21 October, 2020

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Flawed (Western) Objectivity And The Long Journey Back To Self

By Sajeeva Samaranayake

Sajeeva Samaranayake

Sajeeva Samaranayake

Separation of ‘right’ from ‘good’

Both colonial and post colonial structures of thinking and action for ‘educating and governing’ a captive population relied on a brand of objectivity and reason that dominated or excluded subjectivities and emotions. As Portia said in The Merchant of Venice,

“The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree; such a hare is madness the youth, to skip over the meshes of good counsel the cripple.”

This basic flaw in the application of ideas related to both education and governance has distorted them in the developing world. In post war Sri Lanka ‘truth’ itself is confined to ‘facts’ in the sense of ‘who did what’ with a powerful mainstream media and an overwhelmingly ‘literate’ public concerned with little else. The final product is a comedy of Dickensian proportions – well outlined in the opening salvo of Hard Times:

“NOW WHAT I WANT IS, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to facts, sir!”

Such has been the plight and fate of our entire system of education – where learning based on self knowledge has been driven out.

And so we need to get back to two simple ideas of what is Right and what is Good? Western culture (in its application to us) starts with what is right and then seeks to discover goodness. Thus our education commences with norms, standards and definitions of the meaning of words. The traditional eastern approach to education and consequently governance was to help the disciple discover what is good within. It would then set the young person free to work out what is right in different situations. The western approach does not trust the human being so much but seeks instead to control him within ‘established norms.’ Goodness must be found within those limits or you would be imprisoned, put in a mental hospital or children’s home to be ‘re-educated.’

However, goodness as we normally know it is something that is spiritually, socially and culturally conditioned. It is about good communication, positive relationships, caring, empathy, forgiveness and all the so called maternal values of human society.

Ideas as to what is right (usually solidified with ideas of justice, equality, human rights etc) must naturally be derived from this matrix of co-existence, conversation and dialogue so that we can genuinely build a consensus that will last. I have often said that from this perspective it is relationships that build rights – not the other way about. This is the solid and organic bottoms up approach that most ancient societies that now belong to the Third and Fourth Worlds enjoyed prior to the colonial interference. In a word the starting point in this so called eastern approach is the SELF.

With colonization and neo colonization that came to be associated with hegemony and violence in the name of ‘development’ this power to define what is right came to be exercised by a new top down elite process that accorded primacy to the intellect and reason over intuition and emotions. In other words the western cultural preference for objectivity and certainty was accorded primacy over other less developed and insufficiently articulated but nonetheless valid felt reservations of subjugated peoples who were emerging from a long period of both native and colonial oppression.

This colossal act of disempowerment became the new raison d’etre of the anglophone, francophone and spanish cultured elites the world over to teach, guide and prescribe to their own peoples what was right and accordingly good for them.

The attempt (and this can never amount to anything more than an attempt) to extract what is good out of what is right according to this new elite begins with an easy establishment of objective truth and then proceeds on a long and laborious journey back to the self. Consequently western style education is just beginning to understand the values of spirituality, inter-personal relationships and happiness and well being – living ideas that were previously integrated within most ancient and medieval cultures until the violent disruption of human order by globalized colonization.

So called ‘Rights based approaches’ of international donors

This is the reason that most international organizations that claim to promote human rights get lost in the course of their long journey back to self and the social and spiritual realms of the people. To them reality is simply a problem for which the answer lies in intellectually established instruments like the human rights based approach. Consequently they work very much in the dark as they unwittingly stumble through the informal and formal patronage systems of developing countries – the benevolent charity based approaches into which they ultimately fit without a murmur. But all the time the rhetoric of rights is maintained. Donors forget that any approach to rights that exclude the suffering beneficiaries from their high security gates and which only use ‘consultations’ and discussions instrumentally for pre-conceived agendas and objectives fed from New York and Geneva can only fit within the description of cold, hard charity.

So long as the lack of respect for the local resources and the actual people who live and work for their fellow citizens in developing societies continue, goodness will remain a closed book. One cannot search for the truth by monopolizing the truth at the beginning of your journey. This is a point that both the secular (and incidentally spiritual) elite in this country must never forget.

