18 September, 2021

Blog

A Paradise Lost, A Shangri-La Shackled   

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

On Friday 13th August I passed the 79th year in my life. The 80th looms ahead.

An ephemeral memory nags me. I was born in 1942 in the British administered crown colony of Ceylon. In 2021, I live in in a family fiefdom politely described as a republic in the middle of a pandemic. In my eightieth year I refuse to concede that life is a list of years full of fears and tears. Opinionative obduracy compels this essay.  

Measuring up my journey from a Lost Paradise to a shackled Shangri-La, I am reminded of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s moving lament describing how we humans lose our way. 

“Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost”

How did we lose sight of the straightforward path?   

In 2015, we thought that good governance was possible with no agreed agenda on good policy. That was a grave mistake. The ensuing chaos was such, that it prompted a half-witted cleric to reminisce on Hitler’s holistic humanity.

What followed was inevitable. An oligarchic elite formed a coalition with the mob. I am too old and too tired to explain the difference between the mob and the masses. Suffice it to say that ordinary people who could think, said a plague on both houses and stayed home. That explains the super majority. 

When the greedy elite and the mindless mob forms a coalition what follows is pure puppetry. 

The puppets perform their varied forms of art on the stage in the middle of the swamp. Up and down, they move as the strings that hold them direct the puppets in the prescribed roles.

Unless we understand the logic of this puppet theatre, we run the  risk of becoming puppets ourselves. This pandemic and this trivialization of death is a wakeup call for us to differentiate between the puppet theatre in the middle of the Diyawanna swamp and the real drama of our innocuous, ordinary existence.

The hurt of the hungry, the audacity of the aggrieved and the pluck of the protestor are forces that the Pandora’s Pandemic box has unleashed. Sooner than later, those forces will fuse into an agenda that will dismantle this tyranny.

A tyrant cannot survive alone. For tyranny to survive, it requires a steady supply of useful idiots. Sooner than later the tyrant will run out of useful idiots. Then it will be the turn of useless idiots. That is how tyrants usually exit the stage. 

Tyrants coexist with evil. As my favorite political thinker Hannah Arendt points out, we end up with evil because we stop thinking. Our failure to think allows evil to thrive. So, it is time for us to think.

History I gathered in my lifetime holds one lesson. Those who promise stability are the people who create great instability.

JR Jayewardene introduced an arbitrarily conceived constitution promising stability. What he in fact achieved was quite the contrary. Permanent instability is the legacy he left behind. His successors have only improved on his masterpiece. 

The COVID-19 virus will run its course. As all plagues and pestilences of the past it will eventually reach a stage when we will get used to it. Then we will again introduce ceremony at the cemetery and treat the dead differently from the current pragmatic irreverence of treating dead humans as dead goats or dead cattle. The corona virus will become a regular virus.

The pandemic has demonstrated that it does not discriminate. 

When the pandemic broke out in late 2019 and early 2020, our venerable monks predicted that it was a great opportunity for the great redeemer to redeem the nation a second time.

It was now another new war that the nation had to contend with. The metaphor of war visualized a strong man at the center ordering and commanding the fight against the virus. Things have not worked out quite in that way.

Poor comrade scientist and virologist Tissa Vitarana should stop complaining.

The metaphor of war was a natural instrument to demand obedience of the people. But the metaphor of ‘war’ did not identify the virus as the enemy.

Now the protesting teachers are the enemy. Those who oppose militarization of higher education are the enemy. Those who equate printing money with inflation and economic disaster are the enemy.

We do not really know the exact statistics of the infected, cured and the dead. We must accept the statistics released. It is too bad that they don’t address our anxieties. We have no choice but to blindly trust those in the command post – doctor or soldier.

I am fortunate. Thanks to my children, I am well taken care of. Occasionally five- and six-star outfits in the metropolis deliver atrociously fastidious delicacies to your doorstep.

An investor friendly regime has removed, or reduced VAT or value added tax on services and that makes non-essential luxuries affordable.

The elite are obsessed with the return to the ‘normal’. The poor are the ones struggling with the real business of living.

For my birthday I got a present. The newest bestseller Thomas Piketty’s “Capital and Ideology.” 

He presents an interesting thesis. He explains why human societies have always been unequal and why we need a new politics of addressing social justice.

Thomas Piketty has unraveled our local phenomenon called Viyathmaga’: “Meritocratic discourse generally glorifies the winners in the economic system while stigmatizing the losers for their supposed lack of merit”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 20
    3

    “Poor comrade scientist and virologist Tissa Vitarana should stop complaining.”
    Professor Vitharana is an opportunistic politician rather than a good scientist. When you say good scientist, he should be a good analyst, and you expect good conduct and association. When the Rajapaksas doing all sort of crimes he was part of them and never complained or raised voice against it. In other words, he has blood on his hand.

