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Wednesday 13 April 2011


Multiculturalism in the west implies monoculturalism and the hegemony of the western Judaic Christian culture. The rest of the cultures are allowed to be present as long as they do not pause a threat to the western Judaic Christian culture. Multiculturalism certainly does not mean equiculturalism and all the cultures other than the western Judaic Culture are present always in a subservient manner with respect to the hegemonic western Judaic Christian culture. For example the Sinhala Buddhists living in USA or UK are allowed to observe the Wesak full moon day in temples in the cities and towns but not on the Wesak day itself but on the following Saturday or most probably the following Sunday. Though Wesak is supposed to be an international holiday, whatever is meant by that, people go to work on that day and observe sil on the following Sunday. However, the westerners could not maintain this hypocrisy of multiculturalism for long as the Islamic culture which is more aggressive than most of the other cultures has come to the forefront not only in some Muslim countries but in some of the big (influential) western countries themselves. The west cannot afford to be silent under the pretext of multiculturalism when Islamic culture is challenging western Judaic culture in the lion’s den as if it were, and the western politicians have begun to chant their mantra that multiculturalism has failed. If Islamic culture like the other cultures confined itself to the mosque and occasional religious festivals the west would be still shouting from roof tops how multiculturalism is working wonderfully in those countries. I am waiting for a postmodernist to deconstruct multiculturalism in the west and show to the world that it is monoculturalism with the hegemony of western Judaic Christian culture being felt from supermarket to the legislature and from pre-school to the university. However postmodernism being part of hegemonic Judaic Christian culture is very unlikely to attempt at difficult deconstructions.

How does multiculturalism work in the so called non western world? There are some quarter bright academics in the universities who have gone on Fulbright scholarships or fellowships and others who think that they belong to the centre of the left without realizing that they have been left out by the society with the former opining that we reject anything from the west claiming that it is Judaic Christian while the latter claiming that the so called nation state model of the west is used by whom they call the so called Jathika Chinthanaya group. It is clear that they tell two different stories in respect of our “borrowings” or “absorptions” from the knowledge created in the west. Perhaps they should organize yet another seminar in a five star hotel to find out what we are up to in the Chinthana Parshadaya. I can help them by giving our thoughts on multiculturalism in the non western world with special reference to Sri Lanka, the way these pundits title their profound theses and dissertations.

Multiculturalism or any other concept is defined in the west whether the quarter bright would accept it or not. What some of these people would not know is that knowledge is constructed and not discovered, and that knowledge is constructed relative to the sense organs, the mind and the culture in human societies. We emphasize, unlike those who have been slaves of western knowledge that the concepts, theories etc., found in different societies differ from each other. Western knowledge is created in what we call the Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya and of course in the western Judaic Christian culture. The Judaic Christian Chinthanaya should not have a monopoly in creating knowledge, though at present except for a very few in Sri Lanka the western knowledge is considered to be discovered according to some ill defined scientific method, and thus giving it the status of a corpus of absolute truth. We do not have the freedom to chose, if I may use terms used by the westerners for their propaganda work, a system of knowledge that is suitable for us. We are enforced to teach and learn knowledge created in the west and if that is not colonialism what is colonialism?

We are not scared of western knowledge, and having had access to some parts of that knowledge I know how weak is the foundations on which the western knowledge is built. If not for western technology and the power of politics, western knowledge would not have survived and unlike our critiques claim there is no reason as to why we should be scared of western knowledge. However, we do not reject western knowledge and we would absorb any western knowledge that is suitable to our society and assimilate it into our culture without imitating it. We do not have to borrow the concept of a so called nation state as Gemunu who ruled this country some two thousand three hundred years ago had introduced the concept of the Sinhala Buddhist state which could be called an eksesath rajya. The eksesath rajya has some features of the nation state and for this reason some pundits would think that we work within the ambit of nation state and have no alternative.

Multiculturalism as far as the non western world is concerned is equiculturalism as the western intellectuals and the politicians want that way as far as the cultures other than the Judaic Christian culture. The westerners who define and interpret concepts for the others want the non western world to treat the cultures that are present in a particular country other than the Judaic Christian culture to be equal. However, that does not mean that these cultures are given the highest place when it comes to governing, education from nursery to the university, political structures, economic models etc., are concerned. In these activities in which usually the so called elite in a country are involved, the Judaic Christian culture reins supreme. The citizens of a country adopt their own cultures in the other fields and in many countries a particular culture is chosen due to historical and social conditions as the predominant culture, though the westerners would have wanted all the other cultures to be treated equally.

For example in India the western Judaic Christian culture is the supreme and hegemonic culture in the fields that have been mentioned above and nobody in the elite society would challenge the status quo for the fear of losing social status. In the other fields Hindu culture is accepted as the predominant culture and Dhoni would swear that more than seventy five percent of the cricketers in the Indian squad for the world cup were Hindus. We were shown on television how Hindu devotees celebrated the winning of the world cup in cricket originated in Christian England (there is a school of thought according to which cricket originated in France of all the places) in the traditional Hindu ways but there were no sarva agamika celebrations. All the cultures in India in the other fields are not equal and the supremacy of Hindu culture is not questioned in India.

It is in Sri Lanka that multiculturalism in the fields other than education etc., are interpreted to be equiculturalism and it is only recently that the Sinhalas have become aware of various interpretations of multiculturalism.
Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva