By Emil van der Poorten –
In the not-too-distant past, a cynical fallback for those who took a jaundiced view of the future of humanity was, “In the long run, we’ll all be dead,” more than suggesting that any attempt at improving the human condition was futile and doomed to failure, at least insofar as the lifespan of anyone contemplating such action was concerned.
The title of this piece projects a slight change to that old adage, in that it doesn’t project cynicism on the part of the “great unwashed,” but a cynicism, bred of arrogance, of those who rule our destinies. It suggests that our ruling junta and those like it around the world believe that time is on their side and those who might stand in opposition to them will simply disappear because what is being done – no matter how downright evil – will survive and Old Father Time will take care of those seeking a return to civility and democratic practice (if their lords and masters don’t do so themselves!)
The “united front” of politicians, regulators and businessmen involved in one of the largest financial scandals in the country’s recent history appears to prove this in spades. One of the very large conglomerates in the country has allegedly been complicit with the very highest in our current Monarchy in extracting a larger-than-usual “commission” from a business giant/developer from across the Palk Strait. This has apparently gone beyond the usual “carrot and stick” routine to include a serious threat of a “final solution” for one of the participants who has been painted into a hitherto unoccupied corner as “bag-man.”
What I find particularly intriguing and permitting me one of those “Didn’t I tell you so?” moments is the fact that the defenders of the head honcho of this particular business configuration have consistently insisted that he traipsed around the globe as a courtier to our New Monarch under duress and in order that his business empire survive through his supplicant conduct towards our Maximum Leader.
What is now beginning to emerge is a rather different picture. It is one of active and (very lucrative) partnership in a very large business deal of great benefit to the business entity which he heads!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anyone who believes that the “decency” that it was believed was inculcated in people from the “right” families who went to the “right” schools cannot, in any way, be substantiated by the conduct of the products of this system of privilege. They are just as corruptible as the “low-lifes” who acquire lesser fortunes through simple criminality in the service of those who rule us!
A check of the secondary schools where these corrupt individuals spent their formative years cannot but be revelatory in that regard, particularly when a pattern emerges of a disproportionate number of them having emerged from the portals of the “Big Three!”
Irrespective of where one stood in the matter of the Capitalist World vs the old Iron Curtain countries, what was acknowledged as the biggest betrayal during the time of the Cold War was that of Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt and Cairncross. Every one of them came from Public Schools and every one of them graduated (with distinction) from Cambridge University before entering into distinguished careers in the British Foreign Service, acting as spies within it and, ultimately – in the case of the first three – escaping unscathed into the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics when they were – very belatedly – found out. In fact they were known as “The Cambridge Five” and every one of them even came out of the same College in that distinguished university, Trinity. The moral here, if it even needs to be stated, is that “class,” “respectability, formal post-secondary education and all those other middle class virtues have little to do with criminal behavior. This appears even more so at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st!
All of the alliances that one sees established in the blatant pursuit of criminality is based on the simplest of incentives – self-aggrandisement in its most crass form – and the cement that holds together all these sometimes seemingly-disparate elements of a culture that is swiftly descending into the most primitive, is the belief that unless they all “hang together they will all hang separately,” as that other old aphorism has it! From ersatz “Doctors” to blatant money-launderers and those who act as conduits for humungous bribes; from the slums of Mattakkuliya to the mansions occupied by their families for several generations in the poshest neighbourhoods of Colombo 7, the carrot is enormous wealth while the alternative could (now) be a very sticky end!
Does one really need any additional proof when that reality is reinforced by people festooned with all kinds of cash- and prestige-generating titles suddenly having to flee for their lives?
However, the unacknowledged Achilles Heel of this belief is that though, ”In the long run, ‘they’ will all be dead,” the mortality of the “we” is also incontestable, both literally and figuratively, not to mention the now-proven capacity for aberration within that system, even if only at the whim of those who control it!
And, while we are on the business of old adages, “Even the worm will turn” and even those of us who believe that Sri Lankans do not comprise some Master Race, ever ready to do (victorious) battle with the ‘Evil Western Democracies,’ we cannot but acknowledge that the meekest and mildest of people do have a breaking point. The only question is, “When will the ahinsaka Sri Lankans reach it?”