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Home > Tamil National Forum > Selected Writings by Sara Ananthan > Globalization and Our Place Under the Sun
Selected Writings - Sara Ananthan
Globalization and Our Place Under the Sun
28 September 2006
The effect of globalization
We as the global citizens at the beginning of the third millennium and as heirs to modern technology that heralded this Information Era, are uniquely placed to take stock of the contemporary global scene in political, economic and religious terms to understand the world that we have inherited. The forces of globalization which have accelerated from the last century are met with equally opposing forces with violent reaction and resistance which has changed for ever the geo political landscape.
This globalization process started with unprecedented large scale colonization by European colonial powers in many parts of the world during past centuries. The initial agenda of those colonists was to plunder the native wealth but later the demand for cheap labour resulted in whole scale penetration of native societies with their alien culture. This was achieved by promoting the colonial culture as superior to those native cultures. In addition, there was whole scale massacre of natives and uprooting of native societies from their cherished lands which had nurtured and sustained these native societies for millennia. In addition, it also resulted in remapping of ancestral boundaries of these conquered nations without any regard for local sensitivities. This wanton act pitted native societies against each other. It heralded the onset of anarchy in those societies that had lived in peace and harmony for millennia. It is the infamous “divide and rule” tactic and used even today by conquerors but applied with much more tact and sophistication in order to disguise its intent.
The process of assimilation in the name of globalization is resisted with new found vigor by nationalistic forces all around the world in order to preserve their own culture and core values in their respective native lands as they found solace in identifying with their own true roots in an ever competitive world compounded with dwindling natural resources and a future fraught with uncertainty.
In the local scene, in Sri Lanka too the nationalistic forces were initially rekindled with a religious fervor by Anakarika Dharmapala in Buddhist orthodox revivalism amongst the Sinhalese and Arumuga Navalar in Savaism (Hindu?) orthodox revivalism amongst Tamils in their opposition to conversion to Christianity by European colonial powers. But the Hindu orthodox agenda suffered a natural death when the Tamil struggle for survival evolved into a true national liberation struggle encompassing all the Tamil people. But in the opposite camp, Sinhala Buddhist supremacy is still being exploited as a rallying cry to persecute this unjust war against the Tamil people. Therefore Sri Lankan ethnic conflict does have a religious undertone like many contemporary conflicts around the world.
The evolution of Western and Eastern Thinking
Western civilization has it’s origin in Greek philosophy. The harsh terrain in which Greek philosophy evolved and that period where sea piracy was a legitimate occupation gave rise to virtues that were essential skills in that society. They are sharpening one’s wits, analyze and attack, study in order to take control of any situation and define strategy for any outcomes. Therefore western society is essentially a planned society. The essence of the philosophy is that planning is vital to achieve a peaceful and decent society. Analytical skills and statistics are the building blocks for devising strategy. In addition, individualism is supreme in western culture and it has facilitated independence of thought and freed up individuals to reach to their maximum potential. All the human achievements to date are made possible only by this independence of thought and action within the norms of the society.
When Confucius proposed his secular philosophy, the setting of Chinese civilization at that period was basically an agrarian society and was solely dependent on river irrigation. The farmers on the upper reaches of the river system hoarded the precious water and denied equal sharing with the down stream farmers which threatened their rightful livelihood. This unjust action gave rise to local disputes and soon engulfed the whole country in conflict. That is when, Confucius proposed his famous maxim “you have a free will for all your actions but always be mindful of it’s consequences on those around you”. In essence, it’s the consideration for others in any action and a respect for hierarchy in their society as important ethical interpersonal virtues and this has influenced the Asian culture on social, political and spiritual levels ever since.
Early religion in South Asia and its influence on the thinking process
Hinduism a polytheistic religion (worship of many gods) which was the religion of the ancient Aryan tribes focused on sacrifices to a pantheon of deities and semi gods. The ritualistic worship was performed with singing of hymns of the Rig Veda written in Sanskrit the ancient language of those Aryan tribes.
By 250 CE, Vedic Hinduism spread throughout the subcontinent as Dravidians and tribal people adopted the practices of their Aryan conquerors. The other two great religions Buddhism and Jainism developed in reaction to the excesses of Aryan religious practices. These new faiths emphasized Ahimsa (non violence), meditation and suppression of desire for worldly possessions as salvation for the populace and these popular concepts which were revolutionary in those times were later conveniently assimilated into Hinduism to form the core belief system of Hinduism as found today.
This deceptive tactic in Hinduism can be seen from the clever ploy to portray Thiruvalluvar – the author of the Tamil classical master piece of Ethics- Thirukkural as a Hindu Brahmin priest while the dictum of ethics espoused in Thirukkural is secular in nature and akin to Buddhist and Jainism concepts of middle path. In addition, as recorded in the Tamil Epic Cilapathikaram of first century AD, during this period Buddhism was widely practiced amongst Tamils in South India and Sri Lanka.
Fall of native civilizations to foreign invasions
Victory of Alexander the Great in Asia and the story of Gordian knot
According to legend, the Gordian knot was tied by Gordius, the king of Phrygia. It was so intricately entwined that no one could undo it. According to tradition, this knot was to be untied only by the future conqueror of Asia. Many tried, but all failed.
