like anything that is powerful - can be frightening or
reassuring, depending on which side you are on. If you're on the side of truth, it's very
reassuring - you have its protection. But if you're on the side of untruth - then it's
AC: What are your views on having the uncompromising conviction that speaking the truth
is imperative, no matter what the circumstances or the consequences may be? Is honesty
always the best policy?
ASSK: Honesty is the best policy. One should just do it openly. This is how I've always
operated. It doesn't mean that I tell everybody everything. But if I'm asked about
something, either I say what it is, or I just bluntly say: "I will not tell
you." For instance, when the military intelligence came to try to interrogate me I
just said that I would not answer. If I had answered I would have implicated other people,
because what they were doing was trying to find out who [was] helpful to me, so they could
AC: So the criteria for you in truth-telling are the implications for others?
ASSK: Yes. It's better not to answer than to deceive. Deceiving is an exhausting
activity. It's true what Scott said, "O what a tangled web we weave, When first we
practice to deceive!"
AC: Even when the challenge of honesty means weighing the risk of imprisonment,
harassment to family, loss of job, or even torture?
ASSK: You lose more by deception - that, you can be sure of. But, it's true that
nothing comes without a price. However, it's always easier to accept the consequences of
honesty rather than the consequences of deceit. All the times you have ever deceived
anybody will stay with you for your entire life, whereas the consequences of honesty, in
the long run, are never burdensome.
AC: How would you advise others to challenge the habit of deception?
ASSK: What I would say would be so simple, most people would not be able to accept it.
I think you're just happier for not indulging in deceit. That's it.
AC: What, in essence, does truth mean to you?
ASSK: In the end, truth cannot really be separated from sincerity and goodwill. I
cannot claim that in every situation I am able to see the truth. But one does one's best
to be sincere in evaluating a situation, making an honest distinction between what is
right and what is not. If you do so you are on the side of truth. But truth is a large
concept. Pure truth - absolute truth - is beyond ordinary beings like us because we cannot
see things absolutely and as a whole. But we try our best. I think of all of us who are on
the side of truth as struggling towards it, rather than in full possession of it. Truth is
something towards which we struggle all the time.
From "Truth is a powerful weapon" in The Voice of Hope
by Aung San Suu Kyi with Alan Clements
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