Category Archives: pragmatism

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 15

The fifteenth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation). 

In this article, we would be looking at another important lesson from Nelson Mandela. (Refer installment 4 and installment 14 for more)
Nelson Mandela holds up his clenched fist in triumph the day after his release from prison in 1990 after 27 years at the age of 72. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

“Nothing is black or white”-Nelson Mandela
Life is never either/or. Decisions we make are always complex, and there are competing factors. To look for simple explanations is the bias of the human brain, but it doesn’t correspond to reality. Nothing is as straightforward as it appears. In our lives, we find many situations that require decisions. Be it a simple yes/no or a complex answer, we still have decisions to make. When we attempt to find the answer, how do we approach? Do we analyze the situation and approach in a pragmatic manner or do we approach in a solely idealistic manner? It should be noted that though Mandela was an idealist, he was a pragmatic idealist. We find that each and every problem has many roots. While Mandela was indisputably and clearly against the apartheid, the causes of the apartheid were complex. They were historical, sociological and psychological. Nelson’s calculation was always: what is the end I seek, and what is the most practical way to get there?
The civil conflict of Sri Lanka has many causes. Most of us know only a few and as a result we do not have a clear understanding of the issue. As citizens of Sri Lanka, we should gather information and clarify our doubts. It means being unbiased and obtaining knowledge on the conflict. This is not easy. People are usually driven by emotions. The country needs leaders who can control their emotions and approach issues in an intellectual manner. We need to sharpen our minds to find practical solutions to problems. The country has several intellectual leaders whose ideas are often termed ‘out of the world’. As future leaders we should be able to develop the skill of coming up with practical solutions. We should not lose sight of our vision. It is the cause that should drive a person. When the vision of the cause becomes blurred, the journey towards the goal becomes difficult. It is important to always remind yourself of the cause you stand for, and make wise decisions that would benefit both the cause and the people.