18 April, 2024

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Bleeding Hearts & Brave  Hearts     

By Sarath de Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) the largest Opposition party/ alliance in the current parliament has cleared the outstanding electricity bill of the Mihintale Sacred City   amounting to Rs. 4.1 million. According to a report in the Daily Ft, the funding to settle the bill has been secured from party members and well-wishers. This painstaking act of piety of a political party is also an act of purposeful politics. 

That the leader of the SJB Mr. Sajith Premadasa is a devout ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ is no secret.  Sometime ago he declared that if elected to high office he will also build sacred ‘Stupas’ (Chaithya Rajayanan Wahensela) in every district in our land.  

While the SJB is busy ensuring that all places of religious worship are lit up, the rival opposition group the NPP – ‘Jathika Janabalawgaya’ currently limited to three members in the current parliament is hard at work organizing island wide resistance to the   iniquitous domestic debt restructuring process that places an unfair disadvantage on the voiceless contributors to the EPF and the ETF. 

The NPP has made some notable strides in the Apex court litigating this sensitive and complex issue. It has prompted the President to issue an edict – “The Government will not heed orders or advice from any other party except parliament with regard to debt optimization measures”.  

We are approaching the Rubicon. As Professor Kumar David has remarked in a recent essay “there are only two options”. The RW led outfit and the National Peoples Power.   

The deliberate and determined display of brute force by law enforcement agencies to suppress and or discourage dissent testifies to the uncomfortable truth that we live in ‘dark times.” 

If you happen to have a conscience that becomes uneasy at the prospect of explaining opulent wealth amidst abject misery, these are indeed dark times of dark despair.  

The Philosopher historian Hanah Arendt used the expression ‘dark times’ to describe her painful experiences in prewar Germany in Nazi years. 

She borrowed it from Bertolt Brecht’s poem ‘To prosperity’. 

Indeed, I live in the dark ages!
A guileless word is an absurdity.

They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink
When my food is snatched from the hungry
And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty?
And yet I eat and drink.  

The distinguished historian and former US Secretary of state Marlyn Albright describes the type of person who driven by sheer lust for power gives substance in creating times of dark despair.  

In her book ‘Fascism- A warning’, she describes the modern-day fascist. “It is someone who claims to speak for the whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence or any other means to achieve goals he or she may have.”

In dark times illuminating rock temples is not the kind of practical politics the ordinary people either demand or need. 

We have two options. We can either continue with crony corruption reconciled to live with privileged pockets of opulent wealth, guided by the invisible hand of a free market or forge a broadest possible alliance of ordinary people who believe that society is not a market but a community.

SJB’s generous gesture of restoring electricity to the historic Mihintale temple adds a new dimension – politics of piety to our current quandary. 

Quite contrary to the wicked distortion by his detractors Karl Marx recognized the role of religion in society. 

In one of his Encyclical letters Pope Benedict XVI describes Marx’s role in shaping modern culture. He explores how Marx interpreted human hope after the great promise of the French revolution. After the French revolution change was inevitable. Progress could not simply continue in small, linear steps. A revolutionary leap was needed.

“Karl Marx took up the rallying call and applied his incisive language and intellect to the task of launching this major new and, as he thought, definitive step in history towards salvation—towards what Kant had described as the “Kingdom of God”. Once the truth of the hereafter had been rejected, it would then be a question of establishing the truth of the here and now. “  

Marx merely explored the role of religion in society. He did not disparage or reject religion. He condemned the use of religion to justify or explain injustice in society. Marx explained the role of religion. 

“Religion is the opium of the people. It is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of our soulless conditions.”

When Marx used the word ‘Opium’ it was regarded as a type of medicine and not an addictive social menace. 

Use of opium was not illegal at the time. The suggestion that Marx equated religion to an addictive narcotic is a terrible distortion. 

Marx was a secular humanist much ahead of his time. He merely examined the role of religion in the exploitative society of his time.  

To return to our predicament today, we are a very religious people. Yet, we have the extremely distressing habit of infusing tribal perceptions and predatory ritual to our otherwise illuminative faiths. 

The Chambers of Commerce currently in continuous dialogue with the savior and redeemer of the bankrupt economy would disagree. But Karl Marx is right about human nature. We need to sleep contentedly not in 2048 but now.  

With nearly seven million out of twenty-two million below poverty line, our society is in desperate need of a heart and a soul wherever we can find it. 

Lighting up Mihintale may promise nirvanic bliss. If you are an ordinary contributor to a superannuation fund you need justice and equity here and now.

