Activism, a change from within

The Nation Free

It is our responsibility and duty to promote change when there is a need for change. Many of us know of causes worth fighting for, and enjoy taking part in the process of making a change. When Obama said, “Yes, we can” emphasis was put on the word we. Look at the world, there are billions of people living on Earth. If you take a country, there are million there. A state or province has thousands. A town has hundreds. A neighborhood has tens and a house has a handful. And that handful is made of individuals.

Thus the world is a canvas with pin-point dots on it. The canvas may seem like one splash of paint, but if you start taking each of those points away, the canvas will soon be bare. Thus every one of us makes a difference even though sometimes, it doesn’t seem that way. We feel so insignificant, even though we aren’t.

This is why change demands the efforts of each individual. At first, no one spoke about homosexuality and people didn’t dare demand the recognition of homosexuals as human beings. Slowly, someone voiced his opinions and then another did. One by one, voices were heard and soon, entire communities stood up. People slowly began to accept that homosexuality wasn’t an abnormality, that who you loved didn’t make you less human and that these were human beings who should be treated like human beings. Today, certain states and countries have legalized gay marriage, and a fight for the legalization of both homosexuality and gay marriage is taking place worldwide.

Thus the changes we see today, the rights won, the recognition given, weren’t magically handed over to us. People fought for them, risking their lives. We were told to dream and fight for our dreams.

This is why activism is important. We all dream of a Utopia. This isn’t about a political Utopia, but a world where everyone is happy, where there is no injustice. A perfect world isn’t possible to create for various reasons, however we can change our image or idea of what perfection is.

However, it is one thing to fight for our dreams and another to fight against other people. Our freedom ends where another’s nose begins, the saying goes. Thus we must make sure our fights are passive and not aggressive. Many say Gandhi used a method of passive aggression. However, hunger strikes aren’t non-violent. You are inflicting pain on your self, and encouraging others to inflict pain on them selves too. Thus violent protests where a riot police is needed or hunger strikes aren’t answers to life’s many problems. This is why we must be careful about our method of fighting for our dreams.

You must be also cautious about what you fight for. Violence, hate and anger are not things that need to be promoted. Work towards a world of love, kindness and happiness. During a time when awareness campaigns are a many, you can have your pick of what cause to fight for. And no matter how small a donation or how quiet a voice you have, you matter. Your effort matters.

The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph taken of Earth from six billion kilometers away by Voyager 1 in 1996. Carl Sagan, an astronomer, shared his views of the photograph and what it meant to him like this:

“Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

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On human rights, love and language


The violation of Human Rights happens around the globe. Often, we don’t even know about this breach, because we aren’t aware of our rights. This simple illustration will help you know and understand your rights. And through this, we hope you can fight for your rights, and those of other people. We also hope that through this awareness, we all can stop stepping on each other’s toes and instead respect each other’s rights http://maxcdn.zenpencils.com/comics/2013-10-16-humanrightsfinal.jpg
No matter in which country it happens, breaches of human rights are rampant during wars. Dennis B.Wilson cleverly illustrates the futility of war in his poem, “Elegy of a Common Soldier”. We were moved by an extract found on http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10040535.Extract_from_Elegy_of_a_Common_Soldier__by_Dennis_B_Wilson_/
It is true that we cannot go back and eliminate the wrongdoings we have done to ourselves and to fellow human beings. First of all we should forgive ourselves, as this beautiful quote illustrates.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world
until we make peace with ourselves.”
Another way to make amends is to understand the suffering behind those who hurt us.
“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
In both attempts, we arrive face to face with one of the greatest powers of all; the power of love. Linus Pauling, the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel prizes to date; one for Chemistry(1954) and the other for Peace(1962), expresses this view in his words.
“I believe that there is a greater power in the world than the evil power of military force, of nuclear bombs — there is the power of good, of morality, of humanitarianism.”
-Linus Pauling
The reason for this is beautifully expressed in another quote we came across.
“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.
Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”
—Bacha Khan
Language is one of the mediums through which we can express the power of good stored within our hearts. In this light, we herald the following attempt by the government.
“Sinhala and Tamil are used as official languages and English is used as the reticular language in multi ethnic Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is important for Sri Lankans to gain expertise in the three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English. One of the aims of the ten year work plan of the government towards a trilingual Sri Lanka is to enhance national and social collaboration among the messes by giving knowledge on the three languages to all the citizens. In line with the work plan launched by the government for a trilingual Sri Lanka, a practical Trilingual Dictionary was compiled with the initiation of the Department of Official Languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English.”
J.C. Ranepura, Official languages Commissioner
 
