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Authoritarian trends in power game

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The science of Megapolis and Hubris Syndrome

“The history of madness is the history of power. Because it imagines power, madness is both impotence and omnipotence. It requires power to control it. Threatening the normal structures of authority, insanity is engaged in an endless dialogue—a monomaniacal monologue sometimes—about power”
- Roy Porter in A Social History of Madness.

 
Former Minister of Megapolis, Patali Champika Ranawaka presenting the proposal in Parliament to suspend finances for running the ministries of the Rajapaksa’s controversial Minority Government made a rare, informative and persuasive oration on Friday, Nov  30.

The well-read man quoted, beginning from Sir Isaac Newton [On his now defunct 300-year old Law of Gravity] to many scientific thinkers, political philosophers, Karl Popper, Adolf Hitler and political psychologists Owen and Davidson’s ‘Hubris Syndrome’.

He touched on Karl Popper’s Falsification Theory to prove a point that ‘Our Constitution though not clear on how to do—is very specific in showing the way of un-doing things’.His meticulous and in-depth analysis of the above supported his claim, “I have experience in lecturing at Moratuwa’s Engineering Faculty.”

Who is this Karl Popper?

Austrian-born Karl Raimund Popper was a 20th Century British philosopher, who specialised in the philosophy of science and political philosophy.

Popper’s basic doctrine was that scientific theories must be verifiable and could possibly be ‘falsified’ or contradicted by counter-evidence.

Theories which are not verifiable or falsifiable are merely metaphysical dogmas or pseudo-science, he asserts. He also became famous for attacking Marxism, [Champika’s Moratuwa Undergraduate day ‘passion’?], and he was knighted for this, and not for his controversial theory.

Influenced by Vienna Circle’s Positivists, Marx put forward his theory or dogma. Popper received his doctorate from the University of Vienna. However, the widely discredited Positivists’ views, diverged from his views.

Popper’s doctrine itself is a scientific theory, and therefore it applies to itself; if it is factual, we can never verify that it is so! This doctrine according to many scientists is uni-dimensional— it neglects many other characters a scientific theory possesses—like internal consistency and compatibility with other theories. Even most philosophers have discarded it as unsophisticated at best, though physicists generally accept it.

“Scientists are great philosophers, but bad politicians!”-Anon

Ranawaka, when he switched to areas ‘alien’ to a scientist, like Constitution and economics, the many learned lawyers and economists in his side looked beleaguered as we witnessed over live telecast, while the rest, most of his 122 audiences were seen surfing their modern smartphones, probably, unable to comprehend the 
advanced vocabulary?

The other side of the chamber was empty as the Government members visited the hallowed premises for tea, refreshments and media briefings at the cost of the tax-payer However, when Ranawaka was referring to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s shamelessness in holding on to the position of PM [By quoting political psychologists Owen and Davidson] even after he has lost Parliamentary Approval four times and that Mahinda as an arrogant man, who never listened to anybody, but tried to glorify himself as a person who knew everything; some of the Ranil loyalists were seen grimacing with disapproval.

Who are Owen and Davidson and what is Hubris Syndrome?

According to Ranawaka, the Iraq war inspired the two psychologists to undertake a study of UK Prime Ministers and US Presidents over the past 100 years. They propounded a psychological theory called Hubris Syndrome. 

Let us discuss this acquired personality disorder. David Owen and Jonathan Davidson believe that severe hubristic behaviour is a syndrome, comprising a collection of features evoked by a power, and usually dispatching when power fades.

This syndrome is seen as an acquired state. The main concept is that it is a disorder of the possession of power, mainly power which has been linked with overwhelming achievement, held for a period of years and with minimal restraint on the person in charge. 

Autocrats, according to the researchers are particularly prone to the syndrome because there are only a few constraints on their behaviour. Ian Kershaw, Hitler’s biographer, entitled his first volume 1889–1936 Hubris and the second 1936–1945 Nemesis. In Stalin’s case, it was not as noticeable or as progressive as Hitler’s. Mussolini and Mao both had hubris.

Castigated the Rajapaksas unforgivingly presenting facts and figures proving that he was qualified to do so having been in the Rajapaksa Circus for its full term

The capacity to make quick decisions, sometimes based on flimsy evidence, is of particular significance—arguably essential—in a leader. Likewise, a thin-skinned individual will not be able to stand the procedure of public scrutiny, harassment by opponents and back-stabbings, without some form of joy over success and grand conviction about his own assignment and importance.

