23 November, 2017

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Tolerating Supremacist Ideology In Sri Lanka 

By Lasantha Pethiyagoda

Lasantha Pethiyagoda

In an age of decimation of social justice and selective rule of law, carried out in the name of fighting manufactured enemies of choice purportedly to preserve a vulnerable majority from extinction, any civic choice will shackle us to an interconnected police bias and preferential status, hitherto unprecedented in extent and blatancy in contemporary Sri Lankan political history.

Not too long ago, tyrannic serfdom, where the freedom of the wild ass was no freedom at all, as the popular dictum exclaims, engendered a search for unbridled power and unlimited terms of office, symbolising an abhorrent dynastic dream.

Modern tyrannies are deceptive. In the age of technology, it has to do with the need to hide its true nature from the eyes of those on whose support and indifference its maintenance depends. Successful tyrannies excel at hiding reality from public view, turning the truth on its head and criminalising its manifest victims.

The greatest purveyor of communal violence in the country today must surely have state patronage not merely to survive but thrive. Its varied mechanisms, as well as being the leading exponent of the deadly arrogance that has poisoned the atmosphere for so long and having been whitewashed from the discourse must constitute the biggest threat to civil society.

It will very soon install a far deeper malady within the Sri Lankan spirit than had hitherto been experienced. No significant social problem – wealth inequality, underworld violence, racial and religious disharmony- could be resolved while the state remains an entity that continues year in year out, spending more money on military “defence” than on programs of social upliftment – a most certain recipe for a spiritual death of the nation. It should be incandescently apparent that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of Sri Lanka today can ignore the present status quo.

This is the overarching point that drives our current debates about injustice and religious militancy through today. The debasement of the national psyche, the callousness toward continuous abuse of minority sentiments and destructive violence, the belief that the state has not only the right but the duty to condone violence anywhere in the land that it wants: that is what lies at the heart of Sri Lanka’s ongoing embrace of endless militancy by a fringe group. A rotted national soul does indeed enable leaders to wage endless wars of attrition, but endless incitement to communal violence also rots the national soul. At times this seems to be an inescapable, self-perpetuating cycle of degeneration and degradation.

Sri Lanka’s political elite despise the marginalized, subjugated, poor, malnourished and weak. They feel unequal and want a discriminatory system that lacks any sense of common decency. They are pretentious and cowardly; they encourage religious bigotry without morality or compassion. They help the law-enforcement authorities to criminalise independence and freedom; abuse the minorities; revel in vulgar exhibitionism of supremacist ideology, largely in bad taste.

For Sri Lankans to endure what lies ahead they will have to harness the human imagination. It is this imagination that makes possible transcendence from darkness to light. In order to nourish and sustain this imagination, the people need to form a basis for common grounds.

These will be the forces that they will have in place of the freedom they lack. The oppressed would be the first, because they know their fate, to admit that on a rational level such a notion might seem absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they or their future generation will survive.

The collective consciousness of ordinary citizens is the most potent power that can turn the tide towards a saner environment.

How this is inspired and sequestered by responsible forces, from within or without in the opposition, will determine what follows in the decades to come.

The powerful elite are particularly interested in moulding their younger generation into becoming a chosen people. They want their offspring to be individuals who esteem power and strength with awe while despising and being contemptuous of economic, physical and social weakness in their serfs.

This young generation will be incapable of being outraged with indignation of a society in which the powerful, influential and rich will invariably have their way while the marginalized majority poor and powerless masses are denied even their impotently ineffectual say; a new generation habituated into perceiving intolerance as the moral-ethical standard and raw violence as the only solution to all problems or differences; future generations only focused on ‘getting ahead’ and incapable of resisting the unrelenting tide of injustice.

Working against this endogenous imperialism is the privilege and the burden of all who deem themselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than the superficial nationalist humbug of racist bigots headed by some militant saffron clad traitors, and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We must speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those the ruling elite fictitiously refer to as the enemy.

For centuries, minorities and the marginalised had little control over their destinies. Forces of bigotry and violence kept them subjugated by the majority aristocrats. Suffering, for the oppressed, was tangible. Death was a constant companion.

For a state whose leaders had historically been guided, in most cases by nobler dictates and motivations, like the ten leadership qualities (dasa raja dhamma), and the general populace’s belief that all blessed things, like timely rains, fair weather and bountiful harvests, and general well-being and prosperity of the populace follow when rulers reign justly and righteously (devo vassathu kalena, raja bhavathu dhammiko), the present leaves much to be desired, for many good and obvious reasons.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    A well written article. It is always the ruling elites who want the general population in never ending conflicts for which then the different races fighting among themselves for non issues or on issues fakely propagated through ELITES owned NEWS MEDIA and not fighting THEM (The real enemies and real culprits). At least, its heartening to know that the people are opening their minds to identify the problems this country is facing for the last half a century in the ELITE’S CONSPIRACY to destroy this nation in line with the ZIONIST CONTRACT they have been entrusted with by the Western Zionist countries (the EU/US/UK/UN).

