Thursday, September 29, 2005

Being Sri Lankan

A Comment left on Nittewa by one of our not-so-friendly neighborhood bigots said ‘I'm not Sri Lankan. Sri Lanka is a myth. I'm a Sinhalese.’. Personally I think it's a bit rich coming from someone who's trying very hard to become an 'Australian'. But we'll let that go for now.

This actually identical to what the LTTE has been saying for over 20 years.

'Sri Lanka is a myth. There are Sinhalese and Tamils, and the Sinhalese proved for over 5 decades that they don't want to share their space with the Tamils and therefore the only solution is to have a Sinhala state and a Tamil state and say to to hell with this whole thing about trying to be Sri Lankan, and trying to look for a Sri Lankan identity.'

Following on from this logic, the best friends of the LTTE are the the two new biggest fans of Nittewa (Astrocyte and Dextr), the Patriotic National Movement, the JVP and all the other ragtag right wing groups.

As long as they claim that this island is the homeland of the Sinhalese and the Sinhalese alone, they do nothing but strengthen the case made in the international arena by the LTTE, and bring the whole country closer to a bloody partition.

If you're a Sinhalese and not a Sri Lankan, and you want Sri Lanka to be the Sinhala-dveepaya (The Island of the Sinhalese), then you're going to have to also give some part of it to the Tamils. Unless of course you want to pack them all into boats and send them back to South India, which is supposed to be where they came from (we'll come back to this issue of origins later) or send them all to concentration camps and gas chambers like our 'aryan' brothers did 60 years ago. So if this island is going to become a Sinhala-dveepaya, then it's also going to become an Eelam. The louder you should that this is the homeland solely of the Sinhala people then stronger becomes the case for Eelam.

It is this ideology that the LTTE tells the international community about, and as long as the Sinhala right wing continues to be a dominating force in Souther politics, and their extremist ideologies remain in the mainstream, the LTTE's concerns, their extremist ideology and their demand for an Eelam will be justified.

The LTTE's Eelamist ideology and the Sinhala right wing's Sinhala supremacy ideology are like two sides to the coin. They form the ying and yang of the greatest threat to the idea of Sri Lanka. The notion that the Sinhalese and the Tamils cannot live together as equals, as Sri Lankans.

If the Sinhala right wing were to vanish, then the LTTE would have no leg to stand on. They would have no threat to the Tamil people that they could use to justify their demands for an Eelam. If the Tamil people of Sri Lanka did not have a Sinhala right wing to be afraid of, to be oppressed by, they would no longer support the LTTE, even secretly. The LTTE exists only because of its 'other'. If that 'other' were to cease to exist, then so would they. So too would the Sinhala right wing cease to exist if the LTTE were to vanish. They would no longer have someone from whom the 'Sinhala motherland' needed to be defended.

Meanwhile, neutral, sane, non-racist Sri Lankans who believe that Sri Lanka is very much a reality and not a myth watch our country fall apart.

The only way to seek a permanent solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka, with any hope of success, is to seek the construction of a solid Sri Lankan identity, which become our primary identity, over-riding our Sinhala-ness or Tamil-ness. Yes, many people have said this. It is not in any way a new idea, but it remains the only idea that can give anyone any hope for a better future.

The question is, how do we do it?

Comments:
 
nice post!

in fact its sinhaleseness and tamilness that are myths. of course being myths doesn't mean they don't have power. they have power because they give a sense of security. some people because of their sense of inadequacy and fear lose themselves in a group in search of safety. maybe we all do that in some way but with some it goes to extremes to the point they lose any sense of personal identity. they define their whole life in terms of the groups they belong to. i for one can't understand giving up my life for some myth. but others clearly do.
so it might help if another more positive myth(sri lankanness) is constructed instead of those two. but those people who define themselves by it will still be dead according to my way of thinking.

it would be way better if all people accept themselves for what they are. but i don't think that's likely.
 
How would you characterise the sinhala right wing? Is it a small but vocal minority? A significant part of the population? The manipulated masses?

Basically - is it even possible to lessen their influence?
 
Hi there Morquendi!

We always knew you'd end up an activist of some sort. :D

I'd ordinarily just stay out of the discussions at Nittewa, but this post really caught my eye as I was going to blog something similar as a follow up to a previous post of mine.

