The whole world is going through an ideological conflict. All that we see and come across is a culture-bound, age-dominated, sex-discriminated, male-dominated, procapitalist, nonrevolutionary, anticommunist, and over-theoretical world system. In other words, a superfluous world system has been created in the fields of political, social, economic, religious, and cultural. What Sri Lanka is today, on the one hand, is a result of this wrong-turn of the world system; on the other hand, it is the socio-political instability of the country that does not support a better conscientization anymore. However, there can be specific resolutions, mobilized through determination and hard work if the citizens of the country make a genuine effort. In this article, I attempt to analyze how a people building could be made in Sri Lanka through such practical efforts even though ideological theories might be useful in another context.
Dominated World Systems
Considering the events of the history of the world and its system in all continents, there is a dominated world-system due to colonization, which now is sieged by neo-colonial structures and exploitation, which also have paralyzed the cultural-religiosity of those societies. Such mismanaged paradigms and operative systems have also destroyed human cultural relationships in the same communities, undergo difficulties with modern techniques of development that is at the heart of people-building capacity. Ultimately, what is left as a formula is nothing but a world system that is created by the elites who have forcefully come to a position to dominate all other systems in the world being experimented by smaller countries with limited resources. This unilateral domination in my opinion, is a destructive, unethical, and devastating paradigm. When we see the unethical distribution of land, multifaceted companies and investments, world population growth, forceful economic structures, exploitations of trade union structures, multinational corporations, global cultural dominations, cultural myths, racism, classism, sexism, dissimilarities and so forth, we understand how world system has failed to introduce a better paradigm for the daily living of the people. Due to such world systems, many ordinary people suffer immensely, and forced poverty, oppression, and suppression have become significant and maligned components of this system, which in fact stand contrary to the very concept of people building.
It is obvious how the failures as mentioned above of the world system have dramatically fallen into a category of the destruction of this planet, especially in the context of ecological crisis. Global warming and the reports on the possible depletion of the ozone layer, and the other ecological imbalances that the planet earth experiences with immense destructive forms now proven beyond a reasonable doubt are due to negative approaches and misuse of technology of human beings. It seems that any new world-system came to the scene as an alternative to change the previous system, but it ended harming even the key rich cultural-religiosity and socio-political methodologies in the world. It has also damaged the quality of life which is reserved for the whole planet. Words of Pope Francis in his outstanding encyclical Laudato Si would appropriately explain the idea mentioned above; “Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and the quality of life of much of humanity.”
There have been many socio-political theories that appeared in the system of the world; such as Anarchism, Absolutism, Communism, Conservatism, Environmentalism, Fascism, Liberalism, Nationalism, Socialism, Social Capitalism, Social Democracy, Marxism, Capitalism, and Pancasilaism. However, none of these theories were sufficient enough to present an effective paradigm shift for a people-building agenda. Instead, these ideologies and theories demolished the developing capacities of the people. Considering the Euro-Western colonial regimes, it is evident how the native people of Asian, African, and Latin American continents were massacred in destroying their lands and grabbing their right of living.
When this ideological conflict is applied to the Asian context, Western-educated and modernized elites have introduced certain socio-political theories such as Social Capitalism, Capitalism, Marxism, and Communism in Asia that directly harmed the primary conduct of ordinary people who live in rural areas. Thus, unsustainable and impertinent methods unduly blocked the accessibility and opportunity for their local productions as such. In other words, those socio-political theories were dysfunctional, and they subverted the socio-political spirit of Asia. In Asia, there had been ancient and traditional techniques for food production, construction, business, management that led its communities to sustain the livelihood. However, different alliances of elites and their socio-political theories have already damaged and displaced those traditional methodologies, which were the primary sources of people-building-capacity of Asia. The major crises such as poverty, forced landlessness, unemployment, elimination of handcrafts, and artificial fertilizing system in Asia are due to Westernized modern capitalism and feudal systems geared by those elites and business classes. Such disfigured assumptions, in my opinion, are myths that created Euro-western power hunger but not liberative forms for a developing society. Asia, therefore, goes through a negative structural change, which gives constant failures for socio-political stability. And, the shortcomings of Asia also are results of this ongoing crisis. Among them, discrimination and political divisions (ethnic divisions) are fundamental issues in Asia, which paralyze peoples’ development in Asia. Western capitalism has already made certain political divisions in Korea and Vietnam. Considering all Asian countries and their internal socio-political struggles, in the latter part of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka was almost at the edge of experiencing the same South-North division to many extents. Asia, particularly as a continent, is still undergoing the victimized mentality of those Western methodologies, which also misled the Asian ways and means.
