18 September, 2019

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Animals Aren’t Naked: Rethinking Political Culture

By Ahulasiri Kumara Samarakoon

Athula Samarakoon

Athula Samarakoon

“The animal, therefore, is not naked because it is naked”. – Jacques Derrida

Acceptably, the purpose of all political and social organization is to achieve a good and just life for the members of the society. A good social life entails both physical and spiritual development resulting in national happiness. Unlike international politics, therefore, domestic politics should be organized a process of minimal power politics.  Democratic politics is the only means through which such secular and cultured life can be guaranteed for the public, for it can engage them in constant discussion and debate. So, it is important that a society is organized around the philosophy of democracy as a life style, rather than assuming democracy is just a numerical game for amassing power. Unarguably, a healthy democratic culture where needs of every member of the society is heard and considered according to the accepted norms of the social organization is a godsend for people.  In absence of such a social milieu, life becomes extremely pathetic and agonizing for the powerless whose interests are least represented in the system.

When the existing political culture becomes nakedly inhumane and animalistic, a newer form of society has to be imagined for the good of larger masses. History shows that revolutions of violent nature took place in societies aiming at the overthrow of such naked political cultures. Nevertheless, violence in the name of social reformation should never be acceptable. As the prevalent political culture has exposed its nudity more brazenly than we used to experience previously, we need to rethink and reset our political culture in manners suitable for achieving the goal of just life. Reasonably, we feel that the politicians of our country whose values have become a major constituent part of our political culture do not feel that they are naked, like animals never think they are naked, because they are animals.

Mainly, political degeneration takes place when politics is used for the comfort of a particular tribe or a few individuals, ignoring the larger social benefit it can bring to the society as a whole. Therefore, politics when considered for self-gain and egoistic comforts is not socially productive and becomes a source of social frustration. A better example in this regard is Sri Lanka, where the political parties in power have made politics such a tribal game for power and wealth endangering the national interest of twenty million people. More than the conditions of globalism, what is more scathingly attacking the very foundation of Srilankan nation state (not the majoritarian version), today, is political tribalism.

A major feature of a sound political culture is freedom and space for dissent. We do not feel that political dissent is allowed in the mainstream political culture in Sri Lanka today. Look at the state media, a major organ of the state that can be productively used to promote democracy. One feels that the state media has become ‘government only’ media. They rarely allocate time for the opposition or civil society activists who have differing views about the way the political culture is being shaped by the rulers. Media surveillance by the state can never be justified if it is done for protecting the interests of a political party in power. When the opposition Parliamentarians themselves lose their privileges even within the Parliament, it is unimaginable for the ordinary people to think of their political rights today. Disgustingly, the form of the state is being reshaped in a manner comparable only to Orwellian caricatures of authoritarian political cultures as depicted in Animal Farm or 1984.

Sri Lanka should not allow its democracy to transform into an Orwellian state at the hands of some who lack the political imagination of visionary leaders this country was lucky enough to have in the past. We are a small nation in the world. But we had enjoyed in the past much international recognition as an actor treading the middle path internationally, while locally smooth power transitions were allowed under a functioning democracy. A democracy to function vibrantly in a class society, the existing social polarizations needs to be addressed with economic and normative measures. Today, the poor is hugely taxed, exploited, and battened for fear that they would rise up against the rulers. Similarly, ordinary people are brain-washed of ethnic purity and imagined threats on their opium, the religion. In such an embittered context, political opportunism reigns while democracy is having its last breath.

If Sri Lanka wants an undivided but a united country, it should have taken the path of social democracy, as Ambedkar, a visionary behind the making of Indian Constitution, thought when India was becoming a republic.  We need to rethink of the meanings of liberty, equality and fraternity in light of the experience of the visionary thinkers this country or the region had in the past. We had a set of selfless leaders in the past, even though they were not ardent socialist, who were at least humble enough not to make corruption, treachery, ethnic animosity and political revenge their philosophy.

The UNP from 1948-56 was hardly a government of the working class, but they were quite on the opinion that the ethnic problem should not be used for political gains. And all the time they negotiated well with the Commonwealth, the USA and India, and politically sided with the Western democratic ethos. These leaders, DS, Dudley and Kotelawala hailing from rich bourgeoisie families had a common understanding that the security of this country could only be guaranteed by working peacefully with the minorities. Therefore, they never used parochial political propaganda for prolonging their power.  Once, when Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was questioned by a BBC journalist as to why he happened to make Sinhalese the national language, he smartly countered the UK journalist by accepting the richness of Tamil culture and literature without going to answer him with a voice of an arrogant racist or nationalist, unlike today’s nationalists who would have got furious and attacked the journalist bluntly.

