Civil War vs. Civil Activism

17 August 2006

Activism is a more civilized outlet for pent up indignation than militancy. Yet an entire generation of Tamils have grown up being more militant than activist. Events such as 1983 have terrorized most law abiding Tamils away from civil activism: placard-bearing demonstrators demanding equal rights for Tamils is not something you see often in Sri Lanka.

A Sinhalese dominated Establishment has not tolerated such things. The inevitable result: those who have the stomach for militancy take up arms; those who don’t have the stomach for it, provide support for those who do. This is what has happened today.

Help the Tamils move away from militancy and towards civil activism. Militarization takes so much away from a society. Many southerners who visited the North during the brief ceasefire (and shortly after the tsunami), reported that many of the LTTE guards they had to deal with had zombie-like faces that seemed to have not smiled in years. It wasn’t even anguish. It was almost a battle-hardened lack of emotion — the closest I could get to a description is “chronic rage”.

This does not characterize all Tamil youth. But the present generation of Tamil youth tend to have more faith in the fist than in the mind or the pen. Even when they do use the pen there is more attack-mode rhetoric than there are gentle arguments.


How to share a country

16 August 2006

Not every group on earth is entitled to its own homeland. If that were, the world would splinter into thousands of tiny states. More borders mean more conflicts; more states mean more politicians and more administrative costs; smaller economies mean smaller enterprises. And since people never stop defining themselves in terms of smaller and smaller subgroups, the splintering would never end. So some groups MUST learn to SHARE a single country.

Sharing does not mean the smaller group living as a minority in a country that the majority is trying to define in terms of their own ethnicity or religion. You cannot define Sri Lanka as a Sinhalese/Buddhist country and simultaneously ask Tamil/Hindus to “share” the country. That is not a proper form of sharing; we are asking them to be second class citizens. No human being will accept that for long. There are only three options, out of which only two are civilized: 

a) Define Sri Lanka as a secular, non-ethnic state, or

b) Divide Sri Lanka into one predominantly Sinhalese/Buddhist state and one predominantly Tamil/Hindu state.

c) Suppress or expel the Tamils

One can already see that (b) is a recursive solution: Sri Lanka’s substantial Muslim population will be second class citizens in both these states and will therefore demand a third Muslim state. Achieving (a) requires the implementation of an ethnicity-blind, creed-blind and caste-blind system and a gradual amalgamation of the main ethnicities into one: a topic for another day.

Homelands, civil movements

14 August 2006

Why do many Tamils call for a separate homeland? Because like any group of human beings, they need at least one place on earth they can call home and where they will not be treated as second class citizens. There are many accomplished Sri Lankans who refuse to emigrate to developed countries precisely because of this; sometimes esteem needs supersede economic ones.

No person is happy being treated as a second class citizen, ESPECIALLY in his own country. The response to such treatment will always be either a civil rights movement (as in early 20th century America) or a call for a separate homeland (as in Sri Lanka). 

If the Sri Lankan government and the Sinhalese public become more receptive to the idea of equal treatment, a civil rights movement will be more effective than a civil war. This will undercut the rationale for militant organizations.