Thursday, April 30, 2009

Me, Indi, VIC And Sri Lanka

This post was originally entitled "The Futility Of A Sri Lankan Blog" and was intended as a diatribe about the way I feel about writing on my blog these days. But fuck it I thought, and whacked up a title that reeks of blogstitution.

The funny thing is that I'd written much of this post a few days ago. Then, I saw VIC's comment on his post here and it made this one more topical than I had already thought it was. Some may think that I've written this as a reaction to VIC's comment, that's not the case, you will I'm sure feel free to make your own mind up on that one. However I'm going to add more to it since reading VIC's comment.

It's a half draft and half new post.

I'm not a political animal, as you're likely to be aware. Like most of us I'm interested and passionate about Sri Lanka, I think it's the one thing that binds the Lankanosphere.

However I don't really have strong political views. I'm not a supporter of any side, my colours aren't pinned to any mast, unless supporting peace is a side and it doesn't seem to be.

Any attempts I've made in the past to write about the Lankan conflict have been met with the same level of interest and discussion as if Pradeep Jeganathan had suddenly written a post about his favourite type of poo, well probably far less when I really think about it. And I'm okay with this, there are people whose opinions I and many others respect when it comes to Sri Lankan politics. I'm not one of them.

If you want to know about poo, kettles, drums and other bits and pieces I'd like to put myself forward as a candidate.

This is what's bugging me these days.

With everything that's happening in Lanka in the very recent past and the very seemingly climaxing present writing a blog post about shit, literally and judgementally, just seems so, err crap. Yet I've never blogged about political stuff, for the reasons I mention earlier.

VIC says

" RD is a victim of this syndrome. He lives miles away from the real situation of Sri Lanka (Both physically and mentally; most mentally), and he sees Sri Lanka solely from Indi's and few other "pet bloggers'"eyes. "

and, in all honesty I think he's incredibly accurate in one way but has totally missed the point in another.

Yes VIC, I do live miles away from Sri Lanka, but physically, not mentally. My mindset, unlike my accent, is quite Sri Lankan. It's quite insulting when you say that I see Sri Lanka solely from Indi's and a few other pet blogs. I read about Sri Lanka from all perspectives, I travel there regularly and I listen to all views. Please believe me VIC when I tell you that I have friends and family, Sri Lankans who take every position you can imagine.

I would include Indi as a friend, that doesn't mean that I agree with everything he says. It does mean I respect him. Dinidu and Sanjana are people I would call friends, it doesn't mean I agree with them, to me it does mean that I respect their opinions and may use them to form my own.

You add

"RD doesn't care of any of these things, cuz he lives a comfortable life out there in London. That's why it is difficult for him to understand our emotional reactions towards cowards like Dinidu and Sanjana. RD will never understand this!"

Well right again, I do live a comfortable life in London. I'm pleased about that and, as we Brits say, I'm sorry but I won't apologise for it. And yet again you're right when you say that it's difficult for me to understand your emotional reactions. I don't, but I've never claimed that I understood them, that's why I asked you in my original post.

Wrong again too VIC. I do care. I don't feel a massive need to prove it to you, that's all, but again I ask you to believe me on that one. I don't think that I can have the level of knowledge, the intuition and mindset that people like yourself, or Indi, Dinidu or Sanjana, who all live in Sri Lanka can have, but I do think I can hold an opinion too.

As an aside I don't think Dinidu and Sanjana are cowards, I think it takes guts, particularly in Sri Lanka in this day and age, to speak out the way they do. That's my opinion, it's your right to disagree.

An interesting thing about identity, my feelings on it at least, which I credit my brother for, is that I believe it's personal, that one man's way of judging someone's identity isn't necessarily the same as another's. So VIC, when you say

"because he is not a true Sri Lankan though he claims to be a one."

it actually only makes me shrug my shoulders and smile. The fact that you don't think I'm a true Lankan is fine with me. I accept that, by your standards, I'm not. However, when you talk about my limited scope of thinking and my failure to move out of the frame I'm trapped in I genuinely wonder what frame you're referring to and on what you base that statement. I could well be wrong here, I certainly don't read my blog, but I can't recall saying things that have indicated a particular point of view on the Lankan situation, largely because I don't have a view.

Also I know that, were I to suddenly write a post about the conflict, whether it was pro LTTE, pro GoSL or pro any other view, I feel quite confident that I'd be faced with a wall of comments telling me that my opinion is crap and wrong because I'm not Sri Lankan and don't live there.

