By Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov –
In the crucible of chaos, there is a simulated search for a strong man a ‘Führer’ to take us to greatness, to preserve our culture , our values.
Hoopla is a European carnival game where competitors throw hoops around pegs. On Sunday 13th May 2018 Gotabaya Rajapaksa played ‘Hoopla’ at the Shangri la. He put the hoop round the peg – the ‘Presidential Candidacy of the Pohottu party.
The hoopla at the Shangri-La last Sunday suggested that there is a strong and substantial body of thought in our polity, firm in its conviction that we are in need of a strong man, a man of action a man who delivers.
Last Sunday Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivered two messages. The first was to us – ‘we the people’. He defined our problem for us. He told us that we are too infantile to understand our problem. So, he explained what our problem was.
Our problem was structural. Structural problems called for structural solutions. He was kind enough to present the first person plural point of view. We must make structural changes to the manner we think, to the manner we address basic economic issues etc.
Now, you must remember that he defined the structure of the problem and offered us the structure of the solution. Now what is the solution?
Aha! Not so fast my friends. Solutions will come after 2020 when I am on the saddle on the white stallion – the presidency.
Right now, this is the ‘Viyathmaga’ – the erudite way to place the bridle on the beast.
The second message was for his Brother – the former president who restricted by the 19th amendment must propose a candidate for the presidency to his undoubtedly sizable constituency that awaits his counsel, caution, direction and instruction.
Look around you! In to this place that bears the brand and the name of the mythical kingdom of abundance and plenty- the Shangri-La I have summoned the barons of industry, commerce and finance, the brave soldiers of the realm, the thought leaders of the mother land. Behold the sight. Digest how docile and attentive they are!
Make no mistake. Here is a man who has a clear and a tight grip of conceptual power. He knows the difference between the government and the state. The government changed hands. The state moves on. He knows how it works. He knows, because he once ran it single handedly under the dispensation of his brother who presided over a fractious government listening to the smooth ticking of his watch never quite realizing the full genius of his brother – the watchmaker.
At the Shangri la on Sunday, he discovered how the watch maker assembled the intricate parts of the watch. And more! Mahinda heard the wake-up alarm.
The Shangri la gathering was a prelude to the possibility of our society being subject to an oligarchic collectivism. The term was coined by George Orwell in his novel 1984.
It describes a society that was already in the making before it was rudely intercepted by the change on 8th January 2015.
Then the new rulers decided to open the vaults of the central bank and all hell broke out. Greed to carveout political territory, mismanagement and sheer imbecility in governance prevented the dismantling of the edifice that was in place.
In the preceding five years – the post war years of development leaps and construction booms, government institutions, media and corporate interests moved under the control of a handful of individuals, linked together, collaborating to direct, regulate and benefit from each other and derive its share of profit, from the toil of the silent many- ‘we the people’.
It is all about control. It is control, that this government lacks. Although the government changed, the state mechanics remained intact.
Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency ended but Gotabaya’s shadow state persisted. It was cemented too deep. It held on to its group mind.
What we saw at the Shangri la is a phenomenon – a modern day Bonapartism. A determined man wants to replace the post-independence comprador class with post 2005 rent seekers wealth extractors and wealth creators of exceptional talent.
They are distinguished by their willingness to serve the state. Mind you, they will serve the state not the government. And you know who ‘State’ is.
The mainstream political parties have disintegrated in to power seeking, vote gathering machines operated by political freebooters.
As Hannah Arendt has painstakingly explained in her elegantly insightful prose, totalitarian movements are possible “wherever there are masses who for one reason or another have acquired the appetite for political organization.”
That was the spectacle we watched at the Shangri-La on last Sunday. What we saw gathered in the hugely opulent, hugely accommodative epitome of luxury was a “great flaccid body destitute of political education, almost inaccessible to ideas capable of ennobling action” ready to listen to a new ‘Pied Piper.’
In our current context, we should pay heed to Hannah Arendt one of 20th centuries great intellects who survived fascist tyranny and authored the classic political tract – Origins of Totalitarianism’.
As Hannah Arendt explains, masses are not held together by a consciousness of common interest. They do not have the capacity to either define their goals or to articulate them.
The ambitious manipulator and strong man not only notices this reality but takes in to account their sheer numbers, stupidity and indifference as factors that make up the equation of total control.
This indifferent segment of our society has begun to wake up after the hoopla in the Shangri-La.
Those “Kapuwatth Kola” UNPers and “Kapuwath Nil” SLFPers on both sides of the barricade waiting for the crumbs off the patronage table do not make or unmake regimes.
It is the party neutral, indifferent majority who bring about regime change. They alone constitute the majority that matters.
This happened before in other lands. That it will happen here, is now a real possibility. There may arrive a day, when parliament will wake up to discover its total and absolute disconnect with the great mass that is apathetic and indifferent.
Then, those in parliament can go home with the assurance of the ‘Strong Man’ that he will take upon himself the terrible and horrible responsibility for the conduct of public affairs in an orderly manner.
It is in that sure knowledge, that the merchant princes marked their presence in the front row at the hoopla at the Shangri-La.