By Jude Fernando –
Against Sexism, Racism, Homophobia, Ageism, and Ableism: Sri Lanka Demands a Ministry of Inclusion and Diversity – Component I
The myth of integration as propounded beneath the banner of the liberal ideology have to be cracked due to the fact it makes men and women think that one thing is being achieved when in reality the artificially integrated circles are a soporific to the blacks although saving the consciences of the handful of guilt-stricken whites. – Steve Biko
It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which signifies it is as well sturdy. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too considerably cream in it, you will not even know you ever had coffee. It utilised to be hot, it becomes cool. It employed to be robust, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep – Malcolm X
“We grow to be not a melting pot but a stunning mosaic. Different folks, various beliefs, distinct yearnings, diverse hopes, various dreams.”- Jimmy Carter
What does it imply to be a human in a multicultural society such as Sri Lanka, a nation comprised of groups with culturally, historically, and territorially distinct identities, and with a history of contentious relations among them? This ought to be the central question for all efforts to generate excellent governance (Yahapalanya) and domestic mechanisms of accountability and reconciliation. Here, I applaud President Maithripala Sirisena strategy to eradicate corruption and formulate a code of conduct for Parliamentarians his recognition in his Independence Day speech (unprecedented in the history of such speeches given that Independence) of the failures of the reconciliation approach, and his guarantee to rectify them.
The President’s efforts will succeed only if he supplements them with a extensive broad-based plan to develop a culture of inclusive governance by establishing a specific ‘mindset’ – a critical awareness of, and basic changes in the way society thinks about race, gender, age, physical capacity, and sexuality. Why do we want to engage in such a reassessment? Basically put, they shape our identities and relationships that inform our perceptions of the root causes of sexism, homophobia, ableism ageism, and racism that produce and reinforce social stereotypes, oppressive power differentials, prejudice, discrimination and violence. These are also major sources of xenophobia and conspiracy theories that survived the previous regime and continue to threaten the stability of the present regime, and prevent society from productive engagement with the domestic social, financial, political troubles and international concerns with regards to the country’s human rights abuses.
Arguably, these ignorant of and complicit with racism, sexism and homophobia are probably to hero-worship these leaders who uphold such negative attributes and do not have qualms about getting them holding essential leadership positions in society. Without addressing these instruments of domination, the existing or any future governments can’t expect to fulfill its guarantee of good governance, stability, and reconciliation. We cannot take for granted the meanings and social functions of race, gender, and sexuality as fixed in time and location. They are in a continual approach of becoming, therefore, they warrant reassessment of their social impacts. This is a multi-pronged, multi-layered procedure that should occur at the person and institutional levels in each and every community within the nation.
To this end, I propose a new Ministry of Inclusion and Diversity (MID). The MID must replace the redundant Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration (MLSI). The MNLSI lacked a clear vision and technique. It lacked clarity as to the which means of integration with respect to the specific realities of Sri Lanka’s multicultural society. Its narrow concentrate on ethnicity and language, and the ways in which it conflated integration with multiculturalism, created it irrelevant to the lives of its citizens and assist the post-war reconciliation, excellent governance, and transitional justice efforts. The MNLS functioned as a smokescreen for the Rajapaksa regime to disguise its prejudicial and discriminatory ethnonationalist and national safety policies that endangered post-war transitional justice and peaceful coexistence of distinct cultural communities of the nation.
With out a clear vision of multiculturalism, the MNLS failed to have any influence on schools, university curricula, oversees government ministries and administrative agencies to make sure they function in a manner that respects diversity and inclusion. Misunderstanding its goal due to nepotism, and the resulting failure to access the needed intellectual capacities and skilled persons, the MNLSI wasted public funds (for instance, placing up trilingual posters all through the country), rather than mainstreaming multiculturalism within government agencies, Ministries (Justice in distinct), and public educational and cultural institutions. It is the job of the Urban Improvement and Road Improvement Authorities who is responsible to place Trilingual sign posts in public locations. The job of the MID would be to supplying the ‘software’ (rather than the ‘hardware’) required to mainstream multiculturalism in National and Neighborhood Governance administrative system of Sri Lanka.
The MID ought to develop an official policy of multiculturalism – as articulated in the Multicultural National Vision for Peace in Sri Lanka (Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake et al 2001).[two] Darini’s articulation of multiculturalism is deeply rooted in the situations of Sri Lanka. It is about fostering and enabling equality, justice, equal opportunity. It seeks access for all, by way of a mutual understanding and respect for those coexisting in the mosaic of cultures that is Sri Lanka, and establishing a cosmopolitan citizenship. It is about freeing society’s pursuit of freedom, equality and justice from prejudice and discrimination. It is not about imposing integration and assimilation, as envisaged by a lot of states, like Sri Lanka, but generating a totally free and dynamic environment for various communities to evolve and coexist without having compromising social and environmental justice.
The multiculturalism I am proposing is not British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘muscular liberalism,’ which would dismantle ‘state multiculturalism.’ Muscular liberalism is a security driven paradigm to address the insecurities and vulnerabilities brought about by the state driven multicultural policies. It is about securitization of multicultural societies driven by worldwide national safety and anti-terrorism paradigms. Taken in the context of present ethnic relations, this could lead to the ‘suspicion, surveillance and repression’ of certain groups. Muscular liberalism’s advocacy for “the values of equality, law and freedom of speech across all components of society” is not an adequate response to racism targeted against particular groups that exist in everyday society. It rejects the state driven multiculturalism that “encouraged distinct cultures to reside separate lives, apart from every other and apart from the mainstream.”
