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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

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Depression and development

Sri Lanka's statistics on the fast-spreading worldwide mental disability of depression are worrying and call for immediate remedial action. A front page news report by us yesterday said that one percent of the local population suffers from serious depression, while some ten percent are afflicted with minor depression. The inference that should be drawn is that in addition to the considerable mentally-afflicted persons in our Mental Hospitals, there is around ten percent potentially psychotic persons in Sri Lanka at any given time.

It is difficult to ascertain whether Sri Lanka has been registering a steep increase in the incidence of mental disorders over the years, on account of the unavailability of relevant statistics for quick reference, but we would do well not to lose sight of the fact that around 20 years ago, Sri Lanka registered the highest daily suicide toll globally. Accordingly, it should not come as a surprise if mental disease is widespread locally.

Sri Lankans are unusually prone to emotional disorders and this is the message that must be received and pondered upon as we go about our chores in these post-conflict times.

On a cursory assessment of current societal developments it could be said that conciliatory attitudes need to be inbred in local culture if we are to have less persons who are vulnerable to emotional disorders.

We do not seem to have a substantial substratum of such values, despite this country laying claim to having within its fold the world's greatest religions. Certainly, formal religion is flourishing in Sri Lanka, but this does not necessarily translate into spiritual development, which is one of the best guarantees against emotional disorders.

The state has chosen to enter into a process of reconciliation with those who, at one time, took up arms against it and this approach seems to be working fine with one-time LTTE cadres who do not stand accused of serious offences, but the same could not be said of all the multifarious social and political forces in our midst.

For instance, there is the ongoing strike by university Dons, which is reportedly affecting well over 300,000 local families, since an undergraduate languishing at home in a state of despair, as a result of the closure of universities, affects the morale of an entire family and drives them too into great distress of mind.

We do not see why reconciliation and a process of dialogue cannot be allowed to flourish between the parties to this prolonged strike because no conflict should be seen as beyond resolution, provided a spirit of understanding prevails.

Accordingly, it is of the first importance that a culture of reconciliation and understanding is made to prosper locally. In fact, such a spirit is closely bound-up with democratic development, although this link is not immediately noticeable.

Thus far, paeans have been sung to local democracy by particularly our political and social elite, but it is not clearly understood that democracy cannot be reduced to the mere exercise of the franchise by the people. Rather, it is a sign of democratic maturity or development that parties and forces in a polity give priority to dialogue and consensuality as the means of resolving disputes among them. If this is not happening, we could not be said to be in the possession of democratic maturity and development.

Politics and social development cannot be compartmentalized. Constructive politics, conducted in a spirit of reconciliation, with the national interest in mind, would bring about social peace, which in turn would help in creating citizens of emotional stability. Thus, democratic maturity and mental health are closely intertwined and should be seen as having a close bearing on each other.

We are not being idealistic by saying this. In the countries with flourishing democracies, the social good is placed above short-term political gain by political actors. In such societies, reconciliation is seen as the vital cement that binds the polity and holds it together. We urge our political actors to think on these things and do what is needed to advance the cause of social wholeness and emotional stability.

SWRD Bandaranaike - a political assessment

In the early hours of the morning of September 26, 1959, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the then Prime Minister, was assassinated by a monk, Talduwe Somarama. With this event, perhaps a new political culture of assassinations emerged in Sri Lanka's political horizon.

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The Human Dimension

Oh,  to listen to the language the way it was meant to be spoken...

Like most of my generation, I am an avid fan of the chart topper period drama 'Downton Abbey' which chronicles the lives of Lord Grantham and his family living at the stately home Downton Abbey during the early part of the 20th century.

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Individual effort is paramount in conserving the environment

Most environmentalists believe that the positive attitudes and opinions towards the environment are strongly connected to eco-friendly behaviour and actions. Though it has been debated whether awareness affects attitude or attitude affects awareness, it is important to note that after developing an attitude, the awareness in terms of recognizing and observing different things about the topic comes into picture. This is especially valid for a country like ours where environmental issues are increasingly gaining understanding,

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Eric Swan - daring wildlife photographer

Exactly 61 years ago on September 18, 1951, Eric Swan was killed by a wild elephant while he was photographing. Being a student of Lionel Wendt, he was a well-known wildlife photographer at the time. His exhibitions in our country and abroad were very popular.

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