The dictionary can be downloaded for free on http://www.trilingualdictionary.lk/

Language; shame and comfort

Sri Lankan websites, especially those of government organizations, are rarely up to date. We can’t rely on many of them for the latest news, although I must admit, they are extremely helpful. However, the most important and striking aspect of these websites is the language options they offer. To be honest, I have never chosen the Sinhala or Tamil option, although if I was to write a story in Sinhala or Tamil, I would definitely spend more time on those pages.
If you look at the Wikipedia page of our nation, it says the official languages of the country are Sinhala and Tamil. English isn’t our mother tongue, and very few can speak English fluently. However, we all learn the language in school. We sadly seem to have forgotten though, that English is a foreign language to us and ridicule or look down on people who aren’t fluent in the language or those who don’t have a grasp of it.
One day, I was at a food court, with my mother, and it was crowded but we wanted ice cream so we had to share a table with two men. Now these two were in the middle of a business deal, which they were discussing in Sinhala. They had also not yet bought any food. So a very young security officer walked up to our table and told these two men that they had to order something, since it was a FOOD court and there were so many people looking for a place to sit. The security officer spoke to them in Sinhala. Suddenly, one of the men started scolding the security officer in English… Wait, in broken English. The security officer clearly didn’t know a lot of English and repeated his ‘request’ in Sinhala. The man shouted him further and as if to insult him, bought a single samosa, which no one ate.
Recently, I went to the American Center for a work related assignment. The security ‘hut’ you have to go through to get into the American Center is there to test one’s mental status. It is that confusing. Anyway, I’m not quite good with places and finding my way, so I asked one of the guards, in Sinhala, where the reading was taking place. And he replied in English and kept talking to me in English. Which I had no issue with since the man clearly knew the language.
However, why did he insist on talking to me in English? Surely, he knew Sinhala or could manage to talk a few words in Sinhala. So why do we assume that talking in English makes us seem more educated or as if we come from a ‘good’ family. This is the sad truth and we can’t deny not contributing to such beliefs.
A recent tweet about this issue received a good reply from a friend.

 

And it hit me that yes; I too prefer talking in English. Whenever I have to call someone for work related things, I hope and pray he or she speaks English. This is also because if they talk in Sinhala I have to translate what they say. But mainly because I’m more confident with my English than my Sinhala.
Which is a shame because for eleven years of my thirteen years in school, I studied in Sinhala. Further, I keep complaining about how Sri Lankans didn’t like their Sri Lankanness. So there was no excuse for me to prefer talking in English, for me to avoid Sinhala.
Then I thought about it. There was a difference between comfort and shame. Sure I was more comfortable talking in English. However, this didn’t mean I was ashamed of my Sinhala. While I would rather talk in English, if I needed to, I could always talk in Sinhala. And slowly, I was beginning to talk more in Sinhala.
As a Sri Lankan, I think, one must know at least two languages. It comes naturally for most of us. And we mustn’t use our knowledge against people.
I’ll end with two authors I interviewed recently. They are both Sri Lankan authors, both Sinhalese. One was a male, the other, a female. The male writes in both Sinhala and English, while I doubt the female writes in Sinhala. Both interviews were at the homes of the authors, and I was accompanied by the same cameraman. And usually these aren’t question and answer sessions, but conversations.
Punyakante Wijenaike
She asked us about our own opinions, which was nice. But she asked them in English. Now the cameraman doesn’t speak English, so he kept quiet. Since I talk to him in Sinhala, the person being interviews usually gets the hint and switches to Sinhala. Not Wijenaike, who kept talking in English, making us all uncomfortable.
He would talk to me in English, and during the conversation ask the cameraman questions in Sinhala. About books, whether he reads and so on. So it was a very nice conversation where all three of us had a nice chat.
I think the way the two authors handled the situations says a lot about the people they are. While I enjoyed both interviews, and I enjoyed writing both stories, one author I respect more than the other.

