By Laksiri Fernando –
Two thousand twenty (2020) is going to be an exceptional year for many reasons. We are only half way through it. First it was the coronavirus pandemic, still continuing. Then came the economic recession as a consequence of it. Now we have the continuing protests worldwide, highlighting the systemic racism and police repression. Protesters are not particularly concerned about the health precautions. Right or wrong, the correction of aliments in society appear to be more important for them than the apparent health risks.
The present is an international crisis questioning (1) the still prevalent systemic racism particularly in Western countries, (2) the deadly neglect of the global environment by all countries, (3) the widespread injustices in the economic system/s, (4) the apparent neglect of health concerns of the people, (5) the exorbitant social way of life particularly of the filthy rich, and (6) also the still repressive nature of the State, particularly the Police, even under ‘democracy.’ This is not to reject all progress that the humans have achieved during the past two millennia or even before. But to question the still prevailing anomalies, contradictions, injustices, inequalities and repressions.
A crisis is also not completely a hopeless situation. It has or can creates opportunities. Therefore, the future of humanity might depend on the way the prevailing problems are handled by (a) all politicians, left and right, (b) all countries, rich and poor, (c) the civil society activists and organizations, and (d) also the ordinary citizens, you and me. The academics, the journalists, the writers, the professionals, the businessmen/women, and opinion leaders have different but important roles to play. The role of the young women and men is of paramount importance.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, there were all indications that the world was going in the downhill. The election of Donald Trump as the President of USA in 2016 was a clear landmark. There were claims that the election campaign was manipulated by Russia. These were the two super powers, one in a different name, that dominated the world after the world war two. The world was moving in a conservative and an irresponsible direction. Another indication was the election of Boris Johnson in Britain promising to break away from the EU last year.
Whatever the weaknesses, the EU opened up new vistas for economic cooperation although in a limited manner. A new equitable international economic order is now necessary. While the idealistic globalization is childish, international cooperation is a must for progressive economic and social transformations. Going against this trend, America started a trade war against China, and China has now initiated a similar trade war against Australia, whatever the latter’s mistakes. The new rightwing trends also were against international migrants and refugees almost all over the world.
If the rise of Fascism/s in 1930s and the destruction during the second world war (1939-1945) were any indication, the world should have worked towards a more equitable economic and social systems eradicating poverty and resolving the gaps between the rich and the poor, globally and in between countries. However in the name of economic growth and modernization, these problems and gaps were enhanced. These have been the major international failures before the eruption of coronavirus pandemic, keeping millions of people in poverty, malnutrition and ill-health.
It is a mistake to consider the corona pandemic is over. It has been continuing due to the failures in medical scientific research without being able yet to find a suitable vaccination. Medical research worldwide has been focusing mainly on marketable pharmaceutical products. The spread of the virus is also a question of neglect of required hygienic conditions particularly in public markets and other places.
Although the virus was first erupted in China, who knows whether it was/is prevalent in other countries due to the neglect and pollution of the environment? There are indications that it might be the case. There are cases in various countries where origins cannot be easily traced.
When the virus erupted even before becoming a pandemic, the leaders of various countries blamed each other rather than mutually cooperating in containing its spread. Trump pointed his finger towards China, the name pronounced in a racist fashion. There are other countries who readily followed Trump’s example, including Australia. Then China also became aggressive confronting other countries and particularly Australia. Boris Johnson blamed some of the EU countries (France, Italy and Spain) for spreading the virus into Britain’s territory.
Who has send the virus to poor Latin American and African countries? They are unfortunately not in a position to join the ‘blame game’ because they are largely dependent on these rich countries. The global cases at present are nearly 8 million and 6 percent of them, or nearly half a million, are already dead. According to the Johns Hopkins University data, the most affected 10 countries at present in terms of detected cases are US, Brazil, Russia, India, UK, Spain, Italy, Peru, France and Germany. More or less, these are also the countries where there are highest number of deaths.
It is very clear that the so-called epicenter has now shifted from Europe to Latin America. It might come to Africa next and India also can become an epicenter. At the beginning it was in China, and there is a possibility that a second wave might again erupt there. With most European and North American countries relaxing their lockdowns for obvious economic reasons, there is also a possibility of second waves erupting there as well. What has become primarily revealed so far is that apart from the old aged people, the number of deaths and death rates (however you counted them) have depended on poor and insufficient health facilities in the affected countries. This reveals a fundamental defect in the present health systems even in most developed countries.
The global economy is predicted to shrink this year by around 6 percent. The previous prediction (April) was half of this percentage. These are from the World Bank and the IMF. If second waves take place in countries like China, USA, India or countries in the EU, the economic contraction might be much higher.
