19 August, 2017

The Paradox Of Language: Futile & Yet Vital

By Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan

Prof. Charles Sarvan

Words, words, words (‘Hamlet’, Act 2, Scene 2)

What follows arises from reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (2017) by Reni Eddo-Lodge; born (1989) in London to Nigerian parents. The author clarifies that her decision relates to those whites (the majority) who refuse to accept there is racism in England. (In such contexts, rather than “racism” I have suggested, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the more accurate and specific term “colourism”. Derrida wrote that some words are inappropriate but not having an alternative we use them, placing them ‘under erasure’: the word “racism” – again, in certain circumstances – is one of them.) Some of what Eddo-Lodge says is related to Sri Lanka.

Language is the most vital of human inventions. It’s Shakespeare’s genius that in ‘Richard 11’ when Mowbray is sentenced to life-long exile, he doesn’t lament the loss of family and friends; of a familiar and loved landscape but the loss of language. It’s through language that we communicate our thoughts and express our feelings. To alter and use words from a ‘pop’ song, it may only be words, but words are all we have. Words enable us, each from the island of our individual self, to attempt to build bridges of communication with other islanded individuals and groups. What we don’t encounter, whether personally or through language, remains unknown to us. For example, I’m a British citizen; I’ve lived, studied and worked in England; England is my second Heimat, and yet the following statement read just the other day, came as a surprise to me: “proportionally, Chinese people experience higher levels of fear and violence than any other minority group in the UK” (The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, 2016, p. 43). One does not immediately accept this statement but a certain awareness is created. Eddo’s title reflects repeated attempts to communicate with whites, and failure: so too with Sri Lanka and the racial divide. (The inadequacy, if not failure, of language must particularly puzzle and pain those in the Humanities, more specifically, those in the discipline of Literature – Literature is made up entirely of language; and language, of words.)

Racism (Colourism?) is not a problem for white people, writes Eddo. For them, white is the norm and all other colours are a deviation: she dislikes the term ‘non-white’ because it suggests a lack. In an essay, ‘Forming blackness through a screen’, Eddo writes that white is neutral and invisible; that is, unnoticed. Similarly, being Sinhalese in Sri Lanka is not a problem for Sinhalese but an advantage. I turn to Martin Jacques, a British academic and his personal tragedy out of which something positive was extracted. “Like every white person, I had never experienced [colour prejudice] myself: the meaning of colour was something I had to learn. The turning point was falling in love with my wife, an Indian-Malaysian, and her coming to live in England… Colour is something white people never have to think about because for them it is never a handicap… but rather the opposite, a source of privilege” (Martin Jacques, “The global hierarchy of race“. The Guardian, London, 20 September, 2003, p. 23.) The last sentence can be applied to Sinhalese living in Sri Lanka. Jacques’ wife was sent by her law firm to Hong Kong: I suppose one of the reasons was that she was fluent in Cantonese. Martin Jacques accompanied her to continue his research into China; his wife fell ill; was admitted to hospital (it was in 2000, and she was thirty-three) but because of callous neglect caused by colour-based racism, died. In Hong Kong, when not in the company of her white husband, she had been subjected to an “in-your-face racism”. There is a global hierarchy of colour, at the top of which are whites. They are the only ‘race’ that never suffers any kind of systematic racism anywhere in the world. They are invariably the beneficiaries, never the victim but, even when well-meaning, they remain strangely ignorant of what people of colour encounter and experience: Martin Jacques, op. cit. Determined to extract justice, the grieving husband sued the hospital – and won. In a personal message to me dated 28 June 2010, he wrote that as a direct response to the outcry over his wife’s death, the Hong Kong government introduced anti-racist legislation, albeit in a weak form. “After blanket denial for ten years that the hospital did anything wrong…they suddenly sought a settlement – with some desperation. They never formally apologised – just threw in the towel.”

