Why fuss over Oxford and Wikileaks

by Nalin de Silva

(December 09, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The so-called educated people are wasting their time and energy over the cancellation of the speech that the President Mahinda Rajapaksa was scheduled to deliver at the University of Oxford. It is said that the Oxford Union, a mere debating society of another University, however much inflated by the English establishment and English media, had invited the President to address them but it had to be cancelled on the advice of the Police due to protest by some LTTE terrorists. Many educated people, meaning those who have been trained by the English educational establishment directly or indirectly, some of whom think that addressing the Oxford Union is a sort of crowning achievement, have come up with various versions blaming the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, the Presidential secretariat, occasionally the English police but never the Oxford University or the Oxford Union or the English government.

These pundits are of the opinion that the President should have not accepted the invitation, and that our High Commission in London and/or the Presidential Secretariat should have given proper advice to him. However, this was an invitation from the Oxford Union with so much prestige attached to it in the English speaking world as a result of good marketing, to a Head of State, and whether it was an official invitation from the English government or not it was the duty of the government to give protection to President Rajapakse. Imagine what would have happened if President Obama had accepted an invitation from one of the societies in one of our Universities that have tried to ape Oxford and Cambridge from the very beginning, to address them? The Sri Lankan government though it is not an official invitation from them would have made sure that full protection is given to the President of USA, and of course the University concerned would have taken the trouble to organize a grand welcome in honour of the distinguished guest most probably in a five star hotel at the expense of the tax payers. Perhaps the Oxford union invites so many Heads of states in any one year that neither the Oxford Union nor the English government has time and energy to attend to these formalities.

Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge may be having bigger libraries, fully equipped laboratories and better facilities in general than most of the other universities in the world. However, the education given to the students in those Universities cannot be very much different from that given to the students in the other universities as almost all the universities in the world have been established according to the Oxbridge tradition. I do not have any experience with either Oxford or Cambridge, but the University of Sussex where I studied was not very much different from the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya or Colombo where I have studied and taught or the University of Kelaniya where I teach now or the University of Malawi where I taught for a semester. Though Malawi is a poorer country than Sri Lanka I was not surprised to find that it somewhat resembled Sussex in appearance as well. The educated people all over the world have modeled all the Universities more or less in the same manner. It has good quarters for lecturers and I would say that they are better than those found in Peradeniya. I was teaching Physics at Malawi and in one of my classes I asked the students to name the person who "discovered" the Lake Malawi that covers more than 11,000 square miles. The students in one voice said it was David Livingstone. I had to tell them that before Livingstone the "sudda" (white man) set foot in Africa and came across the great lake their great great grand parents would have seen and made use of the lake, and that it was only the English who give the credit of "discovering" the Lake Malawi to Livingstone and that the Malawians should not do the same. However, it was in vain and they would have thought what had Lake Malawi got to do with Statistical Mechanics, the subject I was teaching them.

I would call the passing of knowledge according to the western "wisdom" the Oxbridge tradition that could be found from the University of Malawi to University of Peradeniya. Of course, Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge not to mention Harvard and Princeton attract the "researchers" who can best serve western Christian modernity whether in Sociology or in Physics. (Remember Buddhism Betrayed by Thambiah!) The faculty of these universities are there to create knowledge, if they can or solve problems in the Judaic Christian tradition. Some of them may be lousy lecturers who are neither exciting nor inspiring, but they have been recruited simply because they serve the western Christian modernity while degrading the other cultures. The so called Ivy League Universities would try to attract the best to serve the Judaic Christian culture by way of writing articles to the most "reputed" journals which are again recognized by the very same academics. The whole set up is deceptive with the Universities defending the best exponents of their culture, and the academics creating knowledge or "solving" problems helping to maintain the "standards" of the University in a cyclic way. The academics would never believe that the western knowledge system is the most dominating system that the world has ever found, and even if they knew it they would simply keep quiet for they would not want to leave their tenures. The western universities had their origin in the European middle ages, and had been able to adjust to the western modernity, with places such as Cambridge and Oxford retaining the umbilical chord with the medieval Catholic traditions covered by Christian outlook. The Universities have their specialties and Cambridge would attract better Mathematicians and Theoretical Physicists but on the whole they recruit those who would serve the western Judaic Christian culture and construct knowledge in the Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya, and/or effectively undermine the other traditions. The great Tamil Hindu Mathematician Ramanujan from India who was able to construct Mathematics in his culture in association with Kali Amman was called to Cambridge by Hardy supposed to be the best English Mathematician in his time only to drown the former in western Mathematics, and diminish what I would call the Kali Amman connection.

