20 May, 2024


Dayan’s Smart Patriot: Will The Real Smart Patriot Please Stand Up?

By Romesh Hettiarachchi

Romesh Hettiarachchi

Romesh Hettiarachchi

Preliminary Issues

Undoubtedly, the political worldviews of Dayan and I diverge in many respects. For one, Dayan’s expectation that interlocutors list their political views when critiquing political positions is hardly reasonable. While my criticisms of the Tamil Tigers and Tamil nationalism are public, such criticism need not be expressed every time I write. The logic of my writing ought to be determined on its own merits. Or in other words, idiots can be found all over the world, irrespective of geographical location.

That being said, Dayan is right in pointing out my limitations in a conversation about what it means to be Sri Lankan. I simply have lived outside the country for too long to discuss this matter with any degree of authority. Its for this reason, that unlike Dayan, I generally prefer to listen and read to the political opinions of others. In fact my views as a Sri Lankan living outside Sri Lanka may only matter to the extent that I and others are capable to leverage the collective strengths of our diasporan communities to service the needs and lives of all Sri Lankan citizenry.

However as a simple observer, most ordinary Sri Lankans aren’t preoccupied with categorizing their friends into patriots and traitors. Most Sri Lankans only resort to these tendencies when local intellectuals, media and the politicians give them reason to do so. Dayan’s Smart Patriot is simply one more attempt to give Sri Lankans such reasons. My response to Dayan’s conception of the Smart Patriot simply seeks to ensure this idea does not gain traction.

Dayan’s Nationalism: A Bourgeois Nationalism?

Dayan points to Liu Shaoqi’s description of the nationalist internationalist as described in “Internationalism and Nationalism” to assert that one can in fact be nationalist and internationalist at the same time. While curious to know whether Dayan sees himself as either a member of the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, Dayan’s assertion is slightly disingenuous. Shaoqi differentiated between genuine patriotism and bourgeois nationalism in the same way I described in the very next paragraphs of the same essay:

Genuine patriotism means fervent love or one’ s own fatherland, its people, language, culture, literature and best traditions, behind which lie thousands of years and generations of historical development. This kind of patriotism has no connection whatsoever with self-centred, selfish, and anti-foreign bourgeois nationalism, nor with such national prejudices as narrow-minded exclusivism, isolationism, sectarianism and provincialism, which reflect the sentiments of the small peasant and backward patriarchal system

Genuine patriotism respects the equality of other nationalities and at the same time cherishes the hope of realising the best ideals of mankind in one’ s own country while defending the unity of all peoples of all countries. On the other hand, reactionary bourgeois nationalism fans mutual hatred and hostility between nations, while the national prejudices of the old backward patriarchal system isolate their own nationals from the rest of the world, causing them to sink within the narrow confines of their own stagnating outlook. We must resolutely reject both of these positions.

While the reader can determine what kind of nationalism Dayan promotes, do remember that Shaoqi was deemed a traitor and subsequently executed by Mao Tse Tung (“the biggest capitalist roader in the Party”) simply for suggesting Mao’s government was in need of reform. Needless to say, Dayan’s Smart Patriot has more in common with Mao’s opposition-destroying Cultural Revolution than the reform-minded Shaoqi.

The Smart (Fascist) Patriot

With Shaoqi expressing hope that his essay clarified any misunderstandings regarding proletariat internationalism and bourgeois nationalism as well as to expose, what Shaoqi called, fascist propaganda, it is important to ask: What does Dayan call those who are not Smart or Dumb Patriots? Or in other words: Is Dayan’s Smart Patriot a fascist in sheeps clothing?

Possible answers to these questions can be found in the writing of Carl Schmitt, a Nazi intellectual, whose political thought may be the intellectual forefather to the Smart Patriot. In The Concept of the Political (1932) Schmitt argued that the state should perpetually be in the process of distinguishing between friend and enemy as “conflict is embedded in existence itself.” Like Dayan, Schmitt believed distinctions between friends and enemies are to be based on the existential concerns of the state with enemies comprising of all those who do not belong to the state, particularly those whose hostility and readiness for combat threatens the very existence of the state:

What always matters is the possibility of the extreme case taking place, the real war, and the decision whether this situation has or has not arrived (p. 35).

Again, the reader is in the best position to determine the relevance of Schmitt’s writings to Dayan’s Smart Patriot. However, I highly recommend Concept of the Political as necessary reading for all nationalists of the Smart Patriot variety, containing just enough intellectual heft to rationalize the paranoia of the victorious over the defeated Other.

The Outcome of Nationalism is Separation

Dayan references three texts in his response which he deems relevant to assumptions concerning Sri Lanka’s identity and nation-building project and process. I only need to engage with Prof Jerry Z. Muller essayUs and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism” as a) these articles mention neither “patriot” and “nationalism,” and b) any pertinence these articles may have are addressed by Shaoqi’s remarks above.