This continuing crisis of identity amongst people in general (yes, I digress, but I feel that identity is an issue that affects the global population, not merely Sri Lankans) is mainly caused I think by the increasing awareness that despite whatever labels we've given ourselves to set us apart, we're all the same.

Faced with this reality that we are indeed all human and not really different from one another - where do the old traditions and old notions of racial supremacy go?

But back to your question - how do we create an overriding Sri Lankan identity?
I say - by working together.

Our experiences with the Interact movement may have not been the same, but I'm sure that anyone who was part of the movement and was exposed to the different communities as a result would have gained a better understanding of people.

We might not be able to change the world overnight, but like sittingnut pointed out - there are so many people who feel insecure and need to find purpose in their lives by becoming part of a group - to the detriment of their individuality. If we can talk to our friends, our immediate circle of associates and encourage them to be themselves, to use their brains and see through the labels that society seeks to slap on them, then I think we will have achieved something. After all, the greatest rivers begin as a mere trickle...

I might be an idealist (always have been), but I believe in the Gandhian method - "you must be the change you wish the see in the world".
 
I say start with satire and end up with some good ol' interracial breeding. That will fix up things real fast. So any nurse nonas or suranganis in the house ready to breed? heh...heh... [grinning lecherously]
 
dulan:
If we can talk to our friends, our immediate circle of associates and encourage them to be themselves,... brilliantly put. that's the only way.

devil1981:
as for interracial breeding i think sri lankans are already highly mixed. i am willing to bet that a comprehensive dna study( i am not sure whether one has already being done or not) would open up a lot of eyes. its part of the reason why i said 'sinhaleseness and tamilness that are myths'. they are creations of mind not biological creations.

though more sex for some people would help :-)

ananthan:
i suppose sinhalese chauvinists can be characterized as a small but very vocal minority consisting of insecure losers being manipulated by some individuals for their own purposes. :-)
 
As for being mixed, one cannot forget all the Porto, Dutch and English blood that runs in our veins.

They sure screwed around a lot.
 
yes sure they did.

i don't know whether you have noticed, in every biography of famous sri lankans that try to trace their ancestors they start with a foreigner(an indian)that came to sri lanka after 16th century.
 
Yeah ok - point morquendi, point - but you know as well as anyone that thugs like dextr/astrocyte & their sentiments are everywhere in all facets of Sri Lankan society.

sorry, if you had a choice would you live & work next to these guys?

The LTTE agreed (as you also know) to give up the claim for a seperate state. I haven't agreed to that not because I'm a nationalistic nutter that can't stand the sight of a saffron robe or the tooth. I want a line in the sand because I don't want to put up with anymore brutality...

Never mind what the LTTE want Morq - what do the people want.... What do mother's want for their children???

Now as for dextr being Australian - there's a few Ozzies out there - Dugi being one that might want to have a say about that - I think that's a question for her.
 
This whole interracial camaraderie is unfortunately limited, at least traditionally, to the English-speaking, upper class, Goyigama-Vellala bourgeois and/or it happens now in the diaspora where its desired effects is either diminished or irrelevant. This interacial-ness, I think, is not adequately represented across the class and caste systems in Sri Lanka. What I propose then, gentlemen, is bussing a whole load of Somas from the deep south to the north and vice-versa :)
 
I firmly believe that the roots of this conflict are economic; the Sinhala Only act of 1956 brought this to the fore.

Why was this so important?

In the 1950's, when the economy was far less diversified and opportunity limited there were two paths to advancement:

1. Join a plantation company as a creeper and move up the ladder.
2. Join the civil service.

Both required English, in the case of the former a sporting background was almost compulsory, in the case of the latter a degree was compulsory.

The promise that Sinhala Only held for the Sinhalese was access to the civil service. The threat to the Tamils was that they would be denied access to this.

All this frustration exploded in rioting in 1958. Things gradually deteriorated from there and took a life of its own after 1983.

Remember that upto 1983, Tamil rebellion attracted only marginal sympathy amongst the Tamils.

The solution has to start by putting a stop to the conflict. Once that is done take the political side a step at a time-it will take a lot of selling to both parties, but allow proper economic development to take place. This will absorb a great many frustrated disgruntled people into productive life - and away from the battle.

At the end of the day, nobody wants to spend the rest of their life fighting, given a choice most people will do something else and support for fanatics, on either side will gradually die.

