Colombo, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Treachery, Egotism and Myth in our politics

What do enlightened citizens make of the happenings in our country today- the antics of Dr Mervyn Silva, the failure of the IGP and the Polcie to arrest him or even question him and stop his path of inflicint terror on media personnel firstly on Rupavahini workers and now on Sirasa reporters?

Any criticism of the government and its record of violations of human rights media freedom and norms of good governance is met with one answer by Government spokesman. It is a conspiracy with the LTTE by the opponents to discredit the government which is winning the war against the LTTE. It is all a conspiracy by foreign powers to stop the war. Those who stand up against the abductions, the extra-judicial killings, the attacks on the media personnel and threats to journalists are tilting against imaginary windmills like Don Quixote. They say look at the Sunday Leader and its virulent criticism of the government and ask the rhetorical question ‘how can there be no freedom of the media’. They attribute to their critics the motive of treachery- an attempt they say to help prevent the defeat of the LTTE in the current battles in the North.
The Government and its extremist partners like the JVP and he JHU, brand all those who talk of human rights and democratic values as traitors who are opposing the defeat of the LTTE. What is the ordinary citizen, to make of all this? David Edwards in his book “Free to be Human” shows that there is no need for any conspiracy to explain the human predicament today in the world. He shows that if you put together a group of individuals, any individuals who have forgotten their true identity as human beings and whose main motivating forces are fear and self preservation, a system of social conditioning is bound to arise which traps everyone in a self-perpetuating downward spiral taking them further and further away from the truth and closer and closer to destruction. That seems to be the point we have reached today. The ordinary people are in such a frame of mind and those extremists who know their conditioning capitalize on it.

We should not succumb to such negative brainwashing by politicians, nationalists and the media, who are telling us what is “supposed” to be true and want us to feel what we are supposed to “feel”- a misconception of the love of the country and patriotism narrowly interpreted and elevated above all other moral and social values. We are told that human rights, freedom and democratic values do not apply in times of war and in any case are not available for the enemy. How can Buddhists who subscribe to the concept of ahimsa tackle this situation? In Nazi Germany in the 1930s the majority of Christians succumbed to similar values propagated by the Nazis. They preferred to be silent and as Pastor Niemoller said “they came first for the Communists and as I was not a Communist I kept silent. Next they came for the Jews and as I was not a Jew I kept silent. Next they came for the Catholics and as I wasn’t a Catholic I kept silent. Next they came for me and there was no one to speak up for me”.

Napier speaking for those who stand up for freedom of speech says “You say that it is your custom to kill any person who has the audacity to criticize your religion. Very well. However, we also have a custom: to defend to the death the right of a person to speak his mind even if we disagree with him and, if he is killed, to hunt down and fully punish the persons responsible for his death. Attempt to kill a person for speaking his mind; we shall defend him. Succeed in killing him; we shall ensure that you pay fully for your crime. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.” This is more or less the position of the International Community regarding the violation of human rights in matters like abductions and extra-judicial killings too.
So who among us will bring water to the Waste Land, light to the darkness or freedom to what is only a parody of democracy? Anybody who makes such an attempt will face obstacles, threats and seductions but it is the only hope for us as individuals and as a society. It is after all those people whatever religion they belong to, who do not stand up for their perceptions ; the well-behaved, dutiful and by their own standards ‘good people’ who are easily duped by the lunatic lies about the motherland or the peoples revolution by the propaganda in the media by the government. These are the people who blindly worship those in power, who grind their teeth at the latest atrocities committed by the official enemy. It is always those who mindlessly accept what is “supposed to be right and just” that are found at the scene of the great crimes of humanity.