Colombo Telegraph

Conversation On The Problem Of Words

By Basil Fernando –

Basil Fernando

You’ll never know how grateful I am for you listening to me. The reason for such great gratitude is the very reason that I have been telling you over and over again; that is, I am talking to you because among the human beings there is no one willing to hear the things I am thinking about, that I am now talking about.

I told you that in our species we use words to communicate. The problem today is that these words no longer carry common meanings. This simply means that what I say does not make any sense to anyone who is listening to me. When I hear words from others it is almost impossible for me to make sense out of what they say, no matter how much time I may be willing to spend pondering over what they said.

That is not merely regarding communication between one person and another as fellow beings, but also to communications between the Government and the people, the people and the Government. Therefore people don’t even want to be bothered about whether there is any sense in what the government says; nor does the government worry about whether there is anything sensible in what the people want to or do say.

Let me try to show this to you by way of an illustration or two. There was a man called Gerald Perera, who was a young man of about 40 years. He was arrested one day by a group of policemen and brought to a police station. Without saying a word, they hung him up on a beam and started beating him with iron and wooden rods. This affected him so much that he suffered renal failure and, at the end of it all, the policemen said that he was not the man that they were after.

Gerald was in hospital suffering and in a coma for almost 2-3 weeks before he slowly recovered. Brought to a state of enormous confusion by being assaulted like this for no reason by agents of the state, he thought that he had a right to seek justice.  For seeking justice, he was shot dead by the very same agents of the state who had in the earlier instance assaulted him – for nothing, for no reason. Devastated by this, his widow thought that she should find some justice and that she owed an obligation to her husband to seek justice.

This happened some 10 years ago, and the cases are still ongoing. The policemen still believe that one day the Courts will declare them innocent, though they themselves know very well what they have done. On the other hand, the widow can’t see how any verdict that the court may give is of any use now. But the cases go on, with judges – including some from the Supreme Court – responsible for adjudicating this matter, and I suppose it will go on for some more time.

The onlookers are shocked and surprised by everything. First of all, by the terrible torture that a completely innocent man has suffered at the hands of the agents of the state – the law they know is that, even if he was a guilty person, even if he had done a crime, the police as the agents of the state did not have a right to torture him. It is not at all under any circumstances permissible for these agents of the state, who act under the name of the law, to assault a person and to cause him renal failure, and of course they have no right to later shoot and kill him.

Except for being shocked by all the details of what happened to Gerald and what is happening under the guise of law, there is no sense that they can make out of it, nor do they try to make sense out of it anymore.

This is just one example from one country, and virtually thousands of known examples could be cited from the same and many other countries about situations that are more or less similar. Some situations are even worse and some may not be as bad, but still quite gruesome enough.

A question that comes up is, is it really necessary for people to make sense out of the things they see and witness as things happening around them? Is it possible for man or woman to make sense out of these things? Is there any duty, either to themselves or to the rest of the society, to make an attempt to make sense out of these things? If there is such a wish or a duty, what would that itself mean when the ultimate outcome of making any such attempt is going to be futile?

The use of words has come to mean this today. In the past, people have in many ways made some sense out of what happens to them as well as others, and also about the things in nature, and used their faculties of reason to express these things by way of words so that others could also make some sense out of these things.

The whole state, the whole edifice of the rational state, is built on the basis of the belief that the relationship between the government and the people who are ruled by it is one which has meaning, and that rational communication between the two is possible.

But today we have reached the state of the Tower of Babel. Senselessness is the order of the day – the normal order of things. Yet, we all yearn to be able to make sense out of things and to return to a rational order, despite the awareness that this may not be possible and that our attempts may just be futile.

*Other posts of this conversation;

Conversations With A Katussa – Some Thoughts For 2014

A Conversation With A Chameleon On Murder

Conversation On The Claim Of Superior Intelligence

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