Colombo Telegraph

Perception, Intuition And Reason Of Smart Patriotism: Reply To Dayan

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath De Alwis

Dr. Dayan Jayatillake rejects my assertion that his new theory of Smart Patriotism versus Dumb patriotism is fabricated history’. In doing so he has assigned me a new hobby- psychoanalysis – which I do not practice now and have no intention of adopting in the future.

Reading Silvia Nassr’s ‘Beautiful Mind’ and Irving Stone’s ‘Passion of the Mind’ are my only excursions in to Freudian territory. However I confess to some familiarity with the work of Daniel Khaneman Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics hailed as the world’s most distinguished living psychologist. This peripheral knowledge of the ‘prospect theory’ tells me that Dr.Dayan Jayatillake having left the land of reason is now drifting in the sea of perceptions in a rudderless vessel called intuition. Needless to say further one drifts away from reason, perceptions turn misty and intuition turns less precise.

The predicament of Dr. Jayatillake is neither new nor unique. It happens to us all when arriving at a conclusion with no reason and then constructing the argument. The Nobel laureate Khaneman has given an excellent example of bias leading to conclusions.

“All roses are flowers. Some flowers fade quickly. Therefore some roses fade quickly.’ And people are asked ‘Is this a valid argument or not?’ It is not a valid argument. But a very large majority of students believe it is because what comes to their mind automatically is that the conclusion is true, and that comes to mind first. And from there the natural move from the conclusion being true to the argument being valid. And people are not really aware that this is how they did it: they just feel the argument is valid, and this is what they say.”

With psychoanalysis dealt with let’s turn to the substantive issues. It is gratifying to see Dr. Dayan Jayatillake framing his ‘Smart Patriotism’ as a part of a project which he calls “A New Nationalism for A New Opposition.” He grants that his recent article is an ideological and political intervention in a specific ideological and political situation. He stops short of admitting that it is specifically that of the post 8th of January situation.

Dr. Jayaatillake insists that the ideas contained in the intervention have been articulated by him decades before Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated. If that were true he has been prescient decades ago in anticipating the post 8th of January new opposition that demands a new nationalism.

He explains “If these ideas did not receive the emphasis or the primacy in my hierarchy of views then, that I have accorded them now in my political perspective, it is because the context has indeed changed.”

What is the new context? It is the context of a distinguished ex-civil servant Tissa Devendra, being amused that The UNP elephant remains triumphant, American dollars being more welcome than ever…” This apparently is the urgency for Dr.D.J to accord a higher primacy to his old views on patriotism. At this point it is necessary to fast forward an argument Dr.D.J makes further down his lengthy riposte replete with intimidating quotes and citations that I find difficult to cope with.

The architect of Smart Patriotism identifies Sri Lanka as a unique land with “unique combination of small size, the Sinhala language and Theravada Buddhism that requires a strong centrifugal state with a unitary system and an elected executive presidency”

The executive presidency is the windmill of Dr. Dayan and I have no overwhelming urge to play Sancho to this eminent Knight and Political Scientist who has roamed far and wide from 1948 to 2015 in search of a theoretical anchor for a fragile raft termed ‘smart patriotism ‘.

I am not qualified to debate the merits or otherwise of the Executive Presidency or the restoration of Cabinet form of government. To me it makes no difference whether it is the 13th amendment of 1987 or a return to the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact of 1957 that is used to bring about national reconciliation.

It is futile for me to attempt to respond to the extensive extracts from his previous prolific advocacy of Sinhala Supremacy couched in elegant and elastic polemics. That is territory I fear to tread. If they contain an iota of recognition of plural democratic values it is my misfortune that I missed the oyster that held the pearl. I generally limit my diving.

It is not surprising that Dr.D.J. the quintessential child of 1956 finds the Brahamin Bigotry of the ’56 Mara Yuddha cartoon seductive. After all the intention of Mara was to seduce Siddhartha on the threshold of enlightenment. Mara is a familiar figure in the rich lore of Buddhist mythology. In Vedic Brahmin tradition Mara is the essence of not evil but its potential for evil.

In 1956 the Buddhist ethos was such that Buddha could be central in a political cartoon. Since then Corporate and Political Buddhism has come a long way to accuse such efforts as blasphemy.

Dr.D.J protests that he cannot “accept with equanimity that the defeated appeasers and vacillators of the decade 1994-2004, the “low, dishonest decade” are the winner’s today.

This is strange logic. The parallel I could think of is Rush Limbaugh hoping that Obama should fail even he is does the right thing. Smart patriotism is thus intended to keep the communal cauldron boiling for the simple purpose of defeating the appeasers and reinstalling the conqueror. The candour is titillating and total.

He shares, Mr. Devendra’s wry whimsy at the social restorationism or counter-reformatory character of today’s trends. This writer has no plans to deter Mr.Devendra from tilting towards smart patriotism. It may in fact serve as an elixir for geriatric conditions both physical and cerebral.

Dr.D.J.’ has publicly articulated his political ideas in support for Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as Premadasa. They are both fortunate in finding an ideologue uninhibited by Kantian moral dimensions. Kant clearly saw that the propensity to moral evil was the free subversion of the moral law for other inclinations, aims or interests. Thus Kantian paradigms of governance held that even when subversion might appear to be necessary and even in line with what is considered to be legal, the subversion of the moral law leads to evil in a moral sense.

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka finds it difficult to reconcile himself “to the idea that tomorrow may belong to the bloc of those who failed and those who betrayed us yesterday” It is an extremely personal statement of anguish. I weep for him. “Patriotism is like religion–it is best when least ostentatious.”

To me smart patriotism is benign Sinhala Buddhist bigotry that explain away the five locust years 2010-2015.

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