Sun, 29 May 2022 Today's Paper

Coleman’s Tattoo ordeal: Cutting a sorry figure

18 May 2014 07:40 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A

The fiasco regarding British tourist Naomi Coleman and her Buddha tattoo ended by deeply embarrassing moderate Sri Lankans. One should say it embarrassed the government, but this isn’t one which is embarrassed by anything, especially the sort of incident which made the Chief Sanghanayake of the United States offer a personal apology to Coleman, a professed Buddhist with affectionate memories of the country – until her last visit to the country, that is.

Adaptation of an alien religion across ethnic and cultural divides usually means genuine affection for the culture which accompanies that religion. After her humiliating treatment by fellow Buddhists in Sri Lanka, she has vowed never to visit the country again and I sincerely hope she remains Buddhist though she may have been permanently cured of her affection to the country and its people.

Westerners have a different approach to religion. While fundamentalism and irrational thought exist there, too, it’s by and large a more rational, less emotional approach. This rationalism explains the way most Westerners approach religion – whether it’s in mind, text or as iconography.
In the same vein, we can ask why it should be morally, theologically or legally wrong to have the image of the Buddha tattooed on the bicep or forearm. A tattoo in this context needs to be seen as iconography, as much as statuettes, pictures or medallions.

"It took a strong international reaction for sanity to return. By then, it was too late"


The problem is partly that tattoos are neither culturally respectable nor ‘politically correct’ in our culture. What is okay for Coleman in her cultural context would seem repugnant on the torso of a Sri Lankan Buddhist. But the cultural insensitivity in that case is ours, not hers, because we fail to see that in a Western society, a tattoo on the body isn’t automatically equated in the subconscious with anti-social and criminal behaviour. It is a sign of individuality. The Buddha tattoo could have been Coleman’s way of proclaiming her difference in her own culture, a way of expressing her defiance of blatant materialism. But we in our ignorance misinterpreted this as disrespect for the Buddha.

Once officialdom realized the monumentality of their mistake, immigration authorities did an about turn and declared that tattoos don’t provide any legal basis to detention and deportation. But everyone from the three wheeler driver who reported her to the police to the magistrate who ordered her remanded thought so. During the harrowing time of this ordeal, no one defended Coleman. Even the very liberal Guardian newspaper of UK carried an article by a Sri Lankan condemning her for ‘cultural insensitivity.’

It took a strong international reaction for sanity to return. By then, it was too late. But it’s noteworthy that things were set in motion by a three-wheeler driver. In the increasingly virulent and volcanic Lankan social pyramid, it’s the politician which epitomizes the rot at top level, while it’s the three wheeler driver who does so at the crowded bottom rung.

The three wheeler driver, a key component of every government’s ‘self-employment’ fantasy, is the starkest symbol we have of a failed state. On the average, he is no more than a bully, an anti-social, deeply frustrated, rapacious and psychopathic individual feeding everyone’s illusion of an employed, useful and somewhat stable citizen, whereas he is by and large both victim and perpetrator of a ruthlessly exploitative system. He is a social outcast, as much as the man or woman with a tattoo. As such, he is at the mercy of law enforcement.

The three wheeler system is male hierarchical. I wonder if that three wheeler driver would have rushed to the police if Coleman had been male. In any case, three wheeler drivers are eager to help the police, hoping to gain some leniency for themselves thereby. They are the ideal informants in a police state. I once suggested to a social worker that they could start a project to train three wheeler drivers to read when they are idling, instead of gossiping, quarrelling or making fun of passing women. He just laughed at me, which was his way of saying that the problem is intractable.

This phenomenon is a bigger social nightmare than the private bus system, which mercifully disappears at night. But the three wheeler driver is ubiquitous and works round the clock. They are everywhere all the time. The ‘piety’ which made this driver report Coleman to the police is a cover for his own immorality. Imagine our plight as a society when every authority in the country from the police, Judiciary to immigration agreed with this ‘uneducated’ phenomenon and deported a Western Buddhist woman who visited the country due to true piety and respect.
Order Gifts to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Vegetables, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

Sell your vehicle & house fast with hitad.lk only cost is Rs.400, Advertise in Hitad.lk for free to sell your mobile phone. Want to sell your Pet, Advertise for Free in hitad.lk Search for Houses in Sri Lanka and find the best place through Hitad.lk find your best tuition place. Find the best partner for you, visit hitad.lk Find anything at any time hitad.lk.

  Comments - 0

Order Gifts to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Vegetables, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

Sell your vehicle & house fast with hitad.lk only cost is Rs.400, Advertise in Hitad.lk for free to sell your mobile phone. Want to sell your Pet, Advertise for Free in hitad.lk Search for Houses in Sri Lanka and find the best place through Hitad.lk find your best tuition place. Find the best partner for you, visit hitad.lk Find anything at any time hitad.lk.


Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment




Order Gifts to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Vegetables, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

Sell your vehicle & house fast with hitad.lk only cost is Rs.400, Advertise in Hitad.lk for free to sell your mobile phone. Want to sell your Pet, Advertise for Free in hitad.lk Search for Houses in Sri Lanka and find the best place through Hitad.lk find your best tuition place. Find the best partner for you, visit hitad.lk Find anything at any time hitad.lk.


Rashini Ready to Fight Cancer, but needs help

Sri Lanka is officially bankrupt and on the precipice of starvation. Fuel que

Student’s basic right to education trampled due to ‘hair issue’

Education is a fundamental right guaranteed by the UN Charter and the Constit

Sajith will lead SL soon but this time he failed in his decision making - Harin

Tourism Minister and SJB MP Harin Fernando has come out strong on his decisio

Shocking inside stories of the sugar scam

In the backdrop of former Finance Minister Ali Sabry’s proposed plan to inc