Are we the most gullible on earth?
By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
I wish experts on human behaviour introduced a gullibility index, as this surely would have been the one, we could easily have topped! We have been fooled by politicians of all hues who have mastered the art of exploiting gullibility. We have been brainwashed to believe that family bandyism is an integral part of success in politics. We have been fooled into putting caste before the country. Our votes are cast not on policies but on the subtle, and the not so subtle, bribes. Whilst other countries borrow for developmental purposes, we borrow to repay political bribes and are in an abyss now, as a result. Even at this darkest hour, our politicians have put self-interest first, instead of getting together to save the country. Seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, professionals are fleeing in droves and soon we will be a country bereft of talent, on top of being financially bankrupt!
It is not only the politicians who exploit the gullibility of the masses. Paradoxically, even the intelligentsia are at it. Look at the proliferation of professors in Sri Lanka! It has become such an epidemic that University Grants Commission is reportedly considering laying down guidelines. How they are going to implement, I wonder! There are plenty of dubious universities the world over, awarding pseudo-degrees and appointing professors! Ayurvedic Medical faculties do not produce Ayurvedic doctors, all labelling themselves as doctors and practicing non-Ayurvedic medicine. Further, plenty of bogus doctors abound, practicing very successfully with no training at all!
It reminds me of a colleague of ours, who went on a Chinese government fellowship to study acupuncture for three months. On return, not only he became a specialist in the field but also set up an institution to teach and award degrees. Seeking legitimacy, he invited President J. R. Jayewardene, who happened to be the Minister of Higher Education, to award degrees at the convocation.
The danger of this was discussed at a Sri Lanka Medical Association council meeting and it was left for Dr N J Wallooppillai, as the President, and me, as the secretary, to appeal to President Jayewardene. Fortunately, we were able to approach President Jayewardene and convince him that he would be awarding degrees from an institution not recognised by the UGC. As it was too late to cancel, he attended but did not take part in the awarding of degrees!
Of course, gullibility is at its peak when it comes to religion which, in a way, is no surprise. After all, religion is the first and strongest brainwashing we get in life. More often than not, the religion we practise is based on birth, not on conviction as it should be. Gullibility is best exploited in this situation by so-called conversions. I have no problem with conversions based on convictions but most conversions are simple exploitations. Many rewards are offered in some religions for conversions resulting in conversions through, from marriage to trickery; almost all miracles falling within this category. The worst offenders are the cults and the only thing that has not happened in Sri Lanka is people killing themselves before the world ends!
There is much hype these days about a self-proclaimed prophet, supposed be close to some politicians too and he is accused of insulting other religions. Some politicians are up in arms demanding punishment which seems more for their political gain. Out of curiosity, I carefully watched YouTube video and am quoting verbatim what he stated, as media did not do so. During his preaching to a large cheering crowd, where Sinhala translation followed each line, he stated:
“This is what separates Christianity from Buddhism. This is what separates Christianity from Islam. Let us take Islam for instance. You can’t even call Allah, father! Are you hearing this? You have 99 names for God in Islam and yet, love is not one of them! This is what separates Christianity from Buddhism. Because for a Buddhist in their mind, it is like, Okay, annunta kala de tamanta palade In a sense it is true, especially if you do something to a prophet anyway. Now, but in the Buddhist mind they never hear the love of Buddha. Are you hearing me? Their focus is on enlightenment. Now, to be enlightened you need light. The Buddha himself, the name Buddha means enlightened one. Ladies and gentlemen, what is greater? Light or enlightenment? Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world.’ So, I tell you now, Jesus did not say I am the enlightened one.
No, no, no, Jesus came from a different wavelength. He said I am the light. So, I submit to you, the Buddha was looking for light. He was actually looking for Jesus. This is why every Buddhist needs Jesus. This is why every Muslim needs Jesus. This is Christianity that separates itself from Hinduism. Glory to Lord! Hindus are very close to the gospel. Buddhists are also very close to the gospel. Muslims are very close to the gospel. Very close.
