By Sarath De Alwis –
“To him who looks upon the world rationally, the world in its turn presents a rational aspect. The relation is mutual.” – Hegel in Lectures on the Philosophy of History
The role of identity in the political order of our Island has been redefined by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka in his newest exposition captioned Identity & the Islands Political Order and gives it an urgency of an Existential Question.
I begin my counter with a Hegelian approach to the ‘rational’ in the hope, perhaps forlorn that we still share some of those of rudimentary Marxist notions of morality that recognizes antagonisms that are class based and not race based.
His latest treatise seems to place Dr. Dayan unequivocally in the racist variety. The Jewish theologian Rabbi Joshua Herschel points out that “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man–the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
I would even go further and invoke Trotsky who spurned “those base means and ways which set one part of the working class against other parts…or lowers the faith of the masses in themselves and their organization.”
Why does Dr. Jayatilleka contrive so hard and so passionately to ‘lower the faith of the masses in themselves’?
His contemptuous dismissal of those who opt to abide by reason as rootless cosmopolitans and intellectual dilettanti is incomprehensible. His knowledge of men, matters and minds is far more judicious and incisive than his present comrades Weerawansa and Gammanpila who share the very legitimate objective of restoration of their political master Mahinda Rajapaksa in office.
His characterization of Tamil nation hood displays the usual bias of a Gunadasa Amarasekera or a Nalin de Silva. The common prerogative of the pamphleteer. “No surrender. No defeat. A spectre’s haunting Main Street. [With apologies to the rock band Weakerthans]
Dr. Jayatilleka is on record insisting that both ‘Sinhala and Tamil nationalism’ must be contained as a prerequisite to build a Sri Lankan national identity and consciousness. How did he propose to do that? Again he is on record. “They can be contained only by being accommodated to some degree. Tamil nationalism can be contained only by a sufficiency of devolved power and resources. We must share power with one another so as to build a nation with and for us all.”
If that is a reasonable solution, shouldn’t he the political scientist and Guevarisc humanist be advocating a constitutional acknowledgement in these transformative times to enshrining that the “whole of Sri Lanka is the traditional homeland of its entire people and no one is constitutionally superior to the other”. No he does not.
He moves from fantasy to the absurd to the outrageous and decides that the Tamils of Sri Lanka are in denial of their status as a national minority. He thereby constructs the existential threat to the Sinhalese and the state formation on the island. Strangely Dr. Jayatilleka is arguing against himself.
I crave the indulgence of the editors of Colombo Telegraph to quote Dr. Jayatilleka the political scientist to Dayan Jayatilleka the political polemicist.
“No devolution or too little, and communities will break away. Too much devolution and they will do the same. The degree of devolution at the periphery depends on the character of the mainstream. If one implements a strictly secular Republicanism as does France, and one is a French citizen with equal rights irrespective of ethnicity, then the need for substantive devolution at the periphery is virtually non-existent (though Corsica would doubtless disagree). However, if a society insists that the culture, language and civilization of its majority must have some built-in preference, then it is unrealistic to expect that those who do not belong to that culture but are inhabitants of the country would feel themselves fully integrated and un-alienated citizens. Full integration can only take place on the basis of full equality, and a citizenship that is blind to ethnic origin, religion and language. If the State and citizenship are not blind or even-handed but biased, then it is unavoidable that there will be demands by minorities for their own political space at the periphery.” [http://groundviews.org/2008/07/30/winning-the-war-winning-the-peace/]
The presidential elections of 2015 has completely stripped the inclusive, pluralist, secular, rational, modern thinking of Dayan Jayatilleka the Mark Antony of Nugegoda. He now asserts that “there is no bi-national, multinational or pluri-national state in Sri Lanka, and there must not and cannot be. There can only be a nation–state in Sri Lanka. The only debate is which nation that is: Sri Lankan or Sinhalese. I’d say both. In a civic and diplomatic sense it is a Sri Lankan nation and a Sri Lankan national identity, the best example of which is our cricket team and the phenomenon of ‘cricket nationalism’.
Before responding to this clever correlation with cricket it is necessary to ask Dayan what he thinks of cricket. Is it a sport or a game? Let’s skip over the fact that cricket is also an industry replete with a P & L and ROI courtesy Brothers Ranatunga whose saga is as fascinating as that of the Brothers Karamazov. It reminds me of a passage from Brothers Karamazov. Says Fyodor Dostoyevsky “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
Dostoyevsky was the literary realist who explored the irrational dark motifs, dreams, emotions and visions. That Dayan has turned a political Dostoyevsky in our post war post Mahinda phase is no surprise. Watching the antics of Ranil Wickeremesighes 100 day’s opera it is reasonable to assume that Gothic fiction is far less complicated than Sinhala Politics. Heroes and giants turning in to zombies is far too real in our present day politics.