HISTORY MUST NOT ADVERSELY AFFECT OUR NATIONAL LIFE | Daily News


 

HISTORY MUST NOT ADVERSELY AFFECT OUR NATIONAL LIFE

There is a popular advocacy for the study of the history of Sri Lanka. This is very good as some people do not even know when and where they were born or who their parents and grandparents were and where they came from and lived. Many are driven by a romanticized view of history just as they artfully embellish their family background to impress everyone. But an objective and dispassionate knowledge of the past is possible and could be enlightening to dispel the darkness and the misfortunes that we create for ourselves today due to all our people as a National family remaining ignorant and misinformed and not learning what could be learned from the communitarian past of our ancestors. We did not live in their times. We are living centuries after them, now. None of us are responsible for their actions.

History is not fiction nor imaginary accounts of what happened in the past. History means knowledge gained from investigating into the past. This knowledge comes to us from what has been transmitted and given to us of past events, the notable doings of those who lived in the past. They are in written documents, in oral narratives, traditional folk tales and in the collective memory of the people. In what have been handed down to us we discover what the ancients have done. Serious historians receive what has been handed down to them from the past and make investigations of their own. But with rigorous intellectual honesty and discipline, they strive to write a credible account to know and understand the significant past events and the words and actions of the persons in them.

Historians of various types have written historical accounts, naturally according to their observation, perception and interpretation of the events and persons they wrote about. Historians also analyse the way that past events have occurred, the backgrounds of the events, the central characters, their aims and motivations and the support they had. And so, we have a history which we need to study critically because a fair knowledge of the idiom, style, use of language and the manner of presentation of the events of that historical period is needed to get a fair evaluation of what is recorded about the beginnings and the actions of the ethnic and religious groups in our Land.

Then we have the history of the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods of our history. We get to know of that past from the records that have come to us from various authors. When episodes and actions of people sometimes of centuries ago or of the past before our birth are transmitted to us, they could get the coloration that the writer wishes to convey.

ASSESSING HISTORICAL NARRATIVES

Complications arise in the way the actions of the characters of history, according to what has been transmitted to us in the narratives get assessed and analysed today. Do the proper assessments and the judgements of those past events and our attitudes and ways of looking at them now, contribute towards bringing our people closer together and unifying them in a desirable fraternity?

Through linking persons and communities to past events indiscriminately and imperceptively confusing conflicts in human relationships could arise, get sundered and disoriented and human behaviour could descend to low levels and living in harmony in society could be dramatically disturbed.

We should all ask ourselves, “Do we desire to have harmful conflicts due to misunderstandings in our communities arising in our midst from time to time and blemishing the good name of our Nation, dividing our people and causing irreparable economic chaos in addition to bequeathing to the future generations a legacy of internecine rivalry, division, conflict and misunderstanding? Isn’t our country facing a very critical situation on many fronts? And what are the main problematic issues that the country is facing today? And who are the group of political persons who, credible for their integrity, will with vision and foresight could plan for the regeneration of the country with the support of all the people?”

We have gone through ups and downs, growth and inaction, success and failure, individually, as communities and as a national family. We also need to understand our society with all its problems and complexities in which we find ourselves today.

DESIRABLE SOCIETY TODAY

Whatever we are now, we were not so before. We have changed. It is up to us to assess how we have changed, whether for better or worse. Anyhow we feel we need to improve further in community relationships that we may improve on all other fronts as well. We should discover the inadequacies of historical insights, traditions, social outlook that have been handed down to us. There are also lessons that history teaches and we fail to learn; then there are also lessons that history does not teach.

And we need to know the kind of society we like to live in and how we could get about creating that society with the cooperation and collaboration of all. This means that whatever the impressions we get from coming to know our history, we need to find solutions to social problems of today. We are interested in creating a new society keeping faithful to the historic human and social values that we have come to know and appreciate as worthy of retention and promotion in order to proceed towards a communitarian emancipation.

These are perceptions and discernments that all should face which cannot be avoided. It is also realistic to know from history what the most exemplary and insightful authoritative individuals, philosophers, thinkers, religious teachers have proposed as solutions to the unsatisfactory, confusing, unacceptable and evil situation in which we human beings in community find ourselves in.

SOCIO-MORAL DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSFORMATION

We need to be freely occupied in a wide-ranging social exercise. We are a population of nearly 21.5 million people belonging to diverse communities. Of these about 15.3 million aged 15 and over are people able to engage in some way to bring about a possible and desirable socially transformed society. Already, some voluntary groups are very dedicatedly engaged in such an exercise, bearing also the expenses all by themselves. If the government could abstain from wasting hundreds of millions of rupees on various empty political exhibitionistic ‘vestings with the people’, inaugurations and openings, a well-organised, objective and fruitful discussion on important national social issues could be carried out with the support of the government, independently, in a professional manner, the way some voluntary groups are already doing.

They would discover the many ramified ways in which social evils erupt in society and the clamour for justice. They might also discover the near impossibility of finding solutions to the problems people face without understanding, compassionate love and a deep forgiveness, because although every possible restitution should be made, no compensation could restitute completely the losses some people have suffered. The dead cannot be called back to life.

If the people of today come together they may point in some way towards that possible human collaborative development along with moral liberation and the desirable socially transformed society. It is a big challenge. We see what should be done, but we choose to do what we shouldn’t. We need to be challenged and guided by dedicated, adept and upright social leaders with a circumspect democratic perspective and above all with a sensitive human conscience. If such an exercise is carried out good views would surface from the people: new thinking of the people on the main issues, how to build and improve human relationships, how to build solidarity and harmony, unity and peace and how to overcome obstacles in the social problems without resorting to violence would emerge.

For this to be done, there should be a generous input of gratuitous and gracious intellectual and personal resources on the part of national minded patriots, who would be satisfied with only their contingent expenses defrayed.

And it can be done if there is a will and support from all those who have the present and the future interests at heart. It can be done, if the element of gratuitousness is upheld all along and if it is not made a money spinning project for a few people. It can be done, if no one tries to make some private political or other profit by participating in it. It can be done, if no one tries to participate to sabotage an exercise such as this. It can be done, if all those who participate in this exercise are lovers of all the people of this country and wish to leave for the coming generations a legacy and a tradition they could be proud of and happy about. 


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