Top down rights

Human rights to me is –

worshipping people – not facts
forgiveness – not punishment
our shared vulnerabilities – not the pretensions to power of some
a revolution – not the establishment

However we in Sri Lanka are still in the process of understanding and implementing our own praxis of human rights. For this there is a need to disentangle ourselves from the conceptual dominance and muddle created by two elite processes which captured and exploited the human rights discourse from the beginning.

In the 1978 Constitution civil and political rights were cast as ‘fundamental rights’ and made enforceable through an action in the Supreme Court. This transferred to the establishment the power of defining the scope and ambit of these rights. They became ‘state obligations’ on the assumption that the struggle of the people to fully establish them was over. Three decades later we know better.

Together with the state concession of enforcing fundamental rights many academics and professionals became the interpreters and teachers of ‘human rights’ to the people. They also contributed to the fragmentation of rights with different professionals taking the cue from international donors pursuing narrow agendas to branch off and specialize in the rights of children, women, minorities, the disabled etc.

Both were top down authoritative processes that left little room for a genuine dialogue to construct a truly indigenous meaning that would be fluent with the identities, beliefs and cultures of the people. This failure to connect with the life of the people meant that the rights discourse did not penetrate the social realities at grass roots level. In general there was little effort to understand society and its dynamic personal, family and social cultures. The young foreign educated development professional could easily identify those ‘human rights violations’ in terms of complaints and police reports that represented ‘data’ and then proceed to apply the provisions of the relevant international convention and conclude how far behind the country is in terms of compliance. Such a simplistic approach continues to be sanctioned and dressed up as a ‘situation analysis’ or ‘rights analysis’ that follows the ‘rights based approach.’ Such false trails need to be abandoned and also rejected.

Dissecting the right

A right may have been agreed to by countries sitting together or by a parliament of a country in an exercise of law making. It seems to me however that the true source of a human right is an exemplary human action taken by some human being in a living situation. To contextualize that living situation we must read the biographies of great men and women and dig into their spirits to uncover the way they combined what was good with what was also right. Thus Mahatma Gandhi once said in a classic dictum that:

“Peace and justice are within the world’s grasp. But they must be pursued together, as one vision.”

He also reminded people that the rue source of a right was the duty and that we should refrain from talking about rights. Applying the lessons of the Bhagvad Gita he said:

“Action alone is thine. Leave thou the fruit severely alone!”

As the right is sacred and valuable we must avoid all frivolous talk about it and dig deep into perfecting our individual and collective duties.

In this way we can see that the right is useless without a person who is ready and willing to perform the duty. Remedies, services and the commitment of procedural, financial and organizational resources stand behind rights as their indispensable supporting elements. When these supporting elements are developed we occupy a stable and orderly legal and institutional realm where the letter of the law will determine the outcome.

But the whole of life is not governed by this ‘stable and orderly legal and institutional realm.’ In unstable times and societies we find that people are not duty conscious; that remedies are not available and services – though they may exist in theory do not work in the way they were originally intended to work. When this happens we move out from the legal to the social realm where outcomes will be determined – not by the letter of the law but by the quality of human relationships and the efficiency with which needs are expressed and responded to. This is a move from the formal into the informal level but that does not necessarily signify an exit from the sphere of human rights.

Indeed, rights and relationships together provide a complete and realistic conception of human rights and this was made explicit in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which said:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The first sentence is an accurate expression of the objective truth while the second is a similar expression of our subjective truths. Grasping this paradox which lies at the heart of the meaning of human rights is essential.

In practice we can see that the spirit of brotherhood has all but been forgotten today. Mainstream human rights activism has got imprisoned within the formal realm and it simply elects to deal with the uncertain social realm by simply stating “I am not interested in all this psychology, sociology, history, politics, economics and culture. Rights are rights – full stop.” This is how formal activism now takes refuge within the International Criminal Court in its effort to solidify an increasingly besieged and inadequate formal realm. The criminal law is a last resort and an admission of failure on the part of human rights activism. It is not an integral component of the art and science of human rights.

Human relationships are the forgotten twin of human rights. As we move out of the Age of Reason and into an increasingly irrational and violent age of emotions where rights are of little avail we must now seek to understand ourselves and how our relationships shape us and make our world. This is no longer an option for the lonely self seeker or wisdom seeker but a collective imperative if we are to survive as a species into the next century.

