1 October, 2020

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Hitchcock And Kiarostami

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

A work of art – a poem, play, novel, film, painting and so on – can be approached at two levels: one is as an art object that represents order wrested from the chaos outside it, and the other is as an art object in relation to the chaos outside it. A total criticism should function at both levels. The writer will illustrate his argument by examining a couple of films by two great directors, Hitchcock and Kiarostami.

Hitchcock’s film Rope appeared in the second half of the ‘forties, after he was well-established as a top Hollywood film director who specialized in thrillers, which was not a genre associated with high brow art. He was seen as belonging essentially to the world of Hollywood entertainment. That image of him changed later when Francois Truffaut, one of the most prestigious of the French New Wave directors, praised him as an exemplar of the high brow art film. Consequently he is now ranked securely with the giants of the cinema such as – to choose some names at random – Chaplin, Eisenstein, Bunuel, Pasolini, Fellini, Antonioni, Kurosava, and Satyajit Ray. Now Kiarostami too tends to be mentioned along with them.

Some facts are worth mentioning about Hitchcock. In the other arts, literature, music, and painting, the act of creation takes place with the artist working alone by himself. In film the central creative figure is certainly the Director but the Producer has a say in what goes on and crucial contributions are made by the actors, the script writer, the photographer, and the composer of the background music. The film is therefore the result of a collaborative enterprise but the great Directors make their distinctive impress on every one of their films. Hitchcock was very much what the French now call the auteur, the author, of his films: he worked out every detail in his head in advance of the actual shooting of the film, which for him was a dull anti-climax compared to the lonely creative work that preceded it. As authentic creative artists usually have something odd about them, a fertile lack of balance, two facts about Hitchcock are worth noting. One was that he never went out in the evenings except when one of his films was being shot, which necessitated some amount of socializing. The other was that he never learnt to drive a car. As a boy in England he was subjected to a strict Catholic upbringing by a disciplinarian father who, over some minor misdemeanor, sent him to the police station with a note. The officer in charge after reading it told Hitchcock that if he were ever again guilty of that kind of misdemeanor he would be put behind bars for a long period. The experience was so traumatic that Hitchcock never learnt to drive because that would sooner or later put him at the mercy of the police over some traffic offense. Authentic creative artists are sensitive to the darker side of life.

The film Rope (1948) was based on the famous Leopold and Loeb murder case of 1924. They were extraordinarily brilliant Chicago University students from very wealthy backgrounds who were inspired by the writings of the German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche into committing what they regarded as the perfect undetectable murder. They believed that they belonged to Nietzsche’s category of supermen to whom the social standards of right and wrong did not apply, and that they were privileged to commit any crime including murder. They were obsessed with crime and committed many acts of petty crime before they decided on the murder of 14-year old Bobby Franks who was also from a wealthy Chicago background. They were caught and the case became famous both for its gratuitous murder and for the brilliant advocacy for abandoning the death penalty argued by the defense counsel Clarence Darrow. Hitchcock based his film on a play by Patrick Hamilton which dealt only with the murder while ignoring the court case altogether, later to become the focus of another film.

The present writer saw the Hitchcock film in 1948 or a little later, and on seeing a DVD version recently has been surprised by how much of the details of the film had remained in the writer’s mind over a period of almost seven decades. That attests to the power of Hitchcock as a Director. Had the writer’s guru of that time, Professor Ludowyck, asked him to make a critique of the film, he would have done so using the standards of the New Criticism then in vogue in the US, the masterwork of which was Cleanth  Brook’s The Well-wrought Urn. He would have praised it as a tour de force because it keeps the viewer’s unflagging interest while the plot is known and the action takes place, except for a single scene, within one flat, and he would have pointed out how all the elements fit together to make a coherent work of art. That would have been a critique of the art object as representing order wrested from the chaos outside it.

