28 January, 2021

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This Great Idea Of Minding Other People’s Business

By Sajeeva Samaranayake

 Sajeeva Samaranayake

Sajeeva Samaranayake

We are all familiar with this archetype – the infernal ‘busybody’ who runs around raking rubbish dumps becoming a hero and public nuisance. Mankind has always had these characters and of course the world would be a rather boring place without them.

However the world itself changed as Europe transformed its economic outlook in the 18th and 19th centuries and started casting its predatory eyes all over the world for profit and limitless wealth. Karl Marx has described what happened very well as the new bourgeoisie became our driving force. They tore up all bonds and relationships the people had to their religions, history and lands. In those countries where their writ had absolute force (including the colonies) they sought to accomplish 3 things:

1. Turn all productive lands into saleable commodities. This deprived the peasantry of their ancestral rights, livelihoods and natural economy. In fact it destroyed their very identity so that they were forced to create new ones.

2. These lands had to be placed in the hands of new entrepreneurs who would make them efficient and productive with new agricultural and industrial technology

3. The people who were turned out of their lands had to be converted to cheap wage labour and those who could not fit in were accommodated in the new institutions – the prison, lunatic asylum, workhouse or orphanage.

Thus the people were made to fit into the new economic order. Their freedoms were taken away. To compensate for what they lost they were offered and promised the crumbs off the table of the new rich and powerful who exercised and enjoyed their ‘human rights’ in full measure. In Europe where the French Revolution and its ideals were spread by Napoleon until the British defeated him in 1815 the ideal of political freedom had a ring of truth about it and the people actually understood some of these ideals of “liberty, equality and fraternity” so that they participated to some degree in creating the new institutions of their societies.

In the colonies the people lost their liberty to the foreigner and lost their fraternity with their own native superiors who based their new power on social distance and a superficial paternalism based on forms of cultural dependency both western and eastern. They were educated in stages to become peaceful and law abiding subjects of a top down society which offered formal equality but little else. The actual relationships however were not based on equality but the more familiar patronage system that would be exploited by the middle classes. These educated leaders of society would satisfy their foreign masters that they followed the western norms; and they would also use appropriate devices like the national dress and expensive merit making ceremonies to keep the locals happy about their allegiance to native traditions. In truth they subscribed to neither: simply to the overriding ideal of self advancement which the West legitimized through its transformation of economics in the 19th century.

The sales pitch of both ‘new economics’ and ‘new politics’ followed the same logic. “You will no longer go hungry. There will be enough food for all of us when we use these new methods. We can ALL be very happy and we will not need to lead a life of drudgery. With rights we will all be EQUALS. You will not have to grovel before your superiors. Ours systems and laws will administer justice fairly. You will be the sovereigns…..”

In reality what happened was that this smart middle class deprived the freedom of the people and wrote up a deed promising all kinds of conditional rights. On the one hand they would accumulate untold power and wealth by robbing and plundering the poor. On the other they would create institutions headed by their own kind to ‘dispense justice.’ Both the problem and solution sides would be ‘growth industries’. We have seen how many young professionals have benefited with their ‘careers in human rights.’ The UN in particular has been a glorified foreign employment agency for the children of the rich countries to go around the world minding the business of other people and looking after them.

As is obvious the new economics and new politics created a whole lot of useless junk in the form of goods and services and also professions. The profession of politics is another good example. These pseudo professions exploit the people mercilessly with a benevolent justification to boot.

Where then does mankind go from here? What is required is not another revolution; not another system. In fact all religions, philosophies and traditions including the capitalist system have been true and good. Only the human being with his/her ignorance, greed and hatred has failed them. There is something of value to be learned from every branch of learning. What we lack is humility and also moderation. We must start moderating the sales pitch of both problems and solutions. A public praxis is not enough. There must at the bottom be a personal praxis to help us achieve integrity as human beings, as mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. We can then live the dream of fraternity of the French Revolution.

It is very important to mind our own business.