Using both eyes

Even though this flawed objectivity originated with our colonial administrators the post colonial re-colonizers; our politicians, have found the same limited formula a handy device to perpetuate their duplicitous subversion of governance in this country. Flawed it may be but it is the only form of thinking that mankind has adopted for several centuries to deal with both education and governance. Until we develop an alternative we will remain stuck within this framework.

The solution is not to reject the objective or subjective but to bring them both into a perfect balance of cooperation with each other.

Devdutt Pattanaik – the clever young translator of Indian myths and Gods and Goddesses and their ingenious symbolism ends most of his works with the following words:

Within infinite Truths lies the eternal Truth

Who sees it all?

Varuna has but a thousand eyes

Indra, a hundred

And I, only two

I like to think that these two eyes represent our human capacity for using the head and heart, of being objective and also subjective so that we remain in touch with our essential faculties. The real battle is always within us even though we fight so many outside.

*This is a continuation and elaboration of an earlier article entitled ‘The crisis within the human rights movement today’ published in this page in July 2012

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    You may be right Sajeeva. Sadly, however, unless you add a couple of paragraphs to say Sri Lanka is hopeless in both fronts – doing good and protecting rights – and that the ruling clan is solely responsible for this state of affairs, you are unlikely to receive much accolade for your views..

    • 1
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      Nothing of real value has been destroyed by politicians. They have destroyed our groundless expectations – because they had no foundation. So for that we must thank them. They have de-constructed an edifice that was false and duplicitous and deceptive. It is time to look for authentic things – to go beyond words. To realize what freedom truly is.

  • 3
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    “Objective truth, or that which is true no matter what anyone else says, always trumps subjective truth, or that which is true because I feel that it’s true. Of course, it is entirely possible that the truth that I so firmly believe and feel is also that same truth which is also objective. But I could also be entirely wrong if my standard for truth goes no further than myself.”
    The writer attempts to equate objective findings with subjective processes. The first group is true, testable and falsifiable if they don’t meet test standards. The second group stands for purely personal processes and cannot adhere to standards of truth. The Bhagavad Geetha has passages that are confusion personified and it is hard to employ them in this context.
    Human rights are those objectively recognized by all reasonable people. They constitute rights that are fundamentally related to our humanity existence and survival:the right to live, to security,to education, to freedom from unlawful arrest,freedom of expression, freedom from arbitrary punishment and so on.
    The writer, by introducing confusion, serves only to undermine the need to value HR. There is nothing ‘Western’ or ‘Eastern’ about HR. These are false dichotomies also serving to confuse.

    • 2
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      What Gandhi said about religion – that there are as many religions as there are people is also applicable to human rights. There are as many versions of human rights as there are people. The moment we abdicate our duty of probing meaning to “what has been objectively recognized by reasonable people” we are going down the road of the herd. Human rights today has been sub divided and fragmented to be exploited by the power against the weak. There is no western-eastern dichotomy here if you pay careful attention to the article. This is why the word ‘western’ is bracketed in the heading. The more precise source of the insistent demand that others must do our bidding is western faustian culture – the dominant and political face of the west. However that mentality is now widespread as it has been uncritically swallowed by many others. The more we go down the road of insisting that OTHERS ought to do this and that – the more we forget who we are and what WE can and must do. There are many westerners who have now adopted this self critical approach today – in precept and practice.

      • 1
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        “Man is a product of our environment” goes the saying. To understand the standpoint one is taking we need to ask the questions: Education and upbringing the person received: Pirivena, Theosophical society sponsored or Missionary school, read Shakespeare and Dante or Mahabaratha and Amawathura or Silappatikaram or Manimegalai,studied at a university modeled on a colonial counterpart or a local Pirivena, more comfortable with reading, writing and speaking in a foreign language than a local language, and finally work and live here at home or abroad etc. This even extend to other aspects of human outlook: religions we follow, political and other affiliations such as LTTE or JVP, communist, capitalist are mostly conditioned by this upbringing.

