Civil War vs. Civil Activism

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.


One Response to Civil War vs. Civil Activism

  1. ASG says:


    Take a look at what took place in the US, and the African American population. Even after the US civil war, African Americans (AAs) had minimal rights, were ostracized by the whites, and were not given any vocational positions that commanded social status or wealth. One can draw the parable that this is what a majority of the Tamil population in SL experienced post-independence, and especially (from what my readings tell me) during the SWRD Bandaranaike regieme.

    I dont think the AAs had an incident to the scale of the ’83 riots, but I’m sure the cruelty and injustice they experienced pre-emancipation and by the KKK and similarly racist-minded folk do put them on a similar scale, just a couple of decades apart and over a different time interval.

    People look up to strong leaders, ones with a communicable vision, charisma, and a drive to lead. To the AAs, that person was Martin Luther King. I’m sure we all have some clue of the doings of MLK et al – the bus boycott, the demonstrations, the million man march. One could say he truly epitomized what you have defined as a civil activist. And years of tireless work paid off – for most of the US, AAs have the same rights as any other American citizen, hold some positions of status and wealth, and are generally not discriminated (ok, there will always be some racism going round, but you get my point). If I may be so bold to say – an AA is perceived more favorably in the US than a brownie like most of us reading this blog.

    I’d speculate the US was damn lucky they had MLK. And in the same regard, I’d say that Sri Lanka was horribly unfortunate to have Prabakaran (sp?).

    Along came Praba with his vision of civil war at a time when I’d imagine many tamils in Sri Lanka was looking for a leader to deliver them a solution. Praba’s plans were undoubtedly helped along by the atrocities of the SL governments at the time as well. And as a result, Civil war became the modus operandi, and bloody carnage ensured. Today we still have a group of ethnically homogenous people fighting the rest of the country for their own separate slice of the already diminutive pie.

    A side rant: I’d like you to consider whats happening today in SL. Specifically, OUR generation, the Gen Xs and Gen Ys (also classified in some books as the internet generation). Concentrate on yourself, and on your immediate circle of friends. Chances are your friends are composed of an ethnically and religiously heterogeneous mix of Hindus, Sinhalese, Christians, Tamils, Buddhists, Muslims, Burgers… the whole gamut. Chances are, so is the place you work. Inter-racial marriage is common as well, and heck, up till recently, our own cricket team had more racial national representation than the English team (and I have still yet to see an aborigine or a desi play in Australia’s team). All in all, we don’t seem that very racist or chauvinist, do we? So maybe while the politicos and the terrorists are content on war to fight out differences, and causing casualties over misdeeds that took place before our adolescence, maybe you and I have unconsciously superseded them in that regard, and already achieved respectful co-habitation?

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