Guy in center was supposed to be Indians, but could be anybody
War brings out the worst in people. You get absolute hate in the comments, and blind repugnance from other bloggers. If you criticize the LTTE you get called racist, if you criticize the government you’re a traitor, and if you speak up at all you’re an elitist who cannot possibly understand. I usually try to ignore the hate, but there’s one point that I think is worth addressing. I would much rather be writing about girls or traffic, but I think it is important to talk about the issues here. In fact, I think discussion of the ethnic conflict is even more important than lining up to fight. This is a democratic society with corrupt and biased media and ‘citizen journalism’ is extremely valuable. Whether you’re rich, poor, foreign, JVP, JHU, LTTE, UNP, IRA, HSBC or whatever, it is important to speak your mind. As long as we’re talking we’re not killing each other, and that’s a good thing.
I dunno what this is meant to be, I guess it’s something for myself to orient myself with the flood of different stuff on Kottu. The main stream media is biased, and I’m used to that, but so is the stuff online. You get people who are knee-jerk anti-army, anti-NGO, anti-LTTE or whatever. I actually don’t read those sites at all, because if you read them once you’ve read them 100 times. There’s no particular nuance, it’s just the same hate sprayed in the same direction every post. If you disagree then they’ll get nasty with you, so I never really learn anything new.
In fact the coverage is often so shrill that the only political sites I read are DBS Jeyaraj and Moju. I also read the comment and posts from people like Electra who aren’t so jobless as to repeat themselves or leave 18 comments on one thread ranting on the same point. But that’s me. As annoying as a lot of commentary is, it is still important, and there is one set of posts which I find more repugnant.
There is one school of thought which simply says ‘Join the Army’. There is an idea that you’re not qualified to talk about the war unless you’re a soldier or cadre. This is wrong on many levels. For one thing, you don’t want your soldiers questioning or even discussing policy on the job. A soldier’s job is to follow orders. To quote Jack Nicholson, if they don’t follow orders they die. A soldier is the blind arm of the state or organization he serves, and it is not his job to do the thinking. After they retire or move up into executive positions they can and do, but the average grunt is derelict in their duty if they engage in the kind of analysis that happens on and offline. They simply don’t have that luxury.
It is, however, the oft neglected duty of Sri Lankan citizens to speak out and participate in our messy democracy. As Child of 25 said in a comment,
Is it not our responsibility as citizens of (an albeit flawed) democracy to air our views and look critically (constructively as well) at the views of others? Or would it be better to stick our heads in the sand and ignore it all simply because we are not on the front lines?
This war as much as any other affects people in every slice of life. For example, I turn the corner past the army base as much as anybody, though usually later at night. Whether we like it or not, everyone in this country is involved in this war because we are fighting terrorists that don’t distinguish between civilians and military. On the other end, Sri Lankan civilians in the North and East are the ones that get their houses destroyed by bombs and lives disrupted by checkpoints. Whether we like it or not, everyone is involved in this war and we all have plenty of experience to comment on.
So, you don’t have to join the Army to comment on the war. You don’t even have to be in Sri Lanka. Pen is mightier than the sword, et cetera. If you simply go out and join the Army or LTTE then you’ll have politicians or tyrants making decisions for you. I don’t know about the LTTE, but the Sri Lankan Army ostensibly serves me, a Sri Lankan citizen, so I’m well in line discussing what I want them to do. Especially with all the shrill extremists out there, it’s more important than ever that moderates and normal people affected by the war speak out. For one, we represent Sri Lankan (in a small way) internationally, and for two, it’s our country. Of course you have a right to speak, and no you don’t have to kill to have an opinion.