Lighting up Mihintale wouldn’t do any good to people whose  life savings are gobbled up by a capricious clique who pushed the nation in to this poop pit .  

Václav Havel the lifelong dissident who was finally elected President of the Czechoslovak Republic explained to a skeptical journalist “ 

“Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

Regardless of how it turned out after Gota went home, the ordinary people who overwhelmingly discarded the United National Party into the dung heap of history at the last parliamentary election remain steadfast in their hearts that the “Argalaya” made eminent sense. 

The SJB is a vestigial remnant of the dinosaur. Hearts are not sold in the market. Not even in Social Markets!    

Notes: https://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2022/03/27/spe-salvi-20-hope-in-the-modern-age-engels-and-marx/ 

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/to-be-realistic-there-are-only-two-options/ 

 

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Latest comments

  • 11
    3

    Has Sarath de Alwis undergone a transformation? Do we now all go and vote for the JVP which has not declared any policy on the Tamil issues which are what Sinhala Buddhism is built on. Not stating a policy indicates the inability to confront the menace of Sinhala Buddhism born of ethnonationalism that has befuddled Sri Lankan politics since independence. It is the last refuge of every Sinhala politician. Is Anura Kumara keeping it in his belt to use when appropriate?

    • 3
      1

      Cicero
      I have too much respect for Sarath de Alwis to contradict his analysis, but I won’t be voting for the JVP anytime soon.
      I was astounded by Vijitha Herath’s speech in Parliament the other day decrying the issue of 200 liquor licences. Has the JVP too taken to the path of public piety like Sajith?

  • 15
    1

    Despite Premadasa jnr’s international education & exposure, he seems to be following his uneducated old man’s strategy of playing to the gallery. Premadasa Snr was only comfortable among the average village voter, so identified himself with the ‘common’ man, wasting public funds on irrelevant but extravagant shows, for their privilege, such as, the ‘gamudawa’, building useless replicas of historic monuments, so that the village old ladies who were unable to make the actual pilgrimage could visit these sights instead. If I remember correctly, he even covered the tiles on the Dalada Maligawa with gold leaf paper. The monks were happy & the villagers were won over. Now the son, portrayed as a cultured intellectual, continues the old man’s legacy by promising to build Buddha statues & temples practically in every street corner.

    I suppose in times of destitution & poverty, religion would be a source of solace to the average voter who doesn’t understand intricacies of the country’s economic situation & the future. So best t have the monks on the side to convince the masses of the blessings of the Buddha for a better tomorrow.

    • 13
      1

      Sheer Humbug. Religion is Opium on which, Lankans are fully dependent for generations, especially politicians show withdrawal symptoms without it (clueless , confused). This time last year, people were struggling without food , fuel, electricity, medicines., feeling helpless / hopeless/ worthless . . . .Other than providing lot of reassurance, no country was willing to spare even a penny. Thanks to neighbors somehow managed to get more loans / life support and here we are back to building more Stupas, providing electricity, burning constitution, protesting against 13 +/-, threatening with potential blood bath, Archaeological shams, Monks in business. . . . . . Mean time savings are slowly eaten up, still there is poverty, hospital related deaths, daily killings / gun violence, Drug Cartel at work, corruption at all levels . . . . . . . . This is my Sham / Stupid / Silly / Sorry Lanka. Why is that SJB /Sajith didn’t offer the money last year to the starving masses , instead of electrifying now ????

      • 10
        0

        Chiv,
        The Ratana Sutta was chanted continuously in all temples to save us from Covid. The Covid virus took no notice, not being a religious organism. People died anyway. But the next time a plague comes round, foolish clergy will do the same thing. People and clergy never learn.

      • 3
        0

        Chiv,
        The ‘SOLE AND ONLY METHOD to Galvanise’ the voters in Lanka to back his (Sajith’s) beckoning!!!??? To ‘WIN VOTES’ and Gallop to Power!!!???
        None, want to or remember ‘BAD DREAM of DEPRIVATION and STARVATION’???
        This (ELECTRIFYING TEMPLES) gives, the required ‘BANG for the BUCK INVESTED’ in VOTES!!!???
        This is beloved SRI LANKA and ATTENDANT culture of SINHALA BUDDHISM, backed by strong grounding of 2600+ years of CIVILISATION and CULTURE!!!
        That’s SL POLITICS!!!???

