Daily News Online
Ad Space Available HERE  

DateLine Tuesday, 13 January 2009

News Bar »

News: Mass exodus expected ...        Political: SB receives step-motherly treatment from UNP, says Saliya ...       Business: Airtel invests $100m on network ...        Sports: Mendis, Kulasekara bowl Lanka to win ...






Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

A little bit of modern history

A Cabinet Minister of Britain once described an Asian leader as the “best bloody Englishman east of Suez.” There were two other likely candidates who could have easily filled that role, but he had only one person in mind.

The likely candidates I nominate are Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Soloman West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike and Harry Lee. The last I think is in disguise, but that is how Lee Kuan Yew was known in his Cambridge days and he was the man the Cabinet Minister had in mind.

If Thomas Babington Macaulay were to hear of these goings-on he would be congratulating himself on having succeeded with his notorious minute on what education should do to produce ‘a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.’

Asian leaders

All three names mentioned above are included in Samuel P. Huntington’s insightful book, The Clash of Civilisations, as examples of Asian leaders who “were brilliant graduates of Oxford, Cambridge and Lincoln’s Inn...superb lawyers and thoroughly Westernised members of the elite of their societies.”

And the surprise was that, and possibly much to the chagrin of Macaulay, when they returned home they changed their names, like Lee Kuan Yew who dropped Harry from his name, changed their garbs like Bandaranaike did and discarded their secular views like the Saville Row clad Jinnah, who was a confirmed secularist only to become an Islamist although, as reported, he could not read the Koran.

They were not doing these things to further their political ambitions as most of us may suspect, they were only behaving according to a certain pattern that is now unfolding, says Huntington.


But before we come to take a look at Huntington’s vision I cannot move on without dealing a little more with the remark of that British Cabinet Minister about somebody being the ‘best bloody Englishman east of Suez.’ I see that there are many more than one, especially among us here in Sri Lanka. If someone were to make a survey he may find that we in Sri Lanka have, comparatively speaking, the largest number of that ‘best bloody’ breed mentioned above.

And they, unlike the three mentioned by Huntington, may or may not be products of Oxford, Cambridge, Lincoln’s Inn or even Sorbonne, but, nonetheless, they try to be English to their fingertips. We can see this in an interesting remark Huntington makes about the political situation here. “Democracy in Sri Lanka enabled the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to throw out the Western-oriented, elitist United National Party in 1956 and provided opportunity for the rise of the Jathika Chintanaya Sinhalese nationalist movement in the 1980s.”

And at the moment there is now going on a struggle in the same ‘Western-oriented, elitist United National Party’ to shed the Western-oriented elitism side of this party and take on a more national garb.

There are quite a few among them who do display this even now; it is the elitism and the orientation, however, that have to go. Now this is exactly the pattern that Huntington is seeing coming up in nearly all the former colonies of the Western Imperialists - the emergence of a jathika chintanaya.

Huntington also sees a parallel to what is going on here in South Africa. Following the introduction of democratic institutions in South Africa a black elite is now in power, he says. This is likely to give way if, as he terms it, ‘a second generation antagonization factor’ operates. Then their successors will be ‘much more Xhosha, Zulu and African in outlook and South Africa will increasingly define itself as an African state.’

The second generation antagonization factor he talks of may be seen here as the group that is now propounding the jathika chintanaya and are waiting in the wings to succeed the first generation of indigenisers who were led by Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike.

Second factor

The second factor that Huntington talks about is the return of religion. It was assumed all along that modernisation and the advance of science would finally educate mankind not to go believing in myths and superstitions. But these very same ideals, or as Huntington puts it, “what was supposed to cause the death of religion (were) the processes of social, economic and cultural modernisation.”

In support he quotes Lee Kuan Yew: “We are agricultural societies that have industrialised within one or two generations. What happened in the West over 200 years ago or more is happening here in about 50 years or less.

It is all crammed and crushed into a tight time frame, so there are bound to be dislocations and malfunctions. If you look at the fast growing countries - Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore - there has been one remarkable phenomenon: the rise of religion...The old customs and religions - ancestor worship and shamanism - no longer completely satisfy. There is a quest for some higher explanations about man’s purpose about why we are here. This is associated with periods of great stress in society.”

World powers

Huntington’s attention is also drawn towards what is happening in Western societies. It has taken 400 years for Western states to reach, he says, the acme of their development and the acquisition of world dominance, and now it appears that there are signs of the decline of the West. It may, however, take another 400 years to reach the bottom. This is in keeping with the views of another European prophet, Oswald Spengler, who in fact titled the book he wrote before the First World War, TheDecline of the West.

An interesting example of coming signs given by Huntington is the meeting that took place between the then world powers who gathered to share the spoils from that first world conflagration.

There were only three then - America, Britain and France. “Sitting in Paris they determined what countries would exist and which would not, what new countries would be created, what their boundaries would be and who would rule them, and how the Middle East and other parts of the world would be divided up between the victorious powers.” Another thing they decided on was on a military intervention in Russia where a revolution had broken out. And the other was to force China to grant economic concessions.

Western powers

If such a gathering of powers were to take place today to determine what should be done with the world there would be double that number representing the Western powers would be facing across the table, China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Iran and probably Japan.

He ends this speculation by saying that there was a time before the 19th century when the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Ottomans, Moguls and Russians “were highly confident of their strength and achievements compared to those of the West. At these times they were also contemptuous of the cultural inferiority, institutional backwardness, corruption and decadence of the West; as the success of the West fades relatively, such attitudes reappear.”

Huntington places his hopes in the new era we are moving into. The ‘progressive era,’ as the present has been described by another critic he quotes who completes his quotation with, ‘it moves hopefully, into an era in which multiple civilisations will interact, compete, coexist and accommodate each other.’ So much the better if that happens, but man being proud man:

Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d,

His glassy essence, like an angry ape,

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,

As make the angels weep.

- Shakespeare

A few thousand years ago an Indian epic, the Vishnu Purana gave us a picture of the future - the world we are in now, the last of the four aeons and pin-points what really our troubles are. After dipping into The Clash Of Civilizations And The Remaking Of World Order (the full title of the book) I took a dip into the Vishnu Purana and came away with a passage that may interest the thoughtful reader:

“When society reaches a stage where property confers rank, wealth becomes the only source of virtue, passion the sole bond of union between husband and wife, falsehood the source of success, sex the only means of enjoyment and when outer trappings are confused with inner religion...” this is the Kali Yuga, the last stage in the human cycle of existence and the outcome.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
ANCL TENDER for CT Machines with Online Processors
Donate Now | defence.lk
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka

| News | Editorial | Business | Features | Political | Security | Sport | World | Letters | Obituaries |

Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2009 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor