By Suranjith Jayasuriya –
It is universally accepted positive thinking and a positive attitude is intertwined with success. If you ask any successful person about their journey, it is inevitable they attribute it to being constantly positive. Young Siddhartha Gautama to have gone on his journey towards enlightenment would have required enormous amount of self-belief and positive thoughts. The enlightened one declared “Positive thinking is more than thinking or the thoughts that one has; it is in fact, the entire approach to one’s life”.
In the current Sri Lankan context, it is extremely hard to find any semblance of positivity. The very existence of the society as we know it is somewhat threatened. There is general disillusionment, widespread hopelessness among the youth. There is a discord and a disparity between the general populace and the ruling class. They are considered inept and insensitive.
The top of mind (TOM) for every individual would be how they get on top of this rut. Everyone as individuals, as families, as organizations, as political parties and as a government would be battling to come out of this abyss and regain some normalcy. As we all know, success requires a positive mindset, and in this case the collective national psyche needs a positive tuning.
However, general positiveness shouldn’t be misconstrued to toxic positivity (TP). The latter is described as “excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations”. It is of this kind that we have witnessed from some of our political and corporate leaders lately.
There was an interview by a respected corporate leader recently, where he was encouraging people to be satisfied by eating only two meals instead of three. He was also seen riding a bicycle and taking public transport as a remedy for fuel shortages.
The Mayoress of Colombo was seen declaring open a bicycle lane after hopping out of a luxury sedan. She was later seen applauding a lone rider, probably a council employee whose never owned a car using the newly demarcated lane.
The newly elected President was seen in Kandy, addressing a gathering of political acolytes inviting all political parties to form a consensus government. The general theme of his message was “what has happened, has happened. Let’s move on”. No doubt trying to exude some form of positivity.
The above examples dictate that people should merely move on with their lives, adapt to whatever situation that is thrown at them and accept it as the new status quo. Should that be the case? Should they adapt meekly, for the sake of staying positive? All above examples are classic cases of toxic positiveness and will not lead to sustainable success.
The problem with toxic positiveness is there is a lack of accountability for yours or someone else’s actions. Without asking relevant questions, without being constructively critical, without identifying weaknesses, success would be elusive. Having a positive attitude also means you looking through the rear-view mirror from time to time while focussing ahead.
Sri Lanka didn’t arrive at the current juncture overnight. It is a series of actions or inactions over many years that led them here. Lack of accountability has been almost a cardinal rule in the governance structure. People are solely to be blamed for not holding their rulers accountable. It is imperative that while leaving the current crop of rulers to find meaningful solutions in a governance structure acceptable to most of the population, that they are forced to establish mechanisms to be accountable for actions of the past, present and future.
The upcoming versions of the ‘Aragalaya’ can be transformed in to demanding the very same, rather than trying to topple governments. In turn allowing political stability, upholding the rule of law and at the same time making rulers accountable for their actions. The epitome of a good democratic system and a decent society as opposed to the current path of a banana republic.
Sri Lankan political and corporate leaders can take the lead in shedding the toxic positiveness while ushering in real positive attitudes leading to sustainable success. Establishment of a way of life where we can choose to skip a meal rather than being forced to or system where we can opt to ride a bicycle rather than driving.