But today, in Sri Lanka certainly, it is impossible to keep the world outside from invading the art object. A satisfactory critique will have to note how value is given to the ordinary. The film begins with a street scene in which someone is helped to cross the street and it ends with voices outside the flat raised in concern over the shots that have been fired inside it. There is the maternal solicitude shown by the maid, and there is the altruistic concern over the sick wife of the bibliophile Professor. The value of the ordinary is a frequent theme in Hitchcock’s films, apparent for instance in the heroism shown by ordinary people in Rear Window. The value of the ordinary seems to be something that is profoundly American. Who else but one of the quintessential American poets of the last century, William Carlos Williams, could have made a memorable poem out of a piece of broken glass?

Hitchcock’s vision of evil is also noteworthy in the film. By evil the writer means the human propensity to take gratuitous joy in harming and destroying. The former teacher of the two young murderers acknowledges that he did teach them Nietzsche and that he had continued to hold Nietzsche’s views about the superman, but he found himself finally forced to recognize that there was something in him that balked at murder while there was something in the two young men that made them commit it. There was evil in the two young men that could not be explained away in terms of upbringing and background. The contrast is provided by Arthur Penn’s classic Bonny and Clyde in which the two outlaws are seen sympathetically as being largely the victims of deprivations imposed on the under-privileged. Penn’s vision is that of Whitman, a vision consistent with the American Dream of a perfectible society, while Hitchcock shares the vision of evil of Melville and Hawthorn and Henry James.

Finally, Rope which was first shown in 1948 can be seen as prophetic of the American Empire which has been ravaging a good part of the world since then. It is not accidental that the Leopold-Loeb case inspired fiction, plays, and two films, apart from articles and essays – the Wikipedia account fails to mention Andre Gide’s Caves of the Vatican. The reason is that it tells us something important about Western civilization, at least the imperialist side of it. Nietzsche was the guiding philosopher behind the Nazis, and he has been the undeclared guiding philosopher behind Western imperialism: the world seen in terms of a dichotomy between supermen and human insects whom the West has butchered by the million. Hitchcock’s Rope tells us why the Americans are so fanatically supportive of apartheid Israel.

In the remaining space the writer will make just three points about Kiarostami film Like someone in love. It is a film made in Japan with Japanese actors by an Iranian Director. It attests to his universalism. Secondly, a young Japanese awakens to reality, an important theme in western films. Thirdly in affluent Japan young women are still forced into prostitution by economic hardship: the film is a devastating indictment of contemporary capitalism.

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Latest comments

  • 6
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    Where did this come from? Hitchcock and Kiarostami.

    This man is unbelievable. His urge to prove himself, is pointing to many holes in his personality.

    Vanity, thy name is Thambi Izaith Hussain.

    • 4
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      I can see that the anti-Hussain philistines are busy storing up insults. Don’t these idiots know that a man is more than the sum of his private parts?
      Cannot a “Thambi” know anything about Hitchcock? Or do you think “Aloko Udapadi” is the height of cinematic excellence? Go back to your muddy wells.

      • 5
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        I think the first comment refers to likes of Izeth, Dayan etc. who have an inferiority complex (or so it seems) and have a constant need for attention.
        I think its not referring to a thumbi not knowing about hitchcock.

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        Old Codger – thanks. Had Enough must answer the question raised by you: Cannot a “Thambi” know anything about Hitchcock,? He is not just another gona boy. His bestial racism is glaring – IH

        • 4
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          Periamama is close to the point. Old codger (Hussain) is biased.
          Surprised to hear that is more than the ‘sum of his’private parts’. How many ‘private parts’ does he have? Has he been blessed by Allah more than once? please let us know.

          Izaith Hussain writing under his real name has, once again, invoked the racism card. For the edification of his little mental domain bound by the restrictive straps of Islam, it must be pointed out that technically, issues among ethnic groups do not come under the label ‘racism’. Objections of other ethnic groups to Muslims are based on their cliquishness and behaviour similar to the Jews in the West.

          It is also the duty of inquiring non-Muslims to warn Hussain that his Wikipedia-inspired adventure in to the field of movies might put him in trouble with the prophet because he has declared it is ‘haraam’ to watch movies.