    • 9
      0

      “He ( Thomas Piketty) presents an interesting thesis. He explains why human societies have always been unequal and why we need a new politics of addressing social justice.”
      Yes, it may sound insensitive, but at least some poor people are needed to make an economy work. Basically, all individuals are not equal, though egalitarians might claim they are all born equal. One can be poor but bright, or the reverse. Or both dumb and poor. In Sri Lanka, we now have to import Indians or Bangladeshis to do the jobs that locals look down their nose at. Sri Lankans don’t want to be cooks, waiters, masons, etc at the pay offered. Why? Perhaps because there are higher paying alternatives like 3-wheeler driving. Our economy is greatly distorted in some ways . Consider this: the tuk-tuk fares in India are about the same if not less than here, but the price of petrol is 50% higher. So driving a tuk becomes a better proposition than skilled work!

      • 6
        0

        We must figure out what causes such economic distortions. Can we afford an economy where a million males drive tuks? Is it that the politicians don’t have the nerve to step in and control fares? It is the same with the private buses. There are plenty of jobs out there, but nobody wants to take them.

        • 5
          1

          This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

          For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

          • 4
            1

            Hey, Eagle Eye – the self-proclaimed genius..

            “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

            CT keeps striking you down for your inappropriate comments – Don’t you get it??

          • 2
            1

            Eagle,
            Are there tuks in Toronto?

    • 5
      1

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 6
      1

      Ajith: Not only this “Poor comrade” (virologist/scientist) but all “Poor Comrades” of CP, LSSP, NLSSP, etc. associated with bringing this “Megalmornic” Government are the “BANCRUPPET” vagabonds who shamelessly raised their hands to pass the “20 A” and created a “DEMIGOD” into once a “Democratic” country.

    • 1
      0

      Mr. De Alwis,
      .
      Happy birthday to you sir, I pray that the skill you have cultivated will work well for you; you will eat in plenty and be satisfied. As it is your birthday today, you will never know lack, you will never be found wanting when it is time to write, and your ink of glory will never run dry.

      –History I gathered in my lifetime holds one lesson. Those who promise stability are the people who create great instability.—

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f00cR5tBppw

      This is the truth looking at today ‘s WAL BURU Pakse Regime.

      All the best !
      LM

    • 0
      2

      “When you say good scientist, he should be a good analyst, and you expect good conduct and association.”
      Are you sure?
      They are as human as politicians, at times worse.

      • 2
        0

        Are you sure?
        You may be having a different expectation from a good scientist because of your faith in Buddhism of Sri Lankan.

  • 5
    0

    Sarath (may ?)
    Sarath

    Not easy to agree that “We must accept the statistics released.”
    I have been following the daily reporting of C-19 stats by the Health Promotion Bureau.

    At 22:08 on 9 Aug they reported total number of cases = 332,947.
    At 22:08 on 10 Aug they reported total no. = 339,092.
    An increase of 6145.
    But they reported the day’s increase was only 2940!

    Have I missed something or was there a mistake in the stats given on 9/8?

    • 2
      0

      Sorry, I meant to write “may I?”

    • 2
      1

      Manel,
      Don’t worry too much about numbers. Both our President, Prime Minister and Finance Minister are doctorates in numbers. You know they said 70000 = 400,000; 3000= 12000. 0= 40000.

    • 1
      0

      MF
      The tragedy is that there is no single authority for releasing data.
      People in position like to be first with the news.
      I will not worry unless it is an order of magnitude error.
      *
      I am more interested to know if fewer people are dying of causes like the dengue, lung cancer etc.

    • 2
      0

      Manel Fonseka

      “Have I missed something or was there a mistake in the stats given on 9/8?”

      What else can we expect from Dr Shavendra Silva MBBS, Wimal Weerawansa, Kamala Gunaratne, ……. Pavithra, Channa Jeyasumana, Gota, or any other state functionaries?

      The way this country is being run no professional, expert, ….. will remain in this island.

      Soon Dr Shavendra Silva MBBS, MRCP, ….. Kamala Gunaratne, ….. will provide treatment to all kind of serious life threatening illnesses, if necessary they will perform surgery as well.

      Since China partially owns and runs this island’s affairs Chinese should teach the elites how to count and count with Abacus.

      “When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.
      -Paul Bear Bryant (American Football Coach and player)

      It is as simple as that.