  • 4
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    I agree with much of what is said. But, the cleavage that has arisen between the rich and the poor had a lot to do with chauvinistic politics. The rich including the newly rich mudalalis who made alliances with the traditional rich through marriages ensured that the poor were kept perpetually poor, supplying labour and services to them. All they had to do was to beat the Buddhist-Sinhala card and ensure that chauvinists remained in power with the help of the yellow clad monks. They sent their kids to international schools to learn English and then to overseas universities. The local Sinhala kid studied in Sinhala. Take law for instance. There are two types of lawyers. The Sinhalese medium lawyer who does the accident, divorce and petty crime cases. The English educated lawyer who works for the large firms, foreigners and glamour subjects like arbitration and intellectual property. This cleavage is kept alive by the elite lawyers who enter politics and ensure that only their progeny can succeed them. This is duplicated in other areas. Why not be honest? Why not recognised that until we bring English education to all and return to teaching in English, as Malaysia has done, we will be lost in the depths of the Mahavamsa mud hole. Why not address the real roots of what ensures the perpetuating of elitism in Sri Lanka ?

  • 3
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    There is NO supremacy at ALL

    ALL that we have is a STATE that is FAILING to acknowledge that the society is made up of at least :

    6 different ethnic identities.

    Sinhala-Buddhist
    Sinhala-Christian
    Tamil-Hindu
    Tamil-Christian
    Muslims-who are 1st language Tamil speakers
    Veddah people
    Eurasians

    The GoSL is calling these collection as Sri Lankan that is fine in theory BUT IS NOT the ground reality. People CAN NOT live Sri Lankan lives as this is NOT their way of life….This is the TRUTH.

    SO NO POINT try to RUN away from it. This is the NATIONAL ISSUE. IT IS a problem of government and governance NOT a problem with people belonging to ANY group.

    Now , this GoSL is attacking Sinhala-Buddhists tomorrow they will attack Veddah, day after Muslims and later Tamils…..This is the problem ……Recognise the cultural rights of ethnic identities.

    • 1
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      Sinhala Voice: It is the story of a failed State in which leaders failed to built a state in which the majority is the majority. The majority is being subjugated by minorities who hve power in the world and in the sub continent. Leaders have failed continuously since 1948. Read the article that this idiot has written. He needs power to minorities over the majority.In other countries minosrities are just seen but not heard. In Sri lanka when minorities are treated equal, now the minority represeenting people needs minorities to power so that they can manage the minority.

  • 4
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    Heavy and intense material Lasantha.
    Humans are easily manipulated – the famous examples are the white supremacy of past years and superior among the superior Aryan Nazis. It is easy to instill an artificial fear, create “defenders” and move away from secular thinking. The latest is Turkey where fundamentalism is taking hold. Trump is no different from Idi Amin but has very wide support. Across the Strait, Hindu-bigotry is taking hold – reversal may be impossible. The Cow-vigilantes are brutal and manipulated by the privileged. In Sri Lanka the language/religion divide has no sign of abating although the majority know that development is held back – the rich getting filthy rich and the poor getting poorer.

  • 3
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    Mr Pethiyagoda, with due respect (though it may not be not be much), I wish to remind you as a regular CT reader that the preaching of people like you from the high-horse you are occupying is becoming stale and sickening. Here is a view that reflects the reality and what could be reasonably expected in terms of minority rights in this country. Accept that this country had a ‘settled’ history (without going to to the details of its sophistication) until the 15th century when we were rudely invaded, raped, robbed and pillaged by the ‘enlightened’ Christians from Europe. They upset the ethnic balance between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, divided the Sinhalese along cast lines to enable the conversion of the lower castes, and introduced the Moors (some were already trading here), and Malays as their guards from their Indonesian empire. Today we are left with this unmanageable mess being further complicated by current American empire. People like you Mr Pethiyagoda (I may call you Peththa as we used to call one by the same name at Trinity!) are impractical in preaching a western model of equal rights (that really does not exist in West except in paper) that ignores this history of ours vandalised over the last 500 years. Buddhists who always had primacy historically are likely to expect a constitutional and political status they justifiably think they are entitled to, just like the Anglo-Saxon Christians in England, America, Canada and Australia expect and have achieved. Evangelical Christians like you and me here in Sri Lanka have limits to what we can justly expect in this country. Hope this will help stop your Buddhism bashing.

  • 3
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    Lasantha,
    “For centuries, minorities and the marginalised had little control over their destinies. Forces of bigotry and violence kept them subjugated by the majority aristocrats. Suffering, for the oppressed, was tangible. Death was a constant companion.”
    What you say above contraticts this:
    “a state whose leaders had historically been guided, in most cases by nobler dictates and motivations, like the ten leadership qualities (dasa raja dhamma), “

    I believe the former is accurate, and all these tales of “noble rulers” are Mahavamsa- inspired BS. The present state of the country is simply a return to feudalism. Witness the demands of the Maha Sangha to be given an unelected hand in running the country, the re-emergence of superstition, astrology and the like. It is a curious thing that the Maha Sangha demand respect even when behaving badly. In the time of the Sinhala kings, they would have been summarily executed.

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      Of course. As Galagedara Fifth Columnist always does, he uses Pethiyagoda’s half-baked theories to attack the Mahavamsa, Buddhism, Buddhists and our culture. [Edited out]

      • 3
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        Georgie,
        ” to attack the Mahavamsa, Buddhism, Buddhists and our culture.”
        What culture dear? Which Buddhists? What Buddhism?

  • 1
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    laughing stock of a another liberal idiot.

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