I am Sri Lanka

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( January 5, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to Sri Lanka Guardian report about “What it is to be Sri Lankan”. As per the report  [Referring to French philosopher, Jacques Lacan, Dr. Jayatilleka shared what meant according to him to be Sri Lankan: “Sri Lanka to me, is, in the Lacanian sense, the place.”]

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I have analyzed this as follows: ‘To me, as my Guru says – there are three I’s – (1) who others think I am; (2) who I think I am and (3) who I really am.  The third one within me is my true self and the one that keeps me fulfilled without needing others to certify me.   Majority vote is about the first one.  Whenever this is lower than who I think I am – I felt disappointed.  Repeated disappointments when unaddressed, lead to depression – a strong risk with migrants who enjoyed  high status in their countries of origin. As for me, I was able to work it out during my time with myself – that these others needed me to give form to their work. Since I went into their ‘territory’ I had to accept such demotions in their territory. But once I mentally came out of their territory their assessments did not matter any more.  This way, I was able to better prepare myself for the future. Knowing my reality was the Actual in my mind and planning for the future on that basis was my budget.’

On the above basis – there are 3 Sri Lankas. (1) Sri Lanka as seen by outsiders (2) Sri Lanka as known by those who live/d in the space called Sri Lankans and (3) The real Sri Lanka. The third one is the only lasting one and the one that responds to everyone who feels for their nation – whatever name that that nation may be called by. It renders natural feelings of Oneness with the world. On that basis – if I feel Sri Lankan at a place in Australia – then that place is Sri Lanka.  It’s the form I give my feelings. Every human being has the right to give her/his form to her/his feelings and beliefs.  Our thinking needs to be regulated through common laws and principles and hence our thoughts cannot be given the form we choose. Only feelings / beliefs – render that authority.  Others may not understand the ‘reasoning’/ ‘form’ given by us. But they have no right to stop us from expressing our feelings nor give it their own form.

When I was arrested for Peaceful Assembly at the University of New South Wales, the Police listed me as Sri Lankan. I strongly objected to it – not only because  it was legally incorrect but also because I did not feel Sri Lankan at that time at that place.  Had I felt Sri Lankan at that time, I would not have assembled peacefully to speak to the Vice Chancellor of an Australian University, in the place called Australia. My assembly was a quiet declaration of belief that I was Australian and hence was seeking to share my wisdom for the greater good of Australian University system. Sharing belief is good for all involved in the sharing.  I stated also my belief that I was arrested due to racial discrimination. Some did not believe that that was the reason. They were entitled to their belief so long as they did not try to enforce that on me. To the White Australian who is yet to invest in multicultural Australia, her/his belief that true Australians are ‘white’ is right – so long as it is expressed in her/his local ‘Whites Only’ area. Likewise Sinhalese who are yet to invest in Sri Lanka – so long as they express it in their area only.  Likewise, Eelam Tamils making their political declaration of ‘Tamil Only’ – provided they do so purely in their area. No one has the moral authority to block such declarations in the  local area of the declarer. Hence the provisions through laws usually in the Constitution.  Also the need for Devolution of Power where there is evidence of suppression by majority - of expressions and actions of  belief  by minority.

As per the above mentioned report ‘Initiated with the support of Ambassador Jayatilleka, What’s Next! comprises of post-graduates and young professionals of Sri Lankan origin residing in France. It seeks to promote a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka through intellectual exchange and multicultural dialogue.’

Intellectual approach helps one to ‘think’ at the higher level. But thinking alone will not go towards peace and harmony. In fact active thinking that is not regulated by Truth and/or common principles would lead to conflict and chaos. This is a strong risk with intellectuals of Sri Lankan origin. Once they feel French, they would find it comfortable to feel Sri Lankan when in Sri Lankan area and v.v. They are global citizens. Until they feel French, these young professionals need to use their common professions to relate to their counterparts in Sri Lanka, Sinhala only areas and Tamil only areas. Once they feel French, feeling Sri Lankan, Sinhala or Tamil would be a natural process influenced by their environment’s needs. Those driven by individual needs would have difficulty – not knowing whether they are French or Sri Lankan.

If Dr. Jayatilleke feels French – then he would lead this process. If he just thinks French – then there is likely to be conflict between his official Sri Lankan position and his natural interests in the French. Expressions of thoughts  through  French philosopher, Jacques Lacan confirm the French side of this group. What about the Sri Lankan side? Isn’t there a Sri Lankan example through whom to analyze and regulate our thoughts? – even if it were just Dr. Jayatilleke himself?  One may use objective outcomes produced by other nationalities for one’s own thinking. But using thoughts of other nationalities would influence us to become like them.  This is the root problem that we face in regards to  Lankan Judiciary which has failed to maintain its sovereignty. Parliament and Judiciary could use the same law and produce two different looking outcomes. That would confirm their diversity. If one starts thinking like the other due to desire or fear – then they have already lost their sovereign status. Likewise,  migrants of Sri Lankan origin in France who accept inequality in France but object to it in Sri Lanka. One who is French only is entitled to criticize or praise Sri Lanka on the basis of objectively measurable outcomes produced by Sri Lankans. But they are not entitled to ‘think’ for Sri Lankans. Hence in terms of outcomes using the same law and/or principle – one who thinks French would produce outcomes of different form to one who thinks Sri Lankan. Likewise the Judiciary and Parliament.   

