The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

I've been flying the Sri Lankan flag (on my car) for the last three years - basically, since I've had a car. And I've seen lots of other people do it, so I didn't think much of it. I figured it was a way of showing one's patriotism.


Then, it happened. A classmate had to walk up to my car (before the 4th), and exclaim 'Oh, look, you have a flag!'. Surprised though I was, I managed to ask her if she was unaware of the fact that our independence day was coming up. That duly shut her up.

Then, yesterday, I had to drop another classmate home, and he said 'Never figured you to indulge in patriotic sentimentality'. WTF?? What is so sentimental about flying the flag, that too in honour of independence day? Is it then Christian sentimentality to have a Christmas tree up during Christmas? Is it Buddhist sentimentality to put up Vesak lanterns?

I've noticed that there is this class of people in Colombo - the 'Colombo Elite', I call them. Anything remotely patriotic is either looked down upon, or laughed at. Why is that? Did they land here just yesterday? Are they not Sri Lankan? People love to preach about how patriotic Indians are, but are faint to actually practice half that patriotism themselves.

Which brings me to my next point: the kalu suddas one finds here. And there are so many of them here. Why is it that these Colombo elite are so proud of the fact that they can't speak/read/write Sinhala (or Tamil, as applicable)? I think it's ridiculous. Even if one attended an international school, surely it doesn't take much to learn at least one out of the two local languages spoken here.

Then you get the other kind (who may speak the languages) - born, bred and buttered in Sri Lanka, they don't know any culture, history or even the geography of the country, save for Odel, the relevant residential neighbourhood and a mandatory down south resort. Nuwareliya as well, if you chance across an advanced kalu sudda. I find it absurd that there are people belonging to this jet-set who can name every alley in Bangkok, but struggles to place Kettarama. Or they could close their eyes and describe the Singapore shopping district, but are at a loss when wondering in which direction Kaduwela is.

The most absurd point is that they are actually proud of their ignorance!! Don't they know that every sane Sri Lankan is laughing at them behind their back? Have we come to such a point that ignorance is so valued?

As ashamed as they are of their country, I think their country is twice as ashamed of them.

20 comments:

It's not so much about being ashamed of your country, it's about being ashamed of the nature of the people you share it with. While it is your personal choice to fly the 'Lion' flag, it is also the personaly choice of those that do not see anything to celebrate to not fly it.

Christmas is a time of joy and giving. But this time it was almost a chore given how difficult celebrating anything except a govt sponsored event has become. I'm not free to move about, so why celebrate a freedome we didn't even have to fight for.

Don't confuse classism with nationalism.

I think you misunderstood. It's not about looking down on those who don't fly the flag - I'm questioning why they look down on me for flying the flag.

Plus, freedom and independance are two different things. I can be independant of colonial masters, but I'm not free to beat someone to a pulp. Freedom, in any country, is curbed by the collective social values, security situ, laws etc. that its governed by. Independance, on the other hand, deals with different kinds of issues. I'm independant from my parents, because I no longer live with them. am I free of them? Hardly. The two words aren't interchangeable.

'Classism' is not knowing anything beyond the Colombo 07 boundaries, nationalism is either flying the flag, or not looking down on those who do.

Interesting post. I myself have no prob with someone displaying the flag, though I do question the need to do it around Independence Day when one doesn't do it the rest of the year. It's as if one has something to prove.

Americans other hand display their glorious Star-Spangled Banner all around year gloriously, every gas station, every fried chicken joint, house, office, and you name it. Not only that, they even go as far as painting their vehicles with American flag, even dress cloth painted with American flag. We Sri Lankans, well, we are not much deferent than Americans. We do wear American flag too.

good post !
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sophist i am sure was glum all these decades and did not celebrate any festival. after all he never forgot all those ppl who cannot celebrate - poor, those under ltte, sick, etc etc . it is not as if he became glum just bc his friends in colombo cocoons cannot celebrate this year.

great..

Well, David, I guess it has to do with some amount of hypocrisy (not sure if that's the right word). Perhaps commercialisation. Like Valentines. It's not that we love people any less on the other 364 days, but it feels good to celebrate something on a particular day, along with scores of other like-minded people.

Sittingnut, it's exactly because of the poor, the IDP's and the general ethos of violence that I don't celebrate Christmas in the same way I looked forward to it as a child. I don't and have never lived in Colombo 7. Do me the favour of not assuming things you know nothing about.

My point is that the current status quo doesn't warrant celebration or even pride. What is there to be proud of. An almost failed state run by a family of demagogues with an official inflation rate of 26%? Personally, I don't think that's worth flying a flag for.

The situation has made the poor poorer, the sick unable to get to hospitals and the economy crumble. Or do you believe CB reports as well? So no....it's not the misfortune of my Colombo 7 friends, because I think they still manage to party quite hard, quite regularly. But then you wouldn't know that because no one ever invites you do they?

