18 September, 2021

Blog

Building Of Society, Instead Of Building A Nation

By Rehan Derrick Fernando –

Rehan Derrick Fernando

Often Sri Lanka has taken an isolated position when it appears in terms of building a society. This country and its whole political mechanism in recent days have taken a very narrow-minded path in thinking of a nation and its developing structure. It is absolutely an ideological crisis. “Society” in its whole phenomenon is a wide notion while “nation” becomes a very restricted and obstructive concept. What our focus must be on the transformation of the society but not on building a nation since. When we focus on the world as a system, it is apt to focus as system-philosophers. This idea is directly helpful in society-building, especially in contemporary Sri Lankan society.

An Asian paradigm

Rabindranath Tagore, as a thinker and a philosopher, never insisted and was promoted in building a nation; instead, he dealt in building a cultured society. He has thoroughly criticized the concept of building a nation. Accordingly, Tagore’s ideology was welcome by even Western culture because the Western culture had never thought in that regard. He always aimed at a noble society. What Tagore insisted on was a collective consciousness in the society that emerges through knowledge, values, and attitudes. When it is applied to our Sri Lankan context, we have failed to understand and work toward the development of society, instead, our communal effort has been restricted for mere nation-building. Such an effort is nothing but a mechanism geared in entire isolation. Dr. Sunil drew my attention toward an essential fact, in which he spoke of social behavior, cultural dimension, and structural dimension. In this concept what is visible is social behavior while cultural and structural dimensions are quite invisible.

We have failed to realize that the notion of caste never exists outside for any reason; it is a man-made concept and it completely exists within and among men and women. Caste division as such or rather caste struggle does not exist outside as a force to mislead people. I guess, words of Jesus are perfectly relevant to read in between the lines: “do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine. But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.”[1] All types of caste struggles are nothing, but our behavior that is being acted willingly, consciously, voluntarily.

Dr. Sunil brought another excellent idea connecting the efforts of North and South in the Sri Lankan context. In Jaffna, there had been Youth Jaffna Congress which attempted to create a better Sri Lankan society. Since it was a left-wing ideological effort, the whole mechanism was demolished in 1934 by the Southern majority. However, this Jaffna congress was in contact with Southern youths for their primary mission. In South, Munidasa Kumaratunga, as a veteran Sinhala scholar had expressed his deep sense of ideology in criticizing caste and its divisions primarily promoting social systems or the development of a society. Hence, he was also thoroughly critical of the feudal Buddhist type of behavior. Unfortunately, Kumarathunga’s balanced ideology was vehemently rejected by some nationalists and never allowed his articles to be published in national forums. Whereas, people in this country ran after Anagarika Dharmapala whose Buddhist-revival idea caused nationalism or the wrong turn of this country toward the ideology “nation-building.” What Anagarika Dharmapala brought is nothing but the face of nationalism. Later in 1956, the Sinhala-only-bill was a result of this nation-building ideology, and it has offered us several damages.

If Sri Lanka had followed or rather fixed in the philosophical path of Tagore and contextual writings of Munidasa Kumaratunga, this land would have taken a better turn toward a building of society. In this country, many other thinkers were blocked due to their caste, or their genuine and scholarly efforts were not given the right place.

Destructive “Lion-Symbol”

To get rid national crisis in this country, my immediate suggestion is to change the lion symbol from the national flag. Munidasa Kumaratunga had given the image of the sun for the national flag since it is very common in any religious ground as well as culture. If we had taken the sun as a symbol, we would have surely taken a different and good direction. In choosing a lion symbol for the national flag, we have created unending structural errors in this country. In other words, most of the citizens in this country have been given the wrong dose to heal the problem of nationalism.

Many say that there is no way to change the destructive set up in this country, especially in the case of nationalism. My whole argument here is that what is the use of working hard to build a nation? Isn’t it similar to the building of a powerful mechanism to promote Buddhism? Buddha never wanted such type of mechanism for Buddhism. What exists as a nation outside the world does not require any type of effort of building or a renewal. However, a wrong mechanism has been set up due to power, prestige, authority, superiority, and so forth. Sri Lanka and its cultural atmosphere does not fall in line with a lion symbol or image of a lion since it does not provide a true cultural outlook. A sun-symbol promoted by Kumaratunga is more religiously and culturally relevant, and even meaningful to use as an image for collective consciousness. Since Sinhalese used lion-symbol for nation-building, the LTTE movement turned toward tiger-symbol for their counter-terrorism. What happened afterward is not a necessary discussion anymore I suppose.

