Next to Vishal Mangalwadi's Truth and Transformation, this book by Sri Lankan scholar Vinoth Ramachnadra is a must-read. I'm just starting on Subverting Global Myths and already it's challenging some cherished ideas. It's a close-up look at real world politics and global myths that have with too many regurgitation assume an appearance of irrefutable fact with devastating consequences.
Subverting Global Myths is really quite different in tone and perspective compared to Truth and Transformation, but I prefer to see both as complementary voices to a better appreciation of the complexity of global issues.
I was particularly interested to read the chapter entitled, Myths of Religious Violence, in the light of our Malaysian experience. In that chapter, Ramachandra quotes the Hindu scholar from Trinidad Anantanand Rambachan who is currently teaching in a Christian college in the US:
"Communities on the other hand, which engage each other in a deep search for mutual understanding and which honestly acknowledge differences and cultivate respect are less likely to explode in times of conflict. Such communities are less likely to cite differences as a basis for hostility towards the other. I often wonder about this matter when we witness neighbours, in many recent conflicts, suddenly turning upon each other with ferocity and violence, shattering the veneer of civility and harmony."Considering how those in authority continue to cite communal sensitivities as the reason to avoid dialogue, it seems we are prepared to live with superficial 'harmony' than genuine understanding. Yes, Malaysians are afraid of hard choices prefering denial to de truth.
Tragically, our 'betters' prefer lumpy carpets than mutual acceptance through continuing dialogue. May 13, race, royalty, religion, Allah, etc, we have a long list of taboos lurking in the shadow of 1 Malaysia. Rambachan also makes the observation that, "Communities where differences are real, but where they are minimized or downplayed, are most likely to suffer violence and traumatic upheavals when, in times of tension and conflict, such differences become prominent."
God knows plural Malaysia needs to talk to each other. Heaven knows we can no longer gloss over deep-seated differences and pretend silence is the price of tolerance.
(Read an interview where Vinoth Ramachandra talks about his book here.)