A recession is normally a contraction in the business cycle due to demand not meeting the supply. But this recession is different. The economies had to be locked down, due to health reasons. Some countries also installed long term curfews. Although the demand was there even with shopping frenzies at the beginning, the supply could not be supplied due to the lockdowns. The production also largely stopped, and the world trade became halted and/or the transactions delayed. The boarders were virtually shut. Unemployment went high and ‘uncertain-employment’ also came into the common vocabulary. Then the consumers became protective although large cash incentives were given by various governments. Some of the conservative governments suddenly appeared ‘socialist’ or ‘welfarist’ with these incentives. Then new aspirations came into the people’s mind.
Of course the lockdowns were or may be necessary due to (1) unknown factors of the virus, (2) initial high death rates, and (3) the lack of knowledge on necessary preventive measures etc. However, all these were due to the unpreparedness within or neglect of the health sectors. Profit making instead of people’s health and welfare has been the norm in socio-economic systems in the world for a long time.
Black Lives Matter
With the pandemic and the lockdowns, all the scum and dirt in the world also have started to surface like in a Tsunami. Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes obviously to kill him. Black lives did not matter to him. He obviously believed that under Trump’s administration and silence under pandemic guidelines no one would notice his behavior, let alone protest. However that was not the case.
Now another black life has been taken away by a police officer in Atlanta. The suppression of blacks in the United States and other countries has a long history. It goes back to slavery and colonialism. Racism in society has many forms. Color of the skin, ethnicity and even the caste represent all shades of racism. Police repressions in society also has more roots, repressing the poor of their own color, ethnicity or the same caste. In modern society, class or caste is also a different race. The application of rules and laws are discriminated depending on the race.
Police repression is rooted in the repressive nature of the State even under democracy. In the absence of democracy, the repression obviously is more severe. Bureaucracy in most countries also act as the police. Some of the politicians are the same. This is a dilemma in most democracies or part-democracies as well. The solution is not to discard democracy, but to reform and expand democracy in order to incorporate all people on an equal basis. Human rights can be the criteria, not merely in words but in deeds.
One of the most positive developments in the present international crisis is the widespread protest movements that have emerged not only in the US but also internationally. UK, France, Germany, Australia and many other countries have joined the ‘black lives matter’ protests. Those countries including Australia have their own problems in this respect. In Australia, it is mainly about Aboriginal lives.
In all spontaneous movements there are possibilities of the emergence of violence and extremism. Although some political leaders tried to oppose such protests on the pretext of ‘social distancing’ and other requirements of the pandemic, what they pathetically have failed to answer so far are the necessary reforms in order to allay the protesters’ justified demands and requests.
Reforms are urgently necessary globally to address the present repressive nature of the Police. Police is a major remnant of the pre-democratic oppressive State. Instead of partial reforms, overall changes are necessary including perhaps the abolition and establishment of a different institution altogether. The people’s security must take the first priority particularly of the socially marginalized and disadvantaged sections.
Instead of Police, it could be named as ‘People’s Security’ or in a similar name. It has to be admitted that there are culprits, deviants and violators in society. To prevent and reform them, there should be effective educational and other programs. When those deviations are detected, ‘People’s Security’ should soon bring them before the judiciary. Arbitrary law enforcement should be abolished.
Police is a convenient tool of the State for law and order. But not democratic.
Another debate that has emerged in the protest movements is about some of the historical figures linked to slavery, racism, colonialism and oppression. There had been some demolitions and vandalism of their statutes in several countries. Even some of the reasonable progressive leaders have expressed the view that those monuments should be kept as they are historical figures. It is acceptable that most of these historical figures may have both positive and negative traits. However the protesters ask why their statues could be kept in public, if not to justify racism, slavery, colonialism and oppression? They further argue that those statutes/monuments obviously could go to Museums, and their role to history books. Even if these arguments are correct vandalism probably is not the way to go about it.
Ajith / June 16, 2020
Nice to hear from you after long silence in this forum. You talked about international crisis of USA and UK mainly but nothing about the impact of Corona and the election of Gotabaya and militarisation of the country. Are you not comfortable to talk about it?
Poet Lothario / June 16, 2020
Has CT appointed a doorman to welcome new and returning writers. Good to keep the idle ‘commentators’ employed in some capacity!
leelagemalli / June 17, 2020
LF is diehard supporter of RaJapakshes. So I dont think he may have much to share with CT commenters. I only know LF even praised that 52-day FAKE govt and its emerge.
Even to award them with Dr Titles, it was said LF to have involved in that commission.
No matter any idiots be awarded with Dr Titles became daily routined since then.
leelagemalli / June 18, 2020
Dear Retired Uni Dons, Senior lecturers, Senior teachers,Senior engineers /doctors and all other professionals@
Self congradulations/self adulators on our 2500 year old heritage slogans would not bring us forward even if we should not forget it.