Conclusion

Dr. Sunil firmly believes that education, art, religion, and media are the four pillars that build a better society, especially the primary guiding force in this country. Those who have or who can significantly rely on these pillars can create a beautiful space for society-building. It, therefore, automatically becomes a collective consciousness. In other words, it requires a new paradigm or a conscientization. This is a good world system, in which we could think and turn the old into a new with genuine efforts: within which a better world system emerges. The prevailing system has left malnutrition, violence, militarization, illiteracy, political prisoners, poor health condition, economic domination, gender crisis, and so forth. This implies a new world order, an order in which equality exists toward an equal society with justice and peace[2]. Sri Lanka, therefore, must be a part of building this new order within the premises of society-building. Attitudes of nation-building and its wrong structural errors are to be immediately eliminated.

[1] Mark: 7: 18-20.

[2] Tissa Balasuriya, Planetary Theology (New York: Orbis Books, 1984), p. 80-95.

*This article is a development with some of my ideas of a short lecture delivered by Dr. Sunil Wijesiriwardena, Organized by Agiamondo [a German organization]

**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.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Yet another thought provoking premise put forth by Rehan Derrick Fernando.

    Building of a society rather than a nation makes absolute sense given that the values of that society do invariably make up the foundation for a nation.

    However the four pillars put forth by Dr. Sunil do include religion (and arts which traditionally often have strong links to religion); this is most baffling!
    I am of the opinion that these four pillars allow great room for other social hierarchies (E.g. Class system).

    I am of the opinion that society building should be morality based and should hold individual rights and freedoms paramount; the acceptance of due individual rights and freedoms is what will empower and enable individuals to coexist.

    Thinking over this topic, I stumbled on the following publication worth reading;
    https://theconversation.com/you-say-morals-i-say-ethics-whats-the-difference-30913

    • 3
      3

      All various kind of religious leaders come together and take the lead if any palpable changes to be made in the society. All those parasite-like-politicians (Mahinda Rajapashes and all those Rajakshes should be thrown to a shredder, since they can only sow hatreds for their political survivival).
      :
      My wish is Senior Lawyer Mr Nagananda be the minister of justice for the future in this country with FM Sarath Fonseka be given police and internal affairs… can do lot more for a better future for all.
      :
      Above all, any future govt should introduce a code of ethics for MEDIA. That is compulsory than anything else.

      • 3
        0

        LM: Mr. Nagananda is not ready to “Co-operate” with anyone, other than himself to be the “RULER” with his “Constitution. He is overburdened with his “EGO” and I have told him many times to be “REAL” and he doesn’t understand what that “Real” is. So long as that “I” and “NO OTHER” attitude rules him, you will see him wasting time in “Courts”. However, I watch him in all his “Youtube” appearances with Sepal Amarasinghe and Sudahtha. Do you remember his “Public Petition” put out for signing? He couldn’t get even 3000 signatures, I have spoken to many and 99% say, he is a “Bull in a China Shop”. I feel sorry for him. Finally, I told him from Buddha’s Teachings and reminded of the term “SAKKAYA DITTI” – “Ego” and “I”. Leave aside being a “President”, he cannot and will not fit into a “Ministerial” portfolio, because he cannot be a “Team Leader/Member”.

        • 3
          0

          Simon,
          Your assessment of Nagananda is spot on. He’s another of those popular gods who turn up now and then, but turn out to be plain drama queens.

          • 1
            0

            Codgy,
            Ditto!

        • 3
          0

          Bro Simon,

          Thanks as always.
          .
          You may be right, I have also the same feeling having studied his videos. However he is very honest to his work.
          The reason why many did not support him with that signatures is connected with complexity of that online-affidefit. And he believes everyone would be able to contact him via ONLINE is also false perecptive.

          Sudantha is believed to not unbiased.. He would do lot more to protect Rajakshes in the same time attacking CBK and Ranil: I really dont have a faith in him. Besides, both supported RAJAPAKSHE s comeback. They criticise today almsot everyone, but leaving MAHINDA RAJAAPKSHES aside ?

        • 2
          0

          Dear Simon,

          Please check the sinhala articles as well if your time permits. I want you guys to support me there. It seems not even handful of you check them regularly. Please encourage sinhala writers because the message should go to Kadamandiya or the like if we really expect this nation be free from Rajapakshes and their crime friendly poltiics, if COVID would not do the job soon.
          :
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/dhamma-dissanayake-30-august-2021/

          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sumith-chaaminda-30-august-2021/

      • 1
        0

        I do not think that he is capable of organizing a piss-up in a brewery.

