by Basil Fernando
In my earlier short essay titled Replacing investigations with gossip, I tried to point to the absence of outrage against forced disappearances in Sri Lanka, which I ended by saying that there must be some cultural for such an attitude. In this second short essay I venture to look into what that cultural root may be.
Prageeth Ekneliyagoda (R) and Sandaruwan Senadheera (L) prominently among demonstrators at the funeral of TNA Jaffna member of Parliament and lawyer N. Raviraj who was shot dead by two assassins on a motorcycle in November 2006 as he drove to work. Photo Courtesy :- the Lanka E News
My guess is that there is common attitude of admiration of the acts of the strong no matter what those actions may be. There is further a contemptuous attitude words the weak, an attitude that is accompanied with the idea, any ones misfortunes are there own making. This is as if were to say, those who anger the strong, must suffer to consequences of provoking the wrath of the strong. Too bad for them.
Regarding this my own guess once again is that, the origin of it is from the absence of an underlying idea of justice in our culture. Beginning of justice is the understanding that the strong must avoid causing injury to the weak. That understanding could only arise from the premise of equality of all. Relative strengths and weaknesses are socially created and therefore there no naturally strong and naturally weak, in human relationships.
When justice is absent from human discourse, any kindly cruelly goes unchallenged. There is nothing to complain about cruelly as suffering of cruelty is the naturally imposed condition on the weak.
When notions imbedded in culture does not include notions of justice, such a culture lacks a way to distinguish what cruel and not cruel. In the animal world there is no such distinction. Lions do consider it an act of cruelty to kill a deer. In fact, very condition of survival of the lions lies in their capacity to kill other animals. Power and the ability to find food goes together.
Humans distinguish themselves from other animals by accepting the equality of ALL other human beings. All relative differences of strenghs and weaknesses are subject to the notions of equality. This is the only basis for the rule of causing no harm others, can become over riding notion, in limiting human actions.
Something must have happened to us in the course of our history, that has taken away from us, this no harm principle, even in relation to the killings of each other. To accept the notion that strong can kill the weak as they wish and when they wish is to lack the no harm principle in absolute sense.
All notions of criminal justice relating to murder is based on the understanding that no human being, however, strong, has no right to kill another. The duty to investigate murder with all resources at the disposal of the state, arise from the general acceptance, of justice in relationship of human beings to each other.
Absence of investigations into possible murder is as low as it can get, from the point of view of justice. When a population of a country has lost the outrage in face of murder of any of its fellow citizens, that is a manifestation of such a psychological decay as worse as it can get.
Today, in the face of thousands of disappearances and other forms of possible murder and other serious harm to other , Sri Lankans remain silent and we also try to shout down others who demand justice.
Calling this cultural disease, may hurt the chauvinist feelings.
This short essay leads to another question— how did we get there? We need to examine that question also. Perhaps, there are others, who may have some answers.