That is why you need preachings like this. Let them take the next step. Sit down! Hinduism, the reason why they venerate so many animals. They don’t realise and hopefully after I said this will realise why they have a god that looks like an elephant. The reason why they have gods with ten thousand hands. They are not far from the truth. Why they venerate cows? They are very close but they are still far away. But what separates Christianity from Hinduism? It is this reality of life. Agape love. Some of you should tell your loving Hindu people, what you are doing may be true to you but there is a deeper truth. Never prosecute anybody. Never shame another person’s faith.”
As for me, these are not the words of a prophet, nor a preacher but the ramblings of an ill-informed individual who is making a living out of the gullible. The cheers for some of his ill-conceived statements amply demonstrate the gullibility of the audience. Their behaviour is in sharp contrast to our youth; I have been most impressed by the knowledge of Buddhism displayed by non-Buddhist children in quiz shows. In my opinion, the best way to handle ill-informed persons is to ignore them. In fact, past events support this. In January 2000, a series of chain emails spread the rumour that imported bananas were infecting people with ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria, adding that the FDA was trying to cover up the epidemic to avoid panic and encouraging readers to spread the word to their friends and family. FDA issuing a denial which only made matters worse!
Coming back to the pseudo-prophet, he displays gross ignorance as he implies light is needed for enlightenment! Light gets rid of darkness and that is not enlightenment!! He completely overlooks the fact that the Buddha was there six centuries before Christ, making it impossible for the Buddha to look for Christ!
After insulting all religions, the pseudo-prophet demonstrates the height of his hypocrisy by stating: “Never shame another person’s faith”!
Celebrating what went well or denouncing what went wrong?
By Chani Imbulgoda
“We suffer today, because leaders in the past have failed to govern this country properly”. Oh, the predecessor has not done things well, they all have let the place go haywire”. Familiar excuses… When one takes over the leadership be it the country, be it an organisation, or be it a new position. We, naturally, incline to blame the past, criticize the leadership and highlight what went wrong. We start new reforms, new policies, new practices… condemning the past. We have a tendency to look back through the rearview mirror… only to criticise what went wrong, and start everything all over. Why don’t we give some credit to the past and celebrate what went well, as well?
It is said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. While Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, I wondered how much similarity we can evidence today. Tolstoy describes how the war was waged in early 1800, and how Russia suffered. After two centuries, we witness how Russia repeats it over Ukraine. No lessons learnt from the past. We just passed a civil riot; strikes, protests continue; and controlling and curbing protests are not rare. As a country, have we forgotten our gloomy days in recent past? Bombs, killing, destructions from northern point Pedro to southern Dondra, youth insurrection, misdirection and all the blood we witnessed… It seems that we, rather than learning the lessons unlearned it.
Bringing the beauty of learning from the past, American author, Judith Glaser suggests looking at the past, finding new meaning from significant events, following them and creating successful behaviour patterns. Have we forgotten our glorious past where this country was recognised as the jade of the Indian Ocean? This was known as a prosperous country during the reigns of ancient kingdoms. Once the granary of the East, and even before that, crowned as the Kingdom of mighty by king Ravana, who deemed to be the first to fly an aircraft. I recall my friend in university days who used to say that “there is no future without past”. As Santayana, Glazer and my friend say “we need to look back and learn from our past in moving forward. In the early 19th century, we submitted our sovereignty to colonial masters by conspiring against our own breed. We made Sinhala only policy in 1956 and we opened the economy in 1977, letting our strengths blown out by foreign winds. Lots of lessons are on the stake, if we really want to take. An upcoming book “What Went Wrong” by a bureaucrat, Mr. Chandrasena Maliyadde, a former Secretary to Government Ministries discusses how Sri Lanka failed in many aspects, including public service and University education. There are books on historic accounts, newspapers and media that bring present contexts, and futuristic projections…it is left for us to make our soup adding right mix of past, present and future to taste the soup.
