Burnt shops: Aftermath the Aluthgama and Beruwala clashes
“When virtue is lost, benevolence appears, when benevolence is lost right conduct appears, when right conduct is lost, expedience appears. Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder.”
- Lao Tzu
It is no longer sensible to be sensible. It is no longer reasonable to be reasonable. Whatever we do must be related to the consequences that our deeds entail. They must be directly related to the effects -- good or bad, redeemable or irredeemable and rectifiable or not, of action we took. Any deviation or oblivion that we might show in the face of unfathomable odds should not be given a scrap of a chance to succeed. In order to avert a much more alarming and tragic calamity, we must act now and abandon this all-consuming political correctness and confront the obvious. The mindset that entraps the underlings of nuanced behaviour and calculated responses, especially from politicians, is indeed a very damaging feature of our processes of political action. It has not only entrapped a free and liberated cascade of thoughts and ideals, it has enslaved the very elements of creative genius which has produced many a marvel in our ancient times.
But there was a time that being politically incorrect was way too frequent and far too atrocious. That was during the last regime of the Rajapaksas. They did not have time for political correctness. Their plans were devoid of political correctness, their executions displayed unfathomable depths of callousness; a total disregard for all that had been held lofty and sacred. That was the other extreme. This bigoted set of politicians let loose their political kith and kin robed in saffron who were armed with the Pali stanzas of the Dharma and fortified and shielded by the official security forces of the country. Patriotism was the theme and sovereignty of the nation was the bedrock of their vicious campaign. 18th Century English writer Samuel Johnson wrote that ‘patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’ but it is the Nineteenth Century’s Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde who paraphrased the quotation of Johnson and reaffirmed the inherent sardonicism of the saying. He, Wilde, declared that ‘patriotism is a virtue of the vicious’.
Driven by tempests of greed and lust, the ruling clan replaced decorum with banal rowdyism; they trashed nuanced political debate and traded it for vituperation and called it political incorrectness. Highly learned in the vernacular, they created tag lines and called them policy and principles. Those who did not possess any credentials to run the economy of the country became maestros of underhand deals and these deals became the sharpening instruments of the country’s wealth and treasure. Those who travelled by train and bus, those who traversed the country in public transport became owners of Mercedes Benz and MBW luxury cars. Humvees were brought into the country through the ‘good’ offices of those who were robed in saffron; the clergy that are supposed to be preaching thrifty living and discipline of the mind were the first to take to the streets and evoke satanic vengeance against an armless minority. Bodu Bala Sena and Ravana Balakaye did not erupt from nothingness; they were not born in a vacuum. On the contrary, these extreme elements emerged as a direct result of a campaign conceptualized and executed almost to perfection by highly skilled modern-day Joseph Goebelleses.
It is the pattern followed by all Narcissist leaders. In order to strengthen their power at the centre, in pursuit of their unquenchable thirst for lust, greed and desires, they first fortify themselves with like-minded henchmen and women. Then they in turn reinforce the powers of these cronies by allowing them to make hay while the sun shone. The worm of corruption began its slimy journey through the veins of the body politic of the nation. Political correctness flew out of the door. At the village level, the Pradesheeya Sabha member openly canvassed not only for votes, he, in a most disgraceful manner, solicited santosams for any favours, political or otherwise. Whether it was a transfer of a government servant, a school teacher or a Kachcheri clerk or for that matter any little favour from a locally situated politician, nothing could be done unless and until one parted with money, land, a house or in the case of a woman, the very solemnly held sacred value, virginity.
Life’s cruel path has presented before our rural folks an obstacle after obstacle; it has blocked his advance and great many odds have been thrown at him from every conceivable corner.
Political correctness has given way to political expediency. It is prevalent on every rural culvert and in every countryside paddy field. It is prevalent in every school and every university; hard working ordinary men and women have been entrapped in a mesh of political expediency; political expediency has been brandishing its sharp and cruel tongues to convince a susceptible electorate of the short-term gains and instinctive profits via political expediency. Polite conversation and decent discourse of subjects ranging from micro economics to environmental preservation have receded. Material gains were short-lived and the spiritual decay that ensued seemed permanent. A long lasting tragedy of historic measure is overtaking the mind and body of our rural families. The vanguard of our cultural ethos, in the rural South based on the sacred precepts of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha while in the North and East ordinary men, women and children would seek religious refuge in the Kovils, Mosques and Churches, is facing extinction. They are pathetic victims of political expediency. Right through their upbringing they had been taught to depend on ‘government’ for their everyday lives’ needs. When conditioned in such a delusioned mindset, to be cheated by whom they placed immense trust with unequivocal faith in, is a daunting realization.
Many rural peasants were transformed from peasant-hood to farmer entrepreneurs by the far-sighted community and business development programs launched under the Accelerated Mahaweli Scheme. The sad part of this moving saga is the total inactivity in the sphere of farmer development in the last twenty two years, in fact since the ouster of the government led by the United National Party (UNP). Whilst this is no session of brief-holding for the UNP and its governing history, one cannot deny credit where it’s due. No macro-development program has been undertaken by this country since the conclusion of the Mahaweli Development Program. No creative thinking has come into the governing ranks and when such a vacuum exists in the bureaucratic layers, it’s almost impossible for half-baked politicians to conceptualize and implement giant schemes that would benefit the people at large and the country’s coffers in particular.
Power arriving at their doorstep of those who assumed power after 1994 while the nation was engaged in a brutal ethno-terrorist war was treated as an instrument at their hands. The uncaring but curious way in which power was brandished about by the successive governments reminds one of the first Neanderthal who encountered steel. A ghastly orgy of corruption and anarchical exercise of raw governmental power was indulged in. The devastation of the mind and spirit of the masses at each perceptible level was unleashed. Now we all are wretched witnesses to the abysmal results of the process that set in.
Political expediency effectively replaced decent politics; it replaced an honourable pursuit of power with the service of the masses as the end goal. Can Sri Lanka wake up from this dreadful nightmare? Can Sri Lanka as a collective community, not separately as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers, but as one single nation, dust off the dirt and step into a new unsuspecting world? The answer lies not in the politicians’ mind; nor does it dwell in the so-called pundits’ discourses. In resides in the ordinary man who does an honest day of work; it may be a very heavy burden to carry as they say too big a canvas to paint on, yet the ordinary Pathmasiri, Nadaraja and Hussein have to carry that weight. They must also be mindful that to put that burden down before the end of the journey is too risky, not for him and his wife, but for his children and their children.
In the placid plains in Jaffna, overlooked by the burning fire of the sun, Nadaraja works his land trying to produce paddy and onions to support his family of four; in the fog-ridden hill-country Mudiyanse is running a small boutique selling the essential groceries to an estate-dependent community; close to the delightful beaches of the East, Hussein is selling sweets and snacks to the teaming tourists and in Deep South, Ransiri and his wife are labouring day in day out in an adjacent pre-school, mentoring little ones, expanding the scope of their potential. All their dreams are at stake.
The correct move by the Government, instead indulging in political expediency, venturing out on a bold, forward-thinking ethno-economic strategy, would engender good results.
Taking unpleasant but potentially prolific development schemes would yield desired results. But as at now, there is no such scheme in the offing. That is a real tragedy.
The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984.com