As for my limited scope of thinking, well I think, when I tell you that I have a tested IQ of 64, that I won first prize in the Petersham Flower Show (under 10, crafts section) for my balsa wood model of a ship in 1976, possibly 77, and that I understand the meaning of that thing called sarcasm, then my credentials are pretty clear.

There you have it VIC.

Respect is a big thing for me. I listen to people I respect, which doesn't mean that I agree with them, more that I treat their opinions with respect.

Right now I feel that I'm caught in a trap.

Not blogging about the bigger issues, when I'm aware that my blog is a bit of a part of the Lankanosphere, seems wrong, as if I'm being disrespectful to the things that are going on.

Blogging about the war/conflict would be just as bad. I don't claim to be as knowledgable as one of you guys and wouldn't want to insult you in that way.

As we say here in England:

"Vut too doo?"


Kalusudda said...

rrrrrlllll, rrrrrlllll, wham!

Kalusudda said...

Thank you for introducing Sanjana and reminding me to forget Dinidu :)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

KS - I see you've been doing your homework!

Don't forget Dinidu.

ViceUnVersa said...

One word,



surani said...

This is so like the emails that are passing around between my family members these days. there are some dinudus, sanjanas and indis. then there are RDs and some very opinionated VICs. That's what makes my family so interesting. That's what makes kottu so interesting too don't you think?

JP said...

RD as I wrote a coupleof days ago, sometimes the gun shots are heard louder across the seas. And I believe that you do not necessarly have to live in Sri Lanka to be a Lankan.

Gypsy said...

I think your attitude is one we could all take a lesson from, not only here in the Lankanosphere but in Sri Lanka as a whole. Intolerance of other opinions is the driving force behind the problems in this country. Respect is key.

Excellent post, R.

Darwin said...

I'd just like to point out that I think it's bollocks that your opinion about the situation in SL can be disregarded solely on the basis of your nationality and where you live in, rather than judged on the pros/cons of the argument itself. It doesn't matter if it's an Ethiopian or a Sri Lankan or a British guy of Sri Lankan descent saying it, it's what he says that should be listened to, not where he's from or where he lives or any other irrelevant BS. You shouldn't have to justify your right to an opinion just because you live in the UK, and a Sri Lankan's opinion should not be given more weight than it is due simply because he/she is Sri Lankan.

Electra said...

RD: This is my constant battle with the likes of VIC. He really rarely has anything intelligent to say, least of all moderate. Bloggers like VIC and Sittingnut are always just saying the SAME THING. If nothing else, it's plain boring.

I used to fight to be accepted a Sri Lankan by VIC's standards (you may have read that post of his on what makes a Sri Lankan), but then I came to realise that his standards are just as fascist and narrow minded as the ones we try hard to shrug off and move out of. Like you say, you don't need to prove it to him. For me, all one needs to feel to be a true patriot is love for this country: actual, genuine love and the desire to see it grow. Not this bullshit pseudo-Nationalism that is selfish and self-obsessed.

Yes, we have privileged lives and I am so lucky to never have felt the suffering or the pain of those directly affected by poverty or the war, or as many unfortunately are, both. I do not take this for granted but I am certainly not going to be sorry for it. I am not going to be sorry for the fact that I have had an education and live in Colombo and have advantages that others in our country don't. It saddens me, but I'm not going to be made to feel guilty. I'm not going to be made to feel guilty for not being 'one' with the people because I think Dancing Star is an atrocious waste of time, or because I don't listen to Sirasa FM.

I am always helpful and nice to people I meet and help people in any way I can when I have the opportunity. I wonder if these so-called 'real Sri Lankans' give a beggar the time of day or have ever taken in a stray dog or ever hold the door open for anyone else.

You can blog about whatever you like RD. That's the reason you blog.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Surani - Yes, I agree on Kottu, it really does present a variety of views across the board. However, I think it's important to remember that most of us are the ones who have internet and computer access and that means that many poorer people can't put across their views on this forum. A fact of life, one that's changing on a day to day basis.

Gyppo - Thank you. I really believe that more respect all round would help everyone.

Electra, Darwin and JP - I agree with you, as you realise. But perhaps I'm mellowing in my "old age" as I've started to believe that other people can have different opinions on what makes a Sri Lankan and that's ok too.

It's a tough dilemna for me to deal with. On one hand people like VIC can say that I'm not Lankan and I believe that's their right, on the other hand I think that I have the right to an opinion.

Thanks all for the comments.

PseudoRandom said...

I think this 'not local enough' label is something all expats are made to wear. Even though I've spent half of my life in the UK, my formative years were spent in SL...and therefore I'm not British enough for the Brits and I'm not Lankan enough for the Lankans - at least if the bullying I endured as a kid is anything to go by).