    • 3
      0

      Raj,
      Sajith P spouts a lot of profound-sounding words, but no real ideas. Yesterday, in Parliament, he came up with Lincoln’s old saw about “government by the people, for the people”, but was quickly quashed by Ranil, who came up with several obscure cases to show that Lincoln didn’t practice what he preached. His final line was: “If you want me to act like Abe Lincoln, I’m ready”.

    • 2
      3

      “Premadasa Snr was only comfortable among the average village voter, “
      R-UK, you are mistaken. When he was Minister of Housing, he comfortably dealt with the ‘more educated’ engineers. They could not bluff their way past him.
      He was alert and got jobs done properly. I know very closely someone who served in the Buildings Department who will vouch for that he was much respected by the professional class.
      Another ‘less educated’ parallel is the case of K Kamaraj, the best chief minister of Tamilnadu to this day.

  • 8
    0

    Do not assume that I am taking on Sarath de Alwis, however, I wish not to be fooled by, – “the largest Opposition party”.
    What needs to be the criteria to call a group, the opposition party.
    Is it just a matter of not being with the Governing group, or, simply seated on the opposite benches.
    .
    The country is opposed to treating Tamils on equal footing. Are there any two parties who differ on this.
    The country is inclined towards the West. Are there any who differ.
    The supposition is that the same representatives should remain Ministers.
    Is the President from the ruling party or the opposition. He is handpicked.

    • 2
      3

      Dear Nathan,
      .
      It’s high time we stopped imagining that our being either Sinhalese or Tamil speaking makes a fundamental difference to how every Lankan approaches a problem relating to the governance of this country.
      .
      The existence of three languages does pose a problem in communication. It does complicate communication among the users of the three languages in exchanging ideas, but it is the fault of each individual that it becomes the central issue in their thinking.
      .
      I agree that the two groupings known until recently as the UNP and the SLFP are essentially Sinhala racist Parties. But that doesn’t apply to the NPP. Their thinking is non-racist, but because of certain historical reasons it has few Tamil speakers. However, because you and I are both old, we know that we cannot do much. But don’t you think that it’s high time we began to play a role? At least you can get together with guys like me, or non-racists in other parties, and strengthen fellow non-racists.
      .
      Part of the problem is your unwillingness to do so.

      • 1
        2

        Sinhala_Man,
        “Part of the problem is your unwillingness to do so”.
        What do you expect me to do? What am I unwilling to do?
        Sumanthiran knows Sinhala. He is canvassing among the Sinhalese.
        How better can I be?
        .
        “But that doesn’t apply to the NPP”.
        JVP is the party. Not NPP.
        I’ll support NPP when JVP is dissolved.

        • 3
          2

          Nathan,
          You are in danger of excommunication. Please supply your NIC number to the collection centre in Bandarawela.

        • 0
          2

          Oh, dear Nathan,
          .
          Someone has actually disliked your comment.
          .
          Very unfair. Decent guys like you must be allowed to say what you feel. Be wary of the JVP for now if you want to.
          .
          You have been consistent throughout, Nathan, although I’m not going as far as recording a “Like” for your comment (because that could get misunderstood).
          .
          Someone has already “Disliked” oc’s misplaced humour. I’m going to add to that ‘DISLIKE’ . That does not mean that I consider oc to be a bad fellow.
          .
          The problem is that few realise how unacceptable the present situation is.
          .
          Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

          • 0
            0

            Dear S M ,

            ” The problem is that few realise how unacceptable the present
            situation is ” . Yes , exactly ! Now , my dear SM , tell me how
            these ‘ Few ‘ will form a majority to change this ‘ unacceptable
            situation ‘ . Seriously I am not interested in embarrasing you
            with such a question but it is about something you are working
            hard to achieve even on this forum . Even the few you state here
            is divided into many factions , making even that few ‘ count ‘ for
            nothing in an election . This is just one reason why I keep saying
            The Country Is doomed to fail ! Not my wish seriously , the truth ,
            at least for another One Hundred Years ! Everything else is just
            Baila ! As long as the majority Sinhala Buddhists do not realise
            their Real Place in the World Civilisations and Cultures , they
            continue to remain in darkness . One great philosopher said : ” You
            tell me that you moved that mountain , I believe it but never tell me
            you changed man ” !