Time has come to pay genuine attention on the reconciliation which is the only wayout for sustainable peace and development of society/country. More we discuss wiser they will become… when taking and making decisions ” as to why” we make every effort to stay divide further. Civilized societies can only be resulted through law and order plus better understanding one another. Alone laws would not bring much either since NK and China would have to explode if they would not change their attitudes.
This is being carried out by neigbouring huge subcontinent- through music ( Indians are addicted to music – at least 19 hours a week…
Rajash / June 16, 2020
Statues of Imperial slave traders and colonial racists are being removed from prominent palaces in various cities around the world.Should Sri Lanka follow the example.
SWRD Bandarnaike – father of Sinhala racism. His statue is still standing in the old parliament compound. Should it be also removed. others such as Gamini Dissanayke; Lalith Athulathmudali; etc and ugly war memorial around the countries.
Perhaps the archaeological task force can bury them or hide them away somewhere in one of the museums
Kathir / June 17, 2020
The time has come for the Civil society and all right thinking citizens of Sri Lanka to initiate and spearhead a “All lives including Tamil lives matter in Sri Lanka” campaign
Rajash / June 17, 2020
If we want a platform to attract rural Sinhala people the banner should be “All lives including Anti Rajapakse lives” matter in Sri Lanka” Not Just Tamil Lives;
leelagemalli / June 18, 2020
Do you that srilankens in general be them literate or not would tolerate things better even today ?
That slogan ” Black lives matter” was interpreted by main stream TV channels as ” even black lives matter – meaning not literally the same ” කළු ජීවිත වැදගත්
කළු ජීවිත පවා වැදගත් වේ (මුල සිටම කළු ජාතිකයින් නොසලකා හරින කාණ්ඩයට ඇතුළත් කිරීම)- sadly there had been no critics from the LITERITURE dons on this yet ?
People are made believe, that ” we are the majority and they are the minority from the begining on”. Even if colombo people would tolerate it to some extent, the devil is seen darker to the rural community that are kept away from the facts and figures. To my surprise, even young generations, seem to be not changing their thinking patterns easily. They learn all these in the schools under social studies or the like minded subjects, but when it goes to practise them in day today life, they look at their parents and nod the head…. this is what Kovur made it clear decades ago.
Laksiri Fernando / June 17, 2020
Kathir. Yes, such a campaign is necessary not only to stop killing or torture by police or other sources, but also to address the accomplishment of reasonable living conditions for all. Stopping killings or harassments by the police or security forces could be priority. Nothing wrong in highlighting Tamil lives as they have been at the receiving end for a long period from different quarters. The suggested formulation correctly calls for “All Lives” to be quite inclusive (Sinhalese, Muslims etc.). If Muslims are also at the receiving end in recent times, perhaps they also can be specifically included.
To be a successful all-inclusive campaign, it can also be formulated as “All lives (Tamils, Muslims, Sinhalese and Poor) matter in Sri Lanka campaign.” In the absence of a strong opposition (‘a vacancy’ in Kumar David’s words), such a movement can be the true opposition based on all sections. However the movement should be non-violent and democratic.
SJ / June 17, 2020
Kathir ignores the reality that it is Muslims whose life and livelihood are most under threat.
LF is deflecting the issue of communally driven oppression. In the US it is the police that is the oppressor. Here state sponsored sectarian thuggery aided by indifference of the police and the armed forces is the issue.
leelagemalli / June 18, 2020
LF has been doing this for such a long time even if his previous articles were somewhat interesting. His pros at the time, criminals became fake PMs during the 52 day coup/fake govt, hinted us all who is behind LF.
Once upon a time, LF stood against self proclaimed Mr KNOW ALL- Dayan Jayathialak. Now to my surprise, these both represent “Rajapakshe Hedgemony”:
Sadly, as one continuously lives in Australia where almost everyone is a foreigner, LF or the like srilankens should have learned all the basics decades ago. Obviously, that did not work with them. Both Eagle Eye and LF may be good at ignoring mintority issues. For how long is the question ?
leelagemalli / June 18, 2020
first we need to clear it how they define ” right thinking citizens” of SL. Few years back former prez CBK came with a suggestion, that the subjects such as “PEACE and HARMONY” to add to school curriculum, was unfrotunately subjected to the ridicule of extremists who are the majority in the country.
To my understanding- yet today, the right thinking ones in our motherland are not even 30%-and diminishing to the same degree of fate of anscestral communities in africa, Lamerica and australia.
In this backdrop, to initiate such programs on ” All lives incl. Tamil lives matter in SL” would be like – will be met with an effect similar to – talking to a wall right ?
I think any good leaders must invest more to rebuilding the society (by improving the awareness of the peoples coming from all walks of lives. That is the only way out)
Homo sapiens can only be tamed by feeding them with facts and figures over a period of time. This is a long process, if not start today, when ?