We need English to progress

By Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 24 2020
Columns We need English to progress

By Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne

Now this Sinhala Buddhist racism is explained by some conservative writers as, a product of a feudal order – or, pre-colonial, pre-capitalist mediaeval order of power and authority that existed from way back, that still influences the traditional Buddhist monks and conservative racist Buddhists. 

This explanation is meant to reject the comparison to Nazism. They say In order to counter this reactionary situation one had to intervene to cut the separation and to get the discussion in open terrain. Ok, but the non-feudal capitalist-fascism (sic) portrayed not features of feudal repression but fascism, beyond capitalism and a cruel devastation threatening the very existence of humanity. We need to discuss and understand how others think. That means a common language.

The British

The British rulers left behind a valuable instrument of communication. Globalisation has spread English worldwide. An invaluable legacy!  Classes for learning English is a must! An automatic gift for achievement - Jobs!  Even jobless graduates find employment, if they are capable of communicating in English. So it must be the done thing.  It will be trendy to conduct all discussions when possible in English. For this purpose the British started education in English and made English the language of Administration.

Those days’ colonial masters needed middle level administrators to administrate. So   from within the different local peoples the emergence of a middle class occurred; petty bourgeoisie and upper middle class against the rural petty educated people or wealthier people who were benefiting, gaining benefits from British rule, but under an autocratic dispensation. Increasingly all bad things got associated with English. 

Bureaucratic administration system, in accessible agents, endless rules and legislations all became the general crime of the English speaking bourgeoisie. And how did the petty bourgeoisie class emerge? - Partly through being educated in the English medium. The school system which the British developed especially in the towns and in certain easily accessible areas made learning in English accessible to all. 

Benefiting from English

Among those whom they deployed in these services were the Burghers and European descendants. Some of them were Dutch descendants and some of them Portuguese descendants who were living in coastal areas. They picked up the new language of English easily and began to work under the British. The Tamils in the North also benefitted from missionary schools that had been set up from very early on and developed a petty bourgeoisie, and a middle class who were working for the British, not only in the North since many of them came to the South and came to Colombo. 

Thus the English speaking petty bourgeoisie became an entity with a powerful political power. This gave the power and space to build a Samasamajists power within many urban areas in the island. The Samasamajists campaigned for unity on the basis of equality, self-rule and the right of self-determination. This campaign was accepted by the Tamil speaking people. On the other hand on the Sinhala side there arose fascistic tendencies who clashed with Samasamajists.


By Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 24 2020

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