Within the hierarchy of skin-colour, there’s also created a hierarchy of shades of skin-colour. Members of non-white but light-skinned ethnic groups look down on those who are shades darker. Centuries of Western imperialism and domination in various fields projected a feeling of inferiority on non-Western peoples. But the real damage, as Achebe observes (Morning Yet on Creation Day), is when non-Western people accept and internalise the negative image projected of them. Going back more than half a century to the ‘Ceylon’ I knew and loved, I recall an indignant Sinhala, rhetorical, question: “Api kalu the?”  “Are we black?” (“Is that why you are ignoring us?” The implication is that had we been black, it would have been justified to slight us.)  Skin-lightening creams still sell well in various countries, and some Sri Lankan marriage-notices proudly state that the prospective bride is fair-complexioned. ( En passant but not without significance, Sinhalese tend to think that Tamils are much darker complexioned.)

There are many reasons for Eddo’s sense of the futility of words; of talking. Most of us are islanded within our own individual and group experience: it’s because Martin Jacques married an Indian that he gained an insight into what it really is to be a person of colour in a colour-conscious (‘colourist’) society. On his first visit to India, E M Forster, best known to South Asian readers as the author of A Passage to India (1924), was the guest of Indians, and so gained an insight into the contempt with which his fellow whites, imperial rulers, treated Indians and anyone who was not white.

But inter-racial marriage can have an opposite effect: there are examples of  Sinhalese men married to Tamil women being rabidly racist; virulently anti-Tamil. Perhaps, this is to declare that, despite their marriage, they remain Sinhalese? Perhaps, they feel the need to assert an identity and commitment that Sinhalese married to Sinhalese may not feel driven to proclaim? We human beings have a remarkable ability to live with contradictions ignoring, denying or rationalising them: marry a Tamil but hate and be hostile to Tamils. (Elsewhere, I have termed this “exceptionalism”: the claim that a particular individual is an exception, thus justifying and maintaining group-prejudice and animosity.) On the other hand, inter-racial marriage can lead to understanding, and understanding to sympathy, indignation and even to protest.

Sinhalese settled outside the Island expect decent and fair treatment; expect full rights as citizens and equal opportunity. Yet some of these same individuals will vociferously and vehemently advocate subordination and exclusion when it comes to the minorities of ‘the Paradise Isle’. Though non-white, they expect; get and enjoy abroad what they deny to others at home. They may welcome the banning of hate-speech where they live but spew racist poison in “blessed” Sri Lanka. They may extol abroad Buddhism’s lofty compassion and noble non-violence but, in Sri Lanka, use Buddhism to justify, to sanction – even to sanctify – violence and hegemony.

Eddo, trying to engage white people in dialogue on the subject of colour found she was seen as one of those angry black people who is a threat to them. These whites often saw themselves as historical victims, in danger of being taken over. As in Sri Lanka, history is ignored and factual statistics disregarded. Those who think and behave on such lines, indulge in what’s termed ‘rationalisation’ in psychology, related to the ‘defence mechanism’. They see themselves as righting wrongs; of suppressing in the present so as not to be oppressed in the future. Eddo points out that ‘racism’ (here, based on skin-colour) is not always overt or crude. Further, there are English people who say: I have friends who are people of colour; therefore I can’t be a racist. But inter-racial social association and personal friendships in themselves alter nothing. As Henry Thoreau (1817-1862) reflects in his essay, ‘Civil Disobedience’, it doesn’t help if you are against slavery but do nothing about it (emphasis added). Former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother and members of their government; officers and soldiers of the security forces may well have had Tamil friends. If so, it did not have the slightest influence on their actions. Inter-racial association, by itself (emphasised), does not alter or help to dismantle systemic, structural, racism.  Of course, this calls into question the true nature of proclaimed “friendship”.

Altering and applying Eddo’s observation, those Tamils who have the opportunity and yet do not discuss their racial experience and situation with Sinhalese friends fail to make a positive contribution. Eddo found that to talk about the colour problem with whites made her become the ‘problem’. The focus then was on her as a difficult, over-sensitive, person and not on the problem! Similarly, to say to Sinhalese friends that there is injustice and suffering; may make you the problem. On the other hand, because Tamils remain silent on the subject, there is unawareness and the continuation of injustice and pain. Of course, this applies only to Sinhalese who are neutral, either unknowing or indifferent to what has and is being done in their name: there are many others, racists, who work proudly and gleefully towards hegemony.

