27 October, 2020

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Hessel, A Message To The Sri Lankan Youth!

By Kamaya Jayatissa

Kamaya Jayatissa

I wish all of you to find your reason for indignation. This is a precious thing.”– Stéphane Hessel (Time for Outrage!)

With 4.5 million copies sold worldwide and translated into more than a dozen languages, Stéphane Hessel’s 32 page pamphlet Indignez-vous! (translated as Time for Outrage!) remains a source of inspiration to youth around the world. Named one of the world’s top thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine in 2011, Hessel died in February at age 95, leaving behind him a lesson, which is to never accept any kind of injustice.

French resistance fighter, concentration camp survivor, diplomat, human rights advocate, he participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and inspired recent non-violent youth movements such as the Spanish Indignados, the Greek Aganaktismenoi, Occupy Wall Street in New York and beyond. Many around the world took up his call for a “peaceful insurrection” against the growing inequities of global capitalism. When asked during an interview why he believed that indifference among youth was the worst’s of attitudes, Hessel replied:

“I was worried that so many young people in all our countries seem to have forgotten their responsibility for values. They are just responsible to find a flat, to get some money, to have material wealth. And they do not realize that that is going to be jeopardized if the basic democratic values are not fought for. […] You must find the things that you will not accept, that will outrage you. And these things, you must be able to fight against nonviolently, peacefully, but determinedly.”

Having witnessed nearly a century of world’s history and mostly inspired by Sartre’s philosophical footprint, Stéphane Hessel, the voice of the voiceless, was one of those who believed that every man is responsible as an individual. He believed that true humanity begins with a sense of responsibility to what has to be done, the responsibility to refuse to accept what is unacceptable.

In the current context, Hessel’s message appears to be quite relevant to Sri Lanka –especially given the recent incidents that are taking place, both internally and internationally. Indeed, almost four years have gone since the war ended and yet an authentic peace is still longed for in the island. Most importantly, extremism is escalating to the detriment of inter-cultural dialogue, mutual understanding and ultimately reconciliation. One can only wonder where Sri Lankan youth positions itself in all this.

The past decade has seen a growing recognition of the importance of youth participation in decision-making. However, when it comes to the actual involvement of young people in matters pertaining to reconciliation, as in many other countries, the Sri Lankan Government is only engaged in a consultative process at best. In the longer-term, this might potentially have negative consequences on the peace-building process itself as not taking young people’s concerns into account can lead to further frustration within society itself. The implication of youth, their perceptions and expectations are therefore essential in the shaping of a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.

Similarly, one can also witness a loss of enthusiasm, of involvement and commitment among today’s youth in Sri Lanka, a youth which represents one quarter of the population. This can be explained by the fact that young people are often alienated by politics. They see less value in both mainstream politics and in the viability of alternative spaces. Indeed, few are those among the Sri Lankan youth who are voicing out their thoughts and frustrations on the recent socio-political hazards the country is going through. Others remain either indifferent or passive while many have given up hope by saying that this is not the right time and place for change, that the space is not [yet] available to rise up and give a voice to our dreams.

Yet, what better moment than today to develop creative and critical thinking, to find our reason for indignation; for this is the best moment to make a change, right now when our values and principles are falling apart. It is our moral responsibility as youth to make a difference and strive for a better Sri Lanka, one in which racism and extremism will not be accepted, one in which our people will finally gather as a nation.

Our generation has the duty to build and strengthen a sustainable peace in our country so that the next generation does not go through another civil war based on ethno-religious tensions. Or else, by not fighting for further dialogue, for further unity, we will be as responsible as the ones spreading hatred between our own people. Mostly, by passively accepting injustice we will become the victims of our own indifference.

But as Hessel reminds us constantly in his pamphlet, these insurrections should always be done non-violently, for words are the best weapon our generation will ever have:

“I am convinced that future belongs to non-violence, to the reconciliation of different cultures. […] Hope has always been one of the dominant forces of revolutions and insurrections and how I still feel that hope is my conception for the future. We must understand that violence turns his back on hope. […] To create is to resist, to resist is to create.” (Time for Outrage!)

A hyperactive nonagenarian, Stéphane Hessel dedicated his life to encourage people to demand change and to fight for a better world. For him resisting injustice was his most passionate responsibility.

*Kamaya Jayatissa, President of What’s Next!, is a PhD student in International Law at the Sorbonne University, Paris.  She holds a Master Degree in International Law from the Sorbonne and a Diploma in International Governance and Sustainable Development from Sciences Po, Paris. This article first appeared on Ceylon Today.

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    Excellent piece Kamaya!
    Please translate into Sinhala language because the Sinhala youth have forgotten how to think critically.. Today’s youth are rather misled, brainwashed by RACISM, Sinhala Buddhist nationalism and consumerism and following the Rajapassa regimes’s Balu Sena and attacking minority communities – rather than understanding that the Rajapakse Brothers Military Dictatorship is the TRUE ENEMY in Sri Lanka today, and they need to fight it..
    It is NOT the minorities and Sri Lanka’s precious multicultural social fabric, but the Rajapakse dictatorship and its Balu Sena that is the true “reason for indignation”, and Sri Lanka’s youth must stop being brainwashed by nationalism and consumerism..

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      Super piece and agree with K.
      Youth, young people, must find a way and voice to defeat the attack on Sri Lanka’s MULTICULTURAL VALUES and the Rajapakse project of Divide and Rule the communities of Sri Lanka. I remember Kumar Sangakkara’s Lords speech and sure he could lead the young people in an ethical way.