  • 3
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    Sajeeva Samaranayake,

    “Using both eyes

    Even though this flawed objectivity originated with our colonial administrators the post colonial re-colonizers; our politicians, have found the same limited formula a handy device to perpetuate their duplicitous subversion of governance in this country. Flawed it may be but it is the only form of thinking that mankind has adopted for several centuries to deal with both education and governance. Until we develop an alternative we will remain stuck within this framework.”

    Use both eyes, both hands and the brain and use observation and reason.

    Suggest you read up on the following.

    1. The Ionians and the Greeks and their Philosophy.

    2. The Islamic Philosophers and their clashes with the Mullah and Ulema.

    3. The Enlightenment and the New Scientists. Read up on Galileo, Kepler and others.

    4. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, Punished 1795. Also read up on Thomas Jefferson.

    5. Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

    6.. Cosmos by Carl Sagan, Published 1980.

    7. The God Delusion by Richard Hawkins.

    You will begin to get a better picture.

    By the way check your DNA to find the route your ancestors took from Africa, 70,000 years ago.

    https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/

    Since its launch in 2005, National Geographic’s Genographic Project has used advanced DNA analysis and worked with indigenous communities to help answer fundamental questions about where humans originated and how we came to populate the Earth. Now, cutting-edge technology is enabling us to shine a powerful new light on our collective past. By participating in the latest phase of this real-time scientific project, you can learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. You will also help support the Genographic Legacy Fund, which works to conserve and revitalize indigenous cultures around the world.

    • 3
      2

      Amarasiri

      Atheist Joke #2

      An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

      The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

      “Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

      “Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask You a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

      The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

      And then she went back to reading her book.

      [reddit.com/r/Jokes]

      • 4
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        Kutti Machan ,

        RE: Atheist Joke #2

        ( It is not a question for an Agnostic, but anyway will answer the little girl, to enhance her knowledge)

        Looks like Both that particular Atheist and God believing little girl do not know. Do they know that the Earth rotates on it’s axis, is tilted at 23.5 degrees, and goes around the Sun in one year?

        This is a science Question. The Answer was given by Darwin, and confirmed by DNA molecular switches by evolution. Why does the little girl have 46 Chromosomes, while her Ape ancestors have 48? Molecular switches and evolution.

        The reason why we have 5 fingers and toes has been answered by science using DNA molecular switches. It was the fins of the sea creatures that got on to land, that developed to hands, fingers., legs and toes. Think of a house with 20 rooms, with 10 rooms upstairs and 10 rooms downstairs., with switches foe each individual room. When the switches are on, the rooms are visible. DNA switches are like that. The circuitry is there, but not switched on due to evolution.

        That is the reason why the little girl and the atheist have no visible tail, because the tail DNA SWITCH was NOT turned on. With Monkeys, the tail switch is turned on, as they still need the tail.

        • 2
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          Amarasiri

          I’ve heard people say “agnostics are just atheists without balls.”
          Is it true? Check and tell me please.

          • 3
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            Kutti Machan,

            Here is some information for your edification. See what Buddha said about what people say. below.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosticism

            Agnosticism is the view that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, as well as other religious and metaphysical claims—are unknown or unknowable.[1][2][3] According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, in the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively.[2]

            Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist, coined the word agnostic in 1869. However, earlier thinkers have written works that promoted agnostic points of view. These thinkers include Sanjaya Belatthaputta, a 5th-century BCE Indian philosopher who expressed agnosticism about any afterlife,[4][5][6] Protagoras, a 5th-century BCE Greek philosopher was agnostic about the gods.[7] The Nasadiya Sukta in the Rigveda is agnostic about the origin of the universe.[8][9][10]

            Since the time that Huxley coined the term, many other thinkers have extensively written about agnosticism.

            I am quoting Ms. Shamini Serasinha below.

            By converting the philosophy into a religion, Buddhist monks, also converted the Buddha, into a ‘God’, and themselves, as his ‘Messengers’, who must be revered and worshiped; totally disregarding the Buddha’s words-

            “Believe nothing, in the faith of traditions,
            even though, they have been held in honor,
            for many generations, and in diverse places.

            Do not believe, a thing, because many people speak of it.
            Do not believe, in the faith, of the sages of the past.
            Do not believe, what you yourself have imagined,
            persuading yourself, that a God inspires you.

