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.


The guardian angel complex

17 July 2006

The guardian-angel complex, as I call it, is a more pronounced version of the holier-than-thou complex. Many activists suffer from it — animal rights activists, anti-abortionists, environmentalists and recently in Sri Lanka, some of the self-proclaimed defenders of Sinhalese-Buddhism.

You can easily make the distinction between a legitimate activist and those suffering from the guardian-angel complex. The “guardian angel” is often more concerned with fighting the enemies than protecting the charge.

Animal rights activists are a good example. Whenever groups like ALF attack laboratories and “liberate” test animals, what is conspicuously absent from their well laid plans is the welfare of their liberated animals. They often break in, set fire to property, break open cages, spray paint walls and leave the animals to perish in an unfamiliar environment. Hardly the act of a guardian angel. Most “guardian angels” are so obsessed with playing a defender of something, that it’s often of little consequence what they’re a defender of.

This is also true of certain types of defenders of religion — following scripture is of little importance to them. What is more important is the exposure of “threats” and “conspiracies” against their religion and reprimanding those (other than themselves) who fail to follow their particular interpretation of scripture. When such types rear their heads in society, it is the job of legitimate activists to caution the public against them.

Hello world

18 April 2006

I am an advocate of radical social and political reforms for Sri Lanka. This blog will shock most Sri Lankans. Expect nothing less. I will make no apologies for the things I say here. I may play devil’s advocate and defend ideas that I don’t personally endorse, but I will not mention which are which.

Reformation vs. Metamorphosis

The social/economic/political problems this country is facing cannot be solved by any single administration because solving them will take longer than the maximum term any administration can serve. It cannot be done in six or even twelve years. At minimum, it will take one generation — approximately 25 years.

Political and economic reforms by themselves will not solve the problem. The core of our problem is social. The political and economic systems that we’ve allowed ourselves to get trapped into are a symptom of this core problem, not its cause. Ours is a problem of ideology — the way we think. Until that is changed in a drastic and radical way, we cannot hope to sustain any sort of political or economic reform even if we manage to actually implement them. What we need is not reformation, but a complete, gradual metamorphosis.

Reformation: Personal and Systemic

A society is reformed through two converging movements of reformation: one, personal reformation and two, systemic reformation. Neither can achieve any lasting success without the other. A brilliant social/economic/political system will fail in the hands of scoundrels. Even the most virtuous person will be eventually broken by an improper system.

There are different degrees or levels in each type of reformation. For example, it’s easier for you to change the way you brush your teeth each morning than to change your deepest beliefs about good and evil. Similarly, it’s easier to change the way a license application form is processed at a government office than to change the constitution or develop a new one based on new moral principles. Between these two extremes (under both types of reformation) we get a whole spectrum of reforms of varying degrees of difficulty.

I believe that we should start at the lower levels of each of the two ‘avenues’ of reformation. That is the realistic and practical thing to do. Dramatic changes will be quickly reversed if either the people or the ‘system’ is not ready for them. Lasting changes depend on firm foundations, not on coups or revolutions. When revolutions DO work, it’s because they’re the culmination of years of foundation-laying.

The biggest challenge in making reforms is to not choose the wrong ones. No reform at all is better than a bad reform.

Comments: Please send comments, thoughts and ideas to greenhornet.lk AT gmail.com. I may choose to either ignore them, answer them, post them on the blog in part or in whole, expand on them or refute them, depending on how relevant I think they are to my objectives.