When Ceylon became a Republic in 1972, it had quite failed to seriously consider the plight of its minorities while taking to the fore an ethnicised view of political culture. However, in practice our first generation of leaders, prior to 1977, had an idea of our national interest and kept the self interests hidden. Nevertheless, they had quite failed to manage the ethnic problem, but were in the process of negotiating with the Tamil leaders all the time. However, things changed drastically in favour of negativity during the 1980s. A class of corrupt men was coming into the driving seat of power. At the end of the UNP’s violent legacy, the 1994 electoral victory of the UPFA was a revolution of ballot. The union of JVP and SLFP in taking the country forward had given much hope for the ordinary people. However, such short springs in politics could not sustain due to parochialism and lack of visionary thinking.

Today’s problem of our political culture largely depends on the character of men taking into politics as a vocation. A sound education and ethical character should be must qualifications for politicians who hope to reach the echelon of political power. We cannot think of wise men to take into power all the time; also, all the time, we cannot afford to let the unwise men to demolish politics of democracy and create their own tribal states which are hardly accepted in the civilized world.  Let’s rethink and discuss our political culture and find ways to transform it positively.

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Latest comments

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    Lyndon Johnson , an ex President has said that there should be no poverty in America.

    It was in the mid 60s and the poverty was 16%.

    Today 14 % of the American population live in poverty.

    Do they have a Good and Just Life?..

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      Today the political culture is MONEY POLITICS, FAMILY BANDIYSM and CRONY capitalism with racist Sinhala Buddhist nationalism used by the rotten Mahinda Rajapaksa family – to fool the masses, the Sinhalaya Modayas.
      The rot starts at the top and has trickled down to every level of political society. A massive voter education campaign is needed to educate the Sinhalaya Modayas about their rotten political leaders – from all parties. Today there is little to chose between the UNP and SLFP – look at John Amaratunge the UNP man who aided the illegal impeachment of the Chief Justice and goes on jaunts with Jarapassa to Israel!
      Sri Lanka needs a movement against corruption like India’s Anna Hasare movement and an Aam Aadmi Party – a completely NEW, ETHICAL and CLEAN and pro-poor political culture and for this the SInhalaya Modayas need education, but Jarapassa and his clowns who are Minister of Education and Higher Education are destroying the education sector to destroy opposition to the Jarapassa DEEP STATE and military dictatorship in the making!

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      Thanks for this article Mr Samarakoon. Please translate and publish in SInhala. We need to make a list of all the corrupt Ministers in Rajapassa cabinet of uneducated and criminal clowns and the charges against them and publish them also in a cartoon form to educate the masses on SLFP corruption;
      1) the 4 Jarapassa brothers and their family land grabs – Basil Rajapaksa’s 400 room hotel in Passikudha beach.
      2)Gota’s military and UDA city beautification contract kickbacks.
      3) Namal’s Sports business and TV channel and youth business.
      4) Dimu Jayaratne and his son smuggling drugs from Pakistan
      5) Mahipala Sirisena, so called Minister of ILL Health, for whom corruption is a family business in his electorate Pollonaruwa. Sirisena who wants to be the next Prime Minister and his brother have land grabbed State reservoir reservation land and built Sudu Araliya Hotel in Pollonaruwa on the Parakrama Samudra Bund and so the tank is not allowed to fill up and farmers do not get water in the dry season and their livelihoods are being destoryed and are committing suicide. The Jarapassa regime is destorying farmers.
      6) Minister of Agriculture who is bought by multinational agribusiness companied like sirisena who is in the lap of the Pharmaceutical companies. The new Seed Bill is an attack on bidiversity of Lanka and the seed bill is an attack on the Agriculture sector and farmers of the country.
      Peacocks hit plane at the Mattala Jarapassa airport in Hambantota and will be killed off by GOta just like the stray dogs of Colombo were for CHOGM circus. Mattala airport because the place is so infrequently used and is a massive white elephant, the peacocks who were DISPLACED to build this massive white elephant have returned since planes only come there rarely, but the cost of maintaining that airport is staggering. Environmental destruction, selling out biodiversity to the multinationals with the new seed Bill and no National Drugs Poolicy is the so-called development model of the uneducated Jarapassa brothers.
      Now Sri Lankan Airlines another white elephant and corrupt Jarapassa family business is set to raise a huge bond to pay off its debts and keep the white elephant airline in flight. The whole tourism sector will crash after sanctions go into effect!

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    [Edited out]

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      You are one good example to show the nature of today´s rulers. We dont need any other examples.
      Uguduwas of your kind will not last long, wait and see. Days are numbered now. MR´rule will not last longer as it appears to be. Let ´s bet.. Jaya niyathai for us all those who respect rule of law, justice and peace – SUSTAINABLE PEACE among all srilankens regardless of race, caste or religions.

