“People do not lack strength; they lack will.” ~ Victor Hugo
It’s that time of the day: twilight, an approaching dusk hurrying the routine-ridden office worker’s home; prompting school children to halt their playtime and head for their parents’ abode. Daytime lovers are buttoning up their blouses and shirts while the new crop of the evening rush to seek their own esoteric pleasures and joys under the shadowy foliage in the parks dotted amongst an otherwise concrete forest. An orderly flow of usual business is not being disturbed, yet the disorderly obstacles may emerge anytime, sooner than later. That is the human condition; as long as humans occupy this planet, pursuit of unreachable horizons has entrapped man beyond unreasonable thresholds. Hazy and misty environs have insulated him from the gorgeous and vigorous logic invented by the Buddhas, Platos and Aristotles, masters of yester-world.
Rich or poor, Sinhalese, Tamil or Malay, fair, brown or dark-complexioned, young or old, the vast waters of human waste and human wealth are gushing through the gorges or maybe meandering along the plains, amidst opulent flora enriching the soil while desecrating the air. A lamentable saga of infinite pain and insufferable agony is continuing without a murmur of an expectant complaint. Those lovers who flock to the park because they have no alternative as hotels and guest-houses are not affordable; nor could the boys indulge in their pleasures as their fairer lovers object to such premature pleasure-hunting. Protecting virginity still matters in our society.
An unkind night creeps in; for night never dawns, it creeps in at the end of each day; with it also comes in the last phase of daily chores. It is the ‘undawn’ of night whose dancing damsels refuse to recede until the morning dew touches their bare feet.
After waking up at the wee hours of the morning, from the time of a boring routine of office work, men and women, not to exclude boys and girls who are struggling to adjust to a new way of office work-life, have finally arrived at a resting place to lay their exhausted and fatigued bodies to slumber. A majority of them have no evening appointments to keep; they are not amongst the exalted list of invitees for cocktail parties. Nor are they being asked to join their office colleagues for a shot of whiskey or brandy. Their exclusive joy is being shared with the family, either assisting their children in their homework or the spouse in cooking.
The exclusive mob of cocktail cockroaches are a different lot altogether. They are, in a very deep sense of modern Sri Lankan history, a part of the so-called intelligentsia. Whether they are educated in a normal sense of education or not, are certainly not learned. Their access to the powers that be has facilitated the closeness to the throne. While their poor brethren languish in the pits of jealousy and class-hatred, these cockroaches indulge in their macabre riches to an extraordinary degree of extravagance.
Their greedier wives wait for the next invitation for the next cocktail party thrown by the ministers whose riches are earned via commissions paid out to these traders of business associations.
These businessmen and women are deeply entrenched in the apparatus of government. They know exactly when to collect their cheques; they can get a child to a school quicker than some leading ministers, not through the Education Ministry but directly through the network of school principals. Their powers are widespread and exceed even those of some powerful Cabinet ministers. This widening gulf between the haves and have-nots too is part of that culture which is all part of the social milieu of today and those whose children have got accustomed to throwing away hundreds of thousands of rupees in one table-sitting in a posh restaurant in Colombo are virtually living in a totally different universe, a universe that is insulated from the suffering galleries of men and women of the ordinary kind.
They are the children of a culture that reflects the values of distorted lifestyles; a culture that recognises rupees, dollars, sterling pounds and euros above human needs is no culture that one can pass down from one generation to another. The Roman Empire had such vultures of power such as the infamous Neros and Caligulas who, in part or in whole, contributed towards its own downfall over a couple of centuries of utter repugnance, depravity and debauchery.
It created a political landscape that is vividly illustrative of a field of sheer barrenness of wisdom and scarcely populated with the bright and young. Wisdom, they say, comes with the length of years. Maybe true, yet a woeful lack of learned men and women in the political arena cannot be overstated. Politics as a profession has failed, especially in Sri Lanka, to attract the bright and young; on the contrary, it’s being used as a playground of the degenerate and corrupt. Faced with a spectacle of this distortion of values, our young, learned and educated have either chosen the foreign shores or the lucrative local private sector. Even our university campuses have failed to employ the brightest and most learned.
Joseph Conrad, in Heart of Darkness,wrote thus: “Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.” How little have our rich and powerful learnt? Their strength and power are not born out of their inherent strength and power but an accident to occur in the midst of the meek and feeble.
This is the dreadful night whose advent is most welcomed by the flamboyantly-clad to suit the glamour and sweetness of alluring pleasures and indecent joy. While a million children hit the hay on a mat on cow dung-laden floor, without proper food to call dinner, the deadly merchants of greed and lust barter their wealth for a moment’s ecstasy and a lifetime’s desire.
But those who hold the reins of power, politicians, are waiting in the wings for the next dropping of perks from the pockets of the wealthy and decadent reminding one of a third-rate Hindi movie whose hero and villain are both sides of the same coin. A tremendously-comical drama is being enacted before our very eyes, yet we are too busy to see the clumsiness of acting, rudeness of the dialogues and terribly-mediocre music.
An unwilling mass of ordinary people are being led by crude and clumsy thugs who call themselves politicians. The people may be lazy and indifferent, but they are not guiltless as their leaders are unlearned but invariably-cleverer!
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org