|Thursday, 6 November 2003|
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There are two ideological poles today that are vying to impose homogeneity, globalisation, uniformity and cultural imperialism on the people of the world. The two are opposed to cultural diversity, survival of local cultures and traditions.
So, true non-alignment, in the twenty-first century, should be to steer clear of these two extremist and irrational forces that are trying to ordain the same attitudes, same beliefs, same value systems, same dress forms, same fashions, same language, same architecture, same methods of propagation, same educational systems, same forms of worship on every culture and all peoples. In fact they endeavour to impose such sameness, that very soon we will have the same facial expressions peculiar to these intolerant and intolerable proponents.
The world is no longer caught up between Capitalism and Communism. It is no longer a necessity to steer clear of competing political and economic ideologies, though this is present to a lesser degree. But the latest danger is the choice offered between two new, ugly and menacing forces that affects our very life itself. Convenient phrases denoting these two polarisations are Western Consumerist Culture and Religious Fundamentalism.
One is a dangerous commercial corporation and the other a poisonous theocratic alliance and both are aspiring to leave the same footprints in every region of the world. Just go to any of the cities that these forces have seized and taken into custody we see more of the same thing.
The same forms of greetings and expressions, the same foods, meat processed in the same way and their common hatred of the past and anything culturally different to what they propagate is very evident. Further, their mutual and surreptitious attack on each other on the score of imposition of a totalitarian vision of sameness should also be manifested to any critical and discerning mind. When an attack on either appears in the media from some quarter we should ask what is their motive? Is it the pot calling the kettle black?
Western consumerist culture is creating a broad middle class in every society ranging from China to Chile with same needs and same behaviour patterns.
Religious fundamentalism takes different forms, Hindu, Christian and Islamic. In each case it seeks dominance and imposition. Hindu and Christian fundamentalism is equally dangerous as Islamic. But there is a quantitative difference between the first two and the last. Hindu extremism is regionalized; Christian fundamentalism has a long struggle against internal inertia of the Universal Church. But Islamic fundamentalism is dynamic, globalised and seeks world dominance.
Adopting the same method of takeover they seek to impose either homogenised Western Consumerist culture or a uniform racially based fundamentalist religious culture. What they seek to destroy on their way is cultural diversity in the form of local, traditional costumes and replaces it with either a suffocating coat and tie or equally claustrophobic long black dresses covering the whole body. They will be happy only when they have eliminated all traces of traditional knowledge, names of people and places, history and culture like the valuable Bamian Buddha statues or the comfort and airiness of the sarong and saree.
Either by persuasion or coercion as the situation permits we are made to feel inferior in time about our traditional dress, traditional food, traditional shelter and music. We are slowly conditioned to believe that either what is current or western is best materially or what is racially and religiously inspired is foremost spiritually for our good.
In the end, we become willing participants of western consumerist culture or forced and coerced assenters to religious fundamentalism in a so-called progressive or moral paradigm that is not ours and does not benefit us. In these circumstances, one feels, that the worst that can happen to the world is not depletion of energy, economic collapse, global warming or war. These catastrophies would be terrible for human beings but they stand the possibility of being repaired with time.
The only ongoing process that would take millions of years to redress is the loss of cultural and genetic diversity due to the servile aping of foreign consumerist culture or to the slavish and unthinking acceptance of strange and strident racially and religiously motivated habits.
So instead of cocooning ourselves into the time capsule of a past conflict among nations and nationalism and go about beating dead drums about yesterday's wars let us the so-called intellects and intelligentsia realise and be aware of the new forms of creeping cultural threats and writhing religious poison.
I refer to the beautiful poem written by M. Azhar Dawood of Dehiwala under the above caption which appeared in "Art Scope" (DN Oct. 22).
Discipline is the most urgent need of the hour. It is the solution to most of the problems we are facing today. But since we gained independence all the political parties either ruling or opposition is responsible for destroying discipline. As a result the present generation does not know what discipline means. Lack of discipline is the root cause of most of the problems at home, in schools and universities, at work places and generally in society.
If we are to reintroduce discipline to the society it will be a difficult task, a herculian task. But however much it is difficult it has to be started from the top, that is from Parliament. Because we have seen in the recent past to what extent indiscipline prevailed in this august assembly.
To pull the country from the rut we should make a sincere effort to reintroduce discipline very strictly from top to bottom and discipline should be enforced irrespective of the person concerned and without any party affiliations. Then corruption will disappear and efficiency at all levels will be increased. Automatically within a year or two we all could see how the country is progressing. Discipline is the magic wand for progress.
T.J. VICTOR SILVA,
We often read about death and torture in cells in the Police stations. This is a serious situation when we consider that the Police station is held to be the safest place for any citizen in the country. For protection, we run to the Police. For this unexpected sad situation, we have to hold our politicians fully responsible.
The politicians often get the Police to do some 'work' or make them to turn a blind eye to their 'work'. They get the Police to arrest their political, personal or business rivals or silenced while they get them also to release their supporters, catchers and friends who were behind them during the elections.