The syndrome is acquired over a period. The full-blown hubris, related to holding considerable power in high position, may or may not be transitory. External proceedings can manipulate the variation both in strength and time of inception. Ranawaka cited only three or four out of 14 characteristics of Hubris as time-constrained; the rest is interesting too: Hubris Syndrome was formulated as a pattern of behaviour in a person who:

Has a tendency to take action primarily to enhance personal image; Shows disproportionate concern for image and presentation; Exhibits messianic zeal and exaltation in speech; Uses the royal ‘we’ in conversation; Manifestly has contempt for others; Shows accountability only to a higher court; Displays unshakeable belief that they will be vindicated in that court; Loses contact with reality; Resorts to restlessness, Recklessness and impulsive actions; Allows moral rectitude to obviate consideration of practicality, cost or outcome; and Displays incompetence with disregard for nuts and bolts of policymaking.

Do we have more Hubris sufferers in Sri Lanka than in US and UK? Of course, one can rest assured that most of our big and small party leaders past and present, [Albeit R Sampanthan] are Hubris characters.

Plotting and scheming in power game

As analysts observe, in Coups and Conspiracies in Sri Lankan politics, a noteworthy feature is the UNP leadership’s demonstration of cunningness and brain power in effectively hatching a scheme, or countering such action against them, compared to their opposition. [Of course, invariably, backed by outside forces].

Can one construe that the likes of JR Jayewardene, Lalith/Gamini and Ranil Wickremesinghe, could be a class that could be quoted as top shining examples that our post-independent period had produced?

In the opposite camp, S.B. Dissanayake and Basil Rajapaksa stand tall as master strategists among a relatively low profile group. SB in the past was very effective though he failed miserably in his manoeuvrings at the recent debacle; it appears that his days are over. Considering inter-party cross-over scenario a distinctive feature of the UNP is that it had been the winner in almost every such instance, while SLFP and its associates were the losers. It has never happened the other way about—that the SLFP or its allies launching a conspiracy on UNP. In running a nation that kind of wisdom, sagacity and skill invariably becomes extremely important attributes of a leader, which the SLFP as a party badly lacks.

Relieved SWRD to make way for Dudley—1951

The first PM of independent Ceylon, D. S. Senanayake, used his loyal nephew Sir John Kotalawala, who was number three in the hierarchy of the government and UNP, to implement his plans to pave the way for son Dudley to succeed him. Sir John Kotalawala misapprehended the master’s exercises, concluded it would make him the next in line to replace the grand old man someday. He obliged the boss to and vilified the senior-most contender, SWRD Bandaranaike, who claimed the position of heir apparent in the 1947-52 Government.

CP de Silva Group Cross-over to Topple Sirimavo in 1964-

“J. R. Jayewardene was the master manipulator of all the Parliamentary manoeuvres that went to topple the government in 1964”-- Ceylon Observer: December 20, 1964. This has a close parallel to the current debacle. It happened fifty-four years ago, on December 3, 1964, during the Throne Speech vote. A betrayal by SLFP’s second-in-command, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Irrigation C. P. de Silva, [Also from Polonnaruwa], and it was J.R. Jayewardene and Esmond Wickremesinghe, (Father of Ranil), who played the roles of ‘master manipulator’ who got CP and 15 government MPs including Mahanama Samaraweera, father of Mangala and few others to change loyalties, and defeat the government by a mere one vote.

Sirimavo, who sat in the lower house, remained a Senator throughout her tenure on hearing the bad news she rushed to the house and met some of those who were tipped to cross over, and was successful in convincing just two of them to remain. Had she been there, surely she could have won over a few others but she intervened too late causing the fall of her democratically elected government by 74 to 73 votes.

Back to the House by the Diyawanna: the former member of the Scientific Cabinet of Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government, Champika Ranawaka who now occupies Opposition benches that holds the ‘Bhahutharaya’ in a House sans ‘Government members’, castigated the Rajapaksas unforgivingly presenting facts and figures proving that he was qualified to do so having been in the Rajapaksa Circus for its full term, aiding and abetting them in all their endeavours with absolute loyalty.

Can we add a fifteenth characteristic to Owen and Davidson’s Hubris Syndrome’s fourteen?

The writer can be contacted at -- kksperera1@gmail.com

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