          But what is bit of after life if one can buy a bit of vain glory of being an all-round intellectual, ah?

          • 2
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            Had Enough – you haven’t answered the question posed by Old Codger – Cannot a “Thambi” know anything about Hitchcock? Come on, answer it. You assume that I am writing under the nom de plume Old Codger. Why? There isn’t the slightest evidence for it. It shows that you are a gona boy whose rational faculty has gone into abeyance because you have been bestialised by racism.
            For decades “racism” has been a term used in connection with ethnic relations. I have written about it earlier citing the works of Colette Guillaumin, Taguieff and others. I don’t expect a gona boy like you to be able to understand any of it.
            Come on, answer the two questions raised in the first para above. – IH

            • 3
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              You have not answered the query raised by Perriamama have you about having an inferiority complex ?
              Is it true that at 90 you still crave attention and adulation ?
              It’s the look at me me me era we live in after all!

            • 5
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              Simple. Here is the answer.

              To get any knowledge of a movie director, or to comment on his/her work, one needs to have watched his /her work with a critical eye and familiar with the work. Hope the codger Hussain agrees with that point.

              As far as we know, Hitchcock movies like Psycho, Rebecca, the 39 steps, or notorious, to give a few examples of his work, clealy fall in to the category of ‘haraam’ according to the mythical pedophile religion. Hussain being a Muslim would not have seen them.

              So he can only get the information from Wikipedia. He wanted to do an Art Piece so badly, he regurgitated Wikipedia.

              Simple, isn’t it Old Codger? Admit it. We don’t hold it against you that you know bugger-all about Hitchcock or Peacock!

              • 1
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                Unbelievable. Can anyone take Had Enough seriously? He says films are haram under Islam, so I could not have seen any of the films of Hitchcock. The poor fellow’s mind is completely deranged by racist hatred. Can’t waste my time on you – IH

          • 2
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            Had enough,
            No I am not Izeth Hussain under another name. If you go through my posts on various topics, you will see that.
            I hope for your sake that that you will live long enough to be insulted by some idiot young enough to be your grandchild. Only then will you understand what you are doing. I hope your mother is proud of you.

    • 0
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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

      • 2
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        I must respectfully say there was no tenable cause for my comments to be deleted. I believe it is well within the norms of civilised debate and plural comment. I beseech you, Mr. Editor, to please reconsider in the interests of the traditions of democratic debate that CT encourages. Let the readers decide now that both of us do not.

        (Quote) At the politest level, one wonders why CT the space and newsprint; readers their time and sheer boredom, to suffer reading pure codswallop by Hussain. Is it purely because he has to fill the pages of an English on a weekly basis, so far. I can understand if the man confines his writing to the National Question, in which, he is possessed with, arguably, knowledge and ability. He has been writing on this for decades, unsurprisingly, gathering thereby a growing army of critics. This, mostly for his anti-Tamil prejudice as well being off the mark on many a subject – falsity not excluded.
        But European Art and the depths of the cinematic world!!! This is the giddy limit. This is the stuff of those whose names are associated with expertise in the specific subjects.
        What will it be next time? Brain Surgery and Rocket science? Surely, there is a limit to the patience and courtesy of the readers in their thousands. As our wise teachers taught us “stick to your subject, man”

        Kettikaran (Unquote)

        • 3
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          Kettikaran,
          You obviously don’t know the term polymath.Izzeth Hussein’s knowledge of men and matters go well beyond the “National Question”.His specialist knowledge is vast and multifaceted.He is at ease dealing with a plethora of subjects,as his eminent writings on CT and elsewhere suggest so evocatively.Mr.Hussein does not have a one track mind like many ordinary people;for example you.So it is absurd for you to suggest that he sticks to one subject.Learn from the great Moor Muslim master of Arab decent,Mr.Kettikaran.Pure ,poisonous jealousy is not the right way brother.