Using ‘place’ literally to relate to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans is the parallel of using majority vote to Govern. This deters intellectual stimulation and therefore thoughts regulated by common principles and laws. Parliament strongly driven by majority vote would tend to produce outcomes that would be ‘liked’ by the voters. Judiciary on the other hand are required to be driven by ‘rights and wrongs’ using principles and laws common to both sides before them.  The outcomes produced by such a judiciary – would have greater value with wider world, than outcomes produced by judiciary strongly influenced by parliament. Likewise outcomes produced by intellectuals using common principles would have greater value with wider world than outcomes produced by majority influence – be it French, Sri Lankan or Sinhala/Tamil.  Former is Administrative and the latter is Political. The latter needs to be limited to local areas and should not be applied as is outside the local area of belief.

Dr. Jayatilleke is reported to have said ‘If we take the famous piece of literature, the myth or the legend of Rāmāyana, Ravana is identified as being from ‘Lanka’. He is not Sinhalese, he is not Tamil; he is from Lanka. Ravana in that sense was the first Lankan. I do not know about the Sri part of it.’

No, we do not know whether Ravana was Sinhalese or Tamil. But we do know that Ravana was a strong devotee of Lord Shiva – a Hindu. Hence anyone who accepts that Ravana was the king of Lanka needs to accept that Lanka was once ruled by Hindus and therefore the majority practitioners of Hinduism are the royal group of Lanka. Hence one could conclude that Hinduism is the first royal religion of Lanka and Buddhism is the second royal religion. Those who changed the religion of the royalty have actually lost the identity of Lanka prior to their time. The deeper our  belief / roots – the wider the spread of our thoughts and actions. It is this belief that is lacking in Sri Lanka. Every Hindu who was killed by the Government due to subjective reasons – has lost the blessings of Lord Shiva, to that extent. Ravana himself got into trouble with Rama for abducting  Rama’s wife. That was merit based punishment. Similarly, Ravana was punished for giving trouble to Hindu ascetics/philosophers who would have had greater blessings of Lord Shiva than Ravana himself. Thus Ravana actually caused his own demise. If  cultural differences are identified at primary levels and powers are separated instead of being shared, we would not need major battles and wars to kill the demons on either side.  With separation of powers we would  wait for ‘objectively measurable outcomes’ and therefore minimize the use of subjective powers that are likely to earn negative karma for those on the side of the user of such subjective powers.

Dr. Jayatilleke is reported to have stated ‘Never forget that for the eventual victory or assertion of reason, there was a very important ideological struggle, the struggle against irrational ideas, traditional hierarchies which were made sacred simply because this is the way things have always existed.’

Dr. Jayatilleke despite his ‘intellectual’ credits used the subjective path and therefore the ‘traditional’ character – Ravana to deliver his message. The villager who is specially targeted for recruitment by rebels – be they JVP or the LTTE – would naturally be influenced by these characters – who are  unhindered by intellectual rationality. Intellectuals taking a rational approach would be seen as enemies by such villagers with high status in their local areas. Intellectuals without the experience and therefore lacking the ‘feel’ for these villagers – are likely to be theoretical to get quick credits within their intellectual status. But as they say in Tamil – one cannot cook book-vegetable. These intellectuals do have their roles to play as a group but they would need to work through the Judiciary and/or make the effort to connect to the ethnic grassroots – by becoming humble and feeling part of those grassroots and not by ‘telling’ them that their way does not work.  In money poor countries like Sri Lanka, the subjective path would continue long after the countries officially take on the democratic status . The express path is - for the wise intellectuals to share their wisdom as if they were part of the grassroots in a particular area. One needs humility towards this. 

This is what I have said in respect to carrying forward old systems ‘Those with low status often become the targets of blame when those with high status are looking to punish and/or to throw away the pain and/ or loss that comes their way.  Hence anti discrimination laws in multicultural societies, so that each individual has the opportunity to protect her/himself from abuse of subjective powers. If we believe that we were ‘born free’ we would fight to protect that freedom. That belief could come from our parents and elders and/or from our previous lives.  Low status without merit and/or belief reflects dislike of the person being lowered in status. Likewise, high status without merit and/or belief reflects liking of the person being elevated in status. In both instances whatever we do on the outside is registered in our minds also. When we are alone therefore, one side of us dislikes or likes the other. Likewise in a sovereign group. If we keep elevating someone and there is no one else relative to whom such elevation happens, we become the latter. Likewise when we are arbitrarily reducing the status of someone and when the elevation is not passed on to someone else, we elevate ourselves. False elevation leads to excitement and hallucination . False demotion leads to depression.’

True Sri Lankans would recognize that to the extent they are sovereign they would have their own people making up the likes and dislikes at the political level.  That is the basic quality of completion. When the substance is manifested to the physical level – there are two sides that are equal and opposite at the level playing field. The ethnic field is now level in Sri Lanka. If we do not keep switching places physically – we would find each other attractive. It is about not encroaching into others’ areas of sovereignty. How about ensuring that the armed officers in Tamil areas are Hindus, Christians or Tamils?  Or using Dr. Jayatilleke’s path – intellectual soldiers – intellectual enough to use merit basis?  So long as there is intrusion there would be deterioration of Trust. The way Dr. Jayatilleke brings the French into Sri Lanka, Tamils would naturally bring India into Sri Lanka through Tamil Nadu. Hinduism is the stronger belief based natural common link with India. How does one  override such a system using the intellectual path? If that were possible, the Buddhist monks within the Government of Sri Lanka would have been weakened and retired long time back. To the extent religion is part of Sri Lankan Governance – minority religions need affirmative action more than intellect to keep the harmony going.

In the meantime, everyone who is able to say with belief ‘I am Sri Lanka’ is adding true value to the substance that sustains this harmony.

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