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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2672

Perceptivity must replace precariousness in North-South dialogue

By Philip Fernando in Los Angeles

Solutions to racism's entrenched historical legacies continue to elude us. Perceptivity must prevail over precariousness. Questioning each other’s patriotism would not take us anywhere.

So far, the grinding nature of the North-South dialogue ebbed and flowed sporadically, eventually reaching an impasse. Even cultural reference points run like parallel lines, never to meet. Inculcating an emancipatory mind set stared us in the face now.

We need to sell the idea that did not sound counterintuitive but connoted a system in which those at the periphery maintain individual power within a larger central authority. Since the arrival of universal franchise in 1931 polarization has taken a hold on us. Opportunism had spurred political parties seek short-term gains at the expense of good reasoning.

The situation had crystallized into battle of wits and Tamil nationalism became a political ideology starting with periodical protests and hartals. In the general election held in 1956, Federal Party (FP) swept to victory in the (largely Tamil-speaking) North and East while SLFP reigned supreme reducing UNP to 8 seats.

Leaders being above racism meant nothing

The pathology of political leadership reveals one fact: being above racism rarely got a good response from many people. There is something unpleasant and badgering about how bluntly incurious people are about a national dialogue. Those who propose such a dialogue often got stigmatized as unpatriotic.

Lack of good judgement in politics crept in. Even literature reflected the underline pathos: “let us not part with our birthright, this is where we are born and die--majority rule is democracy”, versus “I hear the sound of a conch—Telling Death in war is sweet…Let the drums sound, let our strengths gather Let us rise, to claim our half of the land.”

Noxious ingredients of racism>

The four noxious ingredients of racism are fear, pride, jealousy and ignorance. Anytime someone discriminates, one of these ingredients must be evident: It was fear that perpetuated Apartheid, jealousy and pride that made Hitler destroy 6 million Jews; Americans kept slavery for a long time because of fear and generally speaking, pride and fear made some men subjugate women for decades and denied those rights. Discrimination has fatal consequences. India’s caste system is perpetuated by entrenched caste system.

Shun rhetoric that reinforces stereotypes

It is a part of human nature to recognize patterns in order to make functioning expedient in future similar settings or interactions. Malcolm Gladwell described that in his transformational boob Blink.

But the risk of these stereotypes turning into prejudice and discrimination is concerning. Therefore, such rhetoric should constantly be placed in check in our own circles. The bar stops with each individual person becoming intolerant, even when it is under the guise of humor. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that individuals would solely be judged by their character.

So how do we shun the societal wave that opposes this type of progress?

Walk in someone else’s shoes

We as a society have to actively confront this issue. I believe that once a substantial numbers of people, unapologetically stand for the cause of undivided Sri Lanka, the problem will recede, and the senseless losses of life driven by stereotype-instigated fear that we have seen over the years will, too. The status quo feels good and inaction is the easier option. It is time that we take the time to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Singapore’s norm of meritocracy<>

As a multiracial, multilingual and multi-religious society, Singapore recognized the importance of maintaining and fostering racial harmony based on the core principles of meritocracy and national identity based on multiracialism are a core element of government policies. Meritocracy ensures that all Singaporeans can progress and be rewarded on the basis of individual merit alone. Multiracialism recognized the uniqueness and diversity of the society, wherein all ethnic communities are recognized and each community is free to preserve and promote its cultural heritage and to practice its customs and beliefs, as long as this did not compromise national interests or infringe on the rights and sensitivities of other groups.

A legal framework to prevent discrimination was put in place at the constitutional level. For example, article 12 of the Constitution states that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen of Singapore on the grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth. Article 16, complementing article 12, protects against discrimination in education on the grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth.

The Presidential Council for Minority Rights is mandated to scrutinize legislation passed by Parliament to ensure that proposed laws do not discriminate against any ethnic or religious community.

Group representation

Other important policies undertaken by the Government are the implementation of a quota system for each ethnic group in public housing estates, with the aim of avoiding the formation of ethnic enclaves and encouraging residents to interact with Singaporeans of different races, and the National Service, compulsory military service for all Singaporean men at age 18, which fosters bonds between young men of different races and religions and allows them to work together to foster strong relationships and trust. 47.

Most of the seats in Parliament come under the Group Representation Constituency scheme, under which members are elected in groups that must include at least one member of an ethnic minority. The system is designed to ensure equitable minority representation in Parliament.

A nation in denial is sleep walking

We need to constructive meaningful dialogue but at the same time have a more proactive resolution. This article followed from points made at a recent discussion among friends in Los Angeles—WE must hope for a dialogue to take place throughout all avenues of society, not only when a racial event stirs up turbulence—we often shy away from any constructive dialogue.

We must admit we have a problem; a nation that is in denial and is sleepwalking will never wake up- there are clear differences between rabid racists, ambivalent observers, and racial progressives, nearly everyone, including the "innocents," had relatively little idea how to respond to the era's insurgent articulations of different groups’ ideas of ability and equality.

- Asian Tribune -

Perceptivity must replace precariousness in North-South dialogue
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