I agree with the view expressed in Us and Them that “it is not what is but what people believe that have behavioral consequences.” Such is aptly demonstrated by nationalist parties in Europe (e.g. Golden Dawn in Greece, UKIP and the British National Party in Britain, and France’s National Front) whose popularity may be attributed to domestic variations of nationalism. However what Dayan may have not realized is that Us and Them is in fact an argument for partition and separatism based on ethnicity. For Muller, nationalist governments in 20th century Europe:

openly discriminated in favor of the dominant community. Government activities were conducted solely in the language of the majority, and the civil service was reserved for those who spoke it.

While such discrimination frequently leads to conflict, Muller argues that states formed on the basis of identity ought to be justified as such states are generally cohesive and stable. Muller concludes by stating:

Partition may thus be the most humane lasting solution to such intense communal conflicts. It inevitably creates new flows of refugees, but at least it deals with the problem at issue. The challenge for the international community in such cases is to separate communities in the most humane manner possible: by aiding in transport, assuring citizenship rights in the new homeland, and providing financial aid for resettlement and economic absorption.

Dayan adoption of Muller’s line reasoning is surprising. Similar principles were adopted by the Tamil Tigers throughout the civil war and peace process and implemented in situations such as the expulsion of Muslim Sri Lankans from Tamil controlled areas in 1990. I would have expected Dayan to criticized Muller’s view by either asserting ethnic differences are not inevitably linked to violence on a grand scale or moreover the sheer diversity of languages renders the prospects of the nationalist project hopelessly impractical. While I will leave it to Dayan to sort out the inconsistencies of his “political existentialism”, I sincerely hope Dayan will not be arrested for encouraging or advocating for the establishment of a separate State within Sri Lanka. Such an arrest will be truly unbecoming of the Smart Patriot.

Alternatives to Nationalism in a Post Conflict Society

Accommodating multiple demands for ethnic self-determination in an existing state is undoubtedly precarious. Hardly surprising given that self-determination as a concept has only existed since 1919 after Woodrow Wilson proposed it during the Treaty of Versailles negotiations. While the many difficulties associated with self determination remain to be worked out, the solution for a post-conflict Sri Lankan society surely cannot be found by classifying Sri Lankans into patriots and traitors based on subjective and often false assumptions.

In conclusion, Sri Lankan patriots comes in a variety of shapes and sizes with a myriad of political beliefs. What patriots all share in common is being consistently committed and motivated to act for what they believe to the best interests of the country. Those who believe Sri Lankan patriotism must recognize the Sinhala nationalism are neither smart or dumb.

They are simply wrong.

*Romesh Hettiarachchi is a lawyer and mediator in Toronto, Canada. A former director of Sri Lankans Without Borders, Romesh can be reached @romesh_h. For those interested in continuing these discussions, particularly those in Canada, visit the Kathae Kadai facebook forum.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    These sinhala diaspora go like this, ‘poor uneducated inferior sinhala in Sri Lanka’, they dont know they are genocidal maniacs and that it is completely fine for LTTE to massacre them.

    And it is completely fine for LTTE supporters (every tamil is an LTTE terrorist supporter) to spread their racism…..so these coconuts need to come and save the stupid sinhalas in SL

    • 9

      Romesh you are dead right.

      DJ is a fake-smart partriot.
      If he is a partriot as he claims, he should have worked for criminals right ? But he did it lately on the Nugegoda stage. SLFPers though attended the public meeting as reported, but none of them dared to read out the written message passed by former Prez, but how come JUST DJ so called SELF PROCLAIMED MASTER to jump onto the stage and do the job of a low life ?
      This brought concerns among all educated ones in and out of the country.
      He behaves since the new regime is there, as if he lost his full conscience… similar to the way amok runner would do the job…
      did anyone expect that to be resulted from him ? He has proved by his articles posted on to CT that he is a master of refereing texts said or reported by literiture – but today, many would undoubtedly question, as to why the man is working to bring former man back to the stage ? all these being while the masses .. very same masses voted for Rajaakshes are becoming clear, that he looted and abused their sums as no other leader did it.
      Today, I read, the CTB has complained against former Prez not tohave paid the due sums in terms of transports costs used for his campaign.
      All in all, helping criminals is never be defined as tasks of partriotims..
      That is unfortunatley the selfish men like Dayan would do…
      Dayan s will now add to the list of criminals than anti-criminals.. because helping criminals are also considered as criminal deeds.

      • 5

        He should NOT have worked for criminals right ?

      • 2

        So you are saying the democratic right of a section of the people in this country just because they are sinhala should be subdued?

        Isn’t that what everyone here is saying? To subdue their voice, you conveniently call them racists, cults……

        You know what as long as there is a tamil tribal cult there will be a sinhala response.

        • 6

          Being in Germany, I am telling you man – I dont think I meant that freedom of speech to be blocked as had been before the 8th Jan.

          What I meant is – if anybody is on a radical move towards creating new division- like the acts of Wimal Buruwanse or Ghanasara should be fully banned but going through proper channels.