There are several reasons why most Tamils remain silent on the subject, vis-à-vis their Sinhalese “friends”, embarrassment and feared estrangement being the main two factors. It might also be a sense of futility: “What the use? It’ll have no effect, and only be a matter of loss without any gain”. They wish to retain the pleasure and profit of socialising; to continue to enjoy the benefits of contact – be that contact professional, religious, business or even academic – I write “even” because in academic circles one fondly expects a greater degree of reasoned, free and frank, exchange.  (“Fondly” is here used also in the earlier sense of “foolishly”.)

Language is vital; it’s the (emphasised) main means by which we humans attempt to reach understanding and yet, time and time again, it fails to have any effect. I say one thing and people hear something else, regrets Eddo (p. 215). Why is it so? Is it because our prejudices are so deeply rooted? Is it an inability to examine our stance; think on new lines; accept the possibility of having been mistaken? Is it a failure of imagination and empathy? We have made wonderful progress in science and technology but our human nature, its fears and insecurity, hasn’t changed; hasn’t progressed. I have suggested to students that while we see through our eyes, we actually see with the mind. Our eyes are passive instruments; our minds are active producers.  For example, loving Tamil family-members on the one side, and racist Sinhalese on the other will see the same Tamil individual but “see” her or him quite differently. The winsome baby or little child who involuntarily brings a smile to the face can, in another context, be butchered – as happened during the horrible anti-Tamil pogrom of July ’83 and later. Several places and incidents, throughout the world and throughout time, provide examples: there is no shortage of instances of appalling cruelty when it comes to our species. Perception is paramount. And perception has finally to do with the mind than with the eyes: what’s seen is determined by the mind, and not by the eyes. And the distinction Eddo writes about is one based on skin-colour: it’s immediate and visual. But it’s not skin-colour; it’s not ethnic difference but what we, consciously or not, bring to the “seeing” of it. Does the above help to explain why language so often fails?

All we have are words but, ironically, the attempt to create understanding can lead to a worse misunderstanding; even to taunts, denigration and increased hostility. The electronic media is a great help but, at the same time, it can be a grave danger in that response can be a knee-jerk reaction rather than a patient, carefully thought-out, answer. Often, what’s important is neglected and the respondent fastens on something trivial or peripheral. Discussion is degraded into the scoring of cheap (if not vulgar) “debating points”. As Charles Darwin wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”. There’s at present a notable rise in nationalism in various parts of the world, and nationalism is almost invariably a concomitant of racism – see, post-Brexit Britain, and post-Donald Trump USA.

Language often fails us but it remains our prime means of communication; of sharing our thoughts, wishes and feelings; our pain and hope. Reni Eddo-Lodge writes that resignation, defeatism and silence are not an option. Silence will not alter things. We have to fight despondency; hang on to hope (p. 222). However tired and discouraged we may feel; however futile it may seem, we have to return to words. Words, words, words (Hamlet): they are all we have.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    10

    Tamils had no problem when English was the official language, Christianity was the official religion, ‘God Saved the Queen’ was the national anthem, Union Jack was hoisted, English letters were in car number plates. But when Sinhala; language of the majority became the official language, when ‘Namo Namo Matha’ became the national anthem, when Sri Lankan Flag was hoisted, when letter ‘Sri’ was used in car number plates Wellala politicians and elites had a problem. Although only 12% of the population, Tamil elites wanted to be more than equal in independent Sri Lanka. That is what they call ‘ethnic problem’.