        • 0
          0

          Codgy! Now that’s an interesting coinage by Nathan. There will probably be a good-humoured riposte to that. I love his humour, but I also wish that the good that Nagananda could do isn’t spoilt by his ego.
          .
          A very creative use of imagery in this pithy one liner from Nawalage Charles Upasena Cooray, aka hanchopancha. A master of English, although on occasion “inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity”.
          .
          Now this Cooray is a nasty bit of works. He approaches the generous and innocent – as LM well knows! You will find the comments here inestimably educative:
          .
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mangala-samaraweera-a-legend-of-humanity-an-icon-of-peaceful-co-existence-is-no-more/
          .
          This vitriol is because he wanted intrepid Nagananda’s free help. When he wanted me to intercede, I said: “I met him for about 3 minutes” and added,
          .
          “what is the denotative meaning of these words? 
          .
          ‘This is not about travesty of justice but sodomizing the blindfolded
          Lady Justice holding up high a scale by one hand a lance by the other.”
          .
          If you write rubbish like that, nobody will take you seriously.’
          .
          Cooray was furious:
          .
          ‘It sure sounds Nagananda does not suffer fools. 3 minutes must have
          been too much for him.’
          .
          I found it most amusing!
          .
          Panini Edirisinhe

          .

    • 1
      0

      Sugandh, Thank you.
      I was more interested in,
      America’s moral responsibility for the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan,
      appearing, along with it.

  • 5
    0

    …….Caste: it is a man-made concept…….
    So is everything else about and around. All man-made. Religion which quote, Nationality you refer to, Philosophies, Economic Theories et al.
    Even your appeal: …..It, therefore, automatically becomes a collective consciousness. In other words, it requires a new paradigm or a conscientization. This is a good world system, in which we could think and turn the old into a new with genuine efforts…….
    is asking for ‘man-made’ shift of attitude. It is all within us (only) to strive and achieve. Only one philosophy emphasises this.
    But your final appeal :…Sri Lanka, therefore, must be a part of building this new order within the premises of society-building…. is very commendable indeed and hope we can achieve it even in 25 years, with a new generation.

    • 0
      0

      Errata:
      ……Religion which quote….should read:
      ……Religion which you quote.

    • 3
      0

      My View,
      .
      what is not man-made ? Almost every evil so far is man-made. If animals would communicate it well, there would have been enough proof materials.

      We the srilankens- our problems have been, vicious symbioses between cruel politicans and media mafia men let vulnerable to fall their easy prey. This is targeted for their survivals. Ironically, this continues in the name of manipulated religions beliefs.

      Just interview 100 representing a cross section of the society and clear your doubts. I do this each time visitng the country (of course until COVID restrictions influenced our travels).

      And the fact is that Caste and creed based conflicts are more common to SOUTH ASIANs than to any other geographic regions.

      Also today, in 2021- how many hundreds of millions in India/Srilanka go and have a bath in GANGAS filled with all various kinds of excrements …

      There are also villages in poor african countries, where down syndrome patients are treated as if they are born to destroy their own communities.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fFrJN52azk

      This is why the media should play the leading role in the improvement of awareness of the people.

  • 4
    0

    “Dr. Sunil firmly believes that education, art, religion, and media are the four pillars that build a better society, especially the primary guiding force in this country.”
    Theoretically it may be true that education, art, religion and media are useful to build a society but the current education system, religions are highjacked by fundamentalists and media are biased towards political masters who are rich in power, finance and governance.

  • 1
    4

    “Later in 1956, the Sinhala-only-bill was a result of this nation-building ideology, and it has offered us several damages.”
    —–
    Sinhala language developed by Sinhala people who evolved in this island was the official language of Sinhale until 1815. The Kandy Convention that handed over Sinhale to British was in Sinhala and English.
    British discarded Sinhala and introduced English as the official language depriving Native Sinhalayo to use their language for official purposes. In 1948, British handed back the country they took from Sinhalayo in 1815. Even after Sinhalayo gained Independence, elite ‘Kalu Suddas’ kept English as the official language. In 1956, Native Sinhalayo launched a revolution to move towards true Independence and reversed the decision taken by British to introduce English as the official language and reintroduced Sinhala as the official language. That was the most appropriate thing to do. That decision may have created some difficulties for a tiny minority of elites in Sinhale who felt more comfortable with English but it benefitted a large majority of people in the country. To say that it brought several damages does not make sense.