For examples elsewhere, look at Malaysia and Indonesia. (anti Chinese rioting was triggered by an economic meltdown-the Chinese were blamed for this.) Going even further back to the German hyperinflation of 1923 and the economic meltdown there-a combination of Jews, bankers and hostile powers overseas were blamed and this which set the stage for the second world war.
 
i know that this is totally irrelevant to the post but just want to say that it is excellent that for once a proper discussion is going on that everyone can contribute to and where comments dont end up been personal people bashing material :)

also dulan machang didnt know that u were a regular blogger, couldnt check out ur site but will do next time def.

and i agree with sittingnut and dulan. the former to say that singhaleseness and tamilness are myths and we should all look at ourselves and accept what we see, and the latter for the basic method to go about it.

if only others were as open minded..

sigh..
 
A "bloody partition" is much better than your peace.

Morq & Co 's peace

*1/3rd of the country exclusively to the Tamils (apartheid style)
*The rest for Tamils, Muslims, Christians and possibly even the (this would be stretching the Tamil generosity) Sinhalese?
*Tamil racism glorified in the history

A partition isn't so bad. I mean they can't obviously get the East. What use is the North to us? It's a bloody desert... Set up your kingdom there and rot. Maybe you can set up a nuclear waste dumping ground there?

If you think Sinhala nationalists are just a small minority, why are you and your stupid mates so concerned about them?

As for the Lankan leaders tracing their ancestry to Indians... Why should this be a surprise when all these so called leaders are from the same extended family. Sri Lanka has never been ruled by a real Sinhala leader since 1952. Bandaranaikes are direct descendents of the Tamil Neelaperumal stock. Ranil's ancestors were Karaiyan caste (same as Prabhakaran) fishermen.
 
dayan:
excellent that for once a proper discussion is going on
then dextr!! life is funny that way.

dextr:
so according to you d.s. is sinhala and dudly is not?
 
nice post Morquendi

Im sorry but like you already did i have to say that portugese, dutch and english sure did screw a LOT.... how the heck did i end up with a DOn in my name.
And they say that imperialism was for economic gains....yeah right.

on a more serious note... i agree that only taking small steps in the right direction can solve things. But we have to watch out for the extremists amongs us and ensure that we.. as a generation ... dont screw up.
 
so according to some of you,..

the ideal solution now is to "re-invent" decades, if not centuries, of social engineering, based on the 'separateness' of Sinhala and Tamil as non-fact?

I think this is pipe dream.

Unfortunately I have nothing more constructive to say. Nevertheless this belief that people will just become "sri lankan" one day, or give up their "silly" ethnic and cultural distinctions is outright ridiculous if not a form of cultural imperialism. People who hold onto ideas such as "my ethnicity" and "my caste" do so for very sound economic reasons. Community or society by their very nature(s) necessitates "exclusion" and "competition".

If a "Sri Lankan" identity were formed in some distant (and unforeseeable) future, then that identity will also contain some element of exclusion and bigotry. This is innate to all social constructions.

A Suggestion.

A better approach to dealing with identity, is to conceptualise "race" as a peculiar level of social distinction in a layered structure of the self. As economic well being improves in Sinhalese rural areas and North Eastern Tamil parts, the ethnic component of identity may be susperceded by the National one; albeit in a particular social context. ethnicity may in time becomes less "aggressive" and "politcal" in nature.
 
Hi, just found your blog while i was googling.. interesting read ! I find that this idea of "mythism" - that sinhala/tamil/srilankan is all a myth quite a hard bullet to swallow.. to be so dismissive as to say that someones language/culture/upbringing/differences/food/ is merely a myth is quite harsh. i think I get at what is I hope trying to be "got at" - that Sri Lanka needs to introduce itself to postmodernism, to a globalised world. to the idea of communities living side by side not in opposition. and i think it already has. like what you said - whats the point in us of sri lankan origin abroad arguing about what it means to be a "sri lankan" when we're practising daily what it means to be "british" or "austrailian" or whatever. its to easy for us far away to construct theories. its all nice in theory that people should live side by side and sri lanka need to commune together as one unified land but this land has seen a lot of unneccessary pain and deaths and lives destroyed. I defy any of us to go to a tamil man who has lost his house, his family, everything coz of this f*ckin war and say "live in unity my frind". it is asking a lot of the human heart and on a bigger scale the population as a whole to put the blatent racism and WAR they face daily behind them.

sorry for the rant
Mocha x
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