Sunday, April 28, 2013


Sunday Morning Sermon

19th century in Europe was a time of industrialization. Factories in Europe required raw materials to be manufactured into marketable products. As a result, Europeans sought both a source of raw materials, as well as, a market for manufactured goods from other nations. This economic motivation played a large role in the colonization of the world. 

Politics in Europe also led to colonization. Nationalism -a strong form of identification with and pride in one's nation-resulted in competition between European nations. This competition often resulted in wars between nations. Competition over colonial expansion aas another way that national competition between European nations was demonstrated in the late 19th century. One of the causes of the scramble to occupy and rule which resulted in the colonization of large porions of South America, Africa and Asia, was the competition between European nations. No major nation wanted to be without colonies. The competition was particularly strong between Britain, France, and Germany, the strongest European nation-states in the late 19th century.
In addition, ideologies of racial hierarchy were prevalent in Europe in the 19th century. Many Europeans viewed themselves as the most advanced civilization in the world, and some saw it as their mission to "enlighten" and "civilize" people in the rest of the world. This feeling of racial superiority and "responsibility" was captured in a poem written in 1899, The White Man's Burdenby the British poet Rudyard Kipling . Many inaccurate and racialist stereotypes of peoples, which existed at the time, were used to justify colonialism.
The colonization of the third world coincided with the expansion of Christian missionary activity. Christianity was introduced to the third world only in the modern era. Christian missionary activity began in earnest in the 19th century during the same period of time that European countries were becoming more engaged in these lands. Historians do not all agree on what the relationship was between Christian missionary activity and colonialism. However, evidence suggests that while many missionaries opposed the harsher aspects of colonialism, they were supportive of the colonization of under developed countries. Missionaries who supported colonialism believed that European control would provide a political environment that would facilitate missionary activity. This support for colonialism played an important role in legitimizing the colonial endeavor among the citizens of the colonizing powers in Europe.
*The White Man's Burden
by Rudyard Kipling
Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another's profit
And work another's gain.
Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.
Take up the White Man's burden--
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man's burden,
And reap his old reward--
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"
Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.
Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers.

Terror Management

Terror Management

Determining what drives people to terrorism is no easy task. For one thing, terrorists aren't likely to volunteer as experimental subjects, and examining their activities from afar can lead to erroneous conclusions. What's more, one group's terrorist is another group's freedom fighter, as the millions of Arabs who support Palestinian suicide bombers will attest and also the massive Tamil Diaspora living in Canada, USA, & Europe will claim.

Given these complexities, the psychology of terrorism is marked more by theory and opinion than by good science, researchers admit. But a number of psychologists are starting to put together reliable data. They're finding it is generally more useful to view terrorism in terms of political and group dynamics and processes than individual ones, and that universal psychological principles—such as our subconscious fear of death and our desire for meaning and personal significance—may help to explain some aspects of terrorist actions and our reactions to them.
Eventually, such information could help in the complex quest to prevent terrorism. Psychologists' findings suggest that assuaging people's fear of cultural annihilation, highlighting our common humanity or demonstrating the discrepancy between the dream and reality of terrorist involvement could keep would-be terrorists from turning to violence, for instance.
In fact, the notion that terrorists could be talked out of committing violence using peaceful dialogue and a helping hand is no longer an idealist's pipe dream, but actually the aim of a growing number of "de-radicalization" programs worldwide.
For years, psychologists examined terrorists' individual characteristics, mining for clues that could explain their willingness to engage in violence. While researchers now agree that most terrorists are not "pathological" in any traditional sense, several important insights have been gleaned though interviews with some former terrorists.
It has been found that people who are more open to terrorist recruitment and radicalization tend to:
  • Feel angry, alienated or disenfranchised.
  • Believe that their current political involvement does not give them the power to effect real change.
  • Identify with perceived victims of the social injustice they are fighting.
  • Feel the need to take action rather than just talking about the problem.
  • Believe that engaging in violence against the state is not immoral.
  • Have friends or family sympathetic to the cause.
  • Believe that joining a movement offers social and psychological rewards such as adventure, camaraderie and a heightened sense of identity

Terror Management starts with the basic psychological conflict between wanting to live and having the self-awareness to know that death is inevitable. This conflict is believed to be unique to humans, and is solved with a uniquely human solution: cultures. By creating, and in turn investing in, these symbolic systems of meaning and value, humans gain a sense of literal immortality (afterlife belief), eternal pleasure (72 Virgins waiting in Paradise), and/or symbolic immortality (the sense that they will live on through eternal happiness). 

Cultural values also provide the blueprint for what matters, and as such, are the basis by which self-esteem is derived. From a TMT perspective, self-esteem and worldviews are the primary defenses against the potential terror elicited by mortality awareness,though research has found that relationships and a more general need for psychological structure also protect people from mortality concerns.
The terror management theory explains that when people are reminded of their own deaths, they more readily defend these cultural beliefs and act to enhance, or at least protect, their self-esteem. Experiments conducted by researchers lend evidence to the concept that the awareness of one's own death, affects the eventual decision making of groups and individuals.
The theory purports to help explain human activity both at the individual and societal level. There is an argument that espouses the theory that most human action is taken to ignore or avoid the inevitability of death. The terror of absolute annihilation creates such a profound—albeit subconscious—anxiety in people that they spend their lives attempting to make sense of it. On large scales, societies build symbols: laws, religious edicts, cultures, and belief systems to explain the significance of life, define what makes certain characteristics, skills, and talents extraordinary, reward others whom they find exemplify certain attributes, and punish or kill others who do not adhere to their cultural view. On an individual level, self esteem based common sense provides a buffer against death-related anxiety.
Many people are more motivated by social pressures, rather than health risks. Specifically for younger people, mortality salience is stronger in eliciting changes of one's behavior when it brings awareness to the immediate loss of social status or position, rather than a loss, such as death that one cannot imagine and feels distant. However, there are many different factors to take into consideration, such as how strongly an individual feels toward a decision, their level of self-esteem, and the situation around them. 