    Before the arrival of Portuguese bastards, this country was a Sinhala Buddhist country known as ‘Sinhale’ where Tamils and Muslims were allowed to live as aliens. It was British who gave legal status to them because these two groups licked the ass of British and helped them to oppress Sinhalese and exploit resources in this country. We must rename the country as “Sinhale” which was the name of the country in the Treaty the British signed with the Chieftains of Sri Lanka in 1815 when they handed over the country to them. In India, they changed ‘Bombay’ to ‘Mumbai’; ‘Madras’ to ‘Chennai’. This is a funny country where there are three different names for the same city; Yapanaya; Yalpanam; Jaffna. Madakalapuwa; Mattakkalappu; Batticalao. These place names were distorted by Tamils and colonial rulers.

    • 4
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      Eagle,
      “Before the arrival of Portuguese bastards, this country was a Sinhala Buddhist country known as ‘Sinhale’”
      Yes , what a great country it was, too. It is time we sued the Portuguese for at least 10 billion Rs, because they are still using our Sinhala words for toilet/ school/ hospital, /shoes/ windows/ cabinet/ ship/ cart/paint/ shirt, and many more. These bastards came here and stole all these great and glorious Sinhala inventions, which they did not have.
      Oh, and the Tamils are using Sinhala names like Wickremasingha ,Gunawardhana, Kulatunga, Padmawathi, Ranjit, Ravi etc.
      Go for it, Eagle, I will support you all the way!

      • 3
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        old codger

        “These bastards came here and stole all these great and glorious Sinhala inventions, which they did not have.”

        Are you suggesting we swap our country with Portugal or invade and subjugate as they did to us 500 odd years ago. Eagle Eye is raging with 500 years of colonial bottled up anger.

        Don’t you think it is reasonable for me and my people to rage for 2500 of colonial anger? As compensation I need to find a way of kicking the Sinhala/Buddhist fascist out of this island. Please let me know if you have any idea.

        • 1
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          NV,
          “Are you suggesting we swap our country with Portugal or invade and subjugate as they did to us 500 odd years ago. “
          Good idea. I am told our navy is bigger than Portugal’s nowadays.

      • 1
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        Old codger. Sinhala people never claimed to be pure. It is Tamils who claim pure and they lived even before Dinosaur. but, they don’t have evidence. they just accepted what the white man said, and so-called Tamil acadmics and scholars are trying to prove that false crap. Wickransingh is used even by punjabis. Wathi is a good sanskrit word. Many Tamil words are derived from Sankrit word. Sanskrit is related to pali and Maghadi. when you very pure and conservative Tamil is mixed with sanskrit words, you caome to complain about Sinhala names and vocabulary.————- Even this article is that kind of Crap. Britain is very famous for Racism. Even Scotish, Irish people are talking about how english destroyed their cultures. these so-called very pure Tamil Academics who even don’t know who Tamils are. Anyway, these Anglicans I suppose, come and preach to us.

        • 2
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          Please do not display your ignorance. Tamils in Srilanka never claimed hat they are pure. Though Tamils in Srilanka speak Tamil, their accent and colloquialism resemble Malayalam, so much so that when they visit Tamil Nadu they are asked whether they are from Kerala. Also their customs and foods are similar to Kerala. Tamils in Srilanka never claimed that they are pure, as there is folk lore about Kalinga and Telegu input into Tamils of Srilanka. If you see, the accent of Tamils of recent origin in Srilanka, is different from that of the indigenous Tamils. It is the Sinhalese led by Anagarika Dharmapala claimed that they are of pure Aryan stock. Now this Aryan myth has been blown to pieces. Tamil has been declared as the oldest language, older than Sanskrit. So how come that it had derived from Sanskrit. it is only with the introduction of Vedic religion of Brahma and Vishnu of Aryans, that Sanskrit words had crept into Tamil. For your information for every Sanskrit word that was adopted into Tamil, there are pure ancient Tamil words. Recently in Madurai a whole city similar to Indus valley civilisation has been unearthed. With modern technology, hidden truths will be brought to light about the glorious Tamil civilisation elsewhere in the world including Srilanka.