Past is a repository of knowledge!
Reflect on the qualities and competencies possessed by today’s youth with yesteryear’s generation. Do we miss something in the new generation? A state university officer once lamented that those young officers joining the university did not look at the overall picture when making decisions … fair enough, I have noticed a many young staff, and even some old hands think only about the fraction of work they deemed responsible … ignoring the whole process involved. We often pin the blame on the education system. During the good old days, school curricula consisted of lessons on morals and ethics, lessons on history. More importantly, formal education kept space for youngsters to think, there were no tuition classes, and no online assignments to complete. There was time for friends … time to play; time to enjoy nature, and time to talk with parents. Those days youngsters were a part of the real world, nature and ancestors who educate the wholeness of life. Aren’t we missing something in our education system? It is time to look back and look ahead, and look across. Finland, known to be one of the best countries for education in the world, avail time for students to engage with nature; no tough competitive exams, they learn being humane, they learn to be balanced humans. There was a propaganda “Nearest School is the Best School”. In the present context where everything has become expensive, exercise books to transport fees. Safety and security of both male, female children are at stake. Much concerns over drugs, and sex, it is time to revisit and refresh this propaganda tagline. There is a shortage of papers, there was a shortage of fuel and electricity, we never know what is in stock for us in the coming months. We cannot afford to have marker pens and whiteboards in schools now. Time to think about the rock slate which we could use several times and learn well and hard way. I believe more the hard work put in tiring both the hand and head, higher the productivity. Considering the wellbeing of individuals, rising cost and scarcity of essentials and medical drugs, and sustainability of our environment, time has come to think of our past styles of commuting, cycling. Cycling reduces air pollution; cycling makes you fitter. In effect, we will not be compelled to depend on many vehicles imported and perhaps medicine too. We have reached the point where we have to bridge the past with the future. We need to learn from the past and blend it with the future, appropriately without forgetting the present and its context.
Learn from the past, but don’t
stick to it.
When we see a roadblock, a cavity on the road or a commotion or congestion, we naturally turn to the rearview mirror. But we do not turn the car and go back to where we started. No doubt we learn lessons from the past, but we can never create the past again. If you drive constantly looking back from the rearview mirror, you would not proceed much far! Buddha has said that “you can’t have a better tomorrow if you think about yesterday all the time”. One of the key accusations during recent public agitations, and the rebel was that youth do not get opportunities. The anxiety developed over rejection or blocking paths for youth, to be hatred towards old. We often miss fresh blood in decision making bodies, especially when it comes to public sector institutions, owing to too much credit being given to the past. Long number of years in service overshadows competence. When recruiting people for positions, we look at the conduct and experience of the applicant in the past, and make our decision; sometimes a decision to show the door would completely sabotage the future of the applicant. We come across people who wag their past records when they make important decisions for the future. People like to boast about their glorious past and want to create yesterday in tomorrow. I recall an incident that took place at a staff meeting where I work. When the senior officers celebrating past glory, a few newcomers openly challenged and declared they get demotivated in effect. If we cling too much to the past, we will end up spoiling both our present and future.
Change is inescapable. Everything gets changed, context, requirements, and mindsets. History cannot be restored as it was, only lessons and practices can be brought and tried after careful analysis. We normally cling to one of the two paradoxes; one school of thought is glued to the history, experience, and the way things happened. They hardly see goodness in novelty. On the other extreme, the school of thought is forward-looking they ignore the past, condemn the history and embrace novelty. In a car, we have a larger windscreen, two side glasses and a tiny rearview mirror. Why? When we are moving, we need to look at the future with a much broader view, assess the present, and from time to time look back and ensure we are alright.
Past is always a scapegoat for those who don’t want to strive to achieve success. We as a nation today suffer a lot and I believe in owing up to the blame game we play with the past and egoistic attitude and our unwillingness to learn from the past. I always advocate seeing what went well in the past, success stories teach us lessons, where failures are more appealing to worry and enjoy at the same time.
