January 20, 2007

The racial race

I met a Sinhalese nationalist yesterday. He was a new trishaw driver that I got to come back home from a meeting. He started talking to me about the state of the country and I joined in. As the conversation progressed though, it became apparent that he was a nationalist – basically a person who believes that the country belongs to the majority community :p

Now I’ve never understood that mentality or why people believe that a nation cannot be composed of people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. I consider myself a Sri Lankan at worst and a citizen of the world at best but most people can’t seem to get beyond their own race/caste when considering their nationality. I consider Sri Lanka to be particularly bad in this respect. There are very few Sri Lankans – everybody is a Sinhalese, a Tamil or a Muslim. When a nation is fractured and pulls in so many different directions, how can the country expect to progress?

In the course of my conversation with the trishaw driver, he made a comment about the public transportation system. He said "oh the minister is a Muslim" as if that explained all that was wrong with the system. Perhaps to him, it did. When I was growing up, the awareness of the racial barriers were much stronger. If you were a Muslim, you got called names, had to listen to crude jokes about the fact that Muslims were circumcised while others here are not and so on. It has changed a lot (or at least appeared to) in recent years but I was suddenly brought face to face with the fact that old prejudices die hard 🙂

Then, in the evening, I ran across this article. It appears to have been written by somebody in/from the US, who has no clue about the actual situation here in Sri Lanka. He goes on to paint a picture where he makes no difference between the LTTE and the rest of the Tamil population. Everybody is a Tamil and they are all being discriminated against. Sure, on the other side of the fence, there is the same mentality but in this case, they think most Tamils are terrorists. Neither one is correct. The LTTE is not totally blameless nor is the Sri Lankan government composed of saints. But what I do find interesting about that particular article is the fact that every single one of the people who commented on the article are Tamils and a lot of them are claiming genocide and how the Sinhalese government is driving Tamils out of Tamil occupied areas. Of course, they forget to mention the fact that the LTTE has a similar program where they are driving the Muslims out of the same areas :p

In the end, whether Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, each side has their own grievances and their own injustices that they feel need to be righted. But as the old saying goes, if you all took an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we’d all be blind and toothless :p What Sri Lanka (and the rest of the world) needs is to set aside our racial and ethnic differences and realize that we are all one race, that we all bleed the same, that we all have the same hopes and aspirations. But will we do that before the world implodes? I doubt it …

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Tags: Real Life, Reflections
Posted by Fahim at 8:03 am   Comments (0)