  • 2
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    When I read, ‘Language is the most vital of human inventions’, I thought long and hard to see if I could differ. At the end, I could not!
    ______
    … but because of callous neglect caused by colour-based racism, died.
    — language based racism is the cause of most unwanted deaths in Sri Lanka!
    ______
    … There is a global hierarchy of colour, at the top of which are whites.
    — Let me borrow this statement. Sinhalese are at the top hierarchy of language – even though outside of the tiny island Sinhala is unheard of!
    ______
    … Sinhalese settled outside the Island expect decent and fair treatment; expect full rights as citizens and equal opportunity. Yet some of these same individuals will vociferously and vehemently advocate subordination and exclusion when it comes to the minorities of ‘the Paradise Isle’.
    — There is nothing to add!
    ______
    … while we see through our eyes, we actually see with the mind.
    — The proper perception.
    ______
    Prof. Charles Sarvan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. Could you shed some light on how one should go about to neutralise the evil that has been invoked upon Tamils of Sri Lanka.

    • 1
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      Thappu,
      Why don’t you count the mere blessing to be Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Fiji, South Africa, Mauritius etc.etc. away from the caste ridden hell hole. Go visit the hill country and see for yourself the pathetic life of those slaving in the tea estates. Yet they infinitely prefer that over living in an enviornment of their own language, religion and culture among their kith and kin. Why? Even at the cost of ” most vital form of human invetions.” Try answer this enigma and you will come to regret typing ” I thought long and hard to see if I could differ. At the end, I could not!
      Soma

      • 4
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        somass ji

        “Go visit the hill country and see for yourself the pathetic life of those slaving in the tea estates. “

        How come you suddenly become interested in hill country people? If you are from up country, check your DNA and Gananath Obeysekere for how closely you are related to the Tamil speaking hard working people of up country.

        If are from Pada Rata, again check your DNA and Gananath Obeysekere for how closely you are related to the Tamil speaking hard working people of up country.

        • 1
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          Native
          Bertrand Russel said throughout history people who said we are all children of one God always wanted to kill those who differred.
          Soma

          • 1
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            somass ji

            “Bertrand Russel said throughout history people who said we are all children of one God always wanted to kill those who differred.”

            Absolutely, the first ever recorded killing took place when North Indian Kallathonies arrived on the shores of this island, husband killed wife, subsequently Dutta fought the Demedas, ………….. son killed father, ….. and you should be proud of your Kallathonie heritage. When did you stop killing?

            You know I am bit thick hence I wouldn’t know who Bertrand Russel was. However my Elders told me about his admirable words:

            War does not determine who is right- only who is left – Bertrand Russel

            Here is a good one about you:
            The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. – Bertrand Russel

            You are cocksure about what you think “you think in politics” in this island.

            Good day.

            • 0
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              NV
              You have quoted Bertrand Russell “
              War does not determine who is right- only who is left”
              Which took 30 years and Nandikadal fou you guys to realise who is left and who is right.
              Soma

              • 1
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                somass ji

                “Which took 30 years and Nandikadal fou you guys to realise who is left and who is right”

                In a hurry to rebut my comment you forgot the deeper meaning of uncle Bertrand Russell. Here is what you missed or didn’t understand, will never understand:

                This country is left with 225 crooks untouched and unchallenged,
                300,000 possible war criminals unproductive and a threat to democracy,
                a national thief war criminal and his clan,
                a country heading towards a Sinhala/Buddhist fascist state,
                over 30,000 disabled soldiers left to suffer on their own,
                over 60,000 deserters, maybe fit trained, access to arms, …… already engaged in subcontract work,
                a political system that elects known crooks, killers, frauds …. over and over again,
                malnourished hoping to get 8 seru free rice from moon,
                the country is being sold to the lowest bidders,
                the state bureaucracy demands santhosam for attending to matters for which they are paid for monthly,
                war criminals demanding special status/treatment in the South,
                in some cases sexual favours in their own villages,
                already more than 300 serving soldiers have committed suicide the figure expected to go up,
                the women are being sent to medieval middle east kingdoms in order to keep the lazy men stay at home and have good time, including with their under age daughters,
                ……..
                …….
                the country’s legal system, enforcement of law and order are being developed for the crooks, fraudsters, killers, mass killers, cheat, bribe takers, commission agents, drug smugglers, ………………………… and and basically asses like you, not for the rest of the 21 million people, ……………
                You now know what Bertrand Russell meant, at least it is what I understood. You do not have to respond to my comments. please think long and hard before you start typing.

