Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings -  Fr. Chandiravarman Sinnathurai,
KannanKudah, Mattakkalappu,Tamil Eelam

Four Legs Good, Two legs Bad
An Assortment of Modest Reflections�
read on the Holocaust Memorial Day at the local Synagogue

27 January 2006

1 September 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
and darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism�s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow,
"I will be true to the wife.
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,

The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another and die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages;
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

-- W. H. Auden

Anti-terror laws, proscriptions and travel bans on radical organisations are increasingly hitting fever pitch in political circles. In one sense, it injects into some a sense of �civilised xenophobia� and gets them talking baloney. For the Media; it creates the intended field day. A profit-based racket if you like: a lead-story to spin yarns with. The cameras click. Films roll. Ready, steady, go! The politicians in front of the camera lenses, more often than not, experience verbal diarrhoea.

On a more serious note however, there are deeper implications. In liberal democracies the underpinnings of free speech, freedom of thought and movement inter alia are all weakened to its core. The concept of freedom of thought was something that Rowan Atkinson (Mr.Bean) was very concerned with and he lobbied the British government arduously. Think of the reality of "Thought police" [Orwell, 1984]. Even before you could speak out, your thoughts are monitored and analysed by a remote global Super Computer. Wow!

When the Brazilian, an innocent civilian � a legal alien was assassinated by the anti-terror squad at a London subway-station, the world promptly perceived that some thing was going really berserk. In the name of protecting citizens from terror; things are really getting out of hand. �Stop and search� by the police is a matter that is of serious concern particularly among non-Anglo Saxon communities. They feel they are being targeted. In spite of facing up to unpleasant facts, the Shoot-to-kill policy was fiercely defended by the Police Commissioner, Sir Iain Blair.

Such actions colour the reactions. The predominant intellectual class in the UK have gone frigid and are getting fatally compromised by their studied silence. They have conspired to commit the sin of omission. There are however, alternative voices in the wilderness: Voices to �undo the folded lie� [WH Auden].

It is an uphill struggle. The reality is that, unless you are part of the Establishment-accredited voice. Until you are a classified �Good� thing from the �ministry of Truth�: You are bound to be muffled if not muted. What a shame! But that shouldn�t put one off.

Now let�s talk about democracy � the �Public� voice: Government of the people; by the people and for the people. The problem is the deceit of so-called democracy! The real fear however, in Britain and U.S. currently is not against global terror but against the subtle gravitation in to the orbit of a police state as we see in Sri Lanka.

It is said that there are three great subjects of the 20th century: Imperialism, fascism and Stalinism. Orwell confronts these positions viscerally and intellectually. In his fairy tale classic: Animal Farm. � With its manifold meaning, he tackles these subjects head-on. It is from that allegorical work, I have picked my heading: Four legs good; two legs bad.

Human civilisation, as we all know, has always been threatened by �isms�. However, none can evade the fact that in some developing countries there are genuine liberation struggles taking place � like we see in Thamil Eelam.

The question now is as to how we separate wood from trees. Not all political struggles for emancipation are terrorism. Surely not � we can�t lump it all together. I�m sure you would nod with agreement.

Western politicians might be genuinely concerned, quite rightly so, of the out come of a genuine struggle. Would the liberated territory be a totalitarian state? Among other things, would the �liberated territory� perhaps be a fertile ground for suppression of opposite voices, human imagination, innovation; and the quest to intelligent enquiry?

We must, of course caution ourselves to not tackle these complex matters with a trite response. The cautious approach by politicians, influential writers and opinion-makers concerned therefore would be to inquire: Are we committing our selves in more than one way to a decent out come?

I for one, shrink in utter disgust when I read the Western Liberal Press, when they speak of Tamil politicians and freedom fighters as �rebels�. Hold on; have we wondered as to why they are agitating before packaging struggling people into ideological boxes and derogatory labels? What alternatives would we propose against the legitimate resistance of minority groups against Third-Reich type of terror of the State?

