If there is one thing that the whole world would agree on right now, it is that 2020 has been a very crappy year, to say the least.
Even though many of us had high hopes for the 2020s to be The Decade that sets the wheels spinning in the right direction for us, it has turned into a vicious circle that has had us on the edge since almost the first week of January. Over the many virtual Educational Meetings and other online interactions that have kept us at UoC Gavel sane during the past few months, we’ve witnessed our Gaveliers being at their wits’ end, daydreaming about the outside world that seems a distant memory.
Here at Gavel UoC, we believe in providing as many opportunities as possible for our members to let it all out of their system, in the Gavel style. This is where “Gavel Under The Trees Come In”, in the form of non-formal speech sessions where the members are free to be, and more often than not are encouraged to be, as political as they wish with regard to burning social issues and topics which are otherwise considered controversial. Under the current circumstances, GUTT may also be interpreted as a platform for venting, ranting and complaining about everything wrong with 2020, the list of which seems almost endless.
One such GUTT Session took place recently on 20th June, under the fitting theme of “Keeping Up With 2020”. However, the session was spiced up a little by converting it into a “GUTT Extended” Session, thereby welcoming members from other Gavel Clubs in the country and other clubs at the University of Colombo. Hence, a crowd of about 30, who had been starving for an opportunity to have a casual yet wholehearted conversation on how this year has been treating us so far, gathered ‘under the virtual Gavel trees’ at around 2.00 pm, for a session that would end up lasting four hours!
It started off with the most burning issue at hand: COVID-19 and how it has altered our life patterns. Someone who seemed quite impatient to get on with working towards their goals mentioned how their whole life has been ‘postponed’, while some others raised their concerns about the hurry to get back to ‘normalcy’ if such a thing could even exist!
Our attention was also directed to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that has taken a global form now, through which our participants addressed the involvement of Sri Lankans in the BLM movement, questioning the authenticity of activism that looks over local concerns in addressing more global movements. This is where we talked about the influence of international discourses on social change in Sri Lanka, and the stubborn ideologies of Sri Lankans that hinder effective dialogues.
Through the course of these four hours, we navigated the topics of the influence of religion on social ideologies and the clash between religion and modern thought, the role of history as a narrative in accommodating the misinterpretation of religion and history, the way in which complacency creates space for racism and homophobia under the disguise of flawed social change, and the need of active effort to achieve social change while maintaining acceptance towards people with an opinion different from our own.
An important dialogue came up when we reached the topic of separating art from the artist, where we drew on the recent controversy on J.K Rowling and trans right, and the way in which the careers of certain Hollywood actors faced a downfall due to accusations of sexual violence.
The conversation also turned towards the politics behind the civil war of Sri Lanka, and we briefly talked about the narratives of war in Sri Lankan history, which led us to share our opinions on corrupt political systems and the clash between ‘Party’ and ‘Policy’ which gives way for corruption.
Underpinning all these talking points was our understanding of the need of learning and unlearning process, and of changing ideologies that would successfully tackle the dilemma between logical thinking and emotional attachment that appears to define almost all the conflicts around and among ourselves. As GV Nishedha mentioned during the session, the Gaveliers of UoC are so diverse in their thinking, perspectives, and opinions which gives way for interesting conversations to erupt, but which also unites us in our common understanding that change is needed and inevitable to make life at least a tab bit better in the long run.
With hopes for better days ahead,