        • 1
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          Kettikaran has been bestialised by Islamophobic racist hatred. The Tamil attacks on me have been going on for years, but I continue to be published in the Island, the CT and the SL Guardian. Ketty can’t get the message. Now that I am going to write a series on the arts, the Tamil racists will spew forth their hysterical hatred and go into paroxysms of mad dog rage. But I will continue to be published. I shay Ketty, can’t you get the message maaan?
          I use the term “bestialised” advisedly.. I believe that it was this same Ketty who wrote in the CT some time ago that the Muslims were breeding “like piglets”. Anti-racists, including Tamil anti-racists, will agree that anyone capable of that kind of bestiality deserves to be horse-whipped and hanged. But the law won’t permit that.. In the West Ketty will be given a stiff jail sentence.
          You asked for it Ketty boy – IH

          • 1
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            Why all this raving and ranting?
            Why not approach the topic at hand with dignity that befits your age and apparent “wisdom”

          • 1
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            Hussain is in his cultural element when he notes, inter alia “deserves to be horse-whipped and hanged” You are quite at home, dear old chap. Cutting necks, hanging, revenge killing, massacaring children, women are all in your blood – irrespective of which part of the world. Once again the world has seen this bestiality in recent years in Paris, London, Brussels and in many other cities. The world watches with horror how human beings can sink to the level of beasts – in such regularity. Worst, in countries where they have been given a safe home and a comfortable life. And all this to be done in the name of a religion and God is beyond everyone.

            Not just one Writer but many have called the cultural fecundity as piglets and even rats. How did the Eastern Province, where the Muslim population was less than 20% in 1811 out-produce the Tamils in their own home District. You know all too well others are watching this coming danger with deep concern.

            You are the right man to use the term bestiality.
            We have not forgotten your advise to the Sinhalese (Army/Govt), merely to get to their good side, to starve Tamil civilians during the 1990/2,000 internal War. In your universally known deceptive nature, you denied this for months – until you were caught badly.

            One wonders if you have turned to the gentler pursuits of arts and music as some fort of penance after decades of mischief. If you are, be my guest. Better late than never.

            Kettikaran

            • 2
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              Kettikaran
              The reason for Muslims out doing the Tamils in regard to population is simple.The Muslims came to the East as bachelors and when they got the urge to merge they put a jump and a a jump on Tamil girls.The Muslims of Arab decent were fair skinned and the Tamils who were darker skinned bedside being utterly ugly would surely have liked being humped and jumped by the Muslims.So in time the Muslims emerged as número uno!

              • 0
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                I respectfully disagree with Rufus. The vast majority of Muslims who came to look for safe haven in the EP came from the present Tamilnadu. Most of them deny this. They do – almost everything when the chips are against them. Deception is in the blood stream – as universally established.

                Kettikaran

              • 0
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                Many a time in these columns it is being mentioned about the skin colour of people of Islam religion (POIR) in Lanka been fairer. The reason being the “Mendel’s Law”.The primary immigrants to Lanka among the said people are from South India- mainly prensent day Tamil-Nadu and Kerala, followed by those from North India including present day Pakistan before the partion of Indian subcontinent.There were of course sprinkling of Arab traders once in a while to this island. POIR in Lanka never claimed they were from Arab countries in the seventies or before, when they were wearing red-cone-caps with tail and women wearing saris and salwar- kameez. POIR in Lanka calling themselves of Arab decent is pure fake. Anthropologially, it is the law laid down by the founder of the said religion to marry within the religion made the Indians from the Norh to marry those from the South to thus becoming Tamils and some, not all, becoming fairer. Mendel’s Law stipulates the offsprings probable physical characteristics because of the union between woman and man because of dominant and recessive characters; eg: fair skin and dark skin, curly hair and straight hair etc.