QFAP you seem to still have a fairly tunnelled vision of the word 'classist' and 'nationalist'. I suggest you look them up and re read your post.

So why join in that hypocrisy and commercialisation? I myself detest being labeled as unpatriotic because one celebrates the fact that we live in a wonderfully free, just, good, democratic and happy land on a daily basis instead of on Feb 4th.

I'm not sure why your friends look askance at you for flying the flag, but I do tend to question the fact that we're celebrating our exchange of a white Queen and a distant parliament in which we have no say for a brown king and a nearby parliament in which we don't have much say.

Independence is something to be proud of, and frankly what are we proud of here?

Sophist, I'm utterly confused as to why you have taken the post or my comments as a peronal insult on you. for the record, since you brought up both classism and nationalism, perhaps you'd like to define them - one can have tunnel vision regarding an issue, but generally I find it healthy to stick to one accepted meaning of a word.

The dictionary tells me:
class·ism (klszm)
n.
Bias based on social or economic class.

classist adj. & n.

na·tion·al·ism (nsh-n-lzm, nshn-)
n.
1. Devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation.
2. The belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals.
3. Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination.

Yup, those definitions do very well for me and my post.

David, I'm no bouquet of sunshine, but I don't see much harm in seeing the good this country has achieved in the last 60 years for one day, when for the rest 364 days all we do is bitch about the country.

No country is perfect, and like it or not, I was born a Sri Lankan, so I'll have to be happy here.

Plus, we all complain about the government, but firstly, we elected them!! Whichever party or person one voted for, I doubt the box was ticked after thinking about all the issues and the whole country. The Colombo elite cannot think beyond their bank balance and the masses cannot think beyond the rhetoric.

We complain about bribery & corruption, but none of us stop it - we encourage, ignore or indulge in it. Whether it's the big company that pays off the customs officer, or the drunk driver who bribes the cop, we all do it. I've actually dedicated a separate post on the topic under the same heading, so I won't repeat all that here.

In short, we have the country and government we deserve. Until and unless each of us individually stand up for our lofty convictions, this country won't change, so we might as well celebrate it for one day.

(for the record, I stood up against corruption in two jobs and was consequently, the environment was turned into such that I was compelled to leave. Those are private sector MNCs, so frankly, in my books, the government is no better or worse.

Intersting post, made me think a little. There are a number of factors at play here.

To begin with, flying the fag on independence day was something that was started in the mid 1980's. Like a lot of things initiated by politicians, it was, in my opinion, something to distract the general public from more pressing matters. (renaming roads/places is another tactic).

This brings us to a more fundamental question. What exactly is patriotism and how is it connected to its symbolism (the flag, the anthem and other such things).

Symbols are importantant but they should not obscure the deeper meanings of the things that they represent. If we get too carried away with symbolism and forget the underlying thing then we may end up with situations that seem to sweep around Sania Mirza - witness the latest controveries with the Indian flag, not to mention her dress.

The other factor at play is a personal preference for display. I for one consider it bad form to display sentiment or allegiences in public. My car free of all adornment. No stickers, not of the clubs in which I am a member, ornaments, nodding dogs or religious deities.

I would not dream of putting a flag of any sort on my motor, perhaps some others think the same.

Look, I understand your POV that SL isn't perfect, but it's our own fault, but we love it, etc, and I largely agree with you.

But if you bitch about something (or someone) 364 days of the year, don't you feel like a hypocrite on the 365th day if you clap and cheer?

I have no issues with you flying the flag, but you shouldn't take issue with the fact that some people will have an issue with it.

But David, they aren't having an issue with it for the same reason that you are. Calling it 'patriotic sentimentalism' has next to nothing to do with the issues you guys have raised.

I'm not clapping and cheering, but I just feel that some amount of respect should be given to independence day.

Jack, I agree with most of what you've said. I simply never felt that flying the flag on my car would be offensive, simple because this is Sri Lanka. If I flew the Lankan flag in Canada, it would be a different story.

On the issue of the flag, this is something I do find offensive. Perhaps some of you would like to go through it, and send a protest email.

http://theshoatstatements.blogspot.com/2007/08/shame-on-triad.html

That's why I said I didn't know what your friends' reasons were. I told you mine, I'm sure they have their own.

Sure, there are many ways you can show respect for independence day -- the more religious might suggest prayer or meditation, the more praagmatic something that will help ensure our continuing freedoms. Perhaps quiet reflection on the many who've sacrificed their lives for what they believe is freedom -- from oppression, from terror, or whatever. I can think of many ways better than flying a flag -- but a flag's more visible, no?