The target of Cameron’s speech was undoubtedly Muslims, and it appeared far more like a counter terrorism approach that confuses national integration with multiculturalism. Muscular liberalism is an ‘authoritarian articulation of shared values’ that defies the acknowledgement and acceptance of what Charles Taylor calls “the plurality of techniques for citizens to belong to their country.” It forces integration predicated on a superficial sense of belonging without creating a space to deal with pre-existing racial tensions, prejudices, and discrimination exacerbated by escalating financial inequalities and the reduction of state investments in social improvement.
David Miliband, former British Foreign Secretary points out “David Cameron’s ‘muscular liberalism’ has small to offer you in providing greater sense of security for those who really feel discriminated and alienated from society. The threat is that substantial numbers in this group leapfrog to latent hostility or active enmity.”[three] Pitting muscular liberalism against multiculturalism is a recipe for inciting extremist responses to discrimination, which could at some point undermine national safety. The apparent shortcomings of muscular liberalism, in fact, make a stronger case for multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism advocated here is not opposed to integration, nor is it a recipe to encourage separation amongst cultures. Rather, it is about inclusion and diversity within a larger cultural mosaic that consists of justice and equality. Multiculturalism entails the recognition of, respect for, appreciation, and tolerance of cultural diversity and differences in ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age, national origin, disability, education, and religion. Inclusion calls for that all individuals be valued and respected as human beings worthy of dignity. This will ensure equal chance. The concept here is to produce not only procedural and administrative changes, but also a culture that is not fearful of engaging with distinction and diversity, or difficult stereotypes, and a single that will not scapegoat minorities.
The multiculturalism advocated right here, starts with human rights and human security, whereas integration starts with crises that arise rights and safety of the nation. It is not about regulating and managing the variations between diverse groups, but rather, producing an awareness of prejudices and injustice, and creating solidarity against them, with the hope that individuals will embrace laws and administrative structures of inclusion and diversity voluntarily, and meaningfully. Nor is multiculturalism synonymous with integration or assimilation of various cultures, as typically understood. It is about remaking of the national identity (and “national story”) in which fear, prejudice, and discrimination do not undermine the scope for various individuals and groups maintain their distinctive person and collective identities. Multiculturalism imagines national identity as a cultural mosaic with diverse rather than single dominant culture and history. Multiculturalism is a process that could quite nicely open the possibilities for meaningful integration and assimilation and pave the way for cosmopolitan national identity.
Responsible multiculturalism does not endorse a benign celebration of diversity or the rejection of all universal norms, rules, or truths. Nor is it a signifies to enable those who violate these universal norms to exploit cultural diversity (cultural relativism) to escape accountability and justice. It also does not endorse rabid secularism, which I contemplate hypocritical and counter-productive to the humanistic ambitions of multiculturalism advocated right here. Anti-theistic and anti-religious secular multiculturalism could turn out to be an additional form of prejudice and discrimination when it turns against these with firm religious beliefs, and fails to provide a space for the potential of religion to play in freeing part in society. Multiculturalism is not a panacea for curing the ills of secularism. As G.K. Chesterton noted, secularists’ contradict themselves and undermine their own position when they deny equal spot for religion that they provide for secular worldviews and ideologies. In a genuinely multicultural globe, tensions between the secular and religious are blurred by way of negotiation as they are provided equal space to strive to totally free themselves from the prejudices and discrimination that are inherent to them and the larger society.
Sri Lankans have too typically viewed diversity and multicultural policies as threats to, rather than possibilities for the nation, or its culture. Amongst ultra-nationalist fears that cultural diversity will destroy the unitary nation-state on the 1 hand, and empty ‘celebrations of diversity’ on the other, we require a effectively-articulated national multiculturalism policy framework to market inclusion, value diversity, and provide equal chance for all – people, communities, and social groups. Post-war Sri Lanka wants to engage with cultural diversity head on. We need to face the shameful elements of our own past, as well as present prejudices and discomfort with cultural diversity, and challenge assumptions about race, sexuality, gender, disability, and age, to foster private and collective duty in daily practice and attain genuine reconciliation.
Thus, the MID should be tasked with building a effectively-articulated national vision and policy framework for multiculturalism to promote not only equal opportunity for individuals and groups who have suffered systemic marginalization, but also post-war reconciliation. This would call for education, the education of educators, and the mainstreaming of concepts and practices aimed at promoting inclusion, and valuing cultural diversity in national institutions, the private sector, and society. The MID need to also seek to set standards and operate collaboratively with governmental ministries and departments to make certain equal opportunity in state institutions, and compliance, monitoring, and evaluation at all layers of governance, like via mandatory instruction. The multiculturalism policy framework would aim to create an empowering environment to guarantee the essential situations for folks and groups to attain their complete potential, without having getting subject to discrimination and prejudice, by way of education and the media.
Compared to numerous other countries, Sri Lanka is trailing in addressing these root causes of discrimination, prejudice and violence. In this regard, Sri Lanka is an anomaly when 1 considers it’s an impressive good results in related areas of the social welfare state, higher literacy, and common friendliness toward progressive social policies. For the duration of the war and its aftermath, we have observed a backtracking or stagnation of the progress the country has created since Independence – the gap in between superficial and substantive changes have widened.
Component II of this series will explore the reasons for Sri Lanka’s slow progress and setbacks in addressing these root causes of prejudice and discrimination.
*To be continued ..
[two] Senanayaka, Darini, ((2001) Identity on the Borderline: Multicultural History in a Moment of Danger, Colombo: Marga Institute.