Sri Lanka, a Victim of the World System
Sri Lanka has also become a part of the above-mentioned socio-political ideological conflicts, and strategies. It is undeniable and quite evident when we analyze the results of the presidential election of 2019, Sri Lankans failed to realize the harmful effects of party politics and opt for an alternative political ideology in the country. Most of the citizens in Sri Lanka unanimously accepted and opted for a corrupted party and its policies in electing a president, and Sri Lankans have been doing this party-politics in changing and selecting the two major parties from time to time depending on selfish circumstances. Even though a significant movement (National Peoples’ Power/NPP [movement is different from an alliance]) for the first time in the political history of Sri Lanka was created and formed within the framework of peoples’ beliefs, ideas, aims, objectives, subjective minds, and especially ideological imperatives; the most of the ordinary people themselves abandoned the fundamental goals of that peoples’ movement at the voting. It indicates that the majority of Sri Lanka is still interested in party-politics, which leads toward unethical conduct in the country, militarization, illegal colonization within the country, excessive foreign aids and investments for megaprojects, abuse of power, nationalism & racism, uneducated politicians for governance, religious fundamentalism and so on. All these are nothing but adverse effects of the world system today.
The moral decadence in the fields of political, economic, religious, social, and cultural set up in Sri Lanka does not support to opt for an authentic dynamism and work for the common good of all the people of society. Considering mere external developing economies, education, and foreign policies, it is quite evident that the people-building agenda of the country has lost its primary motivation because such developing policies have failed to enhance the ordinary capacities of people. What Sri Lanka over the last few decades have had were periods of governance with successive corrupt regimes that fulfill the objectives of a manipulative group of political neo-elites. As a result, the majority of the country suffered immensely without even having access to essential opportunities to build themselves and dreaming for a future remains for them permanently illusory. In other words, dreaming for a better future and people-building, when is being unethically designed by a group of uneducated people who are involved in corrupt politics, symbolizes a complete abuse of power and mismanagement of democratic institutions in the context of Sri Lanka.
The last Presidential election campaign in 2019 was full of awakening programs for a people building and dreaming future. The subjective methodology and fundamental aims of National Peoples’ Power (NPP) were to enhance the power of the ordinary people, Sri Lanka’s crisis in democracy, and religious fundamentalism in the socio-political arena. NPP aimed to regain and regenerate a better democracy from the perspectives of ordinary people, which is a new outlook for the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. The initial efforts were promoted and backed by intellectuals, civil society groups, organizations, and ordinary people. However, it failed at an unexpected hour since many other civil authorities, business people, elites who geared sub-cultural agendas for mere victory at the presidential election in 2019. It shows how Sri Lanka once again opted for an ideological crisis and became a part of the failure of world-systems created by internal party politics. It is because of these sub-cultures; the ordinary people, farmers, fishers, laborers in rural villages will suffer (still it happens) more and more in the future. The essence of the self-sufficient society in Sri Lanka and its national agenda for the peoples’ productions have been devastated. This condition or situation implies a radical change or a paradigm shift. Therefore, I would like to present it as the primary goal of this article, which is also my timely suggestion for the crisis in the country.
A New Conscientization
I wish to present two paradigm shifts in suggesting a people-building in Sri Lanka. One is a methodology followed by the Chinese at their crisis in the 1940s, and the other is followed by Michael Rodrigo, an Oblate priest who worked for an equitable society in promoting social justice for a people-building society.
Amidst the world’s disagreements toward the economic policies of modern Chinese society today, but still, there is something to be learned from China. I wish to explain the original paradigm shift of Chinese and how they got rid of crisis in building rural areas. Historically, like many Asian countries, China was feudal and subject to massive exploitation by local warlords and landlords. The poor peasants and workers were dominated continuously by the elites and dominant class. Later, following the 1949 revolution, China was boycotted by the capitalist powers and regimes. As a result, China went through a quarter-century of isolation from the international community. However, China under Mao Tse-tung processed and went through a long period of travail in implementing its own socialist program. The fundamental process of the whole program was to change the mentality of ordinary people and be effective by a new system. “SERVE THE PEOPLE” was the primary moto and public exhortation until they became self-sufficient with their new agenda. A hard process of self-criticism and self-revolutionizing were begun, which was an ongoing result for hard work, temperance, honesty, self-purification, and service. China experienced a new form of revolution with that hard process with its people-building agenda.