I've found that some Sri Lankans are rather hostile towards countrymen who have had considerable life experiences outside the motherland. It's as though leaving the nest for a different life (note that I'm not using the word 'better') is a punishable crime. It's automatically assumed that if/when we return, we do so with a superiority complex. The legislation appears to pamper to the egos and sense of entitlement prevalent in the 'home-grown' community, which only results in discouraging those who want to settle down back home.

Apologies for the long comment, but as someone who feels like they don't 'belong' anywhere any more, this post rang true for me.

At the end of the day, I think it's that feeling in your gut when you hear about SL/UK that makes you Sri Lankan/British. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Scrumpulicious said...

Ditto what Darwin/Pseudo said.

I'm not less of a Sri Lankan because I was born and brought up here! Allow (the ghetto in me coming out!) what other people think. Who the hell are they to comment whether I can or can't comment about a political situation?

I've had heated debates with my friends about Iraq but should I not have because I'm not Iraqi?

AND - you can learn through other people but it's up to you to make your own decisions. If you have enough sense then you're usually going along the right path!

The blogosphere is not a dictatorship!

I, for one, think that there are many more non resident Sri Lankans out there who are more in tune with their country, where they're from and where they're going!

N said...

I'm so tired of the argument that VIC goes on about if you do not live in Sri Lanka or have Sri Lankan enough roots that somehow you have no say on any matters Sri Lankan.

I've posted on this issue before and I've come to the point where I don't care anymore about what these people think. We will be Sri Lankan and help Sri Lanka in any which way we can irregardless of how much time we spent in the country or whether both our parents were born there or one was born in Timbuktoo. Being Sri Lankan (and I assume this is true for any nationality) is feeling it in your bones.

That said while I respect what Sanjana and Dinidu do, I tend not to pay too much attention to their brand of 'journalism' because at least to me it seems to represent the far left wing of the spectrum while I am very much a moderate. I enjoy a certain amount of the articles on Groundviews but imho both Sanjana and Dinidu are a bit short on constructive criticism (Dinidu's grenade post comes to mind).

I say forget it, just keep blogging about what you blog. As far as you're concerned you are Sri Lankan...and that should be sufficient.

Anonymous said...

As a complete outsider to kottu I see three types or catgories out there.

1. The type like , you , Gypsy, Electra and the others who are mainly "words" people whose writting on the Sri Lankan situation can be best described as "oh, dear !!! that is nice but you should really stick to the knitting which is best that you do. Writting of flowery poems and light Ellen De generes style of oh I am not too sure " types. You lot simply talk and quite nicely describe the water to the drowning man.

2. The second category of people are like Indi and Rajaratarala who is on the ground and live their life very well connected to the commen man who walk the streets in Sri Lanka. Their posts portray the real life situation and they walk the talk.

3. The third category of people are VIC, Sittingnut, Blacker and sometimes VicUnVersa, who write an intelligent post and have balls to make their point very clearly. They are very comfortable with the truth and have the balls to say it loud and clear. They are opinonated and they are not afraid of the "moderate" opinion.

As a complete outisder this is how we use these three categories.

The first category we skim and grin and think what a stependous waste of talent !!!!!

The second category we refer our friends and relatives when they ask us "how can we help?" "what is the situation there ?".

The third category, we paste it on campus walls and print it and distribute them on the same streets that the LTTE hold rallies, we keep copies of them in our bags ALL the time,we need to as that is what the organized LTTE does.
We follow those 2 and 3 category daily and look for new posts and thank whoever god that we percieve for them as they are our only ammunition for people who live in the very midst of the LTTE diaspora.

RD, nothing is grey amidst the cities that are rampant with LTTE media machine and we only have so few who are unafraid to be Sri Lankans.

Aplogies for the long post.

However that is how we , me and a group of about 15-20 non bloggers from 5 diffrent countries use Kottu.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to say all this.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anon - Thank you very much for the considered and insightful comment, which I largely agree with.

I am definitely in category 1, which is part of my problem, I don't have the knowledge, intelligence or geographical location to be one of the people in group 2 or 3 and my only disagreement with you is a minor one, of who falls within each category.

Thanks again for writing anon. RD

Jack Point said...

On the subject of the opinions of the diaspora, I feel that while the free expression of opinion or ideas is fine they need to exercise care when attempting influence the course of events.

My argument rests on the principle that those who no longer live here have little stake in the affairs of the country. Thus they have nothing to lose in advocating extremist agenda's.

This applies to all diaspora, Tamil, Sinhalese and others.

Supporting a charity is fine, but supporting political groups is not.