In 333 BC, Alexander the Great, on his march through Anatolia, reached Gordium, the capital of Phrygia. There he was shown the chariot of the ancient founder of the city, Gordius, with its yoke lashed to the pole by means of an intricate knot with its end hidden. According to legend, even Alexander the Great was unable to untie the Gordian knot, so he drew his sword and cut it through with a stroke and declared that he had fulfilled the prophecy. This single act appears to have influenced his decisive victory over the great Persian king Darius against all odds, as the mighty Persian army has already lost it’s will to fight and was easily subdued as the story has already spread that they will have a new ruler.
When nation states succumbed to foreign invasions, the conquests were made easier as the native society were already in turmoil, rotten to the core and ripe for a political change. When the British colonized the subcontinent there was wide spread disharmony in the native society due to the erosion of its core values. There were social excesses such as caste discrimination, practice of Sati (burning of widows on their husband’s pyre), child marriage of young girls (As in the case of Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturibai), Deva dasi tradition- exploitation of women disguised as slaves of the gods in temples and denial of education to women. All these social evils were practiced in the name of religion and it affected only the weaker sections of the society such as women and the so called low castes.
In addition the evil of dowry system and its financial burden that drove parents to practice of female infanticide in order to avoid financial burden appears to continue even now - [see for instance, Christian Science Monitor article titled “For India's daughters, a dark birth day, Infanticide and sex-selective abortion yield a more skewed gender ratio”]
Therefore in that climate, the spread of western liberal democracy was a welcome change as it helped to transform a society that was already in decline. The progressive ideals of the western democracy helped to restore at least a semblance of equality to all and the gradual access to western education for local populace also helped to dispel most of these social evils from the mindset and helped to evolve into modern societies.
Diplomacy under the threat of gun and the pecking order in international affairs
It was said that the gun powder was invented by the Chinese but the gun was invented by the Europeans. Ever since, the geo politics of the world appears to have become hostage to the threat of gun diplomacy. Despite all the pep talk about globalization and bringing equality and prosperity to all by the spread of democracy the balance of power is held by the threat of atomic annihilation. It makes a mockery of all the progress made by humanity in morality and ethics in all these centuries. In addition, in the United Nations (UN) – the august body of international affairs, the balance of power is wielded by the threat of the veto. So there is no democracy and fair play in international affairs. It is a law of the jungle – the survival of the fittest (military might is supreme) and the confirmation of the maxim that might is right in international affairs.
There appears to be a nexus between the application of these amoral statecraft policies and the unscrupulous think tanks, corrupted policy advisors, lobby groups and media moguls in the age of Empire. These minions with highly decorative qualifications will not dare tell the Emperor that he has no moral clothes as they are paid servants serving their political masters in servitude.
The failure of democracy and the immoral application of statecraft
Despite the avowed principle of bringing power to the people, there appears to be a fatal flaw in the democratic system which can nullify all its good intentions if there are no safe guards. But these safe guards can be easily overridden if one can muster sufficient votes. Therefore it’s difficult to protect minority rights in a multi ethnic democracy if the players are not genuine. As the politicians need to harvest votes from the people they can whip up religious frenzy in the dominant community or resort to any amoral populist policies to come to power.
In Sri Lanka, democracy is only used to uphold Majoritarian Terror of Sinhala Buddhist Supremacy. First the appeal process to Privy Council was conveniently removed, Supreme Court was made a tool of the government and other minority safe guards enshrined in the constitution were also removed with the voting power derived solely from the majority community.
The failure of bygone Tamil leaders and the educated elite
The danger signals were clearly there all to see, long before it manifested into open genocide of Tamil people. But while the Sinhala leaders pursued their goal with impunity, our own much learnt and highly decorated full time lawyers turned part time Tamil politicians did not have the vision to anticipate it and take remedial actions as they were fully immersed in their western educated mindset and were loathe to forgo their comforts they enjoyed in the capital Colombo lest they may have to leave their highly lucrative legal practices and go the 'backward' dusty towns of Yarlpanam and Mattakalapu. Their rhetoric was loudest during election times but once elected they retreated to their cozy life styles in Colombo.This monumental failure by our leaders haunts us even today.
Just after the 1983 ethnic pogrom, Tamils enjoyed international sympathy and the international frame of mind was conducive for a just solution but our Tamil leaders failed us again. They squandered away the golden opportunity presented in history as they were outfoxed by the Machiavellian diplomatic manoeuvres of President J.R.Jeyawardane.
All this, when our Tamil leaders enjoyed the unstinted support, sympathy and statesmanship in the caliber of political giants such as Mrs.Indira Gandhi –Prime Minister of India - the greatest stateswoman to have come from our Eastern culture and the golden hearted Mamanithar - Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, our indomitable M.G.Ramachandaran (MGR) who will be remembered as a true Dravidian Tamil leader with a clear vision for his people.