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    what is the population in mid 60’s and now?

    in absolute number there are less people in poverty

    so dont talk bull shit here

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      philosophers are not always right…what they do is they philosiphy ..

      Animals are not naked they have a minimum dress sense.
      Animals are naturalist and live with the nature

      Why does the snake drop it’s skin and have a new skin?
      why does farmers shave the lamb
      why do dog lovers manicure there dogs
      they are all dressing up

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    What is the political culture in TAMILNADU ?

    Billionaire politicians, dalit politicians… all of whom explouit tamil for their political benefit.

    Western Democracy is crap. What Sri Lanka needs is a dictator who loves the country.

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      JimSofty

      “Western Democracy is crap. What Sri Lanka needs is a dictator who loves the country.”

      I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

      – Voltaire

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    We have another brilliant mind analysing what’ll took place in the political evolution of Sri Lanka .Yes you are right in your analysis though a few uneducated ignorant commentors utter stupidities. We can be happy at least we have a few writers of your calibre to open our eyes to the impending disaster in SL.

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    Yes . Its brilliant analysis. We are proud of people like you who are young and thinking right.

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      Sunila & Nimal,

      You could be right but is there any practical value of this ? Where do we go from here, how do we get out of this hole ?

      We have lot’s of brilliant minds around the place “Gimpappa” is a good example ….I rest my case.

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    Well, the hind vision clearly points at jungle johnny island natives not ready to take control of the system Brits left behind.

    It takes training and learning to master any system doesn’t it really? The transition was perhaps too short. The eagerness of a few to take the reigns premature.

    I suspect in terms of democratic political sophistication Sri Lanka is at least a century behind. This is mind you in comparison to western liberal democratic tradition. If it was classical Sri Lankan system then Sri Lanka is way a ahead.

    I place the western political maturity of Sri Lanka to somewhere near Magna Carta era of Briton. In Sri Lanka the period between 1945-2002 is similar to Oliver Cromwell taking over and making a mess of everything. The Aristocracy had to be re-established to re-stabilise the system. In Sri Lanka its the 18th amendment.

    The natives are still not ready to take collective decisions. There is no mood for consensus and compromise. There is still no appreciation of the democratic tradition of 4 pillars etc. I doubt if many even know what they are really.

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      Vibhushana:

      Romans introduced the democracy.

      but, it was not the Romans who lived as a kingdom. The Byzhanthian in the eastern side of the Roman Kingdom lived longer.

      Democracy is Crap. Roman needed democracy because they were capturing other societies and their system needed to be modified to suit the needs of the captured countries.

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        Jimmy,

        Democracy is Crap

        So if you were in a situation where you had to choose a country to seek political asylum, which 3 countries would you select?

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      Vibhushana

      “There is still no appreciation of the democratic tradition of 4 pillars etc.”

      Good, you are learning very fast. Your conversion from an anti minority commentator to a potential defender of democracy encourages me to support CT’s crusade.

      Representation is one of 4 pillars.

      Would you now stop campaigning for colonisation and eventual assimilation of all minorities if you really believe in all those democratic pillars of representation?

      Democracy does not mean tyranny of the majority.

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        Native,

        Would you now stop campaigning for colonisation and eventual assimilation of all minorities

        Over a 1,000,000 Tamils were colonised in the hills. Neither do I have a problem with that nor did I ever endorse chasing Moslems from Jaffna. Its not me who has a problem with minorities.

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    Athula,

    “who lack the political imagination of visionary leaders this country was lucky enough to have in the past.”

    Are you joking Athula. If the political leaders of the past were even small time visionaries, we will not have gone through the utter devastation of recent times and the inheritance presently of an ‘Orwellian’ leadership.

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      ‘We had a set of selfless leaders in the past, even though they were not ardent socialist, who were at least humble enough not to make corruption, treachery, ethnic animosity and political revenge their philosophy’.

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    Sunila Mendis,

    I appreciate your comment. A perfect assessment.

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    Sri Lanka has enough educated people and scholars to make the change. Unfortunately it is the voice of a few radicals that drowns out the voice of more moderate intellectuals. Time for the educated youth, intellectuals and leaders of society to speak out for a more balanced and secular society free of racism and religous hatred. If not the bigots will takeover and ruin this country leaving nothing for anyone, even themselves.

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    A logical analysis even if one may not agree with everything said, met, as usual, with what is now the traditional s..t and abuse from the usual sources who are the beneficiaries of the violence and corruption that is our reality today.
    What else is new?!

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    Nudity is not the largest issue when nakedly obsessed men are in power. Cultural animals hardly struggle for power. The uncultured political animals represent the imagination of the people who are equally naked. People don’t care even if their women are raped by politicos. This is a very strange time….is it a postmodern era? who can save this country?

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