By Sharmini Serasinghe –
As a Sri Lankan first, as a member of the predominant ethnic community – Sinhalese, as a follower of the Buddhist philosophy and as a grandmother, I have taken it upon myself to address the youth and young adults of Sri Lanka, amongst them – the future leaders of Sri Lanka – through this open letter, as I consider it incumbent upon those of us now in our 50s and beyond to advise and do our utmost, to guide those of you who have obviously been misguided and led astray by the unethical and unpatriotic, with selfish and devious agendas.
Dear people, for 70 years, we as a people have been used, abused and made fools of by politicians, irrespective of the political party they represent. Today, you, your parents and even your grandparents are used, abused and fooled products of those self-serving politicians.
To start with, over the years, the quality of our sacrosanct free education system has been tampered with and made to deteriorate by successive governments to such an extent that it now focuses ONLY on academic qualifications. This defacing of the education system has been cleverly designed to produce academically qualified fools who are easily hoodwinked, brainwashed and are unable to think independently for him/herself. And those of you who have fallen victim to this phenomenon, are the primary manipulative tools of the devious politician.
Our education structure no longer encompasses the crucial areas of ‘reading comprehension’ and ‘Ethics’- the moral principles on how one should behave decently, honorably and respectfully in society. One who holds only an academic qualification sans reading comprehension skills and ethics/integrity, is doomed to fail and is of no use to society at large. In fact, such a person is more of a curse than a blessing to society.
Unfortunately, most of those engaged in the teaching profession lack ethics and reading comprehension skills themselves or are unaware of such. So, how can such a teacher teach their students something they have no knowledge of hence don’t practice it themselves? Who is there to teach the teacher?
My interaction on social media has been a stark eye-opener for me as a journalist and a writer on sociopolitical issues, as I have come across a cross section of society I wouldn’t otherwise meet. Therein I have found, those belonging to varying social strata, from the well-rounded educated and ethical to the common street thug. Hence social media is a useful platform for those of us focussed on evolving sociopolitical issues in Sri Lanka.
Besides networking decently, social media is also a platform where people display their true colours or their dark side without realising it. The cunning amongst them hide behind fake names and profiles to launch their racist and sexist attacks on the other, and the foolish do it under their own names and faces. These are the people who are referred to as ‘trolls’ on social media. The majority of these trolls are ill bred and uncouth men with a handful of their female counterparts included, but, the males are in the majority. This is not at all surprising in a society where a woman cannot walk freely in public or use public transport without being harassed by sexually depraved men.
These trolls are basically cowards suffering from acute and varying forms of inferiority complexes who take cover behind a phone or a computer to attack the other. If you ask any one of them to meet you physically and repeat to your face what they do hiding behind a keyboard, you can bet your bottom dollar they never will. I know this from experience. They wear masks in society to hide their true selves, yet inadvertently expose their dark side on social media. Hence you will never know the real person behind the mask when you meet them face to face but on social media, you will.
Amongst these trolls are professionals such as Doctors, Lawyers etc., including Journalists who will even sell their souls for a free laptop or less. Their behavior brings them down to the level of the uncouth, ill-bred common thug on the streets. Hence the medical, legal and journalism which were once amongst professions which regarded ethics as sacrosanct, is no more!
These trolls, including the above mentioned ‘Professionals’ resort to using what is referred to as “raw filth” in their racist and sexist attacks on the other or when they disagree with the views expressed by others, simply because they lack the intelligence and integrity to disagree decently and respectfully. Most of them are also parents of impressionable young children. Hence through their conduct, what is the example they are setting for their children to emulate?
It is all well and good to be armed with academic qualifications – degrees, PhDs etc., but, if you lack ‘Integrity'(morality, courtesy and decency), your academic qualifications are of no use, because, a decent society will judge you first NOT by your academic qualification, but, by your conduct in society. Hence a ‘Professional’ and others who lack integrity ends up spitting on his/her own face, their families, schools, religion, the profession he/she is engaged in and last but not least, the ethnic community you identify yourself with and as a Sri Lankan.
Further, unsurprisingly, I also discovered by going through the profiles of these trolls on social media that 99.9% of them were Sinhala-Buddhists. Now, who set the example for such people to emulate over the past eighteen years, ably assisted by sections of the Buddhist clergy? A youth who was 18 years old in 2005 is today around his/her mid 30s, and it is amongst them and those much younger and little older who have become the ethically depraved and destructive generation of Sri Lankans.
The above mentioned generation of Sinhala-Buddhists will eventually lead to the destruction of the Sinhalese as an ethnic community because they will breed their own kind. Therefore, the threat to the Sinhalese DOES NOT come from those of other ethnic groups or religions, BUT, it comes from within the Sinhalese and amongst the Sinhalese, with the examples set by racist and bigoted Sinhala-Buddhist politicians, and many amongst the Buddhist clergy.
For a country to develop economically, it first and foremost needs an educated, principled and ethical populace. Hence a country like ours CANNOT and will NEVER develop economically and socially as long as its people are unprincipled. Because, it is from amongst such people – the citizens of Sri Lanka – that politicians are elected to represent us and lead our country.
Therefore as long as the majority of this country remains gullible, unethical and unprincipled, we will continue to have unethical and unprincipled politicians as our political leaders. Remember, the person you vote for is a reflection of who you are. If you are unethical and unprincipled yourself, you will chose to vote for an unethical and unprincipled candidate at any election, irrespective of the political party.
Last but not least, I lay the blame for this societal degradation in Sri Lanka, fairly and squarely at the feet of our Buddhist clergy, save a handful. The majority of our Buddhist clergy, starting with the Mahanayakes downward are guilty of violating the Vinaya Pitaka. Their first violation was segregating themselves according to the repugnant caste system the Buddha totally denounced, and from their onwards, the rot started.
Morally, the main and only reason a man or woman choses Buddhist ordination is to live a simple and meditative life and ultimately attain nirvana and in the meantime, teach the Buddhist laity the philosophy of the Buddha- the Dhamma. Today, how many amongst those referred to as ‘Buddhist monks’ behave and live the morally righteous life? How many of these ‘monks’ know and understand the Buddha’s teachings or reflect it in order to teach the laity? How can they teach what they do not know?
Instead, they have adopted a self-serving pseudo religion called “Buddhagama” (‘Agama’ means religion as in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam) concocted by their predecessors aeons ago and continue to propagate it amongst the gullible Sinhalese, instead of teaching what they should be rightfully teaching the laity – the Dhamma, which makes absolutely no reference to a religion called “Buddhagama”.
These pseudo ‘Buddhist monks’ are the primary cause of the morally bankrupt Sinhala-Buddhist laity of Sri Lanka, for they have led the laity astray with lies and deceit. And, if the right-thinking educated Buddhists of this country don’t take it upon themselves to take these pseudo ‘Buddhist monks’ to task and stop them in their destructive tracks, right now, they will continue to contribute to the ultimate destruction of the Sinhalese as an ethnic community.
Given the moral-lows Sri Lanka’s society has dropped to, it will take nothing less than a righteous ‘Benevolent Autocrat’ to cleanse our country of the societal scourge that has taken hold, which is the primary impediment to the development of our country. This is the only option for the greater good of the future generations of Sri Lanka!