By Vishwamithra1984 –
“The true test of civilization is not the census, nor the size of cities, nor the crops – no, but the kind of man the country turns out.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet
Exaggerations of the truth are quite common in any human endeavor. When exaggerations are driven into fully-blown falsehoods, they tend to master the individual or society that willingly accepts the fallacy of falsehood as truth. It is a criminal act and when the casualty and society accept the criminal act in any way, shape or form, society’s will to survive diminishes and when it reaches a critical mass, it explodes, claiming everyone around as victims of the willing. By virtue of his or her silence and omnipotence, the victim becomes a helpless accomplice of the crime thereby facilitating the commission of falsehood and lies and even rape, larceny and murder. The vicious circle of human folly continues to turn, capturing every willing and unwilling observer into this web of sin. Society, as a result becomes a prisoner of itself, consuming its vital resources to nurture and nourish itself. The most tragic aspect of this process is that it is only the historians of a later day who would see the beginning, the midpoint and the end of the whole story.
What’s taking shape in Sri Lanka today is precariously close to the phenomenon described above. The ruling cabal is so deeply stuck in its own graveyard of falsehoods and the depth of it is unfathomable. Shrouded by a sinister veil of high-sounding slogans and shallow rhetoric, the regime and its unfeeling agents are disseminating totally bogus data on the economy, inflation, growth rate, employment (or unemployment) and per capita income etc. A government simply cannot fool the people about the economy. The economy of any country is not something extraterrestrial; one cannot separate the economy from its people. Every living person is subject to and part and parcel of the economy within which he or she exists and operates. Every breadwinner of every family would know whether the cost of living, which is intricately entwined with inflation, has gone up or down over the last twelve months. The prices of bread, dhal, rice, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy products, eggs and infant milk food cannot be divorced from the index of cost of living. Who on earth and living in Sri Lanka could say that the prices of these items have remained stable or gone down over the last one year?
However, there is another way in which one can maintain the Government’s assertion that the cost of living has not gone up or that the inflation rate has come down. That is by eliminating those essential items from the calculation which is used to measure cost of living or inflation. In the same way, unemployment rate could be understated by taking out those who leave unsatisfying jobs and enter the job market again. This is precisely what is being pontificated by those who have built a reputation around themselves as “master manipulators” of statistics and figures. The average villager is blissfully unaware of these statistics and accounting methods. He is totally oblivious to the Central Bank Reports and annual reports of the corporate sector. But his children and spouse feel hunger pangs and desire for new clothes; he also knows when the prices of green chilies and infant milk food go up. He might not have time for nor empathy with a schoolteacher who was humiliated by a local politico and he might not be interested in the university students protesting against some abstract demands, for his children are still too young to enter the university. But he is very much aware of the social and economic environment that he lives in.
It must yet be reiterated that a government simply cannot afford to be checkmated on this front. The front of politics is where half-truths and lies are the stock in trade, where the traders are mostly frauds and customers are idiots. The real tragedy manifests itself when the customers believe the outright lies and exaggerations of the traders and buy a lemon instead of a Rolls Royce that was originally promised. It is not one single customer or an individual that is fooled like this time after time. The entire community of customers or people is taken for a set of suckers and jokers who willingly capitulate to the merciless profession of falsehood-trading.
The Government is fully ready with its quota of lies and exaggerations; they are ready with their team well trained and practiced in the craft of delivering lies as sweet truths. No person or persons in the Opposition could seemingly match the regime’s team of liars. But if they, leaders of the Opposition, are willing to fight fire with fire- this does not mean that one has to fight lies with more lies, but in other words, douse the fires that the Government’s lies would cause and calling them what they in actual fact are in the most ruthless fashion, with no holds barred and naming and shaming those who lie, whatever echelon the liars may descend from, with a mindset that is riveted to winning against all odds, a mindset that would take no prisoners and carry on until each and every voter is reached and talked to, then there might be a chance, a fighting chance. But the Opposition must be prepared to sacrifice, every now and then; they must be ready to be taken into custody and they must be ready not to be soft on the crime of deceit and dishonesty. No victory was won on a bed of roses or petals of orchids. As Nietzsche said: “A society when it is tender and soft takes sides with those who harm it”.
The responsibility and duty of the Opposition is to educate and inform the voting public with vigor and strength. People don’t like to see softness in their leaders. That is why they elected JR Jayewardene with such a huge majority. They saw in him strength and vitality. Especially when confronted by a vigorous leader like the present President, empty rhetoric do not vibe. The people must see in the alternative leader the same strength of vibrancy and vitality if not more of that of the incumbent.
He or she must have the guts to call a lie a lie; he must have the stomach to suffer humiliation and insult with dignity and calmness; he must have the will to endure tremendous hardships and hard work yet wake up each morning with freshness of the morning dew and steadiness of petals that hold that dew. It is an uphill task. But it must be undertaken for the sake of the country, for the sake her people and for the sake of their history.
Am I asking for an imaginary persona? I don’t think so. There are ones among our midst who could deliver the goods. If they are not available among the usual suspects, then stop looking among the usual suspects; look elsewhere and one would find not one but many. One must feel the urgency, that quality which makes the good, great; that quality which stands erect among many a storm, unfettered and unruffled. For the sense of urgency demands that any other option is not acceptable. These lies must be put to a stop and we simply cannot be stupid and cowardly any more.