By Niranjan Canagasooryam –
Long Distance Nationalism – Dangerous For Sri Lanka Reasoning behind the behaviour of the Sri Lankan diaspora
For the objective of this post, I refer to the Sri Lankan diaspora as these Sri Lankans who have migrated to a foreign country permanently and not these who are temporarily working or residing in foreign nations. Estimates suggest that the total Sri Lankan diaspora amounts to roughly two million, of which, it is estimated about 1.two million are of Tamil ethnicity and 800,000 of Sinhalese ethnicity.
A sizeable proportion of the Tamil diaspora migrated following the black July riots in 1983 exactly where they fled in worry for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The ensuing migration was the result of the ongoing civil war that posed poor living conditions and a continuous fear for security. This group of the Tamil diaspora are scarred with tragic tales and horrific memories of the darker side of Sri Lanka’s previous resulting in mixed emotions. Externally they bear deep hatred and open anger towards the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) for being the sole explanation that they fled their motherland. Internally, they feel what I refer to as “survivor’s guilt” when feeling privileged for achieving material accomplishment in their adoptive nations, they are also faced with the guilt for the fate of the much less fortunate loved ones members, community and homeland that they had left behind. In wrestling with this guilt, this section of the Tamil diaspora strongly voice out on GOSL who are overly nationalistic and a single that still fails to pay heed to the plight of the Tamils living in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
The majority of the Sinhalese diaspora migrated to seek economic accomplishment and upon reaching material good results, they feel something which I refer to as “wealth seeker’s guilt” exactly where they really feel the enduring guilt for leaving behind their motherland in order to accomplish material success and even unfairly lampooned as shallow wealth seekers. In wrestling with their personal demons, they support governments that strongly toe on nationalistic lines with anti-west sentiments.
The frequent complex faced by both ethnicities of the diaspora, is that they endure getting the perpetual outsider in white-dominated Christian societies, even though, the tide is turning with some moving into mainstream political life in their adoptive countries.
Dangers of Extended Distance Nationalism
While nationalism is an adored patriotic emotion, extended distance nationalism can pose numerous threats as it eludes reality at the grass-root level. Nowadays, the web creates a sense of immediacy for an idealised ‘homeland’ with no the wisdom of real lived expertise. This means that passions of expatriate communities can be very easily inflamed as the diaspora wrestle with their personal alienation and demons. Person nationalistic values are rooted from an individual’s own experiences as such, it is apparent that there will be conflicting values or sentiments for each and every group. This is perhaps why George Orwell commented that nationalism is ‘the worst enemy of peace’.
The Sri Lankan diasporas do not vote in Sri Lanka, and rightly so, as all politics are eventually regional. Democratic politics is rooted in the ground realities of municipality and townships and not in imaginary suggestions and hankering for an idyllic Sri Lankan from thousands of miles away. GOSL fortunes are not going to be decided in Toronto or London, so why it is important for GOSL to toil for excellent relations with the diaspora community?
Expatriate communities usually tend to be far far more conservative than domestic ones, precisely since the assaults on self-esteem are so wonderful in adoptive nations. The Zionist cause was, and is, championed by American Jews the Khalistan demand was run by expatriate Sikhs in Canada several Irish Americans supported these in Ireland waging war for the Irish identity and similarly at house, the LTTE received path, leadership and funding from Tamils residing in western societies. This distinctively demonstrates the danger of the pertaining strength of nationalism from the diaspora who frequently confuse the values of self to these of the nation.
The GOSL requirements to engage with the diaspora and continuing to ignore their existence or failing to be far more inclusive, can grow to be an exercising in polarising society rather than uniting it. In essence, it is pertinent that the GOSL ensures that the sentiments of Sri Lankans living in Sri Lanka is also migrated to the diaspora. In reality, long distance nationalism is unsafe for Sri Lanka and it is in this context the GOSL ought to have an inclusive method exactly where it embraces all stakeholders of Sri Lanka even the diaspora and in return these stakeholders ought to cease putting an “I just before Sri Lanka”.