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Text of a talk by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, June 18th 2012

One of the saddest aspects of the last three years has been the corrosive distrust between all political players. This is almost relentlessly exacerbated by several factors. The first, and perhaps the most worrying, is what I term a failure of rationalism, the practice of judging situations not in terms of evidence but rather through emotions. This contributes to a tendency to interpret ambiguities in line with fears rather than hopes.

Then there are what might be termed political factors. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the tendency of extremists on all sides to act and speak in a manner that worries those on the other side or sides. The second factor here is the failure of moderates on all sides, who I believe constitute the majority, to rein back their extremists. Combined with this is the tendency of a few of these last to adopt the rhetoric of the extremists so as to keep on the good side of what they believe might become the support base of the latter.

Associated with these are psychological factors. Thus there is a tendency to expect the other sides to control their extremists, whilst expecting them conversely to understand the compulsions that lead one to excuse and even perhaps condone one’s own extremists. And linked to these are supposed strategic factors, most obviously in terms of the belief that others are not sincere in their negotiating positions, and therefore one must demand much more than one really needs, in order to end up with an acceptable via media.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2012
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