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Sunday, 13 February 2011

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Can we talk

To those who constitute 'us'

The tag denotes that we live in a country where its citizenry and denizens are forbidden to talk. On the contrary; I can hardly think of another country where so much talking is done by its people. I do not mean those professionals whose duty and function it is to talk. I am referring to you, me and us - the ordinary folks of this blessed nation that has just stopped bleeding from a self inflicted wound.

Research indicates that humans expend more energy in talking than in the act of procreation.

If, in spite of this fact, we have managed to almost double our population in the last sixty odd years; just imagine the quantum of talking that had been going on. However, I suppose, there are the fringe benefits to be had as a result of all this talking that is taking place. At present, we have managed to decrease the annual percentage of growth of our population to the levels of our brethren in the so called developed nations. I only hope and wish that, as a result of this inherent garrulousness in us, we eventually do not become an emasculated nation. May be this is one cause for - I remember having read somewhere - the Sinhalese speaking people to be classified as an endangered species.

We Sri Lankans, talk the talk but rarely walk the talk. This is because we, as a people, love to: blab and blurt; chat and chatter; gabble and gossip; harangue and harp; gibber and jabber; murmur and natter; prate and prattle; rumble and rumour; tattle and twaddle; but hardly converse and discuss. Had this been possible, many of our mistakes of the recent past, since we became a free nation, would not have occurred.

If this is a reflection of the mental capacity of the majority of us, then surely we must be persons of small mind fit only for small things. But, our history contradicts this. We are known to be a people with an open heart, charitable disposition, disciplined and law abiding, and most importantly, innovative. Innovation demands intelligence. Allowing that history is to be believed; where have we erred? Well, for the time being, I will leave you to reflect upon this. We shall return to it on a later date.

We humans, known as Homo sapiens (Latin: "wise man" or "knowing man"), are supposed to have originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, reaching full behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago.

We are supposed to have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection, and problem solving. This mental capability, combined with an erect body carriage that frees the hands for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other species on Earth. Other higher-level thought processes of humans, such as self-awareness, rationality and sapience, are considered to be defining features of what constitutes a "person". However, in this little paradise of an island, we Sri Lankans have chosen the tongue as the primary tool of accomplishment over other aspects that define a "person".

I have chosen 'Can We Talk' as the heading for my column because it connotes our pre-occupation with talking. I wish for us to stop talking and start thinking. The caption has nothing to do with "Can We Talk": the title of a number-one single by singer Tevin Campbell. For those lovers of Rhythm & Blues, here is some information. It was the first single to be released from his double platinum second release I'm Ready. The song hit top ten on the pop charts peaking at number nine on the Hot 100 and spent a total of three weeks at number one on the US R&B chart Hence, the only connection this column and the song will have is my hope that this effort will have the same success as the song.

I am neither a journalist nor an academic. I am very much the 'you' - the ordinary, simple, law abiding inhabitant of this resplendent isle. I believe in the inherent goodness and naivety of our people. I am aware that, most times, goodness, benevolence and generosity are all confused as weakness by insapient people. But lose not hope for it is necessary that: sometimes to see the light, we have to risk the darkness. I thought of writing this column as a tribute to all folks who constitute the 'us'.

Thus, this column will reflect the yearnings, hopes and wishes of you - the people. This space is meant for articles of contemporary comment. Of essays, that will set you thinking and evaluate the self in you.

Let us join together and build a society in which, despite faith, despite race, despite one's standing in society, all communities are afforded the same civil liberties. This column will act as the catalyst to help you on, towards this effort.

Since this newspaper has been kind enough to host this column, I hope the reader will not put it to similar conversational use as a friend of mine and his wife did. Below is what they thought and said about newspapers:

Wife : "I wish I was a newspaper, so that I'd be in your hands all day".

Husband: "I too wish that you were a newspaper, so that I could have a new one everyday".

See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking, keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two actions.

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