12 September 2007

If divorce in Sri Lanka had the same level of social acceptance as in America, our divorce statistics would be off the chart. Comparing Sri Lanka’s divorce statistics to that of America leads to a sense of false social superiority.

A low divorce rate is not an indicator of marital success. It is an indicator of BOTH marital success and a society’s willingness to suffer unhappiness in order to conform to social norms. In the U.S. more and more people are unwilling to be unhappy. And western societies tend to accept and support divorcees while we shun them and frown upon them, adding insult to injury. Divorce is blasphemy. People remain locked in unhappy marriages and children grow up under the influence of unhappy marriages. A civilized split is better than family strife. (It is better to seek statistics than trust the television: not every divorce in the America narrowly averts murder. Sometimes it is just “irreconcilable differences”)

But there may be another force at work. Americans in particular seem less and less willing to compromise and accept flaws in a potential partner. Many Americans are single because their standards of Mr. and Ms. Right are too high. But that part of the equation is not my concern. My concern is how the statistics lie about one of our most serious social problems. I will go so far as to say that the majority of Sri Lankan marriages are unhappy. Even if we cannot be certain of that, we can be certain of this: most Sri Lankan married WOMEN are unhappy. It is often the wife who is left “holding the short end of the stick” in a marriage. Also, in our Indian/Hindu-descendant culture, even after a divorce or breakup it is the woman who is often considered at fault. Surprisingly, women themselves perpetuate this system. Until she herself has to face family strife or divorce, the average Sri Lankan woman is the chief component in the system of ostracism against divorcees.

Separation of Concern

10 September 2007

Separation of concern between the legislature (parliament) and the executive (the president and the cabinet) cannot be maintained if there are links between the two – especially if both comprise the same individuals. Members of the legislature should not hold ministerial positions. I have failed to find any provisions in the Sri Lankan constitution that forbid such intermingling. It should not be allowed. The concept of Balance of Power which is central to modern democracy can only work if the powers of the legislature, executive and judiciary are set AGAINST each other. Both the legislature and judiciary should be able to question the actions of the executive. This cannot happen if the branches are friendly to each other.

“Paid Degrees”

6 September 2007

Some Sri Lankan public university graduates are in the habit of calling the qualifications of private university graduates “paid degrees”. Private university graduates in all fairness should turn around and call such people “beggars”. Entrance to Sri Lankan public universities is highly merit based and only the best get in, especially in the technical and scientific disciplines. Some of these highly intelligent students tend to suffer from inferiority complexes which turn into ‘superiority complexes’ as they begin to see themselves as the best-of-the-best and the only ones who are capable of or DESERVING of a university degree.

A tragedy of our system is that graduates who are meant to go into research and development end up being doctors and engineers. Graduates who were meant to become doctors and engineers end up as technicians or in various middle management/desk jobs. The reason: we do not have enough space in our universities for everyone who deserves entry. So we raise the bar above international standards. We get the best few but we do not have research or development. So they treat patients and work with equipment. The segment of the Sri Lankan population with an IQ sufficient for medicine or engineering ends up further below*. If some of these can afford to pay for their higher education, by all means allow them to do so.

The standards in private institutions are not necessarily too lax (not counting fraudulent establishments). The standards in public ones are too tight. Public university graduates have no right to resent somebody who has to work less hard to get his degree. The additional hard work the public university graduate has to put in is compensation for his inability to pay for what he receives.

Student union demands to regulate (or ban altogether) private universities should not be entertained in any form. A person who not only takes his gifted education for granted but also wants to deny others the opportunity to learn should NEVER be accepted into a university no matter how intelligent he is. An intelligent fool is a lot more dangerous than a stupid one.

* One of the reasons why third world professionals aboard often make their western counterparts look incompetent: we are pitting our top tier against their middle tier. Many of THEIR best people tend to be in R & D.