Category Archives: meditations

The Threads of Intolerance within Contemporary Liberal/Radical Fervour

A Letter on Justice and Open Debate …. Harpers’ Magazine, July 7, 2020 ……………..
……… The letter below  will be appearing in the Letters section of the magazine’s October issue. We welcome responses at letters@harpers.org

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

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Passing the Covid with the Cricket Ball?

Simon Kolstoe, in The Conversation, 6 July 2020, where the title reads Do cricket balls really spread coronavirus

Cricket is now back on in England, despite Boris Johnson declaring cricket balls a “natural vector of disease”. His statement has frustrated cricket fans and players, but has also raised the wider question of which activities spread COVID-19. After all, unlike other activities that the UK government is actively encouraging, such as visiting pubs or restaurants, cricket is an outdoor sport where players are very unlikely to come into contact with each other.

Cricket balls showing various amounts of deterioration after play. Acabashi/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

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Galle Fort Today: Janaka Gallangoda’s Marvellous Lens

Entering the Fort –  Original Entrance with the VOC Plaque **

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Tamil Migrant Thuraissigiam denied Asylum Rights by US Supreme Court

Hassina Leelarathna, in Sri Lanka Express, 25 June 2020, where the title is “US Supreme Court rules against SL Tamil in landmark asylum case”

 The US Supreme Court in a landmark decision today voted in favor of the administration in its appeal against a lower court ruling that allowed a Sri Lankan the right to have a judge review the government’s handling of his asylum bid.

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Smashing Statues: Issues of Sense and Sensibility … and Nonsence

Rihaab Mowlana, in Lifelk, 19 June 2020, where the title runs thus “Are We Erasing History?”

The statue of Thomas Jefferson, the founding father who also enslaved more than 600 people, was toppled in Oregon, while the statue of navigator and coloniser Christopher Columbus was ‘spray-painted, set on fire and thrown into a lake’. In England, the Statue of Edward Colston suffered a similar fate, resulting in ‘the boarding up of the Cenotaph in Whitehall and Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square’. In many parts of the world, the predicament will befall many such monuments.

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Remembering Rajiv Jayaweera: An Outstanding Analyst and A Sturdy Administrator

RRW in The Island, 15 June 2020 where the title runs “One with elegance in thought and letters”

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored, and sorrows end. —- Shakespeare/Sonnet 30

Of course, Rajiv Jayaweera was not my friend. I never saw him in person, nor heard him; but I had once seen his picture in a web publication. However, I saw him well enough through his writings as a fellow contributor to The Island, and experienced a latent relationship with him as a person whose intellectual grasp of our country’s burning issues, and whose concerns and attitudes relating to them generally matched mine; I felt  as if I had known him closely as a friend for some time. I was impressed by the meticulous attention he paid to his language in expressing his ideas precisely (a characteristic in truth tellers).

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Trumping TRUMP with Cartoons

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Revitalizing the Oceans: COVID paves the Way

Palitha Kohona, at IndepthNews, May 2020, where the title is “COVID-19 Pandemic Provides Opportunity to Revive the Oceans”

COLOMBO (IDN) – The well-being of oceans in the Asia-Pacific region is edging closer to a tipping point due to the unprecedented pace of marine pollution, overfishing and climate change in recent years. However, a new report released May 13 by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) suggests that “the temporary shutdown of activities as well as reduced human mobility and resource demands due to the COVID-19 pandemic may provide marine environments the much-needed breathing space for them to recover“.

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A Sino-Tibetan Folded Book from 1410 predates the Gutenberg Bible

Colin Marshall in Open Culture, 15 May 2020, where the title is  “Breathtakingly-Detailed Tibetan Book Printed 40 Years Before the Gutenberg Bible”

The Gutenberg Bible went to press in the year 1454. We now see it as the first piece of mass media, printed as it was with the then-cutting-edge technology of metal movable type. But in the history of aesthetic achievements in book-printing, the Gutenberg Bible wasn’t without its precedents. To find truly impressive examples requires looking in lands far from Europe: take, for instance, this “Sino-Tibetan concertina-folded book, printed in Beijing in 1410, containing Sanskrit dhāranīs and illustrations of protective mantra-diagrams and deities, woodblock-printed in bright red ink on heavy white paper,” whose “breathtakingly detailed printing” predates Gutenberg by 40 years.

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Holy War Unmasked

 Brian Victoria …… Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. John Donne

Introduction: Is religion a force for peace or war? Or to borrow a phrase from the title of Christopher Hitchen’s book, God Is Not Great, does religion really poison everything, including the possibility of living in a peaceful world?

The answer is much like posing the question of whether the glass is half full or half empty. That is to say, for every example cited to prove that religion has supported warfare and violence, other examples can be presented to show ways in which religion has contributed to peace and the avoidance of war, reconciliation between bitter enemies and the general betterment of humanity and the world. When the question is posed in this way, the debate is as endless as it is futile unless the “winner” is the side that amasses the greatest number of examples.

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