09 April 2012

Inhabit the common ground!

There’s a pernicious adage that many people treat as an article of faith: ‘If you are not with me, then you must be against me!’  It is easy to piece out life in binary terms. It makes for easy analysis and easy strategizing.  The problem is that the premise is erroneous and the error gets multiplied as life and living travels the Grand Road of Binaries.  It is something that plagues our political culture.

In the mad rush to ensure that ‘enemy’ doesn’t obtain advantage, the mistakes, waywardness and even worse transgressions of friend and loyalist are ignored and sometimes even defended and justified.  And when the ‘enemy’ slips or is made to slip, there’s raucous laughter and ridicule. The most pernicious corollary to this erroneous operational device is ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’.  This is something we saw in the 2006-2009 period where mindless regime-haters bent backwards to support that which was thought to be the enemy’s biggest enemy, the LTTE, never mind the fact that suicide attacks and bomb explosions didn’t whet potential victims for party affiliation. 

A few weeks ago Sri Lanka was ‘defeated’ by the USA in a classic case of naduth haamuduruwange baduth haamuduruwange (the USA had the bucks, was positioned to arm-twist and absolutely no moral authority to do what it did and Sri Lanka was like an Under 13 ‘C’ team battling Michael Clark’s Australians in a Test Match.  The hurrahs of the TNA were to be expected and has to be read as an emphatic ‘NOT INTERESTED’ in the matter of post-conflict reconciliation.  The UNP’s decision to partner the TNA in May Day celebration, however, is problematic. 

The UNP’s positions regarding the entire issue over the past few years demonstrate how deeply subscribed it is to the friend-enemy binary; going from pooh-poohing the military option to jeering at rehabilitation and resettlement efforts to endorsing ill-willed moves against Sri Lanka initiated by pro-LTTE elements abroad to being dismissive of the LLRC to demanding full implementation of LLRC recommendations to virtually backing the USA at the UNHRC in Geneva to post-Geneva triumphalism to arm-in-arm with the TNA, known apologists of terrorism.   

Fascination with binaries is not the preserve of the UNP leadership of course.  The ruling party is as or more guilty.  Indeed given power-edge and incurable arrogance the big guns of the Government do not seem to be willing or able to peel away rhetoric and debating point in order to obtain the substance of legitimate objection.  If there’s criticism it’s brushed away as ‘conspiracy’ or the natural chagrin of those out of power or the invective of those seeking power. 

It is in this context that the stand taken by the UNP-led opposition of the Boralesgamuwa Pradeshiya Sabha has to be applauded.  They stood firm in denouncing moves against the country and especially the revenge-heavy machinations of the United States of America.  That is not, however, an endorsement of all decisions taken by the UPFA in Boralesgamuwa or elsewhere.  That is, however, responsible opposition. 

The truth is that we are not a society that has no history is seeing past false dichotomies.  We are not an either-or people.  We are civilization that is more sophisticated in philosophy and practice. Common and commonality are an integral part of who we are.  Tolerance and accommodation are integral to our world view.  This is true of all communities living in this island.  Whatever hardships we face, we find time for one another, find ways of giving and sharing. That is what the Aluth Avurudda is about.  We rejoice together and mourn together.  We understand ‘times of need’.  We know how to put aside the petty and objectionable.  We know how to embrace, how to reconcile.  

If a key is missing in the larger processes of getting over and past the conflict, then the Aluth Avurudda is a moment, an event, a celebration, an idea and symbolic of a way of being in which that missing element can be found.  If that key has a name, then it must be commonality.  It’s accessible by all and if politicians are not interested that does not mean citizens have to follow suit. 


Fizz said...

I have heard that the great King Mahasamatta agreed to adjudicate over a dispute about grain for a share of it and that this is the foundation of our society through personal exposition of the Ten Royal Virtues by the King.
As a nation, whatever the machinations of the political classes, our refuge and our response can only be Dhamma. If we live in dhamma, dhamma will protect us.
A return to mahasamatta is the need of the hour in the sure recognition of the teachings of our ancients: the general or common consensus being that if we live in dhamma the land and the people will be safe.
So here's my question is mahasamatta compatible with representative democracy and party politics? By adopting an alien system of governance have we given up our freedom and instituted its opposite?