26 September, 2020

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The Bigger Thing Is To Keep Matchstick In Box

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

It is easy to see ominous signs where there are none.  Molehills, after all, are frequently made into mountains.  On the other hand, if atom can be made into bomb, we must acknowledge that society is a tinder box and people matchsticks.  Few things inspire collective umbrage as assaults on collective identity, perceived or real.

Sri Lanka has enough collectives to make anyone given to rabble rousing on identity-account salivate.  It does not take the entire collective to feel wronged.  It does not take even a single individual to feel affronted on account of identity.  It can take either, but it would also suffice for a few shrew (misguided or otherwise) individuals who know that spark can make a bonfire to gather enough tinder or create it if necessary and put match to it.

It is glib to say ‘communities have always lived in harmony’.  There have been long periods of peaceful co-existence, but no two communities can claim to have been ‘always at peace’ except in situations of subjugation, where the ‘peace’ is obtained at a price and resentment and humiliation go from raging fire to subdued flame to smoldering ember.  The truth is that identity matters.  It is primary source of meaning, for human beings are cultural creatures; they have language, customs and subscribes to cosmologies.  They are frail and therefore vulnerable.  Those vulnerabilities are preyed on by identity ‘others’ as well as identity exploiters.

In short we are a nation where there are enough red flags around to upset anyone whose identity fixation is capable of transforming him/her into the proverbial bull.  Indeed even a pink flag waved can be seen as ‘red’ or read as being flaunted in face.  That is the downside of identity-fixation and I am not even sure if there’s an ‘up’ side to it.

It doesn’t have to be identity either.  The smart identity-abuser can dress non-identity issues in ethnic and religious clothes.  Bogeymen can be conjured at will.  You talk to representatives of either of the ‘aggrieved’ camps and they would come up with excellent arguments to back their fears and objections.  One would think that the articulators are all unblemished on all counts and the ‘other’ they contend with are pretty odious creatures.

One thing is clear.  The law cannot differentiate among collectives.  One thing is clear: no group has the right to take the law into their hands.  One thing is clear.  If you insult, you hurt and some among the hurt will be angry and of those who are angry there will be some who will retire reason in favor of passion.  One thing is clear.  It is easy to set fire to things it is a hundred times more difficult to douse the flames.  One thing is clear.  Pyromaniacs love each other.

The true test of character and civic responsibility, however, is to desist from making statements and asking questions that could provoke irritation (irritation is spark, first spark; anger is fire).  The true challenge is to sift message from messenger, obtain word without letting its religious coloring blur vision. The true responsibility is to ignore the obvious political motivation (it is political, let us not be naïve here) and do what is prescribed in the faith-texts of your choice.

I am a Buddhist so I will speak as one.  Buddhists, since they are the most frequently vilified (we have seen ridiculous and utterly pernicious blanket extrapolation to collective the act of a single or a few individuals), if they feel ‘wronged’ (on account of sense of identity rather than philosophical conviction, obviously), would do well to take refuge in the twin notions relevant to all engagement: wisdom and compassion.  They would do well to reflect on the sathara agathi (the four pathways to destruction), namely greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), delusion (moha) and fear (bhaya) because they make the vast majority of the population.  For when a weak man is afflicted, only a small circle of people are harmed, but when a leader is arrogant, delusional, hateful etc., nations can perish.

No one can prescribe ways of being to others.  We can only self-prescribe.  If we are wise and compassionate, there’s less chance of causing harm.  We are the atoms that make the bomb.  All of us.  One explosion can take out the entire nation.  One can stop oneself, not anyone else.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com .

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Latest comments

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    Malinda – “…..but when a leader is arrogant, delusional, hateful etc., nations can perish.” You said it!!!

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      Was he actually referring to, er… Mahinda Rajapaksa?

      If so has Malinda seen the light at last?

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    The better thing is to keep your mouth shut, and your thoughts in your head.

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      MAHADANAMUTHA,

      You stupid old fool. If you don’t have the brains to understand what Malinda says above, it is you who should shut up and keep your thoughts in your empty head.

  • 0
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    Yawn

  • 0
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    Malinda must get hold of the British TV comedy series Fawlty Towers starring John Cleese and get some feeling for the moment at hand, watching “Germans”…

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    It would be better not to have a match stick at all. Religon is supposed to crystallize the virtues of humankind. However what we see is that religon is often the source of conflict and bloodshed. The match within us is our ego which tends to overide all our religous teachings and spirituality.

    To look at others and treat all with compassion, equamity and justice can only be the result of selflesness. This is the basic aim of all religons. Too often religon is seen as a group or tribe which needs to assert their superiority over others in worldly or material terms.

    Thus whether the match is lit or left in the box, it is equally dangerous. To habour such feelings hidden is also the death of religon and sprituality. It can manifest in many fine ways too difficult to discern. To be free of such egoistic feelings is what we must achieve if we are to gain enlightenment and be at peace with the world.

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    It is getting increasing hard to defend the indefensible isn’t it?

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    Malinda’s hero, MR, is falling. The images of Kings fall before their thrones. As Malinda himself now suggests (does he want to jump?)leaders become delusional before their fall. CJ’s impeachment had been a delusional act.The appointment of a Sugar Daddy into the portfolio shows MR is mad. What he needs is a Minister for Hospital Surgery because a poor 23-year-old law student has had her arm accidentally amputated. The hospital’s response is simply hilarious,were it not for the tragedy:”These things happen in every country!”

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      S. Jayasinghe please don’t wish for this “What he needs is a Minister for Hospital Surgery because a poor 23-year-old law student has had her arm accidentally amputated”.

      If there is such a Ministry, both the poor girl’s arms would be accidentally cut off!

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    Why do I feel that an article along these line is soon to emanate from Malinda.

    ‘There are opinions and there their are opinions….. some people have tried to paint me as an apologist for the G’ment, these people failed to see that I was merely stating my opinion based on the facts as I saw them’

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    You say, “Pyromaniacs love each other.” Well so do sycophants, back scratchers and apple polishers. Birds of a feather flock together. You also say, “…but when a leader is arrogant, delusional, hateful etc., nations can perish.” Well Sri RajaPakistan is a terminal case, and if something drastic isn’t done soon to get rid of this arrogant, delusional, hateful leader and his family, this country will surely perish.

  • 0
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    MALINDA, HIMSELF IS A “MATCH-STICK”, SO HE BETTER GET INTO THE BOX.

    JUST KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT.THAT IS NOT DIFFICULT EH!

  • 0
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    SPOT ON AYMAN !! M.M. MUST BE ANOTHER BOOTLICKER OR M’S LEFT ONE !!

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    MAHADANA MUTHTHA whats with you? sucking up to that Malinda who we all know is a match stick and should stay in his box without making too much noise. Maybe you can keep him company as another pea brained louse.He,he,heeee ! !
    !

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