A Personal note by Vihanga
Someone called Daniel (most probably a pseudonym) has written a criticism of an academic forum which I also happened to attend a few weeks ago. Now, this forum was not entirely without ‘action’. Part of the action was partly on me — where I presented on migrants writing of “home”: my argument was that these migrants — more often market products, and catering to a Euro-centric consumer taste — do the same cultural work the “colonial middle class” used to do for their masters.
My presentation was followed up by a volley of questions and the largely upper-middle class (if not elite VIP class) floor questioned me on my premise. Their questions were more on the peripheral elements of the argument, and if not for Manikya Kodituwakku who was seated in the same panel with me, I would have been screwed. Manikya sided up to make some clarifications regarding my position which, for some reason, the questioners couldn’t / wouldn’t comprehend.
Anyways. Now this Daniel — the critic of the forum — has acknowledged the numerous questions fired at me. Some questions were more to disarm me, than to get things clarified: this was clear to some present at the forum itself, but that’s okay. There are means of dealing with such attempts, and these are all welcome.
So, a fortnight later, when Daniel writes his/her article to the Lakbima News a new sensation is caused: some colleagues discern me to be the said Daniel. Now, Daniel’s essay has several ingredients that would make any wise man think this way:
1) Daniel is less critical of me — while she is more severe on other presenters at the forum in question
2) I was put to difficulty at the forum by intensive questioning; and logic dictates that I should strike back at some point. Maybe, by writing to a paper?
3) I have been a somewhat frequent submitter to the Lakbima News.
4) I am told that Daniel’s “writing style” resembles mine.
I, by all means, stand up for Daniel. Given the stance she takes, I see the point of that essay. But, the problem is in some of our quasi-academics who run the whole hog when criticism is made against them. One such researcher, chancing upon the Daniel article, was quick to text me and tell me something I already knew: that I was a coward. The implication was that I was sitting behind an imagined name — Daniel — and was taking pot shots at her/him/them. No matter how much I pleaded that this Daniel was not me (even if I was Danny I don’t see a reason why anyone should get so upset over so trivial a cause) s/he would not believe me. Marlon Ariyasinghe, Prof. Walter Perera —- both part of the organizing committee of the forum —, too, have felt that this is me writing.
A question which has often made me feel flattered over the past year and a half is: “Are you Mark Wilde?”. As we know, that writer of Chucking the Dragon is not revealed to the world by publishers Sri Serendipity. Here, too, some say, that Mark Wilde’s writing style is a bit like mine — whatever that means. As much as I am not Wilde, nor am I Daniel; even though the “similarity” of how we write seems to keep us bound — in this case, to damnation.
I can understand Marlon Ariyasinghe and the rest getting upset, cos the forum was their brainchild. But, then again, Daniel’s criticism was not aimed at the organizers but the actual presentations that were dished out. Daniel writes assertively of the lethargy and the reactionary nature of some presentations. Even I would agree, but as a charismatic young poet tells me “we’re all trying to earn our bread, at the end of the day”.
This is as personal as a blog can get, where I am blogging. Hope this dosn’t end up with more hits than what I write of Vivimarie VanderPoorten.