          Lately, Germany’s Anti Muslims movments raised the head. But just because their rivals called them Nazi – even painting The swastika the main symbol of their banners – consequence was german law did not allow them to rise anymore. The leader of pegida (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pegida) resigned the day itself. I mean this kind of law and order in action should be amended to lanken law system too.
          Today, even Pal horu – dare to speak publicly even after almost everything is done against the nation…. that is allowed in srilanka .. but how can we feel that the law and order is in action there ?

          • 0

            It doesn’t matter whether you are living in germany or Timbuktoo. I guess you cannot add any valid criticism so you had to depend on Gnanasara.

            • 1

              Sach et

              Turtle’s Head `Shit Intubated` and In The Box

              goes to flash with his Bigot Buddy Syndicate.

    • 5

      Please think objectively without being defensive. Can any fair-minded and progressive person really denounce what the writer is saying here? A neutral person cannot, I would think. So what the various ethnic, religious or other groups in Sri Lankan need to do is break away from the ‘us and them’ mentality and look at things from a neutral perspective. It’s easy to go on the offensive without thinking logically.

      • 2

        where did i become defensive? I just pointed out the mentality of many Sinhala diaspora pandithayas nowadays.

        • 4

          Your comment indicated that, as it did not refer to or analyse the actual content of the article, but seemed to attack the writer in a prejudiced fashion.

          • 0

            Prejudice is in the mind of many people here. Don’t imagine things about what I did not say…then you wont face any problem again.

            • 1

              you are stupid forked tongue
              Arala Balanava “Coalition of the Radical Left”,

        • 1

          So you are one of the Many Tamizars diaspora Pandithyas, who promote and have the nentality of extremist tamizar racism Nowadays???????????.

    • 4


      Let’s put you straight. You have been telling many a time on these forums that you were not a MR supporter. You also said that you voted for My3. Now you have changed sides as evidently you have been defending DR DJ and MR incessantly at every opportunity. So what made you change? Surely it is not that the present government has deviated from their promise of the 100 day program that much. It cannot be on the basis of lack of efforts on Good Governance. So what exactly made you change? Only explicit reason is that you fear that the present government is going to concede a federal state to the Tamils; this is your inherent fear and the only reason that you changed sides.

      So on this basis, you are prepared to compromise on Good Governance, rule of law, fighting rampant corruptions and equality for all on one issue that you DO NOT WANT THE TAMILS TO HAVE THEIR DUE RIGHTS! This is you stand; am I correct in my assessment?

      • 0

        There is no good governance as said and I know there are robbers in this very government itself. So we didnt have a proper deal as well.

        Yes this government especially RW’s pandering to tamil racism and ignoring national interests and national security cannot be justified. I have realised we cannot deal with GGP reincarnations like you with pandering stupid idiots like RW but strong individuals like MR and Gota.

        I dont want to be a paraya who destroyed the defeat over terrorism by our soldiers years ago…

        If that is racist for you, that doesnt matter to me.

        • 3

          On another note Great scum copy in series and upload kudus for your raw rubbish- majority, you don’t like to say i love you (adre kiyan ne danne naha) hold swords of fire because it is profitable to keep it going.If you do its magnanimous but it is not part of village culture of 3rd world so what have you learnt??

          Fing unabashed internet Pook kill kill kill

          Become cannibal you sucker punch No orchids for Sach_et Holdall otherwise.

          Freak civilization of religosos control therefore pews are always empty- nada no one care they are there for our money when we need them birth death only or not can be civic.Puta madre no school teacher for life- kick the pedophile balls! You with me on that one 2 morra atta.

  • 3

    This piece is evidence of how much Sri Lanka, and particularly its ‘intellectuals’, can gain from its Diaspora.

  • 5

    I think Dayan is confusing patriotism with parrotism and prasiteism which Dayan is an expert on.Parrotsm is when you reapeat what your grandma read for you and parasiteism is when you hitch a ride on the rear of a big boozo like MR.

  • 8


    You said it. Thank you.

    For a moment, I was wondering if we Sri Lankans were heading back to the caves. And that too when nasty stuff are written on a public forum by people who claim to have held posts in Geneva and who fret that they have travelled in many countries wouldn’t you think think that Sri Lankans are returning to the stone ages?

  • 5

    This back and forth between Dayan and Romesh is a great example of how bankrupt the current Sri Lankan state is when it comes to the ability to govern. Neither Dayan nor Romesh are members of the GOSL, but they are both rabidly opposed to Tamil self determination, and thus fully subscribe to the core ideology of the GOSL. 60 years after independence “Sri Lanka” has an identity crisis. No one knows what the nature of the state is. Is it a nation state or a state that is attempting to become a nation state? Does it have an executive presidency or an executive premiership? Is devolution good or bad? What about federalism? No one knows! The GOSL “creates” new constitutions as often as they paint the parliament building!
    The Sinhalese elites who wield power in Colombo have no idea how to govern a country. Before attempting to govern Jaffna, and before lecturing the Tamil people about such deep concepts as patriotism and nationhood, they should first learn to govern themselves.

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