        • 1
          1

          Native
          Did you check with Sampanthan aiya before you typed that? He insists Tamils should be recognised as a distinct ethnic entity.
          Soma

          • 1
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            somass ji

            “He insists Tamils should be recognised as a distinct ethnic entity.”

            Why not?
            Not many Sinhalese and Buddhists want themselves to be lumped into Sinhala/Buddhist fascists. They have their right to be recognised/classified as a distinct ethnic group.

            Read, learn, think, and then type:

            Excerpt from:

            Ethnicity and ethnic groups – an explanation of these terms

            An ‘ethnic group’ has been defined as a group that regards itself or is regarded by others as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics that will help to distinguish the group from the surrounding community. Ethnicity is considered to be shared characteristics such as culture, language, religion, and traditions, which contribute to a person or group’s identity.

            Ethnicity has been described as residing in:

            • the belief by members of a social group that they are culturally distinctive and different to outsiders;

            • their willingness to find symbolic markers of that difference (food habits, religion, forms of dress, language) and to emphasise their significance; and

            • their willingness to organise relationships with outsiders so that a kind of ‘group boundary’ is preserved and reproduced

            This shows that ethnicity is not necessarily genetic. It also shows how someone might describe themselves by an ethnicity different to their birth identity if they reside for a considerable time in a different area and they decide to adopt the culture, symbols and relationships of their new community.
            ……..
            ….
            http://www.intercultural.ie/content/ethnicity-and-ethnic-groups-%E2%80%93-explanation-these-terms

            somass ji, take your own time.

            • 0
              0

              NV
              As you go on typing your computer takes over and you completely forget the origin. You started off:
              “If you are from up country, check your DNA and Gananath Obeysekere for how closely you are related to the Tamil speaking hard working people of up country.

              If are from Pada Rata, again check your DNA and Gananath Obeysekere for how closely you are related to the Tamil speaking hard working people of up country.”
              Soma

  • 3
    3

    Dear Sir

    I know many Tamils who look down upon other Tamils because of caste or skin colour. There is an unwritten notion that the darker-skinned Tamils are lower caste, and especially if you happen to be a girl, you are considered not pretty.

    The only way to address racism is to talk about it with those you term “racists”. I wonder how many Sinhalese you have talked with honestly about your feelings of victim-hood. They might empathize with you!

    You also seem to make many blanket statements about “Sinhalese -this and that”; without giving due recognition that it is INDIVIDUALS who are racist not whole ethnicities.

    Have you ever considered YOUR OWN racist ideas or tendencies?

  • 10
    2

    Thank you Prof. Sarvan. In your last years you live abroad, but read selectively, pick out what seems most relevant to see the problems of your home country in the wider world perspective, and then write articles that are so well put together that there almost is no more for us to do than read and digest.

    Yes, we Sinhalese smugly claim to have almost a divine right to do as we please in this land, and don’t try understand the problems faced by the minorities.

    • 4
      0

      Dear Sinhala_Man, My heart lights up whenever I get to read a comment of yours.
      *
      Sociologists define minorities as people singled out for differential and unequal treatment.
      *
      Isn’t there a rupture between that definition and your final sentence … … !

      • 2
        3

        Unreal
        “Sociologists define minorities as people singled out for differential and unequal treatment.”

        Psychologists define minorities as people who halucinate as singled out for differential and unequal treatment.

        Soma

        • 1
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          somass ji

          “Psychologists define minorities as people who halucinate as singled out for differential and unequal treatment.”.
          .-
          You have a valid point there.

