Diaspora Naiveté

29 November 2006

Calls for war are easy to make when the bombs are not going to fall on your own neighborhood. In the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, both sides suffer from two forms of naiveté, each in its own way. Firstly, the paradox of the most distant factions on both sides being the most militant. Sinhalese extremists living in the relative safety and luxury of Colombo find it easy to call for war in the North. Tamil extremists living in London or Toronto are generally the most overt in their affection for the LTTE. Both are not just cases of being in an area where one is free to voice opinions. It is more a case of being disconnected from the reality one thinks one knows through verbal and written descriptions, photographs and video reports. Even those who visit a war-torn area for a few days and think “Ok, now I know what these people are actually going through” is still not fully aware. It is difficult for those in Colombo and London to grasp what it is like to live through a war day and night and not have anywhere else to go. Neither can I.

A section of the Sinhalese engage in classic nationalist chest thumping while a section of the Tamil Diaspora engages in classic romanticization of a distant conflict. But there is another form of naiveté: the naiveté of a new generation who is distanced from the conflict not by space, but by time. Many of the most vocal pro-Sinhalese, pro-war activists of the new generation were but toddlers in 1983. Some hadn’t even been born. They merely inherited the hatred from their elders, just as their Tamil counterparts inherited theirs from their elders. While the new generation Tamils can at least use discrimination as an excuse for their hatred, Sinhalese youth really have no such excuse to hate Tamils as an ethnic group (the crimes of the LTTE organization notwithstanding). We may very soon have to face the absurdity of two groups fighting for reasons that nobody living on either side remembers firsthand.

Money-Parties vs. Value-Parties

24 November 2006

A political party whose platform consists of economics is far better than a party whose platform consists of “values”. In other words, of the two types of major parties found in most countries, the “money-party” is generally a safer bet than the “ideals” party. On the surface, the voter may feel that he should decide on the basis of who shows more concern for the things he value (be it national sovereignty, culture, religion, honesty etc.), rather than the one that promises more practical things. But the converse is true. Of all people, we should not look to politicians for values. For the Machiavellian mind, values are no more than devices. And as devices go, values can be far more potent than greed. The greatest atrocities in history have not been committed on the basis of practical necessities, but on the basis of values: on the basis of warped conceptions of what is right and wrong. The Holocaust, both World Wars, the Crusades, the Jihad, the Cold War–none of these were fought/carried out of material greed (though people like Adolph Hitler do occasionally appeal to economic reasons to catapult to power). I prefer the greedy politician over the ideological/charismatic one any day: material greed is a predictable element. Hunger for power is not. At humanity’s present stage of development, we cannot expect any more of a government other than operations and administration. Certainly not moral leadership. The only reason the Judiciary (which deals with right-and-wrong) is a part of government is that it MUST. Privatized dispute arbitration is still in the far future.