            • 1
              2

              Dear whywhy,
              .
              I’ve been to the Headquarters of the NPP just once. I have been following up, but I cannot here tell you how, because there are one or two people here who now distort most of what I say. Ironically, some of them supported almost all that I was saying until Ranil Wickremasinghe usurped all powers.
              .
              I’m in direct contact by now with a surprisingly large number of readers/ writers, and I have told them what I see as the weaknesses of the NPP.
              .
              I can’t give you details, but it is true that owing to linguistic difficulties, and to a less extent, cultural reasons, it is true that it is mainly “Sinhala Buddhist” faces that one sees in the NPP. I’m doing what I can to point this out with a view to correcting it.
              .
              The danger in my having written what you see above is that it may seem as though I’m making “a major contribution”. No, I’m not. But I’m consistently doing what I can.
              .
              But let me state this categorically: there aren’t so many “factions” within the NPP. Many with ulterior motives try to make out that there are major differences. Not true. . Each of these leaders may have a different personality, but there is agreement on the most important issues.
              .
              I know that what I have said is inadequate: Sorry!

              • 0
                0

                Dear SM ,

                First , thank you for your reply . Next , let us be clear on what I
                meant by saying ” Even the few you state here is divided into
                many factions ….. ” . The FEW here means not only the few of
                NPP / JVP , the few of all Hues . Only a Few understand the real
                situation and even that few is divided into different groups
                representing different solutions . So , a clear division among that
                few . So , I didn’t mean any NPP / JVP Factions . They are strong
                and in solidarity . Thanks .

        • 4
          1

          Nathan,
          We non-communal Sinhalese always appreciate moderate thoughts. Your analysis of NPP is perfect. Don’t be fooled by the jokers. Cheap people did more damage to our nation. They cannot even convince people that federalism is not about “dividing the land into pieces”. The grass eaters-dominated race is also associated with grasshoppers. They destroy it too without their knowledge. Just don’t underestimate it.
          That’s all I can share with you in this regard. Many people get easy prey without proper knowledge of our hell. Unfortunately, most of them wear on the foreheads the academic titles. These labels as old codger once said, help them rise above their own people. That and hero-worshiping are more than necessary for their day today survival.

          The society is more primitive than appeared to be, comparably similar to that of some provinces of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and neighboring South Asian countries.
          Some are self-proclaimed pundits but due to their own psychological problems they cannot distinguish between good and bad.Can you imagine ?
          Sinhala_man behaves more like a very old man as if he is passing his nonagenarian years. My father lived over 95 years thanks to his low blood pressure levels. I heard my father saying very old as he was just passing 50, that is the culture in srilanka.

          • 2
            0

            leelagemalli,
            Your words offer hope. I pray for more of you!
            Intrinsically, we all are good people. It is unfortunate that more than many have a myopic attitude toward the minorities.

      • 1
        3

        Dear Nathan,
        .
        No problem that the country is faced with now has can be traced to you, Sumanthiran etc.
        .
        I tell you again, that the NPP (and the JVP section – why should we use words like faction? – are perfectly decent guys) and there is nothing that you have to fear from them.
        .
        There are problems of communication owing to language. In that context, it must be acknowledged that most Tamil politicians can manage Sinhalese. Sumanthiran is doing well. One cannot improve on guys like Shanakiyan. Unfortunately, I will not live long enough to vote for him as President.
        .
        Let oc continue his stale jokes about NICs if he wants to. I give my NIC number because (when I first began commenting) some people imagined that I couldn’t be a Sinhalese given the extent to which I refused to pander to anti-minority rhetoric.

        • 2
          0

          Dear Readers,
          .
          How can any sane person compare immature Shanikyan to Sumanthiran?
          Just like Hirunika Premachandra did last year, Shanikyan also misuses Sinhala language knowledge unnecessarily in Parliament.

          It shows the big difference between seasoned politicians and young politicians. Even though she raised a strong voice in favor of the struggle, there were many occasions when she had to keep her mouth shut in front of the common people.

  • 7
    3

    Since both the major camps (blue and green) and their varied shades that are mere opportunistic symbols of the same political class have been raping the pliant country at will over the generations, it is high time the people were given back their sovereign power. The only viable solution is indeed the NPP (JVP) as they have been the only consistent party that has remained sincere and diligent as the author correctly points out. However, a nation of lotus eaters and rent seekers will probably not see these realities in their lifetimes and be absorbed by the rank deceit of their oppressors.

  • 3
    0

    Party members of SJB paying for the Mihinthalai temple Electricity bill is not the same as proposed payment is not the same as proposed construction of building sacred ‘Stupas’ in every district in our land. The first is in conformity with secular constitution and the second is in conformity with the concept of a religious constitution and is non-secular and in conflict with a democratic secular constitution.
    Let us build up a secular culture that treat all people within a country equality.

    • 2
      1

      Marx historic observation that religion is the opium of the people is universally valid for all religion for all time.
      Religion is a tool to justify operation in society and is an ally of the oppressed against the oppressed!.