      Youth are being taught the wrong values in schools today. Buddhism has been Talibanized and distorted by Rajapakse and all the WRONG and DISTORTED values are being taught in Dhamma Schools in the villages in the country under DivinNeguma program which is racist. And the geriatric Vasudeva Nanayakkara so-called Minister of national integration is sleeping instead of stopping this disease.
      The regime have already divided all the political parties which are in any case unprincipled and corrupt. The young people and civil society must band together and speak up against the barbarism of the dictatorship and its forces of evil or Balu sena as aptly called.

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        Great piece ! Please post this on FB and all the racist websites that the Balu Sena is using..

        The youth must push for young leaders..
        All the current political leaders have blood on their hands. Ranil Wickramasighe and the Matale grave, Rajapakese is a war criminal and murderer and so is Sarath Fonseka.. the JVP and racist JHU leadership doddering TNA’s Sampanthan..
        The current generation of politicians and their sons are the scum of the earth, so the search for a new generation of clean leaders must start now..

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    Barathiyaar said Rowthiram pazhagu! Same thing. But, Sri Lanka is not a place to be indignant. Unless you wish to wind up dead. All you can do here is sail under the radar. If something affects you keep calm and bear it. Life is too precious to waste it on an impossible ideal, make Sri Lanka a civilized place. If you really want to, you can always try to find a safe refuge in Europe or the US and try to philosophize.

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    Peebee… US? Really? I just hope that Sri Lanka will NOT turn into a US one day! Are children can still walk on the street, go to school without being shot dead!

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    This article represents the thinking of Sri Lankan youth who have studied abroad and are exposed to a multicultural environment. Unfortunately the youth in Sri Lanka are being brain washed by the govt, clergy and media to think that they are superior and the rest of the world is conspiring against them out of sheer jealousy. Even our leaders and clergy speak this type of language. So it is not surprising that we are so backward even as we think we are highly advanced. We tend to live in the past and regress into ancient history without moving forward.

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    Stéphane Hessel was a Jew. He witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust first-hand. It was a total disregard for human values that caused the Holocaust. Even though, at that time, it was not materialism but the vicious “Versailles Treaty” that caused an upsurge in German nationalism, and the ensuing travesty called the Holocaust. The lesson here is that blind allegiance to ideology is bad. People who cannot think for themselves but insist on following the teachings of mass murders – whether they lived in 1942 or 570 AD, are a blot on civilization. Unfortunately, such people exist today. They are even committed to the full and total destruction of Israel. The question becomes, is it more efficient to deal with these people directly or go after their ideology?

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      *the teachings of mass murderers

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    This is a brilliant article Kamaya. Well said. This is exactly what should be put in the minds of today’s youth. Please do translate this to Sinhala and you will be doing a huge contribution for the country. Keep up the great work!!!

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    Stephane Hessel, was a survivor of the Holocaust. He would be saddened today if he knew that his fellow Holocaust survivors are forgotten and neglected. He would be saddened that the Holocaust has been used as an excuse for crimes against civilians, and that the youth of Israel are taught that the world is against them.
    Such thoughts of being victimized are not healthy. It makes one hate the world, and also justify the crime against other innocent civilians, who like the Jews in Europe, were helpless against a ruthless army with sophisticated weapons. It also makes them blind to the fact that the victims of the Holocaust now act like the bullies.
    The message we give our youth must be one of tolerance and the rights of others, respected.
    We should also impart to them that stealing the resources of helpless people you despise is not an acceptable practice.
    I quote Haaretz:

    “One-fourth of Israeli Holocaust survivors are poor, foundation says
    87 percent of Holocaust survivors who request financial aid live on less than NIS 5,000 a month, while 58 percent live on NIS 3,000 or less; separate survey shows 57 percent of Israeli teens believe ‘the whole world is against us.’

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      Aren’t the ones who claim to have been persecuted, now persecuting the Palestinians?

      Sadly the USA has a VETO to safeguard all the atrocities committed by Israel. Name ONE country that has and is violating as many as 17 resolutions adopted by the UN….

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      Dhaksha: “Israeli teens believe ‘the whole world is against us.’

      WW1 Goldman Sac’s and Rothschild’s informed UK that they had lost the war and within a week purchased everything at half price. WW2 , 19 million Russians and 2 million Indians gave their lives therefore we speak English today and the French are free. We know holocaust no’s that are been exaggerated from a million to 3 now and yes they control the world media and finance through sheer hard work so the psychological wars.

      Hitler while making the bomb was distracted by the Russian onslaught and in that time a German Jew stole the technology and transferred it to the sleeping giant who then got up in glee but never because London was blitzed.

      I.Bestseller -The Invention of the Jewish People. Shlomo Sands. Presently the Folk in the US/UK run Israel so they say the whole world hates us”

      All wars and skirmishes are economic no matter caste creed race religion.

      “Insanity -it’s time to pause and reflect”

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    I have temporarily misplaced my copy of Hessel’s INDIGNEZ-VOUS, but as soon as I find it, would like to add to this blog the concerns he expresses therein about the tragedy of the Palestinian people. – Manel F

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    Bravo Kamaya, c’est un magnifique article, très bien écrit et avec un bel engagement. Puisse la jeunesse Sri Lankaise entendre ton appel. Ton analyse est très juste, je suis fière d’être ton amie! Continue a aider les jeunes qui ont moins d’expérience que toi a ouvrir les yeux et prendre leur destin en main. Bravo! Odile

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