By Laksiri Fernando –
The response begins by calling names. In the very first sentence, Dr. Siri Gamage is called “an expatriate academic critic.” This is in nationalistic terms and not on academic credentials, perhaps to find ‘enemies’ like Carl Schmitt did. I am here referring to Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s “The New Political Mission is Essentially the Old One,” in a defensive reply to Siri Gamage. That is excusable when compared to his xenophobic outrage against the Tamils. My take on the debate is to trace the obvious Nazi roots in Dayan’s thinking.
Out of 17 paragraphs he has written, 5 begins with the claim “I know.” Then there are another half a dozen of ‘I knows’ within paragraphs.
It is too noticeable that even Mahinda Rajapaksa is too small for his so-called mission which he claims to have started during President Premadasa’s time or from his Peradeniya first year tutorial. He refutes “Gamage’s idea that my [his] political mission is new, bound up entirely with Mahinda Rajapaksa and is indeed post-2015 election.” He also says that he is not “unaware of or unconcerned about the many faults of the Rajapaksa regime.”
He says “I am not primarily concerned with matter of political culture, political behavior and issues of governance. My focus is the state.” The State obviously is his God, like in the case of Carl Schmitt. He further says, “I am concerned about the State, not about Government, still less governance, which is why I didn’t give a darn as to whether or not President Premadasa ran a ‘one –man show’ as was widely alleged.” It is obvious that Dayan likes ‘one man shows.’
Most clearly he supports dictators and tyrants. He despises human rights as a tool of imperialism, or calls ‘human rights imperialism,’ assistance of which Rajapaksa sought in late 1980s. He is rather frank about his values and criteria. As he further says, “That’s why I support/ed Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranasinghe Premadasa (rather than the DUNF or CBK), Mao (despite the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap), Stalin (despite the Gulags), the Communist tradition rather than the Trotskyist, and am a (non-practicing) Catholic rather than a Protestant. I am sure the continuum of values and criteria are rather plain.”
In the case of Mao and Stalin, he has stated ‘despite’ what he supports/ed them. Even in the case of Premadasa, he has supported him despite the ‘one-man show.’ But in the case of Rajapaksa he has not stated despite what he has supported him. Therefore, the readers might like to know whether it was despite ‘corruption,’ ‘family rule,’ ‘war crimes’ or ‘human rights violations in general? I hope he could be frank about his ‘despites’ in his next missive.
Dayan has also claimed that although he is not practising, he is a “Catholic rather than a Protestant.” This is intriguing. Obviously he is not Buddhist. Although he talks a lot about Sinhala heritage, his thinking does not appear to be anything akin to rationalist or humanist thinking of the Buddha or Buddhism. That is very clear.
Then where does he get his thinking? Of course it is ingrained. However, Dayan traces his ideological roots to Carl Schmitt who was or became a Nazi. He says “The distinctions I observe are analogous to the one made so famously by Carl Schmitt, between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’. He conceptualized the latter as defined by the “friend/enemy” distinction, and paid a tribute to Lenin for introducing this new political perspective—which, interestingly, he also traced to tough-minded Catholic political thinkers.”
It is true that Schmitt made a rare distinction between ‘politics’ and ‘the political,’ and latter to mean the State or the state power. It is also power and state power that Dayan is concerned about. But for what purpose? The state cannot or should not be considered a ‘thing in itself’ without its purpose/s. Human societies are more important than the states. The state has a history of about 7,000 years, but the human history goes back to around 3 million years.
Without quoting from too academic publications, let me quote just a paragraph from Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopaedia) to introduce Dayan’s mentor, Carl Schmitt.
“Schmitt joined the Nazi Party on 1 May 1933. Within days of joining the party, Schmitt was party to the burning of books by Jewish authors, rejoicing in the burning of “un-German” and “anti-German” material, and calling for a much more extensive purge, to include works by authors influenced by Jewish ideas. In July, he was appointed State Councillor for Prussia (Preußischer Staatsrat) by Hermann Göring and became the president of the Vereinigung nationalsozialistischer Juristen (“Union of National-Socialist Jurists”) in November. He also replaced Hermann Heller as professor at the University of Berlin (a position he held until the end of World War II). He presented his theories as an ideological foundation of the Nazi dictatorship, and a justification of the Führer state with regard to legal philosophy, in particular through the concept of auctoritas.”
I am not surprised that Dayan has called Tamil nationalism, ‘Tamil Zionism.’ Schmitt did the same. Schmitt was incorrigibly anti-Semitic, like Dayan becoming strongly anti-Tamil. Dayan is not merely talking about the LTTE ideology or certain sections of the Diaspora, but Tamil nationalism in general without a distinction.
Dayan is right in saying that Schmitt looked for ‘friend – enemy’ distinction to strengthen the state, sovereignty and also Nazism. Dayan already does half of it looking for ‘enemies’ to strengthen the ‘state and sovereignty.’ He even calls or denounces his former academic colleagues ‘expatriates.’ At what point he would become a full Nazi like Schmitt may be a matter of time.
On the positive side, however, there is a world of difference between Schmitt’s time and today, not only in terms of calendar time, but also in terms of ideas, thinking and values. In comparison, Schmitt’s ideas are quite archaic and regressive apart from his support or capitulation to Nazism.