            Believe nothing, on the sole authority, of your masters and priests.
            After examination, believe what you yourself, have tested
            and found, to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.” The Buddha

            A case in point, as it is recorded nowhere, of the Buddha having said, is that alms must be offered to monks, in one’s home or at a temple, seven-days, three-months and one-year after a death, in one’s family.

            This practice perhaps, originated through a custom, followed by our ancestors, that has today become sine qua non, for Buddhists-

      • 4
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        Obviously God with His infinite wisdom determines the density and shape of @#$! – pellets, flat patty or clumps…It seems that what is clearly in the God’s domain, Atheist has no knowledge ;-)

  • 2
    2

    Instead of the inclusive rights of all human beings we have the rights of races, religons, caste, class etc. which are exclusive and divisive. Who was here first, X or Y. Who should rule the roost? Who should eat the cake? Where did you appachchi come from? What language do you speak? What is your religon? etc.

    Unfortunately these things are being taught to the young ones at home and even in our grade 1 National schools. So the fate of our nation is sealed.

  • 2
    0

    Right now I need a Panadol!!

    • 0
      0

      You are sure it is not Folidol?

  • 0
    0

    Dear Sajeeva Samaranayake,

    I am humbled by the depth of your knowledge, logic, and understanding. Frankly, I cannot agree with you more.

    Yet, there is a loud voice within me screaming, ‘Do you really understand all what Sajeeva has said’.

    And, if I haven’t, does my ‘I cannot agree with you more’, have any meaning.

    What a paradox!

    • 1
      0

      My function is simply that of a garbage disposal man who clears unwanted stuff. Every system of thought that claims to have monopolized the ‘truth’ – and here we can bring in apart from human rights, Theravada Buddhism, Marxism, Capitalism etc. has been shattered against that unfailing rock that we call self. Ultimately these systems of thought and practice simply end up as systems of belief. “My worldview is always superior to yours – for x, y or z reason.” This is the trap that people in societies which lack a robust critical tradition fall into. Ultimately all our worldviews turn out to be half baked because – there is no praxis. We have not put our heart and soul into whatever we have chosen to believe. We lack depth and sincerity. This is the long road back to self. The human rights activist – no less than the Sinhala Buddhist, Muslims and Christians must all tread this path. The idea is to expand our worldviews both objectively and subjectively and to integrate both head and heart into our thought.

      • 1
        0

        At the end of a series of lectures on the subject of ‘Thermodynamics’ the lecturer paused a seemingly innocent question to us, – his Undergraduates numbering around a hundred.

        ‘Please raise your hand if you have understood all what I have heard from me.’

        There was a dozen hands up. Honestly, I could not raise mine.

        ‘Please raise your hand if you understood bits here and there.’

        A bulk of hands was up. Sensing something wicked, I did not raise mine.

        ‘Now, I want to see the rest of the hands. The hands of those who could not understand anything.’

        An odd few reluctantly raised their hands.

        It looked like that the lecturer was staring at me. – No. It was my guilty conscience!

        The lecturer – a Ph D – summed up.

        ‘Those who have understood all, have understood nothing; and, will never get to understand anything. Those who have understood here and there have a good chance of understanding it all. Those who did not understand anything may still have some chance if you work at it.’

        Dear Sajeeva Samaranayake,

        I thank you for your response. I refuse to raise my hand.

        • 0
          0

          Error correction:

          ‘the lecturer paused’ should have read ‘the lecturer posed’

          The oversight is regretted.

      • 2
        0

        Well summed up Sajeeva. “My worldview is always superior to yours – for x, y or z reason.”
        Sadly CT is so full of writers and commentators of this category.

        It is pleasing to read your mature, humane and analytic views. Do keep it up. Gives us the hope that all is not doom and gloom in the world of ours and there can be room for alternate views…

  • 3
    1

    Good thought process Sajeewa. Don’t be distracted by people with different political inclinations and other things.

    Continue your article.

    Education needs drastic changes. It is becoming and has become useless. People are not disciplined, instead become very greedy. What we study is useless in the day to day life.