      • 3
        2

        Marx’s most misinterpreted quote is “Religion is the opium of the masses”.
        In his time opium was widely used as a painkiller. If one reads the full quotation one will see that he did not denounce religion by equating it to opium the way it is seen now.
        *
        ““Religion is the opium of the people. It is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of our soulless conditions.”

        • 2
          2

          SJ,
          Like the Bible, Marx’s work should also be updated to Modern English. Perhaps “Religion is the Aspirin of the people ” is better?

  • 1
    0

    The essayist onetime President of the All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress [ or the YMBA ?] has seen through the SJB and its leader as a devout Sinhala Buddhist.
    In this backdrop it would be rather difficult for the JVP/NPP to comment on the National Question.
    Anyway the choice between Ranils outfit and the JVP/NPP is no longer a Hobsons choice.
    Ranils outfit means the Rajapakses again…………..

  • 4
    1

    Ah! the ol’ Ralph Lauren out again!

    In Lanka, good things don’t happen by any design/intention of any Lankan.

    Good things happen by fortunate accidents/coincidence ……… like how Prabakaran saved Lanka from partition.

    If one doesn’t get that ………. one never will.

    One can dream …….. while fully awake.

    Dream on.

  • 2
    0

    1
    All because Sinhala supremacy has been entwined with Sinhala Buddhism, so-called Buddhist priests have become eternally blind and deaf. One can question whether those Mahanayake monks are educated enough to see even the smallest things properly. When I heard one of them openly proclaiming to be an ignorant Gotha Hitler, my respect for them crumbled like a glass wall.
    Regardless of the issue that arose in society, no prelates raised the voice of the patriarchs enough in the last few weeks.
    .-
    Look at how many Sinhala Buddhists yet today praise Reverend Soma again and again, his famous speeches and “sermons” contain more racism than true Buddhism.

    Every time I hear his past videos, I remember “Super Sinhala racists, such as Rajapaksa gundu, Dr. Nalin de Silva and Artist-Madhumadawa Arawinda”. Nalin self-proclaimed the Sinhala nation more than any other university lecturer in recent times. His appointment as ambassador to Myanmar in the GOTA#S RACIST government, however, prevented his return to the country. After returning to th ecountry he became silent (no public statements since then or very few). His big mouth pieces was squeezed and tied together for some reasons. The toxic man can have many explanations if the media brings it out.

    Tbc

    • 2
      0

      cont.
      Even the younger generation does not seem to cross-examine the contradiction between Sinhala Buddhism and the true teachings of the Buddha.

      DERANA TV NEWS presenter aka main lead next to the owner, Dilith Jayweera (Rajapakshes s close confidiante) Chatura Alwis was among handful of men to express his closeness to the Sinhala Buddhist monks in the temples. He never cross-examined the great dichotomy of the true teachings of Sinhala-Buddhist and non-violent Buddhism. If our youth had acted properly, many things would have changed by today.

      Psychosocial analysts point out very clearly that due to education and Sinhala Buddhism, even the youth could have little understanding of the truth, and indeed it could have happened, saddly enough, at that time various racist groups regrouped. this could have worked better in Nov 2019 with controversal presidential election of Gota. Youth did not even think about it because they dont go above their elders.

      Tbc

  • 3
    0

    Premadasa Junior acts as MIMOSA whenever the country and nation face serious problems. Harin Fernando’s analysis is more valid today because shortly before he parted ways with SJB, he criticized none other than SP. Remember, the term asayi-bayai?
    I ask you to go back to the beginning of the MaRa-pandemic (which is dangerous than COVID-19 because MaRa has done lot more harm to this nation), there are many similarities between him and MaRa. Maraya acted like Mugabe without thinking twice, knowing that people would not understand the situation easily(bora diye malu maranawa- fishing in muddy waters) if they were fooled by the Sinhala Buddhist and mahinda-chinthana mantras.
    .
    Both Mara and Sajith Premadasa perform Sinhala Buddhist rituals in public not because they are true Buddhists but to convey the message that they are Buddhists. Perhaps it is then that Punnaku eaters will fall before them just as the nation falls before Bodhi-tree in their rituals.

    I really don’t understand if the Bodhi-tree helped provide shade for the Buddha when he attained Buddhahood, however, why should the followers be blind to lick the Bo-tree with such blindness? The way in which they usually worship goes through the heads of various worshipers, some are obsessed with sitting on the ground or lying on the ground. .

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