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The Spirit of Black July is Triumphantly ,Confidently and Self-righteously Alive

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By
Tisaranee Gunasekara

BJ072213


“….anyone who dresses or speaks differently is not simply a different person, but a different animal from a different sty with whom there can be no accommodation, and who must be hated and hounded out”.

Victor Klemperer (The Language of the Third Reich)

The spirit of Black July is not dead. It is alive; triumphantly, confidently and self-righteously alive.

The politico-economic and socio-psychological premises which enabled the shameful carnage of Black July did not emerge from a vacuum, instantly. The actual killing and the pillaging may have been the work of a criminally-inclined minority; but these miscreants could not have indulged in their fanatical desires with such brutal and deadly abandon, without the consent of state-entities and the approbation of a societal-majority. Had the state made a serious attempt to impose order, had society not discarded basic humanity and ordinary decency, no minority, however fanatical, however intoxicated by hate, could have continued that orgy of Tamil-hunting, day after day, for almost two weeks.

Every society has extremist minorities. But sans an enabling environment, the havoc such minorities can wreak is strictly limited. The key is therefore the extent to which the state and the larger society are infected with the pestilence of hate.

The spirit of Black July consists of two main components. One is what I call the hosts and guests theory of Sri Lanka, the a-historical belief that Sinhala-Buddhists are the only true owners of the island and all ethnic/religious minorities are aliens, here on sufferance. And the concomitant belief that Sinhala-Buddhists have the right to keep the minorities in line, and the duty to punish them if they overstep the boundaries.

The second component is subtler and thus more lethal, potentially. It reinterprets anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and progressivism from a Sinhala-Buddhist perspective. According to this rendition, every minority (including Sinhala-Christians) is a wholly reactionary community, viscerally. They pose a threat not only to national security but also to ‘national culture’, ‘national values’, economic progress and developmental justice.

According to this majoritarian-narrative, the minorities were given preferential treatment by the colonialists; consequently they are pro-imperialist. They have become rich by exploiting the majority; consequently they are pro-capitalist. They uphold alien values; consequently they are immoral. Nation is degraded to race, anti-imperialism to xenophobia and anti-capitalism to National Socialism. Enlightenment teachings which could

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