          I suppose you are referring to the definition being proposed by Dr Dayan Jayatilleke, Dr Nalin de Silva, Dr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Dr Mahinda Rajapaksa, Double Doctorate Wijedasa Rajapaksa, Dr Gunadasa Amarasekara, ……………….. Dr Mervin Silva PhD, ………………..

    • 0
      3

      Sinhale man is a Tamil., check his other posts. charles Sarvan is there to screw up Tamils by converting them to christianity and to promote ethnic animosity by criticizing one group assuming Tamils are superior.

      • 5
        0

        Jimsofty, I seldom – nay never- interfere with your past time, – your mind is too active for me! Yet, I couldn’t resist the temptation to offer you a rebuttal, this time. Unlike you and me, and several others in this forum, Sinhala_Man is an open person. By definition, he is a friendly, approachable, honest, open-minded, and tolerant person who imbues authenticity. It is never too late to apologise to him, even in Sinhala!

      • 3
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        Jim softy, you damn well know that is not the case, that is assuming that you go by the culture prevailing in the family I belong to, and the fact that I speak Sinhala fluently, and Tamil not at all.

        I have told you clearly who I am.

        I have never met Prof. Sarvan, but he (much older) and I have found that we had studied in the same school at Gurutalawa:

        http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/07/post_385.html

        That’s him writing; this is me:

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-thomian-pharisees-are-unrepentant-why-this-matters-to-all-sri-lankans/

        Unreal, above says: “Dear Sinhala_Man, My heart lights up whenever I get to read a comment of yours.” My thanks to him. There are guys like us who are doing all that we can to keep this country as one united entity.

        As for you, Jimmy, you are doing your best to fragment it, although you may profess otherwise!

        You will next attack me as “Christian”, I guess! One year to the day after the article linked to above, I’ve decided not to write again, although we had an Annual General Meeting in the Bandarawela School that confirmed the continuing “degeneration” of the Church. I’ve just noticed that “Unreal” has been generous to me again at 09:21 today.

        Jimmy, you’ll never stop writing, I guess. at least try to be constructive!

        • 1
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          Sinhala-Man: Tamils are tlking about power. Buddhist try the concept of live and let live. Tamilsa re not for that. IF they are for that, they would treat their first as human. they don’t do that. Instead, they blame sinhala people for every trouble of theirs’ Once they go toa westerncountry, they are subservient to those people and appricate everything of theirs. When they are in Sinhale, they are the arrogant and, superior lot.

          • 2
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            Dear Jimmy,

            There are many Tamils who have faults, no doubt. Among them there are many who are working very hard to correct the social ills that prevail in their society. Please leave that to them.

            All CT readers are now familiar with your comments,and their style. Most will be pleasantly surprised at at the acceptable tone that you have adopted in last night’s comment. Please keep it up, and let’s work together to make our land a happy one first, next a prosperous one!

  • 0
    0

    A very good analysis though it could have been more concise. What more does one want when Prince Philip is acknowledged and regarded a racist. Bensen

  • 0
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    A paradox indeed, Professor. All is relative, of course, and I can still remember the shock of hearing a snooty Kandyan referring to a colleague as ‘a karawe son-of-a-bitch’ (oi karawe ballige putha).

    Sri Lankans come second to no one when it comes to being insulting, but they are so good at squealing when they get similar treatment outside the claustrophobic confines of our island paradise.

    All this is a human trait, so don’t expect things to change anytime soon.

  • 0
    0

    A picture is worth a thousand words:

    “https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/justice-minister-wijeyadasa-corrupt-since-time-of-cope-chairmanship-photos-reveal/”

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    There are so-called Tamil academics who try belittling Sinhala people and try to establish Tamil kingdonm here in Sri lanka. Yet, none of them are true Tamils and none of you can establish except in blogs that you tamils lived in sinhala for centuries.. As far as I know Tamils are conservative people, if they are dravideans, in every way. these english speaking people with with christian names probably they were born to Tamil catholic/christian parent are trying to help “Tamilness” at thee expense of the sinhala people. You start with language and talk about different authors but try to find similarities with Sinhala people with respect to racism. If you can a race or tribe which is not raicst or actucally trying to protect their identity. Even if you go toa house they favour their own. You think because you Tamils are screaming that youu lived since dinoasaur times in Sri lanka, we majority should give migrents what they are asking. Only thing we know is you people are very good at kneeling infront ot worshipping europeans. You boast about Tamil. why do you go looking at your Tamil literature. Instead, you as a professor, quote what some other people wrote.

