Loneliness is framed in a quintessentially liberal way: as a health-related issue affecting individuals. But loneliness is a by-product of the liberal social order; by elevating the market above all else and reducing notions of freedom to individual rights, notions of value are now boiled down to crude forms of economic reductionism.
Democratic states have only ever existed as an ideal – an abstraction more malleable than is often acknowledged and a form of government utterly incompatible with capitalism. ‘We must make our choice,’ warned the American jurist Louis Brandeis, ‘[w]e may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ There can be no compromise because between the two because the concentration of economic power is inherently undemocratic.
“A share in two revolutions”, Thomas Paine wrote to George Washington in 1789, “is living to some purpose!” That same sentiment may well be applied to the Burmese leader Aung San, who didn’t just share in two colonial struggles, but led Burma’s battles for independence against both the British and the Japanese.
By now, if you own a computer and have a reliable Internet connection (no mean feat in this wide brown land of the NBN) you’ve likely seen Stephen Fry’s fuck-you to god. If you’re one of those liberal atheists who favours pithy internet videos over books, is dismissive of anyone that tells you Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are most certainly not progressives, argues that Islamopobia is just neologism of the PC class and gets a kick out of calling yourself an anti-theist, then you were probably one of those people that shared it.
Aung San Suu Kyi, writing after being awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990, set down what she believed the test ought to be: “Saints,” she posited, “are sinners who go on trying.” The woman affectionately known by many of her fellow countrymen simply as The Lady is, to many, the closest thing to a living, breathing saint. In Myanmar – a deeply superstitious country, in which astrology and numerology are popular even among members of the elite – the personality cult of Aung San Suu Kyi is imbued with divinity, and many actually believe she’s a female bodhisattva.