Maybe that came out a bit pompous. So if you feel proud of independence and wanna fly a flag, go for it. Who am I to say you're wrong?

queen from another planet:
sorry for taking up space
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sophist:
touchy are we? i was poking fun at absurdity of your comment
but truth hurts, and you want to be serious .lets.

you as usual miss the point.
let clear up what i did say to get to the point

did i say you lived in colombo 7? no (i do know where you live btw but that is not relevant, i am mentioning that bc you are accusing me of assuming things when i did no such thing )

i did say your friends live in colombo cocoons ( and implied they were like the ppl mentioned in main post ) . which is true .
they do construct cocoons removed from the reality of sl existence and get into hysterics and act glum ( as you are doing here) only when their cocoons get punched

if they and you are not in cocoons and so concerned about everyone's well being, you would have not have celebrated for decades not just this year . you are in such glum mood this year ( your word )bc your cocoons are being taken down.

care to tell me when there were no corrupt politicians in helm in sri lanka ( or anywhere else for that matter ) ? when there were no economic problems ( here or elsewhere)? all that is part of life

but all is no gloom, then or now.

inflation is high but economy is growing (and it is not just sl cb that is saying this, if you disagree you have to come up wilh data from respected sources, all which agree with cb for most part.) fight against ltte terrorist has grown in intensity and ppl die, but east is free of ltte direct oppression ( and deaths and suffering due to that ) and there is hope that north will be too . etc etc

that is why ppl did celebrate christmas and independence and other festivals, then and now

you are glum this year and with present conditions bc your colombo friends are feeling insecure bc they have backed losing side ( in several fields not just politically)

that was the point .

"But then you wouldn't know that because no one ever invites you do they?
:-) how immature can you get !

Hang on, I don't find flying the flag on your car offensive. What you do is upto you entirely.

I'm just saying that I would'nt do it both becasue of my personal philosophy (I don't like labels/badges of any kind, not even on my clothes - I try to avoid manufacturers tags/labels as well) plus because I feel the moment politicians put their foot in it the sentiment is tainted.

It is this politicised 'patriotism' that I don't like. This is simplified patriotism, where smbols are equated with the underlying thing that they are supposed to represent. And it is this that Johnson was railing against when he said:

“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

-Samuel Johnson- (English Poet, Critic and Writer. 1709-1784)

to which American philosopher Ralph Barton Perry (1876-1957) added:

“If patriotism is "the last refuge of a scoundrel," it is not merely because evil deeds may be performed in the name of patriotism, but because patriotic fervor can obliterate moral distinctions altogether”

I postred it s as comment here:

http://themadcatwoman.blogspot.com/2008/01/temper-rising.html

On Traid and the flag:

This is an example of what I was talking of.

The symbol has seemingly been equated to what it represents.

What exactly is patriotism: To be a law abidng citizen? To pay ones taxes in full and on time?

According to wikipedia "Patriotism denotes positive and supportive attitudes to a 'fatherland' (Latin patria < Greek patris, πατρίς), by individuals and groups. The 'fatherland' (or 'motherland') can be a region or a city, but patriotism usually applies to a nation and/or a nation-state. Patriotism covers such attitudes as: pride in its achievements and culture, the desire to preserve its character and the basis of the culture, and identification with other members of the nation"

Can one become a patriot simply by hoisting the national flag, oblivious to everything that it is supposed to represent?

One may pose the question: does patriotism to the nation-state have much meaning in an increasingly globalised world? Would it be better, just for the argument, to align oneself with mankind as whole or the entirety of humanity rather than just a nation-state? Or perhaps subscribe to some universal values or ideals of humanity instead?

jack point:
you are going off in a tangent .

patriotism can be abused like all things. but does that mean everyone who appeals to patriotism and decry the attitude of "kalu suddas" wrong? no

if you read post you will see the blogger here has not equated "symbol to what it represents." and in fact understands what it is and what it represents quite clearly .

and as far as equating goes, it can cut both ways . why do you not wear the flags etc ? is that not because you have equated flag with what it represent, and you do not like that ?

talking of "moral distinctions" aren't you the one who recently admitted in indi's blog that you would forget all moral considerations and sufferings of sri lankans as long as you have "peace"?
http://www.indi.ca/2008/02/the-paucity-of-prabhakaran/

"does patriotism to the nation-state have much meaning in an increasingly globalised world? Would it be better, just for the argument, to align oneself with mankind as whole or the entirety of humanity rather than just a nation-state? Or perhaps subscribe to some universal values or ideals of humanity instead?"
for one thing world has not globalized that much yet . read the news.
second globalization of trade is different from globalization of culture. only kalu suddas will think otherwise.
third ppl when they compete ( and globalized economy will be one big competition ) mostly do so through groups( nations companies etc etc ) . and it will never be the entire humanity in one group.unless there are unlimited resources which will never be the case
there cannot never be universal value system because values are not absolute but are always relative. only way to impose that kind of system will be through force ,
and above all will be the individual.
-
when you make an argument understand the argument from sides, instead of copy and pasting things you do not understand . :-)

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