There’s a very popular drama on the Lankan telly these days, titled “Sidhu” and featuring a child made into a monk as the lead. The cute-sounding (meh) clever banter of the child characters, romanticisation of traditional Lankan morals and the nostalgic elements of a simple and a village unaffected by the burden of the modern society would seem to have made an it instant hit.
I’m hoping this is the first of a series of posts, all discussing and mainly focusing on the subjects we’re going to discuss in this post.
Before finding ourselves in crazy and long ride (for which I apologise) into a lot of subjects this show brings to my attention, I’ll structure roughly what subjects this post is broken into:
While I’ve seen a lot of kids generally liking it, I was curious as how it successfully made the mind-boggling huge number of fans in the adult generations, especially those 28 and above of age. I believe the answer is quite generic:
What makes any of us love and look forward to anything? What makes any of us enjoy anything?
Everyone likes to romanticise about their past, about what we remember as a better time. What we saw as children, what we were taught about the world then, is what defines our personality.
And that’s exactly what the show did. To all the adults, it was a walk in the memory-lane of their childhood, or what they were taught to like as children:
(A screenshot from ‘Kopi Kade’, an old popular Lanka telly drama)
Simpler times and a simpler world of simpler pleasures,
where you can forget your life’s disappointments,
forget the inevitable rush in the morning tomorrow,
forget the horrors of the future
and the horrors of the world at present.
All their dislike and mistrust of the modern world,
and all its crazy depressing aspects.
Apart from wanting to dive into what they consider a better world, they look forward to showing their offsprings how they like to think they lived their supposedly better and more meaningful lives.
This is understandable. The world is not a simple and nice place as we’d like to think, and the modern world has made a habit of making sure we see and hear that everyday. It’s bound to scare you… and make you delusional.
Apart from blaming the modern for all the bad in the world, what helps them cope with reality is romanticise it by simply dropping all the bad of their youth and trying to rewrite some of the memories of the past as beautiful… to make yourself feel more complete in life. To feel closure.
(Photo credits go to Nihal Chandra Kumara, found at “Child Ordinations and the Rights of Children”)
I once questioned the fate of children submitted for monk-hood in Lanka on Facebook and was surprised to see the most surprising reactions from a lot of people I knew, especially ones I thought were modern, rational and nice.
For the record, I still believe some of them to be genuinely nice people, just taught to think in a particular way and look at the world only to accept tradition.
In other words, I see this as a result of indoctrination, and indoctrination’s quite different from brain-washing, with which it’s frequently confused.
(^^ The above case is not to be confused with my occasional wild outbursts on Twitter about how I hate telly dramas like Sidhu, the apparently arrogant children starring them and the adults writing them. I don’t hesitate to use the most primitive and offensive vocabulary towards things I deeply dislike, regardless of whether the target is a man, woman or child, at least when I’m on Twitter. No, this one on Facebook was written in the most non-offensive way possible by a human.)
Brain-washing is the offer of an alternative mindset to what someone already has. It might employ certain drastic methods like torture, but the whole concept revolves around the choice of perspective. We don’t see much brain-washing in real life, unless we’re subject to military radicalisation and trained as terrorists, of course, apart from our everyday lives as advertisements and indirect endorsements of products and politics, but who counts that, right?
However, indoctrination is far more dangerous in a lot of real-life situations. Indoctrination is all about feeding information, usually to children, so that they look at and interpret the world in the exact way the employer of indoctrination intends them to.
It’s about offering a single mindset at a time they see no alternative.
It’s about not giving them an alternative
It’s about programming children to reject all other alternatives
Buddhism was introduced to Lanka as part of a political campaign by emperor Ashoka of India, around 200 BC. Since, it’s become an inseparable part of the culture and traditions of Lanka, changing over the time and adapting to be attached deeper into the mind of all Lankans, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim alike, not to mention even some atheists.
Lankan Buddhists boast a culture of acceptance, morality and secularity. Yet, it has never failed to loosen its iron grip on the politics, from being the prerequisite religion of the President and the Prime Minister, from tolerating the unofficial political power given to the monks, from basing legal views on Buddhism.
The issue here is that it’s hardcoded into the culture and politics of this country, to always allow religions a free pass. Buddhism, Catholicism or even Hinduism are always treated with dignity, being allowed free reign into the country’s politics and law, always allowed the last word in cases of criticism against them, (although some religions, namely some sects of Christianity and especially Islam are not treated in the same way).
For example, quite recently, Lanka’s long and hard stand on rejecting and criminalising the gay and refusing them their rights was questioned internally and brought to surface, but was ultimately beaten-down and covered-up on the false grounds of tradition and sexually-transmitted diseases, regardless of the fact that such a stand was only introduced to Lanka by the British at the days of colonisation, the same British that are constantly hated and blamed for the under-developed state of the country by Lankans, the same British that have progressively repealed all such laws.
Similarly, raising any kind of issue on the practice turning children into monks is frowned-upon. In fact, such ‘recruitment drives’ are strongly encouraged and backed by politicians, almost every president and prime minister. This is partly influenced by their misplaced over-respect for Buddhism and mostly influenced by their greed for the support of the clueless masses.
This has helped hide decades, perhaps centuries of complaints and instances of child molestation and abuse done under the guise of enlightenment.
Of course this is not inherent to Buddhism, just frequent in it. Similarly, almost every complaint against Catholic priests of sexual abuse has been willfully ignored by the government and the organisations of law.
So many chose the blue pill.
(Sadly I don’t know who to credit this picture with)
Do you agree with my views? Or find it misinformed, too harsh or incomplete? I’m looking forward to all constructive feedback and conversation
Again, this is just the first of a long and (hopefully) conclusive series of posts.
Written while listening to “ ආශාවරී” on repeat