The Oxford Union by cancelling the President Rajapaksa’s lecture has shown to the world that it does not stand to defend the right of speech as claimed by those who crow about this debating society. It is clear that the Union has not done anything to make sure that the President Rajapakse addressed them. They had invited the President but when the Police advised them to cancel the lecture, they accepted meekly the advice given by the police to cancel the speech because of so called protests from the LTTE supporters. Why did not the Oxford Union insist that the President Rajapakse was their guest and that he had a right to address the union and that it was up to the police force to give adequate protection to the President? Did anybody think that the Oxford union even under the leadership of a Sri Lankan President of the Union would have fought for the freedom of speech as we are supposed to believe? The Union would have done the same under the Presidency of anybody as it is only another meek organization that follows the establishment at Oxford and Cambridge, with occasional hiccups.

Now why do the educated people believe that the police did not get any orders from the government and advised the Oxford Union accordingly? The educated people have been instilled with all the necessary instructions to uphold the western Judaic Christian culture through the English education that they received at schools and universities. Why cannot the educated people be uneducated to understand the world in a different Chinthanaya? I for a moment do not believe that the English government did not have a hand in the entire operation. If the government wanted it could have easily deployed enough police strength to see that the LTTE demonstrators were kept at bay. It was the English (British if the educated want that way) government that would have taken steps to stop the speech by the President, and the government, the Police and the University have acted in unison.

If anybody still thinks that the English government would not have acted in that manner to prohibit freedom of speech then he/she must be very educated. The westerners know how to prohibit freedom of speech or when necessary make a person having a different view ineffective. I do not have much sympathy for people such as Chomsky but as we have mentioned in these columns sometime ago he is not effective in the American society. He may have different views but the government, Media and of course the universities would act in unison to make him ineffective. It is very likely that the percentage of Sri Lankans who have at least heard of Chomsky is greater than that of Americans who know that there is a person called Chomsky. Those who believe in transparency of the western governments could go through the Wikileaks exposures, and I suppose another Wikileaks exposure in the future would reveal the hand of the English government in canceling the speech of the President Rajapaksa. In England there is no freedom of speech for the Sinhalas but there is freedom for the English educated Tamils to prohibit the freedom of speech of the Sinhalas as it is the government policy. The English government does not want to give due place to the Sinhalas and the Sinhala Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka and this talk of Tamil voters in the Labour constituencies influencing or controlling the Members of Parliament is only a lullaby.

The educated people may be surprised by the Wikileaks but those who know of the "transparency" of the western governments are not surprised by them at all. Did we the uneducated not know that the American Ambassadors here were not the transparent angels of the western Christian culture? Julian Assange should be given political asylum in Sri Lanka if ever he were in need of it but what he has disclosed is something that the uneducated knew all along. It is the educated lot that makes a big fuss over the Wikileaks and the cancellation of the speech of the President Rajapaksa. Let them be uneducated and be aware that there are different systems of knowledge based on different chinthanayas, and that the west is dominating us through their system of knowledge and words such as transparency, democracy in their system are only hypocritical terms used to deceive the educated, and further may it dawn upon the advisors to the President that the Oxford Union is only a glorified debating society and that it is not effective even as a forum to express one’s ideas as it is finally the western media with an anti Sinhala Buddhist stance that makes use of Tamil racism of the elite to demean the Sinhala Buddhists that will give publicity to the views stated. Tell a Friend