Friday, July 15, 2011

The Guru vs Indi Fight Debate

I watched it and, even if you didn't, you've probably seen it by now. I know both of the chaps, though not that well.

Guru is a good friend of The Auf's and I've met him, conversed with him and generally enjoyed his company. He's fucking scary, well his intellect is, and I felt a bit like Bertie Wooster did whenever he bumped into Jeeves on one of his rare evenings off down the local pub.

I'd also count Indi as a friend, scary too, just for very different reasons, mostly to do with his dress sense and accent.

I like both of the esteemed fellows. My own opinions are closer to Guru's than Indi's but, in following both of their online presences, I've learned a pretty large bag full of information about Sri Lanka.

But this Al Jazeera thing, well it was so wrong wasn't it? It was like watching the USS Enterprise fight against Mike Tyson in his prime. I'm pretty smugly happy about that simile, because I mean it with no disrespect to Indi, hence the Mike Tyson in his prime thing.

My first issue with this was that Guru is a heavyweight sort of bloke. The Auf was telling me the other day that, as part of Guru's academia, he has to write four books a day, or something like that. He knows his stuff, he quotes facts and figures and has the knowledge to back up his opinions.

Indi, on the converse hand, not that either of them would wear Converse, is a different kettle of fish, simplifying things, comparing the plight of Tamils to that of Elephants, something I think is insulting to many, Elephants included. He has a much listened to, much argued with and much agreed with voice in the Lankanosphere and is one of the most widely read Sri Lanka bloggers, though not the funniest. I think we all know who that is.

But, as fights go, this was a mismatch.

And then we have my second issue.

Why was it a fight in the first place?

It was pitched as a debate. It was advertised by some on Facebook and elsewhere as a confrontational situation between two people holding opposing viewpoints. As Guru representing the Tamils and Indi representing the Sinhalese. I suspect neither of them would have wanted that, neither would have been aware of how it would be advertised.

That post I wrote the other day showed me something along similar lines. Fighting just doesn't help progress, whether it's verbal or physical. Why pitch Indi against Guru and see who wins?

Wouldn't it have been more productive to have got the two of them together and got them pulling in the same direction together?

Isn't positive discussion so much more powerful and solution driven than people rearing up against each other and trying to win their point, to "cancel" out the other person's view?

Just my thoughts.


indi said...

My basic point was that we can make this a united Sri Lankan issue, and that it doesn't have to be Tamil/Sinhala. The whole debate is set up that way, which doesn't reflect how people live here.

I think Guru focused on Tamil concerns, but I tried to make clear that I wasn't fighting with him on points, but rather saying that we needed to approach this united.

I think I made clear that his grievances were valid but that solutions came from working together. I think those were near my exact words.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indi - It wasn't that you were fighting with Guru that I have the issue with, more that we, as a society, think that this sort of debate, argument or whatever is an efficient means of resolution.

On the specifics, I do think your opinions are guilty of oversimplification, that the key to many issues is that a true Sri Lankan identity needs to make Tamil people feel included before issues can be dealt with.

Comparing the plight of Tamils to that of elephants doesn't help!

indi said...

I think rich and poor is more of a divide in Sri Lanka than anything else.

Everyone wants to earn a bit more, eat a bit better and send their kids to school. The government messes with all of us and I think equality is a better platform to stand on that the exceptionalism of Tamil suffering.

Look at rights movements in the US or the Middle East. The minorities there don't ask for exceptional treatment, they ask for equality. I think that's what we in Sri Lanka need to demand.

My elephant point is that the government is encroaching on land everywhere, to act as if I'm comparing Tamils to elephants is hyperbole. I'm comparing everyone to elephants, and it's a joke.

I think you get my broader point. Equality, not exceptionalism.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indi - Yes you're right, I totally get your broader point and am a firm believer in the need for equality of opportunity.


stacerd said...


I too believe you have over simplified and trivialised the grievances issue. It is a short step from your argument to saying "So what? We all have problems. So whats so special about yours"

Different sections of society have different grievances. But the most discontent today is among Tamils. The present govt is hugely popular among the section of Sinhala society that you claim suffer from inequties. There is little discontent. So how can you claim that Tamil problems and Sinhala problems are the same?

The issues of poverty and inequities in wealth is common to most societies and most people understande that in a society some would be better off than others. The struggle to raise the living standards of the lowest wrung of society is a challenge common to almost every society in the world. Although it is a problem for the Sinhalese almost all Sinhalese understand that the transition from poor to wealthy and powerless to powerfull is being made by hundreds of Sinhalese every day and that this mobility is not denied to the Sinhalese through accident of birth. Just look at our Parliament and cabinet. How many of them would have considered themselves priviledged 30 years ago?

The Tamil grievance is that this mobility is NOT open to them in today's Sri Lanka. Take Guru for instance. Imagine if he applied to join the Sri Lanka Civil service with the idea of one day becomming secratary to the Treasury or the secratary to the President. He clearly has the intellect, but would you put money on him being selected? So can you blame Tamils for feeling they have unique grievances not shared by other communities?

(I must emphasise here that I am talking about the present here and not the pre 83 period where Tamils routinely held top possitions in the administration)

I wished you had challenged Guru on his assertion that Tamils have grievances when it comes to education. I assume he is talking about standardisation of University entry marks here. I would have expected Guru to be aware that today the marks required to enter university for the most sought after fields is lower for Jaffna and Batticaloa districts than for almost every other Sinhala majority district. So that is perhaps the one grievance they can strike off their list.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. A few people here really need to check their spelling.

Magerata said...

I believe, it was good for both of the and us to have witnessed the debate / dialog / dialogue. It is always helpful to know the other.
On the other hand I have a pair of converse :) and like 'em

Anonymous said...

I would like to contact you off the blog. How is this possible? Very well said ...

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anon - thank you. If you really want to contact me just leave a comment with your email address and I'll be in touch, without publishing your comment I promise. You'll just have to trust me on that!