Pavena Parandel of western sciences and technologies

By Nalin de Silva

(September 30, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Before I get back to culture knowledge problem (which came first) I would like to give more examples for Prof. Amaratunga’s economic determinism before he "discovered" the twin like relationship between culture and economics after he was criticized. The Professor as I mentioned last week is very good at somersaulting and there was nothing on this twins in his article on Tamil Problem and World Power Polarization that appeared on 19th July. In special relativity there is a well known paradox called the twin paradox. One of two twins starts on a voyage and comes back to the starting place where the other twin is, after some time. With what is known as time dilation in special relativity it could be argued that either twin is younger to the other. However there is a way to resolve this so called paradox, but in the case of the twin paradox of Prof. Amaratunga there is only one answer. One of the twins has somersaulted with the Professor. Let us listen to Professor Amaratunga.

"The Western countries would even resort to mass murder to maintain their grip on the world economy. The ultimate goal of all this is nothing else but economic exploitation. Some analysts who seem to be obsessed with a cultural determinism tend to go at a tangent and lose sight of this ultimate aim of the neo-colonialist. They forget that the rich West could maintain their luxurious life style only by plundering the poor. The purpose of the cultural domination that the West attempts is nothing but economic exploitation (emphasis added). The war against the Islamic culture is aimed at maintaining the grip on the oil rich Middle East. That against the Chinese culture is to stop Chinese expansion. Cultural domination by itself is meaningless unless it opens the avenues for economic exploitation." The economic twin in this and the quotation I presented last week has no regard what so ever to the cultural twin whom go hand in hand in Still a Marxist. In Sinhala they say kanna ona unama kabaragoyath thalagoya venavalu.

In the article entitled Still a Marxist Prof. Amaratunga tells us the Dutch "were more interested in growing cinnamon and tobacco in economic exploitation while confining their missionary activities to the coastal belt". The Dutch may have provided ships to "bring the priests from Siam for the restoration of upasampada" but why did they do so. Why did they confine their missionary activities to the coastal belt? The Dutch would have been interested in cinnamon and tobacco cultivation bringing the Vellalas from Coramandel coast and creating the Tamil problem at the same time. It is quite clear that the Dutch did not want to antagonize the Sinhala king (he was Sinhala king whatever was his dynasty) and also trying to hoodwink the king and the Mahasangha by providing ships to bring the Siamese Bhikkhus.

In any event the Dutch were involved with missionary activities and it was they who started the western type schools on a formal footing. Gajaman Nona who herself was a victim of this cultural colonization through schools has referred to these activities of the Dutch. The Dutch insisted that the Buddhists children were converted to Christianity before they were admitted to these schools. The Sinhalas tried to fool the Dutch by being Christians while at school and being Buddhists once they got back home.

Prof. Amaratunga in his wisdom says that "the Britishers who subjugated the entire island were no doubt keen in following the Portuguese but soon realized after the 1817 and 1848 rebellions, that a cultural – spiritual conquest was a near impossibility where the people of this island was concerned. Hence they confined themselves to economic exploitation using a comprador class made of upper class Sinhalese and Tamil leaders…… With the passage of time their main interest was to turn this island into a "Tea Garden". They built roads for that, brought labour from abroad, created a small upper class consisting of both Tamils and Sinhalese who were different to the masters only in the colour of their skin! After a hundred years of governance only 5 percent knew their language in this country! They were the least interested in the cultural conversion of the masses." What Prof. Amaratunga forgets or tries to forget is that the entire system of schools established by the British was nothing but a tool of cultural exploitation. The products of this system and the University College and the University of Ceylon established later were brainwashed to such an instant that even a Sinhala nationalist such as Prof. Amaratunga has the audacity to write of "such inanities as Sinhala Science, Sinhala Biology, Sinhala medical science!" The English speaking people may be even less than 5 percent among the Sinhala people. However, with the so called higher education reaching the villages the Vedamahattayas are being replaced not only by doctors who practice western medicine but also by doctors who practice some brand of Ayurvedic medicine. Cultural conversion can take place in many spheres. The manners, the attitudes and even the usage of the language can be changed without forcing people to change to English. The so called intellectuals in the country can not only teach western science in Sinhala but write western novels in Sinhala. This is what the English (British) have done to the Sinhala people in the country. I have no doubt that the ordinary Tamil people were also subjugated culturally by the English.

Soon after stating that the British were the least interested in the cultural conversion of the masses, almost as an afterthought Prof. Amaratunga adds the following. "Of course they were keen to see that no National leader was allowed to champion the cause of these down trodden masses. The treatment meted out to Anagarika Dharmapala is a good example. However it was because of this attitude of the Britishers that a cultural revival engaging the vast masses was made possible even prior to independence." What does Prof. Amaratunga tell us in these few lines? Apparently the British did not allow a nationalist leader to champion the cause of the down trodden. The treatment meted out to Anagarika Dharmapala shows this. Now was it a cultural subjugation or not? Prof. Amaratunga is not clear on that aspect. However, he says because of this attitude of the British a cultural revival engaging the vast masses was made possible. If the treatment meted out to Anagarika Dharmapala was not a result of cultural subjugation and if the British were the least interested in cultural conversion how was it possible to have "a cultural revival" engaging VAST MASSES. If the treatment meted out to Anagarika Dharmapala was a result of cultural subjugation then it could not be said that the British were the least interested in cultural conversion.

I think I have now shown how Prof. Amaratunga who was a economic determinist on 19th July 2009 became a culture economy twin theorist on 31st August under criticism. He should be commended for changing views when he is shown to be wrong but he should not accuse others as cultural determinists when there is not an iota of truth in it. I have always maintained that western colonialism has three interdependent components, namely economic, political and cultural. Though Prof. Amaratunga has changed his views to include culture as a twin of economy he has still to consider the political component of western cultural colonialism. I will get back to the first cause problem in respect of culture and knowledge probably next week.
-Sri Lanka Guardian