The roles played by MGR in his movies and the lyrics that were used in his songs always extolled the ancient traditions of Tamil valor and Love. This had a profound impact on the populace which has long forgotten its cherished ideals. It’s a testimony to his vision even before he came into power.
It was a monumental diplomatic failure in 1983 by our bygone hypocritical Tamil leaders. A just solution at that time would have prevented all these deaths and destructions that were to follow in Sri Lanka. This utter failure in diplomacy was due to their abysmal understanding of modern statecraft and diplomacy as applied today between nation states.
On another point, it was said that when one of the Sinhala racist ministers in the J.R cabinet whose role in the 1983 ethnic program was an open secret. He was named accordingly in an international report. He was upset and wanted to sue the international body but was persuaded against it with much hardship by a highly placed Tamil official who was said to have pleaded with the minister “Please Sir, Please do not do that otherwise all the skeletons in your closet will become an open secret in the international arena”. So much so for our Tamil elite’s servile mentality who occupied influential positions but failed in their historical duty to do justice for their own society instead prostituted their talents and power only for their own perks and their family’s wellbeing
Treachery (Ull Pakai) - the Achilles heel of Tamil Society
It appears that progress in our Tamil Society was always hampered by the debilitating effect of treason by enemy within us (Ull Pakai) from time immemorial as was the case of traitor Vibushanan (brother of Ravana) who played a major role in the downfall of our Adi Dravidian Tamil king Ravana in ancient Eelam according to Epic stories. This curse has bedevilled our society ever since and continues unabated even today. The underlying Achilles heal of Tamil society appears to be abject moral corruption due to indoctrination of alien culture which sapped out the core values of the native society which cherished love and valor as it’s core values in it’s heydays. This moral corruption within the society provided idle breeding ground for dissent and treason and it helps to divide the Tamil society by caste, religion, region and village - all in perpetual conflict with each other for supremacy.
The believe in one’s own good Karma and the inconsiderate actions by us expatriates
It appears wherever Eelam Tamils abound there is frenzy in erecting replica of their home temples left behind by them. Fear of the unknown coupled with our insecurity felt in an alien land with a dominant new culture appears to drive us into ritualistic frenzy which borders on religious fanaticism. The frenzy we show in prostrating in front of our old deities in their new gold plated attire atop their golden chariot is solely lacking when it comes to charity. But much smaller and less prospective societies are performing much more charitable work as it’s ingrained in their culture.
During the recent conflict in Vaharai, we heard over Tamil radios that 40,000 people were displaced due to aerial bombardment and that the people are struggling without water, food and shelter. It was reported in a desperate bid to find some shelter the hapless parents were clearing culverts and placing their little ones under them. It was reported that in Jaffna peninsula too there were skirmishes and normal life was affected. But just after the main news bulletin, in the so called community announcements one was deeply pained to hear a call extolling the piety to come for a social dinner and contribute lavishly to erect a new Gopura (Tower) for a famous temple in Jaffna. The interesting point was that the Mahimai (miracle) attributed to that temple was that the presiding deity miraculously changed direction as he could not bear that a church was being built in front him. It’s intolerance at the highest level. If our gods exhibit such intolerance towards each other what hope is there in nation building with these faithful.
We seem to have become comfortable in our conviction that due to our good Karma we are in paradise but due to their bad Karma those poor souls are languishing in our wretched homeland. Therefore the only pious thing was to pay tribute to our Kula Theivams for granting us this boon. This hypocrisy can only happen in a society which refuses to use its own language for worship and has to use interpreters to perform its worship in an alien language.
On another point, all our deeds as expatriates when our brethren are laying down their precious lives at the altar of liberation is like the rooster that crows in the morning welcoming the sun as it rises in the east. The sun will (definitely) rise whether the rooster crows or not. But sometimes it appears even for this humble crowing there is rivalry amongst the roosters.
The present and future challenges faced by humanity are immense and trans-national in nature. The problem of global warming, competition for dwindling natural resources, super bugs that defy known medicine and the problem of ever increasing number of unfortunate people with weak mental health who fell victim in this insane rat race of chasing rainbows. All these need immediate attention. Togetherness in diversity, respect and admiration for cultural diversity with that all encompassing serene, universal understanding of no culture is in itself better or worse than the other, for all cultures have an equal part to play in totality of our human existence in this world.
The world is like an eternal garden with beautiful blossoms in full bloom in multi colors and shapes - some with scent but others just plain, some small but others large but in totality make up that beautiful garden. But one thing for sure is that all these plants need their own designated patches under the sun as their needs differ.
As we Tamils are truly Trans nationals from our expatriate existence, we have a historical duty to give voice for the voiceless and stand up against injustice in any part of the world in order to achieve a just global society. As in the verses of the Tamil song:
Our lives have to be true to that immortal line “Anaivaraium Vala Vaippome” as we have a Chen Sottru Kadan or eternal gratitude for all those societies in our host countries that accepted us as one amongst them and provided us with a new lease on life.
In addition, we must be steadfast in our historical duty to voice for our national liberation from bondage in our homeland as extolled in this song.
History will record our victory tomorrow . If we fail who else can triumph.