War is easy. Peace is hard. Photo by SF Buckaroo
It’s weird that Chauvinists spend most of their time attacking other Sri Lankans, but I guess Saturn has to eat. Now, a whole bunch of vituperative commentors have started using the word Peacenik to describing anyone moderately opposed to, say, displacement of Sri Lankan citizens or mindless bombing with no endgame in site. The Chauvinist comments all have a few things in common and I’ll try to address two logical fallacies here. They both center on one assertion – that dissent means you’re LTTE. If I was pro-LTTE I’d be doing a whole lot less talking, but that’s besides the point. There are two points the Chavs repeat ad nauseam which are both structurally false. One is the classic ‘You’re with us or against us’. The second is the idea that you should either criticize the LTTE or keep your mouth shut.
With Us Or Against Us
JVPers, JHUers and assorted chauvinists online seem to think calling for peace someone means that the LTTE ‘wins’. In logic this is known as a False Dilemma. Either you toe the chauvanist line, or you’re LTTE. As if there were only two choices. On the LTTE side maybe, but last I checked Sri Lanka was a pluralistic democracy.
They also try to equate various policy differences (EU banning LTTE, condemning Muttur bombings, supporting P-TOMS) with supporting the LTTE. I have different opinions on all those issues, but those are honest policy differences and it doesn’t make you LTTE. However, anyone who doesn’t agree with the current reactionary government policy is branded terrorist boot-licker or Peacenik, as if there were only two choices
In LTTE controlled territory I understand that kind of bipolar thinking – with us or against us – but in the pluralistic democracy we live in it’s just silly. It’s a false dilemma. You can dissent from the government and chauvinist line and be a good Sri Lankan citizen. If someone says you’re a LTTE-sympathizer or a terrorist boot-licker you can feel confident in saying that no, I’m a Sri Lankan. This is a democracy and I’m free to think of different ways to preserve my country. You do not have to toe the chauvinist line to be a patriot. In fact the chauvinists are tearing this country apart, starting with the Sri Lankan people they disagree with.
Go To Kilinochchi
Then there is the argument that you should be protesting LTTE atrocities and keep silent on GOSL mistakes. As if trying to improve your country makes you a terrorist supporter. Interestingly, these comments come from people who don’t protest the LTTE, but rather other people not protesting the LTTE. If that makes sense. The typical structure is, how can you protest 200,000 displaced in the latest fighting (fault on both sides) when the LTTE commits X and Y atrocities? Or how can you ask that GOSL respects minorities when the LTTE does ethnic cleansing? As if, somehow, we need to live by their standards now. This argument is wrong on a few points.
For one, this is our government. Any action GOSL takes is in my name. As a citizen I have a right and duty to criticize and improve my government. Of course people are right to say there’s a better way to win this war. It’s the patriotic thing to do. Telling your fellow Sri Lankans to go to Kilinochchi is against everything this country stands for. If you go to a Cabinet meeting they don’t sit around talking about how crappy the LTTE is and feeling pleased with themselves. They talk about Sri Lanka and what steps we can take to win. In a democracy and as writers we have the same responsibility on a smaller scale.
Chauvinists love asking why people don’t condemn LTTE atrocities as if that means you support them. Everybody bemoans those terrorists, they kill countrymen, friends and family. That’s easy and it’s obvious. It’s like condemning the tsunami. A child can recognize what’s bad. It’s takes adult courage to say, OK, we’ve been hurt. How do we emerge from this as a better country and better people? That is what Peaceniks call for. All the Chauvinists offer is righteous anger. We’re trying to move beyond the anger to become a stronger and united country, and that takes change.
Making Me Ad Nauseous
What bothers me most about the Chauvinist posts is not their quality (admittedly low), but their sheer quantity. It’s not like different variations, just the same shit. You don’t agree, you must support the LTTE. Why don’t you go to Kilinochchi and protest? Etc, ad nauseam. In fact, their entire style is to argue the same flawed points over and over again, ad nauseam. According to Wikipedia, in ad nauseam argument “false proof of a statement by (prolonged) repetition, possibly by different people. This logical fallacy is commonly used as a form of rhetoric by politicians, and it is one of the mechanisms of reinforcing urban legends. In its extreme form, it can also be a form of brainwashing. In common usage the statement “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth” is often used to allude to the same concept.”
We cannot let Chauvinists intimidate the online debate by equating dissent and common sense with supporting the LTTE. Winning this war and securing the peace is going to take a lot more courage than simply supporting anything the government does. There is a lot more to this war than condemning the LTTE. We have to build a united Sri Lanka.