Independence to emancipation | Daily News


Let us be peaceful!

Independence to emancipation

We have been celebrating the day we gained independence, for the past 71 years, and it is likely that we will continue to do so well into the future. Yet, so far we do not have any real achievements to boast of, economically, socially or spiritually. Moreover, in some ways, instead of moving forward throughout the years, we have sadly gone downhill into a bottomless abyss.

To sum up the past that led to the day of Independence in 1948, all the people in this country rallied together in our struggle for freedom, irrespective of the different labels they wore, of race, creed, caste or language. Our struggle was also really peaceful, unlike in India with Gandhi’s non-violence. We practiced the Four Nobel Truths, which did not cause violent reactions from the oppressors, while Gandhi’s non-violence caused the colonial regime to release greater violence.

Our economy was in a good position then. We were nearly self sufficient, except for unwanted or inessential things which had been introduced by the invaders. The people were in good health, because our way of life did not cause life-style diseases. Our people were more law-abiding, not because they feared punishment, but because they respected the laws and the rights of others.

Getting back what is lost is never easy as losing them. We may never be able to recover the social unity and peaceful coexistence of pre-independent Lanka. Rebuilding a link language to bridge the yawning chasm that has come between us could take several generations. Respecting each others beliefs, practices and traditions can still be achieved if we could teach our children we are all human beings on planet earth, so they could grow up as one family, one ‘nation’.

However, it would not be easy to change our lifestyle. Unless we can change our entire agricultural system we may never reach a healthy food culture. Until and unless we begin to think of preventive healthcare, instead of waiting for people to get sick, and then spending billions or trillions to attempt to cure yet incurable diseases, both infectious and non-infectious, our nation will be a sick nation. Unfortunately, like the Independence Day celebrations, we only commemorate Dr Senaka Bibile once a year.

Had we continued the policies and tried to achieve what was envisioned by C. W. W. Kannangara to establish Maha Vidyala which by now would have been developed into university colleges, free education in the true meaning of the word without the curse of private tuition, by now we would be having the most educated people in the world, proficient in all professions and vocations. Students from other countries would have been flocking to our country, instead of the other way round.

Every year we ask ourselves where did we go wrong. Some of us also make a self-defeating comment that the country would have been better-off under colonial rule. This comment is perhaps because we have still not got over the colonial mindset. Though we talk of a colonial period and a post colonial period, reading our recorded history, it is evident that we never had a pre-colonial period, unless we are talking about pre-historic times. Similarly, we have not reached a post-colonial period. In the past we were under Indian occupation, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, till the arrival of the Europeans. Even today, we are dependent on these old colonial forces and the new global powers.

When we received independence we started to relax. We got the British to leave us, but 72 years later we have still not been able to chase away their ghosts. True independence is when all of us in the country, could have emancipation. And this can be achieved only when we can be free, in our body and mind, economically, culturally, politically.

When a farmer commits suicide because he cannot pay back his agriculture loan, when a child cannot get admission to the school of his choice, when another child has to walk several kilometers to reach her school, when a kidney patient has to die because he could not afford renal dialysis, or a cancer patient dies because he could not afford the cost of a new drug, when a creative writer is at the mercy of the publisher, we cannot wait for the government to solve all the problems. The people of the entire country, as one nation, have to work together. Even though the concept of a nation is alien to us, even if we do not have a right word for it in Sinhala or Tamil, we got together as a nation to win our 'independence.' It is time for us to get together as a nation to achieve true independence and emancipation.

If I may use my oft repeated phrase, if we can be Peaceful and Useful, we could easily succeed. In order to succeed we have to be united, we have to think like one community. Let us speak out with one voice, even if we have to use two or three languages. Let us support every positive action to be taken by the people in power, who ever they are, in the best interest of our children and their children. Let us not oppose or block every positive action, while retaining the freedom to oppose any action that could be detrimental to our people, our country, our children.

Let us be Peaceful, because every thought and action of hatred harms us today and will cause more harm in the future. Let us be Useful, let us honour our obligations, perform our duties well, and share our knowledge, in order to create a real post-colonial era of true independence.

We need to progress from Independence to Emancipation. Total Emancipation is what is needed today, not just for women, but for all life on Mother Earth. We cannot fight for emancipation or feminism or humanism. We can only achieve them, through Ahimsa, through Metta, through love. We have to achieve Humanism, by becoming humane, once again.

Let this be our genuine Independence Day resolution.

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