Diversity In The Diaspora (And Home)

Myself, dressed as Mahinda, representing South Asian races in a O/Level textbook. Literally, a walking contradiction


People ask about the Tamil diaspora as if they’re a monolithic unit. They’re not. The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora has its share of crazies, its share of sanies and a much broader share of normal people just living their lives. It’s the same of people within Sri Lanka. Recently, I was reading the blog of a young diasporal who came back to Sri Lanka to visit (Serenstupidity). Her perspective is worth a read:

I’d like to stress how it is important not to base your perceptions on news reports. It is easy enough to believe that people in the country are all brainwashed and ridiculous. From my travels, I have gathered this is untrue. Citizens of Sri Lanka are just as stratified in their views as those in the diaspora. There are those who I’ve met, from Colombo intellectuals to villagers in the South, who are against the current administration. Then there are several of those I’ve met who genuinely believe that this must be the most amazing time for Tamil people to be free from war, and praise the president for “saving” Tamil people. There are also several who are completely politically apathetic. However you look at it, I hope people don’t brand Sri Lankans on the island as one monolithic group (Back In One Piece).

This is a crucial fact that a lot of people commenting on Sri Lanka miss. The rhetorical devices which are so convenient to use (Sinhala, Tamil, Tamil diaspora) don’t actually exist in any coherent form. They’re all full of contradictions and fundamentally misleading. How so? Here are a few contradictions:

Sinhala: This category includes Sinhala racists and people like me who, born Sinhala, don’t speak Sinhala or really participate in the culture. There is also a lot of Sinhala/Tamil mixing, even in the north. Sinhalese are a minority in Colombo.

Tamil: Abroad, this is thought to be a unitary race, represented by northern, Jaffna Tamils. In fact, around half of Tamils live in the south, the east is distinct from the north and even Jaffna Tamils are still heavily divided along caste lines. Tamils are also (usually) either Hindu or Christian, some speak English and home and some speak Tamil. Then there are up-country Tamils, descendants of labor imported by England, wanted and represented by basically no-one.

Tamil diaspora: There are like 900,000 people in the Tamil diaspora and they’re internally diverse. I know people who do a lot on the ground and talk about politics none. I know people who do nothing and talk a lot. I know those in between. I know people that aren’t involved at all, and I know people who are too involved with tech or art or whatever to care about politics at all.

So yeah. Sri Lankans are a bunch of different people. So are the diaspora. Race is only one thing that defines us, among many, and it’s not definitive. Personally, I thinking dividing suffering and rights based on race is like herding cats, or sculpting sand. If it takes you 30 years to do it, by then the demographics will have changed. Much simpler to focus on building a multi-ethnic society, based on equality for everybody.

RSS feed | Trackback URI

3 Comments »

2011-07-18 21:53:28

You made it into a textbook! Way to go :D

 
Magerata
2011-07-19 11:39:30

I have family friends who belongs to all three above and some Burger people as well and each and everyone of them have different ideals and ideas about SL. Most of them are much freer with us because we do not seem to belong to any of the above groups and tend to share or air their feelings and thoughts. You are right none of them will fit in any one basket. Neither do I.

 
2011-07-20 10:38:50

IMHO what matters is not the different groups of people who has different views. What matters is which group is running the show. I personally think its the wrong group running the show in both sides.

 
Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
URI
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

email indi AT indi.ca.


Recent Comments


How The BBS Attacks (A Tale Of Two Cities) (6)

Jack Point: The BBS is tapping into resentments that are buried deep in the subconscious. What they do it to tap in to them, nurture them and magnify them. Exactly what 969 is doing. Exactly what the Nazi’s did. http://jestfork icks.blogsp...

shammi: But you do agree that not arresting G.A. Gnanasara and any other lawbreakers from both sides will only serve to deepen this mistrust? If you don’t, you must be living in said land.

Liberal One: I was talking about the distrust between Sinhalese and Muslims. If you think distrust between these two communities didn’t exist before Gnanasara thero entered the scene you must be living in the la la land of the Colombians.

Damian Poosa (2000-2014) (1)

greene: innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raajioon.

Buddhism And Racism (2)

Johan: Temples tend to be quite skilled at fund raising for building projects within temple premises; perhaps they could mobilise those skills to raise funds to rebuild the damage wrought in Aluthgama and Beruwela. If you go to a particular...

Nandasiri Wanninayaka: Nice to see you are blogging again.

What A Colombo Revolution Might Look Like (Thailand) (6)

Shirley Silva: Good analysis but you failed to mention that unlike in Bangkok a good shower would send the UNPs scuttling home. Above all there is a big leadership vacuum. No charismatic leader like in Thailand

sharanga: Good constructive criticism.

sharanga: >the electorate is too ill-informed to decide This is almost always true in any country. It’s one of the greatest faults of democracy. The electorate is ill-informed and as public choice theorists put it, systematica...

Anti Christian Christmas (2)

Jack Point: I found this video very disturbing. https://www.you tube.com/watch? v=EUHCQyxK3ps&a mp;feature=yout u.be http://dbsjeyar aj.com/dbsj/arc hives/27450

Damian Poosa (2000-2014)

Our family cat Damian passed away last night. He was an American cat and it was fitting that he passed on the Fourth Of July. Damian was an ornery cat made happy by the love and care of my sister and parents. I brought him home on the day of my high school graduation (a stunningly thoughtless thing, in hindsight) and my sister and mother actually raised him. He then travelled back to Sri Lanka and had a great time till he got old.

How The BBS Attacks (A Tale Of Two Cities)

This seems to be the basic BBS gameplan (for fucking up everything we’ve worked so hard to build after the war). It’s a cycle of outrage, riot, fear, repeat. It’s like the eightfold path to not being a Buddhist:

Buddhism And Racism

Buddhism is not racist. The ideas and practice of Buddhism involve meditation, perception of impermanence and ultimately what we would call a renunciation of self. Being a Buddhist, however, is not just that. Being a Buddhist fundamentally involves taking refuge in three things – the Buddha, the Dhamma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the community of practice). As a Buddhist, this is why the violence in Aluthgama is so troubling. Becomes it comes cloaked in the colors of the Sangha. The main racists and instigators of mob violence are monks.

The Tragedy In Aluthgama

I haven’t written here in a while because, well, I guess I haven’t had much to say. I’m been writing about food and leisure at YAMU but, well, somethings gotten in the way of that now. In a way we could sense it because of the constant halal debate on YAMU, which is mainly a food site. That food issue in many ways has become a touchstone for the Muslim/Buddhist tensions rising in this country. Yesterday those tensions seemed to explode in Aluthgama and Beruwela on the Western coast. The racist BBS staged a rally there and then paraded thru the streets. This exploded into violence, attacks on businesses and homes.