    • 4
      2

      B***P EE,
      The very same Kalusuddas are seen also today among Rajapakshe circles.
      :
      There is a saying- kanna oena unaama kabarath thalagoyaa kara ganna moeda thirisannu inna ratak meika. if they want to seek advantages, they would turn even monitors into eatable iguanas. Man, wake up. We perfectly know that your senses are impaired by the loads of your hatreds. With few more days to go, try to live up your good moments by kicking your hatreds away.
      :
      Whatever you add to CT, would have no value. Many of us feel you are totally sick and yours are pathological. Not only in SL, but also anywhere where british were there, they use it as ” offical langauge”: Was it possible srilanken medical and other graduates to complete their degrees if they only focused on SINHALA ? Even Alelevel subjects are yet fully dependent on books written in English. With this being the reality in our hell, you the kind of total ignorant, but ultra racists to continue your loads ?

    • 1
      0

      Eagle,
      “The Kandy Convention that handed over Sinhale to British was in Sinhala and English.”
      Yes, but why the devil did some sign in Tamil?

  • 2
    4

    “Sri Lanka and its cultural atmosphere does not fall in line with a lion symbol or image of a lion since it does not provide a true cultural outlook.”
    —–
    The lion with a sword in the National Flag symbolizes the bravery of native Sinhala people who fought against invaders to protect Sinhale from 3rd Century BC. Sinhalayo had the Lion Flag even at the time the country was handed over to British. After signing the Kandyan Convention in 1815, the Lion Flag was lowered and Union Jack was raised. In 1948, Union Jack was lowered and Lion Flag was raised.
    —-
    If some guys do not like lion in the flag, that is their problem.

    • 2
      1

      Eagle Blind Eye

      “If some guys do not like lion in the flag, that is their problem.”

      I don’t like the lion flag.
      Its not my problem.
      That’s why I want to return the “****” to whence it came, South India.
      Along with I want the flag bearer also to be sent back.

  • 4
    1

    The sri lankan flag is an interesting one when you look at it closely.
    They say the lion represents the sinhalese people and the coloured stripes
    the non-sinhala minorities.
    Notice how the lion is facing the stripes (minorities) and growling while
    holding a sword in its hand? As if threatening minorities?

  • 2
    0

    The Kandyan Convention (KC) was by ruling chieftains of the Kandyan Kingdom (KK) at subjugation by British. The scripts were discernibly in 2 vernacular languages. None were English of those who were representing the KK.
    Therefore it is evident there were 2 native (vernacular) languages in prominent use in the rulers of the KK.
    Even the King of Sinhale, must have been communicating with the Queen in Tamil, without which there would have been nil consummations of the marriage! Unless a spear was being held to her throat to submission!
    The king also embraced both languages as he was South Indian Dravidian origin!
    Why are we so much interested in distorting our heritage and History which is sacred notwithstanding it’s blemishes? (Saying, KC and ceding of KK to British was written in English and Sinhala?)
    When we set a final nominated point to make/reach, we are distorting historical facts to achieve that end. (Ham or Bacon). Not rational way, deducting the conclusion from factual evidence.
    I am sure the Sri Lankan policemen with average education of GCE O/L does a better performance in building a case to charge a miscreant given all their faults and backwardness than this instance!

  • 1
    1

    My apologies. It is not the scripts, it should read as signature scripts of the Kandyan Convention, which were both in Sinhala and Tamil.

    • 1
      1

      Mahila,
      Many Sinhalayo use English letters for their signature. That does not make them English. Those Tamil signatures have Sinhala letters in between.
      —-
      “It is not the scripts, it should read as signature scripts of the Kandyan Convention, which were both in Sinhala and Tamil.”

  • 1
    0

    This “Society” Vs “Nation” reminds me of a “Mythical Story” from India. “Manu” was praying on the banks of Ganga, when suddenly a little fish appeared and said a bigger fish is pursuing him and wanted protection. Manu took the little fish home and put it in a little tank. The next day, the little fish has grown big and wanted a more spacious place to live. Manu took it and put it into a river. The next day, it has grown too big, and wanted some more space to live. Next, Manu took it to the ocean and released it. The little fish appeared and said: ” Manu, I am the Creator of the Universe. I have taken this form to come and warn you that I will deluge the world. You build an ark and in it put a pair of every kind of animal, and let your family enter the ark, and there will project out of the water my horn. Fasten the ark to it, and when the deluge subsides, come out and people the earth” As told the world was deluged, and Manu saved his own family and two of every kind of animal and seeds of every plant. When the deluge subsided, Manu came out and peopled the world. Today, we are called “MAN”. because we are the progeny of “Manu”.

