The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Christian Domination of Lanka

by Dr. Nalin de Silva
August 8th, 2002

The Taliban government has been defeated and the search for bin Laden is on. Many people believe that Sadam Hussein is the next target. Arafat is under pressure as he cannot stop the terrorist acts of some of the Palestinian groups.

If Arafat is unable to do what the western protestant culture expects from him then he has to go. As somebody has said the west wants only Gorbachovs who could "deliver the goods" in the non western Christian world.

The western Christian leaders would have issued their customary Christmas messages and would have prayed for peace in the world. However, as far as they are concerned peace is only another word for Christian domination. The words have different meanings to different people and unfortunately we are accustomed to think that the others also mean the same thing as we do when a word is used in a certain context. It appears that the words not only have contextual meanings but hidden agendas as well.

Different people with different agendas use words with different meanings even in the same context. This is something that the western post modernists who themselves are products of Christian cultures have not discussed. It has to be remembered that the post modernists have not gone against the western Christian civilisation and they are in fact with their "theories" are only helping to continue the western Christian domination in culture and particularly in knowledge.

We in Sri Lanka have been talking of peace and of peace talks for sometime now. What is meant by peace in Sri Lanka? The peace movement in Sri Lanka has a disproportionate Christian representation and they talk of equality of people. They would say that they are against any form of discrimination. However, the words, equality of people, any form of discrimination have agendas and the Olcott Buddhists who do not know of any of these agendas, themselves start repeating these words without realising that they are miles and kilometres if not "gavvas" away from the "mahakaruna".

The greatest tragedy of the Sinhala Buddhists is their failure to establish institutions that impart a Sinhala Buddhist education, values etc., to the younger generation.

The Western Christian domination project that began towards the end of the fifteenth century continues after five hundred years. It has gone from strength to strength and in Sri Lanka we have come to a stage of speaking "English" even through Sinhala. Words like "samaya" and "visanvadi" (by the way is it visammuti or visanvadi) have become mere translations of English words and we have been brainwashed to use these words in the background of western Christian domination. The Sinhala Buddhists, if they are not careful, would end up as non thinking people who repeat some words according to the whims and fancies of the western Christian cultural imperialists.

Not everybody reads Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault or Jameson. It is the high culture that produces these authors (whether the author is dead or not, the concept of "the author is dead", meaning that the reader also creates when he/she reads a "text" is not new to the Sinhala Buddhists who have read the "Lovada Sangarawa") and the subscribers to pop culture that is analysed by Foucault and the rest would not have heard of a Derrida.

The high culture is still maintained in the West but what has happened is that the western high culture has gradually lost its capability of creating new ideas. What has been created under the label of post modernism is at best a poor relation of relativism of the Bharat and Sinhala Buddhists.

The popular culture with a mass base has come to the fore and the investors are more attracted to financing popular culture than high culture as there is more profit in it. In any event the high culture was appreciated by only a few, the vast majority of the middle class just pretending that they were attracted to high culture.

As the "stigma" attached to the pop culture has been erased by the mass base created by the electronic technology, the middle class has now shed these pretensions and are happy with the pop culture, that they understand and appreciate.

In Sri Lanka the pop culture, like everything else under cultural imperialism, is an imitation of the western pop culture. The Sinhala culture was a classical pop or high pop culture in the sense that the popular culture has been a high culture. (The outdated concepts "little tradition" and "great tradition" have no meaning with respect to Sinhala culture.)

There had been attempts by some to create a separate high culture in the past but these attempts have been defeated by authors such as Ven. Dharmasena Thero, who compiled the "Saddharmaratnavliya". The late Mr. Martin Wickremasinghe has given a good account of the various trends in the Sinhala culture and if the post modernists are interested in a culture that did not have a strict division into high and pop varieties then they are welcome to study the Sinhala Buddhist culture of the past.

The present day Sinhala pop culture as well high culture is in general, poor imitation of the western and Indian cultures and as a result it has been easy for the westerners to mislead us. Most of the "educated" among us have been mere "translators" of western culture into Sinhala or those who present western culture in Sinhala, while a few have looked up to India for inspiration.

They have theoretically found reasons for such imitation and borrowed inspiration in western anthropological concepts such as little and great traditions of culture.

In general, we have been busy with writing western novels in Sinhala, producing western drama in Sinhala, teaching western science in Sinhala (it is a pity that many people including the so-called scientists who head universities, research institutes, faculties and departments of studies in Sri Lanka think that "science" is universal) and a few composing western music in "Sinhala". On the other hand some others have tried to interpret Buddha Dhamma to westerners.

The Western Christian domination is most prominent in politics. Not only that all the political theories have been created in the Christian west but people are misled by terms such as peace, terrorism, moderates, injustices, embargo, proscription and even ethnocentrism and anthropomorphism. As we have often said by terrorism west means terrorism against the western Christian civilisation and not against any other culture or civilisation.

The word terrorism fits into the agenda of the western Christian domination.

