Let’s celebrate in(ter)dependence | Sunday Observer

Let’s celebrate in(ter)dependence

29 January, 2023

“Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Even tiny insects survive by mutual cooperation based on innate recognition of their interconnectedness. It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. Therefore, we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others.” –Dalai Lama

Sri Lanka is getting ready to celebrate the 75th anniversary of itsindependence, or at least what we have come to accept as the independence, from the British colonial rulers.  Irrespective of the name we use: Independence Day or National Day, it is the celebration of the anniversary of February 4, 1948. In the Cambridge Dictionary, the  word “independence” is described as, the State of wanting or being able to do things for yourself and make your own decisions, without help or influence from other people.

In the context of relationships between different countries, independence refers to the freedom to make laws or decisions without being controlled by another country or an organisation. 

Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or State in which its residents and population, exercise self-Government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory.  It may not be a difficult task to find out whether Sri Lankans can claim such independence with territorial sovereignty and/or possibilities of self-Government.  That may be a common observation throughout all the countries that have supposedly been granted “independence” by their colonial rulers. 


At one point or another in our life we have all been told that we must be independent. Parents try to teach their children how to be independent as early as possible. When a child is just two years old, consciously or not, parents start sending signals to the child not to rely on them, often with the expectation of leaving them in daycare centers which is thought of as a training ground for the school.

Children are rewarded for every little display of independence such as washing hands, putting on clothes or tying their own shoes. Little children do not realise that they are being trained to be a member of the herd that will be sent through the education mill through the next twenty years of their lives.

Children start to feel that their well-being depends on the ability to be independent but then realise that they can never be independent at school.

Throughout the school career children keep getting mixed messages ‘to be or not to be’ independent. As they grow older, they start to see that they depend on so many things done by other people that it’s ridiculous to affirm that we must meet our needs entirely on our own.

Sri Lankan children will learn that, except for food and some items of clothes and a few other things, all the rest they use on a daily basis are made in other countries. Most of the children and unfortunately some of the adults even, do not have any idea about the process through which they get to eat locally grown food.


Most people feel that their lives are independent of questions such as: Where and how they are grown, who the farmers are, what kind of difficulties the farmers and the traders had to go through, how many other people are involved with the journey that particular food made from the farm to the plate. Similarly, most of the people are not concerned about how many others are affected by their individual actions due to their selfish thinking patterns which may be based on the illusion of independence.

Nations around the world are striving towards individual betterment.  Within each nation people are trying to achieve success individually not seeing the benefits of helping each other.

The transition of the world power, both economically and militarily, from Britain to the US was used to erase the memories of colonialism as we knew it from people’s minds while introducing a new kind of economic colonialism through international organisations such as the UN, World Bank, and IMF. 

Propagating democracy and capitalism was the priority of this new empire that was being built where each nation was made to feel that they are independent from the superpower, they have the total freedom of choosing their own leaders and their destiny is in their own hands so that as long as they put their country first, they would do well.


These new economic colonies are encouraged to have “democratically elected” governments as long as the leaders who get elected are willing to follow the orders of the superpower.

The biggest contribution people can make towards their own development as well as their nation’s development is to be true patriots who would prioritise country above self and contribution above consumption.

At a time when the whole country is literally at the mercy of IMF, other donor agencies, China and other creditors, Sri Lankans perhaps should think deeply about spending every cent irrespective of whether it is public or private money.

Every cent spent will have to be justified over the suffering of others some of whom have even killed their own children thinking that they are better off dead than living in hunger.

Just as the leader of a family or a group of people influence the behaviour of the family or the group, leader of a school, a university and/or any other institution has a strong impact on the behaviour of the members of that institution and the culture within the organisation. 

The leader of a country would certainly influence that country and even surrounding countries sometimes.  Tanzania’s President cancelled their Independence Day celebration last year, which was scheduled to be held on December 9, 2022 and instructed the Government to use that budget of US$ 445,000 to build eight dormitories in primary schools around the country.

The country celebrated that day by having public dialogues on development. It is important for the people in smaller nations like ours, to understand the bigger picture and not assume a false sense of independence and/or not to be intoxicated with the blind arrogance of nationalism. 


Instead, we should try to celebrate ‘interdependence’ which is the key to our survival. As Dr. Gunter Blobel, a professor in medical sciences has said, “The principal of interdependence is the key to the existence of nature’s entire system. The best example we have of this are the cells in the human body. They connect with one another through mutual giving for the benefit of the entire body. Every cell receives what it needs to exist and applies the rest of its strength toward the general body.”

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic for over twenty years in the USA and fifteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]