Socrates said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” It means education that doesn’t bring behavioural change is useless. Socrates believed an individual’s behaviour was driven by his heart. Therefore, according to Socratic philosophy, an uneducated heart is as bad as no education at all. Sri Lanka’s population had an adult literacy rate of 96.3% in 2015, which is above average by world and regional standards. Education plays a major part in the life and culture of the country, which dates back to 543 BC. Unfortunately, Sri Lankans are increasingly showing signs of being uneducated at heart. Given below are five such signs.
Warning: This post deals with the mature subject matter that some readers may find offensive. Reader discretion is advised.
1. Garbage Dumping & Public Urination
Garbage dumping and public urination, in my experience, is an unmistakable sign of a heart that is uneducated. It’s obvious that we should not spill trash or urinate in public spaces, let alone on private property. One morning I was out for a walk when I saw these notices written on the entrance to private property. “බෝඩිමට යන පාරකි. කුණු දැමීමෙන් වළකින්න! මෙහි මූත්රා කිරීම තහනම්!” (Private Road. Do not dump garbage here! Urination is forbidden!) What a shame, I thought to myself. We are such a reputable nation the owner of private property has to put up a notice forbidding people from littering and urinating at the entrance to his property.
Twenty-five years ago, I could excuse such behaviour because people were not so educated back then. However, more than seventy years after independence dumping garbage, public urination, and littering the streets are still prevailing issues in this country. We blame the government for the miserable state of Sri Lanka as a developing country in the third world. All the while when we can’t even dispose of our garbage responsibly or decently relieve ourselves.
2. Ridiculing Other People’s Beliefs
Ridiculing other people’s beliefs, in my experience, is an unmistakable sign of a heart that is uneducated. On April 21st of this year, a post on “Sri Lankan Skeptics” featured a picture of Ramesh Raju and his family. Ramesh died in the 2019 Easter Bombings when he prevented a suicide bomber from entering the church he worshipped. The admins of the page used a picture of Ramesh Raju and his family in a meme (embedded below) they posted ridiculing Christianity. An inhumane act by any standard. That is not my point, however. If you followed through the profiles of the commentators, you will realize people who uphold the page are educated professionals.
Education is supposed to promote reasoning, not ridicule. Unfortunately, I have seen that people supporting the Facebook Page I mentioned before, though they are educated, like to ridicule beliefs they disagree with. Sri Lanka is a nation of religious diversity. I have seen many religious beliefs that are bizarre and scientifically don’t make any sense. I have the right to agree or disagree with those beliefs but I have absolutely no right to ridicule such beliefs. Neither You!
3. Sexual Harassment of Women
Sexual harassment of women, in my experience, is an unmistakable sign of a heart that is uneducated. (In my post titled “What’s So Bad About Street Harassment?” I shared my thoughts about the issue in detail.) According to a UNFPA survey, 90% of Sri Lankan women face sexual harassment on public transportation. This is in a nation where the adult literacy rate is as high as 96.3%. Women are not just harassed but raped and murdered should the opportunity present itself. Victims like Rita John, Sivaloganathan Vithiya, and Seya Sadewmi are just a few examples.
Harassers often justify their behaviour on the grounds of immodesty. It’s a ridiculous allegation because not even schoolgirls in uniform and pregnant women are spared. Furthermore, they target not only local women but also tourists. The rape of Russian national Victoria Alexandrovna was one such incident that brought our country into disrepute on the international stage. It was just three years ago we made headlines all over the world again, when Hindustan Times reported Danushka Gunathilaka had a Norvegian tourist raped in his hotel room. There are also many untold stories. Stories like Karen Hsin’s experience who was groped on her intimate area while on vacation in Mirissa. I can go on but the list is endless.
4. Suppressing Freedom of Speech
Suppressing Freedom of Speech, in my experience, is an unmistakable sign of a heart that is uneducated. It occurs at several levels in Sri Lanka, but I’d like to focus on its ugly presence in the realm of social media. Here Facebook is a hot platform for expressing political and religious views. Hence one can find many Fan Pages and Groups devoted to promoting political and religious causes. That is not the problem. The problem is that a closer look at the communities formed around these Fan Pages and Groups reveals Sri Lankans don’t tolerate opposing views.
Commentators often use foul language to silence other commentators. Examples include හු** a twisted term for female sexual organ used as a derogatory term to address another person or අම්මට හු* meaning f* your mother. They throw insults like වේ* ගෑණි or ගොන් බඩුව twisted terms for a prostitute at female users with opposing views. The ultimate goal is to discourage people with opposite views from expressing their opinion.
5. Racism, Separatism & Divisions
Last but not least, racism is yet another sign of an uneducated heart. (I call separatism and divisions are cousins of racism.) The Oxford Dictionary has two broad definitions of racism. (1) “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.” (2) “the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.”
It disturbs me that we still haven’t learned the consequences of racism even after suffering from 25+ years of civil war. It’s very frustrating that racism is a serious issue even in the so-called developed countries of the first world such as the USA (Remember, George Floyd?). For further insight on this issue, I would like to urge you to check my detailed post on racism titled “The 4 Ds of Racism” published on Friday, September 17th, 2001 as well as the videos by Dishan Wickramaratne. Click here to watch in English or here to watch in Sinhala.
These signs indicate that Socrates’ words are more important now than they ever were in the 6th century B.C. and that we are reaping the consequences of educating only the mind and not the heart. Many contend that we won’t be able to undo these effects until the government takes steps to reform the current educational system. The truth is that educational reformations must begin at home, not in the classroom. Parents are responsible for teaching their children to dispose of garbage responsibly and observe standard hygiene standards, to honour other people’s beliefs, to see women as fellow human beings rather than objects of gratification, and to respect the freedom of speech and expression. As a parent, what steps have you taken to educate your child’s heart today?