For a more distant (and dispassionate) example, I find the actions of the Jewish Lobby and the Miami based Anti-Cuban groups abhorrent.

David Blacker said...

Not sure I like the other people in my category there, Anon.

Electra said...

What's wrong, exactly, with being in category 1?

Once again, I refuse to be made feel any lesser of a writer or a blogger just because I do not constantly blog about the war or write in great detail about what I'm doing to 'help'. It's MY blog and the reason I started it many years ago was simply because I wanted to write. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. I did not start it because I wanted a place to make social or political commentary. I largely refrain from doing so anyway, because the few rare times that I do, it often misfires, people deliberately misinterpret what I'm saying and start insulting my mother. That's the brave work of most of your category 3 bloggers.

I save my opinions on the political situation in this country for discussion and debate with my family and friends, some of whom share my views, some of whom don't, but all of whom are certainly mature enough to disagree without resorting to personal attacks and boring insults.

I never claim to be a political commenter in this blogosphere: when something does incense me or inspire me, I do write, but this could be about anything. I leave the political commentary to the others whose blogs are dedicated to this. I think it is this very variety that makes Kottu a great place, because you can scroll down and find so many different posts with different ideas and opinions about all manner of things from food to sex to TV to, of course, the war, corruption and terrorism.

It's also a little bit scary that you're pasting blog posts (whoever's they may be) on your University walls and carrying it around in your bags for distribution as. Blog posts, no matter how much they seem to reflect your own opinions or views, are just that: they are personal opinion and should be treated as such, and not as anything else. They should not be held up as being 'right' or the only correct assessment of what's going on. Of course it's fine to share a blog post that is particularly inspiring with your friends, but holding them up as the gospel truth is a little bit melodramatic.

You say Sittingnut etc. (poor David's been put in the same boat) are the only ones with the balls to speak the truth. You mean they're the only ones with the audacity to say what YOU think is the truth.

Jack Point said...

Just to clarify, I have no objection to discussing politic or current affairs with anyone.

I have my own opinion on Palestine, Cuba, the elections in South Africa (that I hope Jacob Zuma will not win) or even Zimbabwe. I see nothing wrong with anyone having an the politics of Sri Lanka, be they Sri Lankans or others. Indeed it is only through discussion with people of diverse views that we may actually learn something.

However I think a line needs to be drawn somewhere between discussion and active involvement in politics.

It appears that the Burgher Association of Australia has raised this very point and drawn the ire of SPUR.

I cannot find the letter that they have written but parts of it are quoted in the response by SPUR. The following is particularly relevant:

“We believe no migrant should import the problems of one’s former country as it is against Australia’s National Interest and Internal Security. If any person feels strongly that this allegiance is an impediment to their involvement in the conflict in their former country they should revoke their Australian Citizenship and return to their country of origin. Our message to these few is “Go back and leave us to enjoy the peace that we have sought and found in Australia”.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Jack Point - I think it's a big leap of logic to say that importing the problem's of one's former country is against Australia's national interest and security, on two points.

First, to call the country of origin "one's former country" implies that the country is no longer part of that person just because they don't live there, something I don't agree with.

Secondly - "against national security" is a big statement which may or may not apply depending on the specifics at the time.

It's a bit Xenophobic in general isn't it?

Jack Point said...

I have not seen the letter in full, but it apparently in response to violence between pro and anti-Tiger groups.

I agree with you on point one fully. We are what we were brought up on and Sri Lanka, from the food, to the climate, to the scenary to the noise and chaos would be very much a part of everyone who lived here for any length of time.

On point two, what they are referring to is internal security and presumably the violence that prompted the letter but it is, as you say, a big statement. Don't know if the incidents justified it.

David Blacker said...

'Lectra, I don't think that anon was putting you down. Just stating what the Kottu blogs mean to him as an activist. Full stop.

I'm not surprised blog pieces are used as literature by activists (though I'm surprised mine is). After all, what written piece isn't someone's opinion, be it Barrack Obama, Arundhati Roy, Anita Pratap, or Voice in Colombo?

Venura said...

100% with Blacker for clarifying the situation with his last comment.

I think Anon should have created another category called "knickers in a twist" and made Electra the queen of that.

While agreeing with the clear categories I wish to defend the category 1 bloggers by pointing out Lady Divine, Gutter Flower , TMS and Gypsy and ofcourse RD who have embraced what they are and seem quite comfortable with the persona they project.

After all Ellen is one of the MOST watched TV shows.

Do you expect these guys to write their own stuff ?

Come on, look at the typos on the very post. See the sentence formation. No offence meant but this guy cannot write.