‘Infertility’: can the Dhamma vanquish avijjaa ? | Sunday Observer

‘Infertility’: can the Dhamma vanquish avijjaa ?

Racist bias makes minds fertile ground for illusion, delusion and paranoia – in short, a form of avijjaa. The Lord Buddha taught that avijjaa is the root cause of dukkha and can spark suspicion, fear, anger and hatred among many other forms of ‘negative’ thoughts and behaviour.

For a society that celebrates the flourishing of the Dhamma on this Thrice Blessed Isle it is utterly paradoxical that this same society frequently displays the triumph of avijjaa and its most violent outcomes. The latest such display of avijjaa was the recent mob hysteria in an eastern town over suspicions of the surreptitious infusion in restaurant food servings of a non-existent drug causing infertility. Worse, the ‘suspicion’ was also that a Muslim restaurant in that town was specifically serving this poisoned food to Sinhala customers!

The violence in Ampara last week was the result of an angry mob damaging or destroying Muslim-run restaurants and shops in the mistaken belief that Muslims were trying to make Sinhalese infertile. Shops were burnt and damaged, people were terrorized. A mosque has also been attacked and damaged, thereby clearly betraying the communalist targeting by the trouble-makers. An exceptional cruelty was the forcing of a Muslim restaurant manager to publicly and on camera confess, falsely, that his kitchen was indeed mixing this (non-existent) infertility drug into customer food servings.

The details of the communal incidents in Ampara clearly indicate that, unsurprisingly, political forces were at work in this shameful, seriously destabilizing, episode. While many in the rioting mob may have been mobilized purely on such viciously communal misinformation, the speed and dexterity with which the crowd was mobilized and deployed against selected Muslim businesses indicate an element of planning and use of provocateurs on the ground.

The citizens of this country, from the ugly experience of the past decade, will recognize the pattern and, could identify the likely culprits who engineered the Ampara mayhem. The slow reaction of the local Police is also noteworthy.

Even more noteworthy is the degree to which people have been gullible enough to believe that chemicals that could possibly cause human infertility are so easily available that they can be obtained and successfully mixed in with restaurant food servings. Such gullibility, on the one hand, betrays a condition of poor general knowledge among citizens – in a country that is relatively highly ‘educated’ and richer than most in this part of the world. On the other, it is a lesson of our own history that is being repeated: people with racist or communal mindsets are most likely to believe such mumbo-jumbo about racially targeted ‘infertility pills’.

Certainly, there are industrial chemicals and materials that, with severe exposure, can induce infertility in people, especially, people with specific physiological susceptibility. But, precisely because we are now a rapidly developing country that already has a well-equipped public health and standards infra-structure, such chemicals and materials are hardly available in this country, these products being either well restricted or banned from use. Certainly, there are no readily consumable, infertility-causing pharmaceuticals in this country.

Even if they did have access to such highly restricted chemicals and, have the technical capacity to convert such toxins into readily consumable foods, how could mass market city restaurants identify a customer of a particular ethnicity quickly enough to then provide him or her with this ‘poisoned’ serving? Whatever the modus operandi that can be imagined, none of it would be conducive for a successful procedure to identify and feed arriving Sinhala customers with such poison and to simultaneously run a thriving business.

Thus, the readiness of the mob to believe this evil mumbo-jumbo, sadly, indicates the degree of the sickness of ethno-centrism and its attendant mindset of suspicion, insecurity, paranoia. Given this demonstration of extreme gullibility and volatility, Sri Lankans need to assess the success of our much-vaunted ‘modern’ education system on the one hand and, of our religious education on the other.

Secondly, readers will note the way the internet media has been used to not only propagate the ‘infertility’ falsehood but also to brazenly force a Muslim person to falsely affirm, via the internet social media, that there is a ‘conspiracy’ to poison the Sinhalese.

In a country with such widespread usage of social media, it has now become incumbent on the authorities to begin to manage the use of such social media platform in a manner that will protect the standing of the internet server industry as a socially responsible business.

OMP: Long-awaited human succour

The Office of Missing Persons will, at long last, begin operations, according to a government announcement last week.

The OMP was a promise of this Government that contributed to its electoral success. Such has been the collective human suffering prevailing in the country due to the loss of loved ones in the battlefields of the north-eastern war as well as in bloody political violence in other parts of the country that citizens naturally gravitated to the political movement that promised mechanisms of succour.

The Office of Missing Persons has been hailed both locally and internationally as a model mechanism that would enable citizens to seek assistance from the authorities to trace their missing loved ones or, obtain justice and compensation for their loss. Indeed, the one criticism of the OMP law was not so much about any inadequacies but about the long delay in its implementation.