            • 2
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              The horrors perpetrated by the IS are deplored by the vast majority of Muslims.Only a bestialised racist such as Ketty can take those horrors as typical of Muslims.His view will earn him a jail sentence in the West. 2/ He says that many have used the terms piglets and rats in connection with Muslim fecundity.Who? I know that one Tamil Islamophobic lunatic used the term “rats” some time ago.Who else? He is a liar. He is in a class apart for piggish racist nastiness towards the Muslims.Most Tamils will agree that he merits a stiff jail sentence for that. 3/ On Muslim fecundity, reputed demographers such as Emmanuel Todd agree that after some time Muslims too will follow the universal trend towards two children per family.4/ Ketty repeats the lie that I advocated hunger as a way of subduing the Tamil rebellion. Readers who turn to Google and click on “Izeth hussain’s reply to K.Arvind 2006”. will find that I have advocated the very opposite.
              What’s your name, Ketty boy? You won’t declare it because you are a cowardly racist nonentity.Anyway, Ketty boy, they will continue to publish me. You will have no alternative but to suffer with your hysterical hatred and mad dog rage. – IH

              • 0
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                “after some time Muslims too will follow the universal trend towards two children per family…” The want of this, Hussain, is one of the points the world detests the Muslims for. Welcome to civilised thinking and agreeing to cooperate with a healthy world. Forget that foolish dream of an Islamic World Conquest.

                But doesn’t your changed stance go against the Brotherly preachings of global Islamic leaders like Gaddafi when he came to Colombo (1976)asking the local flock to produce like pigs/rats (not his description) – to out-produce all local other communities.

                As to lying and cursing – that is your established speciality. It flows for generations in the blood. Include me out of it, dear old chap. Try to reduce your rage and anger. This is not good for your health. We learn you are close to your 90s. That’s good.

                Kettikaran

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                  Ketty has refused to meet the points I have made. Typical.He irrelevantly cites what Gaddafi is supposed to have said instead of meeting the point that established demographers hold that the Muslims too will follow the norm of two children per family.Anyway thanks Ketty boy for providing me material that will enable me to show in a further article that the Tamil racists, like you, are among the stinkiest and nastiest on earth – IH

                  • 0
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                    The congenital bore gives notice to the readership he will be back, vide “for providing me material that will enable me to show in a further article…” He does not have it in him to admit he is running short of readable material to fill his weekly column in The Island with customary codswallop. So after his unsuccessful but brief foray into Painting, Music etc., he slips back to his piece de resistance – the Tamils. He further threatens us he will continue to inflict on us, regardless. We have no alternative, do we – than to grit our teeth and suffer in silence? Or, as my medical friends tell me in jest “what you cannot cure, you are fated to endure” And, so, dear Hussein, send them in and be sure you will get the whacking you will get from the readers you have for years – Tamils, Sinhalese and others, that includes secular and liberal Muslims too.

                    Kettikaran

  • 0
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    I say, you cannot use the derogatory term ‘thambi’ in CT. ‘Sinhala Modaya’ is allowed as a user name but ‘thambi’ and ‘gon demala’ are not allowed. I believe it is called impartiality.

  • 3
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    Significantly,all the negative, envy ,hate ridden anti Hussein and anti Moor stuff come from Tamils.They seem peeved that Moor Muslims are now beginning to show that they have arrived on the stage and their writings – in Hussein’s case he is a first class polymath – are of scholarly quality.Tamils are feeling truly upstaged!

    Sir Ponnayan Ramanathan was the first to try and put the Moors of Arab stock down.The scum bag failed miserably as The Moors have risen unstoppably.He did try the same with the Sinhalese too and it ended in Nandikadal.It seems Sir Ponnayan will not be the last Tamil to put the rising Moors down.But as Hussein’s continuous writings amply show ,the Moor cart trundles on regardless despite the barking of the Tamil quadrupeds. If we Sinhalese can in the 21st century accommodate and coexist with the Moors,why not the Tamils?

    • 3
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      The Singhalese are certainly coexisting with the Muslims as evidenced by BBS roaming free and Aluthgama.