The west is now busy with defeating terrorism directed by some Islamic groups against western Christian civilisation.

While they are not prepared to talk to these terrorists they want us to have negotiations with Prabhakaran and the LTTE. The word proscription also has different meanings according to the political agenda of the west. The UK is supposed to have proscribed the LTTE. But Anton Balasingham continues to live in London and make public speeches on behalf of the LTTE. What kind of proscription is that?

The LTTE may be debarred from raising funds in the western countries. But their front organisations have no problem whatsoever in operating in these countries and raising funds. The western political scientists and the sociologists and their "golayas" in Sri Lanka call us ethnocentrists and ethnonationalists.

This gives the impression that the western political scientists and sociologists are very objective and that they are anthropomorphists.

While the Sinhala Buddhists can go beyond even anthropocentrism and talk of "sathvacentrism", they know that no theory is anthropocentric.

As far as the westerners are concerned enthropocentrism is nothing but Eurocentrism.

Following the Jews and Noah, the western Christians have declared themselves to be the chosen "tribe" and they speak for all the human beings in the world.

Their ethnocentrism is projected as the enthropocentrism. Their science is presented as a universal science, their medicine is prescribed as the objective medicine, their God is presented as the universal God, their knowledge is considered to be the objective knowledge, their faculties of medicine and science are named as faculties of medicine and science when they should have been called faculties of western medicine and western science respectively, their states are defined as secular states, their new year is celebrated as the new year of the world while other Gods are presented as mere tribal gods and spelt with a simple g, other states are described as religious states, the other new years are described with an adjective as Sinhala new year etc., the other systems of knowledge are given the title of traditional knowledge ( academics in countries like Sri Lanka are so taken up with these concepts that even university departments are established to study traditional knowledge! ), other systems of medicine are described as alternate medicine.

Any system of knowledge is relative to the culture that produced the system and there is no objective knowledge as such. The Christian west has projected their knowledge, their values as human knowledge and human values.

Why don't we name the new year that dawns on January 1st as the western Christian new year, their God as the Judaic- Christian God, their science as western Christian science, their states as western Christian states etc.?

Recently Dr. Jayalath Jayawardhane and the prime minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe have said that the government was planning to lift the " embargo". Mr. Jayawardhane has also said that the youth of the North and the East had taken to arms due to injustices done to them during the past 50 years.

Could the minister and the prime minister explain the term embargo and tell us whether there was an economic embargo as far as the north and east were concerned? It is well known that Sri Lanka is the only country that feeds the terrorists who fight against the state.

If the Tamils in Jaffna are deprived of anything it is due to the terrorism of the LTTE. Certain items are not sent to the north as they would be used by the LTTE for their terrorist activities.

Whatever Mr. Tilak Marapona has to say now, the ban on the cell batteries was imposed by an earlier UNP government when Mr. Athulathmudali was deputy defense minster. The Jaffna university, the Jaffna hospital, the Jaffna Kaccheri and other institutions are maintained by the Sri Lankan government. If the trains do not run beyond Vavuniya then the LTTE has to be blamed for that. Dr. Jayalath Jayawardhane has justified the LTTE by saying that the Tamil youth has taken to arms due to the injustices done to them during the last fifty years? Could the minister spell out any of these injustices?

TNA, LTTE, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardhane speak the same language. Their terminology is the same and they all use the same western Christian conceptual apparatus. As far as they are concerned peace is achieved by depriving Sinhalathva its due place in the country. By equality they mean not only the equality of men and women but the equality of cultures in a given society.

However, they conveniently forget that in the western countries the Christian cultures are not equated with the other cultures. In Sri Lanka, it is domination by the western Christian culture that has been challenged by the Sinhala Buddhists from the nineteenth century.

The British used the Tamil Vellalas and the Sinhala and Tamil Christians (Catholics) first to safeguard their interests. Gradually most of the Sinhala Christians understood what was happening and united with the Sinhala Buddhists though most of the Bishops and some Sinhala elite Christians (Catholics) continue to serve the interests of the western Christian civilisation.

The Tamil Christians on the other hand successfully took the ideological leadership of the Tamil racist movement against the Sinhala Buddhist culture and finally have taken the political leadership of the Tamils as well. Some Hindus here as well as in India understand the significance of this.

It is for nothing that Mr. Ashok Singhal of the Vishva Hindu Parishad has said that the LTTE is an army of the church or words to that effect. The western Christian domination did not end fifty years ago and the Sinhalas in general, and the Sinhala Buddhists in particular have a long way to go to win the rightful place in this country.

It is in the above background that the Christian Norwegians have been invited again to "mediate" between the government and the LTTE. There are demands for de proscription of the LTTE and for so called ceasefires and peace talks. India cannot be happy with what is happening though for the moment they are maintaining a low key. Would India agree to de proscription of the LTTE? It is increasingly becoming clear that what is needed is a Hinduthva - Sinhalthva dialog rather than Indo - Lanka talks.


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