  • 1
    0

    Safa: With the kind of mentality our people generally have, we are already in big trouble and the fate of our nation is of course sealed. And it’s increasingly becoming difficult to change the course of doom. This is one of the country still fighting in the name of race, religion or who came here first and all unbelievable garbage. They are fighting for such a long time with no end or solution in sight. They won’t mind loosing one eye, so long as the perceived enemy looses both. That’s the crude mentality of the so called 2500 year ancient civilization and the absurd paranoid has given them handsomely. While other countries, which were behind Ceylon in every aspect and sense are now booming, our nation is adamantly going in the opposite direction with full ‘vigor and vitality’ towards a total and sure destruction. Is it all pure racism or valor and victory ?. How demented the narrow minded rulers of this land are in this 21st century and still not learning things in this geopolitical and economical world of today ? Building a nation is not so easy but Destroying is not. Any idiot can do it and they are doing it so well. There is NO one to guide or give useful sensible advice. Even our great neighbor India is looking after it’s own interest and using Ceylon to the maximum. When a husband and wife fight, neighbors come into settle the dispute or differences. India took disgusting advantage of our in house fighting and exploited us. If we cannot live together ( The Sinhalese and Tamils) we should go for a divorce and live separately. If we allow outsiders to interfere, then we have to face the consequences. Do not blame the affected for asking help from USA, UK, UNHRC, EU since they have no choice other than to ask for help to live alive and in peace. They don’t want an abusive husband who is a racist megalimaniac.
    Give them divorce, let them go separate. Both communities can work hard and make the country and the two nations prosperous with no more killing, kidnapping, white van, rape and less head ache for the racist government of de’facto president Gotabaya. Mahinda is just a puppet already dancing to the tune of Gota the grand master. That’s going to be the end of the dynasty and stupid Sri Lanka.
    Look at other countries which are prospering with the help and hard work of immigrants who migrated in the recent years to their adopted nations due to discrimination, institutionalized crime, racial riots like in Sri lanka.
    Most of them are giving their best to those countries which gave them refuge, shelter and help to live without fear of getting killed.
    Life is the most important thing for any human being, and if that was at stake or protection denied what else can they do except fleeing from the nation they were born and brought up. How can anyone blame the diaspora for anything ? They who blame diaspora must put themselves in their place and tell us what they would have done under the circumstances. They don’t know the feelings or they never experienced anything of the sort the affected and escaped lot went through. They just have no idea unless they experienced what the affected and butchered went through for 65 years.
    Look at India, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam . If they can improve their standard and why ewe couldn’t ? It’s all pure Sinhala Racism, Mahawamsa poison mind jealousy, hatred, animal instincts. Get some sense and do the right thing to live decently in peace. If not be ready to face the consequences..

  • 2
    0

    The truth we know as humans, can never be absolute. It is always relative and conditioned by our predispositions and experiences. What we can accept as truth are facts that are scrupulously garnered and meticulously sifted.Even the facts can change with time, depending on our ability to gather them both in specifics and causative details. What we conclude from even the most scrupulously collected and meticulously sifted facts, can never be also absolutely true, because of our human limitation relating to the concept of ‘Maya’, most times. We yet need metaphysics and the belief in an ‘Absolute Truth’ beyond us ,to help us charter the choppy sea of life.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0
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    DR RAJASINGHAM NARENDRAN
    Is the fact that you are right now alive and that you wrote the above comment not a truth that is objective? Is that relative?

    • 0
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      None! Plain flaunting, I am afraid.

    • 3
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      Prem Vaidyratne,

      A good question. The counter question is, am I today, what I was yesterday or will be tomorrow? When I see our family album, I recognise myself with difficulty in old photographs. Who was the I, before and who is the I now?

      From the biological perspective we are changing by the minute. Old cells die and new ones are born. I am being born, and am dying, while I am yet alive! Our genes are switching off permanently or temporarily in a continuous process in response to what we do and what takes place around us. Genes that have been inoperative hitherto can also switch on. Our experiences make changes in us quite subtly on a daily basis, and accumulate to make drastic changes in how we think,act and even look, over a longer period.

      We are not a constant. We are in a constant flux. In these circumstances, while what I am at this moment may be reality , that will change in the next moment., albeit subtly.