Constellations

Look!
Nangi, you aren’t looking.
There, right there
It’s a constellation
Point your finger toward the sky
Your arm stretched
Like my arm.
Now slowly and carefully
Follow my finger,
Trace the stars with me
And unveil what it hides
The bear maybe,
Isn’t that your favorite
Constellation?
Or is it the scorpion?
Trace the stars
And I will tell you a story.
A deep dark secret

You see, Nangi,
Once there was a constellation
There was a mother star,
A father star,
Three child stars
One day the mother star left
For the desert lands
She had to light up the sandy acres
You mayn’t understand
But the mother star had to
Work hard to keep
Her family happy
So the constellation was missing a star
But they went on
Then the father star left too
He was needed elsewhere
Understand this, my dear,
You are too young, I know
But he didn’t go to kill
Even though that’s what
The other kids say
No, the father star went to
Fight for his country
But he’s yet to come home
Like one of the child stars
He stepped on something bad
And he blew out
The way all stars do at the end.
But he blew out at too young an age.

The two star constellation
Was lost, alone and scared
They stopped being a constellation
Of their own
And instead joined this constellation
And that constellation
Until, there was no where else to go
But no matter what happened
No matter how hard times got
The brother star
Never stopped loving
The sister star
And the sister star never
Left her brother’s side
And even when the dark was
So incredibly dark,
They kept shining,
They didn’t let the world
Pull them apart
Nangi, the story doesn’t end there
Our stories are too long
And too unique
To say it all at once.
But remember,
Don’t let the night sky scare you
And don’t let the bright sky
Blind you
Nangi, don’t leave the constellation
It may be difficult to stay,
But it’s even worse to leave.

Poem By Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Image By http://taenadoman.deviantart.com/

On speaking In Sinhala

සිංහලෙන් කතා කිරීම ලැජ්ජාවට කරුණක් නොවේ. සිංහල දන්නා කෙනෙකුට ලැජ්ජා වීමටද හේතුවක් නැත. එහෙත්, අප රටේම කරුමෙකට මෙන් සිංහල දෙමල කතා කරන කෙනෙක් ගොඩේ ලෙස සලකයි. ඉංග්රීසියෙන් කතා කරන විට කුඩා හෝ වැරැද්දක් සිදු වුණාම ඒ වැරැද්ද නිවැරදි කරනවා වෙනුවට, අපේ අය ඒ වැරැද්දට සිනා සෙනවා. මේ හේතුව නිසා සෙමින් සෙමින්, සිංහල දෙමල කතා කරන අය සුදු රෙදි හොරෙක් තරමට, දැකීමට අමාරු අය බවට පත්වී ඇත. “අහ් ඔබට සිංහල කතා කරන්න පුළුවන්නේ කියා අප කියන්නේ පුදුමයෙනි. කොළඹ ඇවිදින විට සිංහල වචනයක්වත් ඇහෙන්නේ කලාතුරකිනි. කොළඹ ඉස්කෝලෙකට ගිය අයෙකු මේ ලොවටම අයත් නැති accent වලින් කතා කරනවිට සිංහල පමණක් කතා කරන අයට ලැජ්ජාවක් දැනෙනවා. මේ ලැජ්ජාව ඔවුන්ගේ දුර්වලතාවයක් නොව, අනෙක් අයගේ ලාමක ගතිගුනයකි. මෙවැනි ගතිගුණ නැති කර දැමීම ලෙහෙසියෙන් කල හැකි දෙයක් නොවේ. අපිට මේ ගැන දහසක් දෙනෙකුට කිව හැකිය. blog posts දහසක් ලිව හැකිය. එහෙත් අපට කල හැක්කේ අශ්වයාව වතුර ගාවට ගෙන යාම පමණි. ඔවුන්ට වතුර පෙවීමට නොහැක. සිංහල හෝ දෙමල කියා දිය හැකිය. කතා කිරීමටද කිව හැකිය. එහෙත් කතා කිරීම ඔවුන් සතුය.