The politicians do not hesitate to get the honest Police officers transferred with immediate effect.
Thus they have created an atmosphere and given licence to the Police also to do whatever they wish when they have a personal score to settle with or do something to satisfy their 'patrons'. So the politicians who should have been in the lead to prevent the Police excesses, have themselves being 'bought over' by the Police, are under obligation to the Police itself as they are so to underworld thugs whose support they sought and obtained during the run-up to elections.
So first clean the Police of political interference, and then let the politicians be watchful whether the Police is doing a clean job both in its administration and in arresting the crime wave.
These days interest rates have become a current topic of discussion. When interest rates are reduced those who suffer most are those holding savings accounts. But unfortunately they are the account holders who are most unaware of the rate of interest paid for their accounts.
No indication is given in savings pass books regarding the rate at which interest is paid.
In the case of fixed deposits it is indicated on the certificate.
I am of the view that the Central bank should request all banks to indicate the interest rate in the pass books.
The interest rate need not be indicated against every entry. It can be indicated once on a page or whenever a change takes place.
This refers to letter by Siri Dharmawardena of Gampaha (DN, Oct. 23) stating that bhikkus are 'Rogues in robes' who were responsible for the unruly behaviour at the Sri Jayawardenapura University recently.
First of all, it is not proper to use the word 'rogues', whatever their weaknesses may be, because to err is human. Still they are disciples of the Buddha in yellow robes, bent on serving the laity in religious observances, participating in 'dana' and conducting funeral rites for the dead.
Buddhism being a monastic religion, it cannot exist without bhikkus. Laymen cannot play the role of bhikkus in maintaining the Buddha Sasana.
What has gone wrong is the admission of bhikkus to universities meant for the laity. If I remember correct, it was the late I.M.R.A. Iriyagolla, the then Minister of Education, who opened the doors of the universities for bhikkus to enter for higher studies.
It was the beginning of the present crisis. To add insult to injury, bhikkus now have taken to politics and some have become stooges of politicians, who are always ready to be rebellious.
The Adhikarana Sangha Nayaka Theras must see that the young bhikkus keep aloof from politics, which have become the bugbear of all evil.
The Government must see that the bhikkus, who have renounced the world, should seek admission to the Buddha Sravaka Dharmapitaya in Anuradhapura, to gain higher knowledge to enlighten the Buddhists on the Dhamma and the importance of religious observances.
The doors to universities must be closed to them and also prohibit participation in politics or contesting Parliamentary seats, or in the local government services, which are outside the scope and functions of bhikkus.
Bhikkus are at liberty to disrobe themselves, if they so desire, and enter lay life and participate in politics, but not while in robes. Today the bhikkus are having their own way, because there is none to admonish them. However, bhikkus should not be castigated as 'rogues'. For example, if a son were to find his mother unchaste, he will not disgrace her by calling her a prostitute. Still he will call her 'amma'.
Sad to say the Cardiac hospital at Suwasevana Hospital has now run into problems and surgery has been suspended over a month ago, and is facing complete closure.
The reason being mainly financial losses, because sufficient surgery has not been carried out to cover the costs. Not all of the patients requiring heart surgery in and around Kandy came to Suwasevana Cardiac hospital, even though the hospital earned a great reputation from the several successful surgeries carried out, and the efficient after-care treatment given at a reasonable cost.
The hospital obtained assistance from the President's Fund for the patients who underwent heart surgery. For some reason several patients were directed to Colombo hospitals for cardiac surgery. There are several patients awaiting surgery in Kandy and are left high and dry, unable to bear the extra cost of going to Colombo for the surgery.
Having two of the largest government hospitals, away from Colombo, the authorities have failed to provide for cardiac surgery in Kandy. Isn't it time the government thought of it? It will cost the government immensely to provide non paying and paying cardiac surgery in a government hospital.
Should not the government step in and give financial aid to the fallen private hospital to carry on with heart surgery? The President's Fund should aid all those who cannot afford to pay for the surgery by meeting the full cost of the surgery, so that the lower income groups and the poor can benefit by such a move. Those who are better off need not be given aid as much as they are given now.
The failure of the government to provide non paying heart surgery in Kandy is a great lapse. The money that would have to be spent to establish heart surgery in the Government Hospital can be spent for surgery in a private hospital where everything is available to a very high standard, but has fallen owing to financial difficulties. It could be a joint venture between the government and the private hospital.
With the demand for surgery in the provinces it would be a viable project if all patients in and around Kandy are referred to this hospital. The government should not loose this golden opportunity of having a hand in providing this surgery to both the middle class and the poor in the Central Province and the region.
The government has stepped in to aid certain private schools which had difficulties in paying the salaries of teachers. The Central Bank is geared to safeguard the depositors of a fallen financial institution. Should not the government give such assistance in the health sector as well, when the facility is of a very rare and life saving nature?
Being a one time heart patient who underwent heart surgery at the Suwasevana Cardiac Hospital, it grieves me to know that the healing I have received at this hospital, will not be continued for the benefit of several others who need it in this locality.
Produced by Lake House