      When Mahatma Gandhi was asked once , why he was inconsistent, he said he knows more today than yesterday. This is another aspect of the flux I refer.

      The truth that I think it is today, may be different tomorrow or sometime in the future, because I have learned more. I used to believe that re-incarnation involves the transmigration of the soul. Now I believe that through the genes we pass on both life and structure to our progeny and we continue through them. Evolution then works over a long time to change us more radically, like monkey to man or man to monkey. I may be wrong in my current thinking, as something may be discovered than stands this concept on its head tomorrow.

      The laws of nature seem to be absolute, but we are yet groping in the dark to understand them. The more we know, they more the need to know more and more. There is thus nothing absolute in our understanding of even what we appears at this moment to be absolute.

      I have been thinking ( on the run) while penning this response and hence it may have its limitations.

      Dr.RN

      • 0
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        We have multiple realities in a society. Communication within healthy relationships are needed to understand this and relate to the world of another person.

        Modern man lives too much in his head and he is dominated by the mind and its creations. This however is the outer level of experience.

        Beneath that is simple body awareness. When we face the world, when we experience something that the mind interprets positively or negatively the body has also fallen into position indicating our true mind. But generally we pay no attention to this bodily posture.

        Beneath that also is emotions. They control our responses and strengthen or weaken the mental inclinations. Modern man in general lacks emotional intelligence. This is because of a system of education that is geared to produce university professors.

        With this general profile our claim to objectivity is rather superficial. We are not in full touch with ourselves. We are just going round and round in our heads only. In fact this is the root of human conflict. For this reason Krishnamurthi said that thought cannot solve the problems created by thought. We must seek the deeper causes that lie embedded within our bodies and emotions.

        This is why the objective-subjective dichotomy is itself a problem. Like the head and heart they must communicate, cooperate and collaborate. One is not better than the other.

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    Sanjay is attempting to blind his readers by a whole lot of confused jargon, I am afraid. I would invite him to put down his propositions one by one in a logical argument and in simple language. I am sure he cannot as he thrives on confusion. He is confused himself.
    Take the following from his post dated March 17 5.45 pm:
    “….Krishnamurthi said that thought cannot solve the problems created by thought. We must seek the deeper causes that lie embedded within our bodies and emotions. This is why the objective-subjective dichotomy is itself a problem. Like the head and heart they must communicate, cooperate and collaborate. One is not better than the other.”
    How do we ‘solve the deeper causes that lie embedded’ other than by the employment of thought processes that are directed to reflect on such “processes?” Objective thought processes have necessarily to work on even subjective processes thus giving the objective element a superiority over the subjective. It is clear therefore that there isn’t any “dichotomy” of subjective and objective processes as stated by Sanjay. The input of the subjective elements may be taken to account but it is clearly the rational(objective)that will have to do that. There is no dichotomy here at all.
    I agree with Shyamon’s position and I would urge Sanjay to take just one example of human rights and explain how he would put the so-called ‘subjective feelings component to action in interpreting that HR. Say, the right to life and security? It is best to demonstrate just this one HR than resort to quibbling with verbose language and thereby confusing readers.
    Sanjay is lost in the jungle of his own verbal outburst.

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    Dear Dr Erin

    as you say lets leave Krishnamurthi at his rarified level and get to ground level and talk about human security.

    Take a woman who faces an abusive and violent man at home. The law has provided a legal remedy by way of an order from the magistrates court which can tell the man he must stay out of his home and find a different place to live. Now this is very objective and rational and just.

    But practically the RISK of challenging the cultural norms within the family and community is borne by the helpless victims. Thus within the male dominated, patriarchal and traditional set up it requires a lot of courage to even take the problem out of the family home. It is fine for the police and courts to say “come to us and we will protect you” but how does the woman actually make it to the police station? Especially when the family and community are not taking your side and you are also held responsible for the care of children?

    This is where HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS as opposed to rights matter. She needs helpers and sympathetic human beings who can understand her plight and apply skillful ways and means to deal practically with the problem. So initially there is a social and subjective hurdle to be overcome before we move into the legal and objective level.

    It is all about applying the correct situational judgement.

    One of my points is that where I live in Sri Lanka (and I don’t know how it is in California) the recognition and strengthening of the subjective domain and re-building communities is a clear priority.