Orwell had that quest. He fought relentlessly against Communism (perhaps not as an idea per se) � while most public intellectuals failed to see what was coming. He foresaw that the end result might be much worse than from where it originated.

The first importance is to get one's priorities right. Orwell's question on Stalin's regime was: 'is it Socialism, or is it a particularly vicious form of state-capitalism?� He was keen on the praxis. The risk of disconnect between orthodoxy and orthopraxy � he was worried about that danger.

An asymmetry between the talk and the walk could be an enormous challenge. Orwell�s analysis in the end, proved right. While Russian totalitarianism was despicable to Orwell, �I would lean to the Left�, he declared, �equally insistent on ending Britain�s unwanted rule in India�. A moral genius! Two wrongs equals no right does it?

It was only the other day; I found myself in convivial company over steamed rice and roast duck with a writer-photographer, a polemicist and a film-maker. They unanimously believed that the U.S.S.R was the wrong place for Communism to have taken hold of.

It should have happened, in an evolving industrial nation like Britain or Germany, they reckoned. Look what happened behind the Iron curtain and the Berlin wall and the Bamboo curtain. The menace of totalitarianism can be an ever present risk. It produces captive minds; the people no longer will feel free. They have been mass-produced as automatons. There is an austere uniformity. Citizens of an �occupied� country � even within their home land! It is in such context the Tamils are living � a slow holocaust of an indigenous ancient race.

It is one thing to colonise a territory but it leads to the inevitable colonisation of the minds.

We all know that the colonizers thought that it would have a �civilising effect�. A sort of soap-soup and salvation perhaps! Orwell on the contrary swam against the tide. He argued that decolonisation should happen without conditions. He disassociated with the public intellectuals (Establishment-accredited) who stood to defend democracy in Europe but has nothing to say about British Imperialism. There are parallels today, isn�t there? �Democracy� and US imperialistic succession -- some things don�t change; funny that.

That is a clear warning of history. There is however a greater danger. By manipulating these arguments the West can also continue its neo-colonialism on the developing world. The spreading of fear can undermine genuine aspirations for freedom and independence among dispossessed peoples. The Good guys, bad guys rationale is not only a simplistic view -- like the Western cowboy films; but also a lethal cocktail: especially when the Indian side - the "Bad guys" who always gets liquidated! In order to anesthetise the pain call it Collateral damage. We moderns hide behind euphemisms � again as I mentioned before the �isms� - What bunkum!

In the West we talk of �Good� Samaritan. The Samaritans were viewed as the bad guys � the untouchables of Palestine. But Yeshua deliberately turns the tables in his parable. He portrays the Samaritans as good guys for a change. This rubbed the Jews of his time (in the Greek Bible) up the wrong way. Who is occupying who? Who are the real terrorists? Who are the genuine religious fanatics? Promised Land! Who promised who? Now who to blame of ideology and lethal fanaticism? Difficult isn�t it? Which was which?

Concluding with Animal Farm:

The other animals understood how to vote, but could never THINK of any resolutions of their own. Vote and think � some times these two words sadly, don�t marry well together. So, in the Animal Farm the seven Commandments were reduced to a single maxim namely: �Four legs good; two legs bad.� The birds at first objected. It seemed to them that they also had two legs. But this was proved to them it was not so. Bird�s wing is an organ of propulsion and not of manipulation, Comrade Snowball explained. �It should therefore be regarded as leg. The distinguished mark of Man is the hand, the instrument of with which he does all mischief�. The animals chanted the maxim for hours on end, �never growing tired of it�.

As the revolt progressed, things began to slowly change.

�Years passed. The seasons came and went. The short animal lives fled by. A time came when there was no one who remembered the old days before the Rebellion.�

�No creature called any other creature �Master�. All animals were equal.�

Amidst cosmetic change there was in progress a covert change. So, one day�

�There was deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside-down� But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of � �Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!�

The story ends thus:

�Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs? The creatures out side looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which�.

Sounds familiar? Amen.

[Orwell�s potent prose is quoted from the Penguin version of Animal Farm, London: 1987].


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