The mortality salience hypothesis (MS) states that if indeed one’s cultural worldview, or their self-esteem serves a death-denying function, then threatening these constructs should produce defenses aimed at restoring psychological equanimity (i.e., returning the individual to a state of feeling invulnerable). In the MS paradigm, these "threats" are simply experimental reminders of one’s own death.

Another paradigm that TMT researchers use to get at unconscious concerns about death is what is known as the death thought accessibility (DTA) hypothesis. Essentially, the DTA hypothesis states that if individuals are motivated to avoid cognitions about death, and they avoid these cognitions by espousing a worldview or by buffering their self-esteem, then when threatened, an individual should possess more death-related cognitions (e.g., thoughts about death, and death-related stimuli) than they would when not threatened.

It has been suggested that culture provides meaning, organization, and a coherent world view that diminishes the psychological terror caused by the knowledge of eventual death. The terror management theory can help to explain why a leader's popularity can grow substantially during times of crisis. When a follower's mortality is made prominent they will tend to show a strong preference for iconic leaders. An example of this occurred when GWB's approval rating jumped almost 50 percent following 911. As Forsyth (2009) explains, this tragedy made U.S. citizens aware of their mortality, and Bush provided an antidote to these existential concerns by promising to bring justice to the terrorist group responsible for the attacks.

TMT states that religion was created as a means for humans to cope with their own mortality. Supporting this, arguments in favor of life after death, and simply being religious, reduce the effects of mortality salience on worldview defense and thoughts of death have been found to increase religious beliefs. At an implicit, subconscious level, this is the case even for atheists.

Some theorists have argued that it is not the idea of death and nonexistence that is unsettling to people, but the fact that uncertainty is involved. For example, these researchers posited that people defend themselves by altering their fear responses from uncertainty to an enthusiasm approach. TMT theorists agree that uncertainty can be disconcerting in some cases and it may even result in defense responses, but note that they believe the inescapability of death and the possibility of its finality regarding one’s existence is most unsettling. They ask, "‘Would death be any less frightening if you knew for certain that it would come next Tuesday at 5:15 p.m., and that your hopes for an afterlife were illusory?’....Would you rather be certain that death is the end, or live with the uncertainty that it might not be?" They also note that people actually seek out some types of uncertainty, and that being uncertain is not always very unpleasant.


[compiled by extracts from Wiki]

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Sunday Morning Sermon (Aluth Avurudhu Edition)

Hypocrisy is the state of displaying virtues, moral, religious beliefs, principles, and characteristics, in a pretentious manner when one does not actually believe or possess them. It, basically, involves deception and a show of false values based on ulterior motives and evil intent.
Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches. Samuel Johnson made this point when he wrote about the misuse of the charge of "hypocrisy" in Rambler No. 14:
Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself.
Thus, an alcoholic's advocating temperance, for example, would not be considered an act of hypocrisy as long as the alcoholic made no pretense of sobriety.
The recent happenings in Sri Lanka by a group of terrorists calling themselves BBS, who have been advocating hatred and injustice against all minority communities is a gross example of the hypocrites in the garb of Buddhist Monks and elite media Moghuls and newspaper Editors.
While there may be a group of decent people who do not want to express and display their sentiments openly about the situation on account of fear of being abused and oppressed, there is another brand who try hard to claim to be goody goodies, espousing and highlighting all the possible campaigns against terror, religious persecution, and abuse, while they themselves are the very perpetrators of such injustice.
Hypocrite is too good a word for them in my view.
How do we deal with such folk? They are members of social networks and discussion forums wearing the hat of compassionate human beings who care for the welfare of all others irrespective of their color, creed, or character. They claim to have been freedom fighters from a bygone era from their university days. They express a great flavor of language and rhetoric in their writings and poetry, giving an image of good human beings.
How terrified the Buddha would be if he was to encounter such people from within his own flock?
The thirty year war against terror that was concluded successfully in recent times gave rise to many a cry of foul play by all parties. Minorities were targeted, religious institutions were raised to the ground, libraries were burned, and even religious dignitaries were gunned down. Those people with dignity and compassion spoke out openly against this injustice without batting an eye devoid of what group, community, or religion they belonged to.
It appears that we are now in the deep end of actually seeing the reality of the lack of compassion within the hearts and minds of people who claim and belong to a philosophy that has its roots in espousing the cause of all beings be happy.
What a sad situation to be faced with on this glorious Sinhala and Tamil New Year's Day?

Friday, April 12, 2013


Today we shall read from the Gospel of the Rev Abbod Thumber


1:1 And so the trouble spread far and wide across the land

1:2  Man beating man in search of power, wealth and territory

1:3 Justice, fairness, and love evaporated into thin air.

1:4 And the Messengers descended, one by one.

1:5 Each one faced his own trials and tribulations and following.

1:6 And the world was now divided into groups and sects and parties.

1:7 And another Evening descended.

1:8 Hatred ruled the day.

1.9 Occupation became the norm.

1.10 Divided they stand.