  • 0
    0

    We are divided into Languages , Religions , Castes , Classes ( Rich, Middle, Poor ,
    Educated and Non-Educated ,Black and Brown etc ) Politics , Regions , Localities
    and Families Etc . About ten years back , one fine day , I was walking out of a
    railway station in London with my wife and suddenly bumped into a group of
    young Srilankans (Sinhalese) . We exchanged pleasantries and one of them
    was keen to know our surnames . We were mistaken for Sinhalese .This
    speaks louder that wherever you go you carry a chip on your shoulder and you
    miserably fail to learn something special and noteworthy that will help change
    your ways . If you fail to learn from life experiences , what would it be like
    theories ? Nation building is the cheapest racist slogan to mislead the gullible
    like minded frogs !

  • 0
    0

    If we have an obligation to make this world a better place for life, some important questions are, for whom should we be thinking of, what we should look for in the future; what is the way to resolve the current problems. These social and political questions which remain unanswered are the ones that have booted Lankawe into an international Pariah state. We are no atheists, but we are in no mood to accept religions to answer these social and political questions because we believe religions are to be blamed for the major destruction of Lankawe, along with the political parties. TNA, UNP, SLFP, JVP, SLMC, CWC…… all these freedom time’s old model based political parties are utterly corrupted. All parties are thriving on anti-social enterprises like lies, corruption, violence, hypocrisy, narcissism……The life of people in Lankawe is facing problems in every aspect of it. Employment, income, health, education, legal protection from crime, free society, guarantee to practice their own religions, independence to maintain their cultures…….. In Lankawe, 100% of all ministers of that time, including Tamils Ministers, participated in the 4/21 bombing of Tamil Churches and foreign tourist hotels. India didn’t know that it was being organized by the cabinet.

  • 0
    0

    For months, separately, India had warned the Aanduwa about the date, time, places and the names of terrorists, who were planning to attack. Lankawe has earned the name of any secret information provided by the IC about its citizens, it immediately reveals it to the criminals and protects them.
    That time (4/21) New Zealand was one of the countries who sent its intelligence unit to investigate on the ground of 4/21. Recently a Lankawe terrorist attacked the people in one of their supermarkets. He was on the watch list of their intelligent units. So soon enough that he started to attack people, New Zealand police shot him to death and concealed his ID. Lankawe was never informed of the story of this terrorist. The comedians in Lankawe were left in the dark. Lankawe Rear Admirable, Clown GLP, Savage Indra like top notch officials requested the terrorist info from New Zealand. I don’t know what happened to that request. Come on, but it is not that easy Target like Pulies(Tigers). The New Zealand Embassy in Lankawe said that “a criminal attacked people in a supermarket, It has nothing to do with any religion or races.”

  • 0
    0

    New Zealand’s response was completely different from Germany, Australia, Britain and other democratic countries, who deported many hundred Tamils in spite of world famous INGO’s, protests, for a simple reason that there were accusation of the Aanduwa as they were tigers.
    After enacting the 4/21 the political parties programmed the 6.9 Sinhalese to believe that 4/21 was the attack of local ISIS operators and brought a hitler government. But the international community is ready to government come to know the activities of Muslim man. The reality and the party politics of Lanakwe have gone in their direction.
    So, the party-political solutions or party politics-based solutions are no answer for the problems of Lankaweyan society, whose life these days is only driven narrowly by unlimited problems, no forward-thinking policies.

  • 0
    0

    Though the so-called CT PhD group remained three or four centuries behind, CT, once a Vadali (tender young tree) has grown as a tree and is tripping sweet honey like toddy. It promoted respect for all sectors and promoted unity within them all. There is a culture of not having the contributors with political labels or racism. It is a university’s research class journal on Lankawe social issues, these days. Recently many good or even super, super class articles have appeared in CT. Let me cite one example of what I mean, “Building of Society, Instead of Building a Nation” by Rehan Derrick Fernando. These writers are hoping the drops they drop may one day become the most needed shower to Lankawe. Only the time can write lines beyond this.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.