  • 4
    0

    Wish you all the best! Please join with Prof, K in denouncing the left and reeducate the mass. Yes, when the people are thinking unified for the community’s wellbeing and hoping for joint progress, then they are the masses, who have a need for the government and its services for their civilization and furtherance of their lives. Kennedy said, “ask not what the country did for you”. But a mass member is a person who asks what the government did for me. That question is the certificate for membership for mass. When that thinking part is missing, they start their lives as looting, killing, wiping out others, and each of them attempts to thrive on the destruction of all of them. This need for anarchism misunderstood it needs and installs dictatorship and tyranny to support their course of life. They sell their faculties and sovereignty to the Sinhala intellectualism, or as the Sinhalese use say it Viyathmaga’s way, and surrender to the life of hitmen and hide from the world of light & civilization. The lefts like Tissa, Dew, Vasu are the eyes, ears, mouth and other parts of the head of family fiefdom. From Siri Ma O time, they constituted the leadership for the destruction of the country. Thinking may be enough for the masses. But for leadership, the way of thinking, i.e. change in thinking, is the most important.

  • 3
    0

    Sarath
    deliver atrociously fastidious delicacies to your doorstep
    ————–
    Using uber eats?

  • 10
    0

    Happy B’day Sarath!

    “I passed the 79th year in my life.”

    79 ……. you’re still spring chicken! …… Warren Buffett is 91 …….. and still going strong …….. alert as ever ……..

    Age is just a thing of the mind ……. a little bit of dilly-dallying with comely young lasses keeps Old Codger still in the game. :))


    “for the great redeemer to redeem the nation a second time.”

    Great champions are made by the opponents they fight ………. Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Joe Frazier ………… made Mohammad Ali great: he didn’t fight a list of …….. bums of the month

    Only in Lanka ……. hundreds of thousands fight 4000 – 5000 for 30 years …… and are considered great military leaders ……..

    The celebration of our victory is a celebration of our monumental incompetence, stupidity, treachery …….. It’s not hard to comprehend ……. just substitute governance for war ……. how can a people who can’t govern themselves competently for 70 odd years and have made every idiotic mistake imaginable and unimaginable ………. be good at fighting wars!

    • 10
      0

      continued

      Nothing has changed and nothing will ever change in Lanka ……. Hold an election tomorrow, 6.9m will still vote for the same ……

      Have the minds of EE, Soma, SJ, ………… changed?

      It’s not rational thought or reality that govern their minds ……. but some sort of cockamamie envy they harbour ……….. and they themselves can’t identify ……….

      That’s the brilliance of SWRD identified and unleashed

      • 0
        0

        How are you this morning, brother eel?
        Still dazed?

        • 1
          0

          SJ

          “How are you this morning, brother eel?
          Still dazed?”

          Arrested development, grow up and help others grow up.

          Whats the matter with you, the supposed to be educated Tamils?

    • 4
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 3
      0

      Nimal,
      “Only in Lanka ……. hundreds of thousands fight 4000 – 5000 for 30 years …… and are considered great military leaders ……”
      Shhh! Not so loud please. BTW, it was 5126.

    • 3
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

      • 2
        0

        Eagle,
        Are you saying it was less than 4000? I too was doubtful about the statistics.

  • 6
    0

    continued

    Nothing has changed and nothing will ever change in Lanka ……. Hold an election tomorrow, 6.9m will still vote for the same ……

    Have the minds of EE, Soma, SJ, ………… changed?

    It’s not rational thought or reality that govern their minds ……. but some sort of cockamamie envy they harbour ……….. and they themselves can’t identify ……….

    That’s the brilliance of SWRD identified and unleashed

  • 5
    0

    Dear Sarath: The number “79” is a “Past Number” and a “Beginning” of a “New Number”. Now “Begin” that number and have a great time and enjoy what follows. All the BEST.

  • 1
    0

    Unless we understand the logic of this puppet theatre
    ————
    Puppet theatre run by freemasons

  • 1
    0

    I wish to touch on, ‘In 2015, we thought that good governance was possible’.
    .
    For reasons that are plain, I put my being a Tamil ahead of being a Sri Lankan. It is Sri Lanka that makes me do that.
    .
    My Birth Certificate classifies me as a Tamil. It never identifies me as a Sri Lankan. That, in a way, is evidence that Sri Lanka consists of people of two nations, bounded as a country.
    .
    A national election doesn’t provide any political opportunity for Tamils.
    .
    As such, I am used to looking at elections with a hope for relief from pain, suffering and anguish.
    .
    In 2015 the NorthEast was under the clutches of the Rajapaksa military. I was hoping for a chance to be relieved of that grip. Nothing more. That happened.
    .
    The Sinhalese looking for good governance were disappointed. They were disappointed because they chose a serpent in Maithri. They were disappointed because of an eel Ranil.

  • 0
    0

    Happy Birthday Sarath.
    May the Triple Gem endow you with the same characteristic power to continue treating us, the reading public, with quality writings to read, enjoy and also to understand the truth to live with.

    Related to the essay, a quote from the Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkgaard –
    ” The tyrant dies and his rule is over,
    the martyr dies and his rule begins”.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.