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Latest comments

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    Sajewa,
    This is how i think about the main point you wrote, ie.” human being with his/her ignorance, greed and hatred has failed them”.
    In the last 4000 years, wise spiritual men like Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Mohhamad tried to teach people how bad were those feelings like greed, anger, hatred and also ignorance. Those wise people setup some structured ways and processes to reduce or minimize those bad in humans. And my main point is there was NO structured teaching processes for people to learn hatered, greed or anger. But People pocess those BAD through genetic reincarnation, passing those so called bad qualities through DNA, a very natural process..
    Now even after last known 4000 years, have people’s anger, hate feelings reduced? Have their love, empathy like good feelings improved drastically? No… Did Khrisna, Buddha, Jesus fail? What if those wise people’s teaching managed to eradicate anger, hate like bad from humans? Would humans be natural creatures without evil feelings? Would human civilization sustain if Krishna, Buddha, Mohamed, Jesus were completely successful? Just different type of questions in my mind…

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    What rubbish ! Most non sensical article on CT

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      Sujeeva, it is hard to get CT readers endorsement unless what you write it meets the key criteria: Does the article throw some mud at MR regime and portray in bad light?. It seems you have ignored or simly overlooked this vital aspect. Bear this in mind in your next article if you are aiming for many “likes”. We will see what we can do to promote your journalstic pedigree ;-)

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    I agree with most of what you say about how Western colonizers exploited the colonized. However your advice on minding one’s own business is dangerous.

    Hitler became what he was because many people tried to do exactly that – mind their own business and turn a blind eye to his evil deeds, until it was too late for Hitler’s victims and even for themselves.

    I wish there were easy answers, where help is offered only when solicited without any exploitative intentions. However in real-politik there is no such saintly behaviour on the part of any country or people.

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      I have to disagree with you.
      But having lived in Germany for the last 3 decades, what I feel towards the average mentality over here is- Germans in general are very unique to their thinking. Means not necessarily that they are unkind and generous. Today´s germans are very generous, they collect millions if not billions euros for the poor of poor annnually. But it is their average mentality that most of the time, they respect only the steps as outlined in their procedures. Be it within households or working environments, they concentrate only on the issue – forgetting all others completely. Like for example when talking to an average german on the phone, say between colleagues, they are blut on the topic – very direct. Unlike the English, Americans or the other rich nations, they dont care about any kind of talk too much about a matter regardless of them being minor or major; that is how german society is structured. They cant tolerate untidy way of life. I know german colleagues that complain a lot about hotels in London on their way back from business trips. For most known to me, London is not clean enough to them. One side, it is right, I also found London some hotels run by indian migrants/or other foreign hotel holders are not meeting with the standards that the German or other european countries except them to be. I have also met Hitler like personalities that would not change their views eaisly, but it s the way that they have been taught by their generations. This thinking patterns are interpretted by others as very aggressive.. I really think that average germans are aggressive as the other folks.WheNEVER on my reutrn to lanka, I have the feeling that our people (SRILANKENS) are more aggressive than any other folks.

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    I could discern three ways that people deal with the business of others –

    1. selfless help
    2. judicious – official intervention
    3. Officious meddling

    1 is rare, 2 does not make much news and 3 has become very popular. This article refers to 3.

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      Your thoughts and minds are very valuable. Most of the time, you go that deep in analysing any issues. Our people in general beahve the other way around. That may be the problems – key problems society to be split to this day.

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    Sama thank you for disagreeing with me and providing your experience about the Germans. Very interesting. And Seelawathi yes – some people do get bored with fundamentals because they may think they are ‘obvious’ and we need to talk about more important things like ‘politics.’Others will react aggressively when you raise the point about self – its like a red flag to a bull.

    In brief this is our predicament. No one is competent to mind his own business; but everyone comments and meddles with other people’s business.

    It is only by minding your own business properly that you will qualify to do other things. This is what Confucius said.

    The negative aspect of modernity is this. You will be relieved of the burden of self. In return you will acquire some bodily comforts, a lot of entertainment and a neat pack of soothing lies. You will be increasingly self-alienated and become weak, aggressive and violent.

    The positive aspect on the other hand is to work through the same things and regain a measure of control. You will occupy your body, mind and soul; you will not mind going without AC and the TV and you will not be hooked on mind killing entertainment. You will work out the ‘truths of life’ by yourself through a process of real thinking and understanding. You will grow stronger and gentle and become more peaceful.

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