    • 1
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      Ruiwan W,

      “Significantly,all the negative, envy ,hate ridden anti Hussein and anti Moor stuff come from Tamils…”????
      Were you here during Aluthgama, before and after,”Fahion Bug” incidents and so on. Are you trying to cover
      the Sinhala excesses against our Muslims that has engaged global condemnation. Heard of those Sinhala Buddhist champions – the BBS lead by a garrulous thug in robes?

      Mister, the Muslims are talking to the Tamil leadership here and in India for their future protection. They know, sadly, they have not seen the last of the ethnic crimes against them from the majority here. Our Muslins – Tamils not too long ago – know where they need to go for protection and solace.

      Pandaranayagam

    • 0
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      Ruwan Wijenayake – thanks very much for your extraordinarily perceptive comment. I have been writing articles of a certain quality on politics.The Tamil racists find that unbearable. I am now writing articles of a certain quality on the arts. The Tamil racists find that even more unbearable.But these recent articles have provoked no anti-Muslim hatred from the Sinhalese.How come? You are quite right that the Sinhalese are willing to “accommodate and co-exist with the Moors”. More specifically the point is that the Sinhalese are becoming willing to accept the emergence of Muslims of ability in every field.The Tamil racists find that unbearable.The reason, as I will suggest in a further article, is that the Tamil racists are among the stinkiest and nastiest in the world . – IH

    • 0
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      Ruwan is a Muslim writing under a Sinhala name. He could well be
      Izeth himself in a transparent avatar. Remember, the Sinhalese owe much
      to the Brothers Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Ramanathan in gaining for them early Independence. No Sinhalese of good upbringing and substance will ever be ungrateful for that.

      Kettikaran

      • 0
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        Ketty’s performance of March 29 is a fine example of ethnolunacy. An ethnolunatic is a fellow who may be usually sane but is a lunatic when it comes to matters ethnic.He holds that Ruwan is a Muslim writing under a Sinhalese name and that it may well be myself. What’s his evidence for believing that. Nothing at all. The poor fellow is now so loony that he believes what he wants to believe. – IH

  • 2
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    The Sinhalese are far,far,far better than Tamils.Who could forget the murdere of Muslims in the kathankudy mosque by the Tamils?Who could forget the mass exodus of Muslims from the North under the jackboot orders of the Tamils ?They were robbed wholesale before been chased out.The Sinhalese as a race are a more civilized people to do anything like that.BBS is an aberration.

    • 2
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      If the BBS is an aberration, why are they still in existence?

      Is such extremists are an aberration, how can you explain the carnage of 83?

      I am a Sinhalese and I have first hand knowledge of what we did to both minorities living in this country of ours. Let us not pretend to be practicing Buddhists, which we are not.

  • 2
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    Mr/Mrs/Miss ANonBisedPerson

    A synonym for abberation is oddity.Oddities will always be there.1983 and each previous instance of such violence were also oddities as they were state sponsored and not a spontaneous display of violence by the Sinhalese as a whole on the Tamil race.Please read Prof K M de Silva on this.This is why Tamils by the thousands found safe sanctuary in the Sinhalese South during the the hostilities in the North .In sharp contrast the Sinhalese and Muslims were ethnically cleansed by Tamils from the North.

    About been “practicing” Buddhists,Christians,Hindus or Muslims or Zoroastrians I would rather not comment !

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      No they were not cleansed by the Tamils but rather the LTTE who also were an aberration !
      Unless you are unable to differentiate the two!

  • 2
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    You have conveniently avoided alluding to the fact that while the Tamils found and received sanctuary in the Sinhalese South,despite Sinhalese been killed in large numbers. In sharp contrast,the Sinhalese and Muslims were ETHNICALLY cleansed from the North.There were only government orchestrated anti Tamil riots and NO ethnic cleansing in the South.That is how Tamils continued to live in the South despite 1958,despite 1977 and despite July 1983.There lies the fundamental difference, unless you are unable to spot the obvious!

    • 1
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      Oh yes, govt. sponsored and the other was LTTE sponsored!

      By the way, who voted for the “govt.”? Divine beings living in the heavens?

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