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Attitudinal change key to “Lankan” consciousness

4 December 2012 10:00 pm - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The reason why we don’t think consciously as Lankans is because we are too much concerned of our own individual needs.
It is good to be rooted in one’s own culture and recognize each one’s individual identity, but it does not augur well if one is parochial and narrow-minded.
Most of us identify ourselves as people belonging to a particular community and religion in the island- as
  •     Sinhalas, (Buddhists and Catholics / Christians),
  •     Thamilians (Hindus /Catholics / Christians),
  •     Moors / Muslims (that include also Malays, Indonesians),
  •     Burghers (Portuguese / Dutch),
  •     Of Indian origin (Thamilians, Sindhis, Gujeratis, Malayalees, Kannadigas, Telugus, Farsis, Bhorahs, Memons, Iranians,Anglo-Indian),
  •      Europeans et cetera.

Although we live as members of one nation-Sri Lanka- not all of us feel that this is our country, particularly when we are a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi religious people. We feel that there is a majority community that speaks Sinhala and minority communities that speak different languages. We therefore think in terms of the languages we speak. Even among the Sinhala-speaking people, a handful of people think that some of them are only’pure Sinhala Buddhist’s. A majority of the Sinhala-speaking people profess Buddhism as their religion and they are not at all narrow minded as to think in terms of purity.

In fact, no race is pure and anthropologists would say that though we speak different languages like Sinhala or Tamil we are yet identified as people belonging to one ethnicity with a few exceptions. In ancient times some people from Orissa in north-eastern India might have come and mingled with the indigenous people. In later times people from southern and south-western India and from West Asia and south-east Asia might have come and mixed with the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. Therefore we are all a lot of hybrid people.

That is why perhaps the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has verbally said there is no majority and minority communities in the island but Lankans.

Whether this noble thought is put into practice is yet to be seen because there are a few ultra-nationalists among the understanding and affable Sinhala community that thinks ours is a Sinhala Buddhist country and therefore all the minorities (racial and religious) could live here only at the mercy of the‘true Sinhala Buddhists’.
This is the dogmatic attitude of a few that is a cancerous stumbling block for all of us to really think, speak and act in unison as Lankans.

Unless there is an attitudinal change among all our people to forget differences caused by accidents of birth, parochialism, frustration, estrangement and want of recognition and the like, the idea of ‘majority consciousness’ will continue to pervade in this blessed island. And naturally all others beyond our shores would consider that Lanka is a peculiar nation of stagnant ideas not in consonance with the rapid changes that are taking place around the world in terms of human rights, universalism, and love for the others which are positive aspects for progress.

It is not the so-called few Sinhala Buddhists alone that refuse to out think in outmoded nationalism based on some ancient chronicles that were necessary at a particular period of time. But there are also a few others from the so-called minorities who are racial and communal, peninsular and narrow-minded who continue to be living in a dream world harping on a past glory.

It is always the ‘Other’ that is to be blamed. The ‘Other is Hell’. However healing of the wounds takes a long time to take effect.

As an optimist I am hopeful that all of us can co-exist as equal citizens in a plural society. All of us can contribute to each other’s needs and at the same time preserving the individuality of our own cultures and habits and identities.

Forced Integration of all ethnic groups into one only Sinhala Buddhist group is not feasible at all and forced Sinhalization of habitual lands are also not desirable. Minorities living in Colombo in greater numbers are a different thing because it is of necessity that all communities live in the capital and major big cities.

Except for the die-hard nationalists in the divide most people live in harmony and peace. By nature the Sinhalas are kind-hearted and friendly people. Majority of the Northerners are hardworking and honest and the Easterners and the Hill country people have learnt to live together despite the different cultures.

Discarding the earlier prejudices the generation of people have shed petty prejudices as I could see in international schools where the modes of new communication have helped them to think globally.

The bright and prosperous times for all of us are around the corner. Make hay while the sun shines.
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  Comments - 3

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  • Preethika Wednesday, 05 December 2012 08:50 AM

    Well written.Yes extremism is always dangerous.I am a proud Sinhalese Buddhist. According to fundamental Buddhism you need to treat everyone on equal terms irrespective of race ,religion or cast.Buddha acknowledged the democratic rule of Lichchavi's instead of the monarchy and so called Buddist leaders have conveniently forgotten those valuable lessons. We need a country everyone can live in peace and harmony to prosper and definitely an attitudinal change is need for the top.

    ari Wednesday, 05 December 2012 05:16 AM

    you are absolutely right.well written

    Thiranjala Wednesday, 05 December 2012 06:23 AM

    We really require an attitudinal change. But, is that enough and adequate? I really do not believe. We also require structures of functioning, governance and administration that do justice to all people. If a section of the population is ill-treated and harassed, how can I expect the victims of injustice to believe that all of us are Lankans and all are one. We require robust policies and structures in place to initiate a just system with enough checks in place.


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