The arrival of a new generation – Groundviews

Photo courtesy of maatram

It is clear that some positive changes are taking place in Sri Lanka. I am not talking about the difficulties that the country and the people are facing. We all know that no solution has yet been presented or proposed to successfully counter the shortages of fuel, food, medicine or dollar reserves. But the changes emerging now are rather cultural in context, which could eventually push the country down the right path and empower people to seek lasting solutions. The people of Sri Lanka have finally shown the courage to unite to fight for their rights and justice. A few days of this unit brought a mighty regime to its knees. Two weeks ago, no one would have believed it was possible to do this by protesting, certainly not people of my generation or older, who have seen protests the old fashioned way.

What made this change possible? Watching the first three days of the protests, I couldn’t help but notice how young the crowd was in general. It’s not just a new generation; it is also a different generation. This is a generation that not only dresses differently and speaks differently, but also protests differently. This new generation made the government lose its entire cabinet, in just three days, through (relatively) peaceful protests. Isn’t that a remarkable achievement, in a country where loss of life in elections or mass protests was the norm? I’m not trying to take back the credits due to everyone who joined the race later to show solidarity. But it was clear that most professionals, clergy and organized groups (such as artists, unions) joined the protests after they gained momentum and perhaps after seeing the collapse of the firm. It must be said that the momentum was set up from the first days and it is above all thanks to the participation of young audiences.

Some, including government elements, were quick to claim that this is an uprising similar to the Arab Spring that occurred in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA ) more than ten years ago. Those who cling to this argument do so to say that this uprising is futile because the countries of the MENA region have in the long run gained nothing but chaos. This argument is false for several reasons. First of all, it was infamous that the Arab Spring had the support of the West, directly or not, mainly because the regimes that the Arab Spring tried to overthrow were arguably dictatorships (i.e. say that many had been in power for more than 20 to 30 years). ). In the history of Sri Lanka, we are talking about a very strong democratically elected government that was elected less than two years ago. Comparing this to the Arab Spring is probably an insult to the Sri Lankan youth who initiated this uprising voluntarily without the support of any party or other organization, let alone the support of the West. Perhaps the closest recent global examples come from South Korea and Greece. In 2016, 17 South Koreans protested for five months to oust a corrupt leader. In 2011, the Greek people took to the streets as their government did little to prevent the collapse of the Greek economy. Interestingly, ours is a combination of these two examples – a fight against corruption as well as an economic collapse. It seems that the Sri Lankan uprising is following its own unique local pattern. Despite our sad history of importing all unnecessary goods, I am finally happy to see that the current protest is setting an example by following a local model.

I read the editorial of a major Sinhalese newspaper on April 7, which was somewhat critical of the “stylish” language and behavior of young people during the protests. Some examples brought up with this review involved using vulgar language, taking selfies, and singing songs. While these observations are correct, this criticism, which is also shared by a few others in the company, is unreasonable. An uprising of this type is not made by a crowd of demonstrators, but simply by ordinary people from all segments of society. It is inevitable to see all sorts of different behaviors, languages ​​and styles. They are not in the street because they have nothing else to do. Young people are on the streets because their lives have been turned upside down and someone has to do something. In all honesty, what’s the point of using vulgar language if that’s how they want to show their frustration and anger? Does the principle of free speech only apply to Pulitzer Prize winners? Is it a big deal to take selfies or sing songs to forget misery for at least a moment?

Shouldn’t we embrace the freshness of nonviolent change being brought about by these young people on the streets rather than trying to shove our rotten old mold of protest down the throats of the new generation? This freshness is not limited to singing or taking selfies. It was the first time I saw protesters and police sharing the same bottle of water after a tear gas attack. It was the first time that I saw a crowd of demonstrators hugging the police not only to share their compassion but also to calm down the holders of weapons and truncheons. It is also the first time that I have seen police stand up to military special forces to avoid unnecessary tension. We cannot miss the signs of the new generation written everywhere. Half of the slogans were written in English and followed by hashtags, which can help attract global attention. They used Facebook not only to tell others who is protesting where, but also to share important information and advice such as messages emphasizing non-violent actions, instructions on what to do in case of attack with tear gas or to be arrested. News on Facebook appeared hours before other mainstream media. In short, all this meant the arrival of a new generation.

This may be the first time in a very long time (if not the very first time) that Jaffna residents in Matara and slum dwellers in Colombo 7 have stood together. I take this unit as a bonus. This may be the only silver lining found in the current Dark Cloud.

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