This is a guest post by s.o.muffin
Like many others intermittently blogging, I have been driven to this strange activity by manifest shortcomings of mass media, political parties and the commentariat. It is thus only fair to raise a hand and acknowledge when all the above collectively got something more-or-less right.
In the last few weeks we have witnessed the climax of the long conflict in Sri Lanka. Although I didn’t undertake any wide-ranging study, my impression is that the mass media (those who spared the time from really important issues, like the impending Jordan’s divorce ) and commentators:
• Didn’t anoint one side to the dispute as totally in the right and didn’t delegitimise the other as devil incarnate. They did see that awful conflict for what it obviously was: an ethnic dispute in which rights and wrongs are shared.
• Didn’t attempt to explain the conflict under an overarching slogan of “fight against imperialism” or “fight against terrorism”. Didn’t see it as a conflict between Buddhism and Hinduism. Didn’t scan holy books of either religion to explain the misdeeds committed by either side. Didn’t search under the bed for well-funded Sinhalese lobby or suspect that Tamil residents of UK harbour a secret plot to establish Hindutva on these shores.
• Didn’t have a dog in the race, a dog that is supposed to fight to the last drop of its canine blood to entertain pundits in London and environs and make them feel good about themselves.
• Didn’t preach academic boycott or cricket boycott of either party, didn’t write plays titled “Seven Tamil Children” or “Seven Sinhalese Children”, didn’t send shroud-waving aid convoys to Puthukkudiyiruppu or Mullivaikal – if they really wanted to help, a donation to Red Cross was seen as a more appropriate course of action.
• Didn’t essentialise the awful war crimes of both sides by appealing to their intrinsic wickedness, their religion, their history, their historically-damaged psyche – instead, they have viewed it as an appalling, yet unsurprising, consequence of a long and bitter ethnic conflict.
• Didn’t confuse the necessary opposition to breaches of human rights – breaches that should be always opposed and punished – with the imperative of two communities to share the same island in legitimacy, peace, equality and mutual respect, eventually healing the wounds of the conflict.