(The writer is a holder of a senior position in a state
University with international experience and exposure and an MBA from Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM), Sri Lanka and currently reading for her PhD related to reasons of reform failures at PIM. She can be reached at email@example.com)
Rogues have no right to eat while masses starve!
Ali (Raheem) Baba and 225 rogues have no right to eat while the people they are supposed to protect, nourish and maintain go hungry.
A poor widow with a school going child called me from Elpitiya and told me that they had not eaten anything yet. The time was 11 AM. The child had refused to go to school with an empty stomach. But the mother had coaxed him to go to school promising him to keep lunch ready when he returns. She had not found anything to cook by 11 AM and desperately called me. This was just one of such calls I get regularly.
I lost my shirt; I scolded her and told her that she had elected Ali (Sabri Raheem) Baba and 225 scoundrels and that she should go to them and ask for food. I instructed her to do this. Collect as many widows like her as possible and go to the house of their MP (GK) and remind her that they had fed her all these years and now they were hungry and she must feed them. Sit down in the house and do not leave till your problem is solved. While you go hungry that woman has no right to eat. In fact, the scoundrels of Diyawannawa have no right to gobble down subsidised food in the canteen of the den of thieves called the parliament of Sri Lanka.
Another widow called me and told me that she and her children lived in the dark. They have electricity but they could not afford to use it. The family lives in total darkness, every night. The government which could not maintain an uninterrupted power supply at least during the A/L examinations is not a failed administration but a heartless criminal regime. The rogue government which deprived the people of power has no right to use power in their den for light, sound and air conditioning.
And the rogue government has no right to govern at all. It has deprived the people of their right to vote and choose representatives they desire. It has cancelled the provincial council elections and the local government elections. By depriving the people of their right to vote it has abrogated its right to govern. Getting rid of this government is legal, and, in fact, it is the right and the civic duty of the people of this country.
It is this government that robbed the country to bankruptcy, ruined the agriculture and the economy and destroyed law and order in the country. Now, it blames Aragalaya for that. They pretend to be the victims! The effect has become the cause; they turn everything upside down!
Everything they are doing now is some desperate measure or other to keep marking time as long as possible to rob and rob and empty the national coffers before getting out of government and the country.
The scoundrels in the Parliament are accused and even found guilty by courts, of every crime under the Sun. They cheat, swindle and rob openly and unceasingly. This is a curse on the country and its people. We are paying for our stupidity and gullibility. We are a people immersed in superstition and irrational beliefs. There are no better ways to learn life’s lessons than hunger and deprivation. Aragalaya was a great eye-opener and a teacher of the difference between myth and truth, between objective reality and the narrow chauvinism of race and religion; the last refuge of the scoundrel. I hope the 6.9 million have at least by now learnt the lesson.
My dear co-citizens of Sri Lanka, it is time to act. It is pathetic and depressing to see our small children becoming stunted, weak and malnourished. They cannot wait to grow up till things get better constitutionally and decently. The powers that are do not behave constitutionally or decently. They are not gentlemen. They are certainly not ‘Honorable’ Members of Parliament. They have become fascists and tyrants, dictators and underworld god-fathers. Regardless of the cost, we must free ourselves from their murderous grip on us and on the country. It is time to act. For the sake of generations of our children, it is time to act.
Fr J.C. Pieris,
Why do we vote?
In his article in Sunday Island, Maj Gen A M U Seneviratne (Rtd) said “We vote and elect our representatives to represent us in parliament and other governing bodies and we expect them to respect us and work for the uplift of the country and its citizens”.
I totally disagree – We, the majority, elect them just for their sake, not to uplift the country or its citizens. Otherwise, how could every riff-raff who had not done anything worthwhile for the people and are notable for corruption and frauds be voted, election after election? Haven’t we seen how their supporters gather around them (and cheer) when they come out after Court hearings in which they were accused of various crimes?
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