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    Antonin Artuad’s contribution in showing the limitations of language in his “The Theatre and its Double” is relevant in the context of this article

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      Dear Ernest Macintyre,

      I was so sorry I missed you at that Ashley Halpe commemoration at the Centre for Ethnic studies. I acted a part in your play the “Loneliness of the Short-Distance Treaveller” in 1984. The only time it was produced?

      Prof. Thiru Kandiah will have my contact details. Your wife has taught some of my sisters, too, by the way. Small world, isn’t it? . . . but still we couldn’t meet!

      Your plays have been excellent!

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    It is human nature, they always try to be superior to other humans and they find some thing in that regard. So, racism or what ever it is everywhere. Language is not an invention. Because, even animals have communication between the members of the same species. it is not always the vocal chord. Study, Pali each sound has a specific meaning.

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    Colour is not a severe issue among the Sinhalese. Very dark people are also considered beautiful, in Sinhala poems, art, literature and songs. If you look at the Sigiri frescos the women are both fair and dark.

    And the colour issue did not start with the colonial rule. Although we don’t have it among the Sinhalese, in the Hindu soceity has been divided using the Varna system. Although Varna means also type, sort, race etc, it is evident, that the light coloured people are higher caste. Whether this has to do with the lower castes being poor have to work outside in the sun, or whether the dark people were categorized as low castes to begin with we don’t know.

    Anyways, I personally have never heard anyone say “api kaluda”, nor have I read it anywhere. Most of what the Tamils write, they write for the western audience, trying to convince the westerners that everything is terribly wrong with the Sinhalese. Being fair is considered pretty, not only in Sri Lanka, but even Thailand, where people are mostly fair/yellow. Thais don’t like to be in the sun because they don’t like to get dark. One can ask, how dark can a Thai person get, and how long will the darkness stay. Even if they get dark, they will soon get their own colour, just like the whites, who lose their hard earned tans, after hours of sunbathing.

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    Anybody who can say that Buddhism is used to sanction and sanctify violence shows his own sick mentality. And as long as hegemony is concerned, Sinhalese are the majourity in this island. You cannot change that. Also the Sinhalese are also the makers of the civilization of this island, and the identity of this island, from the name to the religion and culture is drawn from that civilization and is based on the Sinhalese culture. Maybe if you change your attitude you will see the Sinhalese presence as it is intended to be, namely that the Sinhalese people also living and existing side by side with other people. Please get it into your head that the Sinhalese cannot leave their island and just vanish, just because the Tamils decided to invade this island and setup shop here.

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    When the Nobel Prize was awarded recently to Bob Dylan, for “literature” it was also a salute to Antonin Artaud. I have experienced the late Gamini Haththatuagama and his actors perform Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The Wind” in Sinhala and Tamil and the communication with those experiencing this was through a medium that was “half way between language and gesture”(Artaud).

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    What I really wanted to do was to share a “meditation” (if I may use that word) on the nature and efficacy – or otherwise – of language. Colour and race were mere example and illustration. Some of the reactions excited, their blindness and bigotry, show that what was important hasn’t been grasped. Of course, the failure (in communication) is mine.

    But language is not something separate, out there: it’s a human product and tool. So if there is a failure in language, it points to a failure in us, human beings.

    The solution is not silence, not less but more words: reasoned and politely expressed.

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      Dear Prof. Sarvan,

      You’ve done an admirable job here, and your other writings also continue to inspire me – and I feel most other readers.

      *

      Ignore the trolls. We can do little about them. I’m sure that most readers would have drawn the necessary conclusions about them, and what they say.

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