    It may be culturally acceptable to employ rights language in western societies. I don’t know. But in unstable societies like the one we live in ‘rights’ are not always right and to communicate in terms of rights language in some contexts will be quite inappropriate and unhelpful. We have to use modes of communication that are culturally fluent with the ways of life of the people.

    So it is necessary for you to read my article without hostility and bias and understand that I stand very firmly on the side of human rights – but like every other idea it must be FULLY understood to be effective.

    Those who charge me with confusing and blinding readers must ask themselves whether human rights is a static and ready made verbal formula which must swallowed whole like a tablet. Or is it something we are entitled to chew on and taste? While it is easy to talk about human rights and take a stand about the superiority of reason and objective standards you will find that in situations like a woman fighting for survival within her own home everything is not so black and white. The more you move into the social and emotional side of life the more you will find that rights must give way to RELATIONSHIPS – whether rights advocates like it or not.

    Human rights has been turned into an absolutism – a transcendent category that we are not allowed to question and pick apart. It has been turned into a sacred cow. By doing this you are only undermining the full edifice of rights. Please move out if you can from your comfort zone.

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    To Sanjay
    OK let’s take your illustration about a woman who has been abused at home being unable to seek the legal remedy available to her. She doesn’t go due to relational issues that are cultural. The understanding of this context is granted.
    But how can this observation conflict with the human right relating to the woman’s security and dignity? It doesn’t. You will now see that you have arrived at a conclusion about HR relevance that simply does not follow from your premise about cultural encumbrances that prevent the woman from reporting abuse. Your argument is non-sequitor. In this case, the cultural factor only serves to explain why the woman does not go to the police or courts. It does not logically lead to the non-relevance of the HR or its inadequacy.In this particular instance the existence and implementation of the relevant HR is important as the particular law you refer to also reflects that HR.
    In fact nobody has ever pointed out that any of the HRs conflict with particular cultures in any civilized society. HRs have been formulated to suit universalistic application.
    I hope you understand the root of your confusion

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    Dear Dr. Erin

    Now we come to the point. In your reasoning culture is the problem and the human right is the solution – right?

    I wish that dualism was correct in societies like Sri Lanka and we would both have been happy.

    In truth the culture of patriarchy and violence has now pervaded everything and there is no institution here today which is immune from this.

    I have taken pains in the main article to point out that ‘rights’ need supporting elements – remedies, services and resources. lets refer to them as ‘institutional capital’. Without institutional capital rights do not work. They exist only on paper.

    So we end up with culture. We cannot by pass it. We must deal with it. Understand it and work with it and transform it. This is our challenge.

    Human rights can become a form of escapism when you simply ‘problematize’ culture and refuse to touch it. When human rights get integrated within a society that too becomes a part of its culture. My point is that by treating rights as some sacrosanct and transcendent category we leave it out in the cold.

    The deviation into criminal law to punish offenders of human rights violations is another side track.

    The human being today is more important than the human rights violation yesterday and punishment tomorrow. That in a sentence is one of my main points.

    You may say – ‘then what about justice?’

    I would reply that justice is all important but not when it is conceived very narrowly within a criminal law framework and put to use by the powerful against the weak in the usual style that all criminal laws work.

    My notion of justice is much broader. I do not exclude criminal penalties having their usual application but that is a form of legal justice that leaves social possibilities negated and destroyed.

    Reading your last post I can see we are not disagreed on the main point – the desirability of human rights. I have dealt with issues of application and practice in the context of local culture in societies like my own.

    If that sounds confusing to you it is nevertheless part of our own struggle to find meaning.

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    Can rights work without values? Without the support of human relationships?

    When duties are not freely performed you have the option of choosing coercion or persuasion. Coercion is a quick fix but it is quite inefficient and not sustainable in the long run.

    This is why the connection between values and rights must be affirmed and strengthened.

    Human relationships are the site where values are destroyed. they are also the site where they are re-built. Sometimes you must approach the right through a relationship; at other times you must approach the relationship through the right. The context decides what is best.

    Human rights require some conceptual sophistication and an appreciation of the dialectic between the formal-legal and informal – social domains.

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