The second paradigm here I present is more of another village-level process. In the 1980s, as the Sri Lankan government introduced an open economy policy. Sri Lanka lost its self-sufficient efforts and peoples’ products in the country. Such a selfish mentality paralyzed Sri Lanka’s ancient conscientization in the country. Ordinary civilians in Sri Lanka had to suffer and their life-style was put in danger. Michael Rodrigo went to the Monaragala district of the Southern Province, especially to Uva-Wellassa in finding a solution and experiencing a local paradigm shift for a people-building attempt in Sri Lanka. At the hands of elites and their narrow-minded and unreasonable projects, peasants and poor workers in Uva-Wellassa became mere objects at the projection of the government then since it was a period of welcoming multinational corporations and companies. Rodrigo worked with ordinary people to experience a national-development program at the village level introducing a natural fertilizing system, self-contained and self-reliant living conditions, equal education program, Buddhist-Christian dialogue, herbal medicine (Ayurveda treatments), awareness program, health-care, housing projects for the poor and so on. All these things were significant components for a people-building-society in Sri Lanka. The awareness program (conscientization) which Rodrigo started at the village level, is a critical reflection for a righteous society. Though it was a religious effort, his primary intention was to opt for a socio-political attempt and then move toward a just society. Unfortunately, Sri Lankan central government starting from the 1980s up today has vehemently damaged the proper conscientization of the people. Rodrigo was assassinated during the second uprising of Janatha Vimukkthi Peramuna (JVP/ a local Marxist Leninist Party) and its counter-insurgency protocols in the late 1980s, which was the actual termination and deliberate elimination of any people building action he experimented in the rural sector. It was also a negative paradigm introduced by the right-wing approach of the central government then. During this dark era, many youths, intellectuals, and activists were killed and some disappeared. Those adverse events were results of violence promoted by the central government and counter-violence of leftists parties. The remnant of the misleading paradigms of the late 1980s shows the selfishness that paralyzed the whole system in the country today.
A deep study of both paradigm shifts grants us a new conscientization, which is to be reformulated in Sri Lanka, especially at the village level. Sri Lanka needs a new way of the self-critical method, self-realization, self-evaluating process, and a self-denial conscientization to move toward a people-building model. The whole country must opt for hard work and a methodology to restore its culture of corrupt institution and behavior.
The whole world system today promotes warfare and misleading development programs, which, for me, is an ideological conflict. More than that, it is the selfishness of the world system that disables the people as a whole. Asia and many other continents have become a victim of it. As Rodrigo proposes, Sri Lanka, mainly, must go through a point of departure from selfishness to selflessness in making a people-building society. As Paulo Freire suggests, it must be a new awakening of critical consciousness through the investigation of “generative themes.” In my opinion, it is not merely a political agenda but should be a religious, social, cultural, economic revolution. It is a new conscientization for a people-oriented society. It should not be a part of elites who promote destructive methodologies to the country that harm the collective consciousness of ordinary people. Unless Sri Lanka goes through a radical conversion within the framework of people-building society, Sri Lanka would not be able to show up its self-sufficient conscientization in the future.
 The Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire uses this term “Conscientization” (in Portuguese conscientização) in cultural dimension of the fight for liberation. Further, in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he explicates the term in a wide angle and in scientific-practical application for the society as such. For him, it is also a critical thinking which is connected to ‘action reflection’ [word=work=praxis]. Further he also speaks of sacrifice of action and sacrifice of reflection. See. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Bloomsbury, 2000), 87-124. When this term “Conscientization” is applied to Sri Lankan context, it was Michael Rodrigo OMI who practiced at the village level, especially in Uva-Wellassa.
 Tissa Balasuriya, Planetary Theology (London: SCM Press, 1984), 17-23.
 Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (Washington, DC: USCCB Communications, 2105), no. 18, 9.
*Rehan Fernando is a Ph.D. student, doing his research on inter-religious dialogue with a case study of Dr. Michael Rodrigo OMI. He is also the